That Food Guy
Thursday, September 15, 2016
  Imperial Palace - Anchorage Alaska - A Birthday Revisit 2016

Imperial Palace - A Birthday Revisit  
September 2016
400 Sitka St
Anchorage, Alaska 99501
 



The first time I ever saw the Imperial Palace was back in 1988 or so. It was on my first trip to Alaska. I saw the restaurant across the highway and down a small street each time I went to the Flight service Station to get a weather briefing. Flight Service Stations are gone now but the Imperial Palace is still there. I didn’t visit the restaurant that time but marked it in my mind for a future time.

It was several more years before I moved to Alaska. I remembered the Imperial Palace and saw it each time I would drive by the airport. Somehow it just never came to pass that I would stop in and see what it was all about. It was not until 2012 during a visit by my sister and my nephew that we decided to see if the Imperial Palace was indeed worthy. We were all very favorably impressed and looked forward to visiting again. You can read that critique at http://thatfoodguy.blogspot.com/2012/07/imperial-palace-anchorage-alaska.html .
Fast forward to 2016; in Alaska for the last part of the summer to do maintenance on our property, I was treated to dinner, the reason being it was my birthday, by some old and dear friends, Wasana and Larry Tower and Gloria and Jim Kocis. Given my choice, after all it was my birthday, the Imperial Palace came to mind. We all agreed to meet in town at 5 O’clock PM. It was a date that I eagerly awaited.
As a young child my first encounters with Chinese food were from Chinatown in Los Angeles.  Those savory dishes, the look, the smell, the taste – those delicious flavors, were the major part of larger experience. It was an alien world, the exotic dress, the incense, red and black lacquer décor accents, gilt trimming, paper lanterns; it was all heady stuff to an 8 or 9-year old but it emblazoned on my mind what eating Chinese was all about. The menu to a young person was almost impossible to comprehend. The entrees were a strange combination of alien sounds. As a family, we would usually order from the combination meals, you know, “…with four you get eggroll.” I have not been back to Chinatown for more than 50 years. It has changed I hear and sadly not like it once was. Today it is very hard to find a Chinese restaurant that compares to the old days of Chinatown. There are a lot of storefront take out emporium who all seem to serve carbon copies of each other, now served as Styrofoam plated combo meals. Even the long cherished Chinese food take out container is hard to find. It is sort-of Chinese at least in name, often fusion dishes you are a bit adverse to try. As well, the all-you-can-eat parlors are popular as well. If you want to get your Chinese food fix it is a place to go with lots of variety and in seemingly endless quantities. However, I am sure you will agree with me that it is only a semblance of what Chinese food for Americans could and should be.

The allure of the Imperial Palace for a revisit was that it is very reminiscent of the Chinatown of old. I was very favorably impressed on the first visit some years ago and I had hopes that it would be as good this time. The interior was as I remembered; not a lot of black and red lacquer to be sure. There were the paper lanterns adored with the Chinese characters, the moveable screen, very evocative of the General Lee, to set aside areas for large groups or those wishing a bit of privacy. There was no tall, beautiful oriental hostess, dressed in a floor length red silk dress with a slit up the side to greet us. But then, you can’t have everything.
The menu, in an elegant cover, is quite complete. There is a large selection of al la carte dishes including a choice of Korean dishes, a goodly selection of luncheon combinations at a reduced price, a list of single and double entrees dinners for one, and even family-style with combinations from $13.95 to $19.95 each (there are numerous combinations but the selections do not increase with the number of diners, i.e., “…with four you get eggroll.”) . For our group of five with eclectic tastes the combination dinner for one was the best way to because everyone would get just what they desired.

The meal was started with a bowl of egg drop soup. A clear flavorful broth, chicken flavored, with a good quantity of egg drop shards and some vegetables. A tasty soup to start the meal, it had many compliments.
The other Larry ordered the C1 Combination Dinner (13.95 Mongolian Beef and Sesame Chicken – Served with eggroll, pork fried rice and daily soup). An attractive presentation, stir-fried beef in a dark brown glaze, a cone of fried rice, an eggroll sliced in two, and a helping of breaded chicken fried golden brown and accented with sesame seeds. He said everything tasted good and he had no trouble at all completing his meal. He agreed with me and added that it was a place to come back to.

Jim ordered the C3 Combination Dinner ($13.95 Spicy Garlic Chicken and Sweet and Sour Pork- Served with eggroll, pork fried rice and daily soup). Another appealing plate, a serving of stir-fried chicken in a spicy sauce with vegetables such as pea pods and broccoli, the standard cone of fried rice with an eggroll, stir-fried breaded pork morsels in a sweet and sour sauce and some onions and carrots.  Jim also completely finished his dinner saying that it was good, good appearance and presentation and good flavor.
Gloria and Wasana both ordered the C4 Combination Dinner ($13.95 Kung Pao Chicken and Sweet and Sour Chicken – Served with eggroll, pork fried rice and daily soup). An equally pleasing plate featured stir-fried chicken with vegetables in a sauce and, of course, the peanuts, there was the fried rice and eggroll, and stir-fried breaded chicken with peppers, onion and carrot, in a sweet and sour sauce. A very pretty plate but all was not as it seemed. Both of them liked the sweet and sour chicken and the fried rice and eggroll. However, both of them agreed that the kung pao chicken was just too salty to enjoy and both were unable to finish their portions; everything good except the kung pao chicken.

It had been a long time since I had enjoyed a decedent chow mein. After a long look at the choices, I finally chose the C8 Combination Dinner ($13.95 Chicken Chow Mein and Sweet and Sour Pork – Served with egg roll and pork fried rice). The first impression I had when the plate was placed in front of me was that the food looks like what I would expected to. It looked like what I remember from the Chinatown restaurants. An appealing plate, there was a good portion of breaded stir fried pork cooked with onion, peppers and carrots in a very tasty sweet and sour sauce, the pork fried rice and the eggroll, and a serving of chicken chow mein. The chow mein was a mix of stir-fried chicken, vegetables and noodles in a sauce.  The noodles were fried but not crisp. The sauce is a thinner, clearer sauce made from the broth with just a touch of sweetness, traditional, just as it should be. The flavor of the chicken and the noodles was never masked by the flavor of the sauce. The eggrolls were excellent, good enough that you might wish they were more part of the dinner than as a single one serving in an appetizer role. The fried rice is the filler of the dish. It is good but not special. I would suspect that if you were to order a serving of fried rice as an entrée from the menu it would be a bit more polished. The sweet and sour pork was excellent. It was breaded morsels of pork, stir fried with some onion, peppers and carrots in a very good sweet and sour sauce.
The Imperial palace is a small and I believe a family-run business. We actually only saw one person most of the time in the dining room. She as the hostess, the waitress and the bus boy all wrapped up in one. She was never hovering but she seemed to know when you needed her.

For my dinner, I have no complaints. In fact I loved every bit of it. If it were a more perfect world to my taste, perhaps there would have been a morsel or two of pineapple in the sweet and sour and perhaps the noodles in the chow mein could have been a bit crisp – you know, just like the old days. But that does not detract form the enjoyment of a great meal. Of this visit I would say that for the most part, with the exceptions noted above, the food was better than just good. It was a special night and the company was great making it a special, gala occasion. We all arrived about 5 PM and we didn’t leave until almost 8 PM – a most enjoyable session of reminiscing and catching upon the news of the last couple of years. Larry, Wasana, Jim and Gloria, thank you one and all.

 
dly

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