Anyone been to China Islamic recently?
Is it still worth the trip? how's the wait for dinner?
I've been a couple of times lately. Both times, just walked right in and got a table. It wasn't empty or anything, but they did have tables available. It was good, not spectacular, but the lamb dishes and the tofu dishes verged on excellent, as did the sesame-onion bread.
I went about 6 or so weeks ago, and there was no wait. Had one of the lamb dishes which is one of the reasons my nephew and his wife and I always return there.
Ask for no MSG, btw.
I always feel it is worth the trip, and am up for going again.
Never do appetizers nor dim sum for dinner, so do not even look at that part of the menu. My nephew's wife is Taiwanese and thus orders everything and I take her word for everything and it always turns out well. Oftentimes a shrimp or chicken dish will be part of the order, yet specifically I don't remember all that well.
Also, seldom get noodles.
Are you talking about the China Islamic in Rosemead?
If so, they do not have dim sum on the menu, at least not the type of dim sum you are thinking about (e.g., the kind on carts like shu mai, har gow, etc.). What the menu has listed as "dim sum" are the sesame breads and a couple of variety of dumplings. To say these items are "dim sum" would be like calling a McDonald's Value Meal a three course tasting menu (e.g. soda, fries, and burger of your choice).
As to what to get ...
Just stick with the sesame green onion bread, the lamb hot pot, and one of the beef stir fry dishes (maybe the beef with mustard greens), and you'll be all set.
China Islamic is known for their sesame/green onion breads. Every since Tung Lai Shun shut down, China Islamic is one of the few places left in the SGV that still offers this bread on a consisent basis.
And, no one really does "appetizers" at a chinese place, unless you consider a cold platter, but that's more of a banquet thing (and not something I would recommend at China Islamic). Soup might be an appetizer, but then you're getting the lamb hot pot already, so it would be largely redundant.
(A note on the hot pots, always ask them to refill the broth. The soup goes well with the sesame/green onion bread.)
Word to wise, however. This place has gone through some rough times with lots of turnover in both management and kitchen staff. There's a reason it's always empty, or nearly so.
The phrase "dim sum" has different interpretations among different types of Chinese cooking. People in the U.S. usually associate "dim sum" with the Cantonese version of dim sum. In fact, the spelling of "dim sum" most accurately reflects the Cantonese pronunciation of the Chinese characters. If they were to translate it to Mandarin, it would be "dian xin," which is completely different. I'm not sure about other major Chinese dialects.
I love China Islamic, mainly because I love lamb! My faves include:
Best lamb dish: lamb with green onions
Best non-lamb dish: tied between beef with string beans, curry chicken, and shrimp with spicy sauce
Also good are the three flavor won ton soup, and the fried chicken.
I've been underwhelmed by the lamb with shacha (?) sauce (salty and gloppy), orange peel chicken (too sweet and not chickeny enough), and the potstickers (just bland).
I go every couple of weeks - Sunday nights expect a wait, the rest of the time there usually isn't one.
Oh, and the prices just went up by about a dollar a dish.
What they don't have is Yumcha - the cantonese tea drinking meal with the carts that is usually called dim sum in the US. They have dianxin - best translated as snacks - in this context, wheaten snacks.
The food is fine. I like it. It is not Cantonese/Hk food. If you like that kind of food and flavoring, especially, or prize it above other Chinese cuisines, you will be disappointed. Leeks, onions and garlic are used much more than in Cantonese cooking. The lamb dishes are qutie good. The jellyfish if you're adventurous is decent. Any of the dimsum listed will be quite good. I'd avoid the two "appetizers" which are a concession to cantonese loving folk who will be disappointed with the eggrolls. On soups, I'd avoid the first four and stick with #34 and hgiher. If you get a warm pot/clay pot order, make sure it's not like the soup, or skip the soup altogether. on lamb - all pretty good, avoid curry lamb, not from the region. Seafood - skip it, except if you want to try the sea cucumber. Most of the dishes are from canton or sichuan - not the region for this place. They might be good, but i wouldn't bother - i'd just have them at a more appropriate place.
ON the beef , 107-110 are authentic. The others be careful - quite a few are popular cantonese dishes. Don't bother - the peking sauce, the string beans, pickled cabbage, oxtail, all are fine here. on poultry, 140-2. others again, clientele likes their cantonese, so you have people who come here because it's hallal.
on vegetables, the eggplant, the cabbage with dried shrimp, bean cards after the sichuan mapo doufu are all decent for this place. The noodles are all worth while, and consider the daoshao, dough slice noodles. Fried rice - i'd skip it.
heck on page 1 cold dishes - they're all worthwhile.
I've never had to wait. Now that I live in Anaheim I get my Islamic Chinese fix from Mas, which is cleaner but has just heinously bad service (follow the waitress to the kitchen type service). China Islamic's got fantastic "warm pots" and of course that bread. Also, if you're not afraid of strong flavours that don't fit the American palate, try beef or lamb with "pickled" cabbage. It's not pickled so much as salted and fermented. If you're not Asian they will protest and tell you the flavour is too strong. Overrule them and you'll have a great dish. I love it with lamb, because the cabbage overtakes the (I think) offensive smell of cooked lamb.
Jerome's got it right on -- the rule for eating Chinese in the SGV is to learn the various dishes of the various regions and then only eat those. Islamic Chinese food is northwestern food, so if you see something in a sugary fruit sauce, avoid it -- sugary fruit sauce is not common in China's northwest.
Actually, if you learn to distinguish yuecai (Cantonese dishes) from non-yuecai you'll be way ahead of the game.
It used to be that they'd have specials written up in Chinese on the walls. Some of those specials (which others ordered before I started to learn to read a Chinese menu) are fantastic -- cold jellyfish is one of them that found its way onto the regular menu. They also had a dish of lamb and buckwheat noodles that was out of this world -- I don't see it on the menu but you might ask.
I have to disagree with Jerome on one point -- the one time I ordered daoxiao noodles they had been cut much earlier and had dried out on the edges. I wasn't impressed. But it was only the once, so it might have been an 'off' day.