Chinatown Eats: Little Village Noodle House

Several weeks ago we celebrated yet ANOTHER birthday luncheon at Little Village Noodle House, located on “scenic” Smith Street in historic Chinatown, Honolulu.

Developed by successful restaurateur, owner and chef Kenneth Chan and his wife Jennifer, the Chinese cuisine served here is described as a blend of styles influenced from the Northern and Szechuan regions of mainland China, as well as Hong Kong, all brought together into a “balanced new taste”. With that, over the years Little Village has won numerous “People’s Choice” and “Critic’s Choice” awards by the major local newspapers and a prominent lifestyle magazine, just to name a few.

Upon entering the cozy, somewhat contemporary dining room, you’ll find the decor theme fitting of its name, along with a rather relaxed, low, naturally lit ambiance, as well as quiet demeanor by the mostly local patrons who work nearby in the downtown Honolulu business district…

Getting right to it, let’s check out the menu, starting with the specials of the day, which are written on a chalkboard above the kitchen service area…

On to the regular menu…

I suppose when it comes to Chinese restaurants, over 100 menu items listed here is about par for the course. At least they make it easier here for “newbies” to choose by identifying which ones are their “Signature Dish”.  Ideally when choosing “family style”, we like to have a representative of each meat type, which of course would be beef, pork, chicken and a seafood dish of some sort.

That said, first to land on our table (which took about 15 minutes from the time we placed our order) was the Mu-Shu Chicken Roll…

Mu-Shu “Roll”? Well not yet, as they do the final assembly of the dish tableside. That there is the filling that will go into each crepe that it’s accompanied with. Here our server immediately makes a Mu-Shu Roll for each guest on our table by first spooning a layer of Hoisin sauce, then on goes the Mu-Shu Chicken filling…

Save for using the spoons to handle it, as far as the way it’s rolled up, this is pretty much a Chinese “burrito” if you will…

Voila (or however you say “voila” in Chinese)! There you have it, one complete Mu-Shu Chicken Roll…

OK, let’s try this…

First of all, the flavor and texture (especially the thickness) of the crepe came across to me anyway as being more like a Mexican style flour tortilla. The filling certainly had a fresh, pipin’ hot-seared wok flavor to it, with nothing really discernible in and of itself except for the Hoisin sauce surrounding it, which was quite bold. Overall, it all tied together nicely as a “package”, where I’ll give Little Village’s Mu-Shu Chicken Roll 2-SPAM Musubi, noting I’m quite confident the pork version would easily score at least one extra Musubi point (because pork fat rules!).

Chicken? Check. Now of course we’re in a Chinese restaurant here, so you know what time it is, right? Duck time!…

As in Peking Duck, which is described as “Slices of crispy roasted duck skin and tender duck meat served in a fresh steamed bun with green onion and hoisin sauce.”

Just like Filipino Lechon (roasted suckling pig), arguably (in every sense of the word) the best part by far of roast duck is the SKIN, and that’s exactly what you get on these light-yet-glutenous steamed “bau” Chinese buns.

Have a peek under the hood…

Under that crispy, FLAVOR-PACKED duck skin is a thin layer of tender, well-seasoned meat…

This again is enhanced by the bold, savory boost of a Hoisin sauce drizzle, along with finely-julienned green onion slivers. Of course the “Manapua Guy” in me (that sounds weird) often expects anything in a Chinese “bau” (steamed bun) to have a Charsiu flavor to it, but Peking Duck doesn’t really ring that tone, if perhaps just slightly. There’s more this absolutely delicious, albeit complex combination of spices and sauces that all come together and really punch out the uniquely rich, “dark meat” flavor of the duck. Super solid 4 SPAM Musubi for Little Village’ Peking Duck Bau. Yum!!!

