Restaurant of the Week: The Rim

rim1

CLOSED

The Rim, 400 Auto Center Drive (at Indian Hill Boulevard), Claremont

The Rim recently filled an empty space next to Rounds Burgers in the Super King center off the 10 Freeway in Claremont. The restaurant has been figuring out what it wants to be, but the emphasis seems to be on natural, sustainably sourced ingredients in a fast-casual setting.

rim2

It’s appealing inside, with comfortable and attractive tables and chairs, decor and lighting, and clean. You order at the counter from a printed menu that has changed at least a couple of times as dishes, and entire categories of dishes, are added or subtracted. Salads, sandwiches, pastas and bowls are on the menu, as are smoothies and other juice drinks. (I found a menu online, but I think it’s a previous one, with paella but not pasta.)

There’s little more one needs to say about the Rim’s essential weirdness other than 1) you can get fettucine alfredo and a boba drink and 2) it appears at this moment to have locations in only two places: Claremont and Kansas City.

rim3

On my first visit, I got an item they were pushing, a bourbon chicken bowl (a mere $3 at dinnertime as a promotion). It was a bowl of chicken all right, plus rice, and that was it. But the price was right.

They’ve been putting specials on a chalkboard outside the restaurant, dinner-only it appears, and usually they’re two-for-one, which may be good for you but doesn’t assist the solo diner like myself.

rim4

I’ve been back two more times, once for a seared tuna sandwich on ciabatta bread ($8), which was very good. It came with a side of (why not?) mashed potatoes. I don’t know what that’s about. To drink I had a taro smoothie ($3.25), also good.

rim5

Most recently, I got a tuna bowl ($8), with seared tuna, quinoa, sliced carrots and a hardboiled egg. It was a little dry, and maybe an egg over easy would have been better, but I ate every bite. Twice I’ve got a watermelon mint drink ($2.50), cold and refreshing.

Three visits and I still don’t quite have a handle on what they’re trying to do, and maybe neither do they. I don’t know how to describe the Rim, but it’s certainly different, and you might want to give them a try, if a little uncertainty doesn’t dissuade you.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Lobster Grill

lobster1

CLOSED

Lobster Grill, 3210 Chino Ave. (at the 71), Chino Hills; closed Mondays

I’ve passed by Lobster Grill when seeing movies at the Harkins 18 but only visited recently after a positive comment on FB from reader David Saw about the lobster rolls. As a lobster roll fan, I figured I should give the place a try.

On my first visit, though, I went with something different. The menu is much like Pacific Fish Grill elsewhere in town, with seafood plates and sides, and the style is fast-casual, bringing the cost down. So I ordered grilled swordfish ($12) with garlic butter sauce, rice pilaf and steamed vegetables; it comes with a thin piece of garlic toast.

Pretty good, and on a third visit my order was very similar, only with mahi mahi ($12) instead. I didn’t like it as much and the vegetables are kind of boring.

Now, how about that lobster roll? That came on my second visit: the sandwich, New England style, with fries ($11). This is a cold roll with a kind of lobster salad, on a warm piece of folded bread that will remind you of Sizzler’s “Texas toast.” I prefer the Connecticut style of lobster roll, which is served warm, but this was a good New England roll, with a generous helping of lobster. The fries were tasty too.

The menu is slightly more seafood-intense than the local competitors, with clams, mussels and oysters on the half-shell, and with Cajun buckets ($28 to $35). That said, I’m a little wary of ordering oysters from a place that doesn’t really specialize in them, and for the same reason I’ve shied away from crab legs and such.

Overall, I prefer Pacific Fish Grill. But Lobster Grill is all right for the basics, and the parking is easier than at the Shoppes, where Pac Fish is. Candidly, I don’t remember much about Fish-O-Licious, so I’m not sure where it rates in the Chino Hills spectrum (as opposed to the Chino Spectrum Marketplace) of cheap-ish seafood joints.

The Lobster Grill interior is pleasant enough, orange plastic seats and paper-covered tables, although lately I’ve just been happy for the air conditioning.

lobster2

lobster3

lobster4

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Rita’s Italian Ice

ritas1

CLOSED

Rita’s Italian Ice, 15870 Soquel Canyon Parkway (at Los Serranos), Chino Hills

Rita’s is a Pennsylvania-based chain of 600 locations that recently opened one in the south part of Chino Hills. There aren’t many places around here to get Italian ice or frozen custard, its two specialties. For a break from Sunday’s 107-degree heat, I headed to CHills for some chills.

