China Palace 

Close your eyes. Imagine Homer Simpson holding a doughnut. His eyes are half open. His tongue is hanging out the side of his mouth, painfully hanging on to a dollop of drool. Homer says, "Mmm, doouuugghhhnuuut."

Now imagine me (not so different than Homer) holding a fried shrimp with its carapace and legs still on, lightly sprinkled with salt and pepper and saying, "Mmm, salt and pepper shrimp." This was me when I visited China Palace. Salt and pepper shrimp is a favorite dish of mine. While most Western (a.k.a. American) folks will not eat shrimp unless the shrimp are completely peeled, for this dish you are supposed to put the whole thing in your mouth and crunch it all up. Yeah, you might be picking a piece of shell or a tail out of your teeth later, but you won't get the full effect unless you do. Consider the shell and tail roughage, good for your intestines. It's sublime. At least, I think so.

OK, so my dining partner wasn't too thrilled with it, but she was completely satisfied with her moo shu pork--those fun little wrappers you fill up with vegetables and your choice of meat.

We wanted to get some Chinese style BBQ spare ribs for an appetizer, but they'd had a run on them earlier. It must have been busy during the dinner rush. We were dining later--in fact, the last to leave--which may explain the slight lack of attention we got. But that's OK. We were hungry and lost in conversation anyway.

Chinese restaurants used to be a dime a dozen. They've been replaced over the last 20 years with a variety of other Asian cuisine, from Thai to Mongolian to Japanese, so the ones left standing must be doing something right. China Palace is no exception.

The menu has all the basics. There's a variety of Kung Paos, Szechuans, Mandarin this and that, Hunan-styled dishes, fried rice dishes, soups and even a couple of clay pot dishes. All are available with your standard meats (beef, chicken, pork or seafood) or vegetarian style. There's nothing fancy like you'd get at that big Chinese chain restaurant, but it will be hearty and filling. They don't have to tell you your dishes will come out family style. You won't be subjected to a lesson in how your sauce is made. They serve it up and leave you alone, which is what I like.

The true test is if the leftovers you take home are good the next day. I'm enjoying the remnants of the meal as I write. Oops. Excuse me while I get that last piece of rice out of my keyboard.

--Bingo Barnes opts for a fork over chopsticks when he is really hungry.

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