Imperial at Kasteel to open Monday

From the outside, the old Kasteel Franssen restaurant off Highway 20 looks almost exactly the same as it has for the past 25 years.

But on the inside, the restaurant has undergone a striking transformation.

And on Monday, Jan. 2, the Imperial at Kasteel restaurant will officially open its doors to Oak Harbor.

Frequent customers to the former Kasteel restaurant will notice quite a few changes when they walk into Imperial. Formerly white walls have been repainted in deep reds and greens. A giant blue and white jar graces one corner of the lobby. Delicate wood and paper lanterns hang from the ceiling. Table settings feature authentic silk placemats. Silk chair covers add a touch of class to the upstairs banquet room. A bronzed Buddha statue graces a corner of the bar.

Imperial owner Jack Ng said nearly all of the furniture and decorative items were custom made and shipped directly from China. Ng, who once worked as an importer of goods from the country, contacted some of his former clients to provide the authentic touches.

The result is a smooth blend of Dutch architecture and Chinese decor.

Ng got the opportunity to move into the Dutch landmark when the Franssen family decided to close the restaurant several months ago.

Imperial manager Maria McGee said the Franssen family, who still own the building, had been looking for someone they could trust to run a business in the former Kasteel location.

Ng seemed like a perfect match. He had been operating China City on Pioneer Way in downtown Oak Harbor for seven years, and was looking for a better location to expand his restaurant.

“I feel really fortunate to have this building, and that the Franssen family brought us in,” Ng said. He added that the Franssens have helped Ng and McGee get settled by doing “whatever we want to maintain and keep this building the landmark that it is.”

That includes landscaping the exterior, adding seven LCD flatscreen televisions to the bar, and — in the spring — replacing the entire roof.

“The Franssens have been just fantastic,” McGee added. “When somebody has had this building for so long, the sentimental reasons for letting go are hard.”

Customers of China City will find that the new Imperial is nearly triple the size of the old restaurant. The downstairs bar holds up to 50, while the two dining areas can seat at least 100. Ng said the move has meant he’s had to nearly triple his staff.

Upstairs, a banquet area can host up to 120 people for private parties and celebrations. Ng said he’s even willing to lease out the banquet facility for parties who want to provide their own catering, as the upstairs room features a full catering kitchen.

The former China City menu will stay virtually the same at Imperial — with a few additions. Ng said he’ll offer more American bar food appetizers — steaks, deep fried mushrooms and cheese — and possibly more off-menu specials featuring unique Chinese dishes.

Bar patrons who smoke will also be happy to know that Ng has set up a special covered gazebo 25 feet outside the bar, complete with heaters for the cooler months.

And on Sundays, Imperial will offer “Senior Sundays,” where customers 55 and older can receive a 20 percent discount.

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