In an earlier thread (linked below), someone mentioned that Green Village had an original branch at 833 W Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel (626 289-6228) before they opened their more recent branch on Valley Blvd. Having liked the Valley Blvd branch, I went to the Las Tunas branch today. It was good. It was a little smaller and scruffier, but it had the same friendly, positive vibe along with the lack of English. It was lunchtime, so maybe they had a different menu from dinnertime, but there were no Chinese-only specials on the wall and just a few untranslated items with the menu. Still the waiter recruited another diner to help me order.
I ended up with the "yellow fish casserole". (A big Chinese family nearby was grooving on tons of fresh dim sum, but I wanted something more unusual.) It turned out to be a big impressive bowl of soup with a whole fish, some greens and tofu, a bunch of ginger, and who knows what else, plus steamed rice. It was simple, but it looked very cool and it tasted great. The fish was kind of skinny, but it was really about the soup, not the fish as such. So thumbs up for the original Green Village.
Speaking of Green Village, I also stopped by Luscious Dumplings on Las Tunas (diagonally across the intersection from Green Village) and had their pork soup dumplings. Though I'd had them before some time ago, this time I found that they weren't nearly as good as the ones at the ones I'd had at the Green Village on Valley Blvd. Luscious Dumplings also has a TV running all the time, which is annoying. Still it's a good place with pleasant people.
I've also been trying to compare some of the other San Gabriel / Monterey Park places that have been mentioned here. I'll describe one experiment. It's not really a fair experiment because these places are from different regions and have different strengths, and I went to them at different times of day and so on, but at least it's one data point.
The experiment was this: I went to Hua's Garden (301 N Garfield, Monterey Park, 626 571 8387), King's Palace (250 W Valley Blvd, San Gabriel, 626 282 9566), and Mei Long Village (301 W Valley Blvd #112, San Gabriel, 626 284 4769). At each place I got the dish that consisted of fish fillets with a red chili based sauce. At Mei Long Village it may have been called fish fillets with hot bean paste; at King's Palace I think it was called fish fillets with Szechuan sauce; and I haven't been able to reconstruct what it was called at Hua's Garden.
Which is too bad, since the dish at Hua's Garden was three notches more interesting than the ones at the other places. The dishes at King's Palace and Mei Long Village were very straightforward, and gave the impression that they could be whipped together in a couple of minutes. (In fact at Mei Long Village it seemed more like thirty seconds between my order and the food appearing in front of me.) The dish at Hua's Garden, by contrast, was a complex and dangerous scary-red soup with some ingredients I couldn't identify along with the fish. It was scaldingly hot and took a long time and much care to eat.
Hua's Garden was also the most pleasant environment of the three, with lots of natural light. I found the self-conscious ritziness and obnoxious muzak at King's Palace to be really off-putting. Mei Long Village was in the middle, vibe-wise.
So Hua's Garden took the prize in this particular experiment. One caution, though: I walked by Hua's Garden on Friday evening and found that the health department had posted a fat red "C" in their window. That didn't seem to be stopping them from doing a good business, but I think I'll try some other places until they clean up whatever problem the health people found.
Finally, if you've read this far then you might know the answer to this question: has China Islamic on Garvey reopened from its remodeling?
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