Monday, September 22, 2008
The Green Door Cafe
If you up for a unique dining experience, check out The Green Door Cafe. Leave your credit card at home and bring an empty stomach, a bottle of wine, and a little bit of pride. This place is know for affordable and delicious dishes and the restaurant's "rough around the edges" owner Betty Pang. The Greed Door Cafe has its roots in Chinatown, where Betty served customers in a tiny run-down space. Since then, the restaurant has moved to Kahala (next to the Olive Tree) with much more space and newly designed decor.
From the outside, the restaurant doesn't look like much, but inside is a dimly lit room lined with lanterns, asian-inspired decor, glowing with essence of green. The ambience has a feel that is reminiscent of Indigo.
One look at the menu and the Chinatown-roots become apparent. The scribbles on the whiteboard don't quite fit into the upscale vibe that the ambience provides. You order at the counter, and then find a seat to wait for your meal. Dishes are family style and you pay at the counter when you're done. Bring your own beer or wine, any pay just $3 a person. The Green Door Cafe provides a nice mixture of casual dining in an upscale ambience.
Owners Betty Pang and Glenn Nitta offer up a menu that is Singaporean and Malasian nonya inspired. When I first heard this, I wasn't quite sure what to expect; but I was delighted by their use of asian spices and techniques that aren't common in the restaurants in Hawaii.
For our appetizer, we ordered the Very Special Fry Shrimp Roll ($7), which was shrimp and pork wrapped up in kataifi, deep fried with a light and crispy coating. On the side was a slightly sweet and vinegary dipping sauce that cut through the oil and gave it a refreshing flavor.
My mom ordered Chicken with Organic Oyster Mushrooms, Black Pepper, Garlic and a White Wine Sauce ($13.75). There was a generous portion of huge (and fresh!) oyster mushrooms, which tasted wonderful in the buttery white wine sauce. This dish actually tasted more European than Asian, but nonetheless it was prepared wonderfully!
I asked Betty which one of the vegetarian dishes were good. She said, "Basil Mix. You order the Basil Mix," with a "don't mess with me attitude" and to-the-point intonation. I wasn't about to argue with her, I just said, "Okay." I'm glad I listened, because not only did it spare me having to defend myself, but I really enjoyed it. I wasn't sure what I was ordering, since "Basil Mix" doesn't really explain what is in it or what kind of sauce, but it was a tomato based dish with baby carrots, cabbage, onions, zucchini, green beans, kabocha, and basil. The sauce was very interesting in that when it first hits your mouth you taste the sweetness of the tomato and then as it travels along your palate you're awakened to a very spicy kick!
This spicy stew was great with the soft sweet sticky rice. Don't expect the sticky rice to be like the ones in the Thai restaurants. Unlike the chewy Thai version, this one is fluffy and soft.
We also tried the Roti, which was like a tortilla or Indian nann bread. It was a soft and chewy flat bread with a light brush of butter.
Don't be afraid to be adventurous when you visit this restaurant! All the dishes sounded very interesting and as I looked at the people eating around me they appeared to be enjoying themselves. And Betty isn't as scary as she seems, she did crack a few smiles here and there.
The Green Door Cafe
4614 Kilauea Ave