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Aug 1, 2006 05:16 PM

Best Szechuan Closed?!

I went to Best Szechuan on Valley between Del Mar and San Gabriel yesterday, only to find it was closed down, boarded up, and slated to re-open as The Green Zone (Chinese vegan?).

Sigh. So sad. How long has it been closed? I know they changed their name from Jia Wei to Ju Feng Lou, but the menu was the same so I didn't care.

Now where am I going to go for Szechuan food?

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  1. Isn't their Monterey Park branch (230 N. Garfield, under the Best Szechuan Chili Seafood name) still open?

    1. Try Oriental Pearl on valley in San Gabriel.

      Last time I noticed, Best Szechuan had a "C" rating

      6 Replies
      1. re: calabasas_trafalgar

        The only restaurant at 230 N. Garfield, #12 in Monterey Park is referred to as Aidi Flower, and is given a 94 or A health dept rating, which is actually Best's address, while the Oriental Pearl received an 83, which is a B, per a search I just finished.
        Translation, maybe Best Szechuan is too clean to be serving good food, even though my most recent meal there was wonderful, A rating notwithstanding.

        1. re: calabasas_trafalgar

          We tried Orienal Pearl for the first time last week. We had a few selections from the cold-dish case, then ma po dofu, dried bean curd with leek, and the cold sichuan noodles.

          Everything was spicy enough without being too spicy, salty enough without being too salty. The balance of chili vs. sichauan peppercorn on the ma po dofu was exactly right. Maybe I can think of a couple times I've had a better (spicier? riskier?) version of this dish, but that was either far away, or at a now-defunct restaurant, or else that was the only good thing on the menu. If you only ever had this dish at Oriental Pearl, after you died no one would be able to say you'd never gotten to taste it prepared correctly.

          The deceptively simple-looking cold noodles were an absolute standout -- we'll definitely have these next time. After the final noodle disappeard, I swabbed the remaining sauce out of the dish onto my rice, because it was that good. Here again the balance of flavors was perfectly executed.

          If I had to come up with something negative to say about the food, it might be that it was a little on the oily side, but not any more so than at most places we've been to in San Gabriel, and we did agree afterwards that it didn't leave any nasty greasy feeling in the mouth.

          No complaints about the service or the decor or anything like that. Everything was about as perfect as it could possibly have been, and we've become somewhat hard-to-please when it comes to sichuan food.

          1. re: ladelfa

            Interesting timing on your Oriental Pearl comments, as it was just sold and will be getting new owners within the next 30 days or so, assuming the sale goes through.
            I'm only hoping that the former owners of the Crown Cafe on San Gabriel Blvd. bought it and would reopen here.
            As to the oiliness factor, I feel most Sichuan restaurants have a higher than average oily factor.

            1. re: carter

              Figures. While we were sitting there discussing how wonderful everything had been, I made a joke about us coming back in a week to find them out of business. Maybe this time we'll be more proactive about keeping track of where the exisiting owners/chef move to.

              1. re: carter

                We went again a couple days ago. The noodles were again superb. We also had sichuan green beans, which the only dish that was a little bit of letdown, because I'm used to them being more blistery. There was a clay-pot-cooked fried bean curd with shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots in brown sauce that was wonderfully done; the tofu was crunchy around the corners and the bamboo shoots had that sinewy chew of fresh (not canned) ones. Sliced dried bean curd in chili sauce with a little cabbage and celery leaves was also a knockout. Spicy, but not murderously so.

                My dining companion asked two different people about the pending ownership change (there is no sign posted) and got two different answers:

                1. "it's going to be turned into a Japanese restaurant";
                2. "we're not moving" (but when he asked "so it's staying the way it is" the answer was "I didn't say that either."

                Apparently whatever is about to happen is something they're trying to keep hush-hush. Really a shame, though. They were doing good business the night we were there, and the food is as good as any I've had in San Gabriel. I wonder if they're trying to keep other restaurants from poaching their chef before the deal is sealed.

                Can you give a hint as to where you heard they were "just sold and will be getting new owners"?

                1. re: ladelfa

                  It has been reported to me that Orient Pearl has closed for business and there's a tragic yellow change-of-ownership sign in the window.

                  I weep spicy, spicy tears.

          2. szechuan best (on main near atlantic in alhambra) just reopened apparently. if that doesn't add to the confusion i don't know what will...

            1. It seems like the new location of Chung King on San Gabriel and Mission is turning out the best sichuan in the SGV these days.

              8 Replies
              1. re: oro3030

                Do they have "water cooked" dishes (especially fish and lamb), cold mung bean jelly (liang fen), ants up a tree (ma yi shang su), and cold marinated beef slices (fu chi fei pien)? Those are always what I'm looking for. Best Szechuan also had a killer non-spicy slow cooked soup with chicken, pork hock, bamboo, and bamboo pith in it. I've never seen that elsewhere, and I'm really going to miss it.

                1. re: Pei

                  The "water cooked beef" I had was the best I've had in LA - and I have eaten at Best Szechuan and Lucky Dragon. The fu chi fei pien was also top notch- spicy but also great flavor. The other cold items I had there were the salted peanuts with fish and the pickled celery which were good. I didn't try the other dishes you mention but I think they are on the menu (don't know about the soup). Just make sure to get the "fried spare ribs with prickly ash" - amazing stuff.

                  1. re: Pei

                    My friend and I went there frequently and managed to eat only vegetarian dishes, if you can believe that. Sliced lotus root with preserved pepper is probably what I'll miss most. Oh, and that cold bean-jelly noodle dish that made my tongue buzz.

                    And the lady. Oh my. I hope she's well.

                    Did you ever have the "tiger peppers" there? Blister-fried whole jalapeno chilis in what was essentially a sauce of other, hotter red chilis. Imagine a dish where the jalapeno is the vegetable to which additional spicing is added. Hoo.

                  2. re: oro3030

                    I haven't been to Chung King since they moved (and supplanted the excellent Crown Cafe Hunan restaurant), nor to the resurrected "Szechuan Best" on Main St. (which, two name changes ago had a knockout taro-with-black-bean-and-fried-chili), but I do want to recommend the Sichuan place on Garfield south of Garvey. I can't recall the name ("Sichuan Kitchen"?) but you go south on Garfield past "New Concept" and the sushi place, and in the next strip mall down on the left hand side, it's there.

                    1. re: ladelfa

                      Do you mean Atlantic, rather than Garfield? (New Concept is on Atlantic.) If so, Szechuan Express (732 S. Atlantic) is gone, replaced by a new branch of MaMa's Kitchen. I was thinking about reporting on MaMa's Kitchen since they have fish dumplings, which isn't terribly common, but I had mixed feelings-- while the filling was terrific, the wrapper was a little thick and gummy.

                      1. re: Chandavkl

                        Yes, indeed I did mean Atlantic. Thanks for catching that.

                        Too bad about Szechuan Express. Grrr.

                    2. re: oro3030

                      If that's the best, i'd hate to see what's bad. Didn't care for it at all.

                      1. re: oro3030

                        I ate at Chung King a week ago Saturday night, and had the Chung King hot pot which I thought was quite good, yet the other two dishes, one veggie and the other pork, were just ok. Service fine and the remodel surely improved the look of the place, yet I still miss Crown City/Hunan Restaurant. As to the best Sichuan in the SGV, I hope there is better.