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Dragon Pearl's new owners promise the same good food

Xiaolin (Amy) Zhang, left, and Wanyi Tong are the new owners of the Dragon Pearl Chinese Restaurant at the corner of Second and Walnut streets in downtown Hudson. Photo by Randy Hanson

Regular diners at the Dragon Pearl Chinese Restaurant will be happy to know that the new owners don't plan to make any major changes.

"John and Helen had the right concept of running the restaurant. It's been here 20 years. It's something that we want to carry on," Wanyi Tong said last Friday.

Tong and her business partner Xiaolin (Amy) Zhang recently purchased the business from Helen Kwok, following the untimely death of Helen's husband, John, from an illness on March 19.

The Dragon Pearl is the favorite Chinese restaurant of a good number of Hudsonites. Tong and Zhang wanted to reassure them that the quality of the food and service will continue.

The entire staff that worked for John and Helen is still at the restaurant. The menu is the same. The recipes are the same.

"Because we know how everybody likes it. We don't want to come in with major changes. It just doesn't make sense," Tong said. "We can't keep Helen and John here, but we can keep their legacy. This is how they created it. And this is how we want to do it."

Tong became acquainted with the Kwoks five years ago through her job as a sales representative for Sysco Asian Foods. The Dragon Pearl was one of her accounts, and she became friends with the Kwoks as well as a business associate.

The Kwoks were planning to retire in a few years, and John had talked to Tong about taking over the restaurant. He told her it was a reputable business.

The Kwoks were planning to travel the world in their retirement.

When John died, Helen called Tong and offered to sell her the business.

Tong, 33, and Zhang, 32, had wanted to go into business together for some time. They took the opportunity.

The women are natives of China. They came to the United States to attend college and didn't return.

Tong is a graduate of Metropolitan State University in St. Paul and Zhang graduated from Pasadena City College in California.

They became friends more than 10 years ago when Tong was living in California. Zhang then followed Tong to Woodbury, Minn., to live.

Tong grew up on Hainan Island, a less populated part of China, and preferred the Twin Cities to the crowded Los Angeles area.

She's married and eight months pregnant with her second child. She also has a five-year-old.

Zhang has moved to Hudson to be closer to the restaurant and a part of the community. She is at the restaurant daily, while Tong has continued in her position as a sales rep for Asian Foods.

The fact that Tong is pregnant, too, has left Zhang primarily responsible running the restaurant.

The partners say the transition has gone well, thanks in large part to a capable staff.

"They're very friendly. They're super helpful," Tong said of the veteran servers and cooks. "John and Helen picked good people."

Tong said the Dragon Pearl's secret recipes were included in the business purchase and customers can expect everything to taste the same.

One change the new owners have made is to open the restaurant at noon on Sundays. It previously opened only for dinner on Sundays.

The restaurant's hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and noon-8:30 p.m. Sunday. It is closed on Monday.

The lunch buffet from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays also will continue.

The menu is available for dining in or taking out.

Tong and Zhang plan to add some Japanese dishes to the menu in the future.

"We really want the general public to know that we welcome any feedback. We want to know how we're doing," said Tong. "Stop by and say hi and introduce yourself. We're going to do our best to get to know everybody.

"We want to carry on the name that John and Helen established. We're still using Dragon Pearl. That means something to them, and it means a lot to us as well."

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

(715) 426-1066
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