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: Taqueria La Oaxaquena

Taqueria La Oaxaquena, 825 E. Mission Blvd. (at Towne), Pomona; open daily, 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. except Friday and Saturday until 4 a.m.

I’ve noticed Taqueria La Oaxaquena from across Mission Boulevard at Taqueria Guadalupana, one of my haunts, always meaning to give it a shot. On a lunch break a few weeks ago, I did so.

It’s a large space occupying two storefronts, with a bare floor and few frills. You order at the counter and sit at one of the basic fast-food-style booths lined up in rows. A mural of a Mexican village scene, probably meant to represent the pilgrimage town of San Juan (the exterior sign is Taqueria La Oaxaquena de San Juan), decorates one wall and spills over onto the next.

The menu is confusing and incomplete — a few pictured items on a couple of banners and some signs noting specials — and the staff is more comfortable in Spanish. They sell tacos, quesadillas and mulitas with the standard fillings, and some uncommon ones, plus breakfast, some seafood items, aguas naturales (bionicos, licuados and smoothies) and ice cream. Based on the exterior signs, their specialties include birria, barbacoa and mole con pollo.

My first visit I had one of the specials, four tacos ($5) al pastor, plus a Coke. They arrived with double tortillas, handmade and crisped on the grill, with a generous amount of barbecued pork. They were quite good, and there was a bar of salsas, limes, etc. to choose from.

I took a flier that listed a few of their items, plus the fillings. Three are vegetarian: huitlacoche or corn fungus, champinones or mushrooms and flor calabeza or squash blossoms. On a return visit, I had a huitlacoche quesadilla ($6.50, I think), which took me back to my vacation to Mexico City. It’s a rare item in these parts. It had mushrooms, corn fungus, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese.

I also got an aguas fresca ($2.50, I think), serving myself with a ladle from one of the five jugs. Mine was strawberry, and I liked it.

The clientele on my visits was very Mexican-American and working class. I can’t tell you whether the food is from the state of Oaxaca or the state of Jalisco — anyone able to explain this to me? — but I can tell you this is among Pomona’s better Mexican restaurants. For the adventurous, it’s worth making a pilgrimage to.

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Restaurant of the Week: Mariscos Jalisco

Mariscos Jalisco, 753 E. Holt Ave. (at San Antonio), Pomona; open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily except Wednesday

The arrival of Mariscos Jalisco in Pomona in mid-March was excellent news for foodies, as well as for anyone who appreciates cheap eats and Mexican-style seafood. The restaurant, the celebrated Boyle Heights’ food truck’s first brick and mortar spot, was written up in my column, which included an interview with founder Raul Ortega.

But as it would seem like an oversight not to make Mariscos Jalisco a Restaurant of the Week for my blog, listed alongside other Pomona eating places, here it is.

There’s a limited menu, all seafood-based. Don’t go in thinking you can order a chicken burrito. As there are only 10 items, I had some thought of trying all 10 before writing something. I didn’t get quite that far, as you’ll see.

The shrimp taco is the must-have item. You order them individually, and so on some visits I’ve had one, plus a second item, like the campechana, a seafood cocktail with shrimp, octopus, oysters, fish, onions, tomatoes, avocado (virtually every item here uses avocado), and eaten with a spoon or on a tostada, or the coctel, pictured second, which is the above but without oysters. I enjoyed both.

I’ve had both ceviches, seafood, below, and shrimp, which I can’t find my photo of.

Above is the mixta, a ceviche with shrimp, fish and octopus. All the ceviches are chilled and refreshing.

Finally, I ordered the Poseidon, basically the mixta but with aguachile. It’s spicy! I was crying and blowing my nose and using up a dozen napkins in the process.

So I can’t see myself ordering the aguachile on its own, foiling my thoughts of trying all 10 items.

Or can we pretend I had the aguachile, since here it was atop the Poseidon? Hmm.

