Kwan's Cuisine

Where else would you go to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Salem other than Kwan's. To make this "Year of the Ox" dinner even more meaningful I discovered that Kwan, himself, is an ox. If you believe in this sort of thing, the Chinese zodiac is a twelve year cycle, each year symbolized by an animal. In researching the "Year of the Ox" I discovered this description on Wikipedia;


The Ox is thought to be the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work. The Ox is a power sign, like the Rat, Snake, Dragon, Tiger, and Monkey. They're quite dependable and possess an innate ability to achieve great things. As one might guess, such people are dependable, calm, and modest. Like their animal namesake, the Ox is unswervingly patient, tireless in their work, and capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint.

If you've ever met Kwan or heard his life story, you'd know that would describe him pretty well. A Chinese immigrant, Kwan and his wife Bo are living the American dream with their iconic Salem restaurant which opened in 1982
On this night, we ordered the "Year of the Ox" special for 2 which included Hot and Sour Soup, Imperial Fried Rice, Honey Walnut Prawns, Mongolian Beef, Buddha's Vegetable Feast, and for dessert, Sesame Balls for $31.90. The fried rice was cooked in a lotus leaf wrap and was cut open by the server at the table. That was a nice touch making the meal feel special and interesting. Of the entrees, what really stood out was the flavorful Honey Walnut Prawns which left my wife and I scraping the plate for the last of the walnuts and sweet  sauce. Correct me if I'm wrong, but unfortunately, I couldn't find this dish on their regular menu. The Mongolian Beef is on the regular menu and that is also an excellent item. Topped with crispy rice noodles, the plate came piled high with marinated beef, onions and bell peppers. For my unsophisticated taste, the Buddha vegetable feast was a bit strange. The flavor of the vegetable assortment was dominated by black mushrooms and there were some items in there I've never seen before. Throughout the dish, were some sort of bean which looked like large garbanzos. Flashbacks went through my mind of the strange sights along the streets of Chinatown in San Francisco. I paused before taking a bite, reminding myself that this is a vegetable entree. The Sesame Balls for dessert were also unusual and a nice sweet bite after a filling dinner.

Overall, Kwan's is still the benchmark for Chinese food in Salem. It's kind of an old school restaurant, reminiscent of the time when customer service was a top priority. A nice touch at the end of the dinner, they bring you a hot, moist wash cloth for cleaning your hands. Kwan himself likes to visit with guests and he's always in the restaurant. Stop by and say hi, tell him you read about his restaurant in Eat Salem.

.








Review by Salem Man 7/5/07
Kwan's was one of the first places that I ate when I arrived in Salem a few years ago and probably the restaurant I eat at most frequently. Although it's becoming dated, the interior is comfortable and well decorated. The service is great, they always get your order right
with a friendly smile. This is a well run restaurant, even the take out is always consistent. The credit goes to the owner, Kwan, and his wife Bo who are the hardest working people in town. Even working seven days a week, Kwan always takes time to visit your table and ask how you've been. Only once have I not seen him in the restaurant. A couple of years ago, he visited his family in China. The food is generally pretty good, I recommend the won ton soup, sweet and sour chicken and Kwan's special beef. There's usually a special, advertised on the back side of the building, with interesting ingredients like ostrich and emu. Eating at Kwan's is a fun experience including the gift shop with a 14 foot Buddha and unique hand painted Chinese vases. Kwan's Cuisine is located south of downtown Salem at 835 Commercial Street SE.

20 comments:

EazyMoney said...

I've always had good service and good meals at Kwans. I even gave him a few truffles once to play around with last winter. Although I don't believe truffles are used much in Oriental cooking.

Good place to eat though.

Now we need a favorite Chinese food restaurant thread..

K & N said...

Come to think of it, Kwan's may have been one of the first places we ate at when we moved to Salem 16 years ago. We've always been well taken care of whenever we've gone, so I don't know why we don't go more often. Too many choices? Stuck in our rut?

luvnsmartbeauty@yahoo.com said...

This is the absolute best Asian restaurant I have ever tasted ever, in Oregon, or anywhere!

I feel they have excellent customer service, a genuine friendliness by staff members and the owners (by most of them, at least), and the food is fantastically delicious.

They are vegetarian friendly with lots of choices to choose from on the menu or they will adapt a recipe for you too. (ie. the egg flower soup they adapted for me was excellent and even better then the other kind when I used to eat meat.)

