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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  • John Clifford

    There are many excellent Chinese restaurants in Rowland Heights. Just drive the 60 Fwy toward LA and look for the shopping centers with mostly Chinese characters on the signs. Had great dim sum and other “authentic” Chinese food at several of them. And, as with any good ethnic restaurant, the majority of the patrons appeared to be Chinese.

  • Jerry Lerma

    While hardly in the league of the great dim sum houses of Alhambra or Monterey Park, the House of Louie, just off the Grand Ave. offramp of the westbound 10 freeway in Covina, is a somewhat authentic, close by and quite good. You won’t get the variety you find at those other places, but when you need a quick dim sum fix, it’s the place to go. You can also order from the menu, but why would you want to when those roving carts of wonderful steaming dumplings are passing by every few minutes.

    House of Louis Chinese Restaurant
    124 N Grand Ave, West Covina, CA 91791

    [I'll have to check it out. -- DA]

  • Jerry Title

    I notice you do not mention Yangtze on Euclid between Holt and B street. Have you ever eaten there? Been in business at the same spot since 1965, and Mrs. Gin still rules the roost. Survival, in this day and age, must stand for something. My wife and I have been eating there since day one, and still find it very good and satisfying.

    [Actually, since 1961. I applaud their staying power, and I think Mrs. Gin is terrific. I must admit I'm not a fan of their food, but I'm glad you enjoy the place. -- DA]

  • Jeff Aragaki

    It’s been 20 years since I’ve been to China Gate. Back then, we used to go specifically for Nelson the waiter. The best and most fun service ever (especially for Chinese; most of the time service is terrible). I wonder if he’s still there?

  • Joanne Boyajian

    Hi David, there’s House of Louie just off the Grand Ave exit from the 10 fwy going west. (That’s 128 N. Grand in West Covina). They serve dim sum every day until 2pm and then have dim sum samplers for dinner. It’s the closest place I know of for dim sum. Very busy but great!

    [A second vote for Louie! -- DA]

  • Scott in R.C.

    David,

    I’m glad you made a quick mention for Noble House in Rancho Cucamonga. My family loves their food and business wise they seem to have a good flow of foot traffic coming and going, whether they dine in or order to go.

    I haven’t tried Chu Chinese Cuisine and would like to get out to try Pho Ha soon, based on your recommendation.

    Thanks for the reviews!

    Scott

    [You're welcome, Scott. -- DA]

  • forrest wooster

    Another great Chinese restaurant is Yangtze in Ontario. And same management for 47+ years.

  • http://mrontemp.blogspot.com/2008/01/david-if-you-think-uplands-bad-go-to-se.html Ontario Emperor

    While China Gate may not be perfectly authentic, it’s comparably authentic next to some of the “Chinese American restaurants” in southeast Portland that I used to frequent.

    Then again, that was the 1980s. Perhaps they’ve risen to Upland’s level now.

    For the record, I’ve always received good service at China Gate.

    [Me too. I've gone there off and on for 10 years. -- DA]

  • Jerry Lerma

    I love the Yangtze, and it is great if you want to relive the nostalgic Chinese meals of your childhood (remember Chungking Cafe in Pomona and the Jade Palace in Montclair…oops, sorry, that’s another entry for Things That Aren’t Here Anymore), but I think the more authentic regional dishes are much more interesting, satisfying and, sadly, a lot harder to find.

  • Sharon

    Sorry to tell you, David…..but Chinese food in America is not authentic food. I spent two weeks in China this summer and the Chinese food there was terrible. One of the favorite foods in China is dog meat (chihuahua is their favorite)! Now, that’s authentic! I couldn’t wait to return to LAX and enjoy American Chinese food.

  • Mike

    The Jade House in Diamond Bar serves some pretty good and very authentic food. Ever been to China Point in Rancho Cucamonga? Best service and food in the valley.

    [Thanks for the tips, Mike. -- DA]

  • Fred Lyn

    DA: First time poster, long time reader! Don’t listen to those who say House of Louie is good! You want authentic right?

    Listen, here are my picks, coming from a Chinese guy who has been to a lot of Chinese restaurants:

    DB and Rowland Hts: Hong Kong Palace (2 locations)

    Rowland Hts: New Capitol Seafood (Fullerton Rd) or Sam Woo (Gale Ave / Nogales)

    [Fred, thanks for the guidance. Btw, I'm a first-time reader of your comments but now I'm a fan. -- DA]

  • Robert Karatsu

    First of all, I will second Sharon’s comments about Chinese food in China. Authentic does *not* equal good (or even at time edible!)

    And in Rancho, the Dragon Inn on Foothill and Archibald is in my opinion, good value. The next time you stop by the Archibald Library, afterwards, let’s do lunch there and you can decide for yourself.

    RK

    [Sounds fair, RK. -- DA]

  • wyl

    We can go on and on about what is truly authentic. The fact of the matter is, a lot of yummy Thai and Japanese restaurants in the Inland Valley aren’t authentic either. Most Thais don’t consume as much pad thais as we do and most Japanese consider California rolls to be well, Californian.

    But perhaps the reason some of the pho and Korean BBQ eateries seem more true to their native countries than say China Gate to Sichuan is because Korean and Vietnamese immigrants are relatively new here so their history of opening businesses in the States is quite short, whereas the Chinese in New York and San Francisco have been here a lot longer and have catered to white Americans for many decades, thereby creating a new Chinese-American cuisine.

