Moon Palace among 100 top Chinese restaurants

Celebrating its 30th year in business, the owners of Moon Palace want to give the authentic Chinese restaurant a face-lift.

The decision came shortly after owners Pun and Cindy Lee entered Moon Palace into a nationwide competition hosted by Chinese Restaurant News that investigates and lists the top 100 Chinese restaurants in the U.S.

The magazine recruits restaurants from all over the country and sends a "secret diner" to each establishment to order and eat a meal, all the while scoring the restaurant on the food, service, appearance and more. Afterward, restaurant owners are given their scores and feedback on how to improve the eatery.

After all the votes were tallied, Moon Palace was selected as one of the 2008 Top 100 Regional Chinese Cuisines.

The Sequim landmark - and the town's first Chinese restaurant, according to Pun and Cindy Lee - received 100-percent satisfaction in the service category and 97-percent on the overall freshness and satisfaction of the food. The only recommendation, Pun Lee said, was for the business to update its appearance.

As a result, management will replace the current tablecloths with a new more modern design, introduce new silverware and dishes, and slap a fresh coat of paint on the interior walls.

"The last color change was about 10 years ago," Pun Lee said while glancing at the off-white walls. "I think it's about time to change that again."

Changes will take place slowly, Pun Lee said, and will be small but significant.

"The building is old, and structure-wise we can't do anything," Cindy Lee said.

"But we can give the business a makeover - a fresh look."

The Lees first were approached about entering the contest two years ago but rejected the invitation until last year when they decided feedback might be beneficial to the future of the business.

"It wasn't about winning or losing," Pun Lee said.

"We wanted to know what we needed to change and winning was just a bonus."

Pun and Cindy Lee took over the family business from Pun Lee's uncle in 1987. The couple pride themselves on catering to customers' individual dietary needs and cooking orders as they come in rather than prep cooking and letting food set in a warmer.

For example, if a customer has an allergy, the staff will let them know exactly which items on the menu they can and cannot eat or they will cook using substitute ingredients, something they have a lot of experience with because of family allergies.

In an effort to promote healthiness, stir-fried dishes are cooked with soybean oil and contain no monosodium glutamate, better known as MSG.

If a person's favorite dish isn't on the menu, that doesn't mean it's not available.

"If you can describe a dish to us, then we will make it for you," Cindy Lee said.

Though the business has felt an impact from the depressed economy, the foundation is still strong, Pun Lee said.

"It's slowed down a lot from last year and we don't see the working class as often as we used to, maybe every three months or so," Pun Lee said.

"But we're looking forward to being here another 30 years."

Ashley Miller can be reached at ashleyo@

Sequim's first

Chinese restaurant

Moon Palace authentic Chinese cuisine, 323 E. Washington St., in the Creamery Square mall, is open 11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, 3-9 p.m. Saturday, and noon-8 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call 683-6898.

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