M ost Americans that I know have Chinese food written at the top of their list as a favorite weekend treat. Friends of mine love to compare notes to find out who prepares the best Chinese food and which places aren't fit to for human consumption.
Bill Ryan/The Gazette
Peking Palace owner King Chan (front) and chefs Zhao Lin (left) and Sonny Xzung display two popular meals, honey sesame chicken and jumbo shrimp with vegetables, at the Thurmont restaurant.
The Peking Palace in Thurmont falls somewhere in between.
Upon entering the restaurant, I immediately noticed that there weren't too many tables and looked around for yet another dining area, but there was none to be found. The tables were small and cramped and we only found out how tiny they were when we sat down at the booth in the corner where we began our adventure.
Upon being seated, we were brought the standard tea, which was very good. As a tea drinker, I tend to be a bit picky about my tea drinking, and this tea was above average. Also placed on the table were a different kind of crunchy noodles that I've never seen anywhere. They were yellowish and triangle, reminding me of the tubular new snack, Torengos. They were odd, but with a little bit of added duck sauce, they were a good accompaniment to the tea.
While we were sipping tea and munching the crunchy noodles, our friendly waitress asked us if we had made up our mind about our meals and we had. I chose the shrimp with cashew nuts ($8.95). This seafood item bragged of baby shrimp sauteed with crispy chestnuts, broccoli stems, celery in brown sauce and, of course, cashews. My dining companion chose spicy Szechuan chicken ($6.75). This hot dish was chicken, celery, carrots sauteed in a very spicy and hot sauce. Both entrées were to be served over hot rice. As an appetizer, we ordered egg rolls, which are sold in pairs and are $2 for two.
Before we could bat an eyelash, our meals were in front of us. The table was very small, so we had to do some juggling of plates to fit everything, but it eventually fit after we removed some plates and stacked others. I wondered how our meals could have been freshly prepared in the time it took to get them to us and whether or not it was prepared back in the kitchen ahead of time or if the chef was just plain speedy.
My shrimp with cashews wasn't bad, but it also wasn't the best I've ever eaten either. The very small shrimp were a bit soggy and the celery was very crunchy but it was definitely edible and the flavoring was good. The shrimp seemed to be of the canned variety, although they could have very well been frozen. The cashews were large.
My dining companion's Szechuan chicken was hot. So hot that you break a sweat. Besides that, the flavoring was mediocre but when added to the white rice, it wasn't bad. Most of the food on the plate was eaten.
One of the chef's specialties is General Tso's chicken ($8.25), which is a very hot dish with chicken and a mysterious red sauce. It's one of my favorite dishes and I wish that I'd have ordered that. My dining companion said that he'd like to try the Peking style pork ($8.25). This meal is shredded pork with bamboo shoots and onions in a brown sauce served with four pancakes.
In my opinion, appetizers and soups are sometimes the best part of a Chinese meal. On the list of appetizers was shrimp toast ($2.20) and a pu pu platter which is barbecued spare ribs, cho cho beef, fried won tons, shrimp tempura and egg rolls ($7.95). Soups include the standard egg drop soup ($1.95/quart) and something that I have never seen before, San Shien soup ($3.35/quart). San Shien soup is shrimp, chicken and beef with vegetables.
There is a lunch time menu which are smaller portions of the dinner menu. Szechuan beef, which is similar to the Szechuan chicken ordered by my companion and is $4.75. Also for that price is shrimp egg foo young and beef with green peppers and onions.
On a scale from one to 10, with 10 being the best, I'd give Peking Palace about a six. It certainly was not the worst, but it is not a place that I'd crave. The service was excellent, but the food was very lack luster and not very unique. The tables were way too crowded and so close to one another that it was very easy to hear the conversation going on at the next table.
With a few changes in the dining area and the kitchen, the Peking Palace could be something special, but when it comes to the service, I wouldn't change a thing.