Imperial Palace - Anchorage Alaska - A Birthday Revisit 2016
- A Birthday Revisit
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.
Labels: Alaska, Anchorage, chicken, Chow Mein, garlic, Imperial, Kung Pao, Palace, pork, spicy, sweet and sour