First, though - a clarification. I spoke with my friends (the regulars of the group - Tonia, Todd and Samer), and we have opted to make the FORK RATING SYSTEM based entirely on food. Our reasoning? The reality is that all of the restaurants we will visit are going to be quite different with respect to service type, decor, etc... So, the forks will be left to the food, and I will be in charge of painting the picture for readers. Hopefully you can follow me easily enough along the way!
Photos courtesy of Green Tray website
Green Tray advertises itself as a cafeteria, restaurant and a cafe; providing the opportunity to grab-and-go, sit and enjoy a meal, or relax over a drink and snack. While the term cafeteria isn't really all that appealing and not necessarily one that I would use to advertise, I can see the parallels. The name Green Tray is actually very appropriate for the restaurant. Yes, quite literally, the trays are green... but it's more than that. The restaurant decor speaks "green": clean lines and open space. It is a relaxing atmosphere with an air of sustainability, comfortable wicker chairs, clean white tables and a complete lack of clutter. Something that isn't lacking, though - customers. In our 2 hour visit, customers were coming and going - some to use the express counter and take their food to go (there's the cafeteria aspect), others to enjoy their dinner on site, and a few who sat studying and snacking. The majority of visitors seemed to be students, but that certainly didn't make the restaurant feel as though it was suited only to that market of customers.
The organization of the restaurant is different from many. Everyone orders from the same register in front of the express line. You help yourself to drinks, and if you choose to stay on site to eat, they will deliver the food to the table of your choosing once it is ready. The menu? The website (found here: http://www.green-tray.com/ ) states that "Green Tray Restaurant is an Asian Fusion restaurant serving a wide selection of cuisine such as Cantonese Dim Sum, Chinese Stir-
Now, I am not a very adventurous eater (part of the reason why this 40 in 40 adventure is so great for me, and perhaps why my above statement about variety may raise eyebrows), so I opted for the wonton soup and a spring roll to start, and as my main, sweet and sour chicken over noodles. Tonia and Todd also ordered soup to start; Tonia having curry chicken as a main and Todd choosing steamed vegetables and spicy Korean chicken from the express line over noodles. Samer ordered the Vietnamese chicken noodle soup. Here's where the not-so-positive aspect of the evening comes in... Three of our orders and the starter soups were made to order from the kitchen. Of course, Todd's meal came from the express line, so it was ready first. The timing from there was odd. Tonia's curry chicken arrived before the soups and my spring roll, and then Samer's Vietnamese chicken noodle soup was quite some time after everything else, leaving him to sit and wait awkwardly while the rest of us felt badly for starting to eat so that our food didn't go cold. The soups, though - very hot (nice on a chilly evening, but I still miss that skin on the roof of my mouth) BUT very bland. I added some soy sauce for flavour, and that definitely helped. The spring roll was good - nice and flaky, flavourful...Then, as I plunged into my HUGE portion of sweet and sour chicken (all of the portions are quite large - so be prepared!), I was disappointed to find that my noodles under the chicken were barely warm. For me, this was a frustrating thing because I had specifically avoided the express line in order to ensure that things would be hot and fresh... Instead, I was left wondering if there was a mass quantity of noodles in the kitchen ready to warm up and add to any meal. Generally, the food was also greasier than what I expected. When I think "green", I think fresh ingredients cooked without, or with few oils. While I'm not a chef and may have no idea how to cook this kind of food, I certainly think it could have been made with less oil - especially the soup (which had oil on the surface).
On a good note, while we ate, I noticed how comfortable it was to sit there. The temperature of the restaurant was nice (I can't stand cold or hot air blowing on me while I'm eating), the seats were cozy, and as we continued to be our usual boisterous selves, we didn't seem to be bothering any of the other customers - including those studying (unless, of course, they were just being polite). In addition, the staff were polite and courteous, which goes a long way.
And now, the nitty gritty.
THE FORK RATINGS (food rated on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the best possible score):
Carrie: 2 forks. Greasiness and lack of flavour. The spring roll saved this one.
Tonia: 2.5 forks. I sampled her curry chicken - while the rice wasn't super fresh, the dish was pretty flavourful!
Todd: 2 forks. Lukewarm noodles were saved by the spicy-ness of the Korean Chicken.
Samer: 1 fork. The soup was very bland and left a lot to be desired. Avoid.
OVERALL SCORE: 2 forks
Generally speaking, I think that if other factors other than food were considered here, the rating may be better. I also know people who go to Green Tray quite frequently (especially for use of the express line); but all in all, only 2 forks would dig in to this food.
See you next week! We are heading to Saigon Delights on Bagot Street!