Step into the Dragon Palace on Daniel Island, Charleston, South Carolina to be transported into Imperial China during the height of the Qing Dynasty. Established more than 15 years ago, the Dragon Palace is Charleston’s first Imperial Garden Chinese Bistro.
The entire restaurant was built in Taiwan, in consultation with master craftsmen and artists, dismantled and piece by piece, shipped to Daniel Island where the building was reconstructed. Fascinating artwork, paintings, sculptures, and stained glass windows reflect the ancient culture of the Chinese.
Location: 162 Seven Farms Drive, Suite 320, Daniel Island, South Carolina (in the Towne Center, opposite Publix).
Menu: The extensive menu offers an Asian dining experience with exotic names such as Buddha’s Feast, a vegetarian dish with white or brown sauce, and General Tso’s chicken, catching the eye.
If the choice of appetizers is overwhelming, the restaurant offers sampler plates of appetizers: spring rolls, crab puffs, honey glazed roast pork, and crisp ginger shrimp.
There are traditional favorites, such as wonton and egg-drop soup, as well as chicken and seafood soups. The only salad featured is an Asian chicken salad, while the sides, except the broccoli, are also different to what one usually finds on a menu: lo mein, baby bok choy, sauteed asparagus, and crispy tofu.
Vegetarians will be happy with the Chinese eggplant and variety of tofu, all served with a choice of white, whole grain or egg fried rice. The silken tofu in a Szechuan peppercorn sauce looked particularly appealing.
Meat lovers will rejoice at the choices: the menu lists the traditional varieties of Asian cooking, such as sesame, stir-fry vegetables, and Mandarin orange, prepared with your choice of beef, chicken or shrimp. Specialty dishes include pork, rib-eye medallions, and duck.
The seafood menu is extensive: crispy shrimp coated with creamy sauce topped with candied walnuts, a Seafood Bird Nest made with shrimp, scallops, and squid, with Asian vegetables in a thin nest, and Wok Seared Chilean Sea Bass. The locally sourced flounder is prepared with mild and slightly sweet seasonings and is relatively firm in texture.
Thoughts: The soft lights and effective yet unobtrusive service created a warm ambiance while the presentation of the food on the Chinese porcelain plates enhanced the cultural experience. While in Hong Kong, Mr. Cheng developed new techniques, mixing and blending color, aroma, flavor, and presentation, using only fresh, top-quality ingredients. His care to these details makes for a great dining experience.
For those who may have a health concern, indicators hot & spicy, gluten-free, heart-healthy, and peanut are posted next to specific offerings.
For starters, we ordered the Chinese version of small plates: vegetable dumplings, crystal shrimp, pork, chicken, and shumai, carefully savoring each offering. The dim sum measured up to its Chinese meaning, translated as dishes that “touch the heart.” We could not resist sharing another tantalizing appetizer, Crispy Crab Puffs.
As the main dish, I ordered cashew chicken, the salty taste complementing the taste of the ginger and soy sauce. My friend enjoyed the braised Chinese Five Spice Duck, with shallot infused soy on a raft of asparagus – an unusual combination of ingredients.
The reasonably priced wine and spirits list is extensive while the desserts have exciting twists to their Western counterparts. We shared the Banana Caramel Xango, a type of fried cheesecake roll-up, served with vanilla bean ice-cream.
What makes this restaurant special is that, while there is a section in the restaurant earmarked for a more intimate experience, it also caters for family-style dining using Lazy Susans set on round tables. Because of popular demand, the restaurant also offers a trendy take-out menu.
Price: Prices are affordable. Family dinners offering a wide variety of Chinese-style dishes, from soup, vegetables, fish, and meat have an average price of $10 -12 per person. Meat dishes average between $15-20 per serving, while seafood ranges between $21-28. There is also an appealing children’s menu.
Disclosure: I received a 20% discount on my bill as a travel writer courtesy.
Guest Reviewer Bio: This review is written by Elsa Dixon. Elsa, a South-African born U.S. citizen, is a part-time piano teacher, freelance travel writer, photographer, food and wine-lover. During school holidays, she leads small group tours to South Africa and other countries, blogging on her website https://travelswithelsa.com/. She loves to visit her family who lives in Canada, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
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