Jung's Golden Dragon Restaurant
3009 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70115
Napoleon Ratings: ***/*****
Jung's Golden Dragon was a fixture along Veterans Boulevard in Metairie for decades, but recently it made a move to Magazine Street at the edge of the Garden District in New Orleans. That was a big change, but it wasn't the only one. At its new address, the restaurant began to more prominently feature traditional Chinese cooking. So now, in addition to the General Tso's chicken and crab Rangoon, you can now ask for the second "Chinese menu" and explore dishes that more closely resemble what people eat around China. The flavors are different and for eaters with a sense of adventure they can be very exciting.
Stick with the American-Chinese menu and everything will be easy as can be. Making the leap to order from the Chinese menu might seem a bit daunting for newcomers, however, who will find only the most sketchy printed descriptions of dishes. The waitresses won't add much to those descriptions, though they may try to steer you away from the more exotic or intense specialty items. Take or leave their advice based on your own sense of dining adventure.
To begin exploring the Chinese menu, or even to just cautiously feed a curiosity about it, be sure to try the dumplings. In theory, this is the same dish that appears on the American menu, but this Chinese menu rendition is far superior. These dumplings arrive stuck together with a crisp, golden-brown shell. Pull one of these apart from the mass, cut it open and you'll find a pork meatball with lots of juice and ginger encased in the soft dough. Even simple-sounding dishes carry distinctive flavor, like the cold Chinese cucumbers cut into sticks and slathered with garlic, crushed peanuts and green onions. There are a number of Chinese and Korean noodle soups, though most of these are family-size and should be split around the table as an appetizer.
Family-style dining is the way to go at Golden Dragon no matter which menu you choose. When ordering from the Chinese menu, this approach is a hedge against getting stuck with an unfamiliar dish that doesn't turn out to your liking, and, more optimistically, it lets everyone sample more from the many selections. I like the pork dishes, especially shredded pork with spicy Szechuan peppers and oils. A milder dish is called "ants climbing a tree," the ants in this case being ground pork and the tree being strands of rice noodle. Peking duck, complete with soup and rice pancakes, is a major specialty that should be shared around the table. Vegetarians should be aware that sometimes dishes that sound safe for them are actually loaded with meat, so inquire first if that's a concern. For instance, the ma po tofu is almost equal parts tofu and pork, but the kitchen can easily make it meatless on request. Baby bok choy with black mushrooms is a good, light option, while the hot pot eggplant is heartier vegetarian fare.
Fortune cookies are about all anyone usually has room to contemplate after a proper meal here.
Golden Dragon has a full bar. The wine selection is terrible but at least it's also inexpensive.
Whether you stick with the American menu or choose the Chinese options, meals here are inexpensive and generously portioned. Most dishes should be split and few venture above $12, though some of the real specialty dishes - like the Peking duck or the whole fish - can be in the high $20 or low $30 range.
The Chinese menu at Jung's Golden Dragon isn't a secret, but it doesn't always automatically come to the table. It should, since it's the best food available here and really not so exotic that most New Orleans diners would be put off. The standard Chinese-American menu offers the normal, value-oriented fare most of us grew up eating in this country. But take a chance with the Chinese menu and you get to experience cooking much more akin to the authentic Szechuan cuisine of China. With a sense of adventure and a little leap of faith, it can make for a meal you won't soon forget.