Friday, January 25, 2008

David, if you think Upland's bad, go to SE 82nd St in Portland

I can take charges of Westernization with a grain of salt.

I don't know what Portland, Oregon's Southeast 82nd Street is like today, but back in the early 1980s it was a mecca for the trashy, from the big arrows pointing to Tom Peterson's buzzcutted head to the Chinese-American restaurants that lined the street.

So David Allen's fears of Westernization are relative:

Not long ago I had dinner with friends at China Gate, the Chinese restaurant in Upland [California] by Trader Joe's. China Gate is probably the best Chinese eatery in the Inland Valley, and one of the most popular.

We had two of the specialties, the sizzling beef plate and the seafood clay pot, plus the kung pao chicken. The food was good, as it reliably is at China Gate (although the seafood clay pot, we couldn't help but notice, did not come in a clay pot). The service was friendly and attentive. When the third member of our party finally arrived, 15 minutes late, the waiter, hands on hips, asked with perfect comic timing: "What took you so long?"

So there's a lot to be said in China Gate's favor.

But in looking over the 100-plus-item menu, it must be said that there's a 1980s feel to it, and maybe even older. Have you noticed they still serve not only egg foo yung, but chop suey? How very Yangtze of them. And China Gate may be the valley's most authentic Chinese restaurant.

What's strange is that you can get fairly authentic Thai food, or Japanese food, or Korean food, or Vietnamese food at any number of restaurants out here. Asians and non-Asians alike pack into, say, Sanamluang in Pomona or Pho Ha in Rancho Cucamonga. Nobody's catering to American tastes there by serving pho with, I dunno, pepperoni, or pad Thai with bacon and avocado.

And yet whenever somebody opens a Chinese restaurant here, they feel obliged to serve cream cheese wontons and orange chicken. Why not go for the Chinese audience? The rest of us might follow.

This isn't to say our valley has no decent Chinese food, just nothing that isn't Americanized to a greater or lesser extent.

Well, back in the day, I wouldn't go to Portland when I wanted Chinese food. I'd follow my Japanese roommate to a Hunan restaurant downtown (which, if I recall correctly, was run by a Korean).

Go figure.

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DAve said...

China Gate? Not so much-

THE BEST is Lotus Garden on Arrow in Covina.

I never saw what people love so much about China Gate.

Ontario Emperor said...

Never been to Lotus Garden so I can't compare, but I enjoy the food and the service at China Gate.