Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Green Island Restaurant Update

Photobucket
(Grand opening? NOT. But it is the only photo now I have of the exterior)

If you have read my blog from the start, you probably will know that I really like the restaurant Green Island. But, my postings on it abruptly stopped at February 1 with my Chinese New Year Post on Green Island. Why the sudden stop in posts (especially when I said going to Green Island has almost become a "tradition")? Well, Green Island changed with their business practices. And I had less items to take pictures of as I basically covered the entire menu that I liked.

In between the months of the postings, Green Island became a bit more stingy around March-June. They were more strict with their rules (no more free drinks and refills), and also the lunch specials were not available on the weekend anymore. With the local competition around, there certainly were better choices and deals. Routinely we did go to Green Island, but not very frequently.

However, by June, menus and prices changed at Green Island. A larger variety of items were on offer on the lunch menu, prices dropped, and new menus finally came out! And so, below is a compilation of 5 visits. Time for an update most certainly.

But first things first. Look at the new menus!

(UPDATE: March 18, 2010: There is now another new menu with more choices. The Watercress dish is now 6.99)

Lunch-Menu

The lunch menu is available all week now and is separated into prices of 5.99, 6.99, 7.49, and 8.49 USD per entree, and there are more items available in the lunch menu, like the oxtail with lily root and the sizzling prime ribeye fried rice. In addition, drinks at 1.00 per drink, but you get unlimited refills! I feel this is a improvement, as now there are plenty of cheaper menu items, and plus you do not need to pay for a drink if you do not want it (before it was included in the lunch menu prices). Also, the discounted drinks price is slightly less compared to other places that have discounted lunch drinks. Free rice still comes though with each entree and we are very happy about the rice. Normally rice is really nothing special, but at Green Island their steamed rice is just like freshly steamed rice. The rice is not clumpy; instead it is fluffy and cooked with just the right amount of water, and you can smell the fragrance of rice when they place the rice onto the table. Green Island's rice is probably the best steamed rice that we have had at a restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley!

Menus- Daily Special and New Entrees

The Daily Special Entrees and the New Entrees Recommendations placard menu has even more selections, as well as great discounts. We especially follow up on the Daily Special Entrees- these dishes are an excellent deal for the price and are discounted by approximately 37.5/40 percent which is a large margin. You do get free rice along with each entree too.

Now I shall start out on pictures of food with two dinner visits from June:

Turnip Scrambled Egg

As an appetizer we ordered their turnip scrambled eggs (2.99 USD) which we ended up being very disappointed at. Everything was pretty good with this dish- there were plenty of green onions and turnips. However, there was not enough egg. This omelet (well, it doesn't look like scrambled eggs does it?) was extremely thin, not thick. Thus, the flavors of the egg did not shine. Plus the price was just way too expensive for what we got-making the dish probably cost at most 75 cents. Make this at home please! Unless you don't mind the expensive price for what you are getting.

Spareribs

We also ordered some House Special Spare Ribs (8.99 USD) to try out. However, although the ingredients were fresh and of high quality, the flavor was lacking to our tastes. The sauce basically tasted like the sauces from dishes like the black pork belly with tofu, but instead of being very thin, the sauce became a glaze to the spareribs. In addition, the spareribs had tons of bones, and not enough meat to our liking.

Curry Chicken

Another dish we had that changed was the Curry Chicken, which was the daily special during a visit. So, the price went down to 4.99USD instead of 7.99USD, which made my party want to order the dish as it was a good deal. However, the Curry Chicken changed. Previously, we had good experiences with the dish. The portion size was large (served in their stone pots), and the chicken had bones in it. This new Curry Chicken missed out on both of these points. The chicken was now breast meat which was ULTRA tender to the point that we felt like they had added extra ingredients into the chicken, and plus, the stone pot was now gone. Other than these two mishaps, everything else was delicious in the dish- the curry sauce was like our previous experiences (where we liked the curry sauce and poured it on heavily onto rice), and there were plenty of pieces of the fried potato as before.