Not only do we get that, we also get the entire half of the roasted Peking Duck, all cut-up into bite-size pieces and ready to sink into…

Needless to say, among the five of us in our party, we quickly went through this plate! (I should do a time-lapse animated GIF shot some time)…

Now’s time for some seafood, here in the form of Little Village’s signature Honey Walnut Shrimp…

Before I stop and review this plate, let me finish adding the rest of the plates that landed on our table on this visit, where soon after that mouthwatering heap of Honey Walnut Shrimp arrived, joining it was this equally mouthwatering masterpiece of Beef Broccoli Fried Noodles (Cake Noodles)…

No Chinese meal would be complete without pork, where here we have Little Village’s Salt & Pepper Pork Chops…

Adding one more chicken dish to the spread, we have Little Village’s Orange Chicken…

Rounding it all off, gotta’ have some starch, where we decided on Chef Chan’s Special Fried Rice….

What. A. Spread!!! Chicken. Duck. Beef. Pork. Shrimp. Veggies. Fruits. Nuts. Noodles. Rice. Sauces. We’re all set!

Now that everything’s on the table, let’s make ourselves a handy-dandy little “sampler plate” of each dish…

Sampler plate B (or A, actually)…

What I can’t wait to try is that Honey Walnut Shrimp, so let’s check that out…

Oh. Em. Gee. This HWS ROCKS! There’s an ever-so-delicate light and crispy batter coating each tasty, tender and juicy shrimp tail, which I would estimate are in the U36-40 size range. There was just a slight hint of garlic flavor from the cream sauce, yet you tell it was there, with the predominant compliment coming from the sweetness in the sauce and the honey-glazed, toasted walnuts. Add to that the texture contrast from the fried rice noodle garnish and KUNG-POW!… this Honey Walnut Shrimp slams it out of the park for an easy 5 SPAM Musubi! Kung-Pow! lol Seriously though, I could just as well order a platter of this and call it a day, it’s that good.

Speaking of “Kung-Pow!”, also slamming a drive-line homer out the park was Little Village’s Beef Broccoli Fried Noodles….

..the latter of which is actually referred to here by locals as “Cake Noodle”,  a style of chow mein that some say is difficult to come by in the mainland. Oh well, looks like you’ll to book a trip to Hawaii if you want some!

The reason we call it “Cake Noodle” is because the noodles are sort of packed and almost “glued” together by their own starch, while being thoroughly permeated through with the savory beef sauce from the Beef Broccoli. There’s also an every so light and crispy “crust” on the bottom from the hot wok which creates this fantastic texture and flavor contrast to the starchy noodle “cake”. Then topping it off,  you have that buttery-tender strips of beef also permeated with the sauce, along with the perfectly al dente Broccoli and KUNG-POW! Another 5 SPAM Musubi winnah-winnah Chinese Dinnah! Err, lunch that is.

As for the Orange Chicken, it was certainly juicy and tender, yet I didn’t really know what to make of the sauce coating it. It was sweet, although could have used more “citrus-ee twang” to it, as it didn’t really scream the flavor of orange, regardless of its red color and orange slices garnishing  it. I must note, the tender mushrooms were a nice touch, as I LOVE and welcome mushrooms with just about any entree, no matter what it is. Summing it up, I give Little Village’s Orange Chicken 2 SPAM Musubi.

Finally there was the Salt & Pepper Pork Chops, which somewhat reminded me of Side Street Inn’s famous Fried Pork Chops, albeit done in a more traditional Chinese style than the “localized” version SSI prepares. This one being more airy and light with what I think is a cornstarch-based batter coating it. Whatever pork meat on there was certainly well seasoned (thanks to the batter), tasty and tender, yet it was mostly BONES. Wassup wit’ dat? That said, I give their Salt & Pepper Pork Chops 1 SPAM Musubi.

As for the Fried Rice, I didn’t try it. Sorry, I was already filled up from everything else, and had no room for rice on this occasion. Others on our table said it was “pretty good”, which I take would be about 2 SPAM Musubi.

