Monday, May 21

Wonton Time!

I went to a little place called Wonton Time with my mom for lunch last October, but have only found the time to publish now. This place is so memorable that I can taste the wonton soup in my mouth right now. True to their name there are only three options on the menu: noodle soup, lo mein, and plain wonton with soup. With each option there are three topping options: shrimp wonton, sliced beef, and fish balls. You can also get any two combos of the three toppings, or, if you're feeling really hungry, all three at once.

I walked in and we were ushered to a small table next to the wall. On the walls the menus are reprinted (only in Chinese) and also pictures of Wonton Time in Hong Kong. My mom informed me this was "Hong Kong Style" which I took to mean simple menus specializing in one thing. We each got a bowl of noodle soup with wontons, and I also ordered a side of vegetables with oyster sauce.

The soup was fragrant and clear, and the noodles were also good. The wontons were pretty big. My mom told me my granduncle refused to eat there because they only used shrimp in their wontons, with no meat at all. This was pretty extravagant, I thought. The shrimp filling made the texture of the wontons different than what I was used to. It was good, but eventually became monotonous without the variation of the meat filling.

I'd definitely eat there again when I have the craving for wonton soup, and I recommend getting the vegetables with oyster sauce, which only cost $2 and taste so good with my wonton soup. I prefer this place over industry standard Sam Woo, which can be noisy, and not as flavorful.

I liked the way the restaurant decided to specialize in wonton soup. That way you knew what to get there, and there was no fuss about it. It's also a cheap option for lunch in the SG valley, running about $4 for a nice-sized bowl of noodles.

Wonton Time
19 E. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 293-3366
Mon - Sun 11:00AM to 9:00PM

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Sunday, May 20

Top Island Seafood

I recently had the opportunity to eat two meals at Top Island: dinner and dim sum. For those familiar to the area, Top Island inhabits the space that used to be the Wherehouse music store for many years (where I cultivated my own particular collection of rap, pop, and rock). In between, it was a buffet and another seafood restaurant whose name I can't recall. I had been looking forward to eating there, after hearing tales of $50 fish alongside $2.99/pound of peel and eat shrimp from my family, and seeing pictures of the food on Biggest Menu.

We went early for dinner, and it was pleasantly uncrowded. Most Chinese seafood restaurants are so noisy you can't hear yourself think. I think that the only downside of this place is that you pretty much have to speak Cantonese to really get good service here. However, they aren't totally exclusionary of non-Chinese speakers... you just don't get to read the good specials they have advertised in Chinese.

We ended up ordering the watercress with dried duck kidneys soup, deep fried crispy chicken, clams with black bean sauce, BBQ squab, three pounds of the peel and eat shrimp, and the sliced beef with vegetable. The soup started out with a pleasant taste, but ended with a slightly bitter aftertaste because of the watercress. My mom says that watercress is bitter when it's harvested while the weather is hot, and I suppose this is what must have happened with the watercress in the soup. The chicken was good, but since I didn't dip it in the salt and pepper lemon juice sauce, it didn't have enough flavor for me. I didn't try the clams or the squab, but my family thought that they were both delicious. The shrimp were huge, and came with the heads on (how it should be, in my opinion). They were good with the soy dipping sauce, but most didn't have the right, fresh texture I was looking for.

The best part of the meal was the sliced beef with vegetables. The beef was flavorful and tender and coated with this delicious sauce. The beef was sitting on a plateful of perfectly cooked broccoli. The thing that struck me as weird was that it was literally broccoli, and not the Chinese broccoli (gai lan) that it usually is. It's pretty clear that this was one of the best dishes there if my family didn't really care that it wasn't the right broccoli. Dessert was the hot red bean soup, and that wasn't bad, but it wasn't a standout.

The next morning, we went back for dim sum at around 11, and man, was this place packed. We waited for about 30 minutes to be seated. I was surprised, but it was definitely worth the wait. Almost immediately after we sat down, we had our tea and about 5 dishes in front of us. This included: BBQ pork buns (Cha siu bao), shrimp har gow, pork shiu mai, beef tripe, and steamed rice with chicken wrapped in banana leaves (lo mai gai). Everything was delicious, especially my favorite, the beef tripe. I usually judge my dim sum by the cha siu bao, and here the meat was flavorful and the steamed bun was great, with no soggy bottoms. This is what our table looked like:

The weird thing was that the women pushing the carts did not call out what they were plying. You basically had to keep an eye out and recognize which carts were offering what you wanted, or ask the women what they had in their carts. A part of me liked not being bothered, but the other part didn't like having to put so much effort to find what I liked. We ended up ordering more food which included: Turnip cake (lo bak go), ham siu gok (little football-shaped rice sheets wrapping a meaty filling and then deep fried), and steamed chicken feet (fung jeo). More deliciousness, except for the chicken feet which I did not touch, but which my mom insists were delicious.

Also, when you go for dim sum, you'll be looking around for napkins. Where are they? They are in this cute little pouch that looks like a travel size tissue with the restaurant's logo, address, and telephone number. I kept it for myself at the end of the meal.

I think that I would definitely go there again for dim sum, and I think the flavor was on par with some of the bigger dim sum places like 888 and Ocean Star, minus the 2 hour wait. For dinner, I'd stick with tried and true favorites, and the fresh fish. I was pleasantly surprised by this place, and am thankful for its proximity to my house!

Top Island Seafood Restaurant

740 E. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 300-9898

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Friday, May 18

All India Cafe

My friend Diane wanted to try Indian food and I, being the nice friend I am, did a little research on what nearby restaurant could provide quality Indian food. Via some websites, All India Cafe has had some strong ratings, and I decided to take my taste buds (and Diane, my human bud) to the restaurant's Pasadena branch.

The food was mostly excellent. I shared naan with Diane. The bread came to the table fresh and hot. Steam wasn't the only thing emanating from it--so was a heavenly and delicious scent! Although it looked a bit too burnt in certain areas, it still satisfied me. With a taste heavily reminiscent of pancake, this naan was unlike any naan I've had before. However, the taste complemented well with the tandoori chicken salad.

The salad itself was beyond wonderful. Each ingredient in the dish provided an individual texture and taste that blended well together. Upon first glance, the cheese cubes looked like tofu and the vivid red color of ripe tomatoes dotted the salad of fresh and large green leaves. The cheese had a rather unique taste in that it was a sharp contrast to other cheeses I've encountered--its taste was incredibly mild. The most evident thing about it was its loose texture in the mouth. The mushrooms were excellent and succulent, as were the tomatoes, but the chicken pieces were a bit dry. The dish is saved by the smooth and cool feeling of the zucchini, which balanced out the overall texture of the chicken. The lettuce was tangy, thanks to the dressing, and the leafy greens rounded out the whole party of textures by being crisp.

I've seen this restaurant accused of serving Indian food that's ethnically diluted. From my limited experience, I would have to agree, but that should not deter any potential patrons. The food is still yummy, and the overall atmosphere of the place is resoundingly splendid in colors!

All India Cafe
39 S. Fair Oaks Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 440-0309
Mon - Thu 11:30AM to 10:00PM
Fri - Sat 11:30AM to 11:00PM
Sun 11:30AM to 10:00PM

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