Restaurant of the Week: Masala Bowl


Masala Bowl, 4200 Chino Hills Parkway, Chino Hills.

Indian food is still a mystery to most of America, unlike many other ethnic cuisines. Masala Bowl is a small chain — locations in Irvine, Tustin, Chino Hills and Plano, Texas, with more coming — that attempts to remedy that by offering a simplified menu and walk-up service.

The Chino Hills location is in the Chino Hills Marketplace, a sprawling shopping center just off the 71 Freeway. Inside there’s a flat screen TV with Indian music videos and a few decorative touches, but mostly it’s the standard exposed-pipe, no-frills interior.

The woman at the counter (who was Indian) explained the menu. They have tandoori-cooked dishes and wraps, but the primary entree is curry. There are seven curries, from mild to spicy, and eight meats or vegetables, meaning 56 possible combinations.

I got lamb tikka masala ($7.49 on its own), which is chunks of lamb in a creamy tomato sauce. It arrived at my table in a plastic bowl with basmati rice. Pretty good stuff. I got the meal as a combo ($9.48) with a soda and samosa bites ($1.19 on its own), crispy pockets filled with potatoes. I also ordered garlic naan ($2.49) and bhel ($3.79), a puffed rice mixture with chopped onions and tomatoes.

The bhel was interesting, a sort of dry, crispy salad, but perhaps an acquired taste. The samosa bites were just okay. I couldn’t finish all this, so lids were brought for the two bowls, which were easily portable.

Well, Masala Bowl is no Haandi, but it’s not meant to be. As a low-priced, casual introduction to Indian food, it’s worth a visit. I noticed another couple of restaurants in the Marketplace I hadn’t tried and another one across the street when I exited the parking lot onto Pipeline, which means I’m already looking forward to my next excuse to head to Chino Hills.

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Restaurant of the Week: Pacific Fish Grill


Pacific Fish Grill, 13865 City Center Drive (at Peyton), Chino Hills

Pacific Fish Grill is at the Shoppes at Chino Hills and, from what I can gather, is a single-location restaurant, although it could be a chain in the making. It’s located between a Panera and a Johnny Rockets near Barnes & Noble.

Like Louie’s Chicken and Fish Grill in Upland, featured here last week, Pacific Fish is a rarity, a seafood-based fast-casual restaurant. Grilled fish plates run $8 to $15 and come with rice, salad and pita bread. They also have salads, fried fish, sandwiches, wraps and tacos. View the menu here.

I ate here in February after the library dedication when I bumped into friends and we decided to have lunch. That meal I ordered the tilapia plate ($8.95) with lemon-oregano seasoning. Not bad.

I returned recently (this time with my camera) and ordered a salmon caesar salad with Cajun seasoning ($10.95). I liked it. Not an outstanding piece of fish or anything, but it was fine, and there was enough salmon for each bite of salad.

There’s an open kitchen, high ceilings with visible piping and slowly revolving ceiling fans.

A place like this (or Louie’s) seems like a fairly inexpensive, no-fuss way to get more seafood in your diet. People on Yelp say the fish tacos are good; on Tuesdays they’re 99 cents.

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Restaurant of the Week: City Broiler


City Broiler, 12959 Peyton Drive (at Rock Springs), Chino Hills.

In a standalone building in a shopping center on the north end of Chino Hills, City Broiler is reminiscent of New York Grill at Ontario Mills. Both are white tablecloth restaurants, lightly swank, with a Big Apple theme. City Broiler took over in 2007 from Peppino’s, a short-lived Italian eatery.

The interior is brick with wood trim, brass and etched glass. There are some stylish B&W NYC photos dotting the walls. The restaurant feels urban, certainly more urban than Chino Hills, even if it is across the parking lot from a Wendy’s.

I ate there Wednesday night with a couple of friends who live nearby and like the place. We sat in the bar area, which I would recommend for a casual experience. We ordered the mini-pizza with mushrooms ($6) and the crab cake sandwich ($8) off the bar menu and the fish and chips ($12.50) off the regular menu. The latter two came with a side dish; we got fruit and mixed vegetables, respectively.