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Am I now making Green Island sound AWFUL? Well, the rest of this review will be much more positive. After all, the rest of the dishes now are from lunch which we were all happy about:

Oxtails with Lotus Root

Our new favorite dish at Green Island is the oxtail with lily root (7.49 USD during lunch). We pretty much now order this dish every time we visit Green Island. The ingredients and flavors are spot on. There are plenty of pieces of braised oxtail which still retain their meaty flavor, as well as slightly crunchy and thick pieces of lily root. What makes this dish though is the sauce, which has flavors from the oxtail as well as plenty of salty and sweet flavors. Luckily, there is plenty of the sauce; as we love to pour it onto our rice (along with the tender stewed peanuts as you see in the photo) and eat it just like that!

Braised Duck with Taro

We still like the braised duck with taro (6.99 USD), which has actually increased in portion size (YAY!). In the dish are plenty of pieces of duck (which are roasted at first), as well as a bed of chunks of taro. The sauce is great to scoop onto rice (again), and the taro is so tender that it almost becomes into a paste when it enters your mouth. Only problem we have encountered is that we constantly see the duck sitting out in the kitchen wrapped in plastic. No good thoughts there! And this made pieces of the duck we had on our most recent visit metallic colored; that is, oxidation on the meat. Yuck. The only other place I have seen metallic looking meat is at my previous school's Subway sandwiches.

Black Pork Belly Tofu Pot

There are though an variety of dishes that we have never had problems with. Like this Black Pork Belly Tofu Pot which only goes for 4.99USD on Tuesday. It may be a simple dish with crisp broccoli, green onions, fatty pieces of pork belly, shitake mushrooms, and silky pieces of browned tofu, but the flavor combination works. Slightly spicy and doused with a bit of the savory and sweet sauce, it is yet another dish we order every Tuesday we visit here. After all, it is an offer that is too good to pass off on.

Bittermelon with Spareribs

A item which we like from the New Recommendations Menu is the Spareribs with Baisan Pear (a.k.a. Bittermelon/Wintermelon in receipt and supermarkets) and Black Bean Sauce. Unlike the House Special Spareribs, this dish is not as bland to our tastes, as there is a good dosage of black bean sauce and a slight bitterness from the bittermelon (which actually was to our surprise as it was a muted bitterness instead of immediately bitter after chomping on it). In addition, there are plenty of green onions to add more fragrance to the dish. These ingredients together are a great flavor combination with the spareribs.

Garlic Spinach

Every meal should always have some type of vegetable, and with that said, there are plenty of vegetable entrees at Green Island. For simplicity, we like the sauteed spinach with garlic sauce (5.99 USD), which is a popular and simple way to cook spinach in Chinese restaurants. The spinach Green Island uses is different than other restaurants; the stems are pencil thin and smooth, not large and rough. Serving size is okay and is comparable to other restaurants in the SGV.

Watercress with Fishcake and Broth

What we actually order most though now on our visits is the Watercress with Broth and Fishcake (5.99). Discovered purely on accident and not on the lunch menu, this dish is one of the real bargain dishes and gives a great bang for the buck. The serving size, as you can see, is larger compared to the spinach with garlic sauce; they serve this in the same pot as the braised duck with taro. Furthermore, the dish has three components- plenty of broth (which you can slurp as soup), bouncy and tender pieces of fishcake which also have some cilantro and seaweed in them, and most importantly, a mound of slightly crisp and tightly packed watercress. All three components are delicious- the broth has the flavors from the watercress cooked in it and is slightly salty, the fishcake is just like the other fishcakes I have reviewed on Green Island (they are the same), and the watercress is fresh and not stringy or tough to eat. Green Island's Watercress with Broth and Fishcake is a great deal for what it offers- other places sell this dish for 9 plus dollars. Going back to this dish, we thought it cost 9 dollars. But looking at the receipt, it was actually only 5.99. Who said vegetables were extremely overpriced at restaurants? With all the cooking and material cost it comes pretty close compared to other restaurants (like Peatips for 16 dollars!?!)

