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.
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.
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,
Brasserie Astuce Restaurant
Tour du Vin Wine Shop