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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 31, 2008

Golden Dragon ending era at Hilton Hawaiian Village

By Wayne Harada and Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writers

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

When the Golden Dragon closes Sunday, loyal customers will miss its ocean view and famous beggar's chicken, a baked entree wrapped in lotus leaves and encased in clay, and hit with a mallet before serving.

Hilton Hawaiian Village

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Citing declining demand within a changing Waikiki, the Golden Dragon restaurant— a favorite for gourmet Chinese food for decades — will close Sunday at the Hilton Hawaiian Village resort.

The hotel restaurant opened in the 1950s and earned a reputation as a special-occasion, higher-end Chinese restaurant.

Hilton spokeswoman Cynthia Rankin said yesterday that you still have a few days to eat at the restaurant before it closes its doors Sunday for the final time.

Rankin said the restaurant had many loyal patrons in its heyday, who celebrated holiday dinners there each year. She said reservations are still being accepted up until Sunday's last meals.

The late Dai Hoy Chang was the chef who opened the restaurant and was credited with its early fame. Rankin said hotel founder Baron Hilton liked his food so much he would fly him to the Mainland on occasion to prepare food for private functions.

In 1988, the restaurant moved from near the Ali'i Tower to its current location in the Rainbow Tower.

The restaurant is famous for its cold ginger chicken and beggar's chicken, the latter created by original chef Dai Hoy Chang, requiring the diner or the server to hammer the baked entree, wrapped in lotus leaves and encased in clay, with a mallet before serving and eating.

"The restaurant has been challenged for many years with low demand and the closure is a business-based decision," said Noel Trainor, Hilton general manager, in a statement.

Trainor said 31 employees will be affected, but with vacancies in various departments of the hotel — from food and beverage, front office and administrative to housekeeping departments — the hotel's human resources team and managers will offer training for those who opt to remain and work in new positions.

There are no plans to fill the prime location, at water's edge next to the Bali Restaurant in the beachfront Rainbow Tower, said Trainor.

The Golden Dragon's current chef will continue to cook in the resort's kitchens and village restaurants will offer Chinese menus at banquet functions.

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com and Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.