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As Good As Golden

Golden Sun

Just a bit of pocket change purchases bite-size treasures from Golden Sun's dim sum menu

By Andrew X. Pham

DIM SUM ONCE A WEEK breaks up the daily monotony of croissants, muffins and bagels. An affordable detour for late risers and early lunchers, Golden Sun restaurant serves dim sum from 10:30am to 2:30pm every day. All dim sum items are $1.50 each, possibly the lowest price in the Western world. Although the quality of the dim sum rates mostly between fair and good, brunch for two here costs a mere $12.48 (seven dim sum plates and all the tea one can drink), tax included.

From the strip mall parking lot, the restaurant resembles any other neighborhood Chinese diner. Through glass doors and a mirrored foyer lies a quiet dining room completely insulated from sunlight and traffic. Linen cloaked (and plastic covered) banquet tables and porcelain seem at odds with the worn edges of establishment: water-stained ceiling tiles, fraying menus and scuffed paint. No ambient music intrudes on table conversation, in keeping with Chinese sensibilities. Unlike most restaurants, Golden Sun has no dim sum maids to parade the food around the room in carts. Each table fills out an order form and the waitress serves food directly from the kitchen. Service is fast and friendly.

Translated, dim sum means "pieces of the heart," the Chinese way of saying how much effort a cook invests to make 10-course meals with bite-size morsels. Hence, in reciprocating appreciation, there is a "dim sum etiquette" that a novice diner would do well to note. First, never pierce a morsel with chopsticks to pick it up. Second, tea is the only suitable beverage to accompany dim sum. Third, for a pair of diners, drink one small pot of tea for every three plates of dim sum. Fourth, choose a variety from each category: steamed, baked and fried. Fifth, refrain from using soy sauce too heavily or frequently.

Many Chinese prefer to start with freshly baked or steamed buns stuffed with meat or custard. Baked BBQ pork buns are usually superior to their steamed equivalent because the steamed dough tends to be bleached and spongy, although both are traditionally rather fatty, sweet and salty with minced pork. One less-rich favorite is the glutinous rice bedded with Chinese sausage, chicken and ground pork. Scoopfuls of this rice are steamed in lotus leaves to impart a mesmerizing fragrance that accents a hot pot of tea very well.

The best deals on the menu are fried crab claws, fried nori-wrapped tofu, steamed homemade dumplings and chive dumplings. A few of the kitchen's less glorious tidbits are scallop dumplings with broth, steamed chicken feet with bean sauce, poached beef tripe and shark fin dumplings.

Dim sum shouldn't be a major brunch outing but rather something inexpensive and casual, enjoyed on a whim or as regularly as one might meet with friends in a cafe for a bite. In this light, Golden Sun is a real bargain.

Golden Sun is located at 4632 Meridian Ave., San Jose (408/267-6550). Email Bargain Bites tips or call 408/298-8000, extension 441.

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From the July 17-23, 1997 issue of Metro.

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