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Golden Phoenix rises from ashes in Oklahoma City

Golden Phoenix restaurant overcomes a serious fire to resume serving even more serious Asian food in Oklahoma City.
by Dave Cathey Modified: August 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm •  Published: August 7, 2012

photo - Stir-fried beef tenderloin over steamed rice from Golden Phoenix in Oklahoma City.  Steve Gooch - The Oklahoman
Stir-fried beef tenderloin over steamed rice from Golden Phoenix in Oklahoma City. Steve Gooch - The Oklahoman

When Golden Phoenix Chinese Barbecue and Vietnamese, 2728 N Classen Blvd., burned down on a winter night earlier this year, the immediate question had to do with ashes and whether one of Oklahoma City's most well-respected Asian restaurants would be able to make like its namesake and rise from them.

The answer is an unequivocal yes.

Manager Jason Xa said the blown transformer that ignited from a neon sign and rode the dry breeze to inferno status within minutes less than a month before the Chinese New Year was a short-term tragedy that's turned into a long-term triumph.

The new, improved Golden Phoenix, which opened after just four months of remodeling, has nearly doubled in size, and an interior that previously was in a gradual mode of improvement is now pristine.

“We couldn't have done it without the community,” Xa said. “People have been so supportive. ... We never cried, but our customers cried for us.”

Nearly five years ago, Xa was asked by his brother-in-law Larry Lee, who co-owns the restaurant with wife, Mary, to help out at the restaurant for a couple of weeks to help tighten the ship. All these years later, he's still managing the restaurant.

Xa had shown his worth working at the Lees' adjoining Chinatown Supermarket, which was also devastated by the fire. Both Golden Phoenix and the market have reopened despite missing their biggest month of the year.

“We had a permit to sell nonperishables out of the market,” Xa said. “It was a really tough time.”

The line of people I witnessed buying what they could from Chinatown Supermarket back in February was evidence of the community support that Xa said drove the Lees to such a quick return.

About the food

The good news is that the food is unchanged. The 15-page menu continues to be one of the city's most ambitious and beguiling. While many Asian restaurants print two menus — one with traditional dishes and the other with the stepchildren of General Tso developed for American tastes — Golden Phoenix puts it all out there in one spiral-bound tome.

Within this volume of Asian specialties, you'll find standard and exotic dishes that come in the basic vegetarian, beef, chicken or pork. But you'll also find squid, frog legs, live lobster, live Dungeness crab, whole pig, whole duck, congee, pho, clay pots, shabu-shabu, spring rolls you can build and roll yourself, and a special seven-course beef dinner.

“Everything we do here is made from scratch, that's why we take a little longer on some stuff,” Xa said. “Spring rolls, dumplings — all handmade.”

The fried spring rolls contain more pork than vegetables. The spring rolls are the antithesis, containing ultra fresh greens and cool boiled shrimp. Other appetizers include sauteed clams, beef stew with baguette, shrimp paste on sugar cane, escargot and rice papers with either dry shrimp, ground pork or pork pate.

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by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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