House of Pong, 1077 W. Foothill (at Towne), Claremont
This small brown building squeezed between a Shell station and the Stater Bros. center was home to Inka Trails for many years and Jeni Wren’s for under a year. It’s now House of Pong, an Asian fusion restaurant, although you could be forgiven for reading the Gothic script of the sign as something slightly racy.
Someone else had recommended it to me as a great small plates place, but I was skeptical, figuring the restaurant would close before I could get there anyway based on the location. But months later, it was still open when a friend suggested it for dinner based on the 4.5-star Yelp rating. So we took a chance.
The rustic interior has been redone, and a bar has been added. It was a slow weeknight and we were the only customers for a long stretch. The server was attentive, but then, she didn’t have anything else to do.
The menu has salads, soups, sandwiches and entrees, many seafood-based, including ramen, udon, yakisoba and rice bowls. It was tricky figuring out what combinations of plates from the wide-ranging menu might make a satisfying meal.
We split an appetizer, Flamin’ Cheesy Cheetos ($7), which were mozzarella sticks covered in crumbled cheetos, and strangely addicting. My friend had the soft-shell crab sandwich ($13), served on Hawaiian bread. He said there was a lot of crab but that he mostly tasted the breading.
I had the salmon skin salad ($8) and Under the Sea soup ($7). The soup, with scallop, clams, mussel, shrimp, zucchini and onion, was lukewarm and seemed made up of individual ingredients. The salad was better.
Some of the Yelp photos look better than what we had, so we might just have ordered poorly. That said, the rapturous reviews didn’t match our experience, and I can’t recommend the place. Cute chalkboard, though.