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Golden Day (London)

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Well we've just gotten back from the best Hunan meal that we've thus far had in London. Yes, better than the massive meal at Local Friends.

And it was in Chinatown! Gasp!

Golden Day occupies a rather large two storefront stretch of Shaftsbury Avenue which used to be another Chinese restaurant. Thanks to Limster's impressive long-range Chinese reading skills we had a great dinner there which came to 30 pounds a person for those of us who didn't have food poisoning (3 of us) and 15 for one of us who did.

The dishes were more or less as follows...

Pickled daikon with chilli which was relatively straightforward with a vinegary-spicy flavor.

Some of the best cold spiced beef I've ever had which was sprinkled with chilli flakes and displayed some wonderful knife work (unless they used a cold cut machine.) The slices were incredibly thin and layered nicely in a row. Again, great flavor.

Pork rib and winter melon soup had a lovely milky color and a very light pleasant flavor which cleansed the palate for many of the meals stronger flavors (aka nearly everything else.) Generous amounts of rib as well, though the prices would justify that.

Thousand year egg with pickled chillies was so far beyond what was served at Local Friends, but the portion was tiny. Great flavor on the pickled chillies. In fact, all the pickles at Golden Day seemed remarkably good. I'd imagine many if not all were made in house.

Adorable individually wrapped pork ribs caked with glutinous rice flour arrived somewhere in the mix of the last two or three dishes. Each rib was wrapped in its own lotus leaf and the flavor and texture were both lovely. Again, perfectly cooked and the meat pretty much fell off the bone. Nice texture from the flour.

The next dish displayed some serious knife work and the presentation was rather innovative. Chinese aubergine was carefully deskinned and quickly dry fried. Nice smokey flavor to the skin with the interior meat having a more oily deeply smokey taste. The entire assembly was a Hunan pickled vegetable on the bottom followed by the meat of the aubergine and finally the skin of the aubergine which was layered on top to make it seem as if you were being served a pile of far more simply cut aubergines.

Next came perhaps the most stereotypically Hunan dish of the night. Hunan fish head! Yay! What arrived was a somewhat pickled chilli deprived presentation of the classic dish but it had incredible flavor and the gelatin of the fish was great. A rather generous portion of four heads was served in a flavorful broth. The heads themselves basically shredded if you put much effort into moving them but you could poach bits of gelatin off them for ages. The dish also came with noodles which you added to the broth at the end.

The last and perhaps best dish to arrive was not actually on the menu but came at the reccomendation of our waiter. A mixture of three smoked meats (pork belly, chicken and fish) which came presented in layers was Limster's favorite dish and probably my own as well. Incredible smokey flavor coupled with a light saltiness and a nice vaguely crisp texture of disintegrating fish bone. The texture of the bone was something I've never really experienced before and I really enjoyed it.

Finally, the desert was a bunch of crisped glutinous rice sweets with bean paste in the center. They were made to look like carrots with little sprigs of coriander coming out the back. Lovely chewiness and a nice subtle flavor.

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  1. [Just to clarify - the person with food poisoning was sick from elsewhere, not from this restaurant.]

    "waxed" aka smoked meats are a Hunan speciality, and the smoked pork, chicken and fish dish came across with really well calibrated flavour. It's not on the menu, but was recommended by the waiter.

    The dessert wasn't on the menu either, but also recommended by the waitress.

    It's more pricey than Local Friends, given its central location, but in addition to paying rent, we were also paying for better cooking, although I think I'd give a very slight edge to Local Friends for stir-frying technique in their aubergine dish.

    1. fantastic news and a great post!

      must get myself over there, like, NOW.

      1. Yes, it was a very good meal. My faith in Chinatown is restored! The combination of smoked meats had a deep, intense taste and the cold beef was very tasty and refreshing.

        The noodles provided with the fishheads didn't really do much for me, but everything else was awesome. I was particularly taken by the presentation of the aubergine dish.

        This place is a serious culinary addition to Chinatown and worth seeking out.

        1. Is this place worth checking out if I'm dining solo? Any noodle soups or things like that?

          4 Replies
          1. re: Dave MP

            I think there were some soups. The menu was quite similar in layout and content to Local Friends, so most things are probably better for sharing. But I'm sure you can put together a nice meal for one and it's worth a trip. Also probably worth asking the waiter for suggestions, as ours was very happy to advise and offer off-menu dishes.

            1. re: Dave MP

              For eating solo, it's possible to go with a small selection of cold starters and perhaps the dumplings.

              1. re: limster

                Dropped by for some lunch today, solo. Looked over the photo menu and ordered the Hunan waxed meat platter, with some rice and tea. What arrived was a large plate arranged with three bowls. The first contained some greens, stir fried with minced garlic and a hint of sesame, while the second was overflowing with tiny smoked fish, which reminded me of something between a smoked sprat and the diminutive anchovies which are deep fried into ikan bilis, which had been tossed with a sweet weave of finely chopped garlic and red pepper. Lastly there was a large bowl full of thick slices of smoked belly pork, which had been cooked in a rich mixture of dark fermented soy beans, garlic, ginger and dried chilli (this is all guess work I'm afraid). The pork had an excellent texture, the fat having the yield similar to that of fried lardo.
                At 16.80 (total bill 21.80 including tea, rice and tip) this isn't exactly an ideal dish for a solo lunch, particularly as its size demands one linger over it (the flavours really start to articulate themselves after the dishes have been left to cool a bit), but was a great introduction to the restaurant. It's on the spot where China Experience used to be, which I always quite liked for cheap west end yum cha, before Leong's arrived, looking out across at the curzon. Staff are great, my waitress wasn't super confident with her english but we got by just fine. I hope to return soon with a war party to do justice to a menu which is crying out to be feasted from. Good find guys.

                1. re: skut

                  Great - thanks for your post and I'm looking forward to hearing more. It's a new place and there's lots of stuff to be tried.

            2. three superb meals at golden day.

              haven't had even a merely good dish. standouts for me were the stir fried beef with pickled chillies, garlic, coriander, leeks and the spicy and sour chicken.

              sooo many good things on the menu, so many happy customers - i had to wait twenty minutes for a table tonight.

              2 Replies
              1. re: howler

                Securing a table is probably not helped by Jay Rayner's review in the Observer on Sunday.

                Back to food, I went back recently and had the smoked pork with white pepper. Very tasty indeed!

                1. re: deansa

                  Quite. It'll be packed for a bit, definitely.