Monday, February 16, 2009

Greek Islands Cuisine - Irvine

Ask any Asian immigrant kid: it's tough when you don't look, talk, or eat like your schoolmates. Being the odd one out, sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb, these are common experiences for the child whose mom packed up rice and stir fry for lunch while everyone else brought bologna sandwiches.

"Eeew, what's that?" is the familiar refrain heard by all who got teased.

It must be how Greek Islands Cuisine feels at Diamond Jamboree in Irvine. Around it towers Asian giants (oxymoronic, I know) Tokyo Table, BCD, 85°C Bakery Café, and Capital Seafood. Next door, a Korean fried chicken joint and Chae Bahn, another Korean restaurant.

And there they sit: Just about the only non-Asian eatery at the center.

Last Friday night, the parking lot was packed. Yet, when we walked in, there wasn't a single customer in the place. It's one thing to get teased at the playground; quite another to be downright shunned and ignored. A shame because this is good, solid and honest Greek grub, prepared with more love and care than what's served at Daphne's.

Hummus ($3.95) is swirled onto a plate, dimpled with glistening puddles of drizzled olive oil and balsamic, begging to be scooped up by triangles of warm, soft-as-cotton pita bread served in a wicker basket.

And because it was perfectly sour, garlicky and addictive, our finished plate looked like it had been licked clean.

Falafels ($3.95) here are dense, substantial things, with a texture that straddles dangerously close to a VeggieBurger. They were saved simply from the fact that their outer crust was deep fried to a crunchy shell as hardy as an armadillo. Chopped to bite-sized hunks, dribbled with a yogurty zaziki and amped up with hot sauce, you'll forget that you just consumed nothing that was once attached to an animal.

On the other hand, the Mediterranean combo ($10.25) is a meal worthy of Zeus, containing the flesh of three different beasts.

The gyro, carved off of a rotating spit to floppy air foil-shaped curls, eats much like a super-seasoned hot dog. And since I'm making comparisons, the keftedes are like hamburgers if they were made of ground lamb and beef, and packed with actual flavor. I detected mint in these.

The third was chicken breast, which has two qualities that are usually mutually exclusive when it comes to chicken breast: it was both moist and well-charred.

Beneath it all is a Mt. Olympus-mound of fluffy rice that should play well into your mom's rule that a meal isn't a meal unless it has rice.

Greek Islands Cuisine
(949)474-7976
2750 Alton Parkway, #121
Irvine, CA 92514

THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
Oysters in O.C.
and
Strip Club Food

30 Comments:

At 11:11 AM, Blogger NP said...

Timely review, I was thinking of going there this week. Shame the place was empty - worrying in this climate. Us readers, can try and show this place some love.... :)

Did you get a chance to go to Capital Seafood? :)

 
At 11:21 AM, Blogger Mark said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 11:22 AM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

"Ask any Asian immigrant kid: it's tough when you don't look, talk, or eat like your schoolmates. Being the odd one out, sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb, these are common experiences for the child whose mom packs up rice and stir fry for lunch while everyone else brings bologna sandwiches.
"Eeew, what's that?" is the familiar refrain heard by all who got teased."

I agree! So many people are like that in the SGV too at schools. Once, people were scared of even something called vinegar.

Love the descriptions again as usual! I've always wanted to try falafel after hearing about it on TV, and this looks yummy!

And the rice does look really fluffy and delicious! I want to try the Mediterranean combo if I can someday soon...

 
At 11:48 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Yummy! That's the kind of take out my family always got when I was a kid, and we're not even Greek.

Funny story. Even though I'm not an Asian immigrant (or Asian, or an immigrant), I got the "Ewww....what is that?" comments a lot, too. My mom was very earthy and into natural living, and would make me things like peanut butter (back when it was allowed in schools) , honey and sprout sandwiches. Now that I'm an adult, I have to admit that they were pretty tasty!

 
At 1:01 PM, Blogger Diana said...

I love the way you described the pita - "cotton soft." Sounds wonderful! I think I'd be able to polish off that plate of hummus too..

Can't wait to read your write-up of Oysters!

 
At 4:23 PM, Blogger Mark said...