The other two untried items are possibilities: peinados, which looks from the photo like a seafood assortment, and a botana, the menu’s priciest item at $19, and meant for two people. I’m not sure what it is from the photo. A friend owes me a meal there after I had to pay for hers when she didn’t have cash (the restaurant has since begun taking cards), so I could always try persuading her to get the botana.

Or I can just continue happily eating a taco or two a week, with the occasional ceviche or cocktail to mix things up.

Business has been good, but not explosive; I haven’t encountered a line longer than four people, although I haven’t tried going during a traditional lunch hour. So don’t be deterred, but also bear in mind the early closing time. Below is the small dining room shortly after my column was published. It was nice to see the place full, whether or not I had helped.

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Restaurant of the Week: SpireWorks

SpireWorks Modern Döner, 2129 Baseline Road (at 210), Upland; open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

SpireWorks is a new chain with locations so far only in Eagle Rock, Westwood and Upland, with Thousand Oaks coming soon. Yes, we are part of the in crowd for a change.

Ours opened in the new Sycamore Hills Plaza straddling the Upland/Claremont border on Baseline immediately east of the 210. It’s kind of amazing to see this center spring to life on rocky, scrubby land I’d never paid any attention to. And now there’s a Whole Foods 365 there. The mind reels.

I met a friend at SpireWorks for lunch a couple of weeks ago, curious about döner after having had some in Germany last year. It’s not unfamiliar if you’ve been to a Mediterranean restaurant where they carve meat off a vertical spit. Döner is what they call that in Europe, where döner kebabs (sandwiches on pita bread) are very popular.

SpireWorks has beef and chicken döner, plus falafel. You can get them as plates, bowls or sandwiches. They also sell salads.

I had a beef döner plate with two sides ($12.50): tabbouleh and hummus. I won’t say I was transported back to Wittenberg, especially without a cobblestone street outside and a Lutheran church nearby, but I enjoyed it. The bread, rather than pita, was unusual.

My friend had a falafel bowl ($9.50), Istanbul style (more on that below), and said she liked the mild flavors. Personally, I think the sauce is overdone, but she gave me some falafel, and it was fine.

The sandwiches come on thick bread, not pita, and salads, sandwiches and bowls can be ordered in one of four styles: Istanbul, Berlin, Greek and Philly (!), the latter with Cheez Whiz. Needless to say, SpireWorks is not offering a purist vision of döner but a compromised, America-friendly version. I don’t entirely approve, but the food is okay, and I can see going back.

I like the faux lemon-crate label wallpaper, by the way.

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Restaurant of the Week: Domi’s Peruvian Cuisine

Domi’s Peruvian Cuisine, 915 N. Euclid Ave. (at Foothill), Upland; open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. except until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Mondays

The Inland Valley used to have just a couple of Peruvian restaurants; now it’s got at least five: one in Claremont, two in Rancho Cucamonga and two in Upland. Domi’s is among the latter, opening in 2014 in the center on the southwest corner of Euclid and Foothill, in the strip south of Coco’s that faces Euclid.

The last time I’d eaten in that space, it was a taqueria. I’d seen the Domi’s sign many times but hadn’t gone in until recently, when I arranged to meet a friend for a weekday lunch.

It’s a small spot, just a few tables, with tourism-type photos of Peru on the walls. They’ll wait on you if there’s two or more of you, it seems; otherwise you order at the counter.

The menu isn’t online, but it’s got the best-known Peruvian dishes and many that were unfamiliar to me. Click on the photos below for a larger view.

Note there are five vegetarian options.

I had the pollo saltado ($11.50, above): chicken on fries sauteed with tomatoes and purple onions. It was a good version.

My friend had the beef tacu tacu ($12.75): sliced Angus beef saltado (chicken or shrimp and calamari available too) served on garlic rice. He’d never had that, but he liked it.

We had considered getting an appetizer to share but were glad we didn’t, as we could barely finish our entrees.