    Egg foo young, after all, is just an interpretation of an omelet. How could you peddle roasted duck and chow fun at the turn of the century?

    By the way, while some Americans find Chinese food in China hard to get used to, it’s simply not true that no Chinese food in the States is authentic. A taste of the San Gabriel Valley will bring any Chinese immigrant back to their childhood.

    P.S. Dog meat is a regional specialty, not a favorite. And while the thought of someone gnawing on a chihuahua might be horrifying and comical, it’s not something the Chinese have ever done.

    [Thanks for your defense of made-in-China cuisine. I didn't know what to say to Sharon's note, except to be quietly appalled. -- DA]

  • Sue

    I loved Emperor’s Kitchen!!! So sorry to see it gone! Did it relocate, or are the owner’s planning another restaurant??

  • su

    There are Korean restaurants in the area that are very authentic. But there are even more popping up in the area. There’s a large brand new HK Supermarket (Korean supermarket chain) that opened in Rancho Cucamonga.

    One newer Korean restaurant:
    Myung dong tofu house
    Rancho cucamonga
    9799 baseline rd RC
    909-481-1957

    [It's a good place. Donitori (sp?), also in RC, closed before I could make it there. -- DA]

  • Lisa

    Chino Hills has a new Taiwanese restaurant called Good Time Cafe near the new 99 Ranch Market. I haven’t ventured too much with Taiwanese food, so it’s hard to tell how it stacks up — but the food was great. It was cool eating something so new (to me) a scant three-block-walk from my condo. Very metropolitan Chino Hills — or as I like to say “Chills” for shorthand.

    [I wondered if Chills might be slightly ahead of us due to its proximity to Diamond Bar. Thanks for the field report. -- DA]

  • Warren Halvorson

    Well here we go again, It has been so long since I was in Upland – The only Chinese resturants that I remember are the Jade Place and the Yangtze.

    The Jade Palace was a lot of fun and the family went there at least twice a month. It was one of three places that my parents would take us on a Friday for dinner.

    I remeber the Yangtze Resturant and ate there several times — the food was good. I had gone to high school with Gary Gin whose parents owned the Yangtze. I went to the 30-year reunion and at that time I believe he had an active part in running the restaurant.

    Does anyone know if the Sycamore Inn is still in business. It used to be a stage stop in the 1800s and was considered one of the “select” resturants in the 1960s.

    [It's still there, Warren. -- DA]

  • Charles Bentley

    GREETINGS:

    Just wanted to throw in a few thoughts on this topic. First, it’s amazing that the Yangtze is still going strong, considering most Chinese restaurants have a relatively short lifespan in the Inland Valley. I, like David, have never been a fan of the Yangtze’s cuisine, but you have to give credit for such longevity.

    Adding to Jerry’s list of former local standouts, Mandarin Gardens on Holt on Ontario and the Phoenix on Central in Montclair (it’s now Fu-Lin).

    I’ll add my recommendations for Chopsticks House (don’t forget the one in San Dimas!), House of Louie (okay, West Covina isn’t in the IV, but their Dim Sum is worth the trek), and Mandarin Taste on Golden Springs Drive in Diamond Bar.

    One more plug — Mongolian BBQ may or may not fit into the Chinese restaurant category (although I see Thai, Korean and Vietnamese already named in responses). If so, add Emperor Mongolian BBQ to the list. It’s in the same shopping center as House of Louie (just north of the I-10 at Grand Avenue) and is terrific.

    [With an April 1 column a few years back I printed a photo of Fu Lin. Love the name. -- DA]

  • Bob A.

    Although I can’t say how authentic it is, I like China Point on Archibald in Rancho. Good food and wonderful people running the place. I also like the food, service and atmosphere at Dragon Inn, also on Archibald.

    [That's two votes for Dragon Inn. -- DA]

  • mike mendez

    does anyone remember the chung king restaurant in pomona near the fox theater? what ever happened to them?

    they had the best crab rangoon and spareribs.

    [They closed up circa 2000, Mike. Lack of business. -- DA]

  • Bob House

    Chung King had a pretty remarkable run. My family was ordering food from them — that was delivered to Claremont! — in the ’50s. In those days, standard Americanized Cantonese food was exotic, but so was pizza.

    [Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Chung King, Yangtze, Jade Palace and Jong's were the valley's only Chinese restaurants for a long stretch. -- DA]

  • Susan Callaway

    I remember going to the ChungKing Cafe in Pomona for my mom’s birthday. She loved that place. They did have the best Crab Rangoon and Spareribs…just like Mike said.

  • James

    I know where anyone can get great Chinese Food. By ordering catering by me. I am, oops sorry, was the owner of Emperor’s Kitchen, James. I am available for catering and private meals. Please send me an email if you are interested: jloomis08(at)gmail.com

    I have traveled to many parts of China, many places no one has seen on travel channels. I have learned many exciting dishes and can cook any dish in Rowland Heights from vegetarian to steamed Bao (Chinese bread filled with pork or vegetables or many other wonderful things). Scallop & egg soup (created by me) and salt and pepper jalapeno crab are still two of my favorite dishes.

    Thank you to all of you who came and enjoyed Emperor’s Kitchen.