At the Golden Chopstick, the no-frills decor belies outstanding food

November 27, 1992|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Restaurant Critic

I have a find for you: a Chinese restaurant where the food is as good as any in the city and everything, except for the Peking duck, costs under $10.

OK, you ask, what's the bad news?

The bad news is that the Golden Chopstick, which opened in Parkville about a year ago, isn't exactly a festive place to eat. The large dining room is decorated like Chinese restaurants from an earlier era: red tablecloths, Chinese lanterns, an aquarium. It's not a very cheerful room, and having a loud TV in the background doesn't help either. There's no liquor license, in case you want one of those drinks with the little umbrellas. And the Golden Chopstick doesn't accept credit cards.

But three of us got an excellent dinner, with enough leftovers for another meal or two, for about $30. If the decor doesn't thrill you, you can always carry out; and if you want a drink, you can always carry in.

The owner and chef of the Golden Chopstick is Ming Lee, whose father was head chef at Jimmy Wu's, once Baltimore's best-loved Chinese restaurant. This is Mr. Lee's second establishment, and he's certainly got the food part down. The only question is whether he can sustain the quality when there's a crowd. (We were the only people there one Sunday night.)

Mr. Lee urged the three of us to start with won ton soup, which he had just finished making, and it's an excellent version. Fried dumplings also tasted freshly made and were unusually good.

While the menu is, for the most part, very traditional, you will find a few uncommon dishes. Don't miss the Sichuan won ton, a platter of tender noodles stuffed with pork. They're bathed in a smooth, mild peanut sauce touched here and there with a startling zing of red pepper.

Dishes are seasoned as I like them here, not too much salt, not too much MSG, not so spicy that the heat overwhelms the other flavors. If you like your Sichuan dishes very hot, order them accordingly. For a main course, I recommend the sesame chicken. Usually I stay away from fried foods in Chinese restaurants, but this would be an exception. The crisply coated nuggets of chicken were enhanced by a spicy, slightly sweet sauce and arranged with fresh, brilliantly green broccoli. Another dish with an ingratiating sauce was beef Hunan style, which had tender strips of beef and lots of vegetables. Our third dish, Lake Tung-Tung shrimp, balanced our fiery food beautifully. Small, fresh shrimp and vegetables were bathed in a mild sauce gently flavored with white wine.

I'm not saying that you'll find much at the Golden Chopstick that you've never tried before, but if our meal was any indication, what you do get will be prepared properly and served with style. It's like an old-fashioned Chinese restaurant, where you didn't get much in the way of atmosphere, but you could count on good food for the money.

Golden Chopstick

Where: 8025 Harford Road

Hours: Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Fridays, 11 a.m. to midnight; Saturdays and Sundays, noon to midnight.

Credit cards accepted: None.

Features: Chinese food.

Non-smoking section? Yes.

Call: (410) 668-6868.

Price range: appetizers, $1.20-$9.20; main courses, $4.75-$11.

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