Dining on a budget: Yoko Yoko in Diamond Bar

By Maritza Velazquez

I love a good Japanese restaurant.

And in Diamond Bar, there are more than a couple great spots. One of my favorites has to be Yoko Yoko Sushi & Rolls.

A Japanese fusion restaurant, this place offers a little more variety than your traditional Japanese selections. I’ve been here a few times and have never been disappointed by the food. 

I try to seek out something new each time I go there.

On a recent visit it was the Green Salmon appetizer for $6.95. Baked salmon surrounds chopped green mussel, onion, avocado and tomato. The dish is smothered in a delicious sesame-based sauce that really compliments the salmon. 

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I also ordered the Dynamite Roll, which is a California Roll, topped with bay scallops baked with mayonnaise and masago. Although this is probably my favorite dish at Yoko Yoko, this time the scallops didn’t have their usual freshness. I was surprised because everything I’ve tried here, including the sashimi, has proved to be really fresh.

 

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If you’re a spicy food lover, you can also order the Volcano Roll, which is the same as the Dynamite Roll except it has a little bit of a kick to it. There’s a great selection of baked rolls, fresh rolls and tempura rolls. Whatever your choice, all the specialty rolls are $10.95.

Yoko Yoko opened last year and replaced the old Rendino’s Pizza.

Beautifully remodeled, it boasts a more modern look and fun atmosphere. If you decide to sit at the sushi bar, the chefs are really friendly and more than willing to explain any of the dishes to you.

But if you opt to sit at one of the booths, beware – many of the servers don’t regularly make their rounds to check on their customers. Most likely, you’ll have to catch their attention. More than once, I’ve had to go up to the register to pay for my own bill after waiting 10 minutes or more.

This is something I’ve heard from many people in the area who enjoy Yoko Yoko’s food. They say the fare is great, but the service is not satisfactory. 

I have to admit though, my most recent visit on a Friday afternoon was much more pleasant than in the past. My acquaintance and I had a seat on the patio and our server (whom I had never seen there before) was very attentive.

Despite the sometimes questionable service, I always return to Yoko Yoko for the great food. I always have a good time, whether I visit for lunch or dinner. They’ve also got a few flatscreens, too, so it’s a great place for all you sports fans. And while you’re watching, you can enjoy a glass of Bud Light on draft for just $0.99.

Yoko Yoko Sushi & Roll is located at 2161 S. Diamond Bar Blvd., in Diamond Bar. For more information, call (909) 860-4000. 

Jack in the Box and their bowls

Why Jack has obsession with bowls is beyond me.

Though I haven’t tried the breakfast bowl meals offering basically a breakfast burrito without the tortilla and with a spoon, I was willing to try the new Teriyaki bowls.

Actually, they’re not new. Apparently the teriyaki bowl was first introduced by the restaurant chain in 1993 and were a hit to many guests but was removed from the menu in 2003.

As much as I love Jack in the Box, I wasn’t expecting too much from these new versions of the meal, which may or may not end up being a fad again.

The teriyaki bowls come with steamed white rice topped with broccoli and thinly sliced carrots, and your choice of strips of chicken or sirloin steak, and all covered with a teriyaki sauce.

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One weekday lunch I decided to try the sirloin steak bowl and I was happily surprised.

Yes, I know, it’s just Jack in the Box, but the tasty and tangy teriyaki sauce did not overwhelm the fresh taste of the vegetables and the nicely grilled generous portions of steak, and the rice was soft and not bland.

I’ve never been a fan of Yoshinoya, but if I were them, I would think twice about my business if Jack in the Box is able to perfect a teriyaki bowl in their very diverse menu and they can’t even perfect it as their main staple in their menu.

Even though I still wanted more, I had to convince my stomach that it was plenty. Especially with the egg roll that came with the meal.

I think its a great deal for the suggested prices, excluding tax, of $4.29 for chicken and $4.79 for sirloin steak. My combo, which included a warm, crunchy egg roll, and small drink added up to $6.92 total with taxes.

I still don’t know if I’m ready to take the plunge into the breakfast bowl yet, though.

Goodbye Tampopo Ramen

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Last week, I visited Tampopo Ramen, a Japanese restaurant in the food court-like Plaza Walk building in Rowland Heights. Last night, I happened to wander by the area again and saw a sign in front of the restaurant that announced its closure on June 2.

Today, I called up the restaurant to confirm it was actually closing forever, not just on one day.

