Peking Palace is in a strip shopping center just across from the Target and next to HoneyBaked Ham. For the most part, it’s a traditional Chinese restaurant with some Japanese items thrown in for good measure. And then there’s the white board.
The cheerful attentive staff is Asian, some with limited English. That’s always a good sign. And there are other Asian people in there on a regular basis to eat. That’s also a good sign. King Daddy and I have been going there for years. The servers don’t know us by name but they know our faces and, I believe, since we started ordering off the white board exclusively we have gained a small measure of respect. We like their food.
And as an aside, I would just like to say that a restaurant where the servers are named Bambi and Ian and the chopsticks are plastic is not a Chinese restaurant. P.F. Chang’s is not a Chinese restaurant. It is a faux Chinese restaurant for people who are scared to actually frequent the real thing.
But I digress. The white board. It appeared a few years ago and our lives have never been the same.
Our waitress appears with her ordering pad, expecting King Daddy and I to order Kung Pao Chicken and Sweet and Sour Soup. “We would like the Pho,” I tell her completely mispronouncing it (it’s “pha”). I see a faint glimmer in her eyes as though we have immediately gone up in her estimation.
A plate with aromatics such as fresh basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, jalapeno peppers and a fresh lime wedge appear along with two bowls. We do not know what to do with them. We wait, humbly, for instruction. Then a giant steaming bowl of pho arrives, with paper-thin sheets of beef, chunks of Chinese sausage and almost transparent rice noodles swimming in a thrillingly exotic broth.
You put vegetables in bottom of bowl and spoon pho on top, she says.
We do. We taste. We are goners. We demolish the entire giant bowl.
We like. No, that’s not accurate. We are in full-blown love with Pho.
The white board has expanded to include Pad Thai and Zha Jiang Mian (two insanely delicious noodle dishes – the first from Thailand and the second from China) and our current obsession, the Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich.
Thin slices of highly seasoned pork with pickled vegetables on a homemade – homemade – French roll. When we order it, which we do every single time, we just roll our eyes and the table falls silent. It’s that good.
King Daddy, Dammit Boy and I are at Peking Place probably two or three times a week. I remember one moment of shame, absolute shame, when we walked in and I ordered General Tso’s Chicken. I know. It’s not even remotely Chinese. I just had a craving.
General Tso’s Chicken? No Pho? No Zha Jiang Mian? The waitress was genuinely puzzled.
I have never done it since.
So here’s my take away on this. Always order from the white board. Or get the special. Or ask the waitress what she would get. We are blessed in the greater Nashville area now to have all kinds of authentic food – Mexican, Honduran, El Salvadoran, Laotian, Ethiopian, Vietnamese and Indian. God bless our immigrants. They have so much to teach us.