5052 West Lane, Stockton, CA, 95210
China Palace: A Gourmet Destination in Stockton
It's hard to be the best dim sum restaurant in a town. You must work your way up until you serve the best of a variety of dishes, get recognition from customers and critics, and always stay at the top of the game. Likewise, it must be tough to be the best Cantonese restaurant in the area. Imagine, then, how hard it must be to be the best dim sum, Cantonese, and seafood restaurant in Stockton, California. Equipped with a great banquet facility and idyllic decor for parties and groups, dining at China Palace means you're dining at one of the finest Chinese Restaurants anywhere.
House Specialties: Hawaii Style Shrimp, Pepper Salt Prawns
Address: 5052 West Lane, Stockton, CA 95210
A great deal of success in life can be credited to experience, and experience in the restaurant industry is especially vital. The owner opened his first restaurant in 1989. The “New China” restaurant in Ripon seated only about 80 guests and thus had a small, dine-in feel to it. The restaurant became successful shortly thereafter and the owner managed to open a second location in Manteca five years later. The opening of a third location was an extremely momentous event in the owner's restaurant enterprise, and so he decided to differentiate this new location in a number of ways. The third location is the 400-seat dim sum house now known as China Palace. Upon opening in 1999, it was the first dim sum restaurant in the Stockton area. It took six months to build and has become the most popular dim sum & seafood dining destination in the area, and has enjoyed a large base of loyal customers over the ten years of its existence.
China Palace's spacious eight thousand square feet dining space comfortably seats over 400 people. It's the ideal location for special events, offering preset menus and a splendid banquet hall complete with special decorations depending on the event.
It should come as no surprise that China Palace has not only attracted the admiration of local customers, but the local media as well. The Stockton Recorder has often sung the restaurant's praises and has been given the rank of four stars three times in its history.
The head chef and dim sum chefs were hired from San Francisco, where they had worked in some of the finest eateries in Chinatown. Owner David Yep also makes regular trips to San Francisco’s finer restaurants in search of culinary trends so that he can be on top of what’s new for dim sums and seafood.
The Cantonese style of Chinese food has a wide spectrum of tastes and traditions. Typically though, as a cuisine it is more healthy by putting more emphasis on vegetables and seafood. Cantonese cuisine also includes dim sum, pastries, and dumplings- making it one of the more diverse Chinese cuisines.
But one should not overlook the varied seafood dishes on the menu. Honey Walnut Prawns, Pepper Salt Prawns, Peking Duck, Hawaii Style Shrimp, lobster, and Pepper Salt Crab are all popular items on the menu. “We’re like a seafood restaurant,” boasts owner David Yep. Of all the seafood dishes that he holds in high regard, he explains that the salt pepper seasoned seafood dishes are the house specialties. Another best seller is the Hawaii Shrimp which is rich in fruits such as honey dew melon, cantaloupe, pineapples. The dish is also braised in the house special wine sauce to make it extra savory. The fruity tastes are well matched by the juicy fresh shrimp, and bring out a unique Hawaiian flavor. It is also a well-balanced dish for health-concerned diners.
The seafood dishes also highlight the healthier part of the menu. The steamed fish in particular is a very healthy entree: “We just put a little soy sauce on it,” explained Yep. There are many other healthy dishes, especially those that are dedicated to a vegetarian diet. The mixed vegetables and steamed vegetables are quite popular and the menu has plenty of tofu items such as the popular Szechuan tofu.
Over the course of the restaurant's history, more healthy dishes have been added and the chefs have worked hard to ensure healthier cooking methods throughout. Blanching, steaming, cooking, grilling and other techniques are used depending on the customer's request. David Yep also added a “Healthy Choices” section on his menu, listed along with the authentic favorites, so to give customers more options. Just as he believes in the taste of her dishes, he also strongly believes in the concept of vegetable inspired meals.
But while the seafood, western-style and healthy dishes are all extraordinary it is China Palace's dim sum menu that truly differentiates it. Unlike many restaurants which prepare it only on select days, the chefs at China Palace prepare dim sum every day. Dim sum appears on the lunch menu on weekdays, and weekends dim sum can be found on the mobile carts that send dim sum to the diners' tables. Guests can also order special dim sum. Shu mai, ha kao (shrimp dumpling) is popular as well as the deep fried shrimp balls, lobster turnovers, pork buns, and mini hot dog buns. David Yep believes that good dim sum does not come by accident, nor without a sense of purpose: “If it’s special, you have to make your own.” All dim sums are freshly prepared in house, cook to order. “We are known as the best place to have dim sum in Stockton ever since China Palace was opened in 1999.”
The Service & Management
In order to service a bustling business full of eager customers, the owner has around twenty people working in the kitchen. “When you have 2,000 square feet just for the kitchen, it’s pretty hard to keep organized,” he explains.
There is also always a busy dim sum crowd during the mornings and banquet events at night every weekend to keep the staff busy. His crew distinguishes themselves by providing excellent service and placing heavy emphasis on the overall cleanliness of the restaurant.
To give back, Mr. Yep hosts an annual Thanksgiving family dinner where he invites all of his staff and their family members for the gathering. The traditional event usually involves fun activities such as musical chairs, and gift give away contests. The owner goes out of his way to ensure that everyone receives a price at the event.
The community of Stockton has been very generous to China Palace. “We are very popular here,” the owner admits. Guests like the food and the servers call customers by name. The wait staff can remember the customers by name because they have worked here for so long. The owner is equally involved with customer satisfaction.
Mr. Yep explains his favorite part of his interactions with guests: “I really like the customers... sometimes they give suggestions. We work hard for the customers. I really like being around my customers every day. I enjoy greeting people as they dine in the restaurant, enjoy watching them leave with a satisfied smile and a full belly.” The restaurant's philosophy is tied to taking care of customers. The staff appreciate customers' suggestions and the customers in turn know the staff cares about them. As a result, customers are loyal and numerous at China Palace.
When talking of Stockton, the owner reveals his love and loyalty to the community with his frequent school donations and scholarship fund raisers throughout the year. Mr. Yep also hosts annual donation parties for the sheriff's department.
The owner is dedicated to fresh food and keeping the restaurant humming with business. He believes that “The busier a restaurant gets, the fresher food it serves.” If a restaurant is constantly on the move, it will seek to keep on top of new trends, better ingredients, and have to cook food quickly and efficiently.
Such great food and gregarious staff members means that China Palace is a great place to host important events like wedding receptions or big parties. Almost every weekend you will see 300-400 people in the huge banquet room. Private party rooms are available as well. The owner explains: “We do a lot of small parties and small meetings in the banquet room. For very special party dishes, we have to prepare a week in advance, but most are prepared the day of.”
With dedication like this, one can expect they'll have a great tenth anniversary next year, and perhaps an even more joyous one ten years after that.