Restaurant of the Week: Cachanilla


Cachanilla Chinese Restaurant, 305 E. Holt Ave. (at Palomares), Pomona

Once upon a time, I believe, this restaurant was an American coffee shop, Hull House; later it became a series of Mexican restaurants, among them La Cabana and Molcajete; later still it was a Chinese buffet. Now it’s Cachanilla, which bills itself as Chinese food in the style of Mexicali.

Mexicali, in Baja California, at one point had a high concentration of Chinese immigrants and still has more Chinese restaurants than any other part of Mexico. I had no idea.

Intrigued, a friend and I gave Cachanilla a try recently for lunch. The interior is kind of swank, an upgrade from what I recall of a decade-old visit to La Cabana.

The menu seems very American Chinese, with chow mein, chop suey, orange chicken (“pollo a la naranja”) and the like. I got Mongolian beef ($8, “carne deres estilo mongolia”), my friend got the house special chow mein ($10, “chow mein de especialadad de casa”), and we shared dumplings ($8).

Well, these all tasted pretty standard to us, and a query of our waiter about what made the food Mexican got us an off-point answer about how people in Pomona wouldn’t care for San Gabriel Valley-style authentic Chinese food. A better answer had come via email from reader John Clifford, who learned from a server that Mexicali Chinese tends to use fewer vegetables and more bean sprouts and that some dishes include jalapenos or cilantro.

To be honest, we were a little disappointed by our lunch, having envisioned something more fusion-y. (But not like the Ontario Chinese-Mexican fusion place.) This was just regular Chinese food, which can be found seemingly everywhere.

That said, Chinese food is as scarce a commodity in Pomona as it is in Mexico, with a Panda Express in the Target center perhaps the only other edible Chinese food within city limits, unless fried rice specialist Kwon’s or the teriyaki bowls at Jinza count. So I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for liking Cachanilla, but also I wouldn’t steer anyone there from out of town.

By the way, I guess what I had really is Chinese food. An hour later, I was hungry again.




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Restaurant of the Week: Panda Inn


Panda Inn, 3223 E. Centrelake Drive (at Guasti), Ontario

Panda Inn, an outpost of the small Pasadena-based chain that also owns Panda Express, opened in 1992 in Ontario in what was then the hinterlands. But we had an airport. The location, only yards from the 10 Freeway, was renovated in 2013, the subject of one of my columns. I’ve dined at this Panda several times over the years with groups of friends. I had dinner there last month with a friend and figured I might as well memorialize it here.

Panda is a little more modern inside now. They knocked down a wall to the bar, making it more accessible, and it has more TVs. And the dining rooms are more stylish and colorful with elements like decorative bird cages.

The menus are updated too, although I don’t remember enough about the old menus to gauge how much it’s changed. Panda is still Americanized, as perhaps you must be to fill an enormous restaurant in Ontario, and orange chicken, sweet and sour pork, and fried egg rolls remain on the menu.

But they do a good job. My friend got kon pao chicken ($14), pork fried rice ($10) and braised string beans ($7.75). A creature of habit, she orders those same dishes at any Chinese restaurant she visits. She likes Panda’s versions best, though. I got steamed pork dumplings ($6.25) and wok-fried scallops on a bed of spinach ($19.25). Pretty good.

All the food came out quickly, except my dumplings, which arrived 10 minutes after everything else.

The waiter was exceptionally friendly. Celebrating mutual March birthdays, we got birthday ice cream and a song from three servers. And of course, Panda’s signature foil-wrapped fortune cookies dipped in white chocolate.

Overall, it was a pleasant meal in nice surroundings. Leaving our dining room for the men’s room, my way was momentarily blocked by a party of four taking a selfie. “The arches,” one explained apologetically. Ah, yes, the arches: The long hallway got five arches as part of the renovation, and it does make for a neat, almost science fictional sight.







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Restaurant of the Week: Noodle House


Noodle House, 2935 Chino Ave. (at Peyton), Chino Hills

Chino Hills is home to numerous Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley style, and if perhaps not to that level, they’re often very good. I tried another one recently pretty much at random: Noodle House.

It’s in a Mediterranean-looking shopping plaza maybe a half-mile west of the 71 Freeway and near the Harkins 18. At least one other Chinese eatery is in the center, Home Cooking. Haven’t tried that one. Noodle House is small and bustling. I was there for a late lunch and the place was almost full. Someone had just left, thankfully, and I was given their table once it was cleaned.

