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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, June 28, 2002

Dew Drop Inn dishes could stand a little more spice

By Matthew Gray
Advertiser Restaurant Reviewer

Dew Drop Inn owner Charlie Tsai offers several special vegetarian dishes at the popular Beretania Street restaurant, which also boasts a full-color photo menu.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Dew Drop Inn

1088 S. Beretania St.

Open every night for dinner, 5:30-9:30 p.m.

Lunch: Tuesdays-Saturdays 11 a.m.-2 p.m.



This neighborhood northern Chinese restaurant has been in this tiny location for at least 15 years, the past seven under the present ownership. When you're inside, you sense that many patrons have been here before many times.

I especially enjoyed the color photo album of all the menu items. This is actually a very smart investment for any restaurant to make, especially if the finished dishes are as appealing as the photographs. Because we eat with our eyes first, I would surmise that more items are ordered because of it.

However, I found that most of the dishes don't look as good as the photographs suggest.

The printed menu is smallish when compared to most other Chinese restaurants (only five appetizers, for instance), but that in itself is not a bad thing. I hoped that meant they must do everything extremely well. There is a blackboard on one wall that lists daily specials.

We tried a plate of the potstickers (eight for $5), half with minced shrimp and pork, the other half with chicken and chives. They are served with a dish of minced fresh ginger and vinegar, but we asked for mustard to combine with soy sauce, and proceeded to enjoy these noodle-pastry-wrapped morsels.

Vegetarian spring rolls ($4.95) were hot and crunchy, albeit a bit on the bland side. The onion pancake ($2.95) is a chewy item flavored with green onion. Neither of these fried items was at all greasy.

I was expecting the food here to pack a spicy wallop, given that Dew Drop Inn calls itself northern. But on closer inspection of the menu, only two seafood dishes, one chicken, and two beef, pork and lamb dishes are labeled "spicy." I would think that most people who order spicy dishes want the heat to be assertive. I was disappointed to find the spicy dishes quite tame.

Sizzling garlic shrimp ($8.95) were sizzling indeed, but not spicy or garlicky enough. The kung pao chicken was ordinary, as was the spicy Szechwan beef with Chinese cabbage ($7.25).

The scallops, shrimp and vegetables in garlic sauce ($9.95) looks amazing in the photo menu, and that's why we ordered it. Unfortunately, what came out of the kitchen was a plateful of thinly sliced scallops and water chestnuts (which look too similar to share the same plate), with only a couple of shrimp, swimming in dull brown gravy.

The house fried rice ($6.95) wasn't sure if it wanted to be a fried dish or a tossed-ingredient dish. It contains green peas, chicken, shrimp and Chinese sausage. You probably can do much better, starch-wise at least, by ordering the vegetable pan-fried thick noodle ($7.95), or the stir-fried mochi rice cake with vegetables and chicken (also $7.95).

The orange-flavored chicken ($7.95) was much better, fried to the crunchy stage before being stir-fried with slices of orange peel and a sweet-spicy glaze, and served over slices of fresh orange. The crispy string bean with pork ($7.50) was very good, with the green beans retaining their natural crunch and bright green color.

The ma po tofu ($6.50) was the one spicy dish here that worked. It's prepared with minced pork but can be done vegetarian if you wish, as can many other dishes here. This bean-curd dish is tossed with hot bean paste, chicken broth, garlic and ginger, resulting in a soupy, silky-soft and spicy blend.

Three green-vegetable dishes (for health and good luck), each $5.95, fine choices to end a meal, are choy sum with oyster sauce (or stir-fried if you wish), hot and sour cabbage, and stir-fried garlic ong choy.

Dew Drop Inn caters to its long-time patrons, people who return again and again. The service is quietly efficient, and the food gets to your table straight out of the kitchen.

I'd like to see them take a few more culinary chances and (even if Emeril said it first) kick it up a notch.

Reach Matthew Gray at mgray@honoluluadvertiser.com with comments, questions and suggestions.