Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Golden Palace

Last week our chambers went out to lunch together.  By "chambers" I mean the judge, the two clerks, and our secretary (sorry, no, I mean our "judicial assistant").  Anyway, the idea came up when I went out with the judicial assistants for pau hana last week (pau hana literally means "after work" but you know it better as happy hour).  Our judicial assistant and I were talking and I asked her where I could find good Manapua.  I told her that I could only seem to find it at 7-Eleven.  She was not pleased.  So she suggested we all go to lunch at the place where you can get the good stuff, especially since it is walking to distance to our office.  Upon hearing about lunch, however, my judge decided that he'd rather go for Dim Sum.  Since we all like dim sum, this was no problem.  They suggested Golden Palace in Chinatown.

Dim sum is a Cantonese term for a type of Chinese dish that involves small individual portions of food, usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate. Going for dim sum is usually known in Cantonese as going to "drink tea."  Dim Sum is usually linked with the older tradition of yum cha (tea tasting), which has its roots in travellers on the ancient Silk Road (i.e. an extensive interconnected network of trade routes across the Asian continent connecting East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean world) needing a place to rest. Thus teahouses were established along the roadside.  I just call it Chinese tapas.  I hate tapas, though, because they are ridiculously overpriced for essentially no food.  Definitely a rip off.  Dim sum, however, is not like that at all and Golden Palace is awesome.

Golden Palace is located at 111 North King Street and is pretty hard to miss given the big ass sign out front that says "Golden Palace."  It looks like a stereotypical chinese restaurant.  The best part about this place is the price of the dim sim...ready?  $1.89 per dish.  Now yes, the dishes are small so you're not getting lunch for $1.89.  However, 2-3 people would easily be completely stuffed after 10 dishes.  You're talkin' somewhere around $6 to be stuffed.  And it includes pretty good hot tea.

The service here was amazing.  There are several carts that the waitresses push around throughout the dining room.  Each cart has various dishes of dim sum.  They just walk by your table and you stop them, point to what you want, and they hand it to you.  My judge actually knew the names of things, but our judicial assistant informed me that she has never once said a dish by name.  She just points.  Besides, most of the waitresses are very old Chinese women.  If you're a tourist, they're going to pretend they don't speak English anyway.  Even if they do speak English, you won't understand them and they won't understand you.  We had maybe 15 different plates, including Manapua, pork dumplings, shu mai, spring rools, shrimp-stuffed eggplant, shrimp-stuffed peppers, and fried mochi.  It was all really good.

The fact that Hawai'i has a strong dim sum tradition is not surprising since the custom originated in Canton, the region from which many Hawai'i immigrants came. The term is variously translated as "a little bit of heart" or "heart's delight," meaning something that touches the heart. The name speaks to the connection between dim sum and human interaction. That's because these are drawn-out meals - consisting of dumplings, baked treats, and invariably, tea - that you share with others. The dim sum table is a place at which to do business, trade gossip or socialize. In Chinatown and other neighborhoods with a lot of foot traffic, dim sum is an everyday occurrence, generally served from the early morning to early afternoon.  I definitely recommend Golden Palace, and if you're ever in the mood for tapas, opt for dim sum instead.

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