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The New Chung King

After a few dozen meals at the original Chung King (the one on Garfield), I was unable to make it out there for about 6 months. During that time, they relocated to San Gabriel Valley Blvd. I just went there yesterday for the first time, and much to my delight, the food was every bit as good as at the original location.

The interior of the restaurant is a bit "fancier" than the original, and from what I can recall of the Hunan place that used to be there, they've sealed off the kitchen and made the place a lot brighter and more cheerful.

But who cares about the decor. It's the food that matters, and it didn't disappoint. The water boiled beef is still potent and rich, the fried chicken is still the most perfectly deep-fried i've ever had, the tofu-gan is clean and bright.

And now, they even carry beer.

Give them a visit...

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  1. No thanks. I tried it once, worst Chinese I've had in years...

    5 Replies
    1. re: calabasas_trafalgar

      Could you eloborate? That is not really helpful. Why was it the worst you had in years? Was it the wait staff that put you off. Was the food not to your expectation?

      1. re: zruilong

        Well, I've never been a big fan of Chung King and I can tell you what's wrong with it.

        Most dishes are overly salted, or too oily.

        Spicy dishes lack depth of character, all you end up tasting is the chili oil or peppers.

        Dishes lack consistency. One day the ma poa tofu will be pungent and salty, and another day it will have an oft-putting sweetness to it.

        The cold, preserved dishes, however, are generally very good.

        As an aside, regarding its new location. It seems so lonely out there on a rather deserted section of San Gabriel Blvd ... can't imagine they get very many walk-up customers ...

        1. re: zruilong

          Ipsedixit said all I would and more. Also the menu is lacking. Even if I found something I liked, there wasn't enough on the menu that warranted going back again. I should have gone to Oriental Pearl, this was right before they went away.

          No problem with the wait staff, they were very nice.

        2. re: calabasas_trafalgar

          The hyperbole on this board never ceases to amaze me.
          I have been about 5 times in the last 4 months. The water boiled dishes are fantastic , as is the kung pao, the spare ribs with prickly ash, and the bacon with leeks. And they are consistent. I have had several other dishes there and they have all been fine except for the dan dan noodles which are underwheliming. I have been there with and without Chinese friends and its been consistent over the last few months. I think it's clearly better and more consistent than Best Sichuan or Lucky Dragon.
          One can quibble about whether its better or worse than one sichuan place or another but to say it's the worst Chinese you have had in years is insane unless you've been living in China.

          1. re: oro3030

            I'm with oro3030 on this one. I'd NEVER had any real Sichuan food until we took a visiting friend (who's had quite a lot) to Chung King. We were delighted with everything we had, including the dan dan noodles, especially the ribs with prickly ash. It was an exhilarating meal, very satisfying and dirt cheap, and we will definitely be back.

        3. I've been to Chung King twice in the last couple of months and I've had great meals there both times. I usually get the ribs with the prickly ash, the diced chicken with chili peppers, the puffed rice with sliced chicken (as a palate cleanser), and then one type of spicy noodle dish. And various bits from the cold buffet.


          1. I went to the Chung King on 260 Garfield (just south of Garvey) last Friday.

            My favorites were the Delicucus Smelled Beef, which were indeed "delicucus," the Fried Chicken Cubes with Red Pepper, and the Eggplant and Fried Cabbage (napa).

            Ribs with prickly ash were just alright, mostly batter and bone and the waitress recommended a fish dish ($12.99)that was again, simply alright. Sorry, I can't remember more specifics right now.

            Rounded it off with two of the cold appetizers: seaweed and pig's ear.

            Apparently, however, the restaurant has moved to San Gabriel Blvd.. Where exactly did I eat?

            1. Don't know if they are related by Chung King on Pico Blvd in West L.A. was quite good. I loved the Shredded Pork with Ginger in Szechwan sauce with Green Beans.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                i believe the place is called cheng du now.

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  no relation. the food is quite different. Chungking never had water boiled dishes, or frog or kidneys or even the tea and camphor smoked duck. (that's the pico one).

                2. I went to the Chung King on Garfield yesterday. It is still there. I had the roasted spareribs in prickly ash, the fried cabbage w/sour and chili flavor and the Chung King flavored noodles (Dan Dan). I really like the ribs and cabbage. I wouldn't order those noodles again. They were nothing special.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Neta

                    I went to Chung King (on Garfield) again a few days ago and had the Fried Chicken Cubes with Red Pepper (so unbelievably addicting, the beef with preserved pepper (nothing special and not spicy), the stir fried ong choy (good, but I prefer the preparation with the fermented soy), and a soup (a tart, sourish one with vermicilli - loved it).

                    I also asked a waitress if they were affiliated with the restaurant on San Gabriel Blvd and she denied it vigorously.

                    1. re: Neta

                      So which is it? There seems to be conflicting reports. I always used to go to Chungking on Garfield south of Garvey, but started going to the new one on San Gbariel Blvd because I heard they moved. Didn't notice any difference in the food, though the English translations on the menu seemed different. And now I hear Chungking is still on Garfield and totally unrelated to the Chungking on San Gabriel? Can anyone explain this?

                    2. Both are horrible! Tried the one on San Gabriel...worst froglegs I ever had! Avoid!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: dreamcast18

                        I beg to differ! Went to the original location too many times to count. Tried the new location recently and it was wonderful food in a nicer space. Spare ribs with prickly ash and water-boiled beef and fish, chicken chunks with dried Sichuan chilis, no cold apps. this time but the peanuts with little fisheees, mother in law or whatever its called beef slices etc. and other selections were always yummy! One of my favorite restaurants - cause the food is great, not prepared to appeal to those that think Panda Express is authentic Chinese cusine - PERIOD!!!

                      2. Chung King on San Gabriel is incredible. The water-boiled fish, fried chicken cubes, kung pao chicken, cold chicken with spicy sauce, it's all fantastic. My favorite Chinese in Los Angeles.

                        1. Okay, I guess I should apologize to everyone I've been mouthing off to about whether Chung King has moved or not. We just took Jonathon Gold's word for it that they'd shut down the old place and moved to San Gabriel, and that the new place was even better than the old. He was obviously wrong about the first part. As for the second, well, we LOVED the food on San Gabriel, and THEY have beer and take plastic, so I suppose it shall remain a matter of conjecture...

                          1. The ChungKing on San Gabriel is indeed the replacement for the old one on Garfield. The one on Garfield is still open but it is owned by different people. The one on Garfield, while retaining much of the menu, is not nearly as good.

                            The Chung King on San Gabriel, despite what some here might think, is very good (probably the best Sichuan in town since Oriental Pearl closed). But I have gone wrong with orders there. For one, I think that the ribs in prickly ash is disgusting, despite what Gold says. The kung pao, on the other hand, is fantastic, one of the best I've had in the U.S., and again to disagree with Gold, far better than the chopped fried chicken in peppers. I also highly recommend the dry beef in hot peppers (is what I think one of the waitresses calls it in English, on the menu it is one of the items not translated into English, it's 12.99 and very big). Also the whole fish Sichuan style is great.

                            My biggest problem with the place is the lack of consistency when it comes to the Sichuan peppercorns. Sometime they put them in, sometimes it seems like they don't. And although it's still good when they go light, it's always much better with.

                            My hope is that Oriental Pearl will reopen somewhere soon. I really miss it, and I especially miss that lamb dish that was the first thing on the menu. Does anybody know anywhere else that makes this dish? Please, I'm desperate.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: mcmal

                              One person's "disgusting" can apparently be another's addiction. Our mob devoured our platter of spareribs down to the crumbs, and probably could have handled a double order.

                              Yes, the food there does tend to be a tad salty and oily. Not all of us think that's a bad thing...

                              1. re: Will Owen

                                I know that many people love the spareribs. I only tried them once, and both of the other people at the table agreed that they weren't so good.
                                With all the rave reviews they get, I suppose I should try them again to make sure that it wasn't a fluke, but I've developed a short list of favorites and it's hard to deviate.

                                And yeah, the food is salty and oily -but in a good way.

                              2. re: mcmal

                                Nope...but I sure do miss that lamb.

                                1. re: JudiAU

                                  R.Q.W. Spicy Chinese Food has the lamb, and much of the menu of Oriental Pearl.

                                  1. re: mcmal

                                    Looking over R.Q.W.'s menu again, it is the same exact menu as Oriental Pearl (with a couple of deletions and additions, but it even looks the same down to the fonts used). Looks like this is where they've reopened, finally.

                                2. re: mcmal

                                  I miss Oriental Pearl as well but I am a big fan of Chung King Restaurant in San Gabriel, I LOVE their food! Regarding your comment:

                                  "My biggest problem with the place is the lack of consistency when it comes to the Sichuan peppercorns. Sometime they put them in, sometimes it seems like they don't. And although it's still good when they go light, it's always much better with."

                                  I agree with this point at CK and elsewhere. I cook Sichuan food often and I find that since the USDA required heat treatment of Sichuan peppercorns in order to protect the US citrus crop from a 'citrus canker' I must TRIPLE the amount called for in recipes in order to get the proper numbing/tingling! I don't think that the cooks are tasting their food enough before serving. Many recipes call for a sprinkling of Sichuan pepper onto the dish after stir frying and I do carry my own for adding to dishes when I eat out. This technique works!


                                3. My gf heard that the original chef left and started a restaurant down in SD... beyond that, I don't know which (if any) is the "real" one.

                                  ps - Are there any reliable vegetarian dishes there? I got a menu the other day, and it looked like there were a few that might be possible to make vegetarian. The gf speaks Chinese, if it makes a difference.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: will47

                                    Only pure veggie dish we saw was the bitter melon (called "balsam pear" on the menu). Don't think you want that!

                                    I don't know, come to think of it, if there's any meat involved in the "homely" tofu, which is really luscious if you like tofu. Even my tofu-hating wife says it's OK.

                                    1. re: will47

                                      There is a terrific tofu gan dish; I think it's called tofu gan with leeks. I _suspect_ it's vegetarian (there's no visible meat in the dish). Also, many of the cold appetizers are vegetarian as well. I'm sure there are other items.

                                      Will47, if you go with your Chinese speaking girlfriend, I think we'd all like to hear about the "original" vs. "real" debate. The waitresses at the San Gabriel Blvd location have told me that they are the "real" location, but language barriers have prevented me from learning much more. Enjoy your meal.

                                      1. re: banjoboy

                                        The Chung King that was located at at 206 S Garfield Ave. in Monterey Park for several years and a favorite of J. Gold, L.A. Times, ChowHound and me moved to 1000 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, it's that simple. Different people opened up a new restaurant at the old Garfield Ave. location but did not change the signage and kept the same name!

                                      2. re: will47

                                        We've successfully ordered completely vegetarian meals there on several occasions. Having a speaker of Mandarin at the table with you may be compulsory, however, to ensure that the dishes you are getting will be made su-da / mei-yo-ro.

                                        And bitter melon is awesome, despite what everybody else sez.

                                        1. re: ladelfa

                                          "And bitter melon is awesome, despite what everybody else sez."

                                          I think the most astute comment on this would be, "This is a dish that will be very much enjoyed by people who like this sort of thing." Not *ENTIRELY* kidding here, as this bitter melon was obviously well prepared and looked gorgeous. Tasted good too, except for the closing-up-my-throat part...