Restaurant of the Week: Thai Original BBQ

Thai Original BBQ, 2911 Chino Ave. (at Peyton), Chino Hills; open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Ah, the food of Thailand. With Chinese food on the rise thanks to a wave of immigrants, Thai cuisine is kind of waning, it seems to me, aside from Pok Pok and Jitlada in L.A.

Thai Original BBQ has been in the Rolling Ridge Plaza for some years, so it’s nothing new either. But a Thai-shy friend had tried it out, liked it and suggested meeting there for dinner.

There’s a fish tank as you walk in and the walls have a lot of tourist posters, not to mention portraits of the Thai royal family (RIP). You get the sense that the owners haven’t redecorated in a while, but the look is comfortable and lived-in. So was our sagging banquette.

We examined the menu closely. It has the standards in pork, chicken, beef, noodles and rice dishes, but with more emphasis on seafood than is often seen.

I got the mixed pad Thai with chicken, pork, shrimp and tofu ($10 for the basic, probably a couple of bucks more for this version), which was solid and unspectacular.

My friend had the crab cakes, which appear on the menu as “Dearest Crab” (!), two fried crab cakes the size of baseballs with crab, pork, mushrooms and onion, served atop shrimp fried rice ($13). We liked it. If you’re married and eating there, call your spouse “dearest crab” at your own risk.

Service was attentive. Overall, this was a pleasant, old-school Thai experience but an unexceptional one. The restaurant is part of a small chain founded in 1978 that has locations in LA, Fullerton and Cerritos.

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Restaurant of the Week: Sanamluang Thai Cuisine, Claremont


Sanamluang Thai Cuisine, 710 S. Indian Hill Blvd. (at San Jose), Claremont

It might seem baffling that Sanamluang, which has long had a popular restaurant at 1648 Indian Hill Blvd. in Pomona, only a few blocks south of the 10 Freeway, would open a second location a half-mile away. Even Starbucks tend to be placed farther apart.

But the second Sanamluang, which opened in December, seems perpetually busy, as a glance through the windows while driving past reveals at almost any hour. Any restaurant with late-night eats — it’s open until 11 p.m., and on Fridays and Saturdays until 1 a.m. — near a freeway exit and hungry college students is a good bet.

(It’s hard to tell if the original location is still busy as its shopping center is in the midst of a renovation and the restaurant facade and entrance are framed by scaffolding. I blogged about that Sanamluang in 2010, where one perhaps ill-advised line drew a flood of testy comments.)

I met two friends at the new location for lunch recently. The former Bakers Square, and Sambo’s, has a new exterior that with its angles and color scheme matches the look immediately south of the 10 with Norms and more. The interior has been lightened and brightened. It’s very inviting with its airy feel, photo murals of Bangkok and natural light.

One had the No. 44, duck stew noodle soup ($8, pictured below), another the No. 74, Chinese broccoli fried rice ($7, below that). I had No. 1, koo chai, steamed rice buns with vegetables ($7, next to bottom), and No. 59, chapo, which is barbecued pork, roast duck and deep-fried pork belly over rice ($9, bottom).

I’m a fan of both my dishes and liked these versions. The vegetarian said his broccoli “was very fresh,” while the soup eater, who was getting over a cold, made liberal use of the table’s condiments, especially the Sriracha-style chili sauce. He said with satisfaction, “It got my sinuses where I wanted them.”

We got there before noon and by the time we left, the place was buzzing. It’s deservedly popular and a great addition to town. As the soup eater put it, “It’s the nearest thing to soul food in Claremont.”






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Restaurant of the Week: Bright Star Thai Vegan


Bright Star Thai Vegan Cuisine, 9819 Foothill Blvd. (at Ramona), Rancho Cucamonga

A vegan restaurant in the Inland Valley? Unlikely as it seems, there is one, in an aging strip mall east of Archibald Avenue that also boasts a Korean market. Bright Star opened a few weeks ago and on a recent lunchtime was doing decent business.

Since few Thai dishes use eggs or dairy products, this is essentially a vegetarian place, but they do use soy milk rather than condensed milk in Thai iced tea, which is less sweet than what you’re used to. Bright Star has soups, salads, curries, noodle and rice dishes, and some non-Asian sandwiches.

Our table had two of the lunch specials, garlic soy chicken with mixed vegetables and sweet chili soy fish ($6.95 each), which come with miso soup, salad, steamed brown rice and two dumplings. The faux chicken was indeed chicken-like, the faux fish less so but acceptable. This isn’t precisely my sort of thing, but it wasn’t bad, and you can’t help but feel more virtuous after a vegan meal, which counts for something.

I was impressed that a niche restaurant that would seem better suited to Santa Monica appears to have found a place here, and a multi-ethnic clientele: Over the course of a lunch hour, diners included a half-dozen blacks, a few Asians, one Latino and a white couple besides yours truly. Not cutting into meat must cut across all sorts of boundaries.

(This area has just two other vegetarian restaurants, according to HappyCow’s restaurant guide: Veggie Era, 903 W Foothill Blvd. in Upland, and Veggie and Tea House, 641 Arrow Highway in San Dimas.)

* Update, February 2014: Bright Star is still around, which is even more impressive given that its strip center is largely vacant. I got the garlic soy chicken again for photo purposes. It’s gone up a mere 4 cents in price in six years, to $6.99, although you only get one dumpling now, not two. Still tasty, and the restaurant was doing a good lunch trade.


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