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Great Sichuan food in Rocklin at the Golden Dragon.

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A few Sacramento hounds have posted on the food at the Golden Dragon. But despite their recommendations I hadn't managed to make it up there until today. Suffice it to say I regret having waited so long.

The restaurant is incredibly easy to get to; it's within a few hundred yards of the Rocklin Road exit from Interstate 80. It's tucked into an unprepossessing strip mall on Granite Drive. This is the burbs, so there's more than enough parking.

Anyway, I met fellow chowhound c oliver and her husband there for lunch today, and was pretty blown away by the quality of the food. We were served by the owner, a middle-aged woman who speaks limited but reasonably good English. She's very friendly, and was excited that we were interested in food from the "special" menu.

We got the "chilli oil thin-sliced pig's ear" as an appetizer. Served cold, with sliced scallions. Crunchy chewy goodness. We also ordered the "spice dumplings Sichuan style." Silky wrappers around a course-ground pork filling with a generous topping of chili oil, dusted with crushed red peppers and Sichuan peppercorn.

Main dishes were the "dry cooked pork intestine" and the "Szechuan Style Tea Smoke Duck." The chitterlings were sliced on the bias into rounds about 1/3" thick and cooked until most of the fat had rendered out, then crisped up with some dried red peppers, scallions, and celery matchsticks. Slightly chewy, slightly fatty, fairly spicy, and altogether wonderful. For me, though, the tea-smoked duck was the star of the show. Beautiful dark crispy skin, moist meat, and fairly assertive - but not overwhelming - smokiness. Served on lettuce with some hoisin sauce for dipping. Spectacular.

The owner came over and chatted with us several times during the meal, and was visibly pleased at how much we were enjoying our food. She's not hesitant to make recommendations and share her personal preferences. (She has the spicy dumplings every morning for breakfast when she gets to the restaurant. I think I want to change jobs with her.)

When we had finished off our food, she asked us to wait a few minutes for the cook to finish a dessert she'd ordered for us - dollops of red bean paste wrapped in the most flaky, delicate pastry crust you've ever tasted. She says it's good for the stomach after eating spicy food. I don't know about the stomach, but the taste buds were very happy.

Price-wise, apps range from $3 to $7, noodles from $7 to $9, and entrees from $8 to $13 (with a couple of untranslated outliers and seasonal pricing for fresh fish). We stuffed ourselves for $20pp including tax, tip, and a bottle of Tsingtao beer each.

So if you're like me, you're asking yourself "sure, it's good, but who wants to drive to Rocklin?" You do. Seriously. This is a place that deserves to be a chow destination. If you live east of Vacaville or west of Reno on the I-80 corridor, hop in the car. It's worth the drive.

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  1. I can add little to Alan's report. The dumplings (I got more than MY share) were terrific. Skins were beautifully thin but stayed intact. I could eat a bowl of those all by myself. And, yes, the duck was the star; still thinking about it. I'd never had pig ear or intestine/chitterlings before but liked them both. The pig ear was sliced paper thin and you weren't particularly aware of the cartilage. The intestine couldn't have been anything else but it had no gross-out factor at all :)

    We drove two hours to get there because we had to pick up our car which had a major repair. But we'll go back just for that restaurant. I want to work my way through that entire menu. I bet there's not a loser there. Thanks for a great suggestion, Alan. You've always been one of my "major gods" but this rec puts you even higher.

    1. That has to be the quintessential chowhound experience! Great food, out of the way and unexpected place, wonderful interaction with the owner, new dishes, and a special just for you for dessert ... wish I had been there.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        Next time, my friend. Sharing it with another Chowhound really made it for us. Much moaning over the food :)

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Next time, Sam. Get your bad self up here and we'll fete you until your stomach and liver give out.

          The really cool thing is that I'd never have suggested the place if it wasn't for PeterL's recommendation. Props to him.

          This really epitomizes what's great about chowhound. There are hundreds of strip-mall Chinese places in the Sacramento metro area. Only a few are really good, and finding those gems among all the dreck is a daunting task. With many hounds looking, the good spots get "found" quicker, the word spreads, and both the diners and the restaurants' owners are better for it.

        2. We love love love the tea smoked duck. One of my relative who has lived in Sichuan and Beijing proclaims this is the best Sichuan restaurant he's been to. The owner husband is also the chef.