We traded food and none of us were disappointed. I wasn’t blown away, but I would eat there again. Service was attentive and the atmosphere is appealing. It’s nice to see a family-owned sit-down restaurant.

The specialties are steak and seafood, by the way, although they also have sandwiches, salads and pizzas. You can view the menu and photos here.

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Restaurant of the Week: Ojiya

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Ojiya, 4183 Chino Hills Parkway, Suite J (at Pipeline), Chino Hills

I ate at Ojiya last week but saved the review for this week. It’s yet another of the sit-down restaurants in Chino Hills that the masses seem unfamiliar with. But it got good reviews on Yelp, so I met up with a couple of CHills friends for dinner.

Ojiya is in a strip mall — it’s a couple of doors from Peking Deli, a Chinese restaurant reviewed favorably here a while back — and once you’re inside you forget you’re in a strip mall. It’s a cozy interior with touches of bamboo and with a serious-looking sushi bar. I felt like I was in Little Tokyo.

I ordered various nigiri sushi items, especially ones I rarely see elsewhere: Spanish mackerel, seared salmon, fatty albacore and large scallop, plus my baseline dish, the salmon skin cut roll. (I don’t remember the individual prices but they added up to about $24.)

I’m confident in saying that Ojiya is the best sushi I’ve had in the 909. Then again, there’s still Rokuan, another Yelp favorite in Chino Hills that is still on my list.

My friends enjoyed their food, a chicken teriyaki bowl and a salmon teriyaki/crunch roll combination plate. Our only complaint was the green salad of iceberg lettuce was boring. At least it was only $3 for me, and free for them with their meal.

We met up, by the way, at 6:30 p.m. on a weekday, and the place was mostly empty. It quickly began filling up. By 7:45, when we left, the dining room was full.

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Restaurant of the Week: Swasdee Thai Cuisine

Swasdee Thai Cuisine, 14720 Pipeline Ave., Suite B, Chino Hills.

One reason I kept going to events concerning development of The Shoppes (ground breaking, media tour, second media tour) is that each one was in the late morning, perfect timing to eat lunch afterward in Chino Hills. (The developers provided food each time but I skipped it.) Not that Chino Hills is a culinary mecca — the city is just so far from our Ontario office that it’s a rare treat to be there.

And the city does have some good places to eat. Residents there are always complaining about the lack of sitdown restaurants, but their city has more than they think. It’s just that most are ethnic eateries, non-chains, and maybe for that reason they’re not quite what the average person is looking for.

All I know is, my list of places to investigate in Chino Hills is a half-dozen long, and that’s pre-Shoppes. On Thursday I went looking for one of two sushi bars I’ve read about and couldn’t find it — drat those giant shopping centers and five-digit addresses — but while exiting Chino Hills Marketplace on the Pipeline side, I looked across Pipeline and saw a sign for Swasdee Thai. Well, any port in a storm. I drove directly across the street and into the business park.

Swasdee (the word is said to be a greeting in the Thai language) is a brand-new restaurant in a brand-new building, open “one month and one week,” the server told me. The interior has a sleek, mod design with comfortable booths and a small bar. The lighting is dim, the glasses are fluted. Definitely a swankier environment than Mix Bowl.

The menu is upscale too, as are the prices. Appetizers are $6.95 to $15.95; entrees range from $7.95 to $13.95. I had Drunken Noodle ($8.95) and a Thai iced tea ($2.25). Important note: With some of the noodle dishes, the price is without meat; adding chicken, pork, beef or shrimp is $2 more, and seafood is $3 more. So my noodles with chicken actually cost $10.95.

A little pricy. Still, I have to say, my food was a cut above. Drunken Noodle was a bowl of broad, flat noodles with generous cuts of carrots, onions, tomatoes and chunks of chicken, all mildly spicy. The serving was large enough to take home half.

