Mink Hippie and I have been trying to eat in every restaurant in Kailua. Not long ago we decided to focus on the chop suey joints. For an interesting background on Chop Suey click here to explore this unique Chinese American cuisine. It’s not Chinese food…
The generally accepted wisdom on chop suey is that it emerged from the woks of early Cantonese-American immigrants in the late 1800s, adapted to locally available foods and tame European-American tastebuds.
Our first stop was Chinese Garden Chop Suey (426 Uluniu, Kailua, Hawaii 96734 Phone 262-9090). We ventured in and couldn’t seem to get anyone’s atention at first so we seated ourselves. Chinese Garden is next to a veterinarian’s office, make your own joke. We ordered Honey Walnut Shrimp (our universal chop suey order), cake noodle with fried eggplant, and a Tsing Tao to share. We weren’t thrilled with the lighting or the big pile of stuff in the corner. The booth next to us was filled with what looked to be a year’s worth of newspapers, phone books, and old magazines. It was too bright in there to have that much garbage lying in plain site. Despite that, the food was good not great, the portions were generous, and the price was modest. When the staff came around they were friendly.
A few nights later we ventured to Princess Chop Suey (127 Hekili St. Kailua, Hawaii 96734 Phone: 262-7166). Princess was dirt cheap with huge portions. The food was passable. The decor was checkerboard, slightly grungy, seedy diner. We had vegetarian chop sui, sweet and sour pork, and Honey Walnut Shrimp. We didn’t finish our food or take the leftovers with us. It was fast. The ambience was interesting. Like I said it was cheap. They provided a pot of tea and water upon request.
Finally, a few days later we dropped into New Mui Kwai Chop Suey (132 Oneawa St. Kailua, Hawaii 96734 Phone: 262-7800). This was our definite favorite. The place was clean, the lighting wasn’t too intense, our waitress was super freindly and attentive without being intrusive. We had the Honey Walnut Shrimp, Eggplant with Garlic Sauce, and Stir fried Tofu with satay sauce. I would give this one the highest rating of any of the Chop Suey that we have visited so far. New Mui Kwai was the only Chop Suey joint to give us fortune cookies. This won them huge bonus points. As an aside, the fortune cookie is also an American invention. Legend has it was created by a Japanese man who wanted to cheer people up after WWII in California.
Based on comfort/decor, food quality, value, and overall enjoyment of our Honey Walnut Shrimp our ratings from best to not best are 1) New Mui Kwai 2) Chinese Garden and finally 3) Princess. To be fair, Princess was the cheapest place I have eaten in quite a while.