Baked BBQ Buns

Baked BBQ Buns

I’ve been eating a lot of dim sum lately. I’ve discovered it’s kind of perfect for those weekend mornings when I’m a little hungry and can’t seem to get out of bed before 11 a.m.

Usually, I find myself at The Mandalay … OK, truth talk, I always find myself there. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I hate having to find parking anywhere (my feelings really are that strong), and the lot attached to the restaurant in Alii Place never is crowded on weekends. (P.S. I have never had to pay more than $2 on my way out parking there.)

All #firstworldproblems aside, though, the dim sum at Mandalay really is quite good.

My favorite is its Baked BBQ Pork Buns, which essentially are like manapua. I’ve also sampled the steamed version, which is fine, but the baked buns come glazed with honey and are wonderfully, slightly sticky and just a little sweet.

There’s also Deep Fried Taro Puffs — a medley of pork and vegetables that are cooked and mixed with gravy, and then covered with taro and deep-fried. (Right about now, I am realizing how silly it was of me to write this around lunchtime.)

Admittedly, I am not the most adventurous dim sum eater. The rest of what I order runs the gamut of items like Potstickers and Shrimp Dumplings. The Potstickers, in particular, always are on the verge of being too big (this is not a complaint) and are all the right amounts of crispy and chewy.

But the real reason Mandalay is my go-to? It’s quite simple. Its tall ceilings bring in a lot of light and make the already large dining room feel expansive and comfortable all at once. Plus, every waiter I’ve ever encountered there has been friendly and patient as I fumble through filling out the form for dim sum (it still takes me far too long to figure out what to order).

The only thing I can’t get over is the piano soundtrack that plays on loop. I think I’ve memorized the notes to The Phantom of the Opera (even though I don’t play piano).

1055 Alakea St. Honolulu, HI
Phone number (808) 525-8585


For this week’s installment, I ventured to Hale Vietnam in Kaimuki. This is where it all began for me, the place I first tried pho. I’ve always been fond of the restaurant’s broth — it’s not too oily and doesn’t have an excessive amount of unnecessary spices. Invariably, though, I have encountered oddly cooked noodles that sometimes just break into pieces as I’m grabbing at them with chopsticks. But its spring rolls are amazing, and Hale Vietnam remains one of my favorites, if for nothing more than nostalgic reasons. Plus, Via Gelato happens to be right next door.