Monday, January 25, 2010

Golden Unicorn a.k.a. Chinese Love Boat

I'm always up for a food adventure, even if there's a chance I might leave hungry or have a terrible experience. The prospect of that doesn't really bother me a bit--how else would I discover the really great places if I didn't take a few leaps? Living in New York City offers so many opportunities to try new things, including the strange and confusing. It would be impossible to actually try everything this crazy place has to offer.

This weekend, I did some serious food-ing. Every meal I ate all weekend was outstanding, but one in particular really takes the cake. Not that the food was flawless, there were a few grease bombs at the table, but the experience will have me in stitches for a long time to come.

The Golden Unicorn deep in Chinatown was truly an experience to behold. Written up as having excellent dim sum (some said the best in NYC) and moderate prices, it seemed like a perfect place to go with a group on an otherwise boring Saturday night. We quickly learned that you may go to the Golden Unicorn for the food, but you stay for the experience (but not too long or you may lose your vision from the overwhelmingly bright lights). We enjoyed almost three hours of delicious food, new flavors, decent drinks, a waitstaff that was very friendly, and nonstop laughs. Here are some highlights.

We made a reservation in advance, assuming such a place would be packed on Saturday night. When we arrived at the entrance down on East Broadway (practically under the Manhattan Bridge!), we were greeted by a woman in a kimono-type getup who seemed to be expecting us right at that moment. The entrance looked like an office building with no hints of a restaurant or other people, but then we were ushered into an elevator. At the second floor, we entered a huge banquet-type room with very, VERY bright white lights. There were royal blue lights accenting the ceiling and the room was filled with large round tables with white tablecloths. There was a stage-type area with a few tables that had a loud sculptured background of dragons in red, green, and gold and some exotic chandelier sort of fixtures on certain parts of the ceiling. Other than a large Chinese family seated far in one corner and another small party, we were the only ones there. This place was crazy.

Delectable Dim Sum Sampler

We got a lovely dim sum sampler for the table that offered steamed pork dumplings, steamed shrimp ball dumplings, and a spinach-potato-celery type dumpling that was fantastic. They were all wrapped in clear rice paper. The fried pork dumplings were apparently the best ones ever made and the boys ordered a second round of them. We munched happily, laughed a lot, and got into the Chinese banquet groove, not realizing how much food was about to come to the table.

Sam and Hua carving the Peking Duck

All of us ordered an entree, including a whole Peking Duck. As the food arrived, we knew we were in trouble. The Peking Duck was carved table-side and made into two dishes. The beautiful, glossy, lacquered skin was carved and folded into puffy little steamed bun pockets. The duck then disappeared and we wondered if it was coming back. It reappeared shortly after in the form of a chopped up stir-fry with veggies and spooned into lettuce leaves. They were beautiful, but there was A LOT. Luckily the servers were practically force-feeding us. We also had really great fried rice, Chinese vegetables, honey garlic chicken, and mushroom bean curd rolls.

A few hours later, we had worked through most of the food. Retinas burnt and stomachs stuffed, we waddled to the darkest bar we could find for a nightcap. This place was a really great time and had some delicious offerings. If you want some great food and a free show to boot, try Golden Unicorn next time you get the hankering for something new and bring your sunglasses.

Xie Xie (pronounced see see ya) Golden Unicorn for a great night! That's 'thank you' in Mandarin.

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