Helpful ReplyHot!Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese)

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phlmaestro
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2018/11/19 14:46:28 (permalink)

Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese)

I posted about the Imperial Inn in Philadelphia's Chinatown on this thread on Pupu platters a few years back:  http://forums.roadfood.com/PuPu-Platter-m379671-p2.aspx
 
It's possible I've had more meals from the Imperial Inn than any other restaurant during my lifetimes (in fact, the meal portion of my bachelor party was held there). It's certainly among the places I've visited most frequently for both dine-in and takeout.  But there is only so much I can take before I have to reconsider my loyalty.
 
I mentioned on the Pupu platter thread that I was disappointed that they replaced old-fashioned egg rolls with spring rolls on the pupu platter. In addition, they've stopped putting ground pork in their shrimp with lobster sauce and are the only restaurant I get that dish from that does that.  They use smaller shrimp than they used to in sweet & sour shrimp.  And last week, when a colleague and I ordered our usual takeout, the egg roll filling had changed and wasn't as good.
 
I'm afraid that could be the last straw. We discussed giving them one more chance to see if the egg rolls were a one-time thing.  We'll see.
 
And to make matters worse, they are one of the last of the classic old Cantonese Chinese food restaurants from back in the heyday of that type of food. Now, Chinatown, which used to have loads of places like the Imperial, is overflowing with trendy and more 'authentic' Chinese restaurants.
 
I've located a menu for a suburban place that looks promising. They still have chicken-wrapped-in-foil, which is virtually impossible to find around these parts now days. So I'll give them a shot at some point and see what happens. There was a place near me that has also gone downhill. I tried them Saturday after the disappointing Imperial Inn experience last week and this place also was now using smaller shrimp in the S&S shrimp and the egg rolls were also not quite up to snuff.
 
I miss the 70s, at least when it comes to Chinese Food. Back then, the Imperial Inn didn't just have better food. They were considered a nice restaurant that you could go to for a nice occasion. That hasn't been the case for years. I could live with that if the food were still up to the old standards. But it isn't.
 
 
 
post edited by phlmaestro - 2018/11/19 16:39:29
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ScreamingChicken
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/19 18:34:11 (permalink)
Well, that sucks...how well does Imperial do shrimp toast?
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phlmaestro
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/19 21:33:30 (permalink)
I'm not sure if I've had their shrimp toast in the last few years. It was probably part of the pupu platter back in the 80s, along with the foil-wrapped-chicken. That's evolved over the years, and not for the better.
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mar52
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/20 00:20:02 (permalink)
Paper wrapped chicken, rumaki, pressed duck, candied kumquats and pineapple sections in creme de menthe.
 
Can I find shrimp in lobster sauce?
 
Bring back my old, Cantonese!
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/20 09:08:34 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby phlmaestro 2018/11/20 09:35:02
mar52
Paper wrapped chicken, rumaki, pressed duck, candied kumquats and pineapple sections in creme de menthe.
 
Can I find shrimp in lobster sauce?
 
Bring back my old, Cantonese!




I agree!  I've written here in the past about the demise of old-style Chinese-American restaurants.  I make the trek to Greenwood (south of Indianapolis) to Lotus Garden whenever I'm in town to have rumaki, egg rolls, chicken mushroom chow mein, mushroom egg foo young . . .  Their homemade sweet and sour sauce is the best I've ever had, and their hard fried noodles are the thinnest and finest you will find anywhere.  Plus they have a little bridge over a fish pool as you enter the restaurant, and still serve tiki drinks. http://www.lotusgreenwoodsouth.com/
 
Here in the Twin Cities, I found a restaurant in Columbia Heights (a good 20-minute drive from our house, each way) called Dragon House, which served terrific egg rolls (again, with fabulous homemade sweet and sour sauce) and lots of other good old-fashioned things.  Family-run, the owners became friends of ours. Sadly, they closed down last year after 45 years.  https://www.mynortheaster.com/news/after-45-years-the-dragon-house-will-close/
 
Then, we discovered -- just a few blocks from our house -- another family-run place called Dragon City.  The egg rolls weren't the best, but everything else was wonderful, the prices incredibly low, and the quality of the ingredients top-notch.  Great egg foo young and Cantonese chicken chow mein.  
 