Another item on the menu intrigued me, the chicharron sandwich, so I went back for a solo lunch. How could I resist, with this menu description: “Blow your mind away when taking a bite out of this delicious piece of heaven. A sandwich layered-in with slices of fried sweet potato, marinated fried pork meat and topped with a kick of salsa criolla.”

Rather than pork skin, as in Mexico, the Peruvian version of chicharron is a pork cutlet. Combined with slices of sweet potato and strips of pickled purple onion, it was served on a thick roll. I’m not sure it blew my mind away, but then, by middle age one becomes a bit jaded. But this was a pleasant combination of flavors, and filling.

If you like Peruvian food, or would like to try it, Domi’s is a good choice.

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Restaurant of the Week: Chuy’s Cocina

Chuy’s Cocina, 10285 Central Ave. (at Kingsley), Montclair; open daily, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

A friend who drives up Central on a frequent basis noticed Chuy’s and suggested a group of us meet there for lunch. I had overlooked the restaurant, which opened last September in a small, multi-tenant building, but agreed instantly. Always nice to find a new restaurant to try in modest Montclair. (The current Yelp rating, by the way, is five stars, based on 63 reviews.)

You generally order at the counter, it seems, although a staffer came to our table to take our order based on the menu behind the counter. Hey, it’s a family-run place, they can make their own rules. Menu board is below; click on the photo for a more readable view.

I got a sope (with pastor) and a mulita (with asada), each $4. I think I’d had a sope once, which is pictured at top below, but not a mulita, foreground. A mulita is somewhere between a taco and a quesadilla. I liked it. It turns out I’m not a fan of sopes, which are hard to pick up and eat, and have crumbled cheese and other toppings that fall off, but there was nothing wrong with this version.

One friend got the chile relleno and enchilada combo ($9) with beans, rice and a wee salad. “Esta muy rica,” he said, practicing his Spanish. “Very delicious. I liked it very much.”

The other two friends each got three-taco combos ($7), one with bean tacos — “Tasty. I really liked the salsa,” she said — and one with chicken. After much thought as to a pithy comment, he settled for: “The tacos were excellent.” Posterity thanks him.

Chuy’s seats about 30. The staff was helpful, even if their English is lacking. When the vegan in our group had a question about the preparation, the chef came out to answer. When our complimentary chips were finished, they brought out more, and also refilled our drinks.

The friend whose idea it was to meet there mused aloud, “My thought was, how could a place so small be a restaurant? In the inside, it’s a lot larger than it looks from the outside.”

“Like the Tardis,” said another.

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Restaurant of the Week: Burger Bar

Burger Bar, 665 E. Foothill Blvd. (at Claremont Blvd.), Claremont; open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday to Sunday; closed Monday

When the Meat Cellar moved a few blocks west to the old Wolfe’s Market, the former location was turned into Burger Bar under the same ownership. I wrote about Meat Cellar last week and may as well round things out by giving the same treatment to Burger Bar.

It’s been upgraded a bit, with a bar (obviously you need a bar at a place named Burger Bar) and local beers from No Clue, Last Name and nearby Claremont Craft Ales as well as red and white wines. The seating is a little better too, and there’s table service rather than ordering at the register.

The new Meat Cellar has an expanded menu. Burger Bar is more like the old Meat Cellar menu: sandwiches, burgers and a few entrees, like steak frites. Basically, my favorites are still served here in this quieter, more low-key (no valet parking, at least) restaurant. And there are some new items too.

On my first visit, I had one of those new items, the turkey burger ($15). This was not what I had expected, frankly, being more like the “chicken burger” you sometimes see on a menu; this was a tightly packed disk of turkey rather than ground turkey that would closely resemble a hamburger in looks and flavor. The crispy onion straws helped relieve its monotony, but I would recommend they drop it from the menu.

As that’s not how I wanted this Restaurant of the Week to go, I decided to return before writing something.

