Golden Gate – Waukesha

September 16, 2007

Short Take: A vastly over-rated (literally) Chinese restaurant with mediocre food.

Long Take: A couple of weeks ago, Higgins and Willamina were looking for a new, good restaurant to try. Higgins, feeling rather clever, decided to search for a good restaurant via the internet. A search for top rated restaurants in the Milwaukee/Waukesha area turned up several articles about the Golden Gate restaurant. According to these artlcles, the Golden Gate has been voted 1 of the top 100 Chinese restaurants in the United States — TWICE! Wow. One of the 100 best Chinese restaurants in the small town of Waukesha, WI? That sounds too good to be true.

It is.

Higgins and Willamina decided to try out this local gem. They drove right past the restaurant the first time. It was hard to recognize in the old strip mall set back from the road. When they did find it, they were torn. The outside did not inspire confidence. On the other hand, the parking lot was full. Usually a good sign. As they walked in they were greeted by a very large Buddha and a poster advertising the restaurant’s most recent “Top 100” award. Inside the second door, they were greeted by more of the same– the stereotypical red cloth and hanging lanterns of every Chinese restaurant AND more posters from the “Top 100” contest. At the check-out counter, as they waited for someone to put their name on a list, they found another jade Buddha and a stack of “Vote for Us” cards.

The wait for a table was only fifteen minutes. Higgins and Willamina chose to wait by the door rather than in the bar. The Golden Gate has a full bar–much like you would find in a typical Wisconsin supper club. Long bar. Lots of stools. Many older people smoking at the bar. Televisions over the bar playing racing and/or football. And a few red hanging lanterns. (Buddha, apparently, stays on the restaurant side of the Golden Gate.) The bar was very full, very loud, and very, very smoky.

Higgins and Willamina were eventually shown to their table. A quick glance around showed a full dining room– the patrons almost exclusively caucasion and predominently over the age of 60. Niether Higgins nor Willamina are racist nor ageist, but when an Asian restaurant’s clientelle has the same look and demographic as the Denny’s down the street, they do begin to wonder.

The meal was a horrible disappointment. Even the water was an unpleasant experience. (It tasted very much like fish.)

In the many reviews and newspaper articles, people raved about the Golden Gate’s “Crab Delight Ragoon.” Willamina decided to try an order. Higgins, ever fond of samplers, ordered the Appetizer Plate (Egg Roll, Beef Kabob, Crab Ragoon, Shrimp Toast, Cantonese Fried Chicken, Fried Shrimp, and Shrimp Chips.) For entrees, Willamina chose the Kung Pao Chicken; Higgins, the Sesame Chicken. Willamina, being of delicate constitution, asked the waiter how spicy the Kung Pao would be. The waiter assured her it could be made extremely mild.

Crab Ragoon – The plate of six fried stuffed won-ton skins arrived. They were very large and exceptionally greasy. They were overcooked. The inside seemed to have only the barest hint of crab. We’ve had worse Ragoon, but we really can’t remember when.

Appetizer Plate – The only things of interest on this plate were the Shrimp Chips. Apparently, they can now take shrimp paste, feed it through some sort of extruder, and create styrofoam peanuts that taste like rancid shrimp. Interesting. Tasty? No. The Beef Kabab wasn’t greasy. That is the only good thing I can say about it.

The entrees arrived none-to-soon. Higgins and Willamina were somewhat surprised. Usually, portions at Chinese restaurants are, if anything, excessive. One need not worry about portion management at the Golden Gate– it is all taken care of by the kitchen. The medium-size oblong plates were each only half full. In this case, this turned out to be more of a blessing than we realzed.

Kung Pao Chicken – The Kung Pao Chicken had an over-abundance of celery. It also had an over-abundance of spicy hot. Neither Willamina nor Higgins could eat it. Oddly, the parts of the dish lacking in tongue-burning seasoning were also lacking in all other seasoning and taste.

Sesame Chicken – The menu described the Sesame Chicken as having a honey-based glaze. This was quite true. The six or seven chicken pieces (small pieces) were coated with, bathing in, a sickeningly sweet honey sauce. Higgins is famous for having a sweet tooth and he found the sauce to be cloyingly repulsive.

The waiter never did check in with us to see how our dishes were. When we were obviously not eating anything else on our plates, he did swing by and drop off the bill and the stereotypical packaged fortune cookies and two almond cookies.

The almond cookies crumbled when we touched them and the crumbs tasted like the water, only fishier. The fortune cookies? Higgins’ fortune read “Would you like to work in a Fortune Cookie Factory?” A fitting end to the meal, really.

How does such a place get the honor of being one of the top 100 Chinese restaurants in the country? The old fashioned way– they buy it. At the register, while paying the bill, Higgins looked at the voting cards they were handing out. If you vote for the Golden Gate, you are entered into a contest to win free food. The Top 100 “contest” is sponsored by the Chinese Restaurant News. It is purely a marketing campaign with no form of quality control or quality judging.

Apparently, democracy isn’t the best way of doing everything– at least not when combined with capitalism.

Higgins and Willamina will not be returning to the Golden Gate.
And from now on, they will take what they read on the internet with a grain of rice.