The Golden Kitchen restaurant in Monticello has quickly filled the void left by the closure of the China Star establishment last fall.
Owner Jing Gao and his daughter and restaurant manager Annie Gao opened at 402 W. Center St. on Dec. 7, and early reports are positive.
"I am happy to be here," said Annie Gao, a Hoopeston High School graduate. "I mean I can’t 100 percent satisfy everybody, but for the majority they love it, so I’m O.K. with that."
Monticello-area diners have sent positive feedback her way, and have taken to restaurant specialties that include hot and sour soup, fried dumplings, a sweet and sour chicken lunch special, crab rangoon, a variety of egg rolls, General Tso’s chicken, Singapore noodles and dragon & phoenix. There are also non-Asian items on the menu that range from spaghetti to burritos.
The restaurant that formerly filled the space featured a buffet in addition to providing menu service to customers. But when they closed, the space was divided in two, making a buffet a logistical problem due to less space. For that reason the restaurant is dine-in only with 13 tables and booths.
"My dad had a large buffet other places, but as time has gone on people like dine-ins. Buffets tend to waste a lot of food and people don’t realize that," said Gao.
Jing Gao moved from China to the United States about 30 years ago and worked his way from lower-level restaurant jobs to that of a cook who made his own special sauces. He now owns establishments in Monticello, Hoopeston and Chesterton, Indiana; although the Hoopeston one is temporarily closed until new management is found.
The Gao family, which also includes Annie’s two younger sisters and a younger brother, are living with friends locally as they look for a home in the area.
The restaurant opens at 11 a.m. each day, and is open until 9:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays with extended hours until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. It can be reached by calling 217-762-5678.
Annie Gao said the community has treated her family well.
"It has been going really good. I like small towns; they are peaceful and quiet. And everyone here is so nice. I’ve already started making friends," she said.