Restaurant of the Week: The Noodle

The Noodle, 4183 Chino Hills Parkway (at Pipeline), Chino Hills; open 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily

Its name may actually be Mandarin Noodle Deli, if you believe its website (which is chefyangnoodledeli.com, by the way), but all signage and the menu calls it The Noodle. Yelp has listings for both, even though it’s the same place. This spot opened in 2015 in the same center as Chaparral Lanes, I think taking over from Peking Deli. The center has a row of four storefront restaurants, including Japanese, Mexican and Chinese.

A friend and I ate lunch here recently. It was my choice of which spot to try, so after walking the length of them and eyeing menus at the entrances, I used my noodle.

The foyer was busy with takeout orders, hanging chickens and a greeter station. We were seated immediately. The dining room has a modest sense of style, including chandeliers and nicely appointed booths. We took a table, which are set up in rows as in many Chinese restaurants, where there’s a kind of food hall atmosphere.

The menu is nearly endless, page after page, and then there was a lunch menu. Specialties seemed to be barbecue, build your own soups and noodles; someone on Yelp who might know what they’re talking about said the food is from the northern province of Shanxi.

We ordered off the lunch menu: tomato with egg and chicken ($8) and seafood congee ($8.58). You’ll notice neither has noodles, but that wasn’t intentional: In my case, the server arrived and I chose something. We also got milk teas, one hot, one cold ($1.78 each). We should have got an order of rice, but it didn’t occur to us. Eh, nobody’s perfect.

We liked our items, and each other’s. We also liked the farmgirl-style outfits the servers wore, with checked shirts and matching kerchiefs. This post is more of a “this is where I had lunch” write-up than a very knowledgeable one, I’m afraid. Forgive me for kind of slipping on The Noodle.

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Restaurant of the Week: Silk Road Garden

Silk Road Garden, 1965 Foothill Blvd. (at Emerald), La Verne; open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m. daily except closed Tuesday; also at 18920 Gale Ave., Rowland Heights

Silk Road is the latest Chinese restaurant to take on this shopping center space (most recently held by Far East Gourmet). But Silk Road isn’t your typical Chinese restaurant. Its specialty is the food of northern and western China. You’ll find lamb, but no pork, for instance. An employee described the style as Turkish-Chinese.

A foodie friend had recommended the place, and then the Bulletin’s reviewer also said good things. I had lunch there on a weekend last month with a friend. It was quiet, although another group entered mid-meal.

The dining room is small and nicely appointed. The menu has a stirring motto.

The menu had so many unfamiliar, but intriguing, items that we took a while looking it over and making our choices. The server walked us through it and answered our questions. We got stir-fried broccoli ($9), noodles with lamb and mixed vegetables ($13) and the meat and vegetable pastry ($17).

We liked all three, with the handmade noodles being a particular favorite. “The noodles were really great,” said my friend, who will enjoy being quoted.

The pastry, a plate-filling meat pie, was also good. The broccoli was broccoli, with plenty of garlic, and we felt virtuous eating it.

This was more than enough food for two and we each took home leftovers. Which was good, because the prices were a bit high for Chinese food. We liked the place, though.

If you’re interested in Chinese food beyond sweet and sour pork, consider a journey to Silk Road. See what I did there?

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Restaurant of the Week: Lotus Cafe

Lotus Cafe, 9775 Base Line Road (at Archibald), Rancho Cucamonga; open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily except closed Tuesday

The 99 Ranch Center at Base Line and Archibald in Rancho Cucamonga is home to several Asian eateries: Min’s Dumpling House, Red Chili House, a boba shop, Myung Dong Tofu House and the food court inside the 99 Ranch market. Connected to the market but with a separate entrance is the small Lotus Cafe, where two friends and I had lunch recently.

It’s a modest place, and they offer steam table basics for quick service, but they also have an extensive menu. Not Min’s-extensive, with 100-plus items, but there’s dozens to choose from. Reviewer David Cohen says the cuisine is from northern China.

We got pan-fried dumplings ($8, top), a beef roll, kung pao chicken, fried lamb with cumin (above) and a unique item, the Chinese burger ($3.45, below), which based on the name we simply had to order. (Amid the conversation I didn’t get prices scrawled down for the other items before the menus were taken away.)

The Chinese burger was ground pork inside a rice bun with cilantro and grilled onions, and very tasty. It might not be dissimilar to a Maid-Rite sandwich. In descending order, we ranked our items this way: dumplings, lamb, burger, beef roll and kung pao. And there was nothing wrong with the kung pao, except that the peanuts were on the side, which bothered the guy who ordered it. He ate them by hand, like bar snacks.

The only problem with the meal was that the beef roll (above) arrived about 45 minutes after everything else. The server updated us a couple of times on its progress. Not sure what the issue was there; it’s possible they had to buy an ingredient at the market. Thankfully we weren’t in a hurry, although we also weren’t hungry anymore by the time we got it. Not that that stopped us from eating most of it.

“I like Min’s better,” said the guy who had been there before, “but for a little place inside a grocery store, it’s good.” The other two of us agreed.

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Restaurant of the Week: Tamsui River

Tamsui River Taiwanese Cuisine, 2855 Foothill Blvd. (at Fulton), La Verne; open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Tamsui River is on the old Person Ford site in La Verne, now apartments with some restaurants and retail facing Foothill Boulevard. The restaurant has gotten high marks, but I hadn’t been there until just before Christmas, when a Chinese food-lovin’ friend was in town and I suggested we try it out.

The L-shaped dining room is moderately sized, with an area separated by glass for a larger party. We were seated in a booth and examined the expansive menu of more than 100 items: soups, dumplings, noodles, seafood, etc.

We got sauteed lamb with scallions ($14, above), smoked duck noodle ($11) and pork soup dumplings ($9).

The lamb, similar to the cumin lamb that I’ve had elsewhere, was my favorite. We liked the XLB dumplings (below), even if they wouldn’t make me forget Din Tai Fung’s. We were surprised that smoked duck noodle came as a soup (bottom), since it wasn’t listed under soups, but there was nothing wrong with it.

The menu didn’t have photos of any dishes, so the names weren’t always a great help for two non-experts. And a few of the names were both puzzling and amusing, like “modeling dessert.”

Kidding aside, we liked the food. I wouldn’t say it’s San Gabriel Valley level, but for local Chinese, it’s in the upper ranks. As a foodie acquaintance who was leaving said as he passed our table, “This is a good place.”

Also, you know a Chinese restaurant is authentic when the menu isn’t online and they can’t be bothered to even have a Facebook page.

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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 Kykirykithe 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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Restaurant of the Week: Min’s Dumpling House, Rancho Cucamonga

Min’s Dumpling House, 9789 Baseline Road (at Archibald), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily

There are Min’s Dumpling House locations in Chino, Corona and Rancho Cucamonga, the latter of which I tried out recently at lunchtime with two librarian friends. It’s in the 99 Ranch center, home to another Chinese restaurant, a Korean restaurant and a boba shop.

Min’s is on the small side, but brightened by sunlight, art, carved screens and other decor, and the seating is spaced apart, giving everyone some elbow room. Its menu is on the large side, with 156 items: rice dishes, dim sum, soups, seafood, hot pot and more, including 15 vegetable-only dishes. The specialty is cuisine from the Hunan province. Many dishes are spicy, but they’re marked as such on the menu and we stayed away.

We ordered six items: pork dumplings (item 1, $7); BBQ pork buns (item 5, $6); shrimp and pork dumplings (item 19, $9); sweet and pungent spare ribs (item 59, $11); Chinese broccoli with garlic sauce (item 123, $8); and vegetable fried rice (item 150, $7).

I was a big fan of the dumplings — the pork were soup dumplings, the shrimp and pork were simply filled — and the pork buns. Nothing wrong with the broccoli either. The others liked the spare ribs and rice the best.

Min’s is among Rancho Cucamonga’s best Chinese restaurants, and given that the menu has a couple of my favorite items, cumin lamb and beef roll, I’m sure I’ll be back.

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Restaurant of the Week: China Republic

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China Republic, 12806 E. Foothill Blvd. (at Etiwanda), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

A shopping plaza in easternmost Rancho Cucamonga, on Foothill Boulevard east of the 15 Freeway, is a surprisingly happening spot. It’s got Combine Kitchen, Tilted Kilt, a Korean BBQ and an ambitious Chinese restaurant, China Republic. I’d been wanting to try the latter and jumped when a friend and his wife wanted dinner.

The parking lot was bustling early on a Friday evening and a couple of likely Kilt customers were arguing belligerently. Things were more sedate at China Republic.

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It’s got a beautiful interior, with high ceilings, wooden panels with carved cutouts, lovely lantern-like fixtures and a modernist bar. It might be the most impressive restaurant interior in Rancho Cucamonga.

To my knowledge, China Republic is one of the very, very few Inland Valley restaurants with dim sum, or small-plate luncheons, and I’m told the place is packed. But this was a weeknight dinner. We ordered, as presented below, black vinegar mushrooms ($6), braised pork belly ($15), garlic broccoli ($10), dry scallop fried rice ($14) and Singapore noodles soup ($10, not pictured).

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We enjoyed our items, although none of them knocked us out. In what must be a concession to local tastes, the menu includes orange peel chicken and cream cheese wontons, not the sort of dishes they serve in Hong Kong.

