Disclaimer – This is not a review of Golden Dragon. When you visit a 110-year-old hotel’s 40-year-old restaurant. it’s not just food that you eat; there are stories, memories and anecdotes that create an experience worth remembering.
Last week I was invited for lunch at Golden Dragon, The Taj Mahal Palace’s Chinese restaurant. The idea was to introduce food bloggers/writers to restaurant’s dining experience with a menu including signature dishes and regular favourites. A small group of three food writers; Romi Purkayastha of Follow The Eaten Path, Roxanne Bamboat of The Tiny Taster and me joined by Nikhila Palat – Taj Mahal Palace’s Public Relation Manager and Parveen Chander – the Deputy General Manager at The Taj Mahal Palace, was hosted at this 40-year-old restaurant.
Opened in 1973, Golden Dragon was the first restaurant to bring authentic Chinese cuisine to Mumbai. At the time when Chinese food meant Indo-Chinese or Kolkata-Chinese for us, Golden Dragon introduced Mumbaikars to Szechuan and Cantonese cuisines. A fleet of five chefs was flown in from China to get the right cooking techniques and authentic flavours. They carried their own pots and ladles and no one except those five chefs was allowed to touch them, until an Indian chef convinced them that he was worthy of cooking their food.
With stories like these, our meal started with a cup of traditional Chinese tea which was served from a pot with an unusually long spout. This peculiar pot was used to serve tea in the times of war. It allowed the server to pour tea from a distance stopping him from overhearing the private (read top-secret) conversation. Tea was followed by a dimsum platter which had a mix of signature as well as new dishes. I loved the Flaky radish dimsum – grated radish wrapped in a flaky, deep fried shell, which has been on the menu since the time Golden Dragon opened. The other favourite was the crunchy Lotus root and celery dimsum. These were lapped up with sweet chilli sauce, the best I’ve had in Mumbai so far. Golden Dragon has one of the best dimsum selection in the city and has a special dimsum lunch menu on Sundays.
The Standing pomfret (named so because it’s presented in a way that it looks like it is standing) – steamed pomfret in a sweet and sour sauce was more appealing visually. The sauce somehow overpowered the fish. From the main course I loved the Konjee crispy lamb – spicy stir fried lamb, another favourite at every Chinese restaurant. The Fried rice was light, mildly flavoured with fresh and crunchy vegetables and so was the Hakka noodle.
What I loved about their dessert is that they were not your run-of-the-mill honey noodles with ice-cream etc. The Toffee banana – banana coated with sticky toffee, was a bit of a struggle to eat but the Candied ginger and bitter chocolate dimsum was absolutely beautiful. Served in an orange reduction, it had fresh litchis as garnish.
The perfect ending to this absolutely soulful meal was meeting Chef Hemant Oberoi, the Executive Chef (and a legend) at Taj Mahal Palace.
It’s delightful to see that a city where restaurants open and shut every few months, places like Golden Dragon have held their ground and are serving great food despite the tough competition from stand-alone restaurants.