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The nontraditional hot pots lean more toward fajita plate thanks to the skillet. 

Doug Pua and Ailene Ting opened the first Shangri-La Restaurant in Briargate in 2003, offering upscale Chinese cuisine with Mandarin and Szechuan specialties.

They retired in 2020, but the current owners, Kian Loo and his family, have seen great success. “We’ve had a lot of requests to have a presence in another part of town — the east, the south and the west, too — but we can’t do them all,” said Loo. “The opportunity came to expand [east], and we liked the location.”

Shangri-La East is located at the end of a shopping center that shares a parking lot with a Kum & Go — gas stations make unlikely neighbors for upscale dining, but good food can be anywhere.

On our first visit, we noticed heavy takeout traffic as we waited for our food in the front of the big, clean, welcoming dining area, which features a lovely mural of a Buddha. We, too, await a takeout box: crab Rangoons, bang bang shrimp, orange chicken and bourbon chicken. The crab Rangoons rate sound, and the bang bang shrimp — shrimp wrapped in bacon — are a sure winner.

As for the orange chicken, which is traditionally a citrus-spiked variation on General Tso’s chicken, it’s well-executed. Ordered at medium heat, its thick sauce has a noticeable but mild spice that builds bite by bite, and the orange flavor stands out over the warm, savory sauce. The breading on the chicken holds crispness, even after a 20-minute drive. A healthier option, bourbon chicken, consists of tender, moist chicken thigh bits cooked with broccoli in a salty-savory brown sauce that presents some of bourbon’s woodier notes. The bourbon taste, of note, gets deeper into the chicken than the rest of the sauce, so there’s some change as we chew. Both chicken dishes come heavy on protein, which is nice for the price.

To enjoy Shangri-La’s finest assets, we suggest dining in, as we did on our second visit — our server was noticeably friendly and attentive, and we take note of a few bottles of higher-end whiskeys behind the bar, as well as a small wooden cask of premixed Old Fashioned cocktail.

The hot pot section of the menu, we’re told, is not the traditional simmering broth with protein and veg to dip, but rather a sizzling skillet dish akin to how fajitas are sometimes served. The house hot pot has shrimp, chicken, beef and a variety of vegetables, and when it’s brought out, our server puts onions on the ripping hot cast iron skillet before adding the meat, other veggies and sauce atop. All three proteins chew tender as can be, and the rich, savory-sweet sauce pleases, oyster sauce-like notes and all. With a replenished portion of fried rice, it’s a very filling meal.

To try one of the Szechuan offerings, we order Szechuan bean curd dinner. Right off, there’s something special about the wonton soup: bacon. Yes, thin slivers of bacon dance through the slightly viscous broth, adding beautiful depth and smoke without overwhelming. Another crab Rangoon, a crispy chicken wing and an egg roll — also part of the dinner combo — all rate sound. The entrée itself, ordered at medium heat, has tender tofu and toothsome vegetables in a brown sauce that has enough Sichuan peppercorn that we get prickles of the expected numbness but no chile pepper burn to speak of.

With all that said, it’s worth reiterating that we had a great time at Shangri-La. Good service and a little sizzle made it a fun night out. 

Fiona Truant is a food reviewer and contributor for the Colorado Springs Indy. This Colorado Springs native joined as an intern in early 2014, freelancing until they joined the staff full-time in late 2015.