Rice Noodles

Now that you have seen plenty of entrees and vegetables, we should also talk a bit more about some starches. Not that there is not enough- after all a plate of rice comes with every entree during lunch! You probably have seen this dish- the pan fried vermicelli with fishcake (5.99 USD) if you have read my previous posts on Green Island (specifically, this one). There are a some differences though if you look at the photos. First of all, the serving size has gotten larger (again), which is great with the current economy. Giving customers a good deal is what drives customers to come back to visit! Secondly, the noodles have a browner tinge to them compared to before. All positive things- the noodles are more flavorful as they have soaked up the sauce, and the bean sprouts, green onions, fishcake strips, and mushrooms add extra flavor to the vermicelli. Still a great dish after half a year!

Prime Beef Fried Rice

Green Island's Sizzling Prime Ribeye Fried Rice (8.49 USD) is still as good as before. It has drawn so much attention that even other restaurants, like Garden Cafe, have tried to IMITATE the dish. Hands down though, Green Island beats the competitors with a flavor combination that works, higher quality ingredients, and pronounced flavors. A taste comparison and you will definitely see the difference! Garden Cafe's server said their version would beat Green Island's; instead it was the opposite. Garden Cafe's version tasted worse than Yoshinoya (not that Yoshinoya is bad, but their serving sizes have decreased significantly!), and didn't have a distinctive flavor from the dish. Play it safe and try out Green Island's version first. After all, it is a dollar fifty cheaper during lunch :).

Overall? Lunch is becoming the best time to visit Green Island. Now that Green Island has updated their menus to offer more items to be discounted at lunch, there are more options to choose from for the more budget conscious consumer. Not only that, the serving sizes have increased, which is unusual in a sector where we are seeing a decrease in portion size and increase on the price you pay. All for the better. We'll be back and if we do get to try more of the new items or if they do something new, I will write a new post when I have the time. School is starting again and vacation is just almost over, and the backlog has grown to 35+ posts! :)

Green Island
9556 Las Tunas Drive
Temple City,CA 91780
626-286-6788

Green Island Restaurant on Urbanspoon

9 comments:

KirkK said...

Hey ETE - Man those prices.... I love the comment about the Grand Opening sign. There was a restaurant in Diamond Bar that had their "Grand Opening" sign up from the day they opened, until they closed five years later.... that was some extended grand opening.

Mochachocolata Rita said...

i soo wanna try the oxtail with lily root and braised duck with taro...i wonder if any place in hk does these dishes....hmmm

EatTravelEat said...

Kirk,
Haha...I'll need to replace that photo. That was from more than half a year ago! A frontal exterior photo would be better. This is the back. :)

Mochachocolata Rita,
I think you could make them at home if you had the time to braise the dishes...but that takes so much time! Have not seen these types of dishes available at most places in HK and in my area. They take too much time to prepare. :)

Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas said...

All your photos look incredibly appetizing, so even though there are pros and cons these days with the Green Island, I still would love to try it out!

As for the location... where is Temple City? Is the the LA area where the big Buddhist Temple on the hill is? I'm really bad with my LA regions, sorry about that!

EatTravelEat said...

Jules,
For the location think the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, CA, which was in the movie Seabiscuit. Temple City is right below Arcadia. Green Island is nearby the 10 freeway (directly below).

SinoSoul said...

so this is .. Cantonese food in Temple City? Glad to see they're still rocking a full menu, instead of dumbing down to just rice and noodles like many of the other cafes in SGV.

EatTravelEat said...

SinoSoul,
Yeah it is! With the exception of the "Shanghai-Style" Rice Cakes which do not even really taste good.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

I keep meaning to check this place out after your first post and haven't done so. Good thing I didn't when they raised prices and took away free refills. Nice to hear they're cheap again. I may eventually get around to visiting one of these days. :)

EatTravelEat said...

Wandering Chopsticks,
You should soon! :) So many new items to try out and plus it is such a great deal especially during lunch. And try out Mandarin Noodle Deli again while you visit ;).