As my 6-year-old review assistant said as he approached the restaurant, “If it’s called Dragon City, it HAS to be good.”
Dragon City, the Chinese restaurant that opened at 3008 W. Central in April, is pretty good, it turns out. It’s at least good enough to potentially break the streak of restaurants opening then quickly closing in the oft-vacated spot. (Think Lexi’s Restaurant, Maharaja, New York Cafe, etc.)
Owned by Zhiyong Liu, brother of Great Wall founder Benny Liu, the restaurant serves many Great Wall-esque Chinese dishes freshly made and served hot for dine-in and carryout. The restaurant also delivers within a five mile radius (which includes my house!) a rare treat in a town that really only delivers pizza. The delivery charge is only $1 a trip.
ON THE MENU: The tri-fold menu looks just like Great Wall’s and includes more than 100 standard Chinese dishes, including egg rolls, wonton soup, chop suey, egg foo young, lo mein and stir fries featuring beef, chicken, pork and veggies. A list of “Chef Specialties” includes dishes such as General Tso’s chicken, Mongolian beef and “Happy Family,” a mixture of shrimp, pork, chicken, beef and veggies. There’s also a long list of chicken wings, served hot, sweet or garlicky.
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DON’T MISS DISHES: Dragon City was quiet when we walked in for an early-evening dinner. But as soon as we sat down and made our selections, we heard the kitchen erupt into a chorus of clanging dishes and sizzling meats. Soon, we had our first of several delicious and piping hot dishes — a generous order of eight steamed dumplings for $4.95. They featured a well-seasoned, gingery meat mixture stuffed into a thick dough that was just the right amount of chewy. They were big enough that they needed to be cut into two bites.
The moo shu dish ($7.35 for pork) also was outstanding — and outstandingly hot. It came with four thin Chinese-style pancakes that resemble tortillas in texture. The meat mixture, intended to be rolled up inside, was made of a well-balanced sweet combination of chopped pork, egg, bamboo shoots and mushrooms. A sweet and thick hoisin sauce served on the side deliciously pasted the Chinese “burritos” together.
The dragon-loving boy in our party ordered a kid staple — sweet and sour chicken — and was thrilled with his giant plate of bite-sized fried chicken pieces, which he gleefully dipped into a hot pink bowl of sweet and sour sauce served on the side. His meal, which also included pork fried rice, was $6.45. Another young diner at our table liked her shrimp lo mein, a generous serving of long soft noodles oiled up and served with sauteed shrimp and veggies for $5 for a pint, $7.70 for a quart. (A pint was plenty.)
An order of General Tso’s chicken ($8.95) featured giant bits of crispy fried chicken coated in a sweet bright orange sauce and a side of steamed broccoli. The serving was generous, and the flavor was good. We were less impressed with the chicken with cashew nuts ($4.95 for a pint), which was made with tiny bites of very dark meat chicken and a bland brown sauce. But it was one of the few weak spots in the meal, which also included jumbo-sized hot and crispy crab Rangoon and above-average pork-filled egg rolls.
AMBIANCE: Dragon City seems mostly equipped for carryout or delivery, but we decide to eat in the dining room, which is brightly painted and sparsely decorated. It’s kind of messy, with a table filled with owners’ paperwork and belongings along the wall, next to an electric keyboard covered with a sheet.
PRICE RANGE: Combination platters, which come with pork fried rice and egg rolls, are all $7.15. Other entrees range from about $5 for a pint to around $8.50 for a quart. Chef specialties, made with seafood or large quantities of meat, are $9 to $12. Lunch specials, served from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with pork fried rice and two crab rangoon, are $5.15.
SERVICE: The owners were friendly and full of smiles, but eating in the dining room was a strange experience. Our food came out in phases, with a good 10 minutes lapsing from the time the first dish arrived until the last one did. Some of the dishes inexplicably came packaged to-go, while others were attractively served on plates. As soon as we were served, though, the carryout calls began flooding in, and we were forgotten about.