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China Islamic

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So, after years of reading about China Islamic (7727 Garvey Ave., (626) 288-4246) on this board, I finally dragged myself and a couple of buddies out to give it a try today for lunch. All-in-all, a delicious experience, for which, once again, I have the folks on this board to thank.

Left downtown at around 11:50, and got to the restaurant at around 12:05. (It's an easy, quick drive from downtown.) The place was about one quarter full when we arrived, and stayed relatively quiet during the hour or so we where there. Service was very friendly and attentive, with enough English to make communication reasonably easy.

Based on recommendations from the board, we (four of us) ordered:

Sesame Green Onion Bread -- an amazingly good, huge, portion of fresh baked flat bread (about 2 inches thick, and maybe a 12 inch round loaf). The bread was hot and soft, filled with green onions, with a nice, crisp crust, and the top packed with toasted sesame seeds. This was great for soaking up the various sauces and broths, and as a platform for the stir fried dishes. (I took the leftovers home and am looking forward to them reheated with melting butter.)

Hand Cut Beef Noodle Soup -- Wonderful! Chewy, irregular noodles, big chunks of falling apart stewed beef, and wilted greens in a dark brown broth, seasoned (I think) with anise and perhaps a bit of cinnamon. Really surprising and good flavors. Great stuff.

Lamb and Green Onion Stir Fry -- This dish was, really, unbelievably good with the sesame green onion bread. The lamb flavor is mild enough that it doesn't overwhelm the stir fry, and piled onto the crispy sesame bread, it is sublime.

Lamb Hot Pot -- Very dramatic, with big chunks of falling apart tender stewed lamb, creamy tofu, glass noodles, and cabbage/vegies in a great broth. A huge portion, btw, and perfect for dunking the sesame green onion bread.

Spicy Shrimp Stir Fried with Carrots and Chilies -- this was okay, but it was the one dish that didn't really bowl me over. Good, but not as good as the other dishes we tried. Still, you can't just eat beef and lamb, can you?

Anyway, if you've been to this place, you've probably now realize that our party of four ordered enough food for ten, which we made a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful effort to eat anyway. With tax and a 20% tip, the meal came to $68. Highly recommended, and I can't believe it took me so long to try. Thanks again hounds! (This city really is the bomb for food.)

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  1. Butter?

    Now, that would be an odd combo ... do report back on how the green onion/sesame bread takes to butter.

    7 Replies
    1. re: ipse dixit

      Odd? Why? Some Hui (chinese non-Turkic muslims) in China even put melted butter into their tea. And in Beijing when I was there long ago, there were Hui bakeries specializing in butter cookies (nai you bing). I too am awaiting the OP's report.

      1. re: Jerome

        Not saying butter is verboten in Chinese cuisine ... just can't really wrap my culinary mind around green onion sesame buns lathered with butter ... I think it would drown out the savoriness of the green onions and the toasty-ness of the sesame seeds ... but who knows ... I've never thought that chinese crullers (yo-tiao) would go well with the sesame buns (tsoa-bing), either, but they do.

        1. re: ipse dixit

          Maybe if you think about other cuisines that share those flavors, like onion or everything bagels with butter, or hushpuppies (fried fritters with green onions—you usually have butter accompanying it), it wouldn't seem so strange.

        2. re: Jerome

          aren't nai you bing cream, and not butter? almost like the stuff in cream puffs. i'm thinking of the chinese pastries they sell at 99 ranch in san gabriel where you can either have it filled with nai you or red bean.

          1. re: katie

            Now that I think of it, it said Huangyou (lit. yellow fat/oil, ie.butter). Nai was in some other dairy dishes, like some folks calling cheese (esp. mongol minority cheese) nai doufu rather than qi-si; yogurt, suan-nai; and kumiss, manaijiu.

        3. re: ipse dixit

          It's (at least in my opinion) very good reheated and slathered with (salted) butter. The bread has very little salt in it, which makes it nice for dipping in soups, sauces, etc., so (like most things), I think it's good with melted butter.

