The Weekly Eater
HAVING lived in bedroom communities, I've noticed that those who dwell in such places can be brutal about restaurants in general, yet quite forgiving when it comes to restaurants in their own backyards. They're grateful that they don't have to get in their cars in search of sustenance.
Pah Kes a
The first time I walked into Pah Ke's, I was impressed by how clean it is. The tiled ceiling and abundance of natural light is much more impressive than the typical neighborhood restaurant interior.
The chop suey house food was less impressive, but a lot of people like their food this way and they're the ones who keep the rent paid, and as any politician knows, you've got to keep the constituents happy.
PAH KE'S CHINESE
RESTAURANTFood 1/2Address: 46-018 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe (next to the post office)
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Prices: About $25 to $35 for four; special events negotiable
But there is another side to Pah Ke's, and this is where neighborhood insiders have an advantage. They know that owner Raymond Siu is a creative sort who needs an outlet for his art, and he's found a niche in the special occasion, inventing in-house menus for parties of two to 200.
Those who have requested nine-course menus go home stuffed and recommend restraint -- no more than five items. I agree. I requested six courses, Siu added dessert and by dinner's end I felt I should have been rolled out.
WHILE the regular menu is full of such familiar dishes as Minute Chicken ($6.25), Mongolian Beef ($5.75), Kung Pao Shrimp ($6.95) and Sweet and Sour Pork ($6.50), Siu's custom menus veer off into new territory.
We found out as the meal unfolded that he had gone to Chinatown that morning and in discovering late-season Hayden mangoes, had to introduce this to our menu. So he created Dungeness Crabmeat Spring Rolls to go with his relish of mango, red onions and cilantro.
Following this were two items on the regular menu: Roasted BBQ Babyback Ribs ($6.75) flavored with a hoisin, black bean and orange-flavored marinade and, to balance this heavy dish, Pah Ke's Chicken Salad with a creamy miso-peanut butter dressing. The texture was wonderful with finely chopped lettuce and the crunch of freshmade won ton pi chips.
Presentation was amazing with Pah Ke's Egg White Won Ton Soup. The egg white wrapper formed a pouch secured with a ribbon of green onion and filled with shrimp and mushrooms.
Fresh Kahuku Prawns was better in concept than execution. The prawn was split in half and drowned in garlic sauce while sitting in its bamboo steamer basket. The remaining garlic is supposed to spill on to a bed of look funn and give it flavor, but as a result, I couldn't taste the prawn.
Next up was a variation on Steamed Moi. Boneless fish was wrapped around lean, somewhat lumpy pork hash. This was splashed with a ginger-green onion sauce and topped with slivers of deep-fried leeks.
Even Almond Float -- with the consistency of pudding, not Jell-O -- got a new look, topped with fresh strawberries, kiwi fruit, grapes and canned lychee. I'm certain Siu would have gotten fresh lychee if it were in season.
All this cost $25 per person. Remember, you're not going to get this kind of menu unless you ask. This way, current fans can enjoy the old-style, family experience, Siu gets to play, and those with short attention spans can be entertained. Win-win-win.
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Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:
-- very good, exceeds expectations;
-- below average.
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