You could see this restaurant being built while driving up and down Pleasant Hill. It was born on the ashes of Blue Marlin Seafood, which displaced an older cafeteria. I wasn’t sure what kinds of food this restaurant would specialize in, if it were going to be more mainland Chinese, or the more common American Chinese (which, as Jennifer 8 Lee will tell you, is an entirely respectable regional Chinese cuisine).
They had been advertising their opening for days. My wife and I planned on checking it out that very day. Hey, nothing to lose, right?
Impressions: the inflated dragon of the opening was cute, and the faint lingering smell of firecrackers was still around when we made it to the restaurant. There were just a few customers at that time. Inside, the chairs had ‘skirts’, red coverings with golden bows tied in the back, as if an obi had been shorn of everything but the bow. The menu? Quite a few items seemed familiar, especially if you have spent some time at Ming’s BBQ, but others seemed quite new (to me at least).
Chinese casseroles? These dominate about 2 pages of the menu just past the appetizers. I’ve been asking about. Chloe told me that anything cooked in a clay pot counts as a casserole:
Anything baked in clay pots. Usually meat+veggies w thick sauces and starchy ingredients (taro, black beans, tofu, bean curd)
I also found this useful description on a Chowhound thread, from the user ‘Autumnwine’.
I consider claypot the parallel of crockpot cooking when it is done at home (you throw things together, it comes out delicious, althought it has a shorter cooking cycle), and the parallel of a skillet meal from Denny’s when it is served at a eatery. It is a utilitarian, no frills kind of food, more so than soup noodles. I imagine it would be hard to be a restaurant specialized in crockpot, but then again, if there should be a restaurant like it, it probably would be in New York. I didn’t realize SF had such restaurants.
Anyway, that is just my 2 cents.
I can’t call it the specialty of Golden House, but I’ve not seen casseroles featured so prominently anywhere else.
Otherwise, dishes were organized by the meats (or lack thereof) used in their preparation. So there were duck, beef, pork, chicken, and vegetable/tofu dishes. There were plenty of soups, most of those noodle dishes. Almost nothing was marked as exceptionally hot, so the place struck me as southern Chinese cuisine. This was reinforced by the presence of dishes here (i.e. duck tongue) that I’ve also seen at Ming’s BBQ.
My wife ordered green beans and a mixed vegetable plate. I ordered a duck with vegetables dish. My daughter ordered salt and pepper pork, and I talked my wife into getting garlic chicken. It has a texture profile very similar to wor sue duck and I thought my wife would like it.
Before any food arrived, there were appetizers.
Note the bits of duck mixed with the pickles? Those were pretty good. My daughter scooped up those ASAP.
About this time Chinese families started arriving. It was impressive, watching three to four generations show up, ten and fifteen strong, ancient elders 2/3 my height but happy and proud. It wasn’t long before all the confused and curious were outnumbered by ethnic Chinese. Didn’t take an expert to know who this eatery was catering to.
The most successful entree was the garlic chicken. It was easy to eat, easy to understand, and clear texture differences between skin, fat, and meat made the dish worthwhile. The salt and pepper pork wasn’t bad, but didn’t blow anyone away either. I ended up picking out the jalapeno slices out of the dish for the spice. The duck dish was good, the meat tasty, but the selection of mushrooms made the dish for me. That said, I’d probably order half a duck the next time I’d go.
Oh yes, if not said before, serving sizes here are enormous.
I don’t claim to understand everything this restaurant can provide. But for those who want a respite from American Chinese, something a bit more authentic, and perhaps try a casserole, Golden House can provide.
Golden House Restaurant
1600 Pleasant Hill Road
Duluth, GA 30096
Notes: soon after I wrote the first draft of this article, Chloe tweeted that “Bo Bo’s chef” is here. I suspect this means that Golden House is Danny Ting’s new eatery.