The menu had appetizers, soups, dry noodle dishes and specialties. I got a seaweed salad ($3) and shredded pork with dry noodles ($5).

The cold salad was light and lightly chewy; the bowl was hot. I really liked both dishes and took half of each home, where they were also delicious in the coming days.

The staff’s English was pretty good, and service was brisk but not unfriendly. People on Yelp talk about the fried fish filet with seaweed and the beef soup with handcut noodles, so I may not have ordered anything extraordinary. But I recommend the place.


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Restaurant of the Week: 85 Degrees C Bakery Cafe, Chino Hills

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85 Degrees C Bakery, 12959 Peyton Drive (at Beverly Glen), Chino Hills

Sometimes called the Starbucks of Taiwan, 85 Degrees Celsius has been sprouting in Southern California’s Asian enclaves, with locations to date in Irvine, Hacienda Heights and West Covina. A Chino Hills outpost opened in July. It’s the largest at 5,000 square feet and took over the defunct City Broiler.

It’s been radically transformed, with lots of windows and lots of seating, as well as a shady, pleasant rear patio. I met a friend for lunch who had previously shown me the one in West Covina, so I knew what to expect.

Breads and pastries, both savory and sweet, are displayed in clear plastic cases, from which you pluck whatever you want with tongs and place them on a cafeteria tray. If you’ve been to a panaderia, you’ll recognize the concept. When you pay, each item is put into a clear bag. They also sell coffees, smoothies and other beverages.

So it’s basically a bread buffet, a carbohydrate cafeteria. Three pieces will generally fill you up. We had a pork sung bun, wheat germ mushroom, garlic cheese, and ham and onion roll, with red bean bread and mocha bread for dessert. Each was from $1.10 to $2. I also had a taro slush drink ($3.75). So, two of us had a satisfying lunch for $13, and I saved the mocha bread for breakfast the next morning. It was too bready for me, and the pork sung bun, essentially a bun dusted with powdery pork, was too dry for my taste. The rest were delicious, and I liked my drink too.

Definitely worth a visit: The items are different and really good (people rave about the sea salt coffee too), and as there will be more 85 Degrees locations, you may as well try one now so you can brag to your friends when one pops up in, say, Rancho Cucamonga that you already know all about it.

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Restaurant of the Week: Dragon Loco

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Dragon Loco, 2509 S. Euclid Ave. (at Walnut), Ontario

Dragon Loco bills itself as Chinese-Mexican fusion, its logo featuring a dragon wearing a sombrero. It’s right off the 60 Freeway in a semi-populated strip mall where you might expect Chinese or Mexican fast food (in fact, a Del Taco is at the edge of the parking lot), but it’s not where you would expect a concept as odd as a fusion of both.

The menu does feature standard Chinese fast food in one-, two- and three-item combos, besides the goofy fusion items. Visit the restaurant’s website here.

Owner Mario Luna had phoned me a couple of times and tweeted me once to invite me down, which almost never happens (for the sake of independence, I prefer that it doesn’t, actually); when I finally showed up unannounced for lunch, he recognized me right off, which also almost never happens. And so, anonymity gone, I could do little but let him bring me items, which I sampled.

I tried the chorizo wontons ($1), chicken teriyaki quesadilla ($6, pictured above), kung pao taco ($2), asada fried rice ($6, pictured below) and a horchata frappe ($3, pictured above right). Just typing those names makes me smile.

The asada fried rice was the best of the lot, to my taste buds, and the horchata frappe hit the spot on a steamy day. The rest was more like stunt food. The wontons and taco had two sauces laid over them in squiggles, which made them overdressed, not better.

People on Yelp seem to love the place, with the overall rating 4 stars out of 5. I enjoyed meeting Luna, who likes my work, but Americanized Chinese food inside tortillas didn’t appeal to me. Luna compares his fusion offerings to those of L.A. food trucks. As a concept, yes, but Dragon Loco doesn’t use the higher-end ingredients that the trucks do.

Luna has big dreams for the place, which is open until 3 a.m. on weekends. I applaud his ambition and wish him well.

