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"I could've been a contender" ... and other thoughts about TOP ISLAND dim sum

Finally found some time to try the dim sum at TOP ISLAND.

The entire experience was utterly disappointing, which to me just means that people will flock to any place that offers food that is easy on the 401K, but hard on the tastebuds. This can only be the explanation for the crowds at this place.

The baos were stuffed (with miniscule amounts) of tasteless filling -- that were also too dry. The baos themselves were also too dry, which leads one to wonder ... were these things steamed, baked or (heaven forbid) zapped by your favorite Panasonic Microwave?

The dumplings? Where to begin. We asked for a tray of veggie dumplings, but the dish had both chicken and beef dumplings. Huh? Confusion aside, I've had better chicken from McNuggets and the beef? Remember the Wendy's commercial with the little old lady from the 80s ... "where's the beef"?

One of my favorite dishes, chinese broccoli with hoison/oyster sauce nearly shattered my teeth. The stalks were so tough it reminded me of those childhood memories of gnawing on sugarcane stalks. And the leafy part? So sinewy, I used up probably a whole box of toothpicks to extricate all that fiber from my teeth.

Equally sad were the spareribs (oily and tough), noodles (gluey), congee (well, ok, it's only rice so how bad could it be, right? don't ask).

Even dessert was a letdown. As a fan of all things egg custard, I could not have walked away more disgusted from Top Island's version. It tasted like it was left under a heat lamp for so long that it was better suited for an archaeologist than a diner.

Which brings me back to that great line by Brando from "On the Water Front" ...

"You don't understand. I could've had class. I could've been a contender. I could've been somebody instead of a bum, which I am."

Yeah, indeed, a bum you are.

TOP ISLAND
740 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra,
(626) 300-9898.

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  1. How does this place compare to New Capital Seafood?

    I went for dinner, and it was pretty decent seafood for the price. Maybe their dim sum chef is no good...

    1 Reply
    1. re: WHills

      Never been to New Capital for dinner, and only once for dim sum (the Rosemead location).

      Not really impressed (or disappointed). Assembly-line approach to dim sum. Get it out, get it out quick, charge under $2.00 for each dish, shuffle the masses through the doors, so it's all about turnover and turnover ... it's ok if that's your deal, but I prefer a bit more refinement to my dim sum experience.

    2. Thanks for the review. Sorry you had to endure such torture. I remember chewing on sugercane, too.

      6 Replies
      1. re: raytamsgv

        Now if I can only find sugarcane here in LA ...

        1. re: ipsedixit

          I believe Bahn Mi Che Cali offers fresh-pressed sugar cane juice, so I'm sure you could probably just buy the sugar cane from them.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            It is sold occasionally at the Asian veggie stands at the Farmer's Market in West LA, perhaps at others.

            1. re: sasha1

              Yup! I saw some LONG ones in the Diamond Bar FM this weekend..

              --Dommy!

              1. re: Dommy

                they sell it at the asian market in echo park. they also have banh mi there by the way. i forgot where it is exactly...

                1. re: modernist

                  There's also this couple that presses fresh cane juice at the Hollywood Farmer's market on Sundays and at the Echo Park Farmer's market on Laveta just south of Sunset on Friday afternoons/early evenings. Yum!

        2. I have no idea where this is but you've done the honorable duty of checking off one less place i have to eat in SGV.

          1 Reply
          1. re: eatdrinknbmerry

            A bad dim sum experience spared is a chowhound saved ...

            Cheers.

          2. Sounds horrible, but you write so well about it. :)

            1. We had the unfortunate experience of going there for dinner.. not any better than your dim sum experience. Probably the only good thing was that the portions weren't all that big, but I could not understand why the place is so crowded. Not all that fresh-tasting and it didn't taste very good, either. This was a couple of months ago so I can't remember exactly what we had but I wouldn't go back there. There are much better places in the area.