New Golden Dragon
1716 S. State St., Salt Lake City ; 801-487-9888
Ho-hum Cantonese menu is bolstered by really good dim sum.
Hours: M-Th, 11 am-9:30 pm; F-S, 10:30 am-10 pm; Su, 10:30 am-9:30 pm
Liquor: Beer & Wine
Corkage: $ 0
Recommended Dishes: Salt-baked crab, green beans with ground pork and shrimp, pork belly.
February 14, 2007
Dim sum, lose some at New Golden Dragon
By Lesli J. Neilson
Trying out a Chinese restaurant for the first time can be risky, especially one whose Cantonese menu has 176 items. But New Golden Dragon came recommended by a friend — for its dim sum, in particular.
The “New” in the name was added 9 months ago when the restaurant got new owners. The old Golden Dragon had been around for at least 20 years. The restaurant served dim sum too, just not all day, every day like it does now.
Dim sum is best eaten with at least four people, and on weekend mornings when the dim sum is freshest and the selection is the largest.
Dim sum should not evoke thoughts of egg rolls, ham fried rice and moo goo gai pan. Instead, think pork-and-shrimp dumplings (siu mai), barbecued pork buns (char siu bow) and shrimp dumplings (har gaw). For the uninitiated, dim sum translates into “to touch the heart.” These little bites, usually three or four per order, come in metal or bamboo steamers that are stacked on rolling carts that are wheeled from table to table.
So, on a recent Saturday, a few friends and I gathered and got acquainted with New Golden Dragon. First decision to be made was what kind of tea to accompany our meal? The restaurant offers jasmine, chrysanthemum, pu-er, oolong or a combination of teas (50 cents per person). We went for two pots: jasmine and a blend of chrysanthemum and pu-er. And the parade of dim sum began.
At $2.20 a plate for most of the offerings, we nodded "yes" to nearly everything that was presented to us. First came those siu mai, nice compact one-biters whose flavors all came together with just a dip of soy sauce. The filling in the har gaw, though briny and sweet, seemed a bit minuscule in their roomy see-through casings. But char siu bow had a good ratio of fluffy white bun to sweet pork filling.
Pea sprouts and shrimp dumplings, with their vibrant green contents showing through translucent skins of dough, were refreshingly spring-like. Sheets of softened tofu (available on weekends only) easily surrendered around a fine filling of bamboo shoots, mushrooms, pork and ginger.
There were also more advanced offerings. Chicken feet, steamed and doused with a garlicky brown sauce, seem like a lot of work to get at the meager bits of tender meat. Our “yes” nods to cubes of pork blood with steamed green onion ends and strips of beef tripe with ginger and green onions were met with quizzical smiles. The server seemed intrigued to see such out-of-the-ordinary eaters. Tofu-like in texture, the blood had a mild liver taste and the tripe was a textural challenge.
Deep-fried squid beat any fried calamari I’ve tried. The crunchy Tater Tot-like nuggets were sprinkled with diced onions, garlic, green and red bell pepper and chiles, which gave them a great kick of spice.
The meal ended on a high note with lotus seed paste encased in nutty deep-fried sesame seed and glutinous rice shells, irresistible coconut paste-filled doughy rolls dotted with white sesame seeds and eggy, flaky baked tarts. These items are only available on the weekends.
On another visit for dinner, I had hopes that the voluminous menu would satisfy, but, for the most part, it didn't.
It is good to see that iceberg lettuce is still being put to use as a crunchy wrapper for a minced chicken appetizer ($6.95). The mix of minced carrots, fried rice noodles, green onions, chicken and water chestnuts was refreshing but could have used more hoisin sauce and color to take it from anemic to vibrant.
A handful of dishes such as Szechuan-style beef ($6.95), chicken with broccoli ($6.95) and house special pan-fried noodles ($7.25) were executed as well as the next mediocre Chinese restaurant.
A couple of dishes simply disappointed. Salt-baked spareribs ($7.95) looked like larger versions of the deep-fried squid we’d had for dim sum — but we were at a loss as to what animal’s spareribs they were. And whole steamed sea bass ($14.95) was mushy.
But two dishes stood out. Chinese green beans with minced ground pork and the tiniest dried shrimp imaginable ($7.55) and salt-baked crab (small, $18.95, large, $26.95) were packed with flavor. I’d recommend the latter be consumed near the end of the meal because, after having been fished from a tank, the crab arrives in several piping hot, deep-fried pieces that require a cracker to coax the delicious morsels of meat from its legs and carapace. Also, a trip to the restroom to thoroughly wash your hands will be in order — napkins will not suffice.
Though I wish New Golden Dragon would scale down its menu and do fewer things with better execution, I know, realistically, that that’s the nature of the beast; people come to expect myriad choices when it comes to Chinese. Fortunately, I have better things to say about the restaurant’s dim sum. Though far from exceptional, it’s worth a visit, if not for the experience alone.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.