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Restaurant of the Week: One Plus One Dumpling House

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One Plus One Dumpling House, 14720 Pipeline Ave. (at Chino Hills Parkway), Chino Hills

Chinese dumplings are rare in Inland Valley restaurants, making One Plus One Dumpling House almost unique. The restaurant opened in Chino a couple of years back, relocating in April 2012 to Chino Hills next to the Lebanese restaurant Mes Amis, taking the place of the Thai restaurant Swasdee. Chino Hills is more of a culinary melting pot than you’d guess.

Three friends and I met there for lunch recently. The space looks almost unchanged from Swasdee’s occupancy, being modern, L-shaped and small (nine tables or booths).

The menu has some 20 varieties of dumplings, most of which can be ordered steamed, boiled or pan fried. Boiled are soup dumplings (xiao long bao), steamed are dry, fried are pot stickers. Noodle dishes and beef, lamb, chicken, pork and vegetarian dishes fill out the menu.

It’s the kind of place where, while they do have sweet and sour pork and orange chicken, they also have the non-Panda Express-approved spicy frog in firepot, spicy intestine and lamb with sour vegetable.

We ordered a lot of food: vegetable boiled dumplings ($7, pictured above), house special noodle ($7), shrimp and pineapple ($13), deep fried chicken with chili and garlic ($9) and a beef wrap ($5, pictured below). The staff threw in pork XLBs ($7), which they seem to do if you order $20 or more in food.

We like Chinese food, but we’re not experts. One at our table said approvingly, “This pork dumpling is really good,” while sampling the beef wrap. Which gave us something to kid him about. I can attest that the beef wrap is a respectable knockoff of 101 Noodle Express’ celebrated beef roll.

We all said we would be willing to come back. One friend said: “I thought the noodles were fantastic” — he really was talking about noodles — “and the deep-fried chicken was especially good.” Service was efficient and they kept our water glasses filled. The number of San Gabriel Valley-style Chinese restaurants in the Inland Valley remains small, but it’s growing, one by one.

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Restaurant of the Week: The Boiling Point

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The Boiling Point, 13089 Peyton Drive (at Beverly Glen), Chino Hills

Chino Hills has a variety of superior Chinese and Japanese restaurants that are more authentic than the norm for this area. One of the latest is The Boiling Point, open since July 2011 in the Crossroads Marketplace complex, which has locations in seven other Asian neighborhoods in the U.S. and Canada.

It specializes in soup and boba tea. On a recent Saturday at luncthime, there was a signup sheet and a line out the door. Once seated, my friends and I were the only non-Asians in the place, usually a good sign.

The servers were rushed, but their English was very good. I ordered the seafood and tofu soup (pictured below) and my friends had the beef soup and the Taiwanese spicy soup. Each was $10 and included a bowl of rice or noodles and a tea. The soup arrived in a serving bowl atop a butane flame.

Candidly, we weren’t wowed, but I think it was more a case of cultural differences than the food itself. It wasn’t soup as we would expect it but rather various ingredients in boiling water, which the staff would cheerfully offer to refill from a pot much as a waitress might refill a cup of coffee.

One friend said the flavors were simply hot rather than complex while the other felt silly blowing on hot soup that was sitting atop a flame. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to eat out of the bowl or transfer the soup, or maybe just the ingredients, to the rice bowl. White people out of their depth is always a charming sight.

So, let me recommend Boiling Point for the adventurous and for those to whom this sort of thing is second nature. I’m honestly curious to hear others’ reactions.

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Restaurant of the Week: Red Chilli House

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Red Chilli House, 9795 Base Line Road (at Archibald), Rancho Cucamonga

The Inland Valley has a lot of Chinese restaurants but only a handful that serve what might be called modern, authentic Chinese cuisine, a la the San Gabriel Valley. The short list is made up of Peking Deli and Good Time Cafe, both in Chino Hills, Foothill Bistro in Rancho Cucamonga and a recent addition, Red Chilli House, also in Rancho Cucamonga.

Red Chilli opened in June 2011 near the 99 Ranch Market. Other than kung pao shrimp and chicken in spicy garlic sauce, everything on the menu was unfamiliar. There’s no chow mein or orange chicken or cream cheese wontons. They don’t bring a basket of chow mein noodles to your table with a plate of ketchup and spicy mustard. Instead they have dishes like boiled pork intestines in chili sauce and stir-fried kidney with pickled chili. Yum!