          1 Reply
          1. re: PeterL

            I got the last dumpling and Alan got the last piece of duck with the crunchy skin. Oh boy.

          2. Golden Dragon Chinese Restaurant
            4800 Granite Drive
            Rocklin, CA 95677
            (916) 632-9542‎

            1 Reply
            1. re: PolarBear

              Here's the link.

              -----
              Golden Dragon Chinese Restaurant
              4800 Granite Dr. #B2, Rocklin, CA 95677

            2. there are always folks asking for good recommendations on the trip from the bay area to Tahoe, and this seems like the perfect answer! Dumplings before heading to the snow: what could be better...For that matter, it is right on the way from Merced to the North Shore, so I've marked it on my favorites and hope to try it soon. Thanks for the report!

              7 Replies
              1. re: susancinsf

                We live at Tahoe and usually do drive-thru McD's in Colfax when heading to SF. Now we'll go a little farther and have some dumplings. All the food came out on a timely (and well timed) basis but the dumpling were quite quick. I woke up this morning thinking about that meal. If I lived where Alan does, I'd have been right back there this morning.

                1. re: c oliver

                  I can see it now - face pressed to the glass, pleading to be let in and fed dumplings despite the fact that the place doesn't open for another hour...

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    And I betcha she'd let me in. I want to learn to make those dumplings also. And now I want to buy a smoker and try the duck also. Mmm.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      You don't need a smoker, just a wok with a cover. The spicy dumplings are made with commercial wonton wrappers, so you should be able to replicate both dishes at home.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        I was rereading this thread prior to sending it to someone. I didn't realize that you're familiar with the restaurant. Those wrappers were excellent. I need to stop in and find out how they get that result from commercial wrappers.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          I'm not familiar w the resto. The wrappers were described as thin & silky, so that would be a machinemade, commercial wrapper. There are many different kinds & brands for diff purposes.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Thanks for the valuable education. I didn't realize that only machines could make wrappers like that. I won't try so hard in the future knowing that I can just buy them. Sam had suggested I get a tortilla press to get them thinner. I'll just use it for tortillas.

              2. This really is a worthy destination. My girlfriend and I had the pleasure of living a mile away before moving near CSUS and visited this restaurant quite often. There really are very few dishes (on the special menu) that aren't worth it.

                For those who are unaware, Sichuan cooking is characterized by the use of the appropriately-named Sichuan peppercorn. This peppercorn is cracked and used in just about every dish made spicy on the menu, and a few that aren't made too spicy. In and of itself it isn't too hot - it does have a strong, unique flavor, but it won't make you beg for a pitcher of water. It does, however, numb the tongue. Literally...that is what it is known for. When you order one of the spicy dishes, looked for the small cracked peppercorns, and try one on its own. It is an interesting experience. :)

                I love very spicy food, so I always asked for mine "da la" (big spice, in Mandarin), and the hot chili chicken dish (I believe it is called Chili Chow Qing Chicken) is simple, but excellent if you like spicy food. The stir fried lamb with cumin was the very first dish I tried, and I still remember it fondly. I highly recommend the (cold) beef tendon appetizer. It is great with 10/10 spiciness and a cold TsingTao.

                For non-hot dishes I really love the Golden Dragon Pork dish. If you get it, don't forget to flavor your bites with the small black beans in the dish - these are called "dou chi," they are fermented soy beans, and add a unique flavor. The special house smoke pork dish is very, very good; much like the tea smoked duck. Strong but not overpowering smokiness.

                I seriously think I could eat there for an entire month and still find enjoyment in trying new things. The "normal" (Americanized) menu is not bad - just as good as any other place that serves the dishes. But the special Chinese menu is the star of the show, and worthy of much exploration.

                1 Reply
                1. re: khelvan

                  Thanks SO much for this. It's my feeling that I want to work my way through the special menu. Everything I saw looked good.

                2. I had lunch there yesterday. I am one of those lunch kind of guys. Ordered Kung Pao Shrimps.

                  The hot and sour soup was fantastic. Complex flavors, lots of stuff. The Kung Pao was the best I have had in a long time. My server asked if I would like it hot and that is really nice. None of the long peppers that you pick out, the sauce was generously sprinkled with bits and pieces to give every bite a wonderful flavor. The shrimps were perfectly done and the veggies nice and crispy. The friend rice had fantastic flavor. I was hoping the chow mein would measure up to the rest of the meal but sadly, it was like all the others. Too many noodles and not enough sprouts.

