RED BANK: CHINESE EATERY DOUBLES DOWN

Victor Kuo’s Temple Gourmet Chinese won approval Monday night to take over half the storefront used by Jonathan Salon, which has consolidated into lesser space. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Barely more than a year after Victor Kuo gambled that Red Bank needed a linen-napkin, gourmet Chinese restaurant, he’s found himself overwhelmed by the reception.

On Saturday nights, the wait for a table at Temple Gourmet Chinese, on Broad Street, can be more than an hour long. “We’re turning 20, 30 people away on weekends,” a slightly astonished Kuo tells redbankgreen.

So with sales exceeding his forecasts, Kuo is already busting out, nearly doubling the size of his restaurant and shopping around for the ticket to yet another level on the dining-out ladder: a liquor license.

Kuo won approval from the borough planning board Monday night to add 1,500 square feet to his existing 1,600 SF space, formerly home to Torcello. The expansion will consume 17 linear feet of Broad Street frontage formerly used by Jonathan Salon, which has consolidated into half of its former footprint.

Temple’s plan also calls for an 11-stool bar at the front. Stocked with…?

Well, that remains to be seen. Kuo says he’s hoping to acquire a highly coveted liquor license, but if he comes up short, will sell New Jersey-made wines and beer under state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control rules that allow restaurants to offer only those two products.

Mayor Pasquale Menna, voting in the unanimous approval by the board, was effusive about Kuo’s plan, and his restaurant, which he said “is the talk of Monmouth County, in a favorable way. We wish you continued good luck and maybe even more space to come.”

That’s the plan, actually, though not in Red Bank. Kuo, who comes from a large family of cousins who work in the food industry, is involved with several of them hoping to open Temple-branded restaurants in the Westfield area and elsewhere in northern New Jersey.

“The idea is to create a kind of of hub-and-spoke” distribution system of ingredients, he says, dipping back into the vocabulary of his pre-restaurant days, when he hunted out potential sites for Walmart in Shanghai.

Meantime, Kuo credits Johnny Ho, Temple’s chef, for its success. Ho worked for Kuo’s parents, Michael and Corrina Kuo, for 20 years, including in the 1980s, when they owned Peking Pavilion on Oakland Street — now site of the Red Bank Charter School — as well as at their present establishment, also called Peking Pavilion, in Manalapan.

Kuo says he hopes to open the addition, designed by Alvarez + Brock, in May.