Jack Ng got his start in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher. From there he buddied-up with the restaurant chefs and learned how to cook.
Next, Ng took a job on a fishing boat in Alaska to cook for a crew of 120. The gig allowed him to save up some money. Afterward, Ng said he got his family together and started making his dream a reality.
“China City” got its start in the Old Town Mall on Pioneer Way back in 1999. The project truly was a family affair, his wife Angela said, adding that his four siblings worked as wait staff.
The original eatery later moved to the Franssen Castle on Highway 20 near the Auld Holland Inn and changed its name to Imperial at Kasteel.
A decade later, the third venue is the charm for Ng and his wife.
The last, and final, home of the Oak Harbor China City is the former location of Mitzel’s American Kitchen next to the Best Western.
After many hours of negotiations and architectural design plan reviews, the Best Western agreed to sell the building. The former ho-hum chain restaurant is no longer. In its place is a Whidbey Island family-owned enterprise.
“There’s not one ounce of Mitzel’s left in here,” Angela said.
The couple went all-out this time. Each former location included a lease, but this time the space is their own.
The interior makeover raised the lounge-area ceiling 8 feet, included a full paint job, a new bar area and a drop-down 100-inch projector screen, among other improvements. Outside upgrades include a heated patio, landscaping, rock work with imported stones, and, most notably, Oak Harbor’s first electronic reader board sign.
“We’ve had good feedback on the sign,” Jack said. “It’ll really help for special events and to advertise our happy hour.”
Angela’s area is the bar, which includes eight taps plus bottled beer, wine, specialty cocktails and a full selection of liquor.
The restaurant is still geared toward the casual family dining experience.
“We just want people to enjoy their experience,” she said.
Some of the original chairs from the Old Town China City appear in the restaurant’s newest incarnation, although they’ve had some upgrades and sport new, custom-made seat cushions.
China City hosted chamber members and other guests in a private party Thursday. They will welcome the public Monday, March 1. They’re open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to close. Call 279-8899 for reservations. The Ngs also own the Freeland China City, located at 1804 E. Scott Rd.