Grind Time: Lucky Belly opens in Chinatown

Jun. 13, 2012 | 1 Comment

<em>The back door of the former Mini Garden on Hotel Street is now the first stage of business for the new Lucky Belly Noodle Bar. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jason Genegabus)</em>

The back door of the former Mini Garden on Hotel Street is now the first stage of business for the new Lucky Belly Noodle Bar. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jason Genegabus)

BY JASON GENEGABUS / jason@staradvertiser.com

Late night visitors to Chinatown have another dining option these days — but you have to know where to look.

<em>The Lucky Belly menu consists of just three food items — and bottled water. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jason Genegabus)</em>

The Lucky Belly menu consists of just three rotating food items — and bottled water. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jason Genegabus)

When Downbeat Diner opened on Hotel Street in February 2011, it provided a highly visible option for post-club grub within stumbling distance from Nextdoor, Manifest, Lotus Downtown and other nightspots.

At the beginning of June, however, a small sign began to appear on the taped-over windows of Mini Garden at the corner of Hotel and Smith streets, which instructed pedestrians last weekend to head mauka on Smith with promises of pork belly bao, shrimp gyoza with an edamame avocado puree and Jang-braised shortrib chow fun.

Walk past 50 N. Hotel St. and up Smith to the back door of the old Mini Garden and you’ll discover the first stage of business for Lucky Belly Noodle Bar — a late night takeout window.

When one of Lucky Belly’s co-owners went before the Chinatown Neighborhood Board in March, he described the restaurant’s concept as being “dedicated to offering an Asian menu utilizing locally grown products focusing on ramen combined with local favorites and (an) ‘Asian Pub’ experience.”

Along with the food, Lucky Belly will offer an “extensive sake list, original cocktails, beer produced in Hawaii and Japan and a wine list.” Sit-down lunch service will be available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in July, with dinner to follow after that. A recent preview meal featured items including a BLT salad, karaage chicken and tempura shrimp roll sandwiches and a trio of ramen offerings (including a Belly Bowl, served with pork belly, smoked bacon and sausage!).

<em>The pork belly bao, left, and shrimp gyoza with edamame avocado sauce from Lucky Belly Noodle Bar. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jason Genegabus)</em>

The pork belly bao, left, and shrimp gyoza with edamame avocado sauce from Lucky Belly Noodle Bar. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jason Genegabus)

Ordering at the takeout window is quick and simple. Only three items are available on any particular night, and everything is priced at $5 to make the math as simple as possible for inebriated customers. Bottled water is also on sale for $1 per bottle.

<em>The Jang-braised shortrib chow fun is served in a traditional Chinese takeout food container. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jason Genegabus)</em>

The Jang-braised shortrib chow fun is served in a traditional Chinese takeout food container. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jason Genegabus)

Of the three menu items we tried, it was hard to pick a favorite. All are good buys for different reasons. The edamame avocado puree elevates what would otherwise be a typical gyoza into what could easily be your newest Chinatown addiction.

The pork belly bao are another perfect fit for Clubland regulars looking to get something more substantial in their system. Three steamed buns are filled with a slice of pork and a pickle; one order is just enough to take the edge off, while two orders could easily replace a trip to Zippy’s or Jack in the Box on the way home.

For the best bang for your buck, go for the chow fun. Served in a traditional Chinese takeout container, the amount of noodles you get for the price is pretty ridiculous — you’ll find yourself running out of shortribs before noodles if you’re not careful!

Although the block of Smith Street the new Lucky Belly window is located on is one of the less-traveled thoroughfares in Chinatown, the crowds it has attracted the last two weekends after midnight provides the necessary strength in numbers to deter most shady activity.

The Window by Lucky Belly is open from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Cash only.
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“Grind Time” is always looking for the latest places to get your grub on. Email Jason Genegabus with restaurant, bar or any other food/drink-related item at jason@staradvertiser.com.

  • Anonymous

    Looks like you tapped some of that gyoza before the photo op. I may have to give it a shot next time I’m hangin’. Thanks for the heads up.

    Oh, and btw, it’s bao, not “boa.” You’re not eating a snake.