Just kidding. Well, for all I know, those are delish. But don’t be put off: They also have many non-frightening dishes. (The menu has 112 items.)

A friend well-versed in Chinese cuisine ordered for us: a plate of cold appetizers (seaweed, cucumber, beef with Szechuan peppercorns; price forgotten; pictured above right), something called crispy rice crust dishes with pork ($10, middle right) and Dan Dan noodles ($6, below right).

The noodles came in a bowl with a peanut-sesame sauce. The pork dish had vegetables and crispy rice. I liked both, as well as the appetizer, although the edge goes to the noodles.

Service was low-key but helpful; they refilled our water glasses regularly and answered questions. The dining room was pleasant if utilitarian. There’s a boba shop a few doors down and an Asian market in the same center.

I meant to write this visit up weeks ago but delayed; I was considering writing a tie-in column about the place, or the whole shopping center, but that fell by the wayside. So, at last, here’s the Restaurant of the Week version. For what it’s worth, people on Yelp like the place.

If you want sweet and sour something, don’t go here. As my friend said mockingly: “Chinese food is supposed to be slivers of white meat deep-fried in a sugary glaze!” If you want something that’s not that, try Red Chilli House.

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Restaurant of the Week: Kwon’s


Kwon’s Restaurant, 1625 W. Holt Ave. (at Dudley), Pomona

I’d never taken notice of Kwon’s until finding ecstatic reviews on Yelp and actively searching for the place one recent lunchtime. It’s out on West Holt near St. Joseph’s Church and housed in a skeevy-looking strip mall, although a CHP car parked outside offered some comfort.

Inside, Kwon’s was bustling, with multiple people ordering at the counter, waiting for takeout or packed into the half-dozen tables or booths. The clientele was made up of laborers, families and a couple of employees from Lanterman, not to mention a hungry columnist.

The menu consists mostly of fried rice in numerous permutations of beef, pork, chicken and shrimp, with or without vegetables. They also have chop suey, lo mein (or as a poster spells it, “low mein”) and the dreaded orange chicken. I ordered shrimp fried rice with vegetables ($6.45) and hoped for the best.

What I got was a heaping plate — Yelp reviewers estimate it at a pound — of rice with cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, scallions, onions and broccoli, and a generous amount of shrimp. Slightly bland, perhaps, but you get soy sauce and hot sauce. For a cheap meal of reasonable quality and unreasonable quantity, you can’t beat it with a chopstick.

I took home half my order and got a second meal out of it.

Apparently Kwon’s was upgraded a year or two ago. Yelpers say the storefront sign used to read only “Restaurant”; now it gives the full name and says “since 1983.” Long may they fry.

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Restaurant of the Week: China Point


China Point, 9028 Archibald Ave. (at 7th), Rancho Cucamonga

For my dozen years at the Bulletin, I’ve noticed the aging blue Inland Business Center that has China Point as a tenant — and continued driving past. But on Wednesday I finally pulled in.

China Point’s interior has a ’70s ambiance and feels almost personality-free: one wall mirrored, the other lavender, with generic booths and tables and a few small pictures and hangings for a Chinese touch. If China Point ever lost favor, a taqueria or pizza parlor could take over the dining room with about an hour’s notice. But that’s unlikely, because the restaurant has been there for years and was half full when I went in for lunch (although not half full of Asians).

The China Point menu is separated by price points, with items listed under headings for $6.25, $6.95 and $7.95 — I didn’t see any takeout menus so I’m doing this from memory — with a daily $5.95 special. China Point is old school Americanized Chinese, with chop suey still on the menu, and when you order from one of the no-nonsense waitresses, the default rice is fried.

I got No. 23, shrimp with garlic sauce ($7.95), with steamed rice, hot and sour soup, a wonton and an egg roll. Well, the food was a little better than expected: sinus-clearingly spicy and generous with the shrimp — I counted a dozen, and they were decent-sized. And there was so much food I took home half the entree.

In the hierarchy of Inland Valley Chinese restaurants, China Point falls in the middle: Not truly authentic (Good Time Cafe, Peking Deli), not even moderately authentic (China Gate, Chu Chinese, Dragon Inn, etc.), but well above steam-table outfits.

Incidentally, the fortune in my cookie read as follows: “You will be called to fill a position of high honor and responsibility.”

Well, Obama is still looking for a Commerce secretary…

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