Restaurant of the Week: Sam’s Unique Diner

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Sam’s Unique Diner, 4721 Chino Hills Parkway (at Monte Vista), Chino Hills

Don’t let the name fool you: Sam’s Unique Diner is not a hash house with a waitress named Flo but rather a Chinese restaurant, and a stylish one. It opened in the Commons shopping center a few weeks ago.

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The entry looks like a hotel and the dining room has a chandelier.

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I was there for a group lunch recently and ordered off the lunch menu, not dissimilar from that of many Chinese restaurants. I got the most exotic sounding item, twice cooked pork ($8, below), and liked it. But the restaurant, I could tell, was better than the orange chicken, kung pao chicken and other standbys on the lunch menu.

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So I returned for a weekend lunch with a friend. We had westlake beef soup ($11, not pictured); yam with blueberries ($10, below); beef with cumin ($14, second photo below); and fish filet with vegetables ($11, third photo below).

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The yam item was the only one we thought was just okay. The white yams had a taste like jicama. Pleasant, but dull.

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I love cumin dishes and beef with cumin did not disappoint. The soup was good as well and we liked the light, moist tilapia in the fish filet.

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The expansive restaurant has private dining rooms and a covered patio for groups. It’s said to have Sichuan, Cantonese and Shanghai-style cuisine.┬áChino Hills has a number of authentic Chinese restaurants and Sam’s is among the best, and in what may be the most spectacular restaurant setting in the city.

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Getting to Montclair from … Narod?

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The website for Burgerim, a new hamburger emporium in Montclair, lists the driving distance from various local cities, including Narod. Narod? That’s a vanished community around Mission and Central, essentially the land between Montclair and Chino. Google lists Narod — I scrolled down the map to show it before doing the screen shot — as well as some other long-gone communities like Rochester and Grapeland. Click on the photo for a larger view.

Anyway, I find it hilarious that Narod is listed on the Burgerim site, at least for now, alongside Ontario, Pomona and more. It’s six minutes away from the restaurant, by the way.

Speaking of Burgerim, if you’re reading this Sept. 21, the place is giving away free food today in its grand opening, from 11 a.m. until they run out, at 9359 Central Ave.

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Column: Church organ to punctuate silent comedies

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Ever wanted to see a silent film, with live organ accompaniment? Here’s your chance: A church in Pomona will screen two comedies Saturday night and use the pipe organ to provide music. Sounds like a fun event. That leads off Wednesday’s column, followed by a Literary Corner, a Culture Corner and a Valley Vignette. Note that I’ll be selling and signing “Pomona A to Z” at two places Saturday if you’d like a copy; details are within the column.

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Odd man out

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Acclaimed writers Jonathan Lethem, center, and Nicholson Baker are photographed after Wednesday’s conversation at Scripps College. The man at left has not been identified. Photo by Jackie Legazcue of Scripps.

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Column: From Montclair to the Broad Museum by bus

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For Sunday’s column, I rode the Silver Streak bus from Montclair to downtown LA’s Broad Museum on Bunker Hill with a couple of public transit pals. It’s kind of a dual review of the bus and the museum. At $4.90 for me for the bus, and the free admission, it was low-cost, although the lunch spot more than evened things out.

Photo above of the Broad by Grace Moremen. That’s Jacqueline Chase and me in the crosswalk.

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Column: ‘Substitute’ author may have something to teach us

Author Nicholson Baker had his own ideas of how education ought to be fixed, but he realized he was an impostor because he was coming at it from a theoretical angle. So he signed up as a substitute teacher. Promoting his book “Substitute,” he spoke in Claremont, a talk that leads off my Friday column. After that, I update my recent column on Ontario’s Meredith Property and add two short items.

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Restaurant of the Week: Poke Dot

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Poke Dot, 175 N. Indian Hill Blvd. (at 2nd), Claremont

The poke craze, like the Pokemon craze, has hit Claremont. Poke Dot, whose only other location right now is in Irvine, opened last week in the Village (or the “new Village,” depending on your outlook). A “coming soon” sign for Oke Poke is hanging outside the Old School House.

A friend alerted me that Poke Dot had a half-off deal for its opening weekend, so rather than let the place settle in, I headed over on Sunday. It was busy, not surprisingly. The restaurant, whose name is a pun on “polka dot” if you need help with the pronunciation, is between Jamba Juice and a skate shop and replaces a gift shop that moved a couple of doors north.

As with Oke Poke, whose Chino Hills location was featured here recently, you line up like at Chipotle or Subway to make a series of possibly bewildering choices. Regular or large bowl, OK. Salad or rice, yes. By the time you decide whether you want masago or furikake, or both, you may be flying blind.

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I opted for a regular bowl ($9), brown rice, a mix of cucumber, onion and cilantro, then tuna, scallops and the seasonal fish, yellowtail. The seasoning and sauce question was answered cilantro twist, and for toppings, I got masago, furikake and green onions. Combined with a canned soda, I’d normally have paid $11.

The bowl was quite good, and while I had liked Oke Poke, the fish seemed to be of higher quality here. Which is good for me, since Poke Dot is closer than Chino Hills, or even the Old School House. At this point, the only other Poke Dot is in Irvine.

After your meal, you can play Pokemon in the neighborhood — the fountain in the courtyard plaza is a hotspot, as is 2nd Street between Harvard and Yale.

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Daily Bulletin on Vacation

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I was in Portland, Oregon for four days last week. It’s tough taking a selfie while also getting a newspaper into the frame, but this was the best I could do outside Powell’s, the famed bookstore. It will be the subject of Wednesday’s column.

In the Why Am I So Good to You category, please note that your humble servant managed to write three columns before leaving, while also giving up moments of vacation to post them here and elsewhere on schedule. Besides saving you the pain of deprivation, the extra work helped me clear away some material. Everyone’s a winner.

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