Saturday, May 27, 2017

Onishicho Ramen -- 504 E Foothill Blvd Pomona, CA 91767

My Meal Cost: $15.87 plus tip. Health Rating A. Yelp 4 stars

The Lovely Mrs. C is out of town visiting her sister in Northern California. So I have a few days to explore and catch up on some personal stuff as well as completing a "honey do" list given me before she left (did I remember to water? hmmmm). Since the heat spell of last week seems to have subsided for the moment, I decided to try a place that I had been intrigued by for some time.

Onishicho is located on Foothill Blvd, between Garey and Towne (which it has to be to be included as being in Pomona) just across the street from Mr. D's Diner (a future entry I'm sure). This is in an old fast food place that had, and still has, a drive-thru window. The signage makes that name hard to figure out since they've replaced the "i's" with a knife and fork and the "o" with a clock face. Confusing and intriguing. But since Ramen is an old standbye on a cold day it seemed to be a good idea even for a day that, while not cold, is at least not hot.

The interior has booths and tables and is nicely appointed if not really fancy. There are some Japanese elements around the room but the soft drink dispenser in the dining room makes it immediately feel as if it's an order at the counter type of place. But it's not! Upon being seated "take a seat anywhere" you're brought a menu.

When I arrived at about 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon, about half a dozen tables were occupied. By the time I was finished about 1:30, the place was empty.

On yelp there were comments about the wait staff not speaking English. I must say that my waitress seemed to struggle with language, but a little patience and the right attitude created a good experience. Just be prepared, it might mean pointing at the photos in the menu and gesticulating options, let it be part of the fun.

Perusing the menu, it is mostly Ramen dishes with a number of appetizers such as gyoza, tempura, and spring rolls. They also have bentos (a divided Japanese "lunch box" with a variety of items, which would have been my go-to for lunch but for this post I wanted to try the ramen). The ramen's can be customized with extra toppings or taken as-is. Some have flat noodles, some have straight noodles, some have wavy noodles and some you can specify which type of noodle. 

Since this was my first time there, I decided to go with a combination which included any style ramen, fried rice, and a salad. I also ordered diet coke. There are other combinations as well. For my ramen, I chose spicy miso. There are also vegetarian options including a veggie ramen.

First came the salad. A nice mixture of greens with small pieces of tofu and tomato tossed with a somewhat sweet creamy sesame dressing. One of the condiments on the table was a shaker of sesame seeds so I was able to add extra sesame but it wouldn't be required, it was quite good as it came. Also on a separate plate was a mound of fried rice with a small amount of pickled ginger. The rice was a little bland and a little dry. However it did make a good counterpoint to the ramen, so it worked.

The ramen had tofu, really tender chunks of beef, green onion, corn, bamboo shoots, thin pieces of some kind of mushroom, and a boiled egg which had been soaked in soy sauce, giving it a gray color (one person on yelp called this an old rotten egg, but it's just not something you might be used to, and the color could be off-putting, but it was quite good, with a little saltiness). This one came with straight noodles and a large piece of nori (dried seaweed).

The ramen was quite good. It would have been a little too spicy for the Lovely Mrs. C, but I didn't find it uncomfortably hot. Everything blended and eating the noodles and toppings the heat was very background, however, using the spoon to drink some of the soup, it was spicy enough to send me to the fried rice or pickled ginger for a cool down. 

Knowing that, unlike Italian spaghetti, you're supposed to slurp ramen noodles, I did so (you always want to be culturally correct whenever possible), which makes it a lot easier to eat with chop sticks.

They have a drive-thru for to-go orders, or they will deliver, for when you just have to have that ramen fix. I anticipate that this will be a place that I will return on a cold rainy day for the comfort of steaming hot soup/ramen.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Cachanilla -- 305 E Holt Ave Pomona, CA 91767

My Meal Cost: $16.30* plus tip. Health Rating A. Yelp 4.5 stars

I decided to start this newly imagined blog with a restaurant right here in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. This has been our go-to Chinese restaurant for a couple of years now for dine-in or take out (They even deliver in the neighborhood but we haven't taken advantage of that yet).

The restaurant is described by our server as American Chinese by way of Mexicali. This is, in many ways, the kind of Chinese food that you probably grew up with. All the standards are here, several different fried rices, egg foo young, chow mein, chop suey, fried wonton, wor wonton, egg drop, or hot & sour soups, etc. However, it is American style Chinese as filtered through a decidedly Mexican setting. I've learned that Mexicali has a huge Chinese immigrant community and this is where the name and history of this place comes from. The dishes at Cachanilla subtly reflect the influences of Mexican ingredients and spices just as "chop suey" joints reflected what was readily available in America rather than traditional Chinese ingredients and spices. The menu includes dishes with such traditionally Mexican ingredients as cilantro and jalapenos. This is not one of the trendy hipster places, which trend to be the very authentic places in San Gabriel or Monterey Park.

