Hot and sour soup from China Palace in Waynedale.
Empress Chicken from China Palace in Waynedale.
Hawaiian chicken from China Palace in Waynedale.
The Kung Pao trio with beef, chicken and shrimp from China Palace in Waynedale.
An egg roll from China Palace in Waynedale.
Crab rangoon from China Palace in Waynedale.
Mongolian chicken from China Palace in Waynedale.
Pot stickers from China Palace in Waynedale.
Egg drop soup from China Palace in Waynedale.
China Palace in Waynedale.
Beef chop suey from China Palace in Waynedale.
Pork lo mein from China Palace in Waynedale.
Sunday, July 23, 2017 1:00 am
Chinese cuisine fit for a king in Waynedale
RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette
Out of a possible five
It was my youngest son's birthday and he couldn't have been much older than 5 when the search began.
When asked where he wanted to go for his birthday dinner, all he could tell us was, “The place with the cool fish by the front.”
As I searched my memory to try to guess which place he was talking about – and failing on two places on opposite sides of the city – we finally figured it out. It was China Palace in Waynedale.
He didn't even care about the fish either. He walked right past them without even a glance. He remembered the food. He has never forgotten the name again and has requested it many times.
I never forget the name, either. It is usually the first place I mention when asked which Chinese eateries are the best.
The little spot on Bluffton Road doesn't do anything different, really, but it does all of the classics well. I cannot think of ever once leaving disappointed.
I stayed away from the classics for the most part this time since I knew they were good, and I did find some unique offerings. And, yes, they proved to be just as good, too.
The Hawaiian and Empress chicken dishes were the best examples. Though similar, their sauces were distinctly different.
The Empress was sort of a spicy version of sweet and sour chicken. Its lightly egg-battered chicken pieces were coated in a sticky sauce with the same bright red color as sweet and sour, but it had a hint of red pepper flavor to brighten it up. It also had more vegetables – bamboo shoots, carrots, baby corn, cabbage and broccoli.
The Hawaiian was dotted with pineapple and was sweeter than the Empress. It had the same mix of vegetables plus pea pods and its chicken was coated in a heavier, crunchier batter making it more like General Tso's, except without the spice. Its sauce was also looser and not as sticky.
The best dish was another one that was new to me. The Mongolian Chicken was served with rice noodles instead of rice, and those white noodles were puffy from being fried. They were crispy, not hard like those brown ones from a can.
The tender chicken breast pieces were sautéed with white and green onions – both cut into equal-sized long strips – and deftly flavored with a slightly sweet sauce that had a strong oyster sauce essence I loved. That sauce was thick and clung to the chicken without drenching the crispy noodles, too. I rarely go for noodle dishes at Chinese restaurants, but I will go for this one again.
I liked it so much, I went for noodles again in the Pork Lo Mein, and, again, I was happy. The pork was very tender and moist, and it had green onions, cabbage and sprouts. It, too, was lightly sauced so the noodles stayed al dente.
The Kung Pao Trio had a bevy of vegetables – carrots, celery and mushrooms – cut into uniform small pieces, slices of tender chicken and beef, and plump shrimp. It was not as spicy as I like my Kung Pao but was still delicious.
For those who really love their veggies, however, try the chop suey. My beef version was loaded with so much shredded cabbage, carrots, onions, crunchy celery and sprouts that the beef – which was also velveted to be extra moist and tender – was a bit player. The old American favorite is often overlooked these days, but this chop suey was worth revisiting.
The only dishes I might not revisit were appetizers – the hot and sour soup and the pot stickers. The soup was more sweet than hot or sour and though it had a lot of tofu, egg, mushrooms and bamboo shoots, I could not finish it. The egg drop was a much better choice.
The pot stickers were not bad by any means, but their meaty filling had no vegetables that I could detect and their thick wrappings were doughy so they reminded me more of a European dumplings than ones from the Far East.
The other appetizers were great. The egg rolls had a lot of ground pork along with carrots, noodles and cabbage and their multiwrapped exteriors were crisp and flaky. The crab rangoon was spot-on with nice puffy fried wrappings, and the simple Chinese Chicken Wings, sautéed with garlic and onions, were dredged with what I believe was rice flour to give them a light texture.
As always has been the case, China Palace excelled when it came to service. The family that runs the place treats you like family and many regulars return the favor by addressing the staff by name.
The little stone building with its red accents is cute on the outside but it is more function than form inside. It is neatly kept, impeccably clean and comfortable, but you might not really remember much about the decor.
Except for the aquariums, of course.
Restaurant: China Palace
Address: 5810 Bluffton Road
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Alcohol: Beer and wine
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Chicken wings ($6.25), pot stickers ($5.95), egg rolls ($2.45), Kung Pao Trio ($13.95), Empress Chicken ($10.95), Hawaiian Chicken ($9.75), pork lo mein ($9.25), chop suey ($10.95)
Rating breakdown: Food: **1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 max.), service: * (1 max.)
Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at email@example.com; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.