Tianjin and Szechuan Dinner at Golden Garlic in West San Jose

Eight congenial diners met at Golden Garlic Restaurant on DeAnza in West San Jose last night for a combination Tianjin and Szechuan dinner. The unusual combination is the product of a husband/wife team from Tianjin and Chengdu.

Our meal included–

Hot & Sour Special Fish Hot Pot (Black bass)
Steamed Fish with Chopped Pepper (Catfish)
Sliced Beef & Honeycomb Tripe in Chili Sauce
House Special Fancy Cut Whole Cucumber
Dry Pork Intestine with Green Pepper
Fried Chicken with Dried Chili Szechuan Style
Steamed Spare Ribs in Lotus Leaf
Potato with Green Chili
Stir Fried Prawn with Lily and Peas
Braised Eggplant, Tianjin Style
Diced Beef with Golden Garlic
Green Bean Crepe, Tianjin Style
Noodle with Thick Gravy, Tianjin Style
Jellied Tofu, Tianjin Style
Goubuli (‘Dog Won’t Touch’) Bao (non-menu item)

The two fish dishes were pre-ordered from the Chef Special Reservation menu.

My favorites of the meal were the Diced Beef with Golden Garlic and the Hot & Sour Special Fish Hot Pot. My first piece of diced beef was perfectly cooked, juicy and tender, with some nice char and great flavor. Not all the pieces were quite that perfect but they were all good. The fish hot pot was very sour, with lots of Szechuan peppercorns.

The mildly spiced Tianjin dishes provided a respite from the spicy Szechuan dishes, though none of the dishes were intensely spicy. A disadvantage of the combination was that it was hard to appreciate some of the milder dishes after eating spicy chilies and numbing Szechuan peppercorns.

Based on its name I had expected the Goubuli Bao to be very interesting but it was rather plain. However the dough provided a good palate cleanser when switching from Szechuan to Tianjin dishes.

The server was friendly and helpful, offering suggestions such as warning us about small bones in the fish hot pot.

After such a large meal something sweet was in order, but they don’t offer any kind of dessert. Fortunately a very short walk away was a food court with a shaved ice & boba place that satisfied our need for sweet.

Thanks to Melanie for organizing our meal and pre-ordering for us, and to the whole group for the very pleasant company.

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Thanks for the report. I recall when I looked up the restaurant it said somewhere that the chef worked at a 5 star place in Tianjin. What do you think about that?

I enjoyed the meal, but it was nowhere near what I would consider 5 star cuisine. All I know about the chef is the comment by the server that he came from Tianjin and his wife is from Chengdu.

Here are some photos of the meal: https://1drv.ms/f/s!An1ziCPZBNP3hkC5nsaFZG3tnZ9R

For the Tianjin dishes, it’s a bit unfair to try to determine where bland ends and subtle begins: eating these two cuisines together is like trying to listen to one person whispering while another is shouting. Or something like that.

Now you’ve made me curious–I’ve seen this sort of resume claim before. Is there a standard meaning for 5* place in mainland China? And if so, is it referring to the fanciness of the place?

The Hot & Sour Special Fish Hot Pot was the runaway winner of this meal. I’ve had the same dish at Happy Golden Bowl in El Cerrito (now renamed) in the era when the China Village waiters were working there, and found the Golden Garlic version to be much better, mostly because of the broth, which was nicely gelatinous, and stood up to the sourness of the preserved vegetables. It is supposed to be ordered a day ahead, because they use fresh catfish.

I have the same question too. Hence the original inquiry to the group to see how the actual food is. I asked my wife, and she said that 5* is supposed to be very good. She thinks there are 6*.

Then again, the only thing that matters is the food they serve now and you ate.[quote=“tm.tm, post:6, topic:7504”]
The Hot & Sour Special Fish Hot Pot was the runaway winner of this meal.
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Is that Sichuan?

Looks like it to me, from say, http://www.wildchina.com/blog/2010/07/simple-sichuan-from-the-heart/ or http://www.chinasichuanfood.com/szechuan-fish-suan-cai-yu/.

Whoops! I misstated which fish was in which dish.
Actually, the catfish was in the Hot & Sour Special Fish Hot Pot and the black bass was in the Steamed Fish with Chopped Pepper.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold