Adam’s mum’s birthday. Another effing Chinese place that needed to be found, this time something different from the Cantonese and Northern Chinese sit-down restaurants that we normally frequent in the city. My workmate George told me of this all-you-can-eat hot pot restaurant in Hawthorn East where $20 per head gets you all the hot pot ingredients on offer and all the hot entrees (dumplings, spring onion pancakes etc) available – plus two free drinks which you can grab from the fridge (a variety of soft drink cans, bottled teas and soy bean drinks). Then for an extra $5 per head, they throw in Peking Duck too. This sounded pretty good to us so last night after work, we drove down to Golden House on Toorak Road.
Located halfway between Coles HQ and rows of million-dollar townhouses, this is the last one that one would find a hot pot restaurant. If it weren’t for the tacky gold-painted house-cum-restaurant flashing its neon signs at motorists and the hoards of fobs surrounding the premises, we probably would have missed it.
Walking into the restaurant, it is even more obvious that it used to be the living quarters of someone. It’s very similar to Jacques Reymond in structure in that each room was a separate dining area, the main one being right in the middle of the house which also housed the fridges and buffet station where we were to get our food. Our original plan was for Adam and I to get the $25 hot pot plus Peking duck option while Adam’s parents got the $20 no duck option seeing as they’re not big fans. We were told, however, that either everyone on the table had to get it or no one gets it. In the end, we all ended up getting it so we handed over our $100 before walking to our table.
Let me tell you now that this place is NOT gweilo-friendly. All the signs are in Chinese and all the waiters speak Chinese. I lost count of how many times I was spoken to in Mandarin before telling them that “I no speak Chinese.” You’d think that they’d immediately revert to English after they heard that, but they simply looked at me confused before frantically looking around for help. Sigh. Thank goodness for Adam’s parents’ ability to speak Mandarin though.
Our hot pot stove, divided into our choices of “normal” soup and “hot” soup.
A variety of raw meats, seafood, vegetables and tofu. Most of the offerings were frozen and similar to what any hot pot place would offer.
Pork buns (they were awful – too salty) and xiao long baos (they had no soup in them).
They had doughtsticks! (sadly, they were the most bland ones I’ve ever had the misfortune of trying)
Peking Duck. I have to admit that Golden House made an alright Peking duck for the price we paid. The best thing was that we could order as much as we want which was even better. The duck was neither dry or oily, and they were good with cutting off the yucky layer of fat underneath the skins which lots of restaurants don’t bother with. Thumbs down, though, for the way they just dolloped the sauce all over the cucumber and spring onions.
There were many things that ruined what could have been a decent night for me. Firstly, the fact that no one there spoke English was appalling. One would think that anyone working in Australia, particularly in a customer-facing role, would have SOME grasp of the English language. Secondly, the place was a mess. I lost count of how many health safety breaches were present in one night alone – sticky carpets, chairs covered in a film of chilli and grease, cooked roast ducks hanging RIGHT NEXT TO uncooked ones, plus Adam and I failed to remember if the buffet station was actually refrigerated or not which, in itself, is a bit worrying. If I wanted to kill my work’s OH&S officer, Mary-Ellen, I would definitely take her here (I don’t have a reason to kill her though… she’s lovely). Thirdly, I couldn’t help but feel disgusted when I saw fobs greedily grabbing plates of meat at the buffet station – like they thought they would run out or something – only to leave the establishment without even finishing the 10 billion plates of raw meat still on their tables which, of course, went to waste. I’m one of those people who HATE the thought of wasting food, particularly meat products, so naturally I was raging inside.
Given our experience, it’s doubtful that I’d go here again. Indeed, Golden House offers pretty much the same thing as most other hot pot places but they take it a step further by introducing the buffet format which is popular among Asians. Plus, the addition of hot entrees and cold drinks also makes this place a good-value option for dinner when you can’t be bothered cooking hot pot at home. Adam and I may have hated it, but the parentals LOVED it. In fact, Adam’s mum went so far to say that it was the best restaurant we have taken her to (?!?!) *facepalms*
And if you need more convincing as to how popular this place is, you only need to look at the many mini-buses of tourists from Mainland China that arrived at this place during the evening…