Restaurant News & Reviews

Chinese comfort food at the China Dragon

The Honey Walnut Prawn at China Dragon in Morro Bay features a delicately sweet glaze. Read more »
The Honey Walnut Prawn at China Dragon in Morro Bay features a delicately sweet glaze. Read more » dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

China Dragon isn’t on a main drag, but the food and hospitality of Kevin and Sophie Lu make it worth discovering.

Located just past Spencer’s Market in North Morro Bay, this familyowned-and-operated restaurant is unassuming from the outside.

Keep an eye out for the blue awning and red sign promising “Family Dining” and “Fine Chinese Cuisine.” Inside, there’s just enough space for three tables and six booths (so don’t expect a big buffet spread), and often those spots will be occupied by longtime regulars.

The Lus met at a restaurant in Northern California but frequently came to Morro Bay to visit Kevin’s father, Lu Chi Fa, who owns the Coffee Pot Restaurant on the Embarcadero.

When the original owners of China Dragon retired, he encouraged Kevin and Sophie to move here permanently, and they opened the doors to their own version of the restaurant in 2007.

Much of what you’ll see on the China Dragon menu will be familiar. Among the specialties here are the delicately sweet Honey Walnut Prawn, the zesty Orange Chicken, and the Sizzling Black Pepper Beef. In addition, there’s everything from Sweet and Sour Pork to Szechuan Pork, from Curry Chicken to Sesame Chicken, from Hunan Spicy Beef to Mongolian Beef.

Many of those are available in the typical lunch specials that include egg rolls, soup and fried rice, as well as in the family dinner combinations.

What you won’t find at China Dragon are MSG and a lot of sugar.

Kevin learned his trade cooking at his own restaurant in Taipei, so his approach is traditional and his tastes authentic. He explained that he prefers to build layers of flavors with ingredients such as fruit juices — his sweet and sour sauce is based on orange juice and tomato juice, for example — and his deep-fried items are deftly done so that they’re not oil-soaked.

Sophie also noted that because everything is cooked to order, special dietary requests can be easily accommodated, whether you’re trying to have less sodium (not always an easy task in a Chinese restaurant) or if you’re just trying to eat less meat.

“We’re actually seeing more and more vegetarians,” she said, and there are plenty of dishes on the China Dragon menu to appeal to them. Beyond the customary Vegetable Chow Mein and Broccoli with Garlic Sauce are Moo Shi Vegetable, Szechuan Eggplant, and Vegetable Egg Foo Young.

The vegetarian entrées won’t just be full of the standard onions and bell peppers either. Except for specialty items such as Asian eggplant and bamboo shoots, the Lus “shop for our family and the restaurant” at the Thursday Morro Bay Farmers Market so you’re apt to find some seasonal veggies in all of the dishes.

“We’re really trying to listen to our customers,” said Sophie, “and we’re having fun educating them on real Chinese food. People are becoming very willing to try new things, especially if they can get a new dish and share it with others at their table. Also, people will come in and see what we’re having for lunch and ask us to make that for them, so we might be adding some new things to the menu!”

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