Thursday, March 15, 2007

Brasserie Astuce Restaurant - Pomona (Closed)

Drive along Foothill Boulevard (the historic Route 66 which stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica) on the mile or so portion that is in Pomona, and you'll pass grocery store strip malls, fast food restaurants, gas stations, a Goodwill thrift store, a public storage facility, a car wash, and then a building with a dark green wall of brick with rows of lavender flowers.
Not quite the same as the fields of lavender in Provence is it? But Brasserie Astuce Restaurant in Pomona is a bit of France in the Inland Valley. The term was coined by the The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin newspaper to encompass the area between the Fontana end of the Inland Empire and the San Dimas border of the San Gabriel Valley. (Although, technically, aren't all valleys located inland?)

Its location, for the Inland Valley, the newspaper, and the restaurant, suffers growing pains as all three attempt to carve out an identity. Southern California's expansive suburbs aren't conducive to creating a sense of unity among its many smaller cities. The Inland Valley, straddling the San Bernardino County and Los Angeles County borders, is the overlooked step-child between the desert-like cities further east and the Asian-centric cities further west. The newspaper battles competition between the other local newspapers, The San Bernardino Sun and The San Gabriel Valley Tribune (even though all three are owned by the same chain), and the behemoth Los Angeles Times. That sense of trying to be somebody in a hard to qualify area is evident in Brasserie Astuce, a slightly upscale restaurant located in a not so upscale area, a few miles away in distance but far, far away in foot traffic from the downtown areas of Claremont and La Verne.

See that dark green brick on the right edge of the picture above? It's a wall that stretches the entire length of the front of the restaurant. And while I understand why patrons inside the restaurant would rather enjoy the light and mini-courtyard the bricked-in area contains, it also blocks out any possible interest by people driving past. Which is a shame because what you see below is what people could see if that brick wall wasn't in the way.

Lovely isn't it? I would imagine the fireplace gets lit at night. The doorway on the right leads into the restaurant's Tour du Vin Wine Shop, where you can select a wine for your table, or dine at its separate menu. Further right and left are larger dining areas. Hard to imagine this scene existed between the car wash and the public storage.

One Saturday night long ago, my dining companions and I went to Brasserie Astuce with full intention of eating there. We peeked through the deserted wine bar and the front entrance and saw lovely candlelit tables but only a handful of patrons - all white, all older. Definitely not a place where I would dine, not even to drink and socialize at the wine bar. Hmm. Not a good sign, especially on a Saturday night, so we opted to eat elsewhere.

But a few weeks ago, I met up with a friend and thought I would give a go. Maybe it would be different during lunch? I saw the restaurant's menu online and wanted to try the $11 salad and sandwich lunch specials. In particular, I had my eye on a seabreeze salad topped with lobster, crab, and shrimp, and a Kobe beef burger on brioche.

Alas, the Kobe beef burger on brioche was no longer offered by the restaurant. Hmm. Perhaps it should be taken off, or at the very least blacked out, online and on the restaurant's menu. The description -- Kobe beef burger on brioche, caramelized onion, and spinach -- made my friend crave it too. And she said her husband would probably have been all over any mention of Kobe beef. Just saying Kobe beef burger on brioche made me salivate. It's far better that I not know what I was missing, than that I wished for something that wasn't available. I've never been good at delayed gratification, especially when it comes to food cravings.

So I opted for the aforementioned seabreeze salad (I can't pass up lobster and crab!) and a smoked salmon on toasted brioche with pears and avocado sandwich. The restaurant has $15 3-course lunch specials that change each weekday. This particular day was a beet carpaccio salad, bass on a bed of couscous with truffle sauce, and poppy seed gelato with fried crepes.

A very warm and toasty portion of French bread came out while we waited for our meal.

Served with a nicely salty olive tapenade.

Here's my friend placing the bread and tapenade together just so I could take another shot. I think she has quite gotten into my food blogging...

The beet carpaccio salad arrived first. Crisp mixed greens. The beet carpaccio was paper-thin and had a slight ginger tang and was roasted? toasted? to perfection.

The bass and couscous were OK but a little dry. And that truffle sauce? Was it supposed to be the chocolate kind or the tuberous/fungi kind? Because we couldn't figure it out. Hmm.

The lobster, crab, and shrimp pieces were fresh and succulent. The toasted brioche was light and eggy. Although it wasn't until I just now looked at the menu again that I noticed there wasn't the pear or avocado that was supposed to be on the sandwich. Hmm.

As for service, the waitress was attentive and refilled our glasses and checked up on us often. The owner came out to greet us after we were seated. He also delivered our entrees. When he removed my friend's bread plate and utensils, I mentioned that we were sharing the entrees and needed the plates, and he brusquely said,

"You do what you have to do and I'll do what I have to do."

Say what? My friend was just as startled as me to say the least. Coming from the owner? He could have explained he was giving us new plates and utensils. So another decidedly hmm moment.

The poppy seed gelato and fried crepe was as scrumptious as it looks.

However, the sweetness of the dessert hasn't erase the owner's remark from my memory. And while I quite enjoyed most of my lunch at Brasserie Astuce Restaurant and wouldn't mind going back, there were too many hmm moments for me to clamor for an immediate revisit.

Or maybe I just liked my lunch because I really enjoyed catching up with my friend?

Brasserie Astuce Restaurant
510 E. Foothill Blvd.
Pomona, CA 91767


Tour du Vin Wine Shop

Closed Mondays


  1. Hey WC - Too many "hmmm's" for my taste. Very odd indeed.....sounds like the owner's his own worst enemy, and mystery truffle sauce? Hmmm is right.

  2. CP,
    I know!

    I think I'm a little critical of the service b/c it's obvious the restaurant is trying to be upscale and those little hmms really aren't good.

  3. The owner's comment is one that would reverberate in my head and question what other things he "has to do", or more importantly what he "hasn't done".

  4. Hey Elmo,
    Heh, it was just a very odd response right? Two weeks later, still echoing in my head.


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