          1. re: David Kahn

            Had our first lunch here earlier this week; ordered both onion breads, the flat and the puffy - took home the remains and after warming it in the convection oven have had a snack dipping it into the leftover cheese sauce that I made for the Thanksgiving cauliflour. Mme Zoe made a turkey wrap with it. Really loved the fried beef dumplings which are packed with filling (ate those cold for breakfast); had the lamb with pickled cabbage soup, huge portion most of which we took home. Main course was #122 Lamb with Sha Cha Sauce - rich brown peppery gravy. Since they have a menu with 211 items plus a lunch menu of 24 lunches at $4.75 (includes soup, egg roll and rice) and 53 lunches at $5.95 same deal, we have a way to go. Love this place.

        4. Seriously the bomb. Yes indeed one can eat just beef and lamb, with the bread. Most places people can't even wrap their minds around the concept of Chinese Islamic cuisine.

          1. is this in the san gabriel mega mini-mall, where any restuarnant that you can throw a stone at there is probably going to be at the very, very decent.

            or maybe i'm thinking of tai lung shun (correct spelling?0, which i also think is china islanic.

            2 Replies
            1. re: kevin

              This is a different restaurant (I get the two confused often too!), it's located on Garvey, stand alone is and is more 'down' scale that tsung lai shun... Still very tasty tho'! :)

              China Islamic Restaurant
              (626) 288-4246
              7727 Garvey Ave
              Rosemead, CA 91770

              --Dommy!

              1. re: kevin

                It's Tung Lai Shun. There's a famous Muslim Restaurant in Beijing with the same name. No connection. Tung Lai Shun was started by relatives of the people who run China Islamic on Garvey (MaJia QingZhen fanguan or something like that). for interest, the restaurant used to be in LA near 8th and Hoover. It moved out to the SGV in the 80's.

                Just to get over the Islamic, Tung Lai Shun serves Chinese Muslim food as well as some food from other parts of China, esp. the Canton region. This makes it a bit more popular with some local residents whose antecedants come from those other regions and are more familiar with that food. China Islamic on Garvey doesn't cater as much to those folks.

              2. also, i'm presuming no pork here, correct?????

                1 Reply
                1. re: kevin

                  I saw no evidence of porcine products.

                2. glad you enjoyed the meal. i love that place, especially on a cold evening as the lamb stew warms you right up!

                  1. Let me ask a question of David and anyone else who's eaten at this place:

                    Recently a friend and I ate at Ma's Islamic Chinese in Anaheim. The food was fresh and nicely prepared, but it was a tad bland -- just not a lot of spices and seasonings.

                    I take it you did not find that issue at China Islamic?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Dorothy

                      Nope, I give CI credit, they spice intensely... especially their curry dishes. In fact, that is what pushed me over the edge to like TLS better because at CI, the spice tended to be one note. Like their beef soup was HEAVILY spiced with Anais, which TLS tends to blance their flavors a little better...

                      --Dommy!

                    2. Thanks for the good review. For OCers, there's a similar place in Irvine called Jamillah Garden that's very good. Don't forget to order lots of the green onion pancakes, it's nice thin flatbread that's great with everything. People get stacks of them! They also have hand cut noodles and great lamb dishes.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: CChan

                        CCHan, I've been meaning to try Jamillah for ever, but I've heard its off the charts greasy. Is this true? I'm really not a fan of greasy/oily food.

                        1. re: MEalcentric

                          IMHO, Lotus is the better choice for OCers. There was a review in the OC Weekly a while back. We like the green onion pancakes, the green onion bread, the hand-cut noodles, the "tofu omelet in brown sauce" and the chicken in lettuce cups as well as their lamb dishes. Also, very good soups. Have never been to the LA restaurants, so can't provide any comparative info, sorry.

                          Lotus Chinese Eatery
                          16883 Beach Boulevard
                          (South of the 405, cross-street Warner Ave.)
                          Huntington Beach, CA 92647
                          (714) 848-4940