Where are the great Chinese restaurants of the Inland Valley?

Not long ago I had dinner with friends at China Gate, the Chinese restaurant in Upland by Trader Joe’s. China Gate is probably the best Chinese eatery in the Inland Valley, and one of the most popular.

We had two of the specialties, the sizzling beef plate and the seafood clay pot, plus the kung pao chicken. The food was good, as it reliably is at China Gate (although the seafood clay pot, we couldn’t help but notice, did not come in a clay pot). The service was friendly and attentive. When the third member of our party finally arrived, 15 minutes late, the waiter, hands on hips, asked with perfect comic timing: “What took you so long?”

So there’s a lot to be said in China Gate’s favor.

But in looking over the 100-plus-item menu, it must be said that there’s a 1980s feel to it, and maybe even older. Have you noticed they still serve not only egg foo yung, but chop suey? How very Yangtze of them. And China Gate may be the valley’s most authentic Chinese restaurant.

What’s strange is that you can get fairly authentic Thai food, or Japanese food, or Korean food, or Vietnamese food at any number of restaurants out here. Asians and non-Asians alike pack into, say, Sanamluang in Pomona or Pho Ha in Rancho Cucamonga. Nobody’s catering to American tastes there by serving pho with, I dunno, pepperoni, or pad Thai with bacon and avocado.

And yet whenever somebody opens a Chinese restaurant here, they feel obliged to serve cream cheese wontons and orange chicken. Why not go for the Chinese audience? The rest of us might follow.

This isn’t to say our valley has no decent Chinese food, just nothing that isn’t Americanized to a greater or lesser extent.

Among the best, besides the aforementioned China Gate: Noble House and Chu Chinese Cuisine, both in Rancho Cucamonga; Chopsticks House, with two locations in Ontario; and Chinese Pavilion and Phoenix Garden, both in La Verne.

As far as chains go, Panda Inn in Ontario and P.F. Chang’s in Rancho Cucamonga offer superior meals, and Pei Wei, in Rancho Cucamonga, a P.F. Chang’s spinoff, has good Asian-inflected food at modest prices.

On Tuesday, I had lunch at Foothill Bistro, which two months ago took the place of Emperor’s Kitchen at Hellman and Foothill in Rancho Cucamonga. (The same center has good Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants, plus a boba shop. Also, a Chuck E. Cheese.)

“Hong Kong Style Chinese Food,” the banner says. Foothill Bistro was pretty good. They have Singapore-style chow fun and a menu of 137 more items. It bears further investigation. There’s even a B in the window.

Still, there’s no congee or dim sum or other items (my experience is fairly limited, I’m afraid) that one would find in Alhambra or Chinatown. And the name is kind of bland. At this point, though, Foothill Bistro ought to be encouraged.

Let me end with a question for you foodies:

Can anyone recommend an authentic Chinese restaurant in Diamond Bar, or anywhere else east of San Gabriel?

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