From The Daniel Island News|
Dragon Palace celebrates 10 years!
By Jennifer Johnston
Apr 10, 2013 - 9:15:23 AM
|Dig some dim sum? Get it for half price during the restaurant's anniversary all April long!||
|The look of Dragon Palace - inside and out - has remained consistent over its 10 years on Daniel Island.||
|A group of Dragon devotees enjoy a meal and support a good cause during the Palace's "support Haiti" night.|
|Dragon Palace is known for both its classic and innovative takes on Chinese dishes, evidenced by the Crystal Shrimp Dumplings.||
|A couple of Family Circle Cup fans take a break between sets for a drink and bite to eat at the bar.||
|Dragon Palace is known for both its classic and innovative takes on Chinese dishes, evidenced by the Ginger Scallion Lobster.|
It was April 2003. George W. Bush was President of the United States, Mark Sanford was Governor of South Carolina, and Joe Riley was mayor of Charleston (c’mon, people, it wasn’t even 30 years into the gig for him). Baghdad was falling, the human genome was rising, and hip hop bad boy 50 Cent held the top spot all month long with “In Da Club.” And in a lovely little up-and-coming island town, an authentic Chinese restaurant opened its doors.
That’s right, ten years ago this month, Daniel Island’s own Dragon Palace landed in the spot it still occupies on Seven Farms Drive. It was one of the first tenants in the shopping center, alongside Publix, Coastal Carolina Cleaners, and Daniel Island Wine and Spirits. At the time, the other island dining options were Queen Anne’s Revenge and Soda Water Grill (which closed in 2009). It stood to reason that this type of cuisine would fare well in a town that was growing by leaps and bounds. It’s what the man who opened it was counting on.
Sin Yung Cheng was born and raised in Fujian, China. Following a call to cuisine early on, he spent a number of years in Hong Kong, shadowing numerous chefs and finding invaluable mentorship from restaurateur Cheng moved to the United States in 1988, and landed in Charleston in the mid-90’s. Over the course of several years, he considered locations in and around Charleston for what would be his flagship restaurant, and eventually set his sights on the business district of a charming island community.
“The thought was that Daniel Island was in the first stages of major growth,” explains Cheng. He was spot-on: DI’s residential growth in 2003 represented a 70% increase over the previous year, and homebuyers were hailing from 36 states across the nation. Word was out about the developing island, and Cheng moved on a tremendous opportunity.
From the start, Cheng wanted the look and taste of the restaurant to be authentic. What this means, ten years later, is that there has been little need for aesthetic or culinary change. Both the interior and exterior of Dragon Palace look almost identical to that of a decade ago, but remarkably avoids looking dated. The menu has changed some, as the goal is always to offer classics mingled with dishes that can’t be found at the “typical” Chinese restaurant. But the most popular dishes in 2003 - the heat-kissed General Tso’s Chicken and the deliciously reliable Mongolian Beef - remain the most oft-ordered today. Cheng travels to his native China periodically to further his culinary knowledge, keeping his eyes (and palate) open to new ideas and concepts.
Restaurant manager Aven Whitmore came on board three months after Dragon Palace opened, so she has seen the evolution of both the island and the establishment over the last ten years. She confesses that growth, particularly in recent years, has been slower than expected, and that the Dragon Palace team hopes that Daniel Island will continue to expand. They are certainly encouraged by the positive trend in home sales and continued popularity of island events, such as the recent Family Circle Cup tennis tournament.
With all the chatter lately about the viability of businesses on DI, to what can Dragon Palace attribute its success and staying power? “It has not always been easy, but we have had tremendous support from the community,” Whitmire states. “(Cheng) is very hard-working and hands-on, and Dragon Palace’s staff is so dedicated. We genuinely care about our customers and want to see the restaurant succeed. Our goal is to consistently serve top-quality Chinese cuisine and ensure that all of our customers have a positive dining experience at Dragon Palace and will continue to support us for the next ten years.”
Whitmire estimates that 75% of the restaurant’s patrons are “regulars,” and tells us that they have run television advertisements in the past to attract diners from off the island. But they have also solidified their presence in the community by leading philanthropic efforts, both local and far-reaching. From raising nearly $8,000 for both Haiti relief and tsunami victims (by donating 100% of receipts, including gratuity) to giving $100 gift certificates to Daniel Island School eighth-graders receiving all As for the year, Cheng is clearly committed to a spirit of generosity, and it has made a marked impression on his team. “This past Christmas we adopted three children, and the staff purchased and wrapped all their Christmas presents,” Whitmire recalls. “We then treated their whole family to a complimentary dinner at Dragon Palace. It was wonderful seeing the smiles on the children’s faces and how grateful the family was.”
In their own gesture of appreciation, Dragon Palace is inviting its patrons to share in the milestone anniversary. “We really want to say thank you and give back to our customers,” Whitmire shares, “so from April 8 through April 30 we will offer daily specials for dine in and take out.” (See sidebar.) And these are some seriously good deals on meals and libation; it is clearly a most sincere show of gratitude.
Cheng has opened other restaurants on his journey to Daniel Island, and currently owns Great Wall in Mount Pleasant as well. But from the start, the DI eatery proved a special endeavor. “Dragon Palace is unique,” relates Whitmore. “This was his baby; he put his heart and soul into this restaurant.”
Dragon Palace is located at 162 Seven Farms Drive, Suite 320, in Daniel Island. Hours of operation are Monday through Thursday 11:00 am to 2:30 pm and 4:30 pm to 9:30 pm, and Friday and Saturday 11:00 am to 2:30 pm and 4:30 pm to 10:30 pm. Find out more at www.dragonpalacesc.com.
Come celebrate 10 years with Dragon Palace’s fantastic specials through April 30!
• $2 Yanjing (Chinese beer)
• $10 bottles of wine
• Half price Dim Sum
• Sweet & Tangy Pork Loin
• General Tso’s Chicken
• Cashew Chicken
• Grand Marnier Shrimp
• Mongolian Beef or Chicken
• Sesame Chicken
• Garlic Chicken or Shrimp
• Stir-fry Vegetables with Beef or Chicken
• Szechuan Beef or Chicken
• Curry Chicken
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