A Golden Chinese New Year

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - January 25, 2006
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Golden Dragon executive chef Steve Chiang has a passion for re-creating classic Chinese dishes
Golden Dragon executive
chef Steve Chiang has a
passion for re-creating
classic Chinese dishes

Doesn’t it seem like you’re just getting your eating under control and it’s time for another food festival? Of course, this is the worst column to read if you’ve had a successful dieting start to the year, because as articles on low-calorie meals and fat-free foods flood the papers, here I go with my usual round up of irresistible restaurants. Apologies to those in the throes of a diet - but really, take a day off and celebrate Chinese New Year.

I’ve come to enjoy this celebration more as my years in Hawaii have lengthened. I think that the quality of Chinese food here has improved tremendously in the past six years or so. There are still places serving all-you-can-eat lemon chicken in its glutinous glory, and noodles dripping with grease, but some things aren’t going to change.

The Golden Dragon is probably Honolulu’s finest Chinese restaurant. In fact, a better way to think of it is as “fine dining” that happens to specialize in regional Chinese cuisine.

I met with executive chef Steve Chiang the other week and we chatted about his passion for re-creating some of the classic dishes in Chinese culinary history - and how he keeps the menu interesting and fresh with recipes of his own.

One of the most delicious dishes on the menu is a stir-fried lobster tail in curry sauce with raisins and haupia ($34.50). The dish is simply addictive, and it’s not hard to see why it’s among the most popular items on the menu.

Golden Dragon is expensive. Don’t go expecting house special fried noodles for $8. In fact, Golden Dragon’s “house special noodles” will run you closer to $18.25. But, with fresh island fish, scallops, shrimp and vegetables, it’s not your average plate. You’ll pay $45 for Imperial Peking Duck (serves two) and $48.50 for the outstanding Beggar’s Chicken (serves two); both dishes require 24 hours notice. And I promise you’ll leave thinking you’ve never tasted Chinese food like this before. Chef Chiang was born in Shanghai and trained in Taiwan, and brings more than 40 years of experience to Golden Dragon. At times, it’s hard to believe that he puts so much work into some of the dishes - until you taste them. There’s a depth and quality to each dish that is quite remarkable. If you’re prepared to dig deep into your pockets, then you’ll have a wonderful dining experience here. Probably the best time to go is this weekend, when the Chinese New Year menu offers a taste of the restaurant’s signature dishes - at an incredibly reduced price.

The Year of The Dog special menu includes shark fin soup, steamed opakapaka fillet, crispy chicken with sweet papaya chili sauce, roast duck fried rice and chef’s famous stir-fried lobster tail with curry sauce.

This dinner is $56 per person - a great deal.

Local people are pretty switched on to the excellence of Golden Dragon, and New Year’s weekend does tend to sell out (yes, even at those prices), so you might want to call them ASAP to avoid disappointment. If you want to head into the Year of The Dog in a fine-dining atmosphere, overlooking a Chinese garden with a view of the lagoon at Hilton Hawaiian Village, there’s simply nowhere better.

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