Restaurant of the Week: Tasty Pot, Rancho Cucamonga

Tasty Pot, 11540 4th St. (at Richmond Place), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

The influx of Asian Americans into Rancho Cucamonga continues to pay benefits, probably in somewhat invisible cultural ways, but visibly in more dining choices. A friend and I tried out the fairly new (open since May) Tasty Pot, a Taiwanese hot pot restaurant across from Ontario Mills.

Tasty Pot is a national chain, sort of, with 15 locations, most in California but with a few random states, like Ohio, having one lone locale. (Trivia note: There’s one in Ontario, Canada.) Ours is in the Signature Center, a few steps from a Panera and in what I believe used to be a bridal shop.

Inside, there’s a wall-length photo mural of what is presumably the Taipei skyline. The place was about two-thirds full when we arrived. We were the only white people, a good sign.

Soup is the thing to get. Each soup had around a dozen ingredients listed, many of them duplicated from one to the next. You could probably spend a lunch hour reading them all and trying to differentiate one from the next. They all appeared to have at least one type of seafood, if not several.

We just went with ones with appealing main ingredients: kimchi dumpling ($13, above) and lamb with noodle ($13, below), sharing them. We got the small size and mild spice level.

The pots arrived and were placed on a portable stovetop, burners turned on to keep the soup hot. A pitcher of broth would be brought by now and then for a refill.

We liked our soups, with the dumplings being a nice addition. The kitchen was generous with the ingredients, whether noodles, tofu, shrimp, cabbage, mussels, mushrooms or more.

One welcome touch was that our lunches came with complimentary iced tea. When have you ever seen that? We also got milk tea ($5-$5.50).

Neither of us is really a hot pot enthusiast, but sharing two made for a light, filling lunch.

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Restaurant of the Week: House of Fortune

House of Fortune, 13788 Roswell Ave. (at Schaefer), Chino; open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Chino Hills is where the Chinese food action is, but there’s spillover to neighboring Chino. House of Fortune, on the east side of the 71 Freeway, is near the Asian food hall Cravings. Also of note: House of Fortune is all vegetarian.

It says so right on the menu.

Actually, almost every dish qualifies as vegan.

I was there for lunch with three friends recently, the ones with whom I get together every quarter or so for a lunch for one of these Restaurant of the Week pieces. Our resident vegan chose the restaurant, saying she’d been here multiple times. The rest of us are omnivores.

We ordered a bunch of items to share. Above: lettuce wraps ($8.25). They did a good job of mimicking chicken. Below, clockwise from rear: crispy oyster mushrooms ($12), veggie meat pancakes ($9.25), veggie meat buns, or “Chinese tacos” ($3.50 each).

These were winners. The pancakes, which were sort of like quesadillas, were my favorite. The veggie buns, similar to ones I had at Lotus Cafe in Rancho Cucamonga except vegetarian, were tasty too. I liked the mushrooms, but they were a bit salty.

We also had clay pot eggplant tofu ($11, above), and veggie chicken fried rice ($9.25, not pictured), which I avoided, as I have an aversion to fried rice with peas and diced carrots. The tofu was OK but was my least favorite.

One of us said the mushrooms were “phenomenal” and the eggplant tofu “surprisingly good.”

Another said of the meal: “Jokey response could be: ‘It didn’t make me a vegan.'” (Since the comment is now on the blog, it’s gone from “could be” to “is.”) He added, more seriously: “Nice to cross the final frontier once in a while and taste the other side.” This is almost certainly the first Restaurant of the Week with a “Star Trek” reference.

So, overall, one of us was wowed, the rest of us were impressed. Let me add, the service was notably good for a Chinese restaurant; our bilingual, or perhaps multilingual, server spoke flawless English and was friendly to boot.

The New Diner blog gave House of Fortune a good writeup last year, btw.

