Bái Bái, Hong Kong Island
It's been almost a month since I first heard the news, but I still can't come to terms with it.
Hong Kong Island in Wareham is no more.
According to this story in Wareham Week, the restaurant closed at the end of February and won't re-open. As my friend Ben Rosen told the writer, the owners sold the business due to an illness in the family.
Rumors are that the restaurant was sold to Water Wizz, and the speculation is that the land may be used for the expansion of the water park or its parking lot. Nothing confirmed on that yet, but it's no surprise to anyone in town if that's the case.
Hong Kong Island, run by the Lau family, was one of the last true "Polynesian Palace"-style restaurants still around. You know what I'm talking about--the golden Buddha statue by the front door, water fountain, umbrellas in drinks, and low, moody lighting that hid that the decor hadn't been updated since the 1970s.
It was perfect.
Nowadays, most Chinese restaurants are take-out storefronts or all-you-can-eat buffets. Those that are still sit-down restaurants have a more modern style, with brighter lighting and far less kitsch.
Hong Kong Island always had a special place in my heart. It's where my wife and I went on dates, both before and after we were married. It was the first place I ever tried a Scorpion Bowl, complete with sucking down the Bacardi 151 in the middle. It was where we took our son for his first taste of Chinese food that didn't come from a Styrofoam container. We knew every time we went, for a sit-down dinner or even just to grab a to-go order, we were going to see friends and acquaintances.
It was a place where nostalgia was just as much of a side dish as the crab rangoons, beef teriyaki and chicken fingers.
Sadly, over the past few years, our visits had become less and less. We took for granted that Hong Kong Island would always be there, and Chinese became something we got delivered from the storefront down the street from our house rather than going out and basking in the mish-mash of Chinese, Japanese and Pacific Islands culture right in our own town.
I wish I could go and get one more pu-pu platter. I wish I could swing by for one more Skull & Bone at the bar, while someone warbled some terrible karaoke version of "Me & Bobby McGee." I wish I could buy one more Chinese paper fan or pewter dragon from the glass case under the cash register.
Hong Kong Island's sister restaurant, Orchid of Hawaii, is still open in Lakeville. Maybe sometime, I'll make the trip over there.
But it just won't be the same.
Bái bái, Hong Kong Island.