Friday, December 2, 2011

Golden China / Islands / Wolfe Burgers

I went to all three of these places with Elizabeth's parents but, since I've written about them all (in some cases multiple times) I won't make each a separate post, I will just write about all three at once.

I was taking Rick and Kathy on a sightseeing tour of Pasadena and we were getting hungry. Elizabeth had a half day and would be getting home in an hour or so, so the three of us decided to duck in to Golden China, order ourselves some lunch specials, and pick up some spring rolls to go.

You can see what a good deal you get at Golden China: for anywhere between $6.15 and $6.95, you get an entree with your choice of soup and an egg roll, rice, and salad. I started off with the hot and sour soup, while my dining companions chose the egg flower.

Each person receives a plate with the sides on it. Many Chinese restaurants have lunch specials that include appetizers, but Golden China gives perhaps the most generous portions.

I love hot mustard, and Golden China's is about as hot as they come, rivaling Philippe's in terms of sinus-clearing flavor.

Kathy got the shrimp with mixed vegetables. (Rick had the pepper steak but my picture of it, which I thought was okay, is too poor to print. I'm sure you can imagine it, though.)

I had the shrimp with garlic sauce. I always enjoy the shrimp at Golden China; they manage to serve tender, juicy shrimp every time. And the garlic sauce was nice. It could have used more garlic flavor, but I say that about everything.

And we all had leftovers to take home for Elizabeth, plus we got an order of spring rolls. Lunch for all four of us was barely thirty dollars, and everyone was happy.

When Elizabeth's sisters were here two years ago, it was a little difficult to always find places to eat with them. One sister is the most picky eater I have ever met, the other is a vegetarian, though she will sometimes eat seafood. For one lunch, I suggested we go to Islands. They really liked it and thought it was fun.

I can't be too snarky about Islands. Although I think the food is very bland, there was a time when I loved the place and would eat there often. And it is indeed kind of fun. There are surfing videos on the TVs and the service is always good. When I was doing errands with Rick and Kathy and we found ourselves right by Islands at lunch time, I mentioned that I had taken their two youngest daughters there and that they'd liked it, so we decided to eat there.

There was an tabletop ad for the Point Break Burgers, so I thought I'd give it a try. Gruyere and blue cheese and a bacon and onion relish couldn't be all bad, right?

I was asked if I wanted my burger medium or well done. I didn't want it either of those ways. But it didn't really matter because the meat wasn't very good. The toppings were okay, but that's a small consolation. I'm trying to remember if I've ever had a good burger at Islands. This one certainly wasn't.

Islands fries are interesting. When they're not fresh, I don't like them. They are limp pieces of potato, similar to In-N-Out's fries, those mealy fries that leave a film on the roof of your mouth. The first batch of them tasted like this. But I ate those and requested some more, and out came a batch fresh from the fryer, hot and crispy. When they are served like this, they are some of the best I have ever had.

Rick and Kathy split a quesadilla with chicken and an order of fries. They really enjoyed it. In the past I have enjoyed Islands appetizers, especially their chicken tenders. If I ever eat there again I have to remember to just get some of those and stay away from their burgers.

On Sunday afternoon we bought our Christmas tree. "I'll never get used to buying a tree on a sunny, 80-degree day," Kathy said. After taking the tree home and setting it up, we were all in need of some lunch. I suggested Wolfe Burgers so that we could sit outside. Nobody objected. (We had good timing; we got there just ahead of a girl's AYSO soccer team, which made the line longer than I have ever seen it at Wolfe Burgers. At one point it looked like the kitchen had twenty burgers lined up at the pass.)

Clockwise from top left: Ranch dressing laced with Tabasco, A.1. sauce, mayonnaise, and malt vinegar.

We all ordered the #2 combo: burger, fries, drink. The three of them got beef burgers; I ordered turkey.

Elizabeth likes different sauces into which she can dip her fries, but when it comes to her burger she's something of a purist: American cheese, lettuce, tomato.

I get a little crazier with Wolfe Burger's condiment bar: I added a large chili strip, some onions, Thousand Island, and pickles. Usually I also add a drop or two of A.1., but I did not on this afternoon.

Actually, Wolfe Burgers fries are similar to Islands in that they are delicious when hot, but they rapidly cool down and lose their appeal. However, there are always leftover fries when I dine with Elizabeth, and they reheat beautifully in the oven.

Our East Coast guests liked all three of these meals. I liked two of them, and that's good enough.


Anonymous said...

dining with the in laws FTW

Liz said...

It was such a good time! And I will never get used to getting a Christmas tree in warm weather either. It's just strange.

Fritos and Foie Gras said...

The cheese fries at Islands are pretty great when they are fresh, too - cheddar cheese and scallions improve anything.

Michelle said...

Looks fun but understand why Philippe's got its own post and these didn't!

JustinM said...

Anon: Well, they had fun, so yep, I guess so.

Liz: I would never get used to have to wear a heavy jacket on Christmas.

Fritos: I used to eat those a lot, sigh. I wrote the other day, about El Cholo, how it was to be 23 and able to burn off whatever I ate with an hour or so of basketball. Well, one order of Islands cheddar fries, according to their website, is 2750 calories and 210 grams of fat.

That would take more than one hour of basketball these days. That's more energy than Kobe exerts in an entire game (or Lamar Odom exerts in an entire season).

Michelle: None of these places are Philippe's, that's for sure.

Nosh Gnostic said...

Common denominator - Wolfe Burger, Islands & In-N-Out fries = skins on. I reckon that this is what makes me not care much for them. They just don't cook up like peeled potatoes.