This particular location, on the northeast corner of Holt and Palomares has a long history as restaurants. When I moved into the area in the 1980s it was La CabaƱa, it morphed into a series of Mexican restaurants including El Molcajete. Then it became a Chinese buffet restaurant which couldn't decide on its hours and didn't seem to know what its market was. 

Then came Cachanilla. When visiting you will see a clientele that is a mix of Asian, Hispanic and Anglo. The correct mix for this diverse neighborhood. This is a restaurant that ideally mixes cultures to create a dining experience that is welcomed by all groups who seem to experience a little bit of home and their own history.

A remodel of the interior from the original Mexican restaurant created an inviting space with booths for four (or two) and large round tables for larger groups with a lazy Susan in the middle, and private rooms. It evokes a fresh modern Asian vibe.

While for my reviews I'm usually dining by myself or with the Lovely Mrs. C, I decided to post on a meal that was a very large group meal. I'm very involved with the Pomona Library. As a Library Trustee (city commissioner), president of the Pomona Public Library Foundation, and a member of the advocacy group SOPPL (Support Our Pomona Public Library--the green shirt people). I tend to have a lot of meetings and events surrounding the library and its issues. 

SOPPL has for some time now been holding their monthly lunchtime meetings at Cachanilla. The Lovely Mrs. C and I often dine there but with only two it's quite a different experience than sharing with a large table.

For this meeting there were about 10 of us. We've developed a system where each person orders one item and then the table shares. I tend to wait until last to order so I can add something that is a little different than some of the other things ordered (there's nothing worse than when 3 people all order kung pao chicken). As an example, if no one has ordered a veggie dish, I'll order the green beans (excellent) or the mixed vegetables. This system also means that you might get exposed to something you might not have thought of trying. That happened a few months ago when someone ordered the pea plant leaves which were excellent. For this month's meal I ordered the Walnut Shrimp.

The walnut shrimp is lightly battered shrimp in a sweet creamy honey-based sauce with toasted walnut halves. An excellent take on this dish. Other items that we had included the cream cheese and crab filled fried wontons, kung poa chicken, kung poa beef, chicken chow mein, mushroom chicken, chicken fried rice, salt & pepper shrimp, and steamed rice (and I must be forgetting something). Because it was an exceptionally cold day in May, I eschewed my regular iced tea for hot tea.

The food has always been excellent. It's a wonderful place to stop for that warming, filling, bowl of wor wonton soup on a cold day, or that take out fried rice for sitting in front of the TV after a rough day. I've also, on several occasions seen groups such as Pomona PD or city public works holding celebratory lunches, a good sign that it has wide appeal. 

Being a neighborhood place, and holding monthly meetings means that the staff knows our group and is very friendly. They bend over backward to make everyone feel at home even when it's just you or just you and a friend. When you arrive they have some small item to start your experience with. In this case it was fried wonton pieces with a plum dipping sauce. Other times it has been roasted salted peanuts. At the end of your meal there is always some fresh fruit and (recently added) fortune cookies. The fruit at this meal was sweet navel orange wedges and it has been watermelon slices in the past. Just a little something to put the finishing touch on what is always a great meal. 

They definitely deserve their 4.5 yelp stars (I'd give them 5 based on what they are and the quality and service) and I know I'll continue to come back both for the monthly meetings and when I get an urge for Chinese.

*Note that in this case, the price is not for the full meal but for my portion (they're great about letting each one of us have separate checks--the group has been as large as 15-18 in the past). So that's the price for the Walnut Shrimp and hot tea.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Welcome to Dining in Pomona

Well, it's been a while since my last posting on Eating Garey Avenue. In the interim I've been thinking about what I should do in the future. A lot of you have made suggestions including other specific streets that I might explore or individual eateries that you wished to recommend.

Taking all of that into account, I decided that I didn't want to commit to another blog that would require that I eat at places that just because they were on a list. I also didn't want to commit to a regular weekly schedule, especially as in retirement I hope to do some travelling and I also have a lot of other commitments.

So this is the introductory posting for a new blog series on restaurants in Pomona. That means anywhere within the city boundaries or that has a significant relationship to the city (more on that next week--no spoilers).

As I stated in my original blog, I don't consider myself a culinary expert. So I won't be rating restaurants except to say what I like or don't like, but it's just me. I, of course, have cultural and background prejudices and have developed tastes for different kinds of food and this will surely come through. But it shouldn't be used as a definitive comment on any particular restaurant. Everyone will bring their own biases so please, if you wish to use this as a guide, so be it, but your mileage may vary, caveat emptor (buyer beware). I do include Yelp ratings to help guide you but they must be taken with a grain of salt as the rating system is the same for a fine dining establishment as it is for a fast food joint. I've been to some spectacular fine dining places with a 4.5 star rating and then seen that there are McDonalds or Burger King places with the same rating.

I'll post my first review in the next few days, Cachanilla Restaurant at Holt and Palomares in my own neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

Day Day's BBQ and Wafflehouse -- 994 E Holt Blvd Pomona, CA 91767

My Meal Cost: $18.55 plus trip. Health Rating A. Yelp 4.5 stars It's been a while, but with the Lovely Mrs. C on her annual fam...