On my second visit I got a hamburger — in this case, splurging for the Wagyu ($18). This was more like it.

On the other hand, the guy at the table behind me complained about his burger being undercooked and said he had a Cordon Bleu degree. Compounding its evident flub, the kitchen made him the wrong burger for his replacement sandwich, for which management apologized and comped him. (I’ve had days like that too.)

I’m pretty sure I’ll return to Burger Bar, but a little less enthusiastically than expected. They may have a few kinks to work out yet.

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Restaurant of the Week: Meat Cellar

Meat Cellar, 160 W. Foothill Blvd. (at Harvard), Claremont; open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Meat Cellar was already the subject of a Restaurant of the Week post, in 2016, only now it’s moved a few blocks west to the old Wolfe’s Market, and the old location has become a Meat Cellar-owned spinoff, Burger Bar. So it seems best to start over.

The new Meat Cellar is probably triple the size, a full-service restaurant with a full bar, an open kitchen and, as before, a meat case like a butcher. That in a way serves as a nod to the space’s century as a grocery until its demise in 2017 (although the back part of the building continues as Wolfe’s Kitchen and Deli). There are two dining areas, one near the bar and the other near the kitchen.

I went in for a weekday lunch recently on a day off. Here’s the new menu; click for a larger view. (I’m glad I took a photo, as Meat Cellar currently has no website and its Facebook page hasn’t been updated since July 2017.)

The menu is greatly expanded from the original location; it’s still got the sandwiches, steak frites and other items from before, but now there’s salads, appetizers, desserts, more small plates and far more seafood.

They brought out a piece of cornbread, which was tasty, and a dollop of butter almost the size of the cornbread, which went unused.

I ordered the farmers market salad, a new item, with chicken ($13 + $5).

It’s got strawberries, currants, romaine, feta and more, plus balsamic vinaigrette. I liked it: It felt like a meal, with chicken and strawberries in nearly every bite.

The interior is rustic, with exposed rafters and ductwork, a skylight and wooden slat tables. Service was low-key and professional.

The new Meat Cellar, which opened earlier this year, was a hit immediately; drive past any evening and you’ll see plenty of diners inside through the large windows. Due to the small parking lot, Meat Cellar has valet parking, possibly the only restaurant to offer this in the Inland Valley, and you’ll see cars parked on the streets around the neighborhood for two or three blocks. It’s a more intense use than Foothill or the primarily residential neighborhood is used to, for sure. But it’s a good use of the space and a great addition to the local dining scene. Congratulations to them.

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Restaurant of the Week: Carnitas al Estilo Michoacan

Carnitas al Estilo Michoacan, 818 S. Mountain Ave. (at Mission), Ontario; open daily

Ontario doesn’t show up as often in these Restaurant of the Week posts as some cities. So when a friend suggested meeting at a carnitas specialist in south Ontario, I was all for it. Carnitas al Estilo Michoacan is in the shopping plaza on the southwest corner of Mountain and Mission.

You order at the counter, by a steam table of meats. Here’s the menu; click for a larger view. As befits the restaurant’s name, it’s pork-intensive: pork, stomach, skin and the carnitas mix, pork with brains.

But they also have beef. My friend got the two-taco combo: one pork, one birria, which is stewed beef, with rice and beans (about $9, below); I got the same, except both birria. This wasn’t on purpose. I can get a little tongue-tied at unfamiliar and ethnic restaurants.

Their tacos are large and meaty; I ate about half the beef with a fork before picking up the remainder. We both thought the tacos were quite good. She bought a bag of housemade pork rinds for her parents.

A couple of weeks later, I returned for two carnitas tacos, again as a plate. Couldn’t very well write about Carnitas al Estilo Michoacan without trying the carnitas. It was tender and flavorful.

Next door there’s a La Michoacana Ice Cream shop in case you’d like to continue the theme and maybe cool off the spicy salsa.

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