With Royal Mandarin currently out of commission, I've kinda been keeping my eye out for various other places that make Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings. Someone mentioned that Imperial Palace in National City made some pretty good wings, and even recommended a noodle dish. I faintly recalled seeing this place while driving up 8th street.
Much like the similarly named Hotel and Casino in Vegas, this place has obviously seen better days. I think just the name itself was enough to keep out of the place in the past. The Missus once had an educational seminar in Vegas at Imperial Palace. Ick..... I especially felt bad when the Missus called me while I was having lunch. The "catered lunch" at IP consisted of some 1960's style iceberg lettuce salad, and baloney sandwiches! Baloney Sandwiches! I really felt terrible since I was having Moules Frites while sitting in the outdoor eating area at Mon Ami Gabi watching the water show across the street at the Bellagio.
The interior of the restaurant, much like the exterior looks a bit worn. One really funny thing that happened when I entered. A woman was manning the counter, and pointed me to a table. I walked over and had a seat. Five seconds later, I see a woman who could be the identical twin of the woman up front coming out of the back of the restaurant! It was then that I realized that the kitchen paralleled the restaurant, with entrances at both ends of the dining area.
Another strange thing was that this place didn't have proper menus per se. I sat at my table for a couple of minutes waiting for a menu, but none was forthcoming. I watched another couple enter, and they walked up to the front counter and grabbed the paper "take-out menus", so I ended up doing the same.
Needless to say, this was obviously an "ABCDE" (American Born Chinese Dining Establishment). If you didn't know when you entered, it would become quite clear when you're given a fork and spoon. Chopsticks are only given upon request, after a bit of digging, and are the thin wooden Chinese Fast Food type chopsticks, which screamed off that SYSCO of Chinese Restaurant supplies, Kari-Out.
I will say that the prices here are very cheap. The Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings were $5.35. And at 10 pieces an order, that's 53.5 cents a wing.... waaaay below the "Kyochon line". I'm pretty sure that almost everyone orders S&P Wings here. When another table didn't order wings, the woman asked them several times, "you sure no chicken wings.... ARE YOU SHU-ah!"
The wings were on the smallish side, and as the picture below indicates, some of them had been "split open" to either check or enhance cooking. Either way, it dries out the wings. The batter and slin had a nice crunch, obviously due to the use of a good amount of cornstarch. Flavorwise, not particularly spicy, and lacking in garlic and green onions. Still, quite a bit of flavor...... you know why, right? Check out the kinda deformed wing below, see all the nice shiny crystals? You know what that is, right?
Unlike many folks I've got nothing against the use of MSG, so long as it's not over-used, or as a way to severely cut corners. And unlike a recent bowl of noodle soup I had at Minh Ky where my feet started swelling after a few sips of soup (which I did finish BTW), there were no effects. So overall, not bad.....
Unlike the "Imperial Pan Fried Noodles($5.35)", which displayed some of he worst qualities of "Ab-Cee-Dee" style food:
Gloppy, tasteless "gravy" over over-cooked, mushy noodles. The chicken was pretty tough, but to be fair, the beef was fairly tender if tasteless. The shrimp was cooked well, with decent flavor and soft. This was so bland that even a good dose of soy sauce couldn't help it.
To sum up, the prices are very cheap. If someone has a recommendation for this place, maybe I'll give it another shot. The chicken wings are decent.... and as I mentioned above inexpensive. It's probably the prices that keeps this place in business.
Imperial Palace Chinese Restaurant
1630 East 8th Street
National City, CA 91950