Yes, it’s true. They’re closing.

The person on the phone, who sounded like the owner, said he’s received many compliments about the food and condolences about their closing. The man said operating costs are high, as are the rent and parking fees. There’s another Tampopo Ramen in Gardena, although he’s not the owner-operator. The man says he doesn’t have any plans to open at another location this year. Their last day is June 1.

If you have time before June 2, check it out. I really enjoyed it, and even started writing a review for it for the Highlanders…
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Sakura Ichi

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Power lunch, dinner date, happy hour. I tried out Sakura Ichi in Pomona a couple of weeks ago after a few recommendations. It’s a beautiful restaurant in downtown Pomona with good service and pretty good Japanese food.

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The inside of the restaurant is gorgeous. Modern Japanese. Dark wood. Red accents. Bamboo poles. Mood lighting. Large bar. Private rooms, including traditional Japanese dining rooms. It’s a great place for a dinner date or a business lunch.

The service is friendly and attentive. Our waiter explained the different dishes and made some very good suggestions.

While the food isn’t magnificent, it’s still very good. The menu includes pretty much everything you’d expect to find at a Japanese restaurant — chicken teriyaki, gyoza, California rolls, tempura, salmon teriyaki and lots of sushi. There’s even separate page dedicated to Chinese dishes. I also ordered a salmon collar (they also have yellowtail collar) that was soft, fatty and very tasty. I was disappointed by the tempura. The vegetables were a little hard, and the tempura batter wasn’t as light and fluffy as I would like it to be.

Sakura Ichi Japanese Restaurant
101 W Mission Blvd # 101
Pomona, CA 91766
(909) 865-2059

Microwaved miso soup

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A few weeks ago, I went to Sushiya, a Japanese restaurant in the Eastern portion of Pasadena. According to a few reviews I read on Yelp!, it sounded like a decent place to go. And it was. The sushi chefs were nice, the waitress was friendly, and the food was ok. It definitely wasn’t the best quality sushi I’ve had, but it was extremely inexpensive. The sushi rolls didn’t taste bad, but they weren’t great either. This is the type of restaurant that’ll satisfy a cheap and quick sushi craving but not good enough for a “night out.”

Then comes the miso soup. I didn’t order it, but a table of women next to us did. First, I heard the “ding!” of a microwave from inside the kitchen. Moments later, the waitress comes out with three bowls of miso soup.

Is it OK to microwave miso soup?

Sushiya
2525 E. Foothill Blvd. # 2
Pasadena,
CA
91107
(626) 795-1311

Anjo, anyone?

Anytime someone in the news room mentions Anjo, we get all flurried. We love this place that’s situated on the border of West Covina and Baldwin Park.

They have everything from sushi to udon and it’s always fresh.

This little restaurant (when I say little, I mean little) opens up for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., then closes until dinner time from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday only, and Sunday, only dinner is offered. It is closed every Monday.

I believe they can afford to have such oddly short hours, since it is always packed for lunch. My very first day here at the paper about two years ago I was invited to this locale for lunch and tried salmon for the first time.

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Shin Sen Gumi – Monterey Park

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Shin Sen Gumi’s newest location opened in Monterey Park a few months ago, and it is fantastic. It’s a shabu shabu and yakitori restaurant, similar to one of the Gardena locations.

Decor - Modern Japanese. Simple. Elegant. Most of the tables are along the windows, and there’s plenty of counter seating. There are a few inset tables behind curtains for privacy. There’s special private dining area that’s more traditional Japanese (you
sit on the floor) and is available by reservation only. That room has
a 6 person/$250 minimum.

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Food - The yakitori is excellent. In addition to usual chicken, meatball and sausage, the menu also has heart, liver and beef tongue. YUM. The shabu shabu is good but not really special, though the ponzu sauce is really tasty. The appetizers are great.

Service - Attentive. Friendly. And fun. Just like the other Shin Sen Gumi locations, the waiters shout in unison in Japanese to greet you, to thank you when you leave and when you ask for your check. I have no idea what they’re saying.

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When we received our first order of grilled beef tongue, our waiter showed us how to make a traditional accompanying sauce — Yuzu kosho (a mildly spicy chili paste) and ponzu (citrus-seasoned vinegar).

Try - Order as many types of yakitori as you can. They cost about $2 to $3 an order, and they’re easy to share. Also, try the creamy crab croquette. It’s unlike any other croquette I’ve had before.