Ace Chinese restaurant was previously located in the Panther Creek Village Center for twenty-odd years before closing in late 2013. They have now re-opened in Magnolia in early 2015. The new, smaller location is located on FM 2978, next door to Jax Burgers. The reasoning behind the two (plus) year hiatus is not clear but, we suspect that at least most of the furnishings and the dishes were put in storage during the absence. We aren't saying that it's a bad thing or anything in regards to the cleanliness of those items, but the appearance of damaged dinnerware can create doubt.
We've found a situation that tends to repeat itself from time to time - that being when the side items at a given restaurant are better tasting than the main entrées. The Egg Rolls ($3.95 for two) at Ace Chinese were crisp and tasty, with a nice balance of cabbage and chicken... and actually better tasting than either chicken dish we sampled during this visit.
Sweet & Sour Chicken
Maybe it just wasn't their night, or perhaps I just wasn't in the mood for Chinese - but I ordered the Sweet & Sour Chicken Combo ($9.95 with fried rice and an egg roll) thinking that it'd been a while since I'd had it and should give it a try again. Turns out I remembered too late why it was I didn't order it any longer; overall the dish just doesn't do anything for me. It's really more reminiscent of tempura chicken nuggets with a sweet-yet-bland dipping sauce. I did like the fried rice, it was nicely blended with eggs, a dash of seasonings and sauce, and some corn. It was also fluffy and well-cooked, not the so-often seen ball of pre-cooked and ever-warmed rice.
Over the past few years, I find myself eating less sweet & sour anything and this serving didn't do anything towards increasing my appetite for Chinese fried chicken. The batter was very heavy resulting in an overabundance of dough flavor, and the chicken had no discernible seasoning which essentially left me with a mouthful of sugary flour. I will not be ordering this dish anytime soon.
Kung Pao Chicken
While being ample in size and having an equal ratio of vegetables to meat, the overall flavor of the Kung Pao Chicken ($9.95) was lacking. None of the flavors really stood apart from each other resulting in a relatively mediocre dish at best. The Kung Pao is served with white rice but when our server asked which I would prefer, I opted for fried rice. As it turned out to be very plain tasting as well; hardly worth the unmentioned, $3 up-charge.
Call me boastful if you wish, but I make a damn fine Kung Pao Chicken at home. That being said, I am, admittedly, biased. Still, other than the fact that my chicken is coated in cornstarch before I stir fry it, it would appear I use just about all of the same ingredients. So I could only conclude that the Kung Pao at Ace suffered an intolerable cruelty when it came to the unimaginative sauce, as well as the whole red peppers (great for presentation, lousy for actual flavor enhancement) vs. crushed red pepper.
The food wasn't very exciting but was filling, and we left feeling satiated. Ace Chinese is located in a convenient location to us but, there are other Asian food restaurants with better food; and that certainly will make them worth the drive. I remember eating at the original Ace Chinese several years ago; if memory serves me, it was one of those dinners I attended based on it being an occasion of some sort - someone's birthday maybe. And while the years have been long since that time (and of course I don't remember what I had to eat then) I do remember wondering what all the fuss was about. Though we're always hesitant to pan a restaurant which is locally owned, we do strive to be honest in our opinions. This occasion is no different, and I feel Ace Chinese may have survived all those years (and might very well again) based on an "it's a tradition" mindset for longtime Woodlands residents, as opposed to the actual quality of the ingredients - or flavors of the dishes.