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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 27, 2001

Dining Scene
Little Village big on service and delicious food

By Matthew Gray
Advertiser Restaurant Critic

Little Village is my new favorite Chinese restaurant. Open for only a few months, this place is a welcome change from most places. It is very clean, very friendly and the food is positively delicious.æThe air conditioning is top-notch, so you can come here on the hottest day and be comfortable. And you can't beat its hours: straight through from 10 in the morning until midnight, every day.

Little Village manager Jennifer Chan displays a dish of grilled fresh akule. Little Village, which opened its doors in April, cooks with less oil and MSG, she said.

Kyle Sackowski • The Honolulu Advertiser

Little Village

1113 Smith St.


10 a.m.-midnight daily

very good

When was the last time you asked about an item at a Chinese restaurant and were told it is "superb"? Our waiter, Nam (whose name means "south"), has to be the finest waiter I have ever had in any Chinese place, anywhere. He suggested complementary flavors and combinations, helping us to match all the foods. He smiled (as did the entire staff), cajoled and checked on us frequently.

There's only one down side to this restaurant, and that's the seating. Unless you're at one of the two large round tables with traditional high-back chairs, you will have to endure what I call "Zen benches." They have no back support, so it's not the most comfortable way to enjoy a meal. Now, on the other hand, if you are strictly here to eat, you'll be fine.

Oh, and speaking of eating ... if you enjoy anything in black bean sauce, be sure to get it here. It is the finest black bean sauce in Honolulu, bar none. You can get stir-fried clams ($9.95), chicken or beef ($7.95), or the amazing sizzling butterfish ($12.95) with this magical, sweet and salty accompaniment.

Little Village makes an effort to inform you on the menu that it is happy to prepare your items without MSG by request. By the way, did you know that MSG is derived from the soybean? The cooks also use olive oil on several of their vegetable dishes. They are happy to accommodate your special health concerns here.

They have about 20 vegetarian dishes to choose from.

Try the cold green beans with garlic and chile ($3.95), cucumber with chile and sour sauce ($2.95, similar to kim chee), eggplant three ways — with garlic ($5.75), with garlic and chile ($5.75) and curried with tofu ($6.95), making for some of the finest eggplant dishes money can buy.

A Little Village chef prepares a healthier version of the orange chicken. The cooks are happy to accommodate customers' special health concerns.

Kyle Sackowski • The Honolulu Advertiser

Also known as a noodle house, Little Village serves up a lot of duck noodle O'ahu style ($6.25), hot and sour cold noodles ($4.95), spicy Szechuan beef noodles ($5.50), fish-cake noodle ($4.95), Shanghai mochi in soup and many other noodle-icious items, in soup as well as steamed and fried.æThe thick and chewy chow fun ($6.25) comes a few different ways; you won't be disappointed.æ

I normally don't order rice dishes at Chinese places, but the special fried rice here ($7.25) comes loaded with shrimp, duck and char siu. Fans of rice noodles can get a curry rice noodle dish ($6.25).

There are dishes that die-hard and adventurous diners will enjoy, such as congee (with preserved egg, pig's liver and kidney, etc., for $4.75 and $5.75) and braised pig feet ($7.25). But more middle-of-the-road fare is where this huge menu (more than 150 items) excels.

The open kitchen adds a nice visual touch as the chefs move with dazzling speed and precision. I watched them put together an order of kung pao chicken ($7.95), stir-fried lamb with leek and chile ($10.95), beef with black pepper sauce ($7.95), roasted pork with taro ($7.25), salted pepper shrimp ($9.95) and a whole smoked game hen ($8.95) in what seemed like only about three minutes.

For an unusually refreshing treat, try the chrysanthemum honey herbal tea and the carrot herbal tea ($1.25) that are served cold. Sweetened with honey, they are great elixirs to combine with spicy and salty flavors. Little Village even makes its own soybean milk ($1.25).

If you happen to come here with a friend who doesn't want traditional Chinese fare, he or she can have respectable French toast ($3.95), grilled chicken wings ($3.95), a garden salad ($3.25) and French fries ($1.50).

When it comes to dessert time, Little Village will make a deliciously fresh crepe filled with sweetened red bean paste ($3.95 single, $5.95 double). It is as good a crepe you'll find anywhere.

I'm sure that you'll enjoy your visit here. Little Village will surprise you.

Send comments, questions and suggestions to ChefMatthew@LoveLife.com.