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.