Rita’s is in a small center off the 71 Freeway with a Wells Fargo, Rite Aid and a handful of other stores. Inside, I was greeted promptly, by the manager no less, who asked if I’d been to a Rita’s before. I hadn’t, so she gave me the spiel about the menu and product. They have a dozen flavors of Italian ice at any given time, made fresh daily. They have frozen custard usually, except due to bird flu, they have only one flavor (I think); the others are soft-serve ice cream.

You can see the daily menu of flavors on the website. That day the ice flavors included cotton candy, birthday cake, root beer, margarita and blue raspberry.

I ordered a Gelati, which is part ice, part custard (or ice cream), choosing blood orange ice with orange and vanilla twist ice cream (large: $4.79 with tax). The large size was more than I needed, as it turned out, but it was an excuse to stay there and enjoy the air conditioning. There was a layer of ice cream on the bottom, a middle layer of Italian ice and another layer of ice cream on top. The flavors paired well.

They have another combo, the Blendini, which is ice, custard and a mix-in, and a beverage called the Misto, which is the Gelati put through a blender.

On Yelp, some people prefer Frostbites, a similar shop in Chino that has Italian ice, custard, sorbet, ice cream and more. Well, I’ll have to give that a try too. On a brutally hot day, though, Rita’s hit the spot.

* Update: I returned the next week for a Misto ($4, bottom) at reader Eric’s suggestion. Among the ice flavors this time: green apple, horchata, mango and iced coffee. I combined a root beer ice with vanilla ice cream for a sort of root beer float slushy — and what part of “root beer float slushy” doesn’t sound good? On another blazing day, it hit the spot.

ritas2

ritas3

ritas4

ritas5

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Guppy House

guppy1

CLOSED

Guppy House, 13065 Peyton Drive (at Rock Springs), Chino Hills

Guppy House is a cute name for a restaurant, reminding me of Cap’n Crunch’s ship, the SS Guppy. Guppy House is an Asian fusion eatery with outlets in Hacienda Heights, Cerritos, Anaheim and Irvine, plus Chino Hills. They were founded by David Li, a Cal Poly Pomona alumnus. He’s Taiwanese and his parents owned a French-Italian restaurant in Taiwan, so he knows a little about cross-cultural cuisine.

Chino Hills’ Guppy House is in a sprawling shopping center just paces from two other Asian eateries, Boiling Point and Green Banana Leaf, and not far from 85 Degrees. Guppy House’s menu melds Filipino, Korean and Taiwanese food and has such items as hot pots, kimchi, noodle and rice dishes, and boba drinks.

A friend and I met there for lunch recently. We had a signature item, popcorn chicken, with strawberry and mango salad ($10). The chicken, reminiscent of popcorn shrimp at Red Lobster, didn’t live up to the hype; the salad was colorful and well-made. We also had a dish named superb meatballs ($10), two enormous meatballs in a hot pot with cabbage and noodles, which was flavorful.

For dessert we shared the brick toast, another signature item, with coconut and pineapple ($6). Thick toast drizzled with chocolate, it was a knife and fork dessert and surprisingly delicious and filling.

The restaurant has a glassed-in patio with comfortable chairs, probably good on a warm evening but not so good on a hot day as there’s no shade. The interior is modern and stylish with lots of glass and natural light, plants, fake parrots and a high ceiling. A mezzanine has a TV and living room-like comfy chairs and coffee tables; it seems to be more for drinks or parties.

Guppy House has unusually late hours: It’s open 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Thursday and until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Like the name, the hours are adorable too.

guppy2

guppy3

guppy4

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Chu Fine Chinese Cuisine

chu3

CLOSED 2014

Chu Fine Chinese Cuisine, 11334 Fourth St. (at Milliken), Rancho Cucamonga

Chu has been across from Ontario Mills, in the same center as Chipotle and Kula, since about 2008. I ate there once, occasionally made jokes with friends about Chu Chinese Food being a good place to chew Chinese food and kind of forgot about the place until returning recently with a friend for dinner.

It’s a sitdown restaurant, comfortable and moderately snazzy, with vases and other objects displayed in a series of niches (seen below) and 3-D art produced with layered cutout images hanging on the walls. One depicts the Last Supper. People were seated in front of it, eating supper themselves, which prevented a closer look. All the pieces are for sale, generally at $1,000 or more, a price that would seem beyond the means of most who would eat at Chu’s, where entrees range from $7 to $13.

We ordered a la carte entrees from the house specialties list: fried chicken with hot garlic sauce ($11, below) and rice cakes Shanghai style ($9, bottom). The chicken came in bite-sized pieces. We liked it best, even if the sauce didn’t qualify as hot. The rice cakes weren’t the diet-food kind but rather soft, chewy discs the size and color of water chestnuts, served with a few vegetables. I liked them, although a platter of them was a few too many.