I went there a few weekends ago and really enjoyed the food. My only complaint being that the rice was a little dry. I mixed in some of the condiments however and it was amazing! Definitely going to eat there again sometime...pending the economy, haha.

 
At 5:03 PM, Blogger polar said...

Must...have...Zeus...platter..*drool*

Too bad I don't live closer to Irvine. This place look promising. Surprised the platter doesn't come with a side dollop of the hummus.

Oh and interesting read on the Strip club dining.. I heard that there is a hot dog cart outside of the Fritz in Anaheim during weekend nights. $3.25 dogs w/ any fixin you want, including bacon and chili.

 
At 8:48 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

NP,

I hope people do give the place some love. Nice people, good good. They deserve it.

And no Capital Seafood yet. I'm lookin' forward to it, but it's been pushed back a couple of weeks.

EatTravelEat,

I'm surprised that even with SGV's dense Asian population that not more kids bring rice to school! Especially in those cute Hello Kitty lunch boxes.

And falafels are great! If you want a great one, try Sahara Falafel on Brookhurst. Greek Islands is good, but the Persians seem to make 'em extra addictive.

Juliet,

Ah! Same here. Now as an adult, I much prefer rice for lunch than a sandwich. I guess that's the definition of comfort food -- you like to eat what you grew up with.

Diana,

No need to wait! The oysters write-up is just a list of places to get oysters in O.C. Click on the clink and it shall bring you there!

Mark,

I'm going back someday soon to try their shawarma! Irvine needs a place that does good shawarma!

polar,

Yeah! I would've liked hummus on the side, and other platters does include it as an item, but it's not automatic for all dishes. Too bad because their hummus is paste from the heavens!

Interesting that they do a hot dog cart at Fritz'. That place seems like the only one I visited that is serious, or at least puts a real effort, on serving food. I guess even strip club patrons must eat.

 
At 9:46 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

Wow, those food pics made me start drolling all over my keyboard. That grub looks SO much better than Daphne's, especially the falafel (Daphne's looks like fried checkers these days)
The prices seem to be very reasonable too.
Must.Go.Soon.

 
At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Raul Ortega??????

 
At 4:42 PM, Blogger digkv said...

Hey Elmo!
Great post, I was wondering about that place, it really did stick out amongst all the asian food but I never really had a chance to try it with so many other, more interesting places to try. I might give it a try now that you have me craving Greek food. I gotta say though, everytime I crave falafel I head down to another place you wrote about: Sahara Falafel, it's a favorite of mine now: that garlic sauce makes everything delicious.

 
At 4:50 PM, Blogger WSL98787 said...

Elmomonster,

Yeah, I agree. I mostly find people, at most, eating noodles or dumplings. Otherwise, it is a sandwich or something other than rice!

Thanks for the recommendation! We'll check it out if we have time.

 
At 8:45 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

ChrisTooFat,

I never got into Daphne's for some reason. There was one across from my office, one near my home. The few times I went left me thinkin' "Meh".

The falafels are good, but I'm spoiled by Sahara Falafel. I don't think I've eaten a better, more satisfying falafel than theirs.

Anon,

What a weird comment. But alright, I'll play along, "Ortega Salsa". I think the next person's gotta say "Salsa Verde" and so on.

digkv,

You got that right. Sahara Falafel rules them all. Don't expect to be wowed by these falafels if you've had Sahara's. They are, by far, the greatest!

WSL,

They also have sandwiches here too. Except wrapped in pita!

 
At 9:57 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

ELMO,

you need to post more pics from the strip club review articles. You always post more pictures when I ask. I know you MUST have some more. You know how I always get on you for not having pictures of the food? I won't be that way this time

 
At 10:08 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Diamond Dog,

HA! As much as I wish I had pictures, those bouncers don't frisk and pat you down because they're fond of their customers. Besides that, the light in these places stink!

 
At 10:43 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Whoops. I accidentally wrote my last comment using my other account...

I wonder how pita sandwiches would be like! We don't see that too much often in the SGV either. Mainly I see white bread or whole wheat bread sandwiches.

By the way, I have two awards for you! You can redeem it here:
http://eattraveleat.blogspot.com/2009/02/award.html

 
At 4:13 PM, Anonymous MandJ said...

