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CHOWDOWN REPORT: Golden Garden

Chowdown: Golden Garden
63 Concord Av
Belmont MA 02478
617 489-4428

A Chowhound Dirty Dozen assembled at Golden Garden despite CH moderators' best efforts to thwart our socializing in the era of social networking. You know what I'm talking about b***hes!

The buzz being so strong about Golden Garden, a number of other CH'ers filed in with DCs throughout the evening! We saw at least 20 CH'ers by the time the evening was out.

We sampled 11 dishes over 2 tables. While each table received some must try dishes, such as the "better than Wang's", "best in Boston" Pork, Shrimp and Leek (Chive) Dumplings, the Cucumber and Fresh Garlic with added Jellyfish upon Tatsu's request, and also the outstanding Leek (Chive) Pie, each table ventured upon their own path.

Some of the big hits of the night were the Sautéed Cumin Lamb with Spicy Sauce, with it's surprising but delicious use of caraway seeds, and even more primordial, the Lamb "Teriyaki", which I knew was going to be good, but it really sailed out of the park. People tore at them like cavemen. Best version I've seen.

I'll leave commentary open to the floor here on the Sour Cabbage with Steamed Bacon, Sautéed Potato with Spicy Sauce, the surprisingly piquant Wood Ear Mushroom, the table 1 surprise hit, Pork Intestine with Spicy Sauce, Five Flavor Beef cold app, and the Stir Fried Calamari with Spicy Sauce. We even spied some Bamboo Shoots in Chili Oil and Sauteed String Beans over at the table of latecomer lipoff and his DCs! Good opening vibes for this isolated, yet convenient, stretch of Concord Av near the Cambridge border.

Pics? Oh we got pics. Pick your path, normal flickr or full-on salivation in full-screen slideshow mode! Description furnished with every picture for your convenience.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tatsuuuu...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tatsuuuu...

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Golden Garden
63 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478

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  1. Wow, nice. You guys did some damage. I actually have a work lunch there next week and will take many of your reccos. Glad you all liked it.

    1. Thanks again for setting this up, Debbie, it was excellent and also thanks to tatsu for posting the pictures.
      I thought that the Cucumber and fresh garlic could have had more garlic but the jelly fish was good. Both the cumin lamb and the skewers had excellent flavor but was a bit dry. Sour cabbage was missing the bacon, just had pork in it but still was an excellent dish. Apart from this it was really good and the surprise dish for me was the pork intestine. This is a dish I would not order on my own so this was a great chance to try something new. Much to my surprise it was excellent, very tender with a very tasty sauce. I even had seconds, something that I really didn't expect. At the end of the night it was not only our two tables of CH, but three more!
      Nice to meet you all!
      /Peter

      8 Replies
      1. re: Ferrari328

        I also fell in love the the pork intestine dish. See my longer post below for all my comments. However, just to explain about the bacon, the problem was not with the ingredients in the dish but with the translation. It lacked nuance. The cut of pork used in the dish was pork belly. Americans associate the term "bacon" with cured/smoked pork belly. For some reason we do not say "fresh bacon" to refer to pork belly in its unprocessed state, but I suppose we could. The Chinese-language name for that dish is something like sour cabbage white pork. Fresh pork belly (i.e. fresh bacon) is a common cut of pork in many Chinese dishes; white (cut) pork is pork that has been boiled and thinly sliced. The dish did indeed contain thinly sliced boiled fresh bacon, just as the Chinese-language description/name promised.

        1. re: PinchOfSalt

          I do know the difference but the pork in the dish looked like solid pork to me without the fat associated with pork belly but it might just have been the pieces I got.

          1. re: Ferrari328

            Depending on how it's cooked, a lot of the fat can be rendered. That's why you parboil opossum for 90 minutes.

            I really need to get back for some of that intestine. We had way too much food to order that. It's my comeuppance for letting people order unsupervised! =8-)

            Here's what you want for the beef allegedly with five-spice: 淡淡

            But what you really want is the numbing beef tongue at Chilli Garden..

            1. re: KWagle

              What is the melting point of 'possum fat? Boiling is not a good way to render fat since you don't get to temperatures higher than 100 Celsius. Cooking in a dry pan (as with making schmaltz) is more effective. Steamed or boiled pork belly generally has plenty of fat left on it.

          2. re: PinchOfSalt

            As a side point, pork belly (or some other fatty bit of pork) is the meat in a traditional Goan vindaloo -- a dish that's been twisted out of recognition in pretty much every Indian restaurant in the U.S.

            1. re: FoodDabbler

              Wow, thanks for the nifty info tidbit. Who'd a thought? It sounds like the dish owes something to the Portuguese. Is that right? (My hazy memory tells me that the Portuguese had a trading colony at Goa.)

              1. re: PinchOfSalt

                See
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vindaloo
                http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/por...
                (Neither source is perfect, but they give you an idea that vindaloo was originally the pairing of fatty meat with acid, a combination that occurs across many culinary cultures.)

                1. re: PinchOfSalt

                  Portugal at one point controlled Goa, Damao and Dio, half of Timor, and Macau. One would expect that their cuisines cross influenced each other a bit.

          3. What they refer to as leek is more like chives. Good prices and very generous servings for everything. We tried to pick menu items that were representative of Dongbei (north east China) cuisine.

            Pork, shrimp and leek dumplings: woo-hoo!
            Leek Pie: excellent, crispy crust with a tasty chivey filling.
            Sour Cabage with Steamed Bacon: This is kind of a stew with noodles. Very good.
            Pork Intestine with Spicy Sauce: very good, only moderately spicey.

            These are just a few items that stood out for me, but everything was very good.

            1. Thanks tatsu and others for your accounts. Sounds like a great set of meals. They offer me suggestions on what to try in future. (My account of delivered food from GG is on another GG thread, and links to a copy of their menu on a third thread.)

              1. I should mention that prices are excellent, table 1 ordered 5 apps and 4 mains, the total was 18 dollars a person, with tip included. (Many of us just threw in 20). Service is warm and excellent, from any perspective.

                Stop deleting my comments CH or I will raise an insurrection against you. It will be biblical. I am not kidding.

                3 Replies
                1. re: tatsu

                  Yes, prices are good. My delivery cost about $90 with a generous tip thrown in. We got three meals out of it on day one, and I believe 4 people ate the leftovers the next day. That's under $13/meal.

                  I don't approve of being deleted either. We seem to have trigger-happy mods at work.

                  1. re: FoodDabbler

                    The food was excellent; thanks Striperguy,and thanks Debbie, for setting this up.

                    When I return I will ask for extra garlic which is more typical of Donbei cuisine. Dongbei can be thought of as a more rustic version of Beijing cuisine.

                    The 5 flavor beef tasted as if it had only two flavors. The cucumber and garlic had almost no garlic.

                    The dumplings were better than Wang's and only equaled by CK Sau making special dumplings on a good night. But the rest of the food was excellent and inexpensive as noted above; I do not need to be redudant.

                    We did not try the Sichuan side of the menu but I will.

                    1. re: Chris VR

                      i thought that the food was in general excellent and a good deal though even homer some times nods.

                  2. Fight the power tatsu. Gorgeous dumplings (have you ever said that to somebody?), and great pix all around.

                    Nice work on this one y'all, thanks ! Hoping to see more unique Dongbei dishes emerge on the scene now too.

                    1. Thanks, Tatsu, for posting all those photos! They make me want to go back and relive our meal. The food was a delicious adventure and as always it is a pleasure to dine with a friendly group of knowledgeable, enthusiastic companions.

                      I had tried the sour cabbage with bacon before, I knew I would enjoy it again. And people are right, the pork/leek/shrimp dumplings are divine, even better than the pork/leek dumplings I had tried before.

                      For me the star of the evening was the pork intestine. It may well become a new comfort food for me - soft, almost melting texture, deep flavor, and a wonderfully fruity bite from the dried red chili pieces. The wood-ear appetizer was another pleasant surprise. Like the pork intestine, this dish emphasizes texture (wood-ear is sort of al dente-ish), but there is also a surprise in the form of very small bits of pickled hot green chilis. Think pickled jalapeno slices like you find on nachos and then shrink them down to about 1/8 inch in diameter. The green chilis in their whole form must be similar in size to the Thai green chilis one can find in markets such as Russo's. Hot, interesting, and unusual!

                      The Sauteed Potato appetizer was pretty, but not very spicy at all.

                      As others have noted, the garlic in the cucumbers with garlic and jellyfish was very mild. I wonder if the dish was muted for American palates. It actually was quite refreshing and pleasant, but I would like to try a more garlicky version at some point.

                      More generally, it seemed to me that many of the dishes were dry-fried or had relatively little sauce. With the exception of the fried Leek Pie, there seemed to be less oil than one would usually find in a Chinese meal. I don't know if that is in the nature of Dongbei-style cooking or merely this kitchen.

                      All in all, my good impression of Golden Garden only got better. Go there yourself if you haven't tried it yet, tell your friends if you have. This is one restaurant that I would like to see prospering on that corner for many years to come.

                      -----
                      Golden Garden
                      63 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: PinchOfSalt

                        Let me add my thanks too to PinchOfSalt for organizing this outing and to tatsu for his help with them menu.

                        Over at the second table we didn't order the lamb teriyaki or the pork intestine - just two more reasons to go back soon. We did have the veg. leek pie, the sauteed cumin lamb in spicy sauce, and the pork/leek/shrimp dumplings which were all great. We also had the cucumber with fresh garlic, sour cabbage with steamed bacon, and the five-flavor beef which were less exciting. We had the salt & pepper calamari, which isn't an unusual dish but they did a nice job and it was tasty.

                        Seem to be forgetting an item or two, but overall it was a wonderful dinner and we'll be back (with reinforcements!).

                      2. Wow, the pictures made me salivate esp the dumplings, leek pie and the lamb teriyake.

                        The 5 spiced cold beef doesn't even looked seasoned. When my aunt made it for us it was soo delicious I had to ask for the recipe but it took me 5 yrs to get it from her. Now if I can remember where I'd put it after the move....

                        1. Wow, pics look yummy! Did anyone happen to get a menu they could scan, or take a pic of the menu they could post here?

                          1 Reply
                          1. I actually didn't participate in the Chowdown, but as it turns out by coincidence two Chinese friends and I had planned more than a week in advance to visit Golden Garden together for the first time at 7:30 PM on Wednesday, and we weren't able to alter our plans to join the Chowdown an hour earlier. We arrived as the Chowdown was finishing up, but we did get to see some familiar faces and meet some new ones, which is always a treat.

                            And we had some of the same dishes, thanks to some timely recommendations from Tatsu --- Lamb Teriyaki, Leek Pie, Dumplings, Sautéed Pork Intestine and also Bamboo Shoots in Chili Oil and Dry-Fried String Beans.

                            I really liked the Lamb "Teriyaki" (yang2 rou4 chuan4), but I will mention that my two Chinese dining companions did not. And I see where they are coming from, because it tasted very different than any yang2 rou4 chuan4 I've had in China. The difference is the meat itself. In China these lamb skewers are made with thinner and drier pieces of older lamb (i.e. mutton), rather than the thicker, succulent and tender pieces of younger lamb with which these are made. The result is that these lamb skewers were very nen4 (tender), a quality not normally associated with yang2 rou4 chuan4. I don't think this was the restaurant trying to cater to American tastes, so much as the enormous difficulty in getting mutton here! I have to say, that even though I recognized that these skewers are very different, and dare I say, inauthentic, I really like both varieties. I love mutton, and I do miss the stronger gamey flavor, but the succulence of this one actually leads me to prefer it a little bit.

                            The other standout dish was the sautéed (actually Dry-Fried) String Beans (gan1 bian1 si4 ji4 dou4), which had an absolutely perfect texture, and a very nice flavor from the sauce, oil, pickled vegetables, and little hints of onion. This is not an easy dish to make.

                            I was less impressed by the other dishes. Not that anything was bad --- far from it, this is clearly real Chinese food by someone who knows what they are doing --- but the Leek Pie (jiu3 cai4 he2 zi) was a little too soft on the outside, a little too firm on the inside, and the flavors weren't quite balanced, with too much leek. The dumplings (we had the vegetarian ones) were obviously handmade, but were also maybe too homey. The filling was uneven, some of the skins were broken, and others too thick, and overall they were good, but not even in the same league as Wang's or Qingdao Garden. Bamboo Shoots in Chili Oil (ma2 la4 zhu2 sun3) had a very nice tender texture and mouth feel, but were neither ma2 (numbing) or la4 (spicy). My DCs finished most of the Sautéed Pork Intestine, but complained about its texture not having the wonderful slipperiness of the best intestine --- something I have enjoyed often in beef intestine, although I don't eat pork.

                            I look forward to returning to try more dishes on this menu, and I wish them very well. But I would temper my enthusiasm for a new place in a surprising out-of-the-way location, with a sober assessment --- it's not (yet anyway) near to dethroning any of the established top Chinese places in the Boston area, but is a solid addition to the scene of authentic restaurants and definitely a nice find!

                            -----
                            Qingdao Garden Restaurant
                            2382 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140

                            Golden Garden
                            63 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: lipoff

                              What is your favorite Northern Chinese restaurant, in NYC or Boston which is better than GG?.

                              1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                Seriously, I thought the P S L dumplings were just superb. My DC from Beijing thought so too. I think they are quite different in style from Qingdao.

                                cambridgedoctpr, try these next time you are in NYC. These things are legends. I shall only whisper "White Bear"....
                                http://www.flickr.com/photos/tatsuuuu...

                                1. re: tatsu

                                  To tell you the truth, I preferred the GG pork-leek to pork-leek-shrimp. But I thought both very good. The question of "better" is problematic, as I've said on other threads in other contexts. The dumplings in tatsu's NYC photos are draped with chili oil, etc. They are going to taste quite different from GG's unadorned ones. I've had dumplings with more delicate wrappers as well, most recently at a newish menu-based dim sum place in New York (Red Egg). But the wrappers at GG are intentionally rustic, I think. Their uneven texture and chewiness are part of their charm. Preferring one style to another is not a question, I'd argue, of one being better than the other, more of personal taste.

                                  1. re: FoodDabbler

                                    granted, but i was looking for specific options. I

                                    like the wontons in chili sauce at Sichuan Garden which is less rustic.

                                    When someone suggest that there is something better, i wish to try it.

                                    -----
                                    Sichuan Garden
                                    295 Washington St, Brookline, MA 02445

                                    1. re: FoodDabbler

                                      thank you for the suggestion; I agree with what you have said.

                              2. Thanks again Pinch of Salt for organizing and Tatsu for the great pics, starter write up, and recommendations (along with the owner).

                                My personal favorite was the lamb "teriyaki"! I enjoyed the tasty infused kick of spicy flavoring into the dry lamb on a stick. Not at all what I was expecting, but such a fantastic surprise!

                                My other close favorites were the dumplings and also the cabbage with pork and noodles, which seemed it would especially be a great stew dish on a cold winter day or when sick.

                                I enjoyed the flavoring of the potato and pepper dish, but felt the potatoes were undercooked for my personal taste. Hopefully I wont horrify too many when I say it, but the whole time eating them, I kept thinking what amazing flavorful hashbrowns they would have made, if I took home a batch and cooked them up more.

                                The cucumbers unfortunately tasted kind of salty and bland to me, but those sauteed string beans sounded good.

                                Looking forward to going back and trying other dishes. Definitely a nice time and a good find. Thanks all for the experience and to the owners for the wonderful meal!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: volleydolly

                                  I've crisped potato&pepper dishes from Chinese restaurants myself. If you make a ring of the potatoes in a frying pan and cook them till they are brown and crisp on the bottom, then break an egg in the middle of the ring and cook till the whites are just set and the yolks still runny, you get a great breakfast dish the next morning.

                                  To Cambridgedoctpr: Yes, one should always look for good food whenever one hears of it.

                                  1. re: volleydolly

                                    Sichuan potato dishes are cooked until the potatoes are just barely al dente, which to Americans usually reads as horribly undercooked. If you get past the mental block of what potatoes are "supposed" to be like, they can be really quite good.