Most of the rest of the menu is typical Cantonese-American fare, down to chop suey and cream cheese wontons. Unexciting, but not bad, and this is one of the few Ontario Mills-adjacent spots (Green Mango is another) where you’re guaranteed to be able to get a table quickly on a Friday or Saturday night when all the chains are gridlocked, and get a decent meal to boot.

chu1

chu2

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Tacos Baja Ensenada

tacosbaja1

CLOSED

Tacos Baja Ensenada, 853 E. Route 66 (at Elwood), Glendora

Probably the most highly regarded fish tacos in L.A., Tacos Baja has locations in East L.A. and Whittier. But, improbably, there’s also one in Glendora.

I knew it was there but had never seen it. When I tracked it down, it turns out I’ve driven past it for years, noticed only the “Tacos” sign on what seems to be an old Streamline Moderne building and didn’t realize it was Tacos Baja Ensenada. I was happy to find it. Parking is a challenge; there’s a lot behind, but it’s small.

Tacos Baja is known for 99-cent fish tacos on Wednesdays. I went on a Sunday, guessing the location would be less busy. It was my lucky day, because on a temporary basis, they’d lowered the Sunday price to 99 cents.

The decor is much like a Rubio’s, only smaller. I ordered two fish tacos and a shrimp taco ($2.09) at the counter, plus a Jamaica drink. Essentially all they have is fish and shrimp tacos and burritos, plus ceviche, shrimp cocktails and fish soups.

I haven’t been to the other locations and thus can’t compare them, but these tacos were really good, as expected, with cabbage, cream and onions and crunchy fish or shrimp. A refrigerated case holds bottled sodas, including Mexican Cokes, which I didn’t see until after I’d ordered. Next time. Families were enjoying lunch and an American football game on the TV. I’m sure I’ll return.

It doesn’t hurt at all that Donut Man is a block away. I stopped there for dessert before heading home.

tacosbaja2

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Golden China

CLOSED

Golden China, 8851 Central Ave. (at Arrow Highway), Montclair

The sign outside Golden China was glowing as were the paper lantern-shaped lamps outside when a friend and I met here for dinner on a Friday night. I’d never been here but we were drawn by the four-star Yelp rating.

Inside the place is very 1980s, with vinyl booths and mirrored walls. Charmingly old school. (The decor likely originated with Royal China, there from 1987 to 1996; for the record, it was followed by the shortlived Golden Buddha. Golden China opened in 1998. A future incarnation as Royal Buddha would round things out nicely.) There’s a well-stocked bar at which drinks are mixed. You can see the menu here.

We tried two of the specialties, black pepper chicken ($12.55, below) and sizzling rice shrimp ($16, bottom), both as dinners with soup, egg roll, paper-wrapped chicken and rice. The platter of white-meat chicken pieces came with onions and black pepper. My shrimp arrived on a sizzling platter. The dish had a welcome number of large shrimp in a sweet sauce with unusual crisp rice puffs.

My friend and I liked his dish more than we liked mine. When Yelp reviewers rave about the orange chicken, you know you’re not getting cutting-edge food. Ditto when you’re brought a cup of jello to end your meal, as well as the requisite fortune cookie. But the service was efficient and attentive. Not a four-star restaurant, and you can do better, but for Americanized Chinese food, it’s homey.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Phil House

CLOSED

Phil House, inside Island Pacific Seafood Market, 6753 Carnelian Ave. (at 19th), Rancho Cucamonga

Like Market World, the Korean market chain that occupied this old Alpha Beta (and later IGA), the similarly Asian-grocery specialist Island Pacific Market has a small food court. Having never dined inside a supermarket before, I invited a friend for lunch.

The main food stall is a Filipino buffet, and there’s also a small dim sum stall. A couple of other spots are vacant. The market only opened in November. We lined up at the buffet, named Phil House. (Presumably no relation to reader Bob House.) It’s a little like a Panda Express: If you want a combo of one or more items, they grab a styrofoam container that already has rice in it and will add whichever items you request.

They had various pork, chicken, beef and seafood items, including barbecue skewers, and soups and stews. Other than an eggplant dish, we didn’t see any vegetables. Nothing is labeled, but we asked about various items that looked appealing. I had a pork dish and a soup with fish ($6, pictured below). My friend had a different pork dish and some kind of barbecued fish. No way you’re going to duplicate our order because even we don’t know what we had.

