Stepping out of the box, Chinese food style

Stepping out of the box, Chinese food style

By Allison Costa 03/10/2010

Golden China Restaurant

760 S. Seaward Ave.
Ventura
652-0822  
$5.95 - $15.95


I'm a firm believer in setting goals. Whether I'm sweating at the gym, tackling a list of tasks at my computer or pulling weeds in my yard, setting small goals along the way makes it easier for me to get things done. So you probably won't be too shocked to hear that I also set goals when it comes to dining out. Take, for example, a recent visit to Golden China, where my goal was to expand my Chinese food horizons. I'm pretty gutsy when it comes to climbing mountains and paddling out in choppy surf, but when it comes to Chinese food I haven't always been that adventurous. I'm so smitten with hot and sour soup, moo shu pork and orange beef that I never stray from this oriental comfort zone. A trip to Golden China offered the perfect opportunity to break out of this rut.

We started our meal with cups of soup — egg flower soup for me and wonton soup for my companion. While mine was a bit plain with its clear yet thick broth, it was flecked happily with cubes of carrot and hearty strands of egg. His offered a flavorful chicken broth filled with large wontons that had become soft and doughy as they rested in the bowl. The savory pork filling was the perfect yin to the yang of the simple broth. Both hot soups were nice and mild, unlike the spicy hot and sour soup I would usually start with.

The appetizer options run the gamut of typical Chinese fare like egg rolls and pot stickers, but also include dishes like a bacon roll (imitation crab meat wrapped in bacon) and shrimp toast (bread topped with shrimp and deep fried). Having never sampled ribs in a Chinese restaurant, we went for the barbecue spare ribs. What arrived at the table was a plate of four large pork ribs — glistening in a pink sauce reminiscent of a standard sweet and sour. The meat was well-cooked, and there was just the right amount of sauce to be flavorful but not too messy. We tore into them as though we hadn't eaten in days.

Since the theme of the evening was stepping out of the box, I had polled friends for some suggestions of what I should try. One friend recommended the Captain's chicken — a dish she remembers from her wedding reception at Golden China 10 years ago. Large pieces of boneless chicken (think chicken, finger-size) are breaded, fried and tossed with carrots and onions in a sauce tinged with just the right amount of sweetness. There was also something sweet about the breading itself, and the large pieces of chicken were a nice change from the standard bite-size pieces of chicken found in most Chinese dishes.

Having never eaten lamb in a Chinese restaurant before, we also chose the lamb in a fire pot. Thinly sliced pieces of lamb are cooked with broccoli, onions and cubes of tofu in a mild brown sauce. And it all sits in a little metal pot, atop a blue Sterno flame, simmering and bubbling as you serve your plate. Though the sauce was lacking a bit of oomph, the lamb was tender, the big cubes of tofu even softer, and the contrast between the two proteins and their textures was nice.  

Another friend recommended dry sautéed string beans, something that wasn't even on my Chinese food radar. She said that they were so good, she could eat them like candy. Since it’s not that often you hear someone speak so enthusiastically about a vegetable, my curiosity was definitely piqued. My friend was right: this dish truly delivered.  It consists of a giant mound of long green beans, cooked until brown but still retaining some crunch, tossed in a flavorful sauce, and topped with crumbles of pork. Though this dish is veggie-centric, it is hearty enough to be a main dish.

For dessert, Golden China offera a jaw-dropping selection of cakes in a pastry case like one you might find in a New York deli. Chocolate layer cake, cheesecake and thick slices of carrot cake aren't necessarily what you think of when you go out for Chinese food, but tempting indeed. Golden China offers a full bar, draft beers, cocktails and karaoke every night. The service is prompt, and the servers, helpful. When we asked for drink refills and extra silverware, our server often returned within 30 seconds. This restaurant is large, the interior dark, and the high ceilings give it a cavernous feel. There are seats by a cozy fireplace, seats by the windows that overlook a grassy lawn, and seats by one of the flowing waterfalls. Though often known for its karaoke and its location right off the freeway, this restaurant is one of a kind, a great place for your next dining adventure.

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