And guess what? They closed earlier this year, after 42 years.  Same story in both cases -- the owner/operators were reaching retirement age and their kids didn't want to take over the business. http://www.longfellownokomismessenger.com/fong-family-closes-dragon-city-cafe-after-42-years-on-lake-st/
 
We've tried a few other what my brother used to call "ancient Chinese restaurants" in the Twin Cities, but haven't found one we really like.  There's a place in downtown St. Paul called Hunan Garden, which is no more than OK, but does have rumaki. It's across the street from where the old Macy's (formerly Marshall Fields, formerly Daytons) department store was. http://www.hunangardenstpaulmn.com/
 
Weekly (or at least twice-monthly) Chinese food was a staple for me ever since I was growing up in Indianapolis.  We used to get carry out from Lotus Garden (which at that time had three branches), Jong Mea (which had a sister restaurant in Columbus, Ohio), and the Mandarin Inn -- all gone now except for the last Lotus Garden outpost in Greenwood.
 
I do go to Chicago every once in a while, and always make a trip to the Irving Park neighborhood to eat at Orange Gardenhttp://eatorangegarden.com/zgrid/themes/10592/intro/index.jsp
 
It's been around since 1926, and has a great (if faded) Art Deco interior.  They have something I've never had anywhere else -- sweet and sour egg foo young. And their chicken mushroom chow mein is wonderful.
http://www.chicagonow.com/interesting-chicago/2014/07/orange-garden-chicagos-oldest-chinese-restaurant/
 
If they close down, I don't know what I will do!
 
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/20 09:47:48 (permalink)
That's a great post. I may look for Lotus Garden when I'm in Indiana next year.
 
I remember when the type of food we're talking about could still be exciting and new. I don't think we had a Chinese restaurant in the suburb north of Philadelphia where I grew up until the early to mid 70s. I remember screaming down to my family when I saw my next door neighbors emerge from their car with a big bag full of take-out Chinese from my window. That place went out of business years ago and it seemed like it had a pretty nice run.
 
 
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/20 10:39:08 (permalink)
If you do go to Lotus Garden, eat in the dining room. Eschew the buffet.  Reports are that it isn't good -- and who eats buffet in an old-fashioned Chinese restaurant, anyway?
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/20 11:04:59 (permalink)
I seem to see lots of Chinese restaurants run by Chinese around here...all make the homemade Chinese American fare. There is a superb Asian fusion place for more daring new ideas....And if you want the real thing we are an hour or so from NYC's Chinatown. Great homemade egg rolls, Chow Mein(not a favorite of mine) General Tso's chicken etc. are in Chinese run places all up and down New Jersey! Fusion menus are really catching on..the best of old worlds mixed with new ideas. A popular favorite is a sample. Check the photos!
https://www.koiasianlounge.com/
 
Ps. Beef with long hot pepper is my favorite. Look at that photo.
post edited by leethebard - 2018/11/20 11:07:23
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phlmaestro
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/20 11:18:01 (permalink)
rumaki
If you do go to Lotus Garden, eat in the dining room. Eschew the buffet.  Reports are that it isn't good -- and who eats buffet in an old-fashioned Chinese restaurant, anyway?



Thanks. I generally avoid the Asian buffet places.
 
leethebard
And if you want the real thing we are an hour or so from NYC's Chinatown.

 
I know they have two or three classic places there that haven't changed over the years. I ate at one of them some years back. I think it was Wo Hop. But I don't get up to NYC nearly as often as I used to. 
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rumaki
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/20 11:22:21 (permalink)
Speaking of Wo Hop:
 
https://ny.eater.com/2015...aurants-nyc-old-school
 
I was in NYC November 7-9 for a conference and had hoped to visit one of these, but was stuck in Midtown and couldn't get away. I went to Shun Lee years ago and thought that, although the space was nice, the food was much more expensive than it needed to be for what it was. 
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Wintahaba
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/20 13:12:30 (permalink)
phlmaestro, I read in the old PuPu thread you never made it to Pub Tiki, but did you ever hit THE KONA KAI, in Bala Cynwyd? It was one of the most beautiful Tiki palaces outside of California...up there with THE KAHIKI (Columbus Ohio-RIP) and the awesome Mai Kai in Florida...which is still going strong.
 
rumaki, The Lotus Garden sounds great...thanks.
 
I really miss those old school restaurants.
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phlmaestro
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/20 14:42:34 (permalink)
Wintahaba,
 
I think those places were before my time. They may have still been around when I was a kid, but I don't recall my parents taking me to any Tiki places in this area. We used to eat out in Philly's Chinatown.
 
