Golden China, 8851 Central Ave. (at Arrow Highway), Montclair
The sign outside Golden China was glowing as were the paper lantern-shaped lamps outside when a friend and I met here for dinner on a Friday night. I’d never been here but we were drawn by the four-star Yelp rating.
Inside the place is very 1980s, with vinyl booths and mirrored walls. Charmingly old school. (The decor likely originated with Royal China, there from 1987 to 1996; for the record, it was followed by the shortlived Golden Buddha. Golden China opened in 1998. A future incarnation as Royal Buddha would round things out nicely.) There’s a well-stocked bar at which drinks are mixed. You can see the menu here.
We tried two of the specialties, black pepper chicken ($12.55, below) and sizzling rice shrimp ($16, bottom), both as dinners with soup, egg roll, paper-wrapped chicken and rice. The platter of white-meat chicken pieces came with onions and black pepper. My shrimp arrived on a sizzling platter. The dish had a welcome number of large shrimp in a sweet sauce with unusual crisp rice puffs.
My friend and I liked his dish more than we liked mine. When Yelp reviewers rave about the orange chicken, you know you’re not getting cutting-edge food. Ditto when you’re brought a cup of jello to end your meal, as well as the requisite fortune cookie. But the service was efficient and attentive. Not a four-star restaurant, and you can do better, but for Americanized Chinese food, it’s homey.