Thursday, January 24, 2008

Restaurant: Golden Unicorn Restaurant

Picture New York’s Chinatown and you probably conjure up packed, dirty streets, very few stores with any English writing, fish mongers everywhere and lots of restaurants. Sadly, not many of these restaurants are actually worth the effort to find or even attempt to explain to a waiter what you want. Pick 10 New Yorkers worth his or her metro card and you will probably get 10 different “best” Chinatown restaurants. While some always seem to rise to the top, they are usually just bunched together because of their location. To this extensive list, I humbly submit the Cantonese dim sum mecca Golden Unicorn. Located on the edge of Chinatown, where east Broadway meets Catherine (yes, this does exist), Golden Unicorn is actually inside an office like building with a flashing sign, where you take the elevator upstairs to either the second or third floor to be seated. My experience at the restaurant is not your standard fair, so I must point out I went on Christmas Eve slightly intoxicated, and it just happened to also be a Chinese wedding reception. This reception included, each individual wedding party member being introduced to strange techno music, the bride and groom coming out to I Will Always Love You, a crooner singing (karaoke?) as well as three scantily clad young girls doing a choreographed dance number to a hip hop song. You can’t make this stuff up anywhere outside of NY.

So besides the dancing girls, why would you want to go? The food is actually quite good, and above your average Chinese, and on par with some of the other top Chinese restaurants in the area. The guys I went with are somewhat the traditional types when it comes to eating out, but the hot and sour soup was exceptional. I try hot and sour soup anywhere I can get it, and this may have been the best I have ever had. The soup had a perfect somewhat thick consistency, with tender pork and veggies. My friends egg drop soup was gone almost as quickly as my own steaming bowl. We tried four dishes: mango chicken, beef curry, sweet and sour pork and pork fried rice. Of the 4 dishes, the pork fried rice and sweet and sour pork stood out above the rest. Personally, the mango chicken was a bit disappointing, simply being heavily battered and fried chicken with a dish full of gooey duck sauce like mango flavored sweetness. On the plus side, they did get our white meat only request correct, which for anyone who has tried ordering in Chinatown is not an easy thing to do. The beef curry was extremely flavorful, and had a nice sauce consistency both coating the meat and vegetables, while still being enough of a liquid to put on top of rice. The only problem I had with this otherwise great dish was too many green peppers and onions. It would have been nice to see less of each vegetable, and more of a third vegetable like a baby corn or even red pepper to add a bit more color and sweetness. The earthiness of the green pepper and onion took away from the savory curry and the tender beef.

The sweet and sour pork was a surprising favorite. Small chunks of breaded and pan fried pork paired with a coat your spoon sweet and sour sauce had the delicious pairing of pineapple, green peppers, carrots and onions. The tenderness and moistness of the pork preserved by frying the meat paired perfectly with the sweet but tangy sauce. Plus, the batter was not overwhelming and was lighter than expected so it was simply a part of the dish, rather than a focal point. The sweet and sour pork more than any other dish seemed to cause disagreements over how much the other people had taken the first time. Luckily, a late arriving second pork dish also drew rave reviews. Everyone knows pork fried rice, but how often do you see it made with only a few peas, egg, sprouts and other vegetables and focus on the actual pork and flavoring of the rice. Instead of the standard cubes of pinkish red pork, the dish arrived bursting with white flat wok seared almost cutlet like pieces of pork. The pork used was clearly the same cut and pieces that are used in stir fry dishes served in the restaurant, and makes me wonder if I can ever truly go back to the sub standard pork fried rice I was eating.

Just the food alone is quite the experience at Golden Unicorn, and I hear their dim sum is what they are really known for, especially during lunch hours. If you happen to be in the middle of a wedding, well just hope you brought your camera. Oh, and make sure to get plenty of Tsingtao with your meal, it makes any Chinese food taste even better.

Unicorns are real

No comments: