PASCO -- Despite a name that evokes images of the South Pacific, Lee's Tahitian II, a new Pasco restaurant, serves traditional Cantonese dishes, plus Chinese-American cuisine.
It's owned by Ming and Fen Li of Richland, who also own Lee's Tahitian in the Uptown Shopping Center in Richland.
"When we bought Lee's Tahitian in 1997, it was already well known," said Fen Li. "It's been there since 1956, so we decided not to change the name."
The couple have owned the restaurant and motel at 2724 W. Lewis St. in Pasco for a decade. They have had managers for the motel and various Mexican and Chinese restaurants have leased the restaurant-lounge over the years.
"But when the last restaurant, Ming Wong, closed, we decided to put our own in," she said. She and her husband, Ming, with help from employees, spent weeks refurbishing the interior of the restaurant and bar.
"We added new paint, new flooring, new furniture," he said.
Lee's Tahitian II opened in mid-December.
The Pasco and Richland restaurants serve chow and lo mein, egg foo yung, fried rice and other dishes typically associated with Chinese restaurants in the United States, plus steaks and burgers. The takeout menu for both locations also includes these same dishes.
But the menu at the Pasco restaurant also includes dim sum, something you don't usually see on menus outside of one of the many Chinatowns in North America.
"We are proud of our dim sum menu," she said. "There are 25 items to choose from, all made in the traditional Chinese way, the way you would have it in China."
"And we have hotpots and Peking duck here in Pasco, something else you don't find in other restaurants in the Tri-Cities," said Ming Li. "You need to order the duck a day or two before. It takes hours of time to make, and the duck needs to marinate at least overnight."
The couple credit their head chef for the upscale menu at Pasco.
He's Cheong Sing Ng, an immigrant from Guangzhou, China, who learned the art of dim sum in China. He has worked as a chef in upscale restaurants in China and Seattle.
"He owned the last Chinese restaurant to be here," Ming said, gesturing at the Pasco restaurant's kitchen. "He decided he'd rather work for us, to cook, than run a restaurant."
Later, as the Pasco kitchen staff learns the art of dim sum, the plan is to add it to the Richland restaurant menu too.
They have no plans to make other changes to the Richland restaurant.
Ming and Fen Li said owning their own restaurant, and now two, has been hard work.
"We learned to do all the jobs, working the bar, serving the food; Ming worked in the kitchen," she said. "We still do it all."
"But it's worth it," she said, "It's nice working with our customers. I like to feed people and see them happy."
Hours at the Pasco restaurant are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 509-380-0398.