Friday, February 11, 2011

I'm Not Blind at Green Island

One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to restaurants is how they could serve the same thing at the same table at the same time but the two are not the same. I usually get pretty annoyed when I see another table get the same thing but their portion is bigger or better looking etc. But when it's for the same table, that's when it's beyond apprehension.

I was out with a new friend a couple weeks ago to the new Green Island at the new Atlantic Plaza in Monterey Park. I had enjoyed Green Island in Temple City before and was expecting to enjoy this new one. I did hear some mixed reviews on the quality of this place. One of the complaint before was that it was too salty. Nevertheless I wanted to give this a shot, mainly also because my new friend lived close to the new plaza.

(Lemon Iced Tea Sans Sugar - First Order)
(Lemon Iced Tea Sans Sugar - Second Order)
(Lemon Iced Tea With  Sugar)
As per usual, I ordered my cup of lemon iced tea sans sugar while my friend ordered it with sugar. When our drinks arrived, my cup of lemon iced tea looked significantly lighter in color than my friend's cup. I was already weary about the taste of it. When I took a sip of my tea, it was tasteless. It was basically brown water with lemon in it. There was absolutely no taste of tea in the drink. Generally I would probably just ignore it and drink what they gave me and be done with it. But since my friend's cup of tea was much darker, I didn't even need to taste his cup and knew I just got the bad brew at the end of a cycle. So I asked the waiter if they could get me another cup that actually had tea flavor, pointing to the fact that my friend's drink was significantly darker than mine.

So they took my drink back and brought me a new one also without sugar. This second cup was a lot darker than the first one. In fact it was even darker than my friend's cup and was very strong in tea flavor, to my liking. It was night and day. That second cup was definitely one of those early brews from a new batch. All of this led me to think how could a restaurant be so inconsistent with one of their most standard drink? Lemon iced tea is a stable to cafes, whether Cantonese or Taiwanese. Yet they can be so inconsistent that they can serve the same table three cups of tea in one sitting that had significant difference in color. A good cup of tea is a must for all cafes in this day and age, and to be this careless about it just showed how badly the drink bar is managed quite often at these restaurants.

(Pork and Cabbage in a Stone Pot)
Besides the drink fiasco, we ordered two dishes. I had tried quite a bit of the food at the original location in Temple City. The flavors here seems to be quite consistent with the flavors at the other restaurant. A bit sweet and a bit oily. At least they were consistent with the actual food, a good sign that they really made sure the new chefs learned how to cook it the way they originally had it.

The Pork and Cabbage in a Stone Pot was rich in flavor. The marinate sauce penetrated into the pork itself as well as the cabbage. The heated stone pot kept the dish warm for a good while. Of course towards the end, the sauce became a bit heavy since they tend to sink to the bottom soaking whatever's left. There really wasn't all that much that could have been done about it. It was a bit on the oily and greasy side similar to what's found at the original restaurant. I didn't think it was actually necessary for it to be as oily as they made it in order to keep it attractive and tasty. I needed to start remembering to request restaurants to make my food with less oil, less sugar and no msg.

(Eel Fried Rice - Serving)
(Eel Fried Rice)
The Eel Fried Rice was served in their metal sizzling plates held inside a wooden frame. Green Island was the first restaurant around the San Gabriel Valley that I had seen using this, though a few other restaurants had recently picked it up too. The Eel Fried Rice was tossed in front of us by the waiter. It really made no difference to me whether it was tossed on the spot or in the kitchen. It wasn't like Benihana where there was a lot of showmanship. There weren't a whole lot of flair and wasn't all that interesting to watch. It also didn't make the food taste any better as far as I can tell. I suppose it did change the beat of the dinning experience. Instead of the food being just tossed onto my table like at so many Chinese restaurants, the waiter was forced to actually spend a few seconds there serving. The actual fried rice was actually quite good and wasn't oily like the other dish. I could use a tad bit more eel in the dish. Still, it did make for a good balance between this dish and the oily pork and cabbage.

Despite the drink fiasco, the food was good and enjoyable. The environment was bright and clean, which I hope they can maintain after a year or two. The wait staff was actually very friendly compared to many other Asian restaurants around the area. Though like most other Asian restaurants where we don't have a specific waiter assigned to our table, they actually had a few waiters and waitresses roaming around the restaurant just to check up on the customers. I had been so used to seeing the wait staff standing in the corner watching TV, or hiding in the back to avoid going outside to work, this was actually refreshing. It was actually not difficult to find a waiter to ask for something. I almost missed having to eye down a waiter, then hunt them down to get a refill or something. This was definitely one of the better wait staff around, even better than the staff they had over at the original. Kudos to the manager of this restaurant.

So yes, I would definitely come back to Green Island simply because the waiters and waitresses were nice. But I am not blind and I do expect them to be way more consistent with their drinks in the future, at the very least in looks. However as long as there is a good staff to help me remedy the problems, I don't mind being served a drink that I had to ask for a replacement. I rather this than the other way around.


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