When I was a teenager, I used to visit Jung’s Golden Dragon on Veteran’s with a friend and his father. It was a weekly trip for them, and I was always grateful to be invited. The location wasn’t the greatest, but the food was always very good, at least to my mind. Jung’s has now moved to 3009 Magazine St., in a space that was most recently a hybrid Chinese-Japanese restaurant that did neither cuisine justice. Jung’s Golden Dragon (Golden Dragon II, actually) serves the kind of food that the well-appointed space deserves.
The exterior of the restaurant is not yet what the owners envision –– they have had some holdups with the dragon banner they intend to place across the façade –– but the interior is one of the more elegant spaces in which to enjoy Chinese food in New Orleans. It’s not a big place, and the sushi bar’s continued existence is an anomaly, but the overall ambiance is refined and understated, with light-colored wood used throughout the dining room.
The décor matches the quality of the food. The standards are all represented. Fried won tons, shrimp toast, crab Rangoon and barbecue ribs are all available, but the menu also includes onion pancakes; a beef noodle soup prepared “Taiwan style”; and two Korean noodle soups, Jong-Pong and Ul Mien, both holdovers from a time when Jung’s regularly hosted dozens of Korean businessmen for private dinners. Like a few Chinese restaurants in the area, Jung’s also has a “Chinese” menu. Both are clearly visible at the hostess station, but if you’re not a regular, you’ll likely have to ask to get the more exotic menu. There is some crossover between the menus, including the onion pancakes, the Korean noodle soups and boiled fish or beef with vegetables served Szechuan style, but the Chinese menu is the only place you’ll find such things as jelly fish in garlic flavor, sliced beef and ox tongue in chile sauce, steamed salty duck and sautéed fish meat with pine nuts.
On a recent visit, I tried the boiled beef with Szechuan chile oil: slices of brisket served in a peppery broth full of vegetables and whole dried chiles, with a fine sheen of spicy oil on top. It wasn’t as spicy as I anticipated; indeed, the ground pork with vermicelli noodles, which Ms. Jung told me is called “ants climbing a tree” in China, was a bit spicier. That dish doesn’t resemble ants or trees, but the thin, translucent bean thread noodles and ground pork are combined with a slightly tart, spicy sauce flavored with garlic and sesame oil, with an addictively delicious result.
I’ve also had the tofu with vegetables in a hot pot, in which fried bean curd triangles are paired with slightly cooked vegetables in a sweetish brown sauce and served in the clay cooking vessel in which the dish was prepared. The sliced beef and ox tongue in chile sauce, served cold, is interesting. Pieces of very tender beef, chewy tripe, gelatinous tongue and other bits of cow are served in a mound, garnished with cilantro and green onions. I’d order it again but only with a few like-minded diners with whom to share.
Cold sesame noodles, an appetizer available on both menus, are a refreshing start to a meal, though I could go through a bowl on my own as a snack. The steamed dumplings are made in-house, and Ms. Jung pointed out that each one bears 18 folds. These are “soup dumplings,” filled with a ginger-flavored meatball and a little gelatin-rich stock that, when steamed, reverts to its liquid state. They’re some of the best dumplings I’ve tried in New Orleans and well worth the 10 to 15 minutes they take from the time you order them. I haven’t yet had a chance to try the Shanghai steamed buns, but they’re on my list for the next time I visit.
The restaurant is open seven days a week, for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on the weekends is serving a Chinese breakfast, including congee rice (a sort of rice porridge), onion and scallion pancakes, steamed dumplings and buns. “Spring” pancakes are also available: thin crepe-like cakes that the diner stuffs with a selection of fillings that Ms. Jung told me changes frequently and that sounded to me like a variation of Mu-Shu.
The restaurant is in a block of Magazine that is more or less book-ended by Sucré on one corner and La Divina Gelateria on the other (actually, that corner is occupied by Joey-K’s, but I like the “book-ended” phrase enough to fudge a little). In the event you don’t find the dessert offerings at Jung’s Golden Dragon to your liking, there is no way to go wrong at either. Jung’s does not yet have its liquor license but is working towards that end. You can reach the restaurant by calling 891-8280, faxing 891-8130 or by e-mailing email@example.com.