Like many Chinese women, I grew up eating dim sum, a type of meal involving small individual portions of food. While I don’t speak Cantonese fluently, thanks to my dad, I know what I like to order. When I walk into a crowded, noisy dim sum restaurant full of patrons calling out to the passing carts showcasing tiny steaming appetizers, meat dishes encased in bamboo trays, and small plates of fried gelatinous… stuff, I may not know the names of everything, but it sure does bring back memories of eating with my family.
Unfortunately, I didn’t appreciate it then nearly as much as I do now. This is why, now that I’m much older and wiser, I take note when I find a Chinese restaurant that reminds me of the ones I used to frequent as a child. My dad, being the expert at picking out good restaurants, would take the guesswork out of finding a good place when I was younger. On my own here in San Francisco, next to a huge Chinatown that speaks a language I can only catch wisps of, I hate to say that I am a little intimidated.
Enter Gold Mountain. This restaurant is actually two stories high, and at night you might see the upstairs closed due to a huge gathering of Chinese families together for a wedding banquet. When you walk in, you tell the host how many in your party and they will nonchalantly wave you in a general direction where there is seating. You may have to dodge carts whizzing by or sneak around tables where there are children running loose, but when you get to a table that seats your party you can sit down, relax, and immediately eat.
Your job is to flag down any and all carts that look like they have something you’d like to try, and let them know what you want. You can also look at the a la carte menu and try to catch a waiter to order something from the kitchen. My favorites to order from the carts include the classic BBQ pork steamed buns, sticky rice and chicken wrapped in lotus leaf (ask for law-mie-gie), and a sweet egg custard tart (dan-tat). My seafood-eating friends enjoy the shrimp dumplings (ha-gow). And from the menu, I like to order the fried noodle dish with pork. This is a dish I’ve tried to order from the more Americanized Chinese restaurants, and it just tastes awful in comparison to Gold Mountain’s version.
If all the commotion and the yelling sounds like too much work, don’t blame the restaurant. This is dim sum. It’s as familiar to me as the loud booming voice my dad would use to send carts flying to our table. It’s this sense of nostalgia combined with the taste of the dishes which verifies the legitimacy of this restaurant.
And not to worry—when my family last visited me, we ate here and my dad gave a nod of approval.
San Francisco, CA 94133