Anyone who has craved a good wonton soup or crispy General Tao chicken is in for a treat when Lucky Pagoda opens its doors on Thursday, March 12.
Located in the former art gallery space at the Lumberyard Complex, Lucky Pagoda will offer authentic Chinese food — yes, the menu includes pork fried rice — for dining in or take-out.
Partners Tien Duong, ToMi, Tu Bui and chef A. Tuong have worked toward opening the deep red doors of their restaurant for the past two years, overcoming hardship and personal tragedy in the process, explained Duong.
“I think we can all say that everyone who has moved to this island has their own story,” Duong said. “I work for Caribbean Villas and get asked almost daily, ‘so what brought you here?’ For me, my story or experience on St. John can best be described as a mixed blessing.”
“I moved here from California, dealt with quite a 180-degree adjustment, and dealt with the death of two dear friends,” said Duong. “Both of them lived life to the fullest and taught this island a few things about grace in their passing journey. For me, they taught me to not give up on St. John and to find the beauty and embrace that hard-to-define optimism of the island.”
Throughout the good times and difficult circumstances, Duong had one simple goal in mind — to share her passion and culture.
“Our goal is to bring the long-missed Chinese appetite to this island,” said Duong. “It’s been two years for me now and I’ve learned a lot on this island about hard work and perseverance, appreciating what you have and growing from it.”
“I’ve also learned how important it is to pay it forward,” Duong said. “Everyone is lifted up and helped by someone during rough times. It’s important to help another when you can.”
Duong brings that same level of dedication to the restaurant and customers can be sure when they dine at the Lucky Pagoda, they’ll be enjoying food made with love, and blessed by the gods.
Before the restaurant’s doors open to the public for a Grand Opening party on Thursday afternoon, March 12, the staff will have a traditional blessing of the eatery. Asian food lovers should stop by around noon that day, sample complimentary treats and enjoy a 10 percent discount.
Lucky Pagoda’s menu includes traditional appetizers and soups like vegetarian egg rolls and wontons, as well as egg drop and hot and sour soup. Appetizers and soups run from $3 to $6.
Diners will have no problem finding something they love from the extensive main dishes offered, which include chicken — Kung Pao, Szechuan and chicken with broccoli are just a few of the choices — beef, shrimp, fish, pork, tofu, vegetarian dishes and egg foo young.
Main dishes are priced between $9 for vegetarian options to $14 for shrimp and fish choices.
Lunch specials, for between $8 for chicken fried rice to $13 for beef, chicken and shrimp lo mein, are served with a choice of soup or egg rolls and white or brown rice.
Lucky Pagoda will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. with lunch specials available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
In addition to the full menu, Duong is open to all suggestions. She and her crew will try to accommodate special requests on a weekly basis.
“We want to know what you’re craving,” said Duong. “We ask people to write down their requests and their phone numbers and when we make their favorite dishes we’ll call them and let them know.”
It’s been a long road to opening the restaurant and Duong didn’t do it by herself by a long shot, she explained.
“My partners and I realize this is all possible because of the continuous support we’ve received from St. John,” said Duong. “We just want to take the time to thank our family, friends and everyone who helped us and believed in us. We hope we have a chance to pay it forward in the near future and really bring some joy for all the ‘foodies’ here.”
Duong and her partners send special thanks to: “A. Tuong—our executive chef for his “Nghia Khi” and sticking with us; Barbara at The Marketplace; Caribbean Villas and Resort Management Co. for being extremely supportive; Colombian Emeralds for making it fun; Connections for staying connected; Curtis Penn and family for their grace, generosity, and style; Gershwain Sprauve for being the coolest landlord; Howard and everyone at Caribbean Food Service, Inc. a super staff to work with; Inspector Officer Maduro for his fairness and sense of humor; Jack Ervin at Atlanta Refrigeration Service/Deep-fryer St. Thomas; Jason Nokk at United Refrigeration Inc.; John and Justina Abraham’s family; Judy Grogan of Merchant Market; Kate and everyone at St. John Hardware; La Plancha del Mar for our chairs; Lebron and Assoc. Consulting Services for help on licensing; Lloyd and staff of Paradise Lumber for their kindness; Love City Welding for being some of the most honest businessmen on island; Michael Porter of Windwards Painters for their generosity and paint; Michael Whineman and Nick of MHW Associates; Ms. Gumbs at Innovative; Ocean Grill; Sales Pro Marketing for our banner; Sherice at St. John V.I. Fire Department, the nicest, well-spoken individual we’ve encountered; Tasheda and everyone at Morris F. DeCastro Clinic; Tom Bolt and Associates, for all the great business advice; Troy at V.I. Powernet; and last, but not least, the St. John Tradewinds, MaLinda and Jaime, for putting us on the map and in the hearts of St. John.”