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Restaurant of the Week: Bento Kuma

Bento Kuma, 8796 19th St. (at Carnelian), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily from noon to 7:45 p.m. Monday to Wednesday and to 8:45 p.m. Thursday to Sunday

A friend had been talking up Bento Kuma, a Chinese spot in Rancho Cucamonga that opened last November. He said it’s on his way home and that if he phones in an order when he leaves work, it’s ready for pickup when he arrives. And that he likes it, of course. He invited me and one of his work colleagues to lunch there. Thankfully he didn’t make us take it all to go to his house.

If you think about the name, it’s kind of funny: Bento boxes are Japanese, not Chinese. But they sell some lunch specials as bento boxes — not really in sectioned-off trays, but with a few courses in bowls on a tray.

I got the barbecue pork ($9.50), which came with rice, an egg roll, a cream cheese wonton, orange sections and edamame (which is Japanese). He got the same except with broccoli as well. The other guy got curry chicken ($9) a la carte.

He said the chicken was fresh and had plenty of curry. Our barbecue pork was fatty and not that appealing. The broccoli was said to be crisp.

“We are the only customers,” the invitee noted with accuracy. “In the evening there are definitely people here. People are lined up for takeout orders.”

Personally I see no reason to return, this being a neighborhood spot without a lot to recommend a drive here. But I’m glad he enjoys his takeout.

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Restaurant of the Week: Mr. Dumpling

Mr. Dumpling, 9319 Foothill Blvd. (at Hellman), Rancho Cucamonga; open daily, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

I was predisposed to like Mr. Dumpling, a Chinese restaurant in the center across from the New Kansan Motel, based on its name alone. Courtesy titles in business names are usually a winner. I would like to see a Mr. Dumpling mascot, perhaps a pudgy anthropomorphic dumpling wearing a smile and a rice hat.

Regardless, the restaurant had been on my list to try pretty much since its 2017 opening, and an opportunity recently presented itself when I was setting up lunch in Rancho Cucamonga with two friends. Let’s try Mr. Dumpling!

The double-sided menu has appetizers, soups and, naturally, dumplings, steamed, boiled or fried. We started with cucumber ($4), pickled and with serrano chiles, which we liked, although we sometimes avoided the chiles, and house fried rice ($4), with scallions and egg.

We also got pork wonton in chile oil ($7), another table favorite.

As for the dumplings, we got xiao long bao ($9), soup-filled pork dumplings of the type you would get at Din Tai Fung. These were not to those level, but they matched my memory of the XLBs at Min’s, also in Rancho Cucamonga. We also had beef and onion panfried dumplings ($9.45), which I unaccountably did not photograph. We liked those too.

Service was efficient but not especially helpful, as seems standard for Chinese restaurants. The dining room is enlivened by a wall-length mural by the co-owner.

I enjoyed the meal, as did my friends. I’d rate it among the better Chinese restaurants in the city. “For dumplings I’d definitely come back,” said one. “They needed to have those little spoons for us,” chided the other, referring to the soup spoons that usually come with XLBs.

And then in writing this post I reread our restaurant critic’s review and learned that there is evidently a sauce station opposite the kitchen with sauces, oils, black vinegar and slivered ginger for our dumplings. I did wonder why we didn’t get black vinegar and only a, well, sliver of slivered ginger. Maybe they had soup spoons there too. But no one told us it existed.

Tsk, tsk, Mr. Dumpling, you adorable fellow, you!

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Restaurant of the Week: Hi Family

Hi Family, 944 W. Foothill Blvd. (at Regis), Claremont; open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily except Wednesday, closed; also 12732 Foothill Blvd. (at Etiwanda), Rancho Cucamonga

In the small plaza across from Stater Bros., Hayato (best Japanese restaurant in Claremont) and Mediterranean mainstay Darvish are firmly lodged, while Chinese restaurants have come and gone. Hi Family, though, has hung in there for four years, according to Yelp; after a foodie friend recommended it, we made plans to eat there.

Unfortunately, that was on a Wednesday, the one day it’s closed. A few weeks later, in Claremont at lunchtime on a Monday, I gave it a spin solo.

