Alright, we’ll admit right off the bat that we don’t know much about Chinese food. There are folks in town, like Lannae Long and her Lannae’s Food and Travel Blog, who we trust for advice on Asian food joints. We do enjoy good Chinese and whenever we’re in Boston, New York, Chicago or San Francisco, it’s a must-do part of our eating itinerary. All that said Nashville is for the most part a disappointment in the Chinese food department. Which is why the foodies have been clinging to the weekend Chinese buffet at Golden Coast: it’s a taste of cuisine you can’t normally get around here and a chance for adventurous eaters to have some fun.
How much fun?
How much fun?
Well, on our recent visit we ended up sampling 30 items between us. Yes, we realize that we are pigs, but they were small servings. There were more than 50 items available on the day we visited, so we could have done more damage.
What sets apart the Golden Coast weekend lunch buffet is that more authentic Chinese dishes make it on the buffet line. The weekday menu is large, and has some good items, but it sticks to pretty much the Americanized favorites, with a few twists here and there.
The weekend lunch buffet stretches before us. I start with the crispy pork skin soup with seafood. It’s a rich, spicy broth with chewy bits of pork skin. Next stop: blue crab rubbed in spices: reasonably fresh crab with an unusually tasty seasoning salt. The fried dumplings have great flavor. Dried bean curd rolls are very dry, crisp and different. That could be said for many of the items. Chicken feet are, as expected, gelatinous, flavorful and something you really have to be a fan of to enjoy. Me, not so much.
There are a number of dishes that while they are not something you usually see on Nashville Chinese menus, still are sure to satisfy the most conservative of diner. Braised beef was a real highlight: tender, a little sweet and full of flavor. The fish in brown sauce is also excellent, served up with a light fry and a delicate, sweet sauce.
If you really want your more well known Americanized standards, don’t worry, you can find them in that buffet line. Honey chicken is a holdover from the weekday menu and it’s good. Sweet and sour shrimp, chicken wings and General’s chicken await; look just next door and what do we find: Sliced beef Szechuan style. It’s served up cold and with nice flavor. They put the tendons to the side so you can choose if you want to add the crunchy, chewy texture to your plate. There are little dishes like this all over the buffet.
Dim Sum makes an appearance on the buffet line. The pork buns have great flavor and rice dumplings come steamed inside a leaf with sticky rice and mushrooms at the bottom. Shrimp dumplings are a zesty bite of spring, with scallions and greens bursting out. This isn’t great dim sum compared to the places in Boston and Chicago we’ve been to, but it is nice to have a Nashville option.
Seafood is a specialty at Golden Coast and certainly on display at the weekend buffet. Salty squid is perfectly fried and salty shrimp delicious as you crunch right through the yielding shell.
Seafood eating or not, there is plenty on this buffet line for veggie eaters.
Veggie Eater: I began with the dim sum items; veggie spring rolls, sesame roll, and red bean puff. I found the fried items to be a bit greasy. The red bean puff was really quite good; slightly sweet and flakey. Next round was the Szechuan bean curd, bok choy with dried bean curd skins, rice noodles, and lo mein. The Szechuan bean curd was good; served with peas (fresh? they had a more legume-y texture than frozen) ,carrots and a simmering red sauce. It had a subtle heat after the fact. The bok choy with fried tofu skins had an interesting texture thanks to the tofu skins. The rice noodles were good and great with the scallion sauce. The lo mein was a bit uninspired. My next round was the seaweed salad; the bean thread noodles (love them) were adorned with sliced seaweed and crisp, julienned veggies (bell pepper, carrots). The green beans were cooked perfectly; crisp/tender. The rice roll was odd; sticky rice and Chinese mushrooms steamed in a giant leaf thing. On the buffet, not counting dessert items, there were at least 14 veggie items; plus a ton of seafood items (I am simply not a seafood fan). Not a perfect meal, but far more inventive than any Chinese restaurant I’ve been to in Nashville and really very good for buffet food. I would come back just for the sake of being able to try something new.
Meat Eater: The décor at Golden Coast is pretty generic. The people make up the difference. Vandy students laugh and regulars commiserate over what is new on the buffet. Entire families come in after church. Meanwhile a science fiction movie plays, sound up, in the dining room. It’s not a bad vibe and for a chance to taste so many different Chinese dishes, it’s probably one of the best options Nashville has right now. We’re glad we followed the foodies to the Golden Coast. Next time we’ll have to check out one of their special menus that they do through the year, especially the Chinese New Year’s 10- course dinner that we have heard so much about. It’s sponsored by the Chinese Arts Alliance.