I think I mentioned either on the Pupu platter thread or another one at some point that there was a Polynesian restaurant in or near Monroeville, outside of Pittsburgh that I went to once with my father when he lived in that area during the mid to late 80s. I think that's the only one I ever ate at.
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Wintahaba
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/20 15:31:41 (permalink)
phlmaestro, 
Conley's Motel and Hawaiian Lounge was in Monroeville until the 80's. The Kona Kai lasted until 1985...I went @83 near the end. Here is a cool Tiki article from your hometown. https://hiddencityphila.o...phillys-tiki-heritage/
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/20 17:47:33 (permalink)
Thanks. Nice article. I was around that area where Kona Kai was a lot in the years before it closed. I had aunts who I visited regularly that lived near there. And I used to take one of them out for Chinese food a lot, but we never went to Kona Kai. There was what was then a very good Chinese restaurant around the corner from Kona Kai that we used to go to.
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/20 18:16:11 (permalink)
now We are so lucky.  We have a great place only 3 miles away.  It is named Asian Court.  We eat there on Christmas day because of a long time ago incident where our Christmas  dinner got  screwed up and had so much fun that that this is our  yearly destination forChristmas dinner.  We get take-out at least twice a month; the last time being last night.  The owner said "best customer...……….give 2 quarts of soup".  She is adorable and loves us dearly. Every thing is delicious.  I usually have an egg foo yong, but had the  moo shi pork last night and it was terrific.
post edited by Greymo - 2018/11/20 18:18:21
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/20 19:37:36 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby ScreamingChicken 2018/11/21 08:55:18
Greymo
now We are so lucky.  We have a great place only 3 miles away.  It is named Asian Court.  We eat there on Christmas day because of a long time ago incident where our Christmas  dinner got  screwed up and had so much fun that that this is our  yearly destination forChristmas dinner.  We get take-out at least twice a month; the last time being last night.  The owner said "best customer...……….give 2 quarts of soup".  She is adorable and loves us dearly. Every thing is delicious.  I usually have an egg foo yong, but had the  moo shi pork last night and it was terrific.


Did the Bumpus hounds get your dinner also?
 
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mar52
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/20 23:01:25 (permalink)
We have a lot of Chinese restaurants but they've all changed from what they once were.
 
Egg Foo Young!  Thick soy sauce gravy.  If I see it on a menu, it's a given I'll order it.
 
I like all of the new Chinese dishes, I just miss the old.
 
Remember dipping fried noodles in the little bowls of catsup and hot mustard while waiting for your meal?
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ScreamingChicken
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/21 08:59:03 (permalink)
I don't know if my parents have ever eaten Chinese food in their lives, so we never went out for it.  With my dad being a meat & potatoes guy, dinner out usually meant someplace where he could get a steak, or pizza.  I think there might still be a couple of longtime Chinese restaurants in Madison so maybe with a little research I can find a place similar to those being remembered here.
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phlmaestro
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/21 09:53:48 (permalink)
mar52
Remember dipping fried noodles in the little bowls of catsup and hot mustard while waiting for your meal?



The Chinese restaurants in the Philly region have always served duck sauce and hot mustard. I wouldn't be surprised if I rank very highly among Americans in the category of 'Duck Sauce Consumed.'
 
When I lived in a condo in Chinatown, I once bought a case of 500 packets for $7. I buy packets in bulk on Amazon now. I don't like the jarred duck sauce in the supermarket. I also picked up from my aunt when I was younger the habit of mixing a little mustard into the duck sauce to spice it up.
 
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MetroplexJim
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/21 10:57:17 (permalink)
Do not fret or despair.
 
Conagra has you covered.
 
Products are available at WalMart
 
It's still cooked in Dragon Fire!
 

 
And, if you want some Old School Italian it's still available.
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rumaki
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/21 11:02:57 (permalink)
Travesty! 
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/21 14:50:18 (permalink)
rumaki
Travesty! 



Not really.  Even though my post above was made (as are many of mine) tongue-in-cheek it was also a homage to the popularizers of 'exotic' cuisines otherwise unavailable in the irredeemably deplorable, Bible & gun clinging communities in which I was raised.
 
My first "Italian" meal was from a Chef Boyardee "Spaghetti Dinner Kit".  My first "Chinese" meal was from a La Choy (or maybe Chun King) "Chop Suey Dinner Kit".  We all have to start somewhere; that's where my taste for both began  by seeing ads like the following and nagging my mother when visiting Kroger's:
 

 
Now (God Blessed America), those communities are served by many Asian restaurants and Neapolitan pizzerias.  Now, even as I remain "clinging" and am deemed by some to be irredeemably deplorable, that is my definition of "progress". 
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/21 14:54:36 (permalink)
MetroplexJim
rumaki
Travesty! 