Hi Elmo,

We are going there tonight :)

I can't even remember how many restaurants we went to because we read your review about them on your blog.

Thanks!

 
At 3:03 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

EatTravelEat,

It's an honor to be nominated. I'd like to thank the Academy. The wonderful cast and crew. My agent. My lawyer...oh I know I'm forgetting somebody. You know who you are! THANK YOUUUU!!

As you can tell, I just finished watching the 4-hour recording of last week's Oscars!

MandJ,

I hope you liked it and had a great time. I'm late in commenting, but 85 Degrees would be perfect for dessert!

 
At 2:52 PM, Blogger Katrina said...

I just went last week and took my parents. Since I know they appreciate good greek food. I got the Mediterranean Plate, the chicken was a little dry, and the keftedes had fantastic flavor but the meat was really fatty but dry and dense, weird. My mom got the chicken sandwich because she wasn't too hungry; it was dry. My dad got the lamb kebabs and raved about it. He finished everything off the plate, seriously. And he's usually really picky with his lamb. As we head over to 85 degrees for my coconut twists (I love them), he sighed and said "I'll be back here for sure"

p.s. when we got there at 6 on Friday, it was empty. But as soon as the waiter went away with our order, in less than 5 minutes the place was packed!

 
At 3:52 PM, Blogger gehen.wir said...

I ate there last Monday (March 2nd, around 6:00 p.m.) based on the reviews on Elmo's site. Sadly, I was disappointed: I ordered their mixed meat plate (salmon, chicken, and beef over a bed of rice with veggies and 1/2 a roasted tomato), which came 20 minutes later (I looked at my receipt's time entry and my watch when then order came in).

The meats were not juicy but not dry.

Also, the matron behind the counter was too busy entertaining this couple to take my order or answer the phone.

I wasn't offered the complimentary tea but it was mentioned to other guests.

I won't be coming back. When I left, I stopped by Chae Bahn and looked at their menu. I'll have the bulgogi plate tonight (cheaper too!).

I'll be monitoring my post, so please feel free to add any rebuttals/questions.

 
At 1:55 PM, Blogger Warren said...

There was a coupon in UCI's new university newspaper this week for buy 1 get 2nd 50% off. http://www.newuniversity.org/main/coupons

 
At 11:52 AM, Anonymous mimi said...

I just read chinese newspaper today that they did not do good business. Their rent is about what they earned. They planed to close sometime.

 
At 4:33 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

mimi,

I contacted the owner and she says her business is doing just fine! Good Greek food by Greek Islands will be there at Diamond Jamboree for some time to come!

 
At 7:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

mimi,

what newspaper did you read that in? the place is always packed during lunch and dinner hours when i'm there.

 
At 1:42 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Hey everyone,

Thanks for the update on your experiences! Especially Katrina and gehen. Your perspectives will add value to those reading this, because as with anything I write on these pages, my experience only reflect just one opinion -- although it's THE one opinion that I usually tend to agree with (HAHAHA!).

But as my Stats professor once said: You need more than ONE data point to get a representative sample!

 
At 12:38 AM, Anonymous mimi said...

I tried to find the link of the Chinese news. But i can't find it now. Sorry, it's been couple days, and it got lost.
But i did let my husband go to buy takeout once after reading elmo's post. My husband reported me that he didn't see any other patron when he waited for my takeout, which was around the 5:30 during weekday though. The food tasted not the best. But given in Irvine, is good enough.

 
At 7:42 AM, Blogger joanh said...

I loved your metahor.. I guess there always has to be an odd man out. But the food looks good and much better than Daphne's.. will have to check it out.

 
At 9:09 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

joanh,

Definitely better than Daphne's. Though I wonder what you think of our version of 85 Degrees C (in the same plaza as this place) and how it compares to ones in Taiwan.

 
At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Max mickle said...

That Mediterranean combo looks so tasty. We had some of the best food two summers ago when we spent a few weeks in Greek Islands cuisine. Everything was so fresh and flavorful.
thank you for shearing your post.

 
At 10:57 PM, Anonymous mimi said...

just read the ocregister. The news of the one in DJ plaza I said long time ago seems official now.

 

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