EVERETT — For more than 50 years, it was the China Doll.
It was in a drab, mostly windowless building with a bright yellow sign on Broadway across from Xfinity Arena when it closed down suddenly in March, much to the dismay of longtime regulars.
Now the building itself is painted bright yellow and it sports a big “grand opening” banner.
It reopened as Tang Wong in June.
“New owner, new menu,” our waitress said.
We went after 1 p.m. on a weekday and practically had the place to ourselves.
The inside looked unchanged, with the same giant dragon on the wall and laminate tables.
Walking in, country music twanged from the speakers, seemingly inside the bar lounge area. It was a nice reminder of the cultural melting pot of modern Chinese-American cuisine and potential for food to bridge cultural divides.
Case in point: We found General Tao, or Tso, or Tsao or Zhou.
However you spell it, the ubiquitous dish (of which the origin(s) was covered in the award-winning documentary “The Search for General Tso”) was present as one of a dozen or so lunch specials priced at $7.95.
Known for being sweet and spicy, Tang Wong’s General fell more in the former’s camp, with barely a whisper of spice. That suited our taste preference just fine, and the sticky crimson sauce made a nice cover for the crispy, crunchy fried chicken bites underneath. It’s also listed under the Chef Specialties section ($13.98).
Accompanying the lunch specials were the options of hot and sour or egg flower soup (or wonton soup for an extra 50 cents), and steamed rice, pork fried rice or chicken chow mein. That all rounds out to an absurdly reasonable plate. Choices for $7.95 included mango chicken, curry chicken and black pepper beef. The only two $8.95 dishes had prawns.
We opted for a mini family-style, divide-and-conquer approach so we could both try some of the options. In addition to General Tao’s with pork fried rice, we ordered cashew chicken and chicken chow mein. All of it delivered on the classic Chinese-American dishes you’re likely to find from Seattle to Schnectady, New York.
It wasn’t fancy or elegant, but these dishes really aren’t derived from Le Cordon Bleu. They’re common food, basically the casserole of Chinese cuisine (which itself has several variations based on the region, just like American dining does with Southern, Southwest, Tex-Mex, Northwest, Midwest, etc.). It’s what kept China Doll customers coming back, again and again.
The pork fried rice was a little less fried than the usual, but it still had the expected salty taste to it and the chunks of pork were packed with flavor.
The cashew chicken had a crisp variety of vegetables. It came covered in gravy sauce, and complemented the General’s uptick on the taste buds.
There was a small jar of chili sauce on the table that, of course, we had to try. It had a nice kick to it. Spice-averse diners should scoop a few drops — not a spoonful — into the egg flower soup.
With the big “dim sum” sign out front, we expected a cart would be wheeled to our table with ready-made steamed buns, dumplings and noodles like we’d seen before at other dim sum places.
Instead, we ordered from a dim sum menu. It arrived after we’d gobbled down the main dishes, more like a dessert would.
The items were hit-and-miss. The barbecue pork steamed bun was a home run. The bun was kind of tangy, like a sourdough, which cut the sweetness of the barbecue pork in the middle.
The steamed seafood dumpling was less enthralling, with the fish and shrimp feeling like a mash of foods instead of each one standing out.
With the reverence given to the location’s former incarnation, the new iteration seems poised to make its mark with the dim sum addition.
Just make sure you find one you like.
We picked up a bright yellow carryout menu because, just like the cuisine returning to the location of China Doll, we’ll be back.
We did go back, not only to get more General Tao, but also to get more information.
The new owner, Yu Zhen Ming, speaking through a Chinese translator, said he bought the place so he can continue the same legacy as the China Doll.
“He was there and had a very good experience, and he wants to continue it,” the translator said.
Ming previously had several restaurants, including one in Lake Stevens that is now owned by his daughter.
The main changes he made to the China Doll interior was scrubbing it up and replacing the ceiling tiles.
He added the made-to-order dim sum menu. If there is enough demand, he said he will add a dim sum cart of ready-made items.
If there’s something you liked at the China Doll and it’s not on the new menu, no problem. Just ask and his cooks will make it for you.
The hot sauce on the tables is his concoction: “It’s a special chili sauce,” the translator said.
As for the new name, he said Tang Wong means “Imperial Dynasty.”
If you go
Tang Wong, 3001 Broadway, Everett; 425-258-1587.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Alcohol: Beer, wine and spirits.
Must try: Lunch specials.