A few Sacramento hounds have posted on the food at the Golden Dragon. But despite their recommendations I hadn't managed to make it up there until today. Suffice it to say I regret having waited so long.
The restaurant is incredibly easy to get to; it's within a few hundred yards of the Rocklin Road exit from Interstate 80. It's tucked into an unprepossessing strip mall on Granite Drive. This is the burbs, so there's more than enough parking.
Anyway, I met fellow chowhound c oliver and her husband there for lunch today, and was pretty blown away by the quality of the food. We were served by the owner, a middle-aged woman who speaks limited but reasonably good English. She's very friendly, and was excited that we were interested in food from the "special" menu.
We got the "chilli oil thin-sliced pig's ear" as an appetizer. Served cold, with sliced scallions. Crunchy chewy goodness. We also ordered the "spice dumplings Sichuan style." Silky wrappers around a course-ground pork filling with a generous topping of chili oil, dusted with crushed red peppers and Sichuan peppercorn.
Main dishes were the "dry cooked pork intestine" and the "Szechuan Style Tea Smoke Duck." The chitterlings were sliced on the bias into rounds about 1/3" thick and cooked until most of the fat had rendered out, then crisped up with some dried red peppers, scallions, and celery matchsticks. Slightly chewy, slightly fatty, fairly spicy, and altogether wonderful. For me, though, the tea-smoked duck was the star of the show. Beautiful dark crispy skin, moist meat, and fairly assertive - but not overwhelming - smokiness. Served on lettuce with some hoisin sauce for dipping. Spectacular.
The owner came over and chatted with us several times during the meal, and was visibly pleased at how much we were enjoying our food. She's not hesitant to make recommendations and share her personal preferences. (She has the spicy dumplings every morning for breakfast when she gets to the restaurant. I think I want to change jobs with her.)
When we had finished off our food, she asked us to wait a few minutes for the cook to finish a dessert she'd ordered for us - dollops of red bean paste wrapped in the most flaky, delicate pastry crust you've ever tasted. She says it's good for the stomach after eating spicy food. I don't know about the stomach, but the taste buds were very happy.
Price-wise, apps range from $3 to $7, noodles from $7 to $9, and entrees from $8 to $13 (with a couple of untranslated outliers and seasonal pricing for fresh fish). We stuffed ourselves for $20pp including tax, tip, and a bottle of Tsingtao beer each.
So if you're like me, you're asking yourself "sure, it's good, but who wants to drive to Rocklin?" You do. Seriously. This is a place that deserves to be a chow destination. If you live east of Vacaville or west of Reno on the I-80 corridor, hop in the car. It's worth the drive.