Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Golden Day, Soho

It was always going to be tricky visiting a Hunanese restaurant with someone who didn't eat spicy food; the flavours typical of the cuisine are said to be chillis, smoke and garlic. Said to be a dry heat, Hunanese food is less numbing than its Sichuan neighbour, and involves a lot more smoked and cured meats. We thumbed through the enormous menu at Golden Day, and my eyes grew wide as all the pictures of the dishes depicted chillis. Lots and lots of chillis. I secretly cursed our intolerant companion. Kelp salad started us off, slivers of slimy seaweed doused with oil and chilli though served a bit too cold.

Chairman Mao braised pork was probably the only dish I could find that didn't look like a fire-bomb. Wibbly wobbly chunks of pork belly braised in a soy sauce were tender and flavoursome, chunks of spring onion freshening the dish. We could have done with the rice we ordered at this point to soak up all the sauces, but unfortunately the five of us were given one dish at a time, painfully slowly.

Dry pot tender chicken was a dish I remembered from Jay Rayner's review; chunks of chicken doused in chillis slowly bubbling under a little flame, sauce intensifying more and more as time goes on. This was rejected by half our group as the chicken was bone-in and quite fiddly - the fools! It was delicious.

Hunan-style aubergines were silky but slightly lacking in flavour. It, like most vegetable dishes, would have benefitted with the addition of some pork.

Strangest dish of the night goes to the sweetcorn cakes. I thought they would be much like the ones I make, but they appeared to be made with glutinous rice flour; they were sticky and intensely gooey. They lacked a certain something, but were quite addictive when dipped into the braised pork belly juices.

Smoked pork with home-pickled radishes was excellent. The slices of pork tasted like bacon, and the pickled radish was at once crunchy and sour. It was a salty dish which needed rice, but one unlike I've had before in Chinese cuisine.

A tofu dish with pork and cloud ear mushrooms was equally good, the spongy tofu making a great texture contrast with the slimy mushroom. There were far more dishes I wanted to try, such as steamed fish head with home-made chilli sauce and plain noodles, and steamed potato balls with chilli sauce which needs revisiting with more adventurous diners. We were disappointed with the service though; it took us ages to get anyone's attention, and when we asked for tap water we were told firmly 'still or sparkling only', which when charged at £2.40 a glass seems cruel and greedy, especially with the level of chillis applied. Still, until I can find another decent Hunanese restaurant, I'll go back.

Golden Day

118 - 120 Shaftesbury Avenue
London W1D 5EP

Tel: 020 7494 2381


bron said...

Had a quick dinner there one night. Liked the food a lot, but the service pretty much matched yours.

Good to see you added pork juices to the corn cakes - bet it improved them no end!

Joshua said...

Looks interesting, especially the smoked pork and bacon.

In China the norm was to serve the rice at the end of the meal, you literally ate everything then got given a bowl of plain rice at the end. Used to annoy the hell out of Leah.

Hugh Wright said...

I'm amazed that you would go back to a restaurant where the food sounds fine at best, service is poor and water is charged for at criminally extortionate prices!

Sharmila said...

I go here a lot, especially for the pork with the dried radish, as it is one of my favourite Hunanese dishes. The hand torn cabbage is also pretty gorgeous, as well as the fish with pickled chillies.

Shame about the water - have always managed to get tap water there, so hopefully having a bad day rather than adopting some stupid hardline policy.

On a Hunanese tip, Local Friends in Golders Green is fab, though far away. Haven't tried out the new Ba Shan, which now has a mainly Hunanese menu, though have heard good things.

Lizzie said...

Bron - Pork juices improve all!

Josh - That would drive me mad too. But our rice came as the second dish, with nothing else on the table.

Hugh - If I made it sound fine at best then I didn't do very well - it really was very tasty which is why I'd go back. Service won't get in the way of my good eating.

Sharmila - Well! Well well! Perhaps we weren't firm enough. How odd. I wanted the fish with pickled chillis but we were with a chilli-intolerant and a fish-hater :( Gawd, but Golders Green is far... I might give Ba Shan another go - the first time I went I really wasn't impressed.

Mr Noodles said...

I had the dry pot but with duck rather than chicken, and it was my fave when I came here. Good to see that the chicken was on the bone cos you get more flavour that way.

You're also so spot on about the half of your group that rejected the chicken - they're fools. Mind you, I guess there was more for you.

Donald Edwards said...

Hi Lizzie, I've always been under the impression that restaurants are legally obliged to serve tap water if requested, I will have to check this though..

gastrogeek said...

I've developed an inherent mistrust of any place that won't serve tap water....would be interested to know how much the final bill came to.

Sharmila said...

Lizzie - I went to Ba Shan last night and I would most definitely say give it another go. It is effectively now a Hunanese restaurant, and the waiter explained they kind of got it wrong first time round, but now the Hunanese chef is in place, everything is going well.

Definitely the best Hunan food I've had in London - some finesse and they didn't skimp on the chilli.

LexEat! said...

we are giggling at your line about improving veg dishes ... Totally agree.

Thea said...

Hmmm. I have been meaning to try this but it sounds like it is a little variable and their water policy is probably illegal!

I was very impressed with the new menu at Ba Shan when I went. I would definitely recommend it, for a comparison if nothing else.

Gourmet Chick said...

That is SO annoying about the tap water - one of my pet peeves. Otherwise it all sounds good and I really want to try more Hunanese food.

hengki b.p. newspage said...

Smoked pork? Sometimes I eat pork. Hemmmmm. Delicious. While I still remember, greetings to you Best Wishes a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Best wishes going next year.