Brookline, MA 02445
Dining at the Golden Temple reminds me why I decided to start a blog. Last night, when I had a desire to try to spicy Szechuan food, I automatically thought of Chilli Garden in Medford. Then, I thought to myself, why not try something new. So, I dutifully jumped on google to search for good Chinese food in Boston. Having given up on the Zagat's guide as a consistent source of reviews for almost any kind of cuisine, I decided citysearch and google's own user reviews would point me in the right direction. After a few minutes of searching, I found my winner: Golden Temple in Brookline. According to the citysearch editorial review of the Golden Temple, "legions of gourmands claim there's no better Chinese cuisine in the area." The editors of citysearch added that Golden Temple was a "Brookline institution, serving award-winning Chinese fare." No better in the area? Award winning? Wow. Surely this place is a winner, I thought. (A side question I leave unanswered for now is who grants awards for Chinese food? Is there a ratings agency? If citysearch itself awarded Golden Temple an award would it suffice?)
The users of citysearch, or at least 43 of them as of last night, had given Golden Temple a rating of 9.6 overall, out of a possible 10. While some users commented that the food, was at best, "average" many wrote comments like "Golden Temple is simply the best place for Chinese." Google's own ratings provided similar encouragement, with 4 out of 5 stars given to the Golden Palace. With all of this positive encouragement, it was off to Golden Temple for my group.
We arrived at the restaurant around 10:00pm. Unlike most Boston dining establishments, Golden Temple is open late seven days a week and boasts a full menu and bar during its operating hours. A perfect spot, or so we thought. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a very friendly manager who offered to seat us in either the quiet dining section or the bar/club area. Since the dining area, which was clean, large, and well appointment, was empty, we opted for the bar area which had signs of life. The lights were turned fairly low, so it's hard to assess the decorations with certainty, but somewhere between odd and unusual seems to fit the bill. The assistance of the table candle would be required all evening for ordering and finding food items on the table.
Our waiter appeared fairly quickly after we were seated -- a good start, I thought. We ordered a Golden Temple Bowl and tap water was provided as a default. The drink arrived rather quickly -- the bar, which was visible from our seating area, seemed fairly empty. The waiter returned after a bit to take our food order.
The menu contains a long and assorted offering of Chinese food. While I was hoping to find the spicy Szechuan dishes, because I had lingering memories of the citysearch reviews, I did not exercise the caution I would have otherwise exhibited at seeing such oddities as sweet lemon chicken. The menu itself is many pages (think Cheesecake Factory) and offered a sampling of cuisines from around China. We ordered the Scallion Pancakes, the Crab Rangoon, the Moo shu Pork, and the Kung Pao Pork.
After our waiter left, we pondered about many things -- including the other diners, the lack of lighting and the bizarre music. You see, we were seated in the bar/club area where a DJ spins tunes. On this night, we were treated to an eclectic mix of Barry Manilow, Glen Frey (Heat is On from Beverly Hills Cop), and a full serving of elevator music while we waited. I can't say I expected greatness from the music, but found the selection so amazingly odd since there was a large male stationed at the DJ booth with a laptop and itunes "spinning" the music we were listening to. The music was disappointing at best, mind altering at worst.
Our food arrived in a speedy 35 minutes. Given that there were three other tables occupied by diners, I'm not sure the source of the delay. The restaurant advertises fresh ingredients and no MSG. Perhaps the fresh ingredients promise is delivered upon using a just in time inventory system? Our appetizers were poor at best -- the Scallion Pancakes were heavy and lacked the taste that is usually associated with that specialty. The Crab Rangoon, by contrast, was sweet. I sought to ask our waiter to delivery hot sauce or hot oil, but he had disappeared. I finally flagged down the manager, who had the hot sauce delivered for us rather quickly. The Crab Rangoon was merely edible after the infusion of hot sauce.
Our main courses arrived shortly after our plates were cleared. To my great sadness, the Moo shu pork was delivered with flour tortilla instead of the flour moo shoo wrappers (or pancakes) that normally accompany this dish. While tortillas are more durable than moo shoo pancakes (because they are thicker) the taste, texture and smell of the authentic pancake is critical to a good moo shu experience. Disappointed at first, I labored on to prepare my moo shoo dish. Plenty of moo shu filling was provided as was hoisin sauce. The Moo shu filling itself was acceptable and would have garnered a "B" grade had I judged it on its own. Alas, it was not alone. Having finished the moo shu, I moved on to the Kung Pao Chicken.
The Kung Pao arrived steaming hot with carrots, peanuts, scallions and a generous helping of celery. I usually use the Kung Pao as a barometer of a chef's abilities to produce authentic (or as close to authentic that I can judge) Szechuan (or Sichuan) cuisine. Celery in any Kung Pao dish is a chef's white flag to the diner that he or she can't really do the dish justice. Unfortunately, this dish was as bad as I had feared by this point and on par with the other substandard items we had tasted. According to Wikipedia, "a good westernized version of Kung Pao chicken should not be too oily. The sauce, a contrasting blend of fire and sweetness, should cling to the pieces of chicken and season the vegetables, but not coat the peanuts; there should be no pool of sauce on the bottom of the plate." I agree. This Kung Pao had failed by any meaure.
We left much of the food uneaten on the table. No doggie bag was necessary. I wish I could find something redeeming to say about the Golden Palace -- but except for the friendly manager and the incredibly clean automated bathrooms, I really can't. So, lesson learned: beware of food reviews on citysearch, and don't look for gold at the Golden Temple.