Across from the entrance just feet from the door was a second building with Roscoe’s Famous Deli, and based on the names on the door it’s owned and operated by the people formerly behind Heroes in Claremont.

So there’s yet another Chino Hills restaurant to try, not to mention two sushi bars, two more authentic Chinese eateries and who knows what else. As we left The Shoppes Thursday morning, the city’s spokeswoman suggested a tour sometime of the under-construction City Hall and I’m certainly amenable to that.

As long as we schedule it for around 10:30 a.m.

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Restaurant of the Week: Peking Deli


Peking Deli, 4183 Chino Hills Parkway Suite F-G (at Pipeline), Chino Hills

Diligent readers will recall this blog’s lament about the paucity of non-Americanized Chinese restaurants in the Inland Valley. My hope was that Chino Hills, with its proximity to Diamond Bar’s Asian population, might have something a bit more interesting. A friend recommended a place, and some Internet research turned up a second.

We tried the second one — we’ll go back for the first — on Tuesday. That was Peking Deli, which is in a strip mall off the 71 Freeway at Pipeline. It’s a simple storefront operation with table service. Nothing fancy, but comfortable.

The menu has 118 items, and while it includes such American staples as orange chicken and pork fried rice, there are plenty of dishes one doesn’t encounter in the 909. As another friend said after scanning the takeout menu later, “This is totally Taiwanese style.”

There are two dozen soups, not just hot and sour and egg flower but seafood tofu, shredded pork with preserved pickle, and salted duck. Cold appetizers don’t even have English translations but include beef brisket, duck leg, tripe and pig ear. (Try ordering pig ear at Panda Express and see what happens.)

We had pork fried rice cake ($5.25), dry noodle with Peking sauce and sesame sauce ($4.50) and beef with spicy sauce ($8.75). My friend liked the latter two best; I preferred the rice cake. It’s not like the diet-food rice cake but rather slices of soft, chewy rice that resemble bamboo shoots.

All the customers but us were Asian, a good sign. Peking Deli has been in business four years and survives on word of mouth, our server told us. But she was delighted to learn that the restaurant had been well-reviewed on

The only downside to the place is that it closes at 8:30. They didn’t kick us out, but within two minutes of our departure, the lights were out.

I hope to go back sometime — after first sampling that other Chino Hills Chinese restaurant.

* Update October 2014: Well, “that other Chino Hills Chinese place,” Good Time Cafe, has since closed, but Peking Deli is still in business. I returned recently for dinner, getting shrimp chow mein ($8), wonton in chili oil ($4) and a boba tea ($1.50). I had actually asked for No. 62, shredded pork with bean curd, but they brought me No. 26, the chow mein. Well, I like chow mein, so no harm done. (I didn’t want to waste food by sending it back.) I liked my dinner and took home enough for a second meal. Peking Deli is still among the most authentic Chinese restaurants in the Inland Valley, one actual Chinese American people eat at. By 6:30 p.m. that Sunday, when I left, every table was in use.



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Restaurant of the week: Bravo Burgers

Bravo Burgers, 1215 N. White Ave. (at Orange Grove), Pomona; also 4968 Pipeline Ave. (at Chino Hills Parkway), Chino Hills.

Before Monday’s Pomona council meeting, I dropped into Bravo Burgers for a bite. It’s apparently a small chain operation, with an outlet in La Verne, among other cities. The one I visited is in Pomona, at Orange Grove and White avenues, next to DiCarlo Liquor and its neon champagne bubbles sign.

Nicer inside than you’d expect — Bravo, not DiCarlo — and my $2.85 burger was hot and satisfying, with a thick tomato slice, lettuce, pickles and onion. I like how it came not only wrapped in paper, but served on a paper plate. Made me think of a more genteel era when this newfangled item might have been called a hamburger sandwich.

Overall, I’d rank the Bravo experience up there with Golden Ox, Classic 66, K ‘n F and Samo’s, Pomona’s other contributions to burger excellence. I say bravo.

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