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Gouden Rivier (Brugge, Belgium)
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2005 Issue: 12(4) page: 10 and 12
This Chinese restuarant is about two blocks from the concert house, across the square in another direction. It is in a residential neighborhood with a simple exterior. That belies it is a classy place, a mite modern, with its chairs covered in yellow tapestry. Here, wine glasses sparkle, and they are set out artistically on yellow paper place mats sitting atop golden damask linen. A single artificial yellow rose adorns each table.
Immediately after being seated, we request chopsticks and heavy plastic ones are put on gorgeous chopstick rests. Ours are blue crouched ladies, their backs the actual rest. This restaurant and its menu, as do virtually all Chinese restaurants in Belgium, has Indonesian-style rice-table set meals. Here, they are intended for two, and they come providing meal ideas for expansion. Many begin with Tomato Soup, others have Hot and Sour, Wonton, or Egg Drop soup.
At Gouden Rivier, the menu says they specialize in Cantonese, Indonesian, and Thai foods of the sea. And, it shows they do buffet catering. The menu features sates and dim sum, oyster and shrimp dishes, even Peking duck. The owners, Christine Tong and Ivan Wong, encourage requests for foods made to order. Their chefs, trained in Indonesia and Hong Kong, are from Malaysia. They themselves are from Macao. They all can cook and hence their ability and desire to deal with specific area requests.
After sitting down, a white rice-fired teapot and a gai wan arrive, complete with covers and saucers. This special tea cup was discussed in Flavor and Fortune's Volume 7(3) on page 6. We adore having our tea served in it. After placing our order, a candle warmer came quickly and they put our plates atop leaving time for them to heat. As there is lots of time before our food arrives, these warmers really did heat them up. They also did keep our dishes warm. In this restaurant, the warmer does triple duty. It heats plates, warms rice, and keeps dishes warm. All this with impeccable service.
Lamb with Black Pepper and Squid with Kung Po Yau Yue Sauce are the first two dishes we order. They are as sophisticated as is the restaurant. Both come with a simple decor of lettuce and tomato and an orange slice. Both are piquant, their vegetables many, and everything cut with class. The Iron Plate Frogs Legs with Garlic and the Prawns in Spicy Sauce comes next. The former is on a sizzling platter that sings and spits when sauce is added. Cleverly, this is done on a gueridon in view of but away from the table. When it settles down, it is placed on the warmer device on our table. The staff at this six-year-old restaurant offers serving dishes two by two. We accept, and all restaurants should do that for those ordering many dishes; it keeps the pace unrushed, the food hot and heavenly.
The Scampi in Mango Sauce, the Squid with Curry Sauce, and the Roast Peking Duck, as well as the Oysters served Two Ways, and more are some of the examples we enjoyed that accomplish what these proprietors set out to do, provide good Chinese food and serve it well. They make dishes with care that bring complements to the chef, and please their mostly-local non-Chinese customer base; they pleased afficionados like us, too.
This Chinese restaurant seats sixty downstairs, has thirty more seats upstairs, and has very few in staff. In spite, or maybe because of this, they do manage to serve everything in a timely manner and with class, and they do accomplish all they set out to do.