Sneak Peek: New Chun Wah Kam in Kapolei

Diner A and his ohana stopped by the new Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory restaurant outlet in Kapolei this past Saturday for lunch, and while there captured a few photos of the establishment and food. Since they were taken with his cell phone, they aren’t going to make the cover of Honolulu Advertiser’s Dining Out section anytime soon, but at least you get a glimpse of what the new place looks like, in case you haven’t had the opportunity to make it out there yet.

The way the system works here is you pull a number, then when you’re called, one of the customer service staff walks you down the entree selection counter and serves your plate as you point and choose what you want. That same person handles each ticket in its entirety, so if you have a party of 2 or more, that person will handle their order as well, and ring everything up together.

Because there’s so many entrees to choose from, he says it’s best if you first scope everything out by taking a preview walk down the serving counter (like that man in the gray shirt is doing) before standing in line to order. This way you get a head start on what there is (and how it looks) and what you (might) want. Then you go and pull your number and wait there to be called.

OK, looking at this photo, you see just one item (which is steamed lup cheong rice) has a (handwritten) sign on it. Now take notice that all the other items DO NOT HAVE SIGNS telling you what each dish is. So every dish you see, if you don’t recognize it, you must ask your server what it is. That was his biggest peeve and frustration about their system.

Hopefully with them being new, they’re just still working out the details and haven’t gotten to this one yet. All they gotta’ do is generate small, yet descriptive signs using their administrative PC and a laser jet printer and stick them in (replaceable) clear sleeves attached to the front of the display window where it’s visible to the customer. How hard is that?

Shoot, I’d be peeved too. Especially when there’s that many items, and in some cases, when side-by-side make look identical, but aren’t.

Take manapua, where its filling is concealed…

OK, I see that’s baked manapua, but what’s in it?

Dear Mr. Kam, please make signs for your food selections at your new restaurant in Kapolei. Mahalo!

Anyway, off we continue on our guess-n-assume journey of what there is to eat at the Chun Wah Kam Kapolei….

OK, I can tell those fat noodles are Udon, combined with luncheon meat and green onions. The noodles to the right are fried saimin noodles. That’s the starch Diner A chose.

More views around the restaurant…

Notice the contemporary architectural fixtures and interior design.

There’s no shortage of ovens like this to pump out dozens and dozens of boxes upon boxes of fresh-baked Manapua…

Cool hair.

To order, you can either choose a mini entree plate for $6.50, a single entree plate for $7.75, which includes a starch and 1 entree. Or you can order the 2-entree plate for $9.25 which includes 1 starch and 2 entrees.

Or, if you really wanna’ mix it up, for those same prices, you can divide each item into half-portions. So for instance, what you can do with the one-entree plate for $7.75 is get a half-portion of Chow Funn, along with a half-portion of Fried Rice; then for the entree you can choose, say, a half-portion Beef Broccoli along with a half-portion of Sweet and Sour Shrimp. Therefore effectively turning that example one-entree plate into a total “4-choice plate”.

Same math for the 2-entree plate, which also includes 1 or any combination of starch. So for this one you can get, say, a half-portion Chow Mein, and a half-portion White Rice for the starch, then for the entree get a half-portion Beef Choi Sum, half-portion Charsiu Pork, half-portion Lemon Chicken and half-portion Ginger Chicken, effectively doubling all the choices to six. Sweet. Not just Taco Town sweet, but Combo #5 sweet!

The Manapua and various Dim Sum can be added to your plate, but those items will be added to the price ala carte per piece; you can’t substitute them for the regular entree items. Darned it.

Here in all its camera phone glory is Diner A’s 2 entree-turned-4 entree (plus 1 starch) plate from Chun Wah Kam Kapolei…

That’s Shoyu Chicken on the very top, with the two deep-fried ball-shaped items above and below the Charsiu Pork being deep-fried Pork Hash and Garlic Fish to the right, with an order Fried Saimin for starch.

