East 180

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Posted December 18, 2008 in Eats

It’s pretty disconcerting to think that the common experience of many eating Chinese cuisine across the Inland Empire usually amounts to downing some sort of meat-laden entrée that’s been sleeping under a heat lamp for hours, and served up in a decidedly unappetizing white Styrofoam box. Equally disconcerting is that, in the end, it’s probably not any healthier than the hamburger stand across the street, or the pizza shop next door. 

 

Now, we’re not necessarily bashing the fast food variety Chinese joints that are so prevalent in our neck of the woods—they’re here to fill a niche (and the stomachs of those who need their beef and broccoli, pronto). We’re just disappointed that there’s a visible imbalance between the numbers of quick-serve Chinese eateries—one in just about every strip mall, approx.—and the high-quality, sit-down offerings, which are more frequently found west of the counties’ borders.

 

That’s because Chinese food is so much more than that of the aforementioned take-out experience. The Asian culinary palette is an outstanding combination of ingredients, and the fact that the average American seems to be receiving the shortest end of the stick each time a few bucks are exchanged over a “Combo #5” seems like such an injustice. Desirable chains like P.F. Chang’s have definitely upped the ante and restored one’s faith in making the Chinese restaurant a serious dining destination, but independent, one-of-a-kind, high-end Chinese establishments are bit too intermittent in our region.

 

There’s salvation ahead for those willing to go the extra mile and experience dining that’s even a couple rungs above some of the better-known Chinese chains. Enter East 180, a brand new establishment that opened just a few weeks ago at the intersection of the 57 and 60 freeways in Diamond Bar. It’s a gorgeous site, both inside and out, with expensive, detailed decorative features, and its offerings are some of the finest, most unique Chinese fusion tastes around. Sure, you’ll pay a little extra—particularly if you’re used to having an entire dinner cost less than ten bucks—but the rewards (and eventual satisfaction) at the casually-oriented East 180 far outweigh whatever extra payments you’re dishing out.

 

After sampling the restaurant’s menu, we drew several conclusions: Just about anything you’ll order is solid, tasteful, unique, nicely appointed and of the proper portion size. (There’s no overflowing plate of chicken here, as items are presented in moderation.) Your booth and/or table will seem like it’s worth more than the car you drove to Diamond Bar. Everything’s freshly prepared and is seemingly healthier than many other Chinese dine-ins or take-outs. And the staff and service are as friendly and attentive as they come.

 

The tea-roasted duck and the shrimp chow mein were our two top choices. The shrimp was gorgeously flavorful and nicely lost amidst the noodles, which were presented with a perfect consistency . . . not too slimy, not too greasy, not too dry—just right. The duck, served with baby vegetables, changed our perspective on what the bird’s supposed to taste like, as the East 180 iteration makes the senses spark with its veritable array of tender textures and moderate flavors—it’s not overwhelmingly intense, nor is it imperceptive.

 

Some sound alternatives included the East 180 steak, which is mild and comparatively small (again, it’s about portion control), but is augmented with a tantalizing array of broccoli and other greens (really, the veggies help make the dish) and the vegetable pot stickers make for a simple, inoffensive appetizer to launch a dashing dining experience.

 

We really wish more Chinese restaurants were as attractive, satisfying and forward-thinking as East 180. Just to experience its delicious and healthy offerings, we can foresee an influx of people ponying up a little extra to make the trip to Diamond Bar, rather than watching them settling for the cheaper and closer-to-home fast-food alternative. Take it from us, it’s worth it. (Waleed Rashidi)

 

East 180, 23525 Palomino Drive, Diamond Bar, (909) 396-0180; www.east180.com. Sun.–Wed., 11:00AM–9:30PM, Thurs.–Sat., 11:00AM–10:30PM; AE, D, MC, V 


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