We sat in a nearby roped-off area of tables and chairs near the other stall. My grilled pork was tasty and the sauce at the bottom, flavored with onions and peppers, was great with a little rice mixed in. The soup, a broth with chunks of whitefish, was also enjoyable. My friend liked his fish (even though he had to pick out all the bones) and his other dish.

His wife arrived and got steamed buns from the dim sum stall. I had a pork bun (price unknown), and that was good too. The staff could be seen making them in the kitchen. About the only place I ever get steamed buns is the Famima in Union Station, and as you’d expect, these were better.

So, yes, you’d be eating inside a supermarket, but the food was good, fresh and cheap. Even if it might not have catchy names.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Rounds Burgers

CLOSED

Rounds Burgers, 885 S. Indian Hill Blvd. (at Auto Center Drive), Claremont

The premium burger wars are heating up in Claremont, where the Village’s Back Abbey and Eureka have been joined by Rounds, which opened in January near the 10 Freeway and Norms.

The only other location is in West Hollywood, a rare moment of hipness for Claremont; Pasadena and Sherman Oaks locations are said to be coming soon. The chain’s website is here.

I met a friend at Rounds in Claremont for dinner on a rainy Friday night recently. It was busy, but not as busy as Back Abbey or Eureka, where requesting a table at that hour might have sent a greeter into hysterics. At Rounds, where you order at the counter, there was still seating available. The feel is LA-ish, what with the centerpiece being a communal table. The seating is much more comfortable than a Five Guys and the music volume more restrained.

They have some burgers that can be ordered right off the menu, but they also provide slips  and pencils (a la The Counter) with which you can build your own burger in six steps, choosing from an array of sauces, toppings, cheeses and buns. It’s a little like doing homework, or maybe voting, as there are bubbles to fill in next to your choices, but it’s preferable to standing at the counter and trying to wing it.

I got a 1/3-lb. beef burger, cooked medium rare, with Swiss, mushrooms and pesto mayo on a fresh bun, as a combo with fries and drink ($9.65); my friend had a turkey burger with bleu cheese crumbles as a combo ($1 less because my mushrooms counted as a premium topping).

We liked ’em both: good burger, substantial bun, above-average skin-on fries. The burgers are made by hand and the buns are baked on the premises. Another friend opines that the result is somewhere between The Habit and Umami, or between fast food and gourmet, and priced accordingly.

(Somewhat pretentiously, though, the servers will tell you you can’t drop any toppings from the selection burgers because it would “harm the flavor combination.” Yet you could fill out a slip and come up with the same sandwich without the objectionable topping. Which part of “build your own” don’t they understand?)

While perhaps not as good as Eureka or Back Abbey, and with a more limited menu, Rounds makes pretty good sandwiches, and cheaper too, and you won’t walk in hearing the wait for a table is an hour. You might find the setting more restful and the attitude better. At the same time, Rounds isn’t in the Village, isn’t yards from the movie theater and it doesn’t have the style or beer selection of the other two places. Depends what you’re looking for. I like all three but I’m happy Rounds is here.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Restaurant of the Week: Kealoha’s

CLOSED

Kealoha’s Taste of the Islands, 12206 Central Ave. (at the 60), Chino

Formerly part of the Honolulu Harry’s chain, this restaurant made a seamless transition in 2012 to become Kealoha’s, owned by a Harry’s manager (who’s a native of Hawaii) and featuring a similar Hawaiian menu and decor.

It’s a rare Inland Valley theme restaurant, from the palm trees in the parking lot to the bamboo-heavy interior. It hearkens back to the Polynesian-tiki era, only without the statues. (The location began as a Cask ‘n Cleaver and later was a Crabby Bob’s before becoming Honolulu Harry’s.) I had a good dinner there a few years back when it was Harry’s but hadn’t been back since it became Kealoha’s. To rectify that, a friend and I met there for lunch earlier this week.

The interior looked about the same to me, slightly kitschy but not over the top. We got items off the lunch menu: kalua pork for me, loco moco for him ($10 each). Mine (pictured below) was pulled pork with shredded cabbage and rice; his (pictured at bottom) was a beef patty with fried eggs, rice, gravy and onion straws. Each came with a side of macaroni salad. He liked his; mine was average. My portion seemed a little small and I wish in retrospect I’d had an appetizer because I left slightly hungry.

Kealoha’s has a bar, called the Mai Tai Lounge, and they have special nights. Fridays and Saturdays they have live Hawaiian music, and sometimes, Feb. 17 is the next, they have $45-a-head luau nights with a buffet and live entertainment. Cheaper than a plane ticket.

So, Kealoha’s didn’t wow me, but I’m glad it’s there and hope it thrives.

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email