Golden Lake 湖濱海鮮酒家Posted: 03/10/2013
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been to Golden Lake in the past year or so– including both dim sum and dinner visits, I’d ballpark it around a dozen. For my family, that’s a lot, since we tend not to go out to Chinese restaurants too often (it’s usually just my mom and I, and you can’t really order much if there’s only 2 people eating it). This time around though, we went with my dad and Samson, to enjoy the short Alaskan King Crab season, which runs roughly from the middle of February to mid-March, depending on the amount of crabs shipped over.
My mom, dad and I actually wanted some king crab last week, but as it was just the three of us (and we weren’t feeling exceptionally hungry), we decided to wait a week so that Samson could join us too. Our visit wasn’t all for nothing, as we did have one of my all-time favourite dishes, Peking Duck ($26.99/2 courses)!
Here, they bring out the entire roast duck and slice it for you at the table– a little entertainment to go with your dinner, if you will. Some may find Peking Duck incredibly unhealthy (it is mostly duck skin, after all), but I think that this is the bestest thing ever. No, really. If prepared right, the crisp duck skin, wrapped in a thin steamed pancake, drizzled with a little hoisin sauce and topped with slices of green onion is a real delicacy– my favourite restaurant for this is actually in Hong Kong, but I do like the one offered at Red Star Seafood Restaurant (on South Granville Street in Vancouver). The one they offer here at Golden Lake is quite good, but the skin isn’t quite as crispy as I’d like. I appreciate that they include a little bit of meat with the skin, so that it doesn’t induce tooooo much guilt.
Now, since throwing out the rest of the duck would be an utter, horrifying waste, most restaurants offer it served in an additional one or two ways. We opted for one other course, and this came out soon afterwards in the form of the Lettuce Wraps. Here, the duck is chopped up and pan-fried with water chestnuts (for that satisfying crunch), green onions and plated atop crispy wonton skins. Again with hoisin sauce as a condiment, you would put a few spoonfuls of the duck mixture into the freshly cut lettuce, and eat it taco-style. I’ve been to restaurants where this isn’t executed very well, because the lettuce is ripped up oddly, creating crevices for the cubed meat to fall out of. At Golden Lake, the lettuce leaves are whole, and there were quite a few pieces too. I like this dish for its differing flavours and textures– you have crisp lettuce and wonton wrappers, crunchy water chestnuts and chewy duck, and it’s all a mingling of sweet and salty that just seems to work out. For reference, the third course is often a duck soup or “gung”, which is a starch-thickened soup.
You probably came here to read about our adventures in the wonderful spiky world of the Alaskan King Crab, so without further ado, here it is! King Crab, like most seafood, is served by the pound, and Golden Lake is currently selling it for $16.99/pound (I’ve seen it go as low as $12.99 last year). The King Crab in itself is also a three-part meal, and there are many preparation options. The Crab Legs always come up first, and we chose to have them steamed with garlic and green onion. Eating crab is often the bane of my Chinese restaurant visits– I love it, but I’m lazy and I hate getting my hands dirty. With King Crab though, all that isn’t such a big deal, as the legs are served split open, and it’s as easy as eating lobster — you just pull it out with the little fork! These were prepared perfectly, as the fluffy, sweet meat just slipped right out. As well, the minced garlic was steamed to the right point, so they weren’t overly spicy from rawness, but still had that great garlicky taste.
The next course consisted of the Crab Knuckles, which could be prepared with a seasoned salt rub (tsew yim) or battered lightly and tossed with dark soy, green onions, ginger and onions. We chose the latter, as its our usual preference for crab and lobster, but I hear that the seasoned salt is a more traditional approach to it. The knuckles came out steaming hot, and were again very well executed– the batter was very, very light, and the soy sauce seasoning wasn’t too salty. As well, the crab meat was still fluffy, and wasn’t drowning in oil. This take on the dish is a little messier than the legs, as you have to do a little work to pick out the crab; however, I thought that the work was definitely worth it, and I’d love to have this dish again.
Served shortly after the knuckles was our requisite veggie dish, the Baby Bok Choy with Gingko Nuts and Bean Curd in Broth ($15). We had ordered this dish during another visit, and felt that the simplicity of it would go well with our decadent meal tonight. There really isn’t too much to say about this– the veggies were cooked properly, the broth was appropriately seasoned– it wasn’t a fantastically stellar dish, but it did the job.
The very same minced garlic and green onion mix (actually taken from the empty platters of crab legs) is used as the broth base for noodles in the third course. I found this practise to be a little puzzling (hence, why it was important to use a separate pair of chopsticks to pick up the legs), but it made sense in the end, as the Garlic Noodles were infused with that delicious crab aroma from the first course. For this course, you could choose from e-fu noodles (a spongy thick egg noodle often served with lobster) or sang mein, which is the kind you’d see in a bowl of wonton noodles. We chose the sang mein, as it tends to soak up more of the sauce; e-fu noodles need more oil to be cooked well, and we thought it would probably overwhelm the dish. Along with garlic, this veggie dish is cooked with bean sprouts, chives, and green onion. The noodles were cooked al dente and were quite chewy, but I thought that there was a bit too much water in the dish, making it wetter than I would have liked. The garlic was pretty overpowering in this dish, and I found it a smidge too salty for my tastes.
As for the King Crab itself, it certainly was an indulgence– our crab was just under 10 pounds, making the price for the crab about $170; to make it into a 2 course meal, you need to add $28; and to get the noodles, you have to add another $15. If you’re keeping count, that means we nearly spent a whopping $240 for a meal for 4 people, and that’s definitely not something we’d do every day. If you have the funds for this kind of a splurge, I’d say go for it (at a reputable restaurant so your money doesn’t go to waste). As for myself, I don’t know if I would have king crab anytime in the next few years…
Sometimes, instead of a noodle course, the Alaskan King Crab head is used as a container for baked rice; however, our server Peter (the floor manager, I believe), recommended that we go with the noodle dish, as our head didn’t have much meat in it, and we’d get more bang for our buck with the noodles. His presence as our server on both nights was much appreciated (though was a little too talkative at times…), as he gave us great advice with regards to portion sizes, and how many dishes we should order. There was never any pressure to order more food (or more expensive food, on our Peking Duck night), our tea and hot water was always filled up, and our plates were always being changed over. We did go eat at a later time (we ordered our food around 8pm), but I’ve been during peak hours for both dim sum and dinner, and service is equally good then. After finishing yet another satisfying meal with fresh-baked almond cookies and taro-tapioca dessert soup, I hope that you’d find the same service and quality here that makes Golden Lake one of my favourite restaurants!
3555 East Hastings Street