“An A for aesthetics but a B for execution,” one friend suggested.

China Republic is worth trying, especially to admire the place, and if you get the dim sum, report back, please.

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Restaurant of the Week: Tasty Noodle House

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Tasty Noodle House, 2947 Chino Ave. (at Peyton), Chino Hills; open daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Chino Hills, as has been noted here before, has the best Chinese food in the Inland Valley. I was planning to eat at Noodle House, but it looked full, and right across the shopping center driveway was a larger restaurant. So I went there instead.

Not that it occurred to me until later, but the second place had the same name plus an adjective, and given the choice between Noodle House and Tasty Noodle House, who wouldn’t upgrade to the tasty one? The sign says simply Tasty House, either due to space considerations or politeness to its neighbor, but the menu and receipt say Tasty Noodle House, which is a Southern California chain of at least seven restaurants, including Walnut, San Gabriel and Irvine.

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Tasty’s interior is immediately appealing: blond wood, benches, slim hanging fixtures and large windows. Scandinavia meets Shanghai.

It was bustling, but there were empty seats, and I was given one, as well as the typically extensive menu and time to look it over. I ordered xiao long bao ($7.50) and sauteed spirals (mushrooms) with leeks ($12), plus a taro milk tea ($3).

The pan of eight XLBs, or soup dumplings, weren’t to the Din Tai Fung standard and were more dumpling than soup, but that didn’t bother me, and they were a good choice. The leeks (one must have one’s greens) were sauteed with mushrooms and carrots and were very good too; half were taken home, making the price, which seemed a bit high, more palatable. And I liked the taro tea.

By Chinese restaurant standards, the service was friendly, I liked all my items and would go back. It’s only a block from the multiplex, which was my next stop after lunch. Nothing wrong with regular old Noodle House, though. It’s tasty too.

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Restaurant of the Week: Sam’s Unique Diner

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Sam’s Unique Diner, 4721 Chino Hills Parkway (at Monte Vista), Chino Hills

Don’t let the name fool you: Sam’s Unique Diner is not a hash house with a waitress named Flo but rather a Chinese restaurant, and a stylish one. It opened in the Commons shopping center a few weeks ago.

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The entry looks like a hotel and the dining room has a chandelier.

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I was there for a group lunch recently and ordered off the lunch menu, not dissimilar from that of many Chinese restaurants. I got the most exotic sounding item, twice cooked pork ($8, below), and liked it. But the restaurant, I could tell, was better than the orange chicken, kung pao chicken and other standbys on the lunch menu.

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So I returned for a weekend lunch with a friend. We had westlake beef soup ($11, not pictured); yam with blueberries ($10, below); beef with cumin ($14, second photo below); and fish filet with vegetables ($11, third photo below).

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The yam item was the only one we thought was just okay. The white yams had a taste like jicama. Pleasant, but dull.

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I love cumin dishes and beef with cumin did not disappoint. The soup was good as well and we liked the light, moist tilapia in the fish filet.

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The expansive restaurant has private dining rooms and a covered patio for groups. It’s said to have Sichuan, Cantonese and Shanghai-style cuisine. Chino Hills has a number of authentic Chinese restaurants and Sam’s is among the best, and in what may be the most spectacular restaurant setting in the city.

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Restaurant of the Week: Szechuwan Garden

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Szechuwan Garden, 8851 Central Ave. (at Arrow), Montclair; open daily

This ’80s strip mall has had a Chinese restaurant of one name or another for 30 years: first Royal China, then Golden Buddha and then, since 1998, Golden China. When it closed in 2014, after a long run, its replacement was yet another Chinese restaurant, Szechuwan Garden.

Thankfully, they made the place over, ditching some of the dated touches that left you wondering if A Flock of Seagulls might drop in for a pu-pu platter. The dining room is more industrial now, the lighting is focused and the atmosphere less tacky.

The menu is slightly more interesting than your typical Chinese American restaurant — shredded pork with dry bean curd, chow fun — but largely has familiar dishes, even moo goo gai pan, and cream cheese wontons, but no orange chicken at least.

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I had lunch there last month with a friend. He got tangerine chicken off the lunch menu ($7), while I got one of the chef’s specialties, Mao braised pork belly ($13). His came with soup, salad and egg roll. They gave me a soup to be nice.

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He liked his lunch, and mine was pretty good too, soft chunks of pork belly atop sauteed spinach, with brown rice on the side. Inland Empire had named it to its 10 Dishes to Die For list, a display at the entrance had boasted.

This isn’t San Gabriel-style authentic Chinese food, and thus I wouldn’t recommend driving across the valley to eat here. That said, it’s clean and comfortable, a small step up from Golden China, and in a time when decent sitdown places for traditional Chinese food are becoming scarce, I wish them luck.

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