The huge neon sign flickered and flashed, high above all the others. The exterior door was wide open, inviting people to enter and eat the scrumptious food. The walls were a creamy beige, and plants lined the room. There was soft music in the background, and you could hear the clatter of plates in the kitchen. I inhaled the delicious aroma of food being baked, grilled and steamed. This was Empire Chinese Kitchen at 575 Congress St., and it looked and smelled heavenly.

This restaurant has been here for three years, managed by Theresa Chan with her father, Freeman Chan, as the head chef. It is named Empire because a hundred years ago, there was a restaurant there by the same name. There was also a venue called Empire Dine and Dance, where bands played live music while people ate. When that closed, Empire Chinese Kitchen took its place. They named it after the previous establishments.

The first dish we ate is the most popular, three times more popular than all the others, says Chan. It was Garlic Green Beans – wok-fried! A wok is a round pan with a round bottom. Americans have modified it so that it has a flat bottom, to make it easier to cook on an electric stove. Traditional Chinese woks have a round bottom. Anyway, the green beans were amazing.

The next dish was called Chicken Bao. This bao was a dumpling filled with chicken, cashews and warm sauce. It reminded me of mushu, which I don’t like, so even though the bao was good, I couldn’t get past my mushu association. The cool thing was that it was made just for us to review! No one had ever had it before, as it was not yet on the menu.

The next and last dish was Lo Mein. There were vegetarian noodles with broccoli and sprouts. Then there was a meat option with duck and vegetables. I ate the veggie one. In China, long noodles symbolize long life, so usually they are eaten last. Chan told us that to bite or cut the noodles was thought to cut life short, so it is not rude to slurp your noodles whole! I absolutely ADORED those noodles!

For dessert, we had fortune cookies. They were chocolate flavored, which I appreciated, because the plain ones taste like Styrofoam. I thoroughly enjoyed the Empire Chinese Kitchen and would love to return to eat more, and new, delicious foods.

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