To tell the truth, I really didn't plan to go there at all, but the place we had planned on going to was closed, and this was right next door. It's called "Emperor's Kitchen". It's located at #9319 A Foothill Blvd, (at Hellman) Rancho Cucamonga CA 91730 (909-948-5868), and it's terrific!
When we first sat down, we were surprised to be served some kind of slightly sweetened rolls, just as we might have gotten at an ordinary western-style restaurant. We commented on this to the manager (a large, friendly crew-cut White guy, who turned out to be the owner),and he told us that breads of many different kinds are commonly served in many parts of China, and went on to say that Emperor's Kitchen serves the sweetened ones to suit the palates of their local American customers.
At that point our expectations dropped to zero, and, if we could have done so without embarassment, we would have just gotten up and left. Who needs another awful American-style Chinese restaurant?
BOY WERE WE WRONG!
When our hot and sour soup arrived (We ordered the $12.95 per person "Warrior's Dinner" plus an order of Moo Shu Pork to share), the tide of opinion starting turning very quickly. To our surprise and delight, the soup was beautifully served; perfectly balanced, with enough, but not too much vinegar; wonderfully rich and delicious; and not at all gelatinous, (From too much cornstarch, the way most "Chinese" restaurants in the area make it).
The Moo Shu Pork that followed was equally good: Perfectly prepared, nicely seasoned, and served on delicate and tasty home-made pancakes. Then came our other two dishes: Braised String Beans, and Mongolian Beef -- two items ubiquitous on every Chinese menu. Unexpectedly, the beans were "baby" string beans, and not the more normal Asian "long" bean, and they were delicious -- a perfect preparation, nicely seasoned and still crisp and tasty. The Mongolian Beef was another great surprise, and not the hackneyed, Yankified horror that we had dozed through at so many other places. Flavorful, beautifully served and with a wonderful texture and freshness to it, it was a genuine treat, and unquestionably the best version of that particular dish that I have ever had anywhere, here or in Asia..
For generous portions of all these goodies, charmingly served by the Chinese lady owner, on beautiful and expensive-looking square patterned china plates and bowls, in a nicely but modestly decorated restaurant with real linen tablecloths and napkins, our bill for two people, including two diet Cokes, came to less than $35, plus tax and tip.
As follow-up, I was there again last night, to pick-up a "to-go" order of Singapore Noodles, a great favorite of mine that I was eager to try their version of. It was SPECTACULAR!! Until last night, the very best Singapore Noodles I had ever had was not in Singapore, but at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hong Kong. This was even better. WOW!
Obviously the Owner/Chef and his Chinese wife are not only dedicated to real Chinese cooking, but have the skills and talents to make their restaurant a success. Even if you are Chinese -- ESPECIALLY if you are Chinese! TRY THIS PLACE! It's as good as any I've ever eaten at in the SGV, and a LOT better than most. Also try Pho Ha, the terrific Vietnamese restaurant that was fortunately closed (They're always closed on Tuesday) the night we first wound up going to Emperor's Kitchen.
As a special treat, if you go to either of these restaurants, you'll find a Boba Planet just across the parking lot for dessert. Happy Eating!