Atmosphere: Family-operated, casual. Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a. m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday; 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday. Price Range: Diners $5.95 to $7.95; specialties $4.75 for fish to $7.75 for steak and Chinese vegetable flamed at tableside; some lobster and crabmeat dishes to $13.75; a la carte entrees $4.25 to $8.50. A children's menu is available. Reservations: Accepted but not usually needed on weekday evenings.Special facilities: Booster seats and high chairs, carryout and party menus, parking lot in front. Patrons in wheelchairs can be admitted through front door which is at parking lot level.
It is easy to forget what a novelty an Oriental restaurant can be for children. But recently, we ate at the Honolulu on Telegraph Road just south of the Beltway, and the children were understandably enthralled.
Stuck on a commercial corner surrounded by asphalt, it is unpretentious verging on ugly on the outside. Inside , it is all grass-hut-and-plastic-flowers, bamboo lattice, fanbacked chairs, tikis, shells and back-lighted fluorescent murals woven through and around about 20 red-clothed tables.
Paper leis are draped over the napkins at each place, so that from the moment you sit down, younger children have something to keep them occupied while the grown-ups read the long menu and the drink list. The latter, illustrated of course, describes a host of lethal-sounding rum and gin concoctions served in a variety of shells and tubs ranging in price from $2.10 to $2.50, with a flaming volcano for two at $4.50. We opted for a bottle of Micheloeb (there is no beer on tap), but the children were more adventuresome.
From the dollar-a-drink, non-alcoholic list they chose coconut milk flavored with pineapple juice and served in a tall frosted glass with ice, and banana punch topped with pineapple chunks and a cherry, served in a barrel-shaped mug. Both drinks were surprisingly good: sweet, cold and about as exotic as our children will voluntarily endure.
The menu is graciously devoid of column A and column B, but there is a page offering three dinners including soup or salad, appetizer and entree choices at $5.95, $6.95 and $7.95. Children's dinners, at $4.95, include egg drop or won ton soup or salad, egg roll or shrimp toast, and a choice of shrimp tempura, barbecued spare ribs, chopped sirloin or mahi mahi (fish), all served with french fries (the owners have four children of their own).
The menu, is, like the island of Honolulu a mixture of Oriental cuisine with steaks and lobster tails thrown in for good measure. Ther is Peking duck and a smattering of Szechuan-style Chinese, but most of the dishes are mild Cantonese or Mandarin style.
We started with won ton soup for the children and hot and sour soup for one adult. Both were excellent.
The won ton was a rich, clear broth flavored with tiny shreds of pork and dotted with green peas; the noodles were huge, tender and filled with generous lumps of pork.
The hot and sour soup was both of those and at 95 cents compared favorably to many we have tasted at double the price.
We shared a round of appetizers including crisp shrimp toast topped with seasame seeds, deep-fried crab rangoon with its mild, creamy cheese and crab filling, and cho-cho, thinly sliced marinated beef threaded onto a bamboo skewer and served with a thick, mouth-puckering bean sauce. Oohs and aahs went up from the 5- and 9-year-old contingent when the waitress, with a modest flourish, ignited the tiny tabletop brazier to heat the cho-cho.
For dinner, one of the children tried the ribs, which were thinly glazed with a rather cloying red sauce. But they were meaty and virtually greaseless. The french fries were crisp and the plate was bedecked with a slice of canned pineapple on lettuce and one of those ubiquitous red cherries.
Out other child, finding nothing to his liking on the children's menu, ordered chicken with almonds, $4.25, from the adult list. We immediately envisioned dollar signs with wings, but he managed to down a full third of the huge mound of chicken covered with whole toasted almonds and flecked with peas, all tossed in a light cornstarch sauce which gave it an appetizing glaze. (The Honolulu is no stranger to doggie bags, either.)
I tried mahi mahi, firm-fleshed boneless broiled fish, mild but flavorful, lightly crunchy with browned butter on the outside, flaky on the inside. It was doused with a glutinous white sauce, the least appetizing of everything we tried, which tasted strongly of sesame oil.
A guest ordered sliced shrimp with snow peas and huge slices of fresh waterchestnuts, which was cooked to perfection, the shrimp firm and juicy, the snow peas plump and crunchy. Tea, offered during the main course (not left on the table to get cold), is served in large coffee cups. Desserts include flaming bananas or ice cream, and cherries jubilee, all of which sounded spectacular, but by that time no one had room.
Dinner for five came to $37.55, inclduing the beer and children's drinks, plus tax and tip.