Empress Gardens Review


Leah Salzenstein

Empress Garden renovates their seating area in preparation for in-person dining. The new seating arrangement incorporates the original decorations and color scheme while giving the restaurant a more sleek and updated feel. The restaurant continues to uphold COVID safety measures to keep both their staff and customers safe.

A beautiful array of steak, fried rice, and vegetables make up this filling carryout meal. The Hong Kong Steak is a must have for my family dinner. Although the box is filled to the brim with tasteful cuisine, it will be gone by the end of the night. Not only is this dish a favorite among my family, it is also loved by the restaurant staff. (Leah Salzenstein)

Hidden within a lonely strip mall in Southfield, a small family run restaurant captures their customers’ taste buds and lures them back for more. One of these regular customers is my grandpa- for decades my family has been enjoying Chinese delicacies at Empress Garden. From their classic fried rice dish and wonton soup, to their steamed Hong Kong steak served on a platter, this restaurant has something for everyone.

Although the exterior of the restaurant looks rather bland, the flavors found in every meal are anything but. The first thing you notice as you step into the restaurant is the abundance of red; the booths, walls, decorations, and lights all radiate the same hue. In Chinese culture, red symbolizes luck and happiness. The owners make their customers feel these emotions not only from their dishes, but from the welcoming atmosphere as well. The menu is large and intricate, which can sometimes overwhelm new customers, however, the staff is more than happy to help customers find their perfect dish. Even with all of the choices available, my family has found our niche – favorite dishes that are must haves for every occasion.

A whole quart of wonton soup is needed to satisfy my family of five – the bowl will be completely empty by the end of the night. The soup has a refreshing, salty taste, perfect for an appetizer. The restaurant also provides small chips to add a satisfying crunch to your spoonful. Another appetizer to add to your order is the egg rolls. Served hot and ready to eat, the egg roll’s shell is crispy and crunchy while the inside is soft and doughy. The interior is filled to the brim with vegetables.

Moving onto the main course, the chicken fried rice is a classic dish that will please everyone in your party. The onions and chicken mixed together with a dash of soy sauce transforms the plain rice into the flavorful plate delivered to your table. I personally like to mix the fried rice with the plain white rice, as it makes the flavors of the fried rice stand out.

My sister’s favorite dish is the shrimp lo mein. She takes great pride in her food choices, and stated that the mushrooms added to the noodles and shrimp combine to make an unforgettable taste.
Meanwhile, my brother is obsessed with the sweet and sour chicken. The crispy exterior of the chicken is complimented by a sugary sauce that is perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth. Although the sauce is sweet, it also has a tangy essence – giving the sauce it’s “sour” reputation. All of these ingredients mixed together is what creates this unique, yet delicious taste.

My parents’ go-to platter is the Hong Kong steak. As the waiter brings the dish to your table, you can hear the satisfying sizzling sound and see the trail of steam the platter leaves behind. My dad argues that the presentation itself is enough to add this dish to one’s favorite meals – along with the flavors, of course.

“They cook the meat perfectly. The sauce is marinated with onions and bok choy, adding all of these flavors to the already delicious sauce,” he said.

By the end of the meal, when your stomach is begging you to stop eating, the waiter brings the check along with fortune cookies. Although your stomach feels as though it could explode, you make room for one more cookie. This is my experience of dining at Empress Gardens – unfortunately though, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken away this experience.

Since the pandemic, Empress Gardens has exclusively served carryout. When asked about the affects COVID-19 had on the restaurant, James Chen, the son of the owner and manager, stated;
“We had to close down our restaurant for two months and implement safety measures. We also shifted to online ordering and digitized our business.”

The family run restaurant had to change their ways of doing business to fit the changing times. Fortunately, Chen’s community supported the restaurant during this transition.

“The local’s here really supported us, so we actually had increased carryout sales for a while during COVID,” said Chen.

Since the suspension of dine-in services, the owners have taken this time to renovate the restaurant’s seating areas. The new renovations still include the old charm of the restaurant while adding a modern twist to the design. The new booths and chairs remain the same red color, continuing to share the cultural significance behind the delicious food. A newly made bar is waiting to be used and cherished. Even with all of the upgrades being made, one issue is still prominent: staffing. Chen expressed his concern over the restaurant’s ability to find staff.

“Staffing is a struggle for us”, said Chen.

Even though the restaurant faces multiple obstacles, the staff continues to persevere in order to produce the highest quality food for a fair price.

“We are known for quality and quantity,” said Chen.

Although it is a shame the dine-in experience is suspended for the time being, carry out is still a great option. When asked about the restaurant’s most popular dish, Chen states that the General Tso’s Chicken is a favorite among customers. He also shares his personal favorite meal, the Hong Kong steak. “It’s very healthy and tasty,” said Chen. These meals are great options for your next carry out dinner.