dipping sauces provided us, one was ketchup. The main flavor in a kong
pao chicken dish seemed to be soy sauce. And I've tasted more authentic
egg rolls at Jack in the Box.
Hidden away in the back corner of a narrow shop complex that is
cloaked in a boring beige concrete, the Golden Dragon offers a burst of
Asian decor once you step inside. The style is authentic, with folding
Japanese walls, Asian artwork and a palatial elegance that drips from the
ceiling's ornate lights and onto the maroon floors.
But the taste isn't as true.
We started with egg rolls ($3.25), which is when the waiter brought
out a dish of mustard, a dish of sweet and sour sauce and some ketchup.
They were heavily fried and greasy to hold, which was fine. But it tasted
like a fried burrito -- no distinctly Chinese spices, just a medley of
shredded cabbage wrapped in deep-fried batter.
The kong pao chicken ($8.50) wasn't sweet or spicy enough. The main
ingredient tasted like soy sauce instead of hot sauce, and my friend
commented that the dish seemed westernized -- tempered in its Chinese
glory. There were no onions, no peanuts, no scary shriveled peppers that
you try to avoid because they're really, really hot. Normally, a dish of
kong pao chicken includes these ingredients.
The hot bean curd ($7.50), also known as ma-po tofu -- a traditionally
spicy poached batch of tofu mixed in hot bean paste, soy sauce and ground
meat -- also tasted mainly of soy sauce. If there were traces of ginger
and sesame oil in there, I couldn't recognize them. This is one of my
all-time favorite dishes. But at the Golden Dragon, I couldn't swallow
very much of the unfamiliar, unauthentic taste.
Finally, we shared an aromatic shrimp plate ($13.95), which got our
highest ratings. Shrimp covered with a soft, fried batter and sauteed in
a sweet, red sauce. Again, it didn't boast a taste I'm accustomed to. But
we enjoyed the foreign flavor anyway.
All around me, I noticed patrons enjoying themselves -- businessmen
with their jackets off, parents and children, a few dining alone. No one
seemed to dislike the taste, so maybe this harsh review is unique to me.
My recommendation: If you're used to real Chinese food and looking for
an authentic dining experience, even Panda Express would fare better than
the Golden Dragon.
If you're a novice to the Chinese taste and don't expect the real
deal, the decor and ambience might make up for the average taste.
* YOUNG CHANG is a features writer at the Daily Pilot. Dining reviewer
STEPHEN SANTACROCE is on vacation. His reviews appear every other week.
* What: The Golden Dragon
* Where: 2023 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa
* Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. 7 days a week
* Cost: Moderate
* Call: (949) 642-7162