It's Sunday night and every high-backed leather chair in the formal-contemporary dining room of Golden Dynasty is occupied. Clearly, people are hungry for such old-fashioned Chinese-American comforts as spareribs, scallion pancakes and lo mein. Now, St. James has a restaurant that knows just how to dish them up.
The new place shares history -- and partial ownership -- with Lotus East, a predecessor that once occupied the now-renovated site. Co-owner Eddie Lui, formerly a partner at Lotus East, greets customers from 20 years ago, along with total newcomers. For everyone, there's gracious, efficient service, with dishes delivered by rolling carts.
Sweet corn soup with crab meat and chicken is meant to serve two but can easily feed five or six. Streaked with egg white, it makes for a satisfying starter. At lunch, hot and sour soup has the appropriate tang, but wonton soup needs help from the salt shaker.
It's worth getting messy from a session with the restaurant's meaty, sticky spareribs, every bite filled with nuance and nostalgia. Scallion pancakes are crisp; steamed crystal shrimp dumplings delicate. And cold noodles with sesame sauce come up rich with peanut flavor.
Although a truly authentic version of diced chicken with hot pepper and peanuts (kung pao chicken) would feature dark instead of white meat, the kitchen knows how to cook white meat chicken so it's moist and flavorful. And if the hot and spicy shredded beef looks sliced rather than shredded, at least it's ultra-tender, stir-fried with julienne carrot and celery and packing a slyly fiery wallop. A milder choice is shrimp with cashew nuts -- fresh, bright and riddled with crunch. Ideal for everyone at the table to share: Shrimp lo mein and/or beef chow fun. And baby bok choy sauteed with garlic for a pop of green.
A server offers steak knives with plum duck, roasted and glazed with a sweet (but not too-sweet) plum sauce. Whether you use Western or Eastern utensils matters less than getting your fair share of that crisp-skinned delectable bird.
Finish as you did when you were a kid -- with ice cream and a fortune cookie.