Service was quick and friendly, with, again, our first dish arriving within fifteen minutes of being ordered, and everything else soon after that in a steady flow that kept pace with us as we went through dish after dish. Little Village offers FREE VALIDATED PARKING in their own private lot behind the restaurant, which is a huge convenience advantage, considering this is downtown Honolulu where parking is limited, especially during the work week lunch hour rush.

Summing it up, the highlights at Little Village on this visit were the Peking Duck (with skin bau), Honey Walnut Shrimp and Beef Broccoli “Cake Noodle”; all of which were absolutely STELLAR, broke da’ mout’ onolicious WINNAHZ!!! Good Lord, I sure could go for a combo’ plate of those three dishes right about, just looking at, writing about and reminiscing it!

Little Village Noodle House
1113 Smith Street
Honolulu, Hawaii  96817

Tel. (808) 545-3008

The Tasty Island Rating:

(4) Excellent. Worth another visit or purchase. (Winnahz!)

P.S. You might be asking what we had for dessert? Well, for that we headed mauka on School Street to the Shimazu Store for some Shave Ice!…

That there is my Coconut, Melon Bar Melon (think Melona) and Strawberry combo Shave Ice.

Here’s the storefront…

Here’s Shimazu Store’s Shave Ice menu…

The custom shave ice syrup flavors are all hand-made by owner Kelvin Shimazu who we met there on this visit…

Pour it on!…

That there is the birthday girl’s Melon Bar Melon and Orange Creme (think Creamsicle) combo’. As you know, ice melts quickly in Hawaii, so once the server finishes pouring the syrup on, it’s time to QUICKLY dig in and start gettin’ yo’ shave ice GROOVE ON!…

You can see in that photo just how FINE and POWDERY Shimazu Store’s Shave Ice is. As good as Shave Ice gets, PERIOD.

This here is a trio Blue Cotton Candy, Strawberry and Li Hing Pickle Mango combo (Li Hing Pickle Mango on the backside/not shown)…

Common’ now, LI HING PICKLE MANGO SHAVE ICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Key Lime Pie, Sour Lemon and Strawberry….

Another angle of my Coconut, Melon Bar Melon and Strawberry combo’, where you can again see the fine, powdery consistency of the GENEROUS portion of shave ice they serve here at Shimazu Store…

The Melon Bar Melon flavor taste almost EXACTLY like a Melona Bar, albeit not quite as “creamy” as the real deal. I’m sure a drizzle of some Condensed Milk would have finished it off, but I wanted to keep it simple on this first time visit so I could savor the texture of the Shave Ice itself. Note, notice us locals call it “Shave Ice” and not “Shaved Ice”.  And God forbid, NEVER call our Shave Ice a “Snow Cone”. Ack!!! lol

That Orange Creme flavor also tasted pretty much like “Creamsicle”, where again I think some Condensed Milk would have truly authenticated it.

Speaking of which, like many other Shave Ice stores nowadays, notice on the menu that Shimazu Store offers all kinds of “extras”, including the old school go-to Azuki Beans and Ice Cream, along with the “new school” goodness’es’es, such as Mochi Balls, Li Hing Powder, and what I hear REALLY ROCKS, their CREAMY HAUPIA, which is like a thick sauce that’s smothered over the top of the Shave Ice.

Still, of all the flavors I tried on this day (thanks to everyone who shared a taste), by far the Li Hing Pickle Mango as shown in the next photo was by far my favorite!…

You can kinda’ see the speckles of what may either be Li Hing Powder or actual Pickle Mango “pieces”. Whatever it is, this flavor ROCKS. Best way to describe it, is it’s sorta’ like taking pink Lemonade and infusing it with the “essence” of Pickle Mango, along with a slight Li Hing “twang”, if that helps at all.

So you get that “bite” from the acidity, while adding a pleasant balance of salty and sweet going on in a “Pickle Mango-meets-Shave Ice”, super-chilled kinda’ way.

Just take my word for it and CHOOSE the Li Hing Pickle Mango flavor on your next visit to Shimazu store. That one slams the ball out the park!

