Have you ever wondered why the word “dragon” is a part of so many Asian restaurant names? The dragon is an important part of Chinese mythology, and the Chinese people often consider themselves descendants of the dragon. It is a symbol of power, strength and good luck.
So now in Wakefield, we have the Dragon Palace, the newest Chinese restaurant in town. It serves the Americanized Chinese food we’ve all grown up on, and as a bonus it also serves wildly colorful Japanese cuisine including sushi. (A second Dragon Palace with the same owners can be found at 1210 Main Street in Wyoming.)
The building that houses Dragon Palace has been transformed from a rock n' roll bar into an understated Asian eatery, unlike so many others with their fire engine red color schemes. Instead, there is a subdued atmosphere with a gentle waterfall cascading over the wall that separates the main dining area from the bar and lounge area. While you wait for a table (and that can happen on busy nights), you can watch the sushi masters create their impeccably fresh, hand-rolled sushi and sashimi.
On our most recent visit, we were a gang of seven with the majority in the mood for good old Chinese food – I’m talking pu pu platters and pork fried rice. I, on the other hand, was craving sushi and eager to get my companions to give it a try. The back of the menu at Dragon Palace features Japanese appetizers, sushi and sashimi by the piece, sushi rolls, and Japanese dinners.
We started off with the very simple Green Roll ($4.50) of deep fried broccoli, which had a pleasing crunch, and the American Dream ($6), a roll of shrimp tempura, avocado and massago – that’s the bright orange fish roe that garnishes so many sushi rolls. Again, the tempura offered a slight crunch against the softness of the sticky rice that held the roll together. The next round of sushi got decidedly more exotic. One of my faves, the Spider Roll ($9.50), was done correctly with the rice wrapped around a delicate deep-fried soft-shell crab. My only complaint – not enough wasabi was served with these rolls. The most popular sushi roll was the refreshing Mango Lobster ($14.95), which almost everyone at our table was willing to try. Inside was lobster tail meat, and juicy mango slices were draped over the top of each slice of this extraordinary roll. No wasabi was needed here.
From the Japanese dinner selection, we ordered the Scallop Teriyaki ($19.50), which we shared as another appetizer. There were more than enough huge sea scallops for our small crowd. The glistening scallops were perfect, cooked to just the right temperature, with just enough teriyaki flavor, not the least bit overpowering.
Then we shifted over to the Chinese portion of the menu, ordering Vegetable Dumplings ($6 for eight dumplings). At first we were a little put off by their drab green color and the way they stuck to one another, but with a dip into some soy sauce, these dumplings were delicate and delicious.
We had to order the Pu Pu Platter ($21) and Roast Pork Fried Rice ($8.25 for a large order) for a certain someone at our table who never orders anything but this very basic combination of all-time Chinese favorites. Everything you’d expect to see in a pu pu platter was there – boneless chicken fingers, chicken wings, egg rolls, beef teriyaki, fried shrimp, crab Rangoon and more boneless ribs than anyone could ever eat. I felt like a kid again, dipping the chicken fingers into the duck sauce. I found the pork-fried rice a bit dry, but a sprinkling of soy sauce solved that minor problem. We also tried the House Special Fried Rice ($9 for a large order), loaded with green peppers and chunks of beef, which I thought was far more interesting than the basic pork flavored dish.
To satisfy one teenager’s cravings, we ordered the Sweet & Sour Chicken ($8.50 for a large order), a dish I hadn’t had since I was a teenager myself. That, too, brought back a lot of memories of eating Chinese food with my parents on Sunday nights, and I tried my best not to think about the calorie count and fat content.
To satisfy my cravings, we also had an order of Sesame Chicken ($9.50) delivered to our table. This is a dish I like to prepare at home, and Dragon Palace did an excellent job using high-quality boneless chicken with just the right amount of slightly sweet seasonings.
Totally satisfied, all we could manage for dessert was a Chinese fortune cookie or two. Did you know that for good luck you should always select the fortune cookie that is farthest away from you? It’s always fun for each one of us to read our fortunes out loud.
With this hungry crowd that included three teenagers, we had had plenty of food so we could all go back and have second helpings of the dishes that pleased us the most. For me, that was just about everything. We took home the leftovers, and I woke up the next morning craving some of that Mango Lobster.