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.