Taking my own admonition to heart that all hounds should be sleuthing out dim sum all over the Bay Area in the midst of the North-South civil war, I headed over to Golden Dragon in Chinatown Wednesday morning intending to try the dim sum for breakfast. However, at 9:30am the place was completely deserted, not an auspicious sign. So, I poked my head into Great Oriental, a couple doors uphill on Washington Street, a place Id not tried before. In contrast, it was nearly full and the hostess seated me at a large round table to share with other parties. The crowd was all Asian, a mix of modest seniors and hip youngsters, which I took to be a sign that it was either cheap and a bargain or very good. The interior looked recently refurbished with newish carpets, brass fittings, green tiled rooflines and clean live seafood tanks. Servers circulate with trays of dim sum even at this early hour and there was a lot of variety.
The pan-fried turnip cakes looked beautiful with a golden brown crust, but they were too dry with little turnip and not much dried shrimp or bbq pork bits to add flavor interest. Siu mai had a nice coarse cut of pork and good flavor intensity, but were marred by some too chewy pieces of meat and excess gristle. Chicken feet were overly sweetened with a dark soy sauce base and lacking in complexity of seasoning. Steamed spareribs with black bean sauce were too tough and dull in flavor. The best dish was the shrimp rice noodle crepe with delicately flavored succulent shrimp and a tender wrapper. The sauce was a bit on the sweet side (a trend here) but still nice overall.
Nothing was terrible, but the food itself didnt rise above the mass-produced offerings of any number of take-out places in Chinatown. When the bill was presented, the $15.40 including tax surprised me. I had assumed the attraction here would be a lower price than that, more in the $10-$12 range. While I might return for dinner, I dont think Ill be back here for yum cha.