                  One incredibly great thing is that they offer chow mein add on for 50 cents. Love that. Loved the music playing too, and usually that is mostly an irritant to me. The prices seem to be a buck more than most places, but definitely worth it.

                  I am so glad you all found this place. I am in the area often and know some gems in the area,, but this one is just what I am looking for.

                  1. I just wanted to thank all the posters for this recommendation. I live very close to Rocklin (as in 20 minutes away close) but we here in the hills don't go that way as often as obviously, we ought to. This was a great restaurant. I went with a friend and while I was a little bashful about asking for the special menu, I did order my lunch "medium-hot" (the lady who took our order, whom I think was the owner, was very skeptical that I could handle it), and insisted that I wanted to try the dumplings, too. Her response was, "OH! You want pinky menu?" I didn't have any idea what the "pinky menu" was but I knew I wanted the dumplings!

                    Our lunch came and was wonderful - I had ordered the garlic pork lunch special and my friend had ordered General's Chicken (which is actually one of my guilty favorites as well). The hot and sour soup that came with the meal was really top-notch, and both dishes were the best versions I'd ever had of either (the coating on the chicken was very light and crisp and not gummy-sweet at all, and the fermented soybeans in my pork dish put it over the top). The dumplings were the highlight, especially with the chili oil (when served, the top dumplings in the dish were bare of oil, and were good, if not spectacular, but with the oil spooned over they were awesome). Everything was just spicy enough, and there were NO leftovers (which doesn't happen very often).

                    After we finished, the owner came over and looked at us with satisfaction. "You like spicy. You like the pinky menu," and then she did, in fact, produce a pink menu (the special menu which is printed on pink paper) for us to take home, with instructions for us to come back and order from that menu the next time. I have to say I was really pleased to have passed her test!

                    At any rate, thanks to all, and this is definitely going to be a regular destination for us. This is what is so great about Chowhound! Next time I might just try Alan and c. oliver's original meal...it all sounds wonderful. I refuse to be bashful anymore!

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: auburnselkie

                      We ate there again a few days ago. Living on the Georgetown Divide we do a lot of our shopping in the Roseville area so stopping at the Golden Dragon for lunch is a given.

                      I will have to politly disagree with Melanie regarding the chili dumplings. The dumplings are irregular so they are obviously not machine made. I hope that Melanie sometime will have to occasion to be in the area and give her first hand opinion as to their orgins.

                      We are trying to eat our way through the special menu, but we always order the dumplings and cumin lamb. This place is better than any place we have eaten in the Bay Area. We're lucky to have the restaurant in our area.

                      1. re: upcountry

                        I was riffing on the description of the dumpling wrappers as "thin" and "silky", which would be the descriptor for a machine-rolled dough. If the restaurant can make them that thin and silky by hand, more power to them. Handmade dough wrappers are typically thicker and chewy. Or were you referring to the folding and consequent shape of the dumpling being hand-done and irregular? The online menu for the restaurant has the chinese name for the dish, hong you chao shou (red oil folded hands). Here's a photo of this dish at another place. Does Golden Dragon's look similar?
                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/mcb/3459...

                        In contrast, here's my own photo of the hong you shui jiao (red oil water dumplings) at China Village in Albany. These are the classic ingot style for shui jiao with a thicker, chewier, handrolled wrapper.
                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Everytime we have them they seem to be a little different in texture and thickness. I don't know if I would classify them as "silky". I would love to hear your evaluation of them if you ever get up to Rocklin.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Late to this party. The dumplings more closely resemble the first picture but even thinner, silkier if you will.

                            We've now eaten here and gotten take away a number of times. We even take it to the Bay Area :) As someone mentioned the lamb with cumin is exceptional. ALWAYS get the dumplings and when we're traveling we'll each have one before we pull out of the parking lot. They actually reheat quite well. I put two or three in a Chinese teacup and barely MW. The tea-smoked duck remains our fave and it's even alright MWing. Lost any crispiness but it's still good.

                            When we love Golden Dragon the most is when Alan Barnes can break away and join us. Not just for the scintilating convo :) but because...WE GET TO ORDER MORE FOOD!!!