Not really.  Even though my post above was made (as are many of mine) tongue-in-cheek it was also a homage to the popularizers of 'exotic' cuisines otherwise unavailable in the irredeemably deplorable, Bible & gun clinging communities in which I was raised.
 
My first "Italian" meal was from a Chef Boyardee "Spaghetti Dinner Kit".  My first "Chinese" meal was from a La Choy (or maybe Chun King) "Chop Suey Dinner Kit".  We all have to start somewhere; that's where my taste for both began  by seeing ads like the following and nagging my mother when visiting Kroger's:
 

 
Now (God Blessed America), those communities are served by many Asian restaurants and Neapolitan pizzerias.  Now, even as I remain "clinging" and am deemed by some to be irredeemably deplorable, that is my definition of "progress". 


 Spot on!!!
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/21 16:12:42 (permalink)
I wonder if he ate a lot of Chun King while waiting for those Maytag repair calls that never came.
 
We would have Chun King chow mein once in a great while, usually for lunch or dinner if my dad wasn't home.
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phlmaestro
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/21 16:25:04 (permalink)
I do remember the Chun King TV commercials. But I was the very rare kid in my area who ate out at Chinese restaurants from a young age.
 
While it took a while to get Chinese resaurants in the suburb where I lived, I must have been 5 or 6 the first time I remember eating in Philly's Chinatown. The restaurant was called China City. I still remember it was the first time I had sweet and sour pork, but the pork came as barbecued slices, rather than breaded chunks. There are still one or two restaurants in Chinatown that offer it that way, including the Imperial Inn (although, keeping with the theme of them going downhill, the pork slices were very tough the last couple times I ordered it).
 
And back then, on a lot of Chinese menus, the dish, my favorite when I was a kid, was often called sweet and pungent pork or shrimp instead of sweet and sour.
post edited by phlmaestro - 2018/11/21 16:26:47
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rumaki
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/21 17:28:29 (permalink)
I think that Chun King commercial was one of those produced by the late great Stan Freberg. I know the actor (Jesse White) was a regular on Freberg's  radio show and albums, like 'Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America,' with its very funny Thanksgiving sketches (including 'Take an Indian to Lunch This Week'). 
 
I didn't mean to be disrespectful. I was lucky to have 'restaurant' Chinese food growing up. My parents met in Chicago while my dad was in med school (before WW II), and they both ate in Chinatown, so had an appreciation for it. But even earlier than that, my dad, as a child and adolescent, would take the interurban  train from Crawfordsville to Indianapolis and eat at the long-gone Bamboo Inn downtown with his family as part of a shopping trip or other excursion -- when they could afford it. It was during the Depression.
 
Even so, I occasionally had Chun King frozen egg rolls, which were pretty dire.Can't recall having La Chow canned chow mein, though I have occasionally bought their canned water chestnuts when I am making my own chicken almond ding or rumaki.
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/21 17:44:22 (permalink)
I certainly remember eating the Chun King and the LaChoy Chow Mein as a kid. I looked forward to it! In my early days we lived in places that did not really have a Chinese food presence, so that was about it. I really developed a fondness for the LaChoy Mini Egg rolls. The shrimp were my hands down fave! I miss those crappy egg rolls!
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/22 10:23:14 (permalink)
I guess I was a lucky kid. My dad had served in the South Pacific during ww2, so he had an appreciation for the cuisine. In KC, we had 2 old school Chinese restaurants, King Joy Lo and the House of Toy and we’d hit those regularly. I used to get a Beef tomato dish I loved and proceeded to never find it anywhere till finally in a tiny cafe in Williams, California, 30+ years later.
post edited by 1bbqboy - 2018/11/22 11:01:57
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/22 10:52:41 (permalink)
rumaki
I think that Chun King commercial was one of those produced by the late great Stan Freberg. I know the actor (Jesse White) was a regular on Freberg's  radio show and albums, like 'Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America,' with its very funny Thanksgiving sketches (including 'Take an Indian to Lunch This Week'). ...



The elevator operator is played by Arte Johnson.
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Re: Fairwell To An Old Standby (I miss classic Chinese-American Cantonese) 2018/11/22 11:46:59 (permalink)
Damn, I miss those wonderful old (2nd floor) Cantonese Chinese restaurants of my youth in NYC!
 
Favorite meal: Egg rolls accompanied with HOT mustard and duck sauce. Egg drop soup, Huge, very tender shrimps in lobster sauce, Real pork fried rice. And, vanilla ice cream for dessert.
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