It’s small, just eight tables, with dark wood and cobalt walls. The menu has a few standard American Chinese dishes like orange chicken, but most of the menu is real Chinese.

The first thing they bring out is a tumbler of water with slices of cucumber inside, an unusual but welcome flourish.

My friend said he’d had dan dan noodles and rattan pepper beef. Noticing that hot pots seem to be a specialty, I got the chicken, small size ($19), after they were out of short rib, my first choice. But that’s just as well, as Los Chicken, as it’s known, appears to be the most popular dish. The name is evidently a Mandarin pun, a shorthand version of Los Angeles as well as chicken, if I understand what I read correctly.

They bring out a portable stove to keep the soup hot. The soup had chicken (with bones in some cases), cabbage, chile oil and no doubt more. I ordered it medium spicy, which in my case was too spicy. I was blowing my nose into my napkin and gulping that cucumber water.

But it was tasty, generous with the chicken and with searing oil. The soup stayed hot and there were leftovers enough for two more meals. I also had an order of rice ($1), spooning the soup into a small bowl and mixing in the rice.

Once outside I noticed the sandwich board special for “crawfish rice.” Had I seen that going in I might have ordered it.

Szechuan-style Hi Family is the most authentic of the (I believe) three Chinese restaurants in Claremont, with Upper House being a middle ground (with more seating too) and Mr. You Express, which I haven’t visited, a fast-food spot. It probably goes without saying that Hi Family is for the more adventurous diner — although you could always get orange chicken.

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Restaurant of the Week: Mimi 5 Bobee

Mimi 5 Bobee, 9799 Base Line Road (at Archibald), Rancho Cucamonga; open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily except Tuesday, closed

Sometimes these restaurant visits are planned, sometimes they’re on a whim based on what’s near where I need to be for a story assignment and once in a while they become even more random. Needless to say, this is among the latter.

A friend and I had planned to meet at a Chinese restaurant in Claremont on a certain Wednesday, but when we got there we learned it’s closed on Wednesdays. He suggested a Chinese restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga in the 99 Ranch center that he’d tried and liked. We each drove there and learned that it, too, is closed on Wednesdays. What were the odds? Before that day I knew of only two restaurants that are closed Wednesdays, Vince’s Spaghetti in Ontario and Mariscos Jalisco in Pomona, and suddenly that number doubled on one lunch break.

But I noticed the Taiwanese restaurant Mimi 5 Bobee in the same center, and my friend hadn’t eaten there before either. It’s the only restaurant of four in that center neither of us had tried. So, undeterred by the name, we went in.

It’s a small, but large enough. We examined the menu and selected two items.

First was chili pepper wonton ($7.50), a decent version of a favorite dish, pork dumplings in chili oil.

We also got pork stew dry noodle ($7), wisely upgrading to hand-pulled noodles ($1.50). The ground pork was lightly spiced, the noodles stretchy and chewy. This proved to be our favorite item.

Those two orders weren’t enough for two people, so after some consultation with the server, we got pork in red grain with rice ($9). (They are big on pork here, and I guess we, too, were big on pork here.) It was deep-fried, quickly, and came with cabbage and carrots, jicama (or something like it) and a hard-boiled egg, and rice with a bit more pork. We liked this as we had the others, but the noodles remained our favorites.

We also got milk tea drinks off a specials board, two-for-one.

Mimi 5 has locations in Diamond Bar and Rowland Heights. The Bulletin’s real reviewer, David Cohen, wrote in 2016 that specialties include stinky tofu, marinated pork and oyster pancakes, among other dishes not commonly available in the area.

I’ve been to Red Chilli House, Lotus Cafe and Min’s Dumpling House in that center and have enjoyed them all, with Min’s and Red being the standouts. Still haven’t ventured inside 99 Ranch, which has its own food court. And of course I need to try the new spot that is closed Wednesdays — but obviously should not do so in midweek.

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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

CLOSED

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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