I HIGHLY recommend eating at this restaurant!

Thanks Kwans! :)

Oso said...

They are very proud of their Strawberry Chicken. My wife & I typically get 3 entrees, a fried rice dish (which is the same price at most places as an entree), & an appetizer (so we have leftovers...unless I get the inevitable hunger after eating Chinese :-). As I recall, this set-up costs us about $35 at Kwan's. Mr. Kwan is often up front late at night and will suggest dishes to try. I'd agree that Kwan's is probably the best Chinese in town.....now where can a foodie get some good Indian!

Salem Man said...

Indian food, try India Palace.

Anonymous said...

Gotta disagree with most of the comments thus far... while Kwan's is really fun and can't be beat for atmosphere (30 foot Buhdda! Cool seventies lighting! The classiest bartender in Salem!) The food is pretty awful, mostly due to the dismal sauces that drown otherwise pretty decent ingredients. Between all the corn starch, sugar and fruit in the sauces (strawberry chicken? Ewww!)most entrees taste like they've been doused with Smucker's apricot jam. Yuck. Sorry!

Anonymous said...

I had to go there to try the emu burger. It was ok. I also ordered some chinese food. I would have to agree that they go to far on the sauces and adding extra stuff that takes away from the dish. I have some Asian friends and I suggested that we go to Kwan's. They said they went once and would not ever go back. They said that Kwan's trys to make the food to healthy, not the way they make it in china. Overall I still liked the Emu burger you can't find that anywhere else.

Texas Ambassador said...

I went there awhile back, and became thoroughly depressed by the dated decor. The food was not memorable either. I would not go back.

Anonymous said...

Great crab puffs ^_^

Anonymous said...

In spite of the nice asian atmosphere, I also thought that the food was so-so. Nothing to return to.

Anonymous said...

I've never understood the fascination with Kwan's.
It's okay. I think most people go for the relationship with the owners.

Anonymous said...

We used to go there consistently, but just cannot bring ourselves to go there anymore. We had very specific meal requests due to some food allergies and they were great for a while, as long as Kwan was in the kitchen overseeing things. But once he left the kitchen, it was no good. In the past few years, I have found his food to be inconsistent-not just quality, but flavor. Sometimes the chow mein comes out with a chickeny-gravy and sometimes with a beefy-gravy - it was like his cooks didn't know or understand the recipes. You just never knew what you were going to end up with. Now we go to Marco Polo where the quality (and the recipes) are very consistent and they are very gracious.

Dsperin said...

I like Kwans for their tempura fried shrimp, but really you can get that anywhere.

I find the food to be rather bland... and I think it tastes the same as any Chinese restaurant. In fact, I think that all the Chinese restuarants I've eaten at taste the same. The best Asian I've ever had is my mothers home-made stuff...and she's not Chinese!

Hayley said...

My boyfriend and I highly recommend Golden Crown (next to JCPenney). The service, food and prices are much better, not to mention they rated much higher on cleanliness. Kwans has much better tea and mongolian chicken though. You can buy their special blend oolong loose-leaf tea at the front entrance.

KandN said...

I like the description of the Ox - seems like a good one for our economical times.
I was born during the year of the Dog. Doesn't sound as impressive as ox. ;>)

Salem Man said...

I'm a pig! here's how it's described in Wiki.
Pig (Wild boar in Japan) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Water): Honest, simple, gallant, sturdy, sociable, peace-loving, patient, loyal, hard-working, trusting, sincere, calm, understanding, thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate, intelligent. Can be naive, over-reliant, self-indulgent, gullible, fatalistic, materialistic.

KandN said...

Pigs are supposed to be intelligent, right? And who doesn't love Babe?
I didn't mind the positive attributes on my list, but those negative ones . . . wow

Anonymous said...

I went to Kwan's for the first time tonight. I have to say that I will be a loyal customer after this. The customer service was amazing, I wish every restaurant had this quality of customer service. Kwan himself came out to personally check on us, and let me just say that he is one of the nicest, most genuine caring person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He really made the meal memorable. I appreciate the level of service he has at his place and his obvious care toward each customer. Thank you Kwan!

Anonymous said...

I love Chinese and any kind of Asian food, but unfortunately had the worst experience in my life for a lunch at Kwan's a while ago. The food was bland and too pricey for the portion in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Went to Kwans once, the food was so bland and terrible, it was beyond our belief that any foodie could like this place. Once was enough, never going back.