His phone camera takes amazing macros…

Seriously though, he raved about the deep-fried Pork Hash, saying he could eat entire plate of just that. Wow, must be really ono! Everything else on his plate was a winner as well, earning an overall 3-SPAM Musubi rating.

But is Mr. Kam getting trade secrets from Mr. Libby on the current market conditions for Manapua?…

Wow Laulau! Where’s da’ Beef!? …errrr… Charsiu?! For $1.50 each, we want more charsiu! We want more charsiu! We want more charsiu! They’re gonna’ have to join the “Manapua Buns” club along with Libby’s. lol

What looks rather enticing for you budget-busting party planners out there is this featured prix fixe catering selection called the the “House Special Set Menu”, which includes: Beef Broccoli, Sweet Sour Spareribs, Oyster Sauce Chicken, Chow Mein Noodle, Crispy Kau Gee and White Rice for just $7.35/person for 20-200 people, $6.85/person for 201-400 people and $6.75/person for 401 people or more. That’s a very good deal in today’s market as far as catering is concerned.

The new Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory restaurant opened for business on December 16, 2008 (according to staff). They’re located in the also new Crossroads at Kapolei Shopping Center, serving as anchor tenant along with neighbor Simply Organized, a new concept “fashion-forward” organization and storage specialty retailer.

Chun Wah Kam Noodle Factory (New!)
in the (also new!) Crossroads at Kapolei Center (adjacent to Simply Organized)
885 Kamokila Blvd
Kapolei, HI 96707
(808) 693-8838
www.ChunWahKam.com (<—see entire menu there)

One last note on the Crossroads at Kapolei: also slated to open there will be a Teddy’s Bigger Burgers. Yay!

2/19/09 Update:

Here’s a baked Manapua Diner A picked up from the Chun Wah Kam in Kapolei on a subsequent visit since the first time shown previously…


Baked Manapua from Chun Wah Kam Kapolei

Now THAT’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout! Choke Charsiu, baby! Ono, da Charsiu too. Flavorful, moist and authentic, without being strange or weird-tasting. As good as local style Manapua Charsiu filling gets. Nice and bold red color too.

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16 thoughts on “Sneak Peek: New Chun Wah Kam in Kapolei

  1. Pomai,
    Yes Mr. Kam got to put more filling in manapuas. I am still glad there is a place in big island now with dim sums and more chinese food. Wonder if Hilo with be next due to I found out it hard to get good dim sums and manapuas on other island.

    We are so lucky in Honolulu.

  2. I miswrote comment. Went to Hilo and other islands for vacation and saw not much in manapuas or dim sums there. We get it any time we want here on Oahu. Maui just Dragon Dragon Restaurant offer dim sums.

  3. Oh, I’m so excited! I think they are really smart with how they run their business–it’s a great deal and a nice looking restaurant too!

    Chun Wah Kam is usually good with the filling… you sure that picture didn’t just make it look like there was little bit filling? I think maybe one more bite on the right could’ve revealed more char siu? No?

    Oh I didn’t know you could make half choice too! Oh… I love this place. Also love the hip girl with the cool hair–at least I’m assuming it is that girl from Pearl City.

  4. Wow, those ARE manini portions of filling in the manapua! And isn’t $1.50 kind fo pricey? I don’t know the answer, but in Seattle Chinatown I can get a baked manaput with more filling for less than $1. I would think that there would be more competition on Oahu that would force the prices to come down. Can you tell I’m pake? 🙂

    The lup cheong fried rice looks really good and I think Diner A did an exceptionally nice job with his cellphone camera.

  5. I live in southern Illinois now, and had lived on Oahu for 3 years, right now that manapua looks good to me but I do remember them having more filling.

  6. Mr. Kam better put more filling in his baked buns. In San Francisco at New Maxian charge .80 for same size and more filling also. This is tourist price what he charge.

    Overhead is one thing but this is not Waikiki area.

  7. Nate, you’re an expert at all this stuff: what do you make of their prices? One thing’s for sure, if there’s anyone who DOESN’T need signs to tell what dish is which, that would be you!

    Keith, how would you compare the Manapua in San Fran’ with those from Hawaii? Just curious.

