Restaurant of the Week: Haandi

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Haandi, 7890 Haven Ave. (at Town Center), Rancho Cucamonga

India is a mild curiosity of mine, and Indian food likewise, but I’m barely conversant with its basics. Most of my dining is done at lunchtime, and most of our Indian places do nothing but buffet at lunchtime. I don’t like buffets much.

Recently, however, I thought to try dinner at Haandi, which is in the Deer Creek Center on Haven north of Foothill. The interior is plush, with lacquered tables and booths divided by etched glass. Indian art is on the walls and Indian music videos play on a flat screen TV.

The restaurant’s backstory is intriguing; owner Sartaj Singh is from India but studied cooking in Italy, and so he owns an Italian restaurant (Antonino’s) and an Indian restaurant (Haandi), both in Rancho Cucamonga. You can read about him on the RC Now blog here. The Haandi location began as a second Singh-owned Italian restaurant (Primavera) and still looks vaguely Italian.

But what of the food?

Chicken tikka masala ($12.99), chunks of tandoori chicken in curry sauce, and shahi paneer ($10.99), cheese in tomato sauce with ginger, were both delicious. And colorful: one dish yellow, the other red. The papadum (free), a crispy flatbread, came with green and red condiments. So most of the color wheel was represented at the table.

The papadum is an acquired taste, but the naan ($2.25), a pita-like bread served hot, was more to my liking. Many other menu items sound enticing, including lamb and seafood dishes, and there’s plenty here for vegetarians.

I returned Wednesday for lunch and to take a photo of the sign. Of course the buffet is a given; it’s what everyone does, so you don’t even get a menu.

Well, the buffet ($9.99) isn’t bad: salad, saag, bhindi masala, chicken tikka masala, vegetable samosas and tandoori chicken, among other items, plus kheer, a rice pudding, for dessert.

But I’m looking forward to my next dinner at Haandi.

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A salute to El Espectador del Valle

From Pomona College Magazine (via LA Observed) comes a lengthy tale of El Espectador del Valle (The Valley Observer), a daily newspaper for the Mexican American community published out of Pomona from 1931 to 1960. All the issues are apparently archived on microfilm at the Ontario City Library.

Read the story here. Publisher Ignacio Lutero Lopez, a 1931 Pomona College graduate, worked from his son’s bedroom on Chester Place and, at one point, hired a young columnist named Candelario J. Mendoza.

In 2007, Mendoza, then a member of the Pomona Unified School District board, got a new school named Ignacio Lutero Lopez Elementary, a lasting honor to a pioneering Pomonan.

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Final days at Virgin Megastore

The Big Apple’s last Virgin Megastore closed Sunday, leaving only the Hollywood store, which is closing soon. Here’s an article from the New York Times on the last day at the NY store kindly sent by reader Bob House.

The Times Square store apparently closed just days before my visit, but I did find (accidentally) the Union Square store, the one that closed Sunday. I picked up four or five jazz discs at 40 percent off. And a couple of weeks back I bought four discs at the Hollywood store at half-off. That was probably my last hurrah.

I was never a big shopper at the chain until its closeout sales, finding it overpriced (no longer an issue). But I used to like wandering through the Sunset and Crescent Heights store with its in-store disc jockey, enormous genre sections for pop standards, blues, world music, etc., a room devoted to classical and an upstairs solely for VHS and, later, DVDs.

Sigh. On the upside, Claremont’s Rhino Records is having a 10 percent off sale Saturday.

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Pomona West?

We occasionally come across mysteries on Yahoo or Google maps showing vanished Inland Valley communities like Grapeland and Rochester and Narod. But here’s a new mystery: Google Maps is showing a second Pomona probably 20 miles west of the real thing, out in Rosemead near the San Gabriel border.

Life in this second, phantom Pomona, it must be admitted, would have its advantages. Our version doesn’t have a decent Chinese restaurant, and this new one has dozens.

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Free bus rides on Thursday

Foothill Transit is taking part in a national “Dump the Pump” promotion. Just present a coupon to a bus driver this Thursday and you can ride free all day. Here’s the link to the form to fill out.

Presumably this coupon would be good for anyone — commuters, joyriders, whoever — wanting to try out the Silver Streak bus that goes from the Montclair TransCenter and downtown Pomona to L.A. in a straight shot. When the service was introduced with free rides, I took a half-day off work and ate lunch at Philippe’s.

Omnitrans, the main San Bernardino County bus service, is offering free rides too; here’s a link to its coupon.

Both coupons will be handy for anyone trying to get around the Inland Valley that day without wheels.

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Reality coming to Chino Hills

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Reality TV — the show “New York Goes to Work” — is due at the Archibald’s burger restaurant in Chino Hills on Wednesday. Here’s the Wikipedia page for the series.

My former colleague Joe Florkowski said he went to Archibald’s on Sunday with his grandfather (what a good grandson Joe is) and saw the accompanying sign on the door. I was confused by the sign until Joe explained that “New York” is the star’s nickname.

It’s unclear if Tiffany “New York” Pollard will be there or has already been there; the Wikipedia page indicates she’s already passed her fast food test. Well, drop in Wednesday and try to act natural.

Joe adds: “What do you think if I changed my name to ‘Chino Hills’ and visited New York? I think that would blow everyone’s minds!”

I told him he should change his name to Chino Hills even if he doesn’t visit NYC.

