Variety adds to spice of South Pacific

Ellicott City restaurant has more than 50 dishes for lunch, dinner buffets

Restaurant profile

April 26, 2001|By Jody Vilschick | Jody Vilschick,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

"I like to try all different kinds of food," says George Low, owner of South Pacific, off U.S. 40 in Ellicott City, "and I like my customers to try different dishes when they come in."

That, in part, explains why Low decided to offer an extensive buffet - of more than 50 dishes - for lunch and dinner.

Originally from Hong Kong, Low has lived in Canada and the United States for 40 years, and he has been in the restaurant business for 30 years.

He and his brother-in-law opened Jade Palace in The Mall in Columbia 30 years ago. That was a first for him and for Howard County - Jade Palace was the county's first Chinese restaurant, Low says.

If you start your meal with soup, you can choose from among such standards as egg drop soup, wonton soup, and hot and sour soup, in addition to more unusual soups such as bean cake vegetable soup, shredded pork with Szechwan pickle soup and seafood vegetable soup.

In keeping with the restaurant's name, the menu offers several Polynesian-theme dishes, including South Pacific special (lobster, chicken, shrimp, roast pork and beef with pineapple, snow peas, water chestnuts and other vegetables in a special sauce) and Polynesian chicken (chicken white meat and pork rolled in an egg batter and fried, served in a sweet and sour flaming rum sauce).

Other "chef's suggestions" are the crispy whole fish, Hunan style ("fried to a crisp" and showered in the chef's spicy sweet sauce), sizzling Chinese steak (broiled choice shell steak served with a sauce of bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, pea pods and other Chinese vegetables on a hot platter), and lo han ("cellophane" noodles, gingko nuts, bamboo shoots, dried bean curd, water chestnuts, mushrooms and other Chinese vegetables in a chef's sauce).

In addition to lo han, vegetarians can find plenty to eat at South Pacific. There's also bean curd with ginger and scallion, moo shu vegetable (with four pancakes) and a variety of lo mein and chow fun.

"General Tso's chicken is a customer favorite," Low says. But the menu also offers hon sui gai (breaded boneless chicken), pineapple chicken with vegetables, and almond chicken.

"If I came into my restaurant, I would order something with lobster or other seafood in it," he says. "In Hong Kong, lobster is very expensive, but here it is reasonable."

Low recommends lobster with scallions and ginger, kung pao shrimp or shrimp with lobster sauce.

More adventurous souls may choose fresh squid with spring onions and ginger, or kung pao squid sauteed with hot, spicy sauce and peanuts.

Low has opened and then sold a number of restaurants in Maryland since his Jade Palace days, including opening South Pacific 22 years ago.

"But I'm going to keep South Pacific," he says. "It's close to where I live, in Columbia, and I like to think that my customers are also my neighbors."

South Pacific

Where: 9200 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City; 410-461-2714.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; noon to 10 p.m. Sundays.

Prices: Appetizers: $1.75 to $8.95; entrees: $7.25 to $10.95.

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover.

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