    Kelly, right on sistah!… ohw’right!

    John, greetings to you out there in Illinois. Must be ffffrrrrrreeeeeezzzziiinnnnggggg.

    Jenny, Diner A said the steamed Lup Cheong Rice (not the fried, but regular one) must have been a winnah, because that one was wiped out. As in SOLD OUT. Wow. But yeah, $1.50 is on the high side as far as Honolulu prices are concerned.

    Libby’s went up too though. They’re now $1.10 each for the steamed charsiu manapua.

    Char Hung Sut is currently $1.00 each for steamed charsiu manapua and 65 cents each for pork hash.

    Island Manapua Factory is currently $1.25 each for charsiu manapua and 75 cent each for pork hash. Ouch, that’s kinda’ high for pork hash. They better be big!

    Nate ’88, that’s the pake rate, which is always higher than the going rate. lol

    RobynT, it is quite an exciting set-up they have, and the brand name is there. No doubt they’ll be very successful at this location, regardless of their pake rates.

    Erica, definitely established, successful brands from Honolulu such as Chun Wah Kam, Zippy’s, Big City Diner, etc. should do very well on the neighbor islands. It’s funny how the market is so saturated with Chinese restaurants in Honolulu, while on the neighbor island they’re rather scarce. Would it be safe to say a majority of the old timer restaurants and food specialty shops on Kauai, Maui and the big island are (local) Japanese-owned? I think so, right?

  8. I’m not an expert, but I have my favorites. Yah, I can tell dishes.

    But for dim sum, have tried other places when someone buys to bring into my office in Hawaii.

    For me it will ALWAYS be Char Hung Sut for steamed char siu bau, siu mai, gok chai, ha gau, bok tong go, woo tau gau, and especially matai soo. For baked char siu bao and baked lup cheong bau it will ALWAYS be Royal Kitchen.

    Grew up with stuff from these places. And since family-owned the product is consistent throughout the years. Same char siu bau at Char hung Sut for at least 50 years as far as I can remember!

  9. i absolutely love chun wah kam! lol i went to the kapolei store new years eve for lunch since were were looking for fire works we built up an appetite lol i love the lay out! so nice and modern! the food is still soo ono! my boyfriend absolutely loves their udon noodles! hahaha and of course we ordered manapua for me to take home to kaua’i!

  10. Chun is the last name…..not Kam.

    In chinese, the last name is pronounced first.

    In english….his name is Wah Kam Chun.

    Btw…im sure a newbie worker was the culprit of the off-centered meat in the manapua. If someone tells them of this blog…im sure they will have more quality control in the future.

    But hey….they just opened…so give em a break!!! Gotta work out the kinks.

  11. Josh, I did mention that Diner A thought highly of the food, regardless of the off-centered meat in the manapua. In fact he’s returned to eat there 2 more times ever since this write-up; the last time of which he bought a baked manapua, and the buggah had CHOKE meat! Their charsiu filling is a winnah too. I got to try some. I think better than Libby’s.

    Sorry about getting the name wrong. I do know they own half that shopping center, with the other half owned by the company that operates Simply Organzied next door.

  12. I love going home to Oahu. I’ve lived in California from 79′- 89′ than WA 89′- currently in Poulsbo, WA. My husband graduated from Aiea – 66′ and I in 70′ from Kamehameha. Anyway, Chun Wah Kam’ is the first place we have hit to fill up on “ONO” Chinese Food since they opened up in Waimalu. I love all their stuff!! Steamed or Baked Manapua is ONO and I love their Gau Chee too. We hit the Kapolei one in March and everything was going smoothly and the manapua was nicely filled. We really like going to the Kapolei factory because it is so spacious and the food is just as good. We will be retiring to Maui in the next few years and I pray that Chun Wah Kam’s opens up in Kahului. I heard Dragon Dragon only offers Manapua once a week. We bought some manapua at Libby’s in March to compare with and was totally bummed! Also the pork hash etc. has gone downhill. It’s Chun Wah Kam for us. *;-D

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