Dining on Maui

Dragon Dragon

Be your own best ‘orderer’ at Hong Kong-style Chinese restaurant

By BONNIE FRIEDMAN, Contributing Writer
POSTED: April 24, 2008

Article Photos

Server Julie Fernandez holds a plate of honey walnut prawns, the most popular item on the menu according to Dragon Dragon partner Raymond Shek.


A Cantonese Chinese restaurant in the Brooklyn neighborhood where I grew up is my earliest childhood memory of “eating out.” Much to my delight, my family ate there regularly. I’ve loved all styles of Chinese food ever since. But, I suspect like many of you, I get into a bit of an ordering rut, choosing the same favorites over and over again. So you know that scene in “When Harry Met Sally?” (No, not THAT scene.) The one where they’re all in the fancy restaurant and Harry tells Jess and Marie that Sally is the best “orderer” he knows? Well, my friend Cathy is the best Dragon Dragon “orderer” I know. She happily agreed to join me for lunch . . . and to handle the ordering.

I thought we’d have some dim sum — I love dim sum — I could definitely handle ordering those tasty little morsels. Cathy could chime in with a couple of other dishes. Oh boy! This was going to be good. And those were my best laid plans.

We were warmly greeted by partner Raymond Shek. He told us the restaurant will mark its eighth anniversary (time flies!) next Oct. 13th—“It was a Friday,” he said with a smile. He told us the most popular dish on the menu is the honey walnut prawns. (I told him that was my favorite.) He told us about several new menu items and said he’d like to order for us. Okay. Cathy happily relinquished her ordering obligation. We both suspected this was going to be much better than good.

Out came those delectable honey walnut prawns — I always think of them as “candy-for-a-first-course,” like I’m getting away with something by having a yummy sweet before my actual meal. Cathy told me she’d made this dish once at home — the recipe is included in a local cookbook. “How was it?” I asked. “Not so good,” she said. Proving one of my culinary theories — why cook a signature restaurant dish at home when you can be at the restaurant in five minutes and have it prepared by someone who actually knows how to cook it?

Then, something neither one of us had ever seen on a Chinese menu before — fried pepper lamb back ribs. “The chef loves lamb,” Raymond told us. The chef’s name is Dennis Lam — I swear. Lam’s lamb (tee-hee) was terrific — meaty, crunchy with a coating of salt, pepper and garlic.

Spicy crab Singapore-style next. Oh my goodness. A big glass plate mounded with crab cooked in a spicy, tomato-y, onion-y sauce. Fantastic flavors and textures. And one of those dishes that’s really, really wonderfully messy to eat and you get to use your hands and lots of napkins and a big ol’ finger bowl when you’re done. By the way, the chef will happily make this preparation with shrimp or lobster, too.

There’s more. As absolutely delicious as every dish was, I think the sizzling platter of fish with basil leaves is my (new) favorite. Perfectly cooked sea bass served on a sizzling, seasoned platter with butter, black pepper and basil leaves. Every individual flavor was notable, none overshadowing any of the others, blended together into what I think is a truly great dish.

Happily, neither Cathy nor I had ever tried any of the dishes Raymond ordered for us. Raymond turned out to be the preeminent orderer.

Top it all off with an almond float — “it’s like haupia, Chinese-style”—or the light, refreshing and flavorful lychee sherbet made for the restaurant by Roselani, or the mango pudding, and you’ve got yourself a pretty near perfect meal.

So the next time you go eat at Dragon Dragon, bust out of your ordering rut. Go ahead. Order something new — or better yet, take a crowd and order all things new. Your taste buds will thank you. And you just may end up being the next top “orderer.”

This is my last week on this page of Maui Scene. It’s been such fun re-connecting with old restaurant friends and meeting new ones. It’s been a pleasure to write about every one of them and I hope all of you “out there” have enjoyed the stories. I thank the folks at The Maui News for the opportunity and for the support, especially Rich Van Scoy, Rick Chatenever and Dawne Miguel. I’ll see you (dining) around. Welcome back, Carla.