Restaurant of the Week: Rokuan

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Rokuan, 14230 Chino Hills Parkway (at Grand), Chino Hills

Chino Hills is home to Ojiya, a Japanese restaurant well above the norm for the 909. Yelp led me to Rokuan, another Chino Hills Japanese restaurant that, like Ojiya, gets great ratings. I tried Rokuan out Tuesday evening with three friends before “Lost.”

Located in a small shopping center with a Stater Brothers market, Rokuan’s sign says only “Sushi” (“Rokuan” appears on the door.) The interior is less generic. It’s small, dimly lit, with five dark wooden booths, without padding, that would each seat eight; there’s also one standard table and a nine-seat sushi bar. A sign warns the parents of noisy children.

Most of the crowd that night was Asian, likely a good sign. Our table got teriyaki salmon with spicy tuna rolls ($20.95), a chirashi bowl ($16.95), a beef teriyaki bowl ($10.50), and assorted sushi: white tuna ($5), scallops ($5.25), squid ($4) and salmon skin cut roll ($5.95).

All four of us were impressed by the quality of the ingredients, their freshness and their taste. Rokuan doesn’t skimp on the fish, either: The cuts were generous. Service was attentive, if perhaps too eager to remove plates as they emptied.

Chino Hills isn’t easy to get to from my home in Claremont or my office in Ontario, but it’s now my favorite city for sushi.

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Larry Seibert at the Sage Hen, Claremont

Reader Bob Given alerted me to the existence of a vintage LP by organist Larry Seibert, recorded live at the Sage Hen Cafe in Claremont. The Record Robot blog has a picture of the (almost blank) cover and a wry writeup that begins like this:

“Should you have been traveling on Route 66 through Claremont, CA in the late ’60s, and the smell of manure hadn’t affected your hunger pangs, you’d have maybe stopped in at the Sage Hen Restaurant to dine sumptuously on glazed ham and a delicious fruit ring mold. If you were really lucky, Larry Seibert would be jazzing up the place on his Gulbransen Rialto Organ (with Gulbransen Select-A-Rhythm attachment) while you ate. And if you were really, really lucky, perhaps he’d autograph a copy of his album, Larry Plays Again!, for you, as he did for the fortunate soul who owned this copy before it became mine.”

Read the rest here. Given says he wants a copy of the LP regardless. Anyone own one?

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Kogi BBQ truck to hit 909

The Korean tacos (?!) everyone raves about have been showing up around L.A. County via taco trucks, with the location available via Twitter or website. Foodies show up in droves to stand in long lines for what are said to be excellent tacos with Korean short ribs and quesadillas with kimchi. (See menu here.)

Former colleague Dustin Lehren alerts me that the truck will gingerly cross the very edge of the Inland Valley on Saturday. The truck is scheduled to park at Valley Boulevard at Temple Avenue in Pomona, at the edge of Cal Poly, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and then will be at 1317 S. Diamond Bar Blvd. in Diamond Bar from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Can the Claremont Colleges be far behind? In the meantime, let’s welcome Kogi to the 909 — and pray it doesn’t rain.

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Auntie’s sodas

I spent Saturday afternoon visiting a friend in Eagle Rock, the town west of Pasadena.

We had lunch at Auntie Em’s Kitchen, a funky breakfast-lunch bakery that’s on Jonathan Gold’s LA 99 list of notable restaurants. Getting a table required a 40-minute wait on the sidewalk, but the experience was worth the time. I had the skirt steak sandwich on foccacia and got a chocolate cupcake to go. (I’ll have to return for the french toast and the meatloaf sandwich and…)

We followed up lunch with a visit to Galco’s Soda Pop Stop in adjacent Highland Park, a family market that now devotes three aisles to bottled sodas and also has a large selection of candy bars. I picked up seven sodas and three candy bars. Which I haven’t eaten — the very rich cupcake took two days to finish.

