Sunday, 7 September 2008

China Town Restaurant Review

Last month I mentioned that I had been for lunch in China Town but had not been able to find a definitive review to guide me to one particular restaurant. I am a great lover of Chinese Dim Sum which is usually served at lunch time and it was this speciality that I was seeking in London.

Not long ago I went to a Dim Sum restaurant chain called Ping Pong, just off Oxford Street, which was good value but not the best dim sum I’ve eaten. I did, however, have my first taste of an exquisite “flowering tea” (pictured left) which tastes good but looks even better (plus they give you free refills of hot water to keep the flower looking pretty!). But on this occasion I wanted my Irish friend to experience the “real” thing (as opposed to mass-produced) in China Town.

We wondered through China Town, looking in windows and checking menus and prices until we found a restaurant that appealed. Now, my criteria may sound a little non-PC, but I was looking for a restaurant with a lot of Chinese or Oriental customers on the assumption that if they were eating there it must be pretty authentic and good value. On Gerrard Street, in the heart of China Town, we discovered the Golden Pagoda Restaurant. It wasn’t much to look at but the menu seemed varied and the place was almost full so we decided to go for it!

We were given a fantastic table by the window which was set for 5 people! The waiter quickly cleared the extra place settings and offered us knives and forks which we rejected politely! The menu was extensive, several pages long, but didn’t include any Dim Sum despite advertising it outside. In the centre of the table I noticed a traditional Dim Sum tick list all written in Chinese so I asked the waiter if they had one in English.

I used to enjoy going to Chinese restaurants in China Town that did traditional trolley service dim sum (the waiter wheels a trolley full of dim sum around the restaurant and you chose what you fancied as he passed your table). Sadly it seems that this tradition is very rare these days so we were stuck with a menu which didn’t mean an awful lot to us! But that is part of the fun of dim sum – ordering blindly and discovering what you’ve got as you bite into the little dumplings!

We chose a standard Chinese mixed starter (in case we mucked up with the rest of our order!) which was delicious then four dishes which sounded vaguely familiar and a random one to make sure we tried something totally new. Unfortunately I didn’t make a note of the names so I can’t tell you properly what we ate but I can tell you that it tasted gooooood!!! We had a couple of steamed dumpling dishes which were melt-in-the-mouth delicious – one was definitely prawn (pictured right). The unknown dim sum was, in fact, Cheung Fun which I now know is steamed rice noodle rolls. We were pleased we tried this new dish as it was excellent.
The only disappointment was one of our “safe” choices – mushroom dumpling. I was expecting something similar to the steamed prawn dumpling but with mushrooms inside. Unfortunately it was reconstituted Chinese mushroom which was very tough accompanied by tofu which I hate! One wrong-un out of five isn’t bad though!

For our mixed appetisers, 5 dim sum dishes, a large bottle of mineral water and a large pot of jasmine tea our bill came to £24.
Incredible value, great food, friendly and efficient service and two very satisfied customers - one of whom will definitely return to the Golden Pagoda restaurant before long!

No comments: