Living in South East Asia really opened my eyes to a lot of culinary rituals. A particular favourite of mine is yum cha Sundays, when my family would visit tea houses for brunch to devour a heap load of dim sum and herbal tea by the gallon. Moving to the Western hemisphere meant replacing dumplings for hipster eggs, bacon and avocado on toast. Not as bad as you can imagine but it goes without saying that I truly miss my Asian Sunday fix.
Now… without sounding like a right snobby prick, I used to avoid Chinatown like the plague thinking it’s a mecca of tourist traps until a few years ago, when my friend A introduced me to New Loon Moon, the Asian shop of childhood snack wonders. Little did I know it was actually full of Sunday dim sum gems.
A group of us decided to go for yum cha brunch on Sunday but wanted somewhere different from the usual haunts, aka Yauatcha, Hakkasan or Princess Garden of Mayfair. We ended up trying Golden Dragon in Chinatown.
Split in two levels, Golden Dragon is your quintessential Chinese restaurant with its banquet-style settings and ornate stage walls. It’s busy and frantic particularly on Sundays as most Asian families go here for yum cha. Luckily we only had to wait 25 minutes. We were sat upstairs where it was a bit calmer.
The Sunday dim sum menu looked authentic but we’re a hungry bunch of ladies so we had our picks from the a la carte menu as well. Is the food really worth the hype and the hungry-belly wait?
We ordered and waited.
The crispy char siu pork puff pastry would give Yauatcha’s and Hakkasan’s venison puffs a run for its bucks for half the price. The filling was gloriously generous with the scrumptious pork paving its way for full throttle flavour. The pastry casing was a bit flakier, but overall I was pleasantly surprised.
Truth be told, I’m all about the har gau. Golden Dragon’s prawn dumplings were good with just enough filling to burst your bubble.
I usually get annoyed when dumplings have thicker casing than filling but this was spot on.
Which is how I felt about the char siu cheung fun. Though I thought the pork was tasty, I felt the wrapping was a wee bit too thick for my liking.
I normally stay away from vegetarian dumplings because I often get disappointed flavour-wise. However, Golden Dragon’s offering was rather delicious and jam-packed with veg. It was a texture party, and if you’ve been reading my blog a while, you should know I love texture.
I wasn’t a fan of the veggie spring rolls as I thought they lacked excitement and the casing wasn’t crispy enough. And it was quite oily.
My food belly went gaga when I saw taro prawn dumplings on the specials menu. It’s one of my favourite teahouse orders so I was really excited to try Golden Dragon’s version. It was quite huge and exceeded my expectations flavour-wise. There was a good amount of taro in proportion to the flavoursome prawns in. My only issue was that it was a bit oily as well.
Another thing on the menu I couldn’t forego was the bean curd and salted egg prawn roll. Now most of you may know I’m not a fan of egg, but there’s a hype around salted egg-ed everything (including potato chips). I liked it, although I think I may have picked the perfect roll. The others were apparently too oily and the texture of the beancurd wrap had a bit of a plastick-y texture.
Of course, we had to have xiao long bao.
The pork xiao long bao had a nice bite, and the soup was pretty darn good. The filling was actually quite tasty, too.
The pork and crab xiao long bao on the other hand had tastier filling than the soup.
I still haven’t found Din Tai Fung competition in terms of xiao long bao, but this was good enough for London standards.
The char siu buns were nice, the buns were actually quite soft and fluffy. There was just a bit too much of it. The filling was superb, though!
I adore hot and sour soup but Golden Dragon’s version was more sour than hot.
Now I’m not really a fan of crispy beef strips (because I genuinely think beef should be eaten in slabs or chunks). However, there was something comforting about munching on these at yum cha. I think it was a case of “so wrong but so good”.
The crispy duck pancakes brought a familiar type of comfort. I mean, I didn’t think it was as good as Duck & Rice and it’s nowhere near as refined as Min Jiang’s. But it’s comfort food, as how I think of Chinese cuisine.
Last but not the least, beef ho fun. This was probably one of the tastier beef ho fun dishes I’ve had in a while. The thick sauce coated the rice noodles perfectly so each forkful was quite strong in flavour. The beef slices were surprisingly tender as well.
Egg tarts for dessert. I didn’t try this at all, but I’ve been told it was just average.
To say we ate for the village was an understatement. Our bellies were absolutely in a happy place after that meal. And considering we had LOADS to eat between four people, we only paid £40 each.
Overall verdict for Golden Dragon
I can count the number of establishments I’ve tried in Chinatown on one hand and I can genuinely say I’ve enjoyed Golden Dragon the most. Possibly because of the dim sum nostalgia but probably because it’s completely unpretentious food. As mentioned, it gets rather frantic and busy but servers are quite dependable.
It’s not a place you’d go for a romantic meal nor is it a place you’d bring people to make impressions. But it’s genuinely good for yum cha Sundays with a group of friends who just want honest to goodness decent food.