Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review: Golden Unicorn (Dim Sum)

I have a terrible memory and can't remember very much about childhood. One of my strongest memories is waking up early Sunday morning once a month to go to Chinatown. We would pack into the car and make our way pass the pushy crowds. We would enter a big building, (with some random questionable store on the bottom) and go up the escalator to the chaos of dim sum paradise. The restaurant was located on Bowery and has an ever changing name (Silver Palace, Golden Bridge..). It was always packed and we'd share a table with strangers. I'd always stick to the safe bets. My choices remain the same today. I would always get the pork and egg congee, shumai, cha su bao, rice noodles, beef chow fun, and egg custard. After dim sum, we always walked around and did some food shopping. Walking around China Town was an obstacle course, especially carrying numerous heavy shopping bags. We were rewarded for our carrying by a treat from Kaman. At Kaman , a grocery store on Canal, I would pick up some Pocky or strawberry gum balls that came in small boxes. I would always open mine on the car ride home.

Dim sum is Chinese brunch. Ladies roll around carts of food which are served tapas style. Each dish comes on a small plate or bamboo steamer consisting of about three items. Choosing what you want to eat can cause me a little anxiety. At times the lady skips your table and you have to flag her down. Other times she yells at you in Chinese and you have about two seconds to figure out if you want what she is serving. It can become difficult if you do not recognize what she has on her cart. Sometimes I ask, "pork?" to try to figure out what she has. It's a good thing that I'm not a picky eater because I am sure she will say yes to whatever I ask. The fun of dim sum is the carts and the large variety of food choices. Since the dishes are shared and small, it is easy to get a lot of different bites.

What's funny is that those China Town trips which were something of a chore became a sentimental memory. Somehow it evolved that every time I visit my sister or she visits me for the weekend we have to get dim sum. Last time she was in New York we tried to go to Golden Bridge, (I believe it was called that at that point) and it was terrible! First of all there were no carts. There was a buffet table with a lady standing behind it who would serve whatever you pointed at and stamp your card. Food choices were limited and everything seemed incredibly greasy.

This past weekend I decided to try a new dim sum place with my friend who had found it from searching reviews online. We went to The Golden Unicorn, which is located in an obscure part of China Town near park row on East Broadway. My friend said the area reminded her of old school China. Small little food shops, fish markets, and lots of noodle places. It was a lot more sparse than around Canal and no one was peddling handbags or perfume. It's a long walk to get to the Golden Unicorn but well worth it. I took the 6 and spent another fifteen minutes walking to the restaurant. If you were in New York last weekend you know how miserably hot and humid it was. The restaurant is on two floors and when you walk in a hostess directs you to either take the elevator up, walk in, or wait. We were directed up stairs. Upstairs no one paid any mind to us and seemed to be very busy. We flagged down a host who told us, "no room go down". Since we saw plenty of extra seats we waited and flagged down another host who immediately sat us.

I was a bit worried about the food because about half of the patrons were not Asian. How authentic is the food really going to be? It only took about five minutes to realize that this was going to be my new dim sum spot. There was constant cart action. Numerous carts kept passing us by with different items. What I liked the most was that even though the cart ladies did not speak English, on the front of the cart were pictures of the items they had (as well as what it was written in Chinese and English).

The food was tasty and fresh. GU had all of my favorites plus seemed to have some more adventurous dishes (tripe, prawn,chicken feet etc.) I ordered my typical fare plus what I believe was Peking Duck. The cart lady hand carved a piece and wrapped it in a bun. The bun also contained a hard, fish? crispy item, and some black bean sauce. Only one small duck taco per order. The duck was the most extravagant item we ate.
Peking duck
I can never figure out how much I owe until the host tallies the bill. Our check was filled with little circle stamps in different colors. The total came to $27.50, which I thought was expensive. Thinking about it more, I realized the last time I went in Boston it was around the same price. Dim sum is still an affordable option but like everything else, prices have gone up.
After dim sum, I stopped by QQ Bakery which is next door to the Golden Unicorn. QQ had about a hundred choices of pastries all very beautiful to look at. I had no idea what any of it was since it was all labeled in Chinese. I pointed at a fruity looking desert and hoped for the best. When I got home to eat it, I was disappointed. I still have no idea what this pastry is suppose to be. The pasty consisted of a layer of orange jello, a layer of a very bland white rubbery gelatin, topped off by a layer of tasteless pound cake. QQ is not worth a stop. Your best bet would be to head back to Fay Da bakery (located on Canal/Mott). Fay Da has a wonderful Japanese Cheesecake.
Golden Unicorn revived my thoughts on dim sum. QQ bakery while very pretty is not worth even the $.95 to $3.00 price pastries.

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