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Jul 3, 2009 06:03 PM

El Cerrito: Happy Golden Bowl - Seriously Szechuan ... Dim sum, house-made noodles and much, much more

They opened July 1st.

Even someone like me with little Chinese food experience can tell this is something special.

The soft tofu with crab roe that I ordered is exquisite. The delicate tofu in a golden, rich, deeply crab-flavored broth with lots of crab bits ... one of the best Chinese dishes I've ever had.

I'll post some of the extensive menu in the first reply.

They have dim sum which they stressed was Schezun dim sum. On the weekends they make Chinese donuts.

These people are not afraid of organ meat. You have to seriously search that menu to find the repetative Chinese favorites like broccoli beef. I don't think there was a sweet and sour anything. However, if you do like the more common dishes, they seem to do them well. Someone ordered chicken fried rice and it looked so good.

The noodle dishes give the option of house-made noodles for $1 extra.

The prices are great.

The sign outside says Szechuan, Taiwan, Shanghai, Northern Chinese, but from my conversation, there seemse to be a focus on Szechuan.

It is nice with golden slip-covered chairs, but the tables are close together. There is almost a forest of plants with good luck banners out front and a happy gurgling fountain at the door. There's a fish tank, but no fish yet. Be PATIENT. They are JUST getting things together. However, from my experience with that crab dish, it is worth waiting for them to get used to the cash registers, etc.

Credit cards accepted only if order is over $15. The prices are very reasonable so I'm not sure if that will change soon.

Next door to Sawooei Thai Cuisine and across the street from Safeway. I hope Chowhounds with more Chinese food expertise will give it a try and confirm that it is as good as I suspect. Heck ... I don't care. That crab tofu was wonderful. I'm going back soon.

Happy Golden Bowl
10675 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA

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  1. I had no intention of ordering. I was just there to grab a take-out menu. No take-out menus yet so I took a look at the multi-page menu. I was hooked. While waiting for my soft tofu with crab roe, I jotted down a few of the items that interested me

    Golden Bowl style fish Fillet buried in chili pepper soup ... it will be interesting to see how this compares with China Village's version.

    Boiling shrimp or crayfish

    Spicy conch

    Kushiyaki - lamb, beef, chicken, chicken gizzard, chicken heart. They said this was grilled meat

    Crispy crab dumplings

    Pork shoulder or sliced bacon-cut pork (aka pork belly) with spicy garlic sauce

    Lots of kidney and tripe dishes

    Jellyfish salad and some sort of cold jelly something else

    Shisamo with salt and pepper ... what is this?

    Pork chop soup with wintermelon

    Fish fillet soup with pickled mustard

    Chinese okra with bamboo fungus soup

    Tomato with egg white soup

    Fermented bean curd ... stinky tofu?

    Steamed pork chop in lotus leaf

    Braised Donpo pork shoulder

    Dong Beig style sauteed pork

    Numbing spicy pork kidney

    Leaf tripe with blood pudding

    Intestines with pickle

    Hot and spicy fish, pork intestines with blooding cake

    Chong Quing style chile chicken

    Sad and cry hot wings ... don't ya love that name?

    Warm pots

    Cheng do style chicken cassarole

    Spicy special cold noodle with chicken in sesame sauce

    Cabbage and shredded pork

    Shanghei stir-fried rice cake with pork

    Pumpkin pancake (for dim sum ... served all day)

    Mixed congee

    Soy milk

    Chinese donuts (weekends only)

    Szechuan sweet sesame rice balls with soup

    There were some interesting photos of ice cream sundaes with only Chinese characters under them.

    Then my order came. There's lots more.

    3 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Wow- great sounding menu ....... is this where Hong Kong Restaurant used to be?

      1. re: gordon wing

        It is where Origianal Peking was located.

      2. re: rworange

        I tried an order of the "Sad And Cry" chicken wings to go. Interesting in how they accomplish the Intense heat. It's got a very sugary coating. It seems the sweetness opens your taste buds to a savage sichaun pepper assault. Rather expensive (you only get six wings in the order). The heat builds with each wing (I can take alot of heat, but the sixth wing was a challenge to finish). The heat stays on your tongue long after the meal. I did not ask for the dish "extra spicy" or anything so this is a genuinely hot dish. I'll give you that warning in case you feel like trying it.

        On another trip I tried their Ma Po Tofu (sp?). It was very well done. The Green Onion Pancake was also very nice. The Conch dish (one from the House Specialties list) was just ok, not someting I'd order again. (I'm not used to conch so I might be misjudging this dish).

      3. Wonder if this is where the chefs from the closed Great Szechuan in the 99 Ranch center landed?

        For search purposes, Sichuan, Szechwan.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Thanks. I went with the spelling the restaurant is using.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Yup, I heard it's the same owners. Can't wait to try it, thanks for the review, Rworange!

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Yeah.. the person I spoke to said they sold Great Szechuan and opened Golden Bowl. They also own Chika Ramen in the Pacific East Mall.

              Not bad.. had the Shanghai stir-fried rice cake (a little small), Chong Qing Chicken, Pan fried Pork buns and Braised Beef Noodle Soup w/ House made noodles.

            2. I thought I recognized a couple of faces from Great Szechwan... but I am not sure- a female owner/manager, and maybe a cook/chef.

