After last year's major chore of preparing (and cleaning up) three holiday meals, my wife and I decided to simplify this year's Christmas Day meal by going out to dinner. My in-laws were a little bit hesitant, but my wife and I had visited Emperor's Palace once before and we were confident that it would be a good option.
Firstly, we spent two years in China back in the mid 2000's, so we know what Chinese dining is supposed to be. I can tell you that the Emperor Palace is the real deal. Upon entering, the decor and ambience immediately reckoned us back to our days in Manchuria. I have not experienced any restaurant in Ohio that even approaches the authenticity of Emperor's Palace.
We were a party of seven, so we sat at one of the big circular tables with a large lazy susan in the middle. In my book, this is the way that a Chinese feast is to be enjoyed...nobody has a their own dedicated meal, but all the dishes are put in the center and everyone can help themselves to everything as the entrees pass by on the rotating lazy susan. This is a different approach than most westerners are accustomed, and I think my in-law were initially disconcerted, but once they got the hang of it they seemed to embrace it.
The food was great. We ordered several appetizers and entrees. My favorites were the pepper beef (spicy!), Peking duck, Szechuan green beans, and the dumplings. Everyone left with their appetites pleasingly satisfied. Cost wise, it was a great value. For a party of seven, we ordered appetizers and plenty of entrees to entirely fill our bellies (no drink orders), and the bill was less than $120
The reason I gave only four stars is because of the service. Mind you, the staff was very friendly. However, the service was a little slow. For myself, I was in no hurry and I thought the service was along the same lines that I would expect for an authentic traditional Chinese restaurant. Entrees were brought out one dish at a time with a time lag (approx. 5 min) between dishes. I sensed my in-laws were getting a little impatient, but to me it was a testament that the food was being prepared fresh. Also, we had to flag down staff a few times to get fresh water and other small necessities. Once again, this type of service is exactly what I would expect for a traditional Chinese restaurant, but if someone expects five star service that anticipates and caters to your every need, you might find yourself a little frustrated at this restaurant.
Overall, the Emperor's Palace delivered a highly enjoyable and delicious dining experience. This is not an Americanized version of Asian cuisine (i.e. PF Chiangs), so if you are looking for 'trendy Chinese lite', this might not be for you. That said, if you are a diner that desires authenticity and tradition in your dining experience, do yourself a favor and visit Emperor's Palace. This place is a gem.
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