Every now and then my list of restaurant prospects gets pretty short. So the other night, I went to Urbanspoon’s Knoxville page and just started scanning the lists of popular eateries in hopes of finding one I had managed to overlook. Shazam! As it turns out, I had never been to The Plum Tree Chinese restaurant on Kingston Pike, even though it’s been around for decades.
On entering, our server led The Grub Spouse and me through the front room of the eatery (which accommodates larger parties) and into a dining-car-like layout in the back, where a central aisle separates five pairs of cozy booths. Overall, the decor is very Chinese-traditional, a bit dated, but still sufficient to establish a clear-cut motif.
Our food options lay primarily in Chinese cuisine, although we did notice a section of Thai and Malaysian dishes such as masaman curry, Thai-style boneless chicken, red and green curries, nyoya kari ayam (chicken in coconut milk) and hot-and-spicy squid or shrimp. We decided to stay focused on the Chinese fare.
The soups and appetizers cover familiar ground, and we kept things old-school with an egg roll and a spring roll to start off, primarily because I’d always wanted to compare and contrast them in a head-to-head tasting. Both were fresh out of the fryer and were indeed distinct from each other, thanks primarily to the inclusion of pork in the egg roll and veggies only in the spring roll.
Entree categories include chow mein and chop suey, egg foo young (humorously misprinted on the menu as “egg too young”), vegetarian dishes, seafood and authentic Chinese dishes like Peking duck, sweet-and-sour ribs and whole fish prepared steamed or deep-fried.
The Spouse ordered from the Popularity menu (which also got a chuckle out of us). Featuring familiar entrees like moo goo gai pan, teriyaki chicken, General Tso’s Chicken and kan shaw chicken/beef, this section caught The Spouse’s eye with the Eight Treasure Chicken.
Watching too much of “The Big Bang Theory” lately had me craving a noodle dish, so I culled that section, which features quite a few lo mein, rice noodle and pad Thai entrees. I ordered the curry basil lo mein with pork (instead of chicken, beef, tofu or veggies only).
Just as our appetizer rolls had been brought out to us one at a time (a practice which can be frustrating as one person politely waits for the other’s food to arrive and for his or her own to become cold), our entrees were also delivered sequentially (mine first). I enjoyed it quite a bit. The thinly shaved pork was pleasantly lean, and the inherent pork flavor stood out on its own, with minimal additional seasoning necessary. The accompanying thick lo mein noodles and veggies did a nice job of balancing the underlying curry and occasionally pronounced basil flavors.
The Eight Treasure Chicken was also very enjoyable. It presented a very balanced mix of chicken chunks and other so-called treasures, including snow peas, water chestnuts, pecans, peanuts, carrots and more. The side of white rice was stickily fresh and provided a good foundation for the chicken-veggie mixture.
Throughout our meal, we received solid service and had plenty of leftovers to provide another evening’s worth of Asian cuisine. In other words, I thought The Plum Tree was plum good.
The Plum Tree
Address: 7052 Kingston Pike
Hours: 11 a.m-9 p.m. seven days a week
No alcohol service
Bottom Line: This long-time Asian-food eatery on Kingston Pike dishes out tasty portions of Chinese cuisine, with a little extra kick of Thai and Malaysian.
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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