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Reading log: May 2009

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Books bought this month: “The Pleasure of My Company,” Steve Martin; “Maps and Legends,” Michael Chabon; “City Lights,” Dan Barry; “The World of Jimmy Breslin,” Jimmy Breslin; “Metropolitan Diary,” Ron Alexander; “Have Space Suit, Will Travel,” Robert Heinlein; “The Rolling Stones,” Robert Heinlein; “In Defense of Food,” Michael Pollan.

Books read this month: “Here Is New York,” E.B. White; “Between You and I,” James Cochrane; “Concrete Island,” J.G. Ballard; “The Soloist,” Steve Lopez; “Driving Blind,” Ray Bradbury; “The Subway Chronicles,” ed. Jacquelin Cangro; “Dandelion Wine,” Ray Bradbury.

Seven books read in May? Not bad. Although the first two were quite slim.

“Here is New York” (received as a birthday gift in March): A slim essay on the Manhattan of 1948, masterfully written, closing on a powerful premonition of a 9/11-type event but mostly looking back wistfully on a swiftly fading era of city life. A favorite line, from the 1949, one-year-later foreword: “The Lafayette Hotel, mentioned in passing, has passed despite the mention.”

“Between You and I” (bought in April off the sale table at a B&N in Chino Hills): I considered adding a spoiler alert for those who don’t want advance word on the difference between discreet and discrete (“tactful” and “individual,” respectively). Cochrane is as mystified as me as to why people write “could of” for “could have.” Not all the Brit’s choices travel across the pond, but for a grammar book, it’s fun

“Concrete Island” (purchased at Powell’s Books in Portland in 2007): A mention somewhere of the hilarious premise prompted me to hunt this down. It’s a Crusoe-like tale of an architect in 1970s London whose car goes off an overpass, marooning him on an “island” below the freeways. A gem.

“The Soloist” (received as a birthday gift in March): Even if, like me, you read all the LA Times columns this is based on, the book fleshes out the story. More nuanced than the movie. Gasp, Lopez isn’t an emotional cripple with his ex-wife as his editor!

“Driving Blind” (bought several years ago): Late-period Bradbury has its ups and downs. And I’m never sure if it’s him or me. This collection of 21 stories, if not classic, was at least consistent, varied and surprising (although the first two stories were clunkers). Standouts: “House Divided,” “Fee Fie Foe Fum,” “Nothing Changes,” “Someone in the Rain,” “Madame et Monsieur Shill,” “Virgin Resusitas” and “Mr. Pale.”

“Subway Chronicles” (loaned by a friend): The shortage of “name” writers may put some off, but this is a neat little collection of essays, best experienced in short bursts, of NYC subway encounters and transit ruminations. A favorite: Leigh Stolle’s “Transfer,” in which a subway mishap involving her Kansas parents opens a window into their lives.

“Dandelion Wine” (owned since the ’70s): I read this Bantam paperback as a teenager but dug it out in preparation for reading the sequel. A warm, sun-dappled evocation of a small-town Illinois summer, 1928. The occasional fantastic elements (the Happiness Machine?) seem out of place. Mostly, though, this is about porch swings, trolleys, grandma’s cooking and new sneakers. In the top rank of Bradbury books. A minor thrill: Bradbury signed it for me in Pasadena in 2000.

You’ll have to wait until next month to hear about the sequel. Best I can do for a cliffhanger, folks.

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More new old photos posted

A photo of the old Kapu-Kai sign for the Polynesian restaurant at Foothill and Vineyard in Cucamonga (wiped out by the ’69 flood) was kindly e-mailed to me a year ago by reader Derek Christiansen. At the time I wasn’t able to post photos, but I found the photo today while culling through my in-box and have posted it for posterity. See it here. A postcard image of the building was previously posted here.

Ditto with a photo of Jon “Lassie” Provost’s home in Pomona photographed in its current state by REN.

Hey, better late than never to share these, right?

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Restaurant of the Week: Kwon’s

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This week’s restaurant: Kwon’s Restaurant, 1625 W. Holt Ave. (at Dudley), Pomona

I’d never taken notice of Kwon’s until finding ecstatic reviews on Yelp and actively searching for the place one recent lunchtime. It’s out on West Holt near St. Joseph’s Church and housed in a skeevy-looking strip mall, although a CHP car parked outside offered some comfort.

Inside, Kwon’s was bustling, with multiple people ordering at the counter, waiting for takeout or packed into the half-dozen tables or booths. The clientele was made up of laborers, families and a couple of employees from Lanterman, not to mention a hungry columnist.

The menu consists mostly of fried rice in numerous permutations of beef, pork, chicken and shrimp, with or without vegetables. They also have chop suey, lo mein (or as a poster spells it, “low mein”) and the dreaded orange chicken. I ordered shrimp fried rice with vegetables ($6.45) and hoped for the best.

What I got was a heaping plate — Yelp reviewers estimate it at a pound — of rice with cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, scallions, onions and broccoli, and a generous amount of shrimp. Slightly bland, perhaps, but you get soy sauce and hot sauce. For a cheap meal of reasonable quality and unreasonable quantity, you can’t beat it with a chopstick.

I took home half my order and got a second meal out of it.

Apparently Kwon’s was upgraded a year or two ago. Yelpers say the storefront sign used to read only “Restaurant”; now it gives the full name and says “since 1983.” Long may they fry.

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