              I agree with RW; they are definitely still working out the kinks both in the service and in the kitchen. However, I think it has promise. I thought the "Spicy Combination" aka "Husband and Wife" aka "Fu Qi Fei Pian" was quite good, though I would have liked more of the tendony bits. Oddly, they don't seem to do the Ma La Tendon.

              I don't want to say more until I've had a chance to probe more into the menu, but I hope they will find a good and credible groove.

              They offer lunch specials, but I'd recommend ordering off the menu, as the prices are $1-2 lower than comparable dishes at China Village, while the specials are in th $6-7 range.

              1. Seven of us had a nice dinner here, Sunday July 5, just a few days after it opened.
                I will make a number of comparisons to China Village (CV), where we have eaten a number of times in the past few years. We ordered several of the same dishes that have been our favorites at CV, deliberately to make a valid comparison.

                We ordered #2 on the specialty page, Golden Bowl Style Fish Filet Buried in Chilies. This was the same preparation as CV's West Style Fish ($14.95), and the same large quantity (serves ten easily). There were two major differences:
                a) At CV, the waiter tweaks out every last chili and deftly serves the noodles and fish. At GB, many of the chilies were left in the soup, and we were left to our own devices to wrangle the slippery glass noodles. So CV wins this round.
                b) The broth at GB is much richer and darker than at CV. It had flecks of red pepper flakes in it, but it was not overly spicy. Perhaps it was meat-based. I liked it better than the CV version, and so did a majority. However, a minority preferred the CV version, which we agreed was more delicate.

                For cold plates, we ordered:
                #4, Pork Leg slices with spicy garlic sauce ($5.95). Thin slices, each about three inches in diameter, of gelatin, meat, tendon, encased in a roll of skin. The sauce was rich and not too spicy. This was a definite hit.
                #10, Savory Chicken Gizzard ($3.95). Very spicy (green jalapenos), ginger, cilantro, sesame oil. Thin slices of gizzard. Good, but too spicy if you happened to bite on a green chili or its seed.

                We tried the Sesame Bread (on the Dim Sum menu, #2.50). It was flat, greasy, and a very poor comparison to CV's version.

                On the Beef/Lamb page: #2 Cumin Lamb ($7.95). Rather salty; CV wins this one.
                On the Veg page: #1 Green Beans ($7.95). Appeared to be meatless. The beans tasted sweet. Very good. We do like green vegetables. I asked for Ong Choy, now in season, but they had run out; A-choy was listed on the menu.
                The Chicken/Duck page contains nary a duck dish; the waitress admitted it was "busted". She said they had Peking Duck but we weren't interested.
                On the Warm Pot page (not to be confused with the Hot Pot page): #9, Eggplant in Clay Pot ($8.50). Tasty but oily.
                On another page: #23 Intestines with Pickled Vegetable ($7.95). Very tasty; the version at China First (on Clement Street) has black beans and a sweet/sour aspect, this did not -- just salty and tart from the pickled Bok Choy. The intestine was less funky than the one at China First. I like both versions.

                Served last, and my favorite: #6 on the specialty page, Soft Tofu with Crab Roe ($10.95). A dramatic presentation: a hot ceramic bowl brought to table, bubbling sounds within, opened to reveal -- aluminum foil. Within the foil: tofu, resembling the most tender scrambled eggs with a rich taste of the sea. I could not get enough of this dish. Some found the texture off-putting. Many thanks to RW for the recommendation.

                Complimentary dessert, red bean soup with a rice ball. Not very good.

                Service was fine. The young waitress was very cheerful. A plethora of busboys. Total bill was $83, before tip. Plus we got two $4 coupons for future use.

                The clientele was mostly Asian. As we were finishing, I was recognized by a family dining nearby -- a previous connection. As we chatted I saw they had ordered pea leaves (not on the menu). They also were sucking on the bones of a duck, which was not the Peking Duck, so maybe there is a secret Chinese menu. We are all of the Caucasian persuasion.

                A previous comment says the current GB chef is from Great Szechwan; we had a chowdown there some time ago.

                A few other things:
                1. CV has brown rice, which we prefer; GB does not.
                2. CV charges $8 per bottle corkage, GB does not charge corkage; however, GB does not have wineglasses (we brought our own).
                3. We were seated at a round table suitable for eight, which was fine, but we often dine in larger groups. GB seemed to have no larger table; at CV, we have comfortably fit fourteen around a large table.
                4. The menu at CV is numbered consecutively, the GB menu is renumbered on each page; this led to some confusion in the ordering.
                5. GB is a bit of a schlep for us, further away than CV.
                6. Several of the items appeared overly salty.

                China Village
                1335 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706

                China First
                336 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

                Great Szechuan (closed
                )3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA

                1 Reply
                1. re: Joel

                  Thanks. Will have to order that crab dish in the restaurant for the presentation. It just comes in a plastic deli container for takeout.

                2. Decent enough lunch of dry-fried chicken wings today; they were a little less spicy than the version at China Village. When you sit down they bring a small dish of excellent spicy pickled cabbage to nibble on. Notable about this place is that lots of the more unusual Szechuan dishes appear on the lunch combo menu, unlike at CV where the lunch specials are more, um, "classical". Prices seem to be $1-2 lower here.