Hooray! Chinese with no buffet
Imperial Dynasty offers good food, plenty of it
by Scott Joseph, Orlando Sentinel
Well, I guess I won't be doing this job much longer. Seems I'm about to come into some big bucks. I know this is true because my
fortune cookie at Imperial Dynasty, a new Chinese restaurant in Longwood, said, "You will inherit a large sum of money."
That one apparently goes hand in hand with another fortune I received on a different visit, "You will be attracted to an older,
more experienced person!" I'm guessing said person will be really, really old and will be sure to have lots of money for me to inherit.
Yep, pretty soon I'll have enough money to eat at home every night of the week.
Oh, sure, there are some things I'll miss, such as finding a place like Imperial Dynasty with good quality food and people who enjoy serving it.
Imperial Dynasty has taken over the free-standing building on State Road 434 at Interstate 4 the most recently was Cara Mara (although the
structure began life as a Shoney's). The first thing you'll notice when you walk into Imperial Dynasty is what's missing: There is no buffet. Yes,
that's a radical departure from most of the "Chinese" restaurants that have opened in this area over the last, several years. Those places
try to make up for inferior quality food by giving you as much of it as you can eat, a concept I've never quite been able to grasp.
ID serves good Chinese dishes representing a variety of regions and cooking styles, and also gives you plenty of it. Think of it as a buffet
that comes to your table.
The sesame chicken ($11.95) featured large chunks of breast meat lightly coated in batter and stir-fried in a sweet sauce, served with a sprinkling
of toasted sesame seeds. The meat was tender and the crust had a deliciously sweet crunch. There wasn't much sauce to spoon over the white rice, but it
wasn't missed. Sizzling four seasons delight ($13.95) had scallops, shrimp, beef, chicken and vegetables (1 know, that's five seasons) sauteed in a more
ample brown sauce. The server transferred the meats and vegetables on to a hot planer table side, providing the promised sizzle. All the flavors blended
well together, and the sauce was expertly prepared. It was a huge serving of food that left my dining companion daunted.
I couldn't offer much assistance because I was busy working through my velvet duck ($14.25), boneless breast meat fried so that the lightly battered
skin had a wonderful crispness. The duck was served with a bowl of matchstick vegetables and a gravy boat of sauce on the side. Some assembly was probably
necessary but I was content to eat the components separately. The sauce here was nearly identical to the four seasons sauce but with mushrooms and
onions thrown in.
The Yang Chow fried rice ($7.95), on the other hand, was a moister, more flavorful blend of rice, soy sauce and ample amounts of shrimp, chicken and
roast pork. This dish would seem to support the menu's claim that the kitchen uses little salt (and no MSG, by the way).
Egg foo yong, a Chinese version of an omelet, is one of my favorite Cantonese style dishes, although many argue it's more American-Chinese. The roast
pork egg foo yong was a wonderful indulgence when smothered in the brown gravy that was served on the side. There three large rounds of omelets -- I ate one
and saved the other two for breakfast. Yum.
Szechuan shredded beef ($9.25) was a bit too mild, and no one had bothered to ask how hot I wanted it. But the Szechuan name should have warranted a
little fire in the mix.
There was plenty of fire in the assorted flaming appetizers ($13.95 for two) literally. The pu pu platter featured spring roll, chicken fingers,
crab Rangoon, barbecued spare ribs, teriyaki chicken skewers and fantail shrimp, all assembled around a small round flaming hibachi. The food was mostly
good -- especially the creamy crab Rangoon, wonton purses filled with a crabmeat and cream cheese mixture -- but the mini Vesuvius on our table was putting
out a tremendous amount of heat. I've never quite figured out what to do with one of those when you're finished. Blowing on it just sends chunks of
flaming Sterno over the table.
Luckily, one of the courteous staff members came to the rescue and spirited the three-alarmer away. All the staff I came into contact with were most
gracious and attentive, a real asset.
There isn't much to gush about the decor; in fact the place is pretty Spartan. Yet it is tidy, and the booths and tables are comfortable enough. Oriental
wines are available, as is a full cocktail menu.
I hope Imperial Dynasty is the beginning of a trend of Chinese restaurants that take care to prepare good food using fresh ingredients. I'd hate to think
we have more of those darned buffets in our future. But then what do I care? As soon as my inheritance comes through, I�m out of here. Still, just in case,
I'm hanging on to their takeout menu.