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‘The Fugitive’ in Claremont

Here’s a treat. This note came in a while back from ex-Claremonter Debra MacLaughlan-Dumes:

“My husband and I like to watch DVDs of old TV shows from the 1950s-1970s, often with the hope of seeing some local scene in the background. We watched an episode of ‘The Fugitive’ last night called ‘Echo of a Nightmare’ which aired Jan. 25, 1966.”

The episode was filmed in downtown Claremont!

Going above and beyond, MacLaughlan-Dumes e-mailed screen shots of various freeze-framed images that showed recognizable Village landmarks. For the sake of comparison, I took photos in the same locations 44 years later.

The photos are paired below (to the best of my sizing ability), reading left to right. Click on any photo to see a larger version.

1) The first two are on Harvard Avenue looking south from Bonita. At least mine is; I think that’s where the original is oriented. I declined to stand in the middle of the intersection for my photo.

2) These two are shot from the SE corner of Harvard and 2nd. My version depicts today’s Boon Companion toy store (SW corner, to the left in photo) and City Hall (NE corner). What was on the SW corner in 1966?

3) Speaking of the SE corner of Harvard and 2nd, that’s the lovely Post Office. If you’ve never been inside, go in and look at the Milford Zornes mural that wraps around the lobby.

4) This is the sidewalk looking north from in front of the Post Office toward Shelton Park on the NE corner. David Janssen (1931-1980) was unavailable, but a Claremont fixture, the little old lady, wandered into the frame.

5) The NW corner of Harvard and Bonita had the Sugar Bowl, a soda fountain and candy store. Today it’s Unique Jewelry and Gifts.

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And here’s an interior of the Sugar Bowl, unduplicatable today. Anyone seen this episode, remember the filming or want to reflect on any of these places?

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Restaurant of the Week: Local Baker

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Local Baker Bakery and Cafe, 120 E. 9th (at 1st Ave.), Upland
The local bakery everyone (including me) loves is Some Crust in Claremont, but Local Baker in downtown Upland is awfully good too. A storefront operation a half-block from the gazebo, the bakery is said to date to 1895. An Australian expatriate renovated it, seemingly on a whim, a dozen years ago. The current owners have had the place for five years.
I’ve gone there now and then over the years for a muffin or pastry. Local Baker has seating inside and a few tables on the sidewalk under an overhang, perfect on warm days like the weather we’ve had this week.
The other day I had an apple muffin ($1.85), a rare item elsewhere, with multiple apple pieces. And at lunch on a different day I had the chicken and lime salad ($8.10), with mixed greens, grilled chicken, cucumber, tomato and cilantro. The lime vinaigrette dressing, served on the side, is very good. To my taste, it’s one of the better salads I’ve had.
Besides cookies, tarts and custom cakes, Local Baker, which most nights is open until 9 p.m., also does sandwiches and a few pizzas. I haven’t had those, but the $5.95 spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic bread, which I tried before a recent council meeting, is disappointing, acceptable but nothing special, although the price is right.
Well, can’t win ’em all. Service is friendly, the food (mostly) good. If people-watching opportunities are limited due to low foot-traffic, the setting is at least charming. Local Baker is a bright spot downtown.
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More blogs coming?

You may be aware that the Daily Bulletin has “Now” blogs for most local cities: Pomona Now, Rancho Cucamonga Now, etc. I’m thinking we should expand the blog lineup. Also, that the names should rhyme. Ideas:

* Meow Now: for cat fanciers

* Cow Now: dairy blog

* Sow Now: pig blog

* Dow Now: stocks tables

* Howe Now: devoted to the hockey family

* Pow Now: boxing

* Now Now: manners

Your turn: What possible blogs did I leave out?

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‘Says You!’ in Claremont

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The “Says You!” syndicated radio game show taped two episodes at Claremont’s Bridges Auditorium on Saturday. Yours truly was there. Read about the show in Wednesday’s column.

While checking a few facts about the Pomona College trivia referenced in the show’s questions, I found this fun links page from the college about various bits of “Pomoniana”: the mystery of 47, the sagehen mascot, Ski-Beach Day, etc. Check it out.

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