Getting to the bottom of the Shave Ice, you have that “slushy”, ice-cold “brain-freeze” combination of all the flavors, along with the creaminess from the  ice cream….

Now you have to admit, on any hot, Hawaiian sunny day who could resist that? Nobody! No ways! Da’ bes’!

Summing it up in this “bonus” Tasty Island review, with their best-as-you-can-get, super-fine and powdery shave ice, topped with a most excellent variety of house-made custom syrup flavors and extras that really kick things up, all offered in HUGE PORTION at a great price, easily awards Shimazu Store a Li Hing Pickled Mango-tastic 5-SPAM Musubi!!!


21 thoughts on “Chinatown Eats: Little Village Noodle House

  1. Welcome back pomai:

    In reference to the rarity of cake noodles on the mainland, you don’t see it very much in chinese restaurants, but one can find it in pretty much any vietnamese restaurant.


  2. Mahalo Nate and Dan. Feels great to be back! 🙂

    Dan, while I have yet to try it, it appears the Vietnamese variation of “cake noodle” you’re suggesting is quite different than the Chinese (Fried) cake noodle as described here with the Beef Broccoli Fried Noodle. This dish is all about simplicity, with implicit focus on the the chow mein noodle itself as the “star”, and just as importantly, the dish executed with perfection by the cook. Did anyone ever do a “Cake Noodle Shootout” yet? If not, it should be added to the list!

  3. Dude, been a while. Welcome back!

    For all the years I’ve been haunting Chinatown, I don’t think I’ve ever been inside Little Village. Go figure.

    The menu looks great – how did you know I was craving beef broccoli!?

    And wow, those shave ice are bambucha!

  4. Soos, that’s it. Go try ’em! With that, try go half/half Melon Bar and Li Hing Pickle Mango. I think any more flavors than that (you have up to three choices) may turn out muddled. Definitely add ice cream with that, as I bet the creamy element at the end would adopt well with those two flavors. Azuki beans also, perhaps? Dunno. Not sure how the slight “legumeness” would work with it, but ya’ never know ’til ya’ try it!

  5. welcome back!!!!!!! man if there’s anything i like…it’s gotta be peking duck….the salty, fatty duck with the sweet and earthy hoisin + sharpness of the scallion…it’s such a crazy tasty combination. honey walnut shrimp is also my fave 😀 it’s gettin’ warmer finally here in CA…..that shave ice looks onolicious. looking forward to more of your postings pomai!!

  6. Heard that the lamb with mochi noodle was great though I still haven’t tried it. We had the fried oysters and they were the bomb! Served with a five spice flavored salt instead of a sauce and small enough that you didn’t have to bite them in half…

  7. Yes!!!! He is back!!!

    Love the review. Hard to find good Peking Duck. Most of the time it is greasy with limp skin.

    I like your ‘family style’ protein pairings. It is what we do in our household as well. My kids would have never have found out the wonders of duck or fried tofu if I would let them order chicken all the time. “fill in the blank” chicken is so limiting………

  8. Welcome back!

    Between the Chinese food and the pickled mango, I’m not sure which is more drool-worthy. I’ve been to Little Village twice in recent memory and overindulged on both occasions. I just couldn’t stop. I blame the pan fried beef and garlic fried rice. Oh, and I was just dreaming (fantasizing) about Peking duck the other day too. THANKS for making it even more difficult for me to concentrate on work today!! 😛

  9. Welcome back Pomai! And you start it off with one of our favorite restaurants. We always (always) go to Little Village Noodle House when we’re there. We always order the Pan Fried Beef and the steamed basa fish. Never had the Peking Duck but that will be on the list for next visit.

  10. Welcome back. We have one restaurant in Seattle’s Chinatown that makes cake noodle with minute chicken. Very similar to what you got. I could probably figure out how to do the cake if I knew what kind of noodles they use. Fresh? Dried? I see that you guys sprung for the special shave ice holder at Shimazu. I was tempted to dig them out of the garbage, wash them out and resell them to the folks standing in line outside. How’s that for “being Chinese”?

