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No royal treatment at this Hunan palace

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The Hunan Palace Restaurant seems like a convenient getaway for a quick bite of lunch. It is located in the city's busy business area, which could make it a popular alternative to those poor-quality office deli options that is so often provided to the white-collar public.

However, upon entering the place, one quickly starts wondering if they made the right decision as the spacious dining room looks more like an Eastern European hospital lobby or a school cafeteria rather than an actual restaurant. The owners obviously did not wish to invest a dime in interior design and one could only hope that it is because of their confidence that the quality of their food and service would make up for the lack of ambiance.

At this stage, there is still hope for a satisfying lunch experience. After all, good service in the hospitality business means so much more than alluring decorations. Besides the quality of food, professionalism of the staff as well as cleanliness and hygiene are equally important in order to deliver the service that brings contentment to the hungry public.

This is not only true of top-of-the-line restaurants. To have a pleasant experience and to feel that it was worth spending the money, quality in all aforementioned areas is a prerequisite whether it is a small family-run eatery or a huge chain restaurant.

With this gold standard set and the interior examined, the focus is now on the staff. They greet their guests with humble bows typical of Asian culture as they hand them the menus. Their menu lists an array of typical but mediocre Chinese dishes on a simple, fast-food-style laminated sheet of paper. So far so good, at least it is not one of those restaurants where the menus are sticky with month-old food and dirt from the hands of hundreds of other visitors - like in many similar eateries.

The first problem emerges at the time of ordering. If one’s choice is out of the ordinary, they have trouble remembering what was requested. At a simple lunch for two, the server makes several mistakes while taking the order. Although food is served relatively quickly, the quality is disappointing. The Hot and Sour Soup is not hot enough and has a glue-like texture.

An experienced restaurant-goer can easily judge by the taste that the soup is at least three days old – a typical case when a chef overestimates consumption and cooks too much in advance. The second course likewise: forgettable Hunan Chicken with stale, soaked noodles and cheap-quality meat. If the customer has not lost their appetite yet, the appearance of a kitchen staff member (who is ordered to refill the not-so-clean plastic cups) will not help, either.

At the end of this adventure asking for the check can be quite a challenge in spite of the fact that there are only a few other guests in the dining room besides the bored crew. It takes quite a few attempts to catch the server’s attention and leave the place. This lunch will not leave a pleasant after-taste in the traveler’s mouth.

The restaurant is located in the Shady Grove Shopping Center at the intersection of Shady Grove Road and Gaither Road.

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