In 2019 owner Margaret Wong, executive chef Peter Huang, and director of operations and business development Thomas Megna joined forces to create and open an upscale Chinese restaurant in Napa, Empress M, located on the city’s iconic Silverado Trail. Their passion for Chinese culture, history, and flavors inspired their mission to elevate the dining experience by introducing authentic regional dishes, teas, spirits, art, and music. Their vision was to create an immersive gastronomic adventure described as a “feast for all senses.”

The inspiration for the name, Empress M, honors strong women like owner Margaret Wong and Empress Wu ZeTian, the latter who rose to power from her concubine life to an Emperor’s wife, then to China’s only empress for 35 years during the Tang Dynasty. Wong’s peers fondly call her empress due to the perseverance and tenacity she has demonstrated throughout her life and career, from being “born with nothing” to the success she enjoys today as an entrepreneurial executive and restauranteur.

Executive chef Peter Huang brings with him culinary leadership as owner and founder of Yue Huang Dim Sum Restaurant in Sacramento, one of the best in the region, receiving awards such as the Sacramento Bee’s Best Dim Sum, A-List by City Voter, and Asian Star TV’s Top Cantonese Cuisine Restaurant among 381 restaurants.

Director of operations Thomas Megna is an expert at creating world-class guest experiences, a result of his extensive career background as a creative culinary specialist and performing arts designer, director, producer, and teacher. After living in China for six years, he is poised to deliver the best Chinese cuisine and culture to Napa Valley.

Empress M caters to a diverse demographic like local foodies, national and international visitors, and Asian immigrants. The restaurant offers authentic menu items from every region in China, like Shanghai Soup Dumplings, Sichuan flavored calamari, Suzhou Chow Mein, and Yangzhou Fried Rice. The dim sum is often the restaurant’s initial attraction, but once guests try the other dishes, they fall in love with the flavors. Customer favorites are the Peking Roast Duck, Beef Chow Fun, Dan Dan Noodle, Wood Ear Salad, Sautéed String Beans, Chengdu Eggplant, and Crispy Walnut Shrimp. Empress M also has many options for vegans and vegetarians, as well as several gluten-free items. Desserts include Sesame Balls and Egg Custard Tarts. Craft beverages are also a centerpiece at Empress M’s. One cocktail to try is Pandas and Pineapples, which features Chinese Baijiu. Empress M also offers Yanjing Lager and Master Gao Jasmine Tea Lager. In addition, a variety of Chinese teas are available at the restaurant or packaged for home consumption. The menu is unique because Empress M boldly uses authentic Chinese recipes for food and drink preparation and employs Asian chefs.

Empress M is open every day with lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., happy hour from 2:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. In addition, the restaurant offers indoor and patio dining, takeout, and nightly entertainment on Fridays.

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Story By: Elizabeth Smith // Photos By: Ted Fong