Yellow, green, and red curries bubble slightly in pans, ready to be poured over pieces of pork and shrimp. Nearby, chefs flip teriyaki-glazed salmon filets and barbecue chicken on the grill inside Thai California Kitchen. They also pan-fry noodles and sauté proteins in a variety of dressings including peanut sauce or Thai chili paste.
Densely packed conversations flutter across long, communal tables packed even more densely with hearty courses of sourdough bread and blue cheese, homemade soups, and oxtail stew. Platters of rustic, European-inspired cooking pass from person to person. All the while, the house wine keeps flowing. This is a typical scene at Centro Basco—a historic restaurant and inn devoted to capturing the vivacious and independent spirit of the Basque region. A fiercely autonomous region of Spain along its mountainous border with France, Basque Country has its own distinct climate, its own language (one of the few in the world with no known relationship to any other language), and its own unique approach to food.
"Opened in 1940, along with a boarding house for shepherds, this sprawling restaurant is one of the last remnants of the local Basque population who once herded sheep in what is now fully suburbanized Chino," notes Gayot. The Berterretches—a family with strong genealogical ties to the Basque countryside—assumed ownership in the 1970s, and they continue to embrace the region's culture today. Their cozy, lodge-like eatery features large dining rooms devoted to spirited family-style feasts complete with special menus, as well as a separate area for guests looking to enjoy a more private meal.
Myriad cultural influences appear throughout the menu. Dishes such as the oven-roasted lamb with a kick of garlic and the grilled calamari steak with tomato-pepper sauce clearly embrace the restaurant's distinctively Basque roots. At the same time, French and Italian entrees—including chicken cordon bleu and veal parmesan—lend a pan-European vibe to the selection.
Savory morels of steak, chicken, and seafood are simmered in seas of hot broth and rice noodles at Pho Lotus, a casual eatery that specializes in this belly-warming Vietnamese soup. Diners have a selection of more than 10 types of pho, and can pair the soup with appetizers such as egg rolls or cool down mouths with a fresh smoothie. Those afraid of bowls can opt for a plated entree of stir-fried vermicelli noodles, golden cornish hen with seasoned buttered rice, or diced steak and garlic rice.
Sheer curtains in burgundy and orange cascade down the expansive windows at Mirchi?s Indian Cuisine, filling the space with soft lighting. The colorful eatery, blanketed in gold and red walls, fills plates with equally colorful food, from creamy yellow curries to bowls of spinach-laden palak paneer.
At Kingswood Fusion Pots, diners customize their own shabu-shabu bowls from a menu of pan-Asian broths and familiar and exotic add-ins. After selecting a brothy base such as Japanese miso or Korean kimchi, guests pinpoint the ingredients they want to simmer in their soup, choosing from proteins ranging from sliced pork, chicken, and seafood to beef tripe and fish dumplings. Each shabu-shabu feast also includes accompaniments of mixed vegetables, rice, and umami-packed sauces. All the components are served to diners at a slick, onyx-colored counter where built-in induction burners keep pots of broth bubbling and keep ravenous ice sculptures at bay.
The chefs at Arianno’s Pizza craft Italian fare from fresh ingredients and house-made recipes. They hand-toss dough and bedeck it with house-made sauce and layers of real mozzarella cheese before personalizing the pizza, whether by slathering it with any of the restaurant’s 15+ toppings or by naming it "Steve." The pizzeria’s lengthy menu also showcases pasta dishes, each of which is accompanied by a side of garlic bread as well as platters of baby back ribs and hot subs packing fresh proteins and cheese.