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By Steven Li on 2007-04-16

April 15, 2007

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On the days I eat an early breakfast, I eat an early lunch. And then an early dinner. And by 10pm I get hungry again. It’s a vicious cycle. Most places in Claremont aren’t open late (late being past 8pm), so when students need a food past the hour of this sleep town, you must either resort to the Coop, Pomona’s student-run paradise for deep fried foods that can only be eaten past midnight without guilt. Or you need a car.

A car and a 15-minute drive will take you to Diamond Plaza, right off the 60 freeway, a little hub of Asian restaurants, snack and tea places that only get busier as the night goes on. If you’re after a full meal, swing into Life Plaza where $14 (they just raised the price from $12) buys you three of nearly a hundred dish choices. Come knowing that all the dishes here are passable, yet none are the ‘best of’ anything. Somehow standards drop when it’s past midnight and you’ve eaten waaay too many tigertails, strawberry donuts, and raisin buttermilk rounds from Donut Man in Glendora.
On one night we had the beef satay noodles, thick noodles fried in a weak dose of satay sauce and beef that’s too chewy, cabbage, onion, bean sprouts, and more than enough msg to go around.

The eggplant stirfry has a slight flowery taste I can’t quite place, but seems to find its’ way into a fair majority of the dishes here. This ‘flowery’ flavor is a major turnoff, but pair it with a heaping mound of white rice and it almost seems to disappear. Beware: this dish in particular is extra greasy with oil seemingly coating all open surfaces of the eggplant and bell pepper, it will probably do you more damage than an In-n-Out double double combo.

Once in a big while I actually crave kung pao chicken, done extra spicy. But even Panda Express does it better than Life Plaza. Again, the disturbing ‘flowery’ flavor sneaks into the dish, buried in every nugget of chicken and cut of bell pepper. What the heck are they doing in the kitchen? It’s almost as if someone is pouring stale rose water over every dish before it is sent out.

Drinks are also mediocre, but because it’s buy one get one free, we do it anyways (cause the water also tastes strangely flowery). Here on the right is my roommate’s milk tea, and on the left, my green milk tea with custard pudding.

Just five or six restaurants down, we go to Ten Ren with the best intentions of studying over late night snacks. We bring our laptops, textbooks and highlighters, but somehow none of them are put to use.

Why? Because it’s hard to study the benefits of current value accounting when you have a thick slice of hot brick toast slathered condensed milk seeping into every innocent pores of the slice. It’s hot, sweet creamy and crunchy. You know it’s bad for you, there must be half a can of condensed milk in there. But who’s gonna stop you? No one. So eat it. Cut into little squares of nine, this does not imply that you should share, cause god knows, I never ever share my brick toast.

But after you’re all pau with the toast you get a little thirsty. Drink water, the healthy person inside me, would suggest. But we’ve come this far late at night, so a ‘fun’ drink is in order. A drink such as this red bean teazer with boba. A blend of milk, sugar and ice layered on top a sweetened whipped wallop of mashed azuki beans and mountain of boba, and you’re good to go. In retrospect it was quite filling. And it made me even more thirsty, hehe.

If you want a lighter drink, maybe a soothing passion fruit tea with tidbits of bouncy crystal jellies?

Genki Living is my favorite place in the plaza. With a good variety of sweet and savory options, I can get my okonomiyaki, croquettes, taiyaki, takoyaki and all the crepes I could ever desire on a random Wednesday night.

I accidentally deleted my takoyaki picture, so instead you can look at the photo of the counter where you order food. But no worries. I’ll go back again and post it just for you :)

Here’s the custard taiyaki, a grilled fish shaped cake stuffed with creamy warm custard. The cake is almost like a dense pancake with the added benefit of a crispy exterior.

If you bite in as soon at it’s handed over the counter, steam releases and then immediately, a rich bounty of sweet vanilla glory oozes right out like there’s no tomorrow. They’ll stuff almost anything inside the taiyaki: ham and corn, taro and even mochi.

But most of the times I just want a dessert I can call my own.

Like this massive crepe that’s grilled crisp till the shell becomes a indulgently crunchy wafer.

On this particular night I had the strawberry, banana with custard and whipped cream combo. If you couldn’t already tell, I have an extreme fondness for custards, it’s that dreamy, seductive texture that gets me ;) After spooning a thick layer of custard over the hot surface of the crepe, bananas and strawberries are generously piled in with dabbles of cream, oh soft, whipped cream, everywhere. It’s a mess to eat, I warn you, especially as you hit the bottom of the cone. But it’s so dark and late at night, who’s gonna notice that your shirt is covered in cream and custard?

Life Plaza
1370 Fullerton Rd
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 839-8811

Ten Ren
1330 Fullerton Rd
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 581-7700

Genki Living
1380 Fullerton Rd
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 581-1395



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