Forbidden City

On your first trip to Forbidden City, you may think that you’ve made ammm..nagel mistake. You may think that this Chinese restaurant is closed for business, that the sign out front is just a remnant from an old tenant who no longer slings the hot and sour, that the weed choked parking lot is not, in fact, a recommended place in which to park a family vehicle. I would not begrudge you any of these thoughts. You would, however, be wrong. Forbidden City is indeed open for business. Had the owners named the restaurant Forbidding City, it might support the exterior décor, (or lack of) but, trust me, the place is still open.

Before I get going on this one, I would like to take a moment to investigate a common grammatical problem. There are three common English words that are frequently misused, misplaced or substituted for each other incorrectly. These words are “forbidden,” forbidding” and “foreboding.” So, here you go:

Forbidden- adj. not permitted or allowed

Forbidding- adj. 1: such as to make approach or passage difficult or impossible <forbidding walls>
2 : disagreeable, repellant <a forbidding task>
3 : grim, menacing <a dark forbidding sky>

Foreboding- n. an omen, prediction, or presentiment especially of coming evil

Ok, now that that’s settled, let’s move on.

Here’s the scary part, the interior is more frightening than the exterior. A remnant from when LA Law topped the ratings, the interior of
Forbidden City makes almost every new diner cringe. Salmon colored walls, tattered faux-leather maroon chairs with rounded black tubular backs, a mirrored cityscape on the south wall, purple neon running in a path 10 feet off the floor and surrounding the room, light fixtures of concentric frosted glass plates with halogen bulbs. Truly foreboding. I could go on, but you probably want to know about the food.

The menu at Forbidden City…

Ok, I can’t say enough about the horrible interior. The bare tables were sticky to the touch, the dusty, cob-webbed silk flowers in the center of the room had probably been purchases made in the Reagan administration, the art on the walls ran to Nagel prints and sexy photos with roses and a saxophone against a black background with smoke drifting out of the bell. It was horrifying.

Ok, the food. The food is decent. The hot and sour soup was not the best I’ve ever had but definitely not the worst. It did have foreign and unidentifiable objects floating in it though. The basil chicken was palatable. The Emperor’s beef (or chicken or pork, up to you) was very tasty, sweet and spicy, tender and succulent. It is, by far, the place’s most popular dish. I would guess that it accounts for more than half of their total orders. The reverence they give it on their menu is the type of adulation usually reserved for Catholic saints and
Victoria’s Secret models. It is, in my opinion, the only reason to go to
Forbidden City. In my last visit, the service lacked punch, the atmosphere frightened me and the other dishes failed to impress. The Emperor’s beef, however, made the visit almost worth it.

Basically, it’s not a joint worth going out of your way for, but if you live in the neighborhood and feel like a break from reality, drop by, sit down and order the Emperor’s. You’ll thank meappreciate…acknowledge my existence.

Forbidden City-Corner of Marconi & Eastern,

Food* Atmosphere* Service*

7 thoughts on “Forbidden City”

  1. I almost enjoy a well written “bad review” more that a “good review.” Thank you when are going to bind these all up in a book?


  2. Like I said over at my place, I could feel the sticky on the table. Most people would have turned around when they saw those dusty silk flowers.

    You must visit “The Trap” one day.

    Very well written, as usual.


  3. You forgot the key ingredient in the special dish: one long, coarse, dark human hair.


  4. The best Chinese in this part of town is to be had at Ming’s Palace, or “N’s Palace” as the sign prominenly displays at night (the M, I, and G on the sign are (sadly) burnt out)… Try the House Special Chow Mein…it has HK style noodles!


  5. FYI, Forbidden city has closed and a Thai restaurant has taken its place. By next week, we’ll toddle on over, get some peanut sauce on our chins and let you know how it is.


  6. So, Forbidden City has been purchased, and its new owners have opened it under the name of Maali (sp?). It serves both Thai and Chinese food — the Chinese food is prepared by the same chef who worked at Forbidden City.

    We opted for Thai.

    As we entered the “new” joint, we saw that they had kept much of the same decor, only it was clean. There were no cobwebs or dust bunnies (when sauteed in peanut oil make up the #37 dish) like last time.

    Some of the artwork had changed — the mirrored cityscape had been replaced by a gilded Thai picture. There were no Nagel prints, and the saxophone-spouting-smoke poster was also gone.

    The food was good, but not my favorite larb in town. The chicken larb (they had it spelled “larp” on the menu) was decent, but not nearly as bright and tasty as the larb at the Thai place on Broadway (you know, the one next door to the *other* Thai place on Broadway.)

    Our chicken curry was also decent, not great. It was a bit heavy on the eggplant, but again, I think there’s better curry elsewhere (Thai Cottage, anyone?)

    The beef with noodles was light on the beef, though it was still quite tasty.

    My perennial favorite, mango with sticky rice, was passable — like anyone could ever screw this up — but the place that does this dish best is Thai House in Loehmann’s Plaza (go treat yourself to a plate of it after getting your mani/pedi at Ultimate Nails next door.)

    In sum, Maali will fit the bill if we want Thai food quickly since it’s a seven minute walk from our house (or a two minute drive when recovering from sac-eats’ pub crawl birthday party.)

    However, I’d prefer to literally go the extra mile to any of the other Thai joints in the greater Arden-Arcade hood.

    The place is still new, so I know we’ll check it out again once they’ve worked out some of their kinks.


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