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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, February 13, 2005

Eastern Garden to close Sun., Feb. 27

In addition to an assortment of dim sum, chefs also prepare a tasty array of a la carte seafood dishes.

Photos by Randy T. Fujimoto

Eastern Garden

Where: 98-150 Kaonohi St., Westridge Shopping Center

Call: 486-8882

Hours: Open Mondays through Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and from 8:30 a.m. on weekends

Note: On Saturdays and Sundays, guests who are seated between 8:30 and 10 a.m. will receive a 20-percent discount off their dim sum bill if paid before 11 a.m.

In reflective moods, Linda and Larry Chan remained upbeat as they announced the closure of their Eastern Garden restaurant on Sun., Feb. 27.

Philosophical and almost teary-eyed, Linda Chan asserted that the life cycle of Eastern Garden has run its course.

"It's time to move on," she said. "Although we're sad to be closing, we're looking forward to our next venture."

"We're not going out quiet though," said Larry Chan, who presently divides his time shuttling between the restaurant and his auto air-conditioning repair shop in Kaimuki. "We didn't just want to close our doors and have our loyal patrons wondering what happened or, worse yet, think that we were forced to close. No, this was our decision."

With one son in college and a daughter soon to graduate from high school, and two young daughters, Diana, 10, and Jessica, 14, quickly growing up, both parents expressed their need — and want — to spend more time with their kids.

By closing the Westridge location at the end of this month, the husband-and-wife team will be afforded this time, as well as the luxury of doing more traveling, according to Linda Chan.

"And I'll soon be able to pull weeds in the backyard with my daughters like we used to do with our older daughter," Linda Chan laughed. "Or, we can all go to a movie together."

Citing high levels of stress as another reason for shuttering their doors and windows, the Chans further commented that they wanted to change their direction.

Coy and unwilling to reveal what that new direction is, Larry Chan borrowed a line from Arnold Schwarzenegger and grinned, "We'll be back."

For now, though, the Chans will carry on business as usual at Eastern Garden, which once had locations in Kaimuki, Kaneohe and Waikiki.

"Those were crazy days. We were running around all the time when we had the four restaurants," Linda Chan said. "But it wasn't until after 9/11 that we realized we were getting old and couldn't continue on that hectic path."

While many local restaurants were financially hurt after the September tragedy, Eastern Garden felt it four times greater than most single-location establishments.

"We're only now starting to recover from 9/11," Linda Chan said. "It has been an uphill struggle for the past few years."

Judging, however, by the lunch crowd this past Monday, the restaurant is back doing pre-9/11 numbers. In other words, the crowds are back.

"We've come full circle," Linda Chan said. "We started off successful and we're ending in the same way."

Winner of multiple Honolulu Advertiser Ilima Awards and rated favorably by Zagat Survey, Eastern Garden solidified its popularity when it introduced its all-you-can-eat buffets in Westridge five years ago.

"At that time, we were only offering dim sum and an a la carte menu," Linda Chan said. "But we knew that by adding a buffet, we would appeal to more people."

Fong Yu Yim presents customers with a variety of dim sum items.

For Valentine's Day, Eastern Garden chefs will roll out their traditional holiday seafood buffet, featuring such items as mussels soaked in black bean sauce, salt-and-pepper shrimp, fish fillet sauteed with mixed vegetables and snow crablegs.

Available from 5 to 9 p.m. tomorrow night, the buffet dinner will cost $23.99 for adults and $12.99 for keiki three to 12 years.

A row of chafing dishes will also be filled with such items as deep-fried calamari, Five Spice chicken wings, barbecue ribs, kau yuk and buns, chicken with oyster sauce, spicy Szechuan-style eggplant and beef with broccoli.

"Yes, it's sad that Eastern Garden is closing," said Linda Chan, who hinted that their next venture would involve the old Yong Sing restaurant on Alakea St. "But, as I said, we're looking forward to our new venture ... and it won't be another Chinese restaurant."