I approached this review with some trepidation. For all of my thirty years, China Palace has been a constant in the multitude of Warner Robins restaurants opening and closing. As long as I can remember, China Palace has set the standard by producing consistent, high-quality delicious Chinese food. No other Chinese restaurant could touch their egg rolls in my eyes (taste buds?) The flavors and preparation were distinctly their own, and not the same fare you find in the all too common fast-food Chinese restaurants. It’s this mark of “original” in Warner Robins in addition to the unmistakable feeling of being treated like family by the staff that has set China Palace apart from all the “others” over the years.
Having said all that, I have good news and bad news for the all the China Palace purists out there.
The good: The food and service is excellent still.
The bad: It just ain’t the same.
For all intents and purposes, this visit to China Palace was as if we were checking out a new restaurant. China Palace has a new owner, new menu, new decor, and from what I’ve heard, a new cook. The old familiar menu items are prepared in a new way, while some old favorites are missing completely. In fact, the new high-gloss menus bill the restaurant as New China Palace – Asian Bistro.
Let’s cut to the chase. We trekked across town on Saturday evening, full of both doubt and excitement over the changes about which we’d been warned. We were greeted warmly as usual by the now former owner who is staying on to manage for a while longer. Our favorite waitress, Judy, was also there to chat and take care of us.
We started the meal by ordering egg rolls while we perused the all new menu. The offerings are what you’d expect to find at at your basic Chinese restaurant. In addition, China Palace now offers Japanese teriyaki and hibachi plates, and some Thai choices like curry noodle soup and pad thai. (Remember, they’re an Asian bistro, now!) Judy said we could order our old favorites like Cantonese chicken, but the new cook would not prepare them the same and we’d probably be disappointed. Indeed, even the egg rolls were not quite the way they used to be, but still very good. Another change: No more weekend evening buffet. They do still have a buffet lunch Monday through Thursday, though.
Matt chose the General Tso’s Chicken, an old standby favorite of his when it comes to Chinese dishes. As you can see, the dish is presented well on a large white plate and a decorative side of thin carrot strips.
I went with the Hunan Beef, feeling as if I should get an atypical meal for me since I felt so lost already. I was pleased with the light spiciness and good flavor of this dish.
We skipped on desserts, being full from egg rolls and our meal, but the banana dessert sounded interesting. Some other time!
If you are a China Palace regular, you will probably be disappointed with the changes of this Warner Robins icon, but please visit with an open mind and accept it for it is now. And what it is, in my opinion, is still a high-quality Chinese restaurant and well managed by the same staff we have come to love over the years.