‘Too bready’: Restaurant of the Week descriptions

ROW

Rather than give you a Restaurant of the Week right before a holiday weekend, here’s something Restaurant of the Week-related that I’ve meant to share for weeks now.

My friend Pam Arterburn gave me a silly but thoughtful homemade gift back in March for my birthday: She power-read her way through all my past restaurant blog posts and compiled her favorite descriptions or observations into a poster. Ha ha! (Click on the image for a larger view.)

You can judge for yourselves what the phrases add up to, but she said she was struck by how low-key and middle of the road they were, and so was I. With a couple of bolder exceptions (“excellent,” “amazing”) they stake out very modest territory. What can I say, I don’t feel qualified to write these restaurant posts anyway, so why go out on a limb?

Before you ask, she placed Bieber stickers on the poster because I’m a superstar. Obviously.

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All fooded out

I know that’s not a word, but on Thursday and Friday, after finishing columns, I spent several hours writing five (!) Restaurant of the Week posts, about places I’d eaten at going back to February. They’re scheduled for May 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 and emanate from, in order, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Pomona, Upland and Chino Hills.

I was relieved to have been able to find my notes, identify my photos, finish these and toss the notes. With these done, that’s one less thing to worry about during May. By then, I’ll be excited by the idea of photographing food, taking notes and assembling blog posts about them, but not right now!

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Restaurant photos added for RC, Fontana

This blog began in September 2007, and for its first 16 months, there were no photos, because I didn’t know how to post them. (Training was, shall we say, at a minimum.) This made for some blah Restaurant of the Week posts in particular.

For consistency’s sake, now and then I’ve added photos to restaurant posts from that period for eateries still in business. Now I’m trying to do so in more concerted fashion, focusing on one city at a time to make the task less overwhelming.

And so, you can find photos now with all my Rancho Cucamonga restaurant posts, after I added them for 14 restaurants (click on the names to see them):  Stevie Dee’s CafeMonaco’s PizzaJohnny Carino’s, Islamorada, Bright Star Thai Vegan, Green Mango Thai Bistro, CostcoYatai Sushi, Terry’s Burgers, Anthony’s Italian Kitchen, China PointDon MarcosGandolfo’s and my very first RoW, El Ranchero. Ditto with neighboring Fontana and its Viola’s Deli, the only photo-less restaurant from that period. Some are simple exterior shots, while at others I bought meals, photographed them and added some text.

Besides updating these posts, I’ve also gone through the Restaurants: Rancho Cucamonga category to remove any restaurants no longer in business; those posts have been shifted to the Inland Valley Eatin’ category with the notation “closed.”

More updates for other restaurant categories will come as time permits. And if you appreciate my stubborn attention to detail, back pats are accepted.

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No RoW today

You don’t need to read about a restaurant the day after Christmas, do you? Restaurant of the Week will return the day after New Year’s. I do have one ready to go, and another couple in the works, and of course scads of places to try.

If you need something to look at, I returned to a 2008 restaurant, Kikyryki, in Claremont for lunch recently to take photos. At that point I didn’t know how to post photos. It’s a goal of mine to go back and add photos to posts about restaurants that are still in business. Kikiryki is still a good place.

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Sayonara, Tokyo Tokyo

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Tokyo Tokyo, 990 Ontario Mills Circle, has changed hands and is now ShinBashi, as tipster Bob Terry alerted me. If the faded condition of the sign is any indication, the restaurant was not being kept up.

But 15 years ago, Tokyo Tokyo was a big deal. In the Ontario area, it was a happening spot, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. Newsroom colleagues and I had many lunches and dinners there in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Come to think of it, Tokyo Tokyo may have been the first place I ever had sushi.

The interior seemed glitzy in those days, almost like a nightclub: patio dining, Japanese paper screens, a couple of private rooms with sunken seating. A signature feature was koi swimming under glass tiles in the floor leading from the entryway back to the sushi bar. This must have tripped up hundreds or thousands of others as it did me, the first time or two. You had the sense you were stepping into water.

The food may only have impressed those of us who didn’t know much about Japanese food, which at that point was practically everyone who lived here. But it seemed good.

I don’t know when or how Tokyo Tokyo lost its mojo, or why. In one period, the health department grade was a C, a shocker for a business-lunch spot. Quite likely, tastes for Japanese food became more sophisticated, and Tokyo Tokyo would have gradually been lost in the shuffle as more restaurants opened around Ontario Mills. The increasingly faded sign seemed to show the bloom was off the rose.

“The whole place is worn out,” one Yelp commenter wrote in July, saying the restaurant had never been remodeled.

In August, another wrote: “WTF happened to this place?!?!? So sad! We haven’t been here in years and we were regulars before. On a Friday night back in the days this place was packed and now not one person at the sushi bar. The fish in the glass at the bar was old and we were scared to order anything not cooked, the sushi chefs were helping from another sushi place and didn’t even know the menu, the food was awful, the waitress tried to be friendly but it just wasn’t enough, the lights at the sushi bar were turned off and it was dark and depressing. This place used to be the spot and now it’s a run down has been. It still has potential and a great location they just need the right owner to fix it up again. So disappointed.”

So, inevitably for rundown has-beens, Tokyo Tokyo is gone. Welcome to ShinBashi. ”Koi still there, for now,” Terry reports. Good luck to the koi and to the new owners.

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Column: In dish vote, the doughnut ran away with the poll

Somehow, Glendora’s Donut Man beat out such L.A. heavyweights as Philippe’s, Langer’s, California Pizza Kitchen and even In-N-Out in an online poll to determine L.A.’s iconic food, sponsored by KCET. I chat with a surprised but pleased Jim Nakano, the Donut Man himself, in Friday’s column.

See the whimsical voting brackets here, and if you’ve got 26 minutes, you can watch Huell Howser’s visit to the Donut Man (and for 56 minutes, his Philippe’s segment) here.

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Strawberry donuts beat french dip sandwiches

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In KCET’s charming sports-bracket-type poll to choose LA’s Iconic Dish, Glendora’s Donut Man bested all comers, from Kogi’s short rib tacos and Langer’s pastrami to CPK’s barbecue chicken pizza and, in the final pairing, Philippe’s french dip. How about that!

Their last day of cutting strawberries will be Saturday, they say on their Facebook page. I stopped by last Sunday after lunch nearby and got one, pictured above, without even knowing they’d won the contest.

Watch a 45-second video here of two workers making them, shot through the window as I stood in line. I love how the guy stuffs one extra strawberry into the donut.

Maybe Philippe’s would have won if they’d put just one extra piece of roast beef into their roll…

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But when in the week?

My Restaurant of the Week feature was traditionally found here on Fridays, probably because some weeks it took me until Thursday night to find time to produce it. Recently, though, I moved the feature to Thursdays.

My logic was that posting it Friday around lunchtime, and sometimes forgetting to post the link to Facebook until mid-afternoon, was perhaps not the most useful approach. Also, I already gave you a column to read that morning, and maybe a blog post at mid-day was too much of a good thing.

So, Thursday. Seems like a good day to me: If I post it in the morning, you have Thursday and Friday to get there if you’re a weekday diner, or you have some lead time if you want to plan a weekend visit. (Many of you read them purely as armchair diners, and that’s fine too.)

I don’t know that I’ve asked this before, so let me put it out there: I’m curious how you use these Restaurant of the Week features, if you use them that is, and if Thursday works for you or if you’d prefer a different day. Any other feedback is welcome too, as are questions.

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