If you’ve ever had a conversation about where is a must-see, must-do or must-eat for Sanya, no doubt you’ve heard of Dolphin. We’re fortunate to have captured the essence what is now being called ‘old Dolphin’ before owners Ben Zhang and Connie Zheng shuttered it’s doors on Monday.
On Monday November 15, New Dolphin opened two doors down from the old location into what used to be Young Bar.
Dolphin first opened in 2008, and along with this iconic restaurant, Zhang and Zheng also operate two Royal Fusion locations, Hooley Noodle and Sakaroku Izakaya.
Fully renovated and dazzling new, we were impressed with what we saw at it’s soft opening. We found out from Zheng that along with a new location, a slightly updated menu will be released in a few weeks.
When asked about how she felt about all of the changes, Zheng described it as both sad but a dream come true, partly due to the struggles all Sanya businesses are experiencing right now.
“I know our seems like it’s easy, but we also are struggling.”
Yet it’s passion that keeps them going.
“But Ben always has new ideas. He always wants to create something new in Sanya. When Ben and I go to another country or city, when we visit someplace, like a store or sport bar, Ben and I think about the future of Dolphin.”
Patrons of the favorite sports bar might recall a leaking ceiling along with other problems of the building itself.
“You know, the old Dolphin once had the letters fall down during business hours. That was so embarrassing.”
Despite the challenges, Zheng attributes their success to long term customers that continue to celebrate and live life with them at Dolphin.
“We know most of all of our old customers, friends that have become family. It’s at Dolphin where I met Ben, where we got married, and had two children. There are so many memories there. And for many customers they too have so many memories.”
One loyal customer Zheng referred to us is Mel W., who has been in Sanya since 2012 and describes Connie and Ben as “such lovely people.”
Of the new Dolphin, Mel W. added, “It looks great. It’s a little sad to see old Dolphin closing because of all the fun memories we have had there but like Connie said, it was getting old and things were not working so Dolphin needed a new look.”
When at the soft opening, That’s also asked two local expat patrons visiting that night to comment.
New to Sanya, Benito M. of Mute Garage had much more to stay about aesthetics and overall feel of the new Dolphin.
“I wish there was more room around the pool table but it has the same cache, the same soul, and the decoration is good, even down to the brushed steel doors.”
Benito M. also wished he could see the DJ, as now the sound system controls were kept up on a platform, higher than the stage.
That night, Benito M. and his friend from Shanghai needed to grab a bite to eat elsewhere as Dolphin was already packed with a wait time, so they decided to come back for a beer and give That’s more feedback later.
On further review, he suggested that the “table sizes should be reduced by 30%” as they will still be “perfectly usable but it will make a giant difference for the operability of the space.” He believed it would help “people sitting in front of one another to get a better chance to hear one another in a loud music setting.”
“Or maybe take away a few tables, or make a portion of them easier to share. [The owner] will make the same money and his staff and clients will have a nicer environment.”
This of course some will disagree with as loud music and crowded spaces are typical characteristic of a party evening at Dolphin.
Another patron we saw at the soft opening was Adil S., who has been in Sanya for three years and was hanging out with friends when we caught up with him.
Adil S. was especially impressed that almost everything was operable, except for the coffee maker, which his friend was told “it’ll be available on Tuesday” when asking for a cup of coffee earlier on Monday.
“But it’s not the same feeling or memories. All of the memories and feelings are there in old Dolphin. The emotions are different. It’s a fresh start.”
He agreed that still, it looked great, the new decorations were awesome, and overall it felt “fancy.”
“I hope there will be a big grand opening, though,” he added, looking forward to one of Dolphin’s well-known parties and events.
Decide for yourself by going to new Dolphin to celebrate the new opening and raising a glass to remember the old.
And what’s to happen with the space of old Dolphin?
Zheng told us that they’ll be closing the Dadgonhai Royal Fusion and moving it to Dolphin’s old location once renovations are finished. The Royal Fusion at Song of Youth Mall on Ying Bin Lu will continue to operate.
Dolphin Sports Bar & Grill
Daily, 11am-2am. Parties start most nights at 9.30pm. No. 95, Building A, Yinlong Commercial and Residential Building, Yuya Avenue, Dadonghai. See listing.
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[Images by Vanessa Jencks/That’s]
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