Green Dragon's brighter side
Eagle Rock restaurant offers classic Chinese cuisine with extra shades of green
By Dan O'Heron 04/17/2013
In Pasadena, Yujean Kang is remembered as the restaurant owner who elevated Chinese food to a cuisine. In Eagle Rock, it appears to be the Green Dragon’s turn to step up to that plate.
To base such a rosy conclusion on one’s first visit to a new restaurant is very little to go on, but the taste of Green Dragon’s lemon chicken was so sensational that I just had to think that there was more going on in the kitchen than met the eye.
Served over a bed of white rice and underlined with greens, the plate was loaded with thick, moist chicken breast strips. With the strips bronzed with panko bread crust and laced with tissue-thin lemon slices, the $12.95 platter deserved to have its picture taken. But tasting so delicious, it was gone before anyone could pull out a smart phone.
My dining partner said that he enjoyed his beef with green pepper selection ($11.95). I didn’t want to spoil the moment by asking for a sample. Invariably, I’m turned off by Chinese offerings of vanishingly thin, soy-sodden slices of beef. Not to insult the chef is the only reason I ask for a doggie bag. Next time, however, I’m tempted to take a chance on Green Dragons’s Mandarin filet mignon ($12.95).
We both were impressed by appetizers of wonton soup swimming with chicken and spinach, plus a plate containing paper-wrapped chicken, veggie egg rolls (no trace of grease), crispy ravels of wonton, sided with a sweet sauce streaked with volcanic mustard, as well as an artfully crafted orange.
This appetizer plate met Kang’s classic standards of presentation and delicate taste. And, with many up-to-date healthy choices, this menu offered greener features than Kang ever provided. These included a wide array of steamed (not stir-fried) vegetable, chicken, shrimp and scallop dishes, some served with fresh fruit in lemon sauce and sugar snap peas. The steamed all-vegetable dish includes sprouts, chopped broccoli, celery, carrots, baby bok choy, baby corn, black and white mushrooms and snap peas. Plus, there are plenty of minced meats wrapped in lettuce buns. Chicken broth is used in many items, but diners can request a water substitute.
What’s more? A lighter version of lemon chicken is next of kin to the classic, but not a poor relation. Steamed, not fried, the chicken chunks come with juicy, smooth, delicately sweet litchi nuts, unique, sweet-tart flavors of kiwi, plus strawberries, diced apples, orange segments and three colors of bell peppers.
Located in a strip mall, you’ll be surprised and elated to step into a gracefully appointed dining room at Green Dragon, one with no statues of Buddha to salute.
After two years of planning and a special kitchen constructed to handle tall orders involved with take-out, catering and comfortable dining, the restaurant was opened recently by longtime Eagle Rock residents Linda and Joseph Chen.
In preparation, the Chens, along with two chefs, had worked many years at a swank Chinese restaurant in Brentwood — a good place to learn how to satisfy the appetites of fussy diners.
After Lee’s Kitchen closed five years ago, following decades of serving great take-home dinners, Eagle Rock had all but lost its taste for Chinese food. As a resident, I’ve had to settle for taking home the flat-tire stuff from Panda Express. Now we can make tall orders of both classic Mandarin-Szechuan dishes and modern healthy updates.
The name of the restaurant is fortuitous. In Chinese lore, any old dragon is lucky, but a green dragon is both lucky and healthy. It was suggested to the Chens by their daughter, Deborah, who, at play, had always been fascinated by the green dragon tile game piece in her mah jongg set.
I dropped into Green Dragon the other day to see if Linda Chen would give up some cooking secrets. It was mid-afternoon and I was surprised to see that so many tables were taken. They were occupied by men and women in business suits, casually dressed customers and one large family. A fellow came up to our table and complimented Chen on some noodle dish.
“Can I quote you on that,” I asked? The man replied, “Oh, no. I just come here two or three times a week for a leisurely lunch.” He was dressed in a uniform. I wondered if a DWP van was parked outside.
1733 Colorado Blvd.,