Why: If you are looking for a go-to Chinese restaurant where cleanliness is a priority, flavors are fresh and a few out-of-the-ordinary dishes offer a bit of adventure, the Golden City may fit the bill. Unpretentiously situated in a strip mall shared by a martial arts studio and a Mexican restaurant, the Golden City offers family dining and authentic dishes.
Atmosphere: Light, mellow colors paired with warm wood tones promote a serene vibe. Seating consists of booths around the perimeter of the restaurant and tables and chairs in the open floor. Tables are neatly dressed with linen, which brings a touch of class, and booths are attractively upholstered in two colors of fabric instead of the typical wipe-down vinyl.
What I tried: My dining companion and I decided on the Dragon and Phoenix. We also tried the Sesame Chicken and Sautéed String Beans. For our appetizer we had Crispy Shrimp Rolls and for dessert we had the Himalayas Snow Ball.
Sometimes the simple things can really catch one by surprise. This was the case with the Crispy Shrimp appetizer, which I have craved often since trying it. I liken the rolls to a Chinese equivalent of Mexican taquitos. Shrimp is first rolled in a rice paper wrap and then deep fried. The result, a finger-size delicacy, is made perfect by the sweet sauce that’s served alongside.
Of our entrees, we ranked the Dragon and Phoenix at the top. This dish pairs General Tso’s Chicken with sautéed shrimp and vegetables in a light sauce. The chicken had an appetizing roasted quality and the coating wasn’t too thick. The sauce distinguished the dish and enhanced the chicken without overwhelming it.
The shrimp and vegetable mixture gave a fresh impression with vegetables that remained pleasantly crisp and shrimp that wasn’t fishy.
Although the Sautéed String Beans were a bit salty, they were perfectly blistered and still possessed a wonderful garden snap to them. They were enhanced by the minced garlic included in the dish.
The Sesame Chicken was tasty but the chicken was sliced very thin and it was a bit tough to chew. Bigger pieces of chicken would make this dish shine.
Dessert was a simple vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup, which was elevated a bit by a sprinkling of shredded coconut. A maraschino cherry sat atop. It was a delicious end to our meal and inspired me to re-create it at home.
Highlights beyond what I tried: Though tofu isn’t usually enough to move me, the Deep Fried To-Fu with Garlic Sauce did intrigue me. Also, the Bird’s Nest Delicacies sounded delicious — shrimp and scallops sautéed with fresh vegetables in a special sauce and served in a potato basket.
Unfortunately, Golden City was out of the Lichee Nuts, found on the dessert menu, when I visited. I was told these are very good.
Other observations: The Golden City exceeded our expectations and I’m looking forward to a return visit. The staff is warm and friendly and very helpful with menu suggestions. They also checked back often to ensure all our dining needs were met.
Cost: The items on the lunch menu are $7.50 and under. Golden City specials are under $15, as are the more common Chinese dishes. Appetizers range from $2 to $6.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday. Noon to 10:30 p.m. Saturday. 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
Where: 6204 N.E. Highway 99, Suite A, Vancouver.
Health score: Golden City received a score of 13 on May 12. Zero is a perfect score, and Clark County Public Health closes restaurants that score 100 or higher. For information, call 360-397-8428.