The Weekly Eater

Nadine Kam

APork and Taro Casserole, at top, and Chicken with Mushroom and Lup Cheong Casserole are among the homey fare served at Canton House.

Head to Chinatown for
village-style comfort food

What's good for the gov is good enough for me, so if she's doing the Chinatown restaurant hop, count me in. On Wednesday, Gov. Lingle made the rounds of some of the more visible eateries such as the New Empress and Legend, just to make the point that we can't let a SARS rumor come between us and our dim sum and noodles.

One restaurant that's off the official radar and is worth a mention is Canton House.

It's situated on Hotel Street, which isn't the most glamorous address in town. In addition to its old, seedy rep, it's the road taken only by TheBus, which means its out-of-the-line-of-sight for a good number of would-be patrons.

And, if people stay away from much of Downtown Honolulu at night because of the creatures of the night who lurk in doorways and sidewalks, well, Canton House does draw a few such gawkers to its glass windows. As they say, timing is everything and perhaps you'd prefer a daytime over a night-time visit.

The restaurant is home to old-fashioned Chinese comfort food that a relative of mine described as "village-style cooking." This is food as it might have been prepared in homes before American intervention gave us such Western hybrids as Shrimp Canton and Chow Mein.

Central to the menu are the bo jai (clay pot dishes), which wed such ingredients as squash and long rice ($6.75), eggplant and salted fish ($7.95), and the sort of combination only Chinese seem to love, black mushroom and duck feet ($7.95). Another of the classic pairings is taro and fatty slices of pork belly covered in a thick gravy perfumed with five-spice.

Other casseroles come with a layer of rice topped by a scattering of humble ingredients, usually salted to perk up the bland rice, such as the fatty, oily sausage -- hey, we like it that way -- lup cheong ($6.95), spareribs with black bean ($6.50), and pork hash with salted fish ($6.50).

As if to emphasize the homespun quality of these dishes, our hostess, like a good Chinese mom, carefully scooped out portions of rice into each of our bowls along with our fair share of toppings, saving the best for last -- the crispy pieces of rice that clung to the side of the clay pot.

Give them 24-hour advance notice and they'll also cook up an excellent mochi duck ($28), again with the rice partly crispy under the rich duck meat. It's the best in town.

For those who prefer individual fare, there are the usual Hong Kong-style stewed noodles, running $3.75 to $5.50, and noodles in soup with won ton ($3.95), funn with char siu ($3.75), and much more.

You can also get huge blocks of deep-fried stuffed tofu, which are none too delicate, but hit the spot, served with a red pepper- and green onion-enhanced soy sauce.

The menu is somewhat condensed compared to a lot of Chinese restaurants in town that try to offer every dish imaginable, but all the basics are covered such as the sea bass, crispy half chicken ($7.95), salt-pepper pork chops ($6.95), and what restaurant can go without the kung pao chicken ($5.95).

Just be sure to include one of the hot pots with your order.


I was a little over-eager last week when I mentioned Jamba Juice's free smoothie giveaway coming up Thursday. The smoothies will be sailing out the door from 6 to 9 a.m. only. There may not be enough fruit on the island to have keep the juice flowing through 9 p.m. as was my wishful thinking! So set those wake-up alarms.

The only catch is that the giveaway is being held to benefit Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii, and in exchange for the 24-ounce smoothies, the juicers are hoping people will be so kind as to make a donation for the cause.

Look for Jamba Juice at the Kailua Village Shops, Kahala Mall, Pearlridge Center, Downtown Honolulu, Ward Village Shops, Kapahulu Avenue, Waikiki Trade Center, Kapolei's Halekuai Center, Ewa Town Center and Aiea Shopping Center.

The event repeats from 6 to 9 a.m. Friday on Maui at the Maui Marketplace and Pi'ilani Village.

The aim is to raise $15,000. Last year, the fund-raiser brought in $11,700.

Canton House

162 N. Hotel St. / 521-3788

Food Star Star Star 1/2

Service Star Star Star 1/2

Ambience Star Star

Value Star Star Star Star

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Cost: About $10 to $20 for two

See some past restaurant reviews in the
Columnists section.

Nadine Kam's restaurant 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.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to


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