  11. Pomai,
    When deep frying Chinese use rice flour and egg white with no egg yolk due to egg yolk make the coating soft while egg white does not and crispy coating.

  12. You can find cake noodle dishes in Seattle, but it has to be a real Chinese restaurant and not the ones that cater mostly to Western tastes. There is one restaurant north of Seattle (T&T Seafood), that makes an outstanding cake noodle topped with seafood (shrimp, squid, scallops, and white fish in a light sauce). If you’re ever in the area, Pomai, let me know and I’ll take you there. They also make a great honey walnut prawn dish, which is one of my favorites, and my mouth started to water when I saw the ones in your photos!

  13. YAY! I missed your posts!! I have been on the hunt for cake noodles on the mainland for the last three years and have yet to find them! I was recently back on Kauai though and got my fill while I was there… THANK GOODNESS! The cake noodles in your post look delicious though and while I am not a fan of shrimp the shrimp looked great as well!

    If you are ever on Kauai check out the big save in Kapaa for a great shave ice… its basic but its done right 🙂

  14. Chiemi, Big Save on Kauai was recently sold to the parent owner of Times Supermarket, although it will continue operations under the name Big Save.

    Jenny, from what I understand, Seattle’s Chinatown district huge. I’ll certainly take you up on the offer if I make it out Seattle sometime soon. My sister used to love the Cake Noodle at Kinwah in Kaneohe, although I understand they’re not as good as before, since the original owner has retired, and the grandchildren are now running the place.

    Amy, your recipe for the batter sounds EXACTLY like the one used for Little Village’s Honey Walnut Shrimp.

    Mariko, yeah, the beef broccoli “gravy” smothering the cake noodle was OUTSTANDING. So deep and savory, with a hint of that wok-seared smoke accent.

    Traci, actually we didn’t spring for the special holder, but for some reason they served ours with it. I think only the large gets the holders. Believe it or not, the Shave Ice we ordered were all “SMALL”!

    In Seattlle, have you ever tried the T&T Seafood Chinese restaurant Jenny mentioned?

    Dan, that Vietnamese “cake noodle” at Nguyen Hoang Restaurant looks much drier indeed. Looks good though! Next time I hit-up a Vietnamese restaurant, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for that dish.

    Kimba, hope your dream becomes a reality sometime soon. lol

    Carol, thanks for the tip on the Steamed Basa Fish. I’ll definitely get that on a future visit, as I love Chinese style steamed fish, especially when they pour sizzling hot sesame or peanut oil over it at the table.

    Spotty, then be careful to cover your keyboard when opening my latest post. I’m not usually a duck person, but that Peking Duck at Little Village was outstanding!

    Arny B, LV’s Peking Duck had a wonderfully crisp skin with lots of flavor, and wasn’t greasy at all. I mean there’s some fat of course, but not where it’s a mess on the fingers or off-putting to the palate. Funny how young children like chicken so much. I bet a high percentage of McDonald’s Happy Meals sold are the ones with Chicken McNuggets.

    Ryan, oooooh, Lamb with Mochi Noodles? Now that’s something I REALLY wanna’ try now that you’ve suggested it!

    Raph’, you’ve described the LV’s Peking Duck to the “T”!!!

  15. Pomai,
    (welcome back!) Do you know if Little Village uses mayo in their Honey Walnut Shrimp? I usually don’t order the HWS while in Los Angeles because it’s usually heavily coated with mayo and all the recipes I’ve seen for it include using mayo. But at Little Village, their HWS is DELISH! And I don’t see much mayo on it. Any thoughts?

  16. DHeazy, NO WAY was there any mayo’ in LV’s HWS. Mayo’? Are you serious? Ack!

    LV’s HWS was very, very light and delicate, and not heavy at all, while having the perfect balance of texture, tenderness and flavor profile. Awesome!

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