WAIPOULI — The look is different.
The menu is different.
But tucked away in the new Asian Pacific decor, some local favorites still dwell.
Richard Liang of Pacific Island Bistro said that, when the lease for Panda Gardens wasn’t renewed because of their Chinese-cuisine offering, it put him at a crossroad.
After owning and operating the popular Chinese restaurant for 15 years, the arrival of Panda Express to the Kaua‘i Village shopping center put him at a competitive disadvantage because of his Chinese cuisine.
“I only had about a month to finish everything,” Liang said while enjoying the lull following the lunchtime activity in Waipouli.
During that time, Liang said the eatery was closed.
“For the customers, I feel sad,” Liang said of that period when the remodeling and renovation left customers perplexed about the closed doors.
“But now, they can taste new things.”
With his customers in mind, Liang said he chose to go the route of Asian Pacific Rim cuisine and fusion, because those dishes have a more local appeal.
Additionally, Liang explained that, unlike Pacific Rim cuisine, Asian Pacific cuisine is more reasonably priced, while offering some new tastes.
Finally, Liang noted that there are a lot of Pacific Rim cuisine places for visitors to try, but not many that offer Asian Pacific cuisine.
That started a long period of redecorating, which came full circle yesterday when Liang celebrated the grand opening of the Pacific Island Bistro.
“We’ve been operating for several weeks now,” Liang said. “It’s kind of a trial run to see that everything works smoothly.”
In addition to the new decor and furniture, Liang said he expanded the kitchen area of the former Panda Garden restaurant, and added a new chef.
Part of the new look is the addition of a party section where larger groups can enjoy themselves while dining.
“Our signature Peking duck is still here,” Liang said, as well as some of the local-favorite appetizers like the crab cakes, the steamed sea bass, and soft-shell crab tempura.
“But now we have teppanyaki as well as flaming satay New York,” Liang said of their new menu.
Open for lunch and dinner only, Liang said customers can still order takeout, carryout, and catering like before.
Pacific Island Bistro opens at 10:30 a.m. for lunch that ends at 3 p.m., and reopens for dinner from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
“Right now, we’re open seven days, and seven nights,” Liang said.
“And, just like before, it’s always about customer service and the casual atmosphere.”
• Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or email@example.com.