Restaurant of the Week: L.Y.L. Garden

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CLOSED; now Casa Jimenez

This week’s restaurant: L.Y.L. Garden, 921 W. Foothill (between Mountain and Towne), Claremont

L.Y.L. opened in April, replacing Captain KJ’s in the former China Star location at the west end of the Sprouts center. To my knowledge, this is the only sit-down Chinese restaurant in Claremont. I’m afraid my city is awfully light on one of the world’s most popular cuisines.

A reader whose name I’ve misplaced (sorry) said I should give L.Y.L. a try, saying he gets takeout from there frequently. And so I invited a couple of foodie friends to lunch there the other day.

Before leaving the newsroom, I mentioned my destination to my colleague Wendy Leung. She joked: “I can tell you what they’re going to have. Sweet and sour pork, kung pao chicken, beef with broccoli…”

Sadly, she was right. All the popular non-Chinese Chinese items filled the lunch menu, which has a page of $5.95 combos and a page of $6.95 combos. Yes, orange chicken is among them. So much for my hopes, based on the restaurant’s unusual name, that this would be a more authentic Chinese experience.

That said, the food was competent and plentiful. The combos come with soup (in our case, a decent hot and sour), an egg roll (mediocre) and either rice or lo mein. I got the lo mein, which made me the envy of my friends, who’d ordered rice. They ordered string beans and chicken with cashews (each $5.95) and the big spender (me) got scallops with garlic sauce ($6.95).

They liked their combos okay but thought the rice portion was undersized. My entree was all right but nothing special. Two of us had leftovers, so the price-per-meal was right.

The L.Y.L. interior is very different from the China Star days, and arguably better: Rather than pleasant but dull cushioned booths, the seating is small wooden tables and a few wooden booths separated by paper screens. The false ceiling is gone, exposing steel beams from which hang paper lanterns and fashion lighting.

L.Y.L. may prosper because I don’t think there’s another Chinese restaurant for some distance — maybe La Verne’s Chinese Pavilion.

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  • Jim Downs

    Thanks for the review. You mentioned not knowing about another Chinese restaurant. I don’t know whether the one you mentioned in La Verne is closer that the Yangtze Kitchen in Ontario, but this is a venerable Ontario institution located on beautiful Euclid Ave. and should merit a visit. Just a suggestion.

    [Jim, I love that Yangtze exists, but candidly, I can’t recommend it for anything other than the decor and the tradition. To each his own. — DA]

  • Fred

    DA… thanks for doing the review! To be fair, have your colleague Wendy try the place first before passing judgment.

    I was skeptical at first, but was pleasantly surprised… Even the “authentic Chinese” restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley have some “non-traditional” Chinese dishes to satisfy the non-Chinese palate.

    [Fred, you’re the fellow who recommended the restaurant, right? Glad you saw my blog post. — DA]

  • Gavin

    Your other colleague Wes Woods mentioned this place back in April, and he also pointed out another restaurant in Monterey Park bearing the identical name.

  • Bob House

    I know technically it’s in Upland, but I’ve always considered New China a “Claremont” restaurant. However, it’s years since I’ve been there — how’s their food on the authentic and taste scales?

    Originally, the Sage Hen Liquor store (thus the bird image still visible), this building was located just barely over the Claremont line so that thirsty Claremonters would have a convenient place to buy booze in the town’s dry days.

    [I tend to forget New China is there, but you’re right, it’s nearby. Very dim interior, lots of wood, a classic bar-like feel, but very average food, I’d say. Nothing wrong with average, though. — DA]

  • Bob T

    Hey Fred, take it easy on Wendy…she was right on. Now that Noble House is long gone, anybody know of a local place that has Peking or Crispy Duck…I’m really “jonesin'” for some.

  • I have nothing against sweet and sour pork. Some of best friends eat it. I just never eat with them.

    Bob, have you ever been to Foothill Bistro, formerly Emperor’s Kitchen? I haven’t had their Peking Duck but their noodle dishes are good. It’s in the Chuck E Cheese center on Foothill and Hellman.

  • asdfadsf

    chinese restaurants have americanized dishes because americans really like them for some reason. go with the flow.

    that said, if you don’t want to eat americanized chinese food, don’t order it. IMO ‘authentic’ chinese cooks tend to cook americanized chinese food terribly.

    if you order the right dishes from that restaurant you will be pleased, for sure. don’t order what’s familiar. be bold and order something different.