Food provides the comfort here
Just about any positive restaurant cliche could describe Royal Palace Restaurant II: “a hidden jewel,’’ “worth the trip,’’ “a real find.’’ But this Chinatown hole-in-the-wall also deserves a phrase all its own: it’s windowsill worthy. In other words, if you have to sit awkwardly on a hard, narrow windowsill while you eat, as we did, you won’t mind. This fresh, light, Cantonese and Hong Kong cuisine is worth the discomfort.
Three Hong Kong-trained chefs cook at Royal Palace alongside two Cantonese cooks. Some of them made the move last year from the restaurant’s old location in the former Chinatown food court, which now houses condos. The change was a good thing. The new troupe now turns out some of the most carefully prepared Chinese take-out around.
Food this good though is best right from the pan, so grab one of the 16 seats (four are on the dreaded windowsill). The plain space is cramped and it’s loud; the exhaust fan for the open kitchen just might run on a Harley motor.
But as we bite into lacy, delicate fried wontons ($4.50) and their juicy stuffed centers yield tender pork, fresh spring onion, and fragrant garlic, all seems to grow quiet and comfy. Vegetable dishes make things feel downright serene. Whether baby bok choy ($9) or string beans in the lightest garlic sauces ($8) or u-choy splashed with a gently sweet soy sauce broth ($7), all the main ingredients taste delivery-day fresh; they’re elegantly dressed, and tender with a slight snap.
Noodle dishes show similar skill. Chopstick-thick udon noodles have the right bite and chew (try the star-anise-seasoned satay seafood delight, $6.25; below). Yee mein (egg noodles; try the vegetarian, $7) are squiggly, tender, and light. Beef chow foon ($5.50), passes every test. Tender meat and wide, perfectly floppy noodles glisten in a refined brown sauce.
The decor-trumping cuisine goes on. Seafood is tender and succulent, especially comforting shrimp and scrambled eggs ($5.50), or squid with Chinese vegetables ($9.50). Wonton soup benefits from a well-rounded, homemade broth ($4.25). Crisp, spicy salted pork chop is rich with Chinese 5-spice ($6 as rice plate). Juices are frothy elixirs blended solely from ripe fruit and ice. Owner Patrick Choy, whose sisters own the popular Juice Bar in Chinatown, whips them up. Try the kiwi, watermelon, or papaya ($3-$4).
The only thing we’d change is the seating. We wish there was more of it. But a cushion for that windowsill would do.