Imperial Treasure restaurant offers authentic Chinese cuisine

Imperial Treasure restaurant offers authentic Chinese cuisine

Tucked away within the Palo Alto Central building on California Avenue lies Imperial Treasure, a Chinese restaurant that opened at the end of last year.

As Chinese-Americans, we have our reservations about self-described “authentic” cuisine. Walking in, we were greeted by modern-style Chinese architecture and the typical chatter of a bustling restaurant. Dressed in hanfu, traditional Chinese clothing, the staff escorted us to the bar seating after a 20-minute wait.

Taking our seats, we noticed the elaborate red and gold paper fish arranged on the ceiling, swimming gracefully as if the entire restaurant was a pond. Nearby, we watched diners stream in and out of two semi-private rooms situated under makeshift gazebos, perfect for hosting large parties.

The fusion of dark, modern interior atmosphere and traditional Chinese decorations, such as the red lanterns scattered throughout the restaurant and the bullfrog statue greeting customers at the entrance, contributed to a unique ambiance that caters to both newcomers and those familiar with Chinese culture.

Arctic Ocean Orange Soda (北冰洋) & Sour Plum Drink (酸梅汤)

To immerse ourselves in the experience, we ordered popular Chinese drinks served in glass bottles: ArcticOcean Orange Soda and Sour Plum Drink.

The iconic soda tasted just like it does in Beijing: a carbonated orange-flavored soda with a light yet crisp flavor profile. The sour plum drink was not as sour as expected and also had a smoky essence to it.

The lovely drink experience lasted until we received the check, when we discovered each drink (that costs 5 RMB, or ~$0.70, in China) took $5 out of our wallets.

7/10

Beef Fried Rice (牛肉炒饭) & Dry-fried String Beans with Garlic (干煸四季豆)

Not many items on the Chinese menu have become more standardized over the years than fried rice and string beans. But both the fried rice ($15.95) and dry-fried string beans ($16.95) had noticeably more oil than their counterparts at other restaurants. We were also disappointed by the traditionally unremarkable fried rice after comparing its price to its relatively small portion size.

Similarly, the shiny string beans appeared to be coated in garlic-infused oil while lacking the typical wrinkles, meat and peppers, making it a more oily stir-fry than an oil-free dry-fry.

4/10

Sliced Pork Belly with Garlic Sauce (蒜泥白肉)

Every dish we ordered was carefully plated, and the sliced pork belly was no exception with respect to presentability. We eagerly picked up our chopsticks and dove right into the slices of fatty pork belly coupled with a bowl of sauce.

A thin layer of fresh cucumber surrounded the slices of pork belly, and, after soaking the pork belly in the garlic soy sauce, we found the crunchy cucumber nicely balanced the pork while still maintaining the pungent savoriness flavor from the sauce. Priced at $16.95, our only complaint was that it was too good, and the plate was empty soon after it was served.

10/10

Spiced Toothpick Mutton (牙签羊肉)

Like the name suggests, this dish contains small pieces of cooked lamb on toothpicks, resembling kebabs. Unlike what the two chili peppers next to its menu name suggest, the spice in the dish was nearly undetectable despite it being covered by red peppers. The lamb, full of flavor, was decently salty and complemented well by the fried rice. The dish also had a crispier texture than the rest of our orders, providing a nice contrast.

The main drawback, however, was the small portion size of lamb, as a large portion of the dish was red pepper, cilantro and ginger, which only served as decoration. And for $26.95, the dish served our taste buds more than our empty stomachs.

8/10

Diced Beef Tenderloin in Black Pepper Sauce (黑椒牛柳粒)

The diced beef tenderloin also had a chili pepper next to its name, and in similar fashion, we were unable to corroborate those claims. Despite the misleading spice-level description, the dish started off strong. The meat was incredibly tender, and the strong seasoning was balanced out by the bell peppers and onions, or the fried rice.

At $32.95, this was our most expensive dish but also the dish with the most food. As we dug in, however, we noticed the accumulation of oil on the plate, and what started out as a delicious dish became a platter of grease. While tasty, it may not have been the best for our health.

7/10

Sweet and Sour Short Ribs (糖醋小排)

As one of the most popular Chinese dishes in the West, this classic pork dish was — as was the diced beef tenderloin — served alongside a little inedible flower arrangement. Priced at $7 more than the paltry serving of fried rice, the larger portion at $22.95 seemed like a much more promising deal.  The ribs were covered in a thick sweet and sour sauce which was not too sweet nor too sour unlike at many other restaurants. The meat fell off the bone, and the ribs were fatty. This is another dish that is good to pair with rice and greens.

9/10

Final Thoughts

Imperial Treasure is highly authentic and gives a good profile of Chinese cuisine if you order the right dishes. Don’t be afraid to stray from your normal ones. However, with the small portion sizes and high price, this restaurant may be best for special occasions, especially in larger parties that can share more dishes to bring the variety.

8/10

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