Restaurant of the Week: The Upper House

The Upper House, 352 S. Indian Hill Blvd. (at Arrow), Claremont; open daily until 11 p.m.

Located in Peppertree Square, the center most of us visit only for the Peruvian restaurant Kykiryki, the Upper House opened in January, replacing Royal Panda, which by all accounts (I never ate there) was your typical quick-serve Chinese restaurant.

The Upper House, by contrast, is a sit-down spot, and it serves real Chinese food. I met some friends there for lunch on a recent Saturday.

Inside it’s all blond wood, light and airy, and the service was exceptionally friendly. The menu is long, typical for a Chinese restaurant, but not absurdly so. In an unusual touch, the lunch menu ($8 to $10) is good seven days a week. But we ordered off the regular menu: cumin lamb ($14), pineapple chicken ($10, below), combination noodle soup ($10) and vegetable lo mein ($8).

We all liked our food; one, in fact, even liked the water: “This water is so good. Write it down.” [I dutifully complied.] “It’s got jasmine in it.” [Note: Water not pictured.]

Speaking of his soup, one declared fulsomely: “It was a delightful combination of flavors and textures.” Once that was out of the way, he said: “It was really good.”

A second said of the chicken: “Mine was also delicious.” Chiming in about her lo mein, the third said: “Ibid.” (Yes, she really said “ibid.” The water must have gotten to her.)

I got the cumin lamb, a dish I’ve had at a couple of other restaurants, one in Chino Hills, the other in Alhambra, and this version was their equal. By my standards, then, the Upper House is among the handful of authentic Chinese restaurants in the Claremont-Pomona-La Verne area.

(That said, while the menu avoids orange chicken and cream cheese wontons, it does, confusingly, have a section labeled egg foo young, another, dated signifier of Americanized food, But who knows, maybe they put their own spin on it.)

As for the name the Upper House, we asked and were told it doesn’t really mean anything. But it’s more interesting than the generic Royal Panda.

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Column: His mission: explore San Juan Capistrano

On a recent day off, I took a day trip by train to San Juan Capistrano. (Three hours there, three hours back, $23.) While there (six hours), I toured the Los Rios District and Mission San Juan Capistrano. It was a fun, informative outing, and the tale is told in Wednesday’s column. Have you been to SJC? What were your impressions?

Above, the other side of the tracks is quite nice; both sides are. Below, a view inside the Serra Chapel.

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Can we get an Amen Guy?

Photo by David Thomas at 19th and Carnelian, 2007

He’s sort of a local legend, although his name isn’t widely known. Certainly I don’t know it. He’s the streetcorner evangelist with a van and a megaphone. The Filipino-American has been operating in the Inland Valley for years, probably since the 1990s, often with his wife at his side.

Reader David Thomas saw him most recently last fall. He calls him “the Amen guy…because when we see him holding his religious signs, we’ll give a supportive honk and he’ll reply through the megaphone ‘Amen!'” The man had a 7-foot pole with multiple signs and drives what Thomas called a Jesus van based on its signage.

He saw the Amen Guy at Carnelian and 19th, heard he’s been seen at Haven and Lemon and recalled years ago seeing him at Arrow and Archibald. He asked if the man had ever been profiled in our newspaper, and I said not to my knowledge.

I had tried, in 2003, after a tip that he lived next to a drive-through dairy on Grove Avenue; the operator promised to pass along a message from me, but the man never got in touch. Perhaps he prefers not to have his story out there, or maybe he’s just shy.

I have not seen him in a decade or more, I don’t think, so it was nice to hear he’s still around and shouting. Have any of you seen him? Do you know anything about him?

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Brackett Observatory, Pomona College

I had only an idea of where Brackett Observatory stood, knowing it’s around the southeast part of the Pomona College campus but never having seen it. In fact, during an evening open house of the campus a couple of years ago, I stumbled around past dusk trying to find it and failed. It’s not impossible that I walked right past it.

But on a recent afternoon, I went looking for Brackett Observatory and found it, near the Sontag Greek Theater off East Bonita. The observatory was closed on a Sunday, of course, but the quiet allowed me to admire its classic dome with retractable roof, and its fieldstone walls. It’s a modestly sized place, built in 1908, and named for the same professor whose name adorns La Verne’s municipal airport.

More about it can be found on the observatory webpage, which includes a video of a solar flare.

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Column: Chino Hills is getting to be a habit with jazz singer

The first Chino Hills Jazz and Blues Festival takes place April 22. Headliner Barbara Morrison is a noted L.A. jazz singer who’s already performed in Chino Hills once before — or twice, really. I explain, as well as offering up a Pomona mention in the New Yorker, an update on my film series, a couple of Culture Corner items and more, all in Sunday’s column.

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Restaurant of the Week: California Fish Grill

California Fish Grill, 1135 E. 19th St. (at Campus), Upland; open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Located in the newest section of the Colonies Crossroads Center, California Fish Grill is next to Oggi’s, on the north side of 19th Street. I was across the street getting a new cell phone recently and thought I’d try out CFG for dinner.

The experience and menu are similar to Pacific Fish Grill, which has a location in the Shoppes at Chino Hills that I’ve visited repeatedly. There’s an array of fresh fish entrees, which you can order with various seasonings and sides, and you order at the counter.

I got a combo of salmon and swai ($11.50), with rice and zucchini as my sides. On a second visit, at lunchtime, I got the serrano lime salmon bowl ($9). I enjoyed both of these meals; they seemed light, fresh and healthy.

A few points of comparison with Pacific Fish Grill: The latter delivers to your table instead of making you pick up your food (on a giant metal tray that holds two or three plates and looks like overkill when you’re eating solo); it doesn’t charge 50 cents more for brown rice; and it offers a side of vegetables, not simply zucchini.

On the other hand, California Fish Grill has more variety in its menu; it has a salsa bar; and its soda dispenser has non-brand names, from Stubborn Soda, with no artificial sweeteners or colors and better flavors (a la The Melt); I had black cherry and vanilla cream. So between the two places, it’s kind of a draw.

The comparison may not be meaningful to you if you live closer to one or the other rather than kind of in between, but I made it anyway. Overall, I liked the Upland chain seafood restaurant slightly more than the Chino Hills chain seafood restaurant, but they’re both worth trying.

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Column: Salsbury scooters ended production cycle in Pomona

In the local history category, Wednesday’s column recounts the story of Salsbury scooters, a beloved brand that was briefly made in Pomona, in a factory that was highly touted but, sad to say, quickly failed.

By the way, trying to get a photo in which I was not reflected in the glass of the picture Jeff Hodge is holding was tough! This one, in the shade, was fine, and you can see the scooter art, but you can’t see much of the factory building.

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