Asian Palace

5266 Summer Ave.
Memphis, TN 38122

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Tucked away between the drive-in movie theater and the interstate, there is a bustling “new” Chinese restaurant.  I say “new” because it seems that it was actually already here for quite a while, but was located somewhere on Covington Pike before. But their new location has piqued the interest of locals, and they seem to be enjoying a revival of interest in non-Japanese based Asian cuisine in Memphis.  I know, sushi & hibachi are still just awesome, but alas, there are many, many varieties of Asian food to try.  I am guilty myself of lumping most all Asian restaurants together when I say “Let’s get Chinese food.”  My world-travelling friends would be quick to correct me, and remind me “You know that’s not real Chinese food, right?”  Yes, I do, actually.  But that’s not the point. Sometimes, you want fried chicken nuggets with red syrup on them, and you don’t care if they put it on a Chinese menu and call it Sweet and Sour Chicken.  We love our Sweet and Sour Chicken, so leave us alone!

But all that said, “true” Chinese food really is worth trying. Be warned, it has very little in common with what we get in our handy metal trays with plastic lids, or devour from the oil soaked little wax paper envelopes which the really good stuff comes in.  They eat tons of vegetables and very little of it is fried or dipped in anything sweet.  Sorry guys.  But, they do have a great hold on interesting ways to use what they have readily available, and make lots of interesting sauces that are unique enough to convince you that you are not eating the same few ingredients that seem to be found in each and every dish. Think mushrooms, all kinds of sea creatures, and for all of us die hard carbohydrate lovers, noodles and dumplings in every possible variety.

The great thing about Asian Palace is that you can try authentic Chinese food without the “Quick! Eat that before someone else does!” chaos that surrounds actually dining in China.  While dining at Asian Palace, we saw what appeared to be several Chinese families eating there as well, and that is always a good sign. The menu was in English, Chinese, and Taiwanese (I believe).  Also, their new location is nicely decorated with enough traditional items (yes, they have some of the standard shiny embelished artwork of Chinese landscapes on the walls, which my sister jokingly says come from the decorating package which all Chinese restaurants receive upon opening), mixed with modern functionality.  It’s nice and spread out, so (yay!) you don’t have to sit annoyingly close to screaming kids if they have already claimed a portion of the restaurant. And no Chinese versions of pop radio hits from the 90’s in the background!

I was disappointed to see that they weren’t doing the Dim Sum that I have heard so much about, but my sister and I love Crab Rangoon, so seeing that on the menu quickly distracted us and we moved on to the rest of the choices.  The Crab Rangoon turned out to be a little heavy on the onions for my taste, but like I said, real Chinese food is not as sweet as we are used to, so I was not too disappointed.  And they did include the red dipping sauce, so hey, fair compromise.  The soups were nicely done (egg drop and hot and sour) and the crunchy noodles seemed to have been made fresh.

Shrimp with Walnut

After reading up on the place before I arrived, I had already heard a lot about the Shrimp with Walnut.  (I will faithfully call it Shrimp with Walnut because that is how it is on the menu, although it really irritates me not to be able to write “Walnuts.”)  The plate was beautifully presented with an adorable flower made of carrot.  The walnuts were a great way to add some crunch to the otherwise smooshy coating on the shrimp. I’m sure this is a traditional preparation, but it just wasn’t my thing.  The sauce was nice and really went well with the walnuts. So, overall, I wouldn’t order it again, but can kind of see why people said good things about it.

Shrimp Lo Mein

We also had the Shrimp Lo Mein, and it was perfect. The vegetables were really big and hearty, and I liked that rather then the tiny unidentifiable pieces you normally get in Chinese take out.

The service was impeccable. The waitress was extremely courteous. She took away the empty dishes inconspicuously, which is a big deal to me. I loathe the waiters and waitresses who come up, while there is still food on the plate, and say, “are you done with that?” I want to say to them, “why, is it bothering you or something?” She took away the used tea bags and rearranged our table as necessary to fit the plates as new things arrived.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

On the way out, we ordered a Strawberry Banana Smoothie. They were willing to mix one up for us even though it wasn’t on the menu. They are reasonably priced for smoothies in this town ($2.75 for a small) and they have lots of options (that I was too scared to try or ask about). There were things with Snow Bubbles and Milk Teas and other things I can’t remember. I was a little confused about how it worked.  Some, but not all say “smoothie” at the end. So if you order one of the things with “tea” in the name but no “smoothie”, are you getting tea, or a tea flavored smoothie? Either way, I’m sure they would have explained if I had asked. In fact, when she asked if we wanted Tapioca in our smoothie, and I told her I didn’t know, she gave me a spoon full to try.  (No, we didn’t want the Tapioca.) It was good, but got really sweet the longer it sat (my sister said she saw them put a shot glass of simple syrup in it, so that must have been it). We did see them put fresh strawberries and pineapple in it, so hey, it’s a real fruit smoothie! I’m sure you could also ask them not to add the syrup, and it wouldn’t be too sweet.

I’m going to try to make it over there for the Dim Sum someday, and I’ll let you know how it goes.  Or, if you’ve had it, leave me a comment, and tell me how it was.