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best Szechuan in SGV?

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calabasas_trafalgar Feb 17, 2007 07:53 PM

I'm absolutely no expert on Szechuan, in fact I'm not sure if I've ever had any before, but since I live in the middle of the SGV, there's bound to be something good around here somewhere. BTW I purposely didn't capitalize Best because I know there's a restaurant called "Best Szechuan", but I don't know if it really fits the description. Anyone?

I don't really care if its "authentic", but I'd prefer it not TOO spicy...

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  1. s
    sel RE: calabasas_trafalgar Feb 17, 2007 08:06 PM

    Some great places have closed in the past year but my current favorite is Chung King in San Gabriel. It IS authentic and I personally seek out the dishes that ARE "..TOO spicy..." but not all of their dishes are scorching/numbing! Be warned that this place is not for fans of Panda Express sugary glop!

    http://www.laweekly.com/eat+drink/cou...

    1. c
      calabasas_trafalgar RE: calabasas_trafalgar Feb 17, 2007 08:12 PM

      I went to Chung King, ONCE. Hated it.

      1. ipsedixit RE: calabasas_trafalgar Feb 17, 2007 08:39 PM

        Some people swear by Chung King - not I. The stuff at Chung King lacks dimension, they treat Sichuan cooking as if everything ends and begins with the chili pepper. It's like if you went to a Japanese restaurant and every dish they served was mixed with wasabi.

        For my money, the place to go for Sichuan is LUCKY DRAGON. The food is spicy but prepared with enough attention and detail that you can also notice the pungency of certain dishes (the water boiled beef), the saltiness of preserved cold dishes or the sweet-spiciness of the mapo tofu.

        FWIW, I have never been a huge fan of Best Szechuan, although sometimes when it hits the right notes on its various seafood offerings it can really shine.

        Lucky Dragon
        321 West Garvey Ave.,
        Monterey Park
        (626) 573-506

        1. m
          markethej RE: calabasas_trafalgar Feb 17, 2007 08:40 PM

          I have never been to it, byt Chung King is the recognized odds on favorite.

          1. h
            HLing RE: calabasas_trafalgar Feb 17, 2007 08:42 PM

            I don't know how fancy you want your Sichuan food, but i like this hole in the wall place. Spicy should never over shadow the flavor of food. Here's part of my post from last month:

            " .....I went back to this Sichuan place tonight to get the Tea Smoke Duck, half of a duck for $7.95. This is the 2nd time I'm back at this strip mall sort of intending to go to the Golden Deli, but once again the call of the Tea Smoked Duck was too strong instead of walking into the Vietnamese restaurant, my legs just did a diagnal left...

            This was THE duck that I had originally. my first ever Tea Smoked Duck was smoked like this and deep fried so that the skin is crispy. I first had it in Houston, Texas over 10 years ago, at a place called Dumpling King. After I left Houston and came to NY I had another similar to this, at a restaurant called China Peace in Time Square. Then they closed. Ever since all the Tea Smoked Ducks, from Grand Sichuan International, from the famous Spicy and Tasty are all "wrong" according to my memory. (I'm sure there's a regional reason for this, maybe Chong Qing vs. ChengDu? or something like that?)

            Anyhow, the flavor is awesome, the meat is a little lean and sticking to the bones, but the skin and the fat more than made up for it!

            I also tried the Beef Rib Noodle soup, (No. 1 on the menu). The aroma of this soup is fantastic to me. Once again, this was like the beef noodle soup from my Taiwanese childhood, dark but not sickly rich. I could drink it like soup. (In fact, was it Porthos who was looking for this in Manhattan once, Porthos, are you there?! Come to this place!) Medium spicy is pretty mild. The weakest part of this restaurant so far is the rice and the tea. So don't go there for that. I wish the duck was meatier, but that flavor is perfect for me!

            I think the address is 827 Las Tunas. Closed on Tuesdays. 626 284 8898

            By the way, I think there was another chowhound there tonight..someone who ordered the spicy wonton, and the 5 Geng pig intestine (Wu3 Geng1 Chang2 Wang4)., and who, upon seeing us order the tea smoked duck, order one to go, too. She was alone, couldn't finish her food that she was taking home..and yet, and here's a kindred Chowhounish behavior: when the duck came, she opened it, took out a drumstick and ate it right away while poking holes on the container so that the deep friedness doesn't get soggy...

            (No English menu, but No. 22 is the dish i tried during my first visit : steamed ribs rolled in rice flour on a bed of sweet yam/squah. Oh, and the tea smoked duck isn't on the menu. (樟茶鴨 zhang1 cha2 Ya1) neither was the 五更腸旺Wu3 Geng1 Chang2 Wang4)

            Permalink | Report | Reply
            HLing Jan 29, 2007 ................................"

            1 Reply
            1. re: HLing
              Chandavkl RE: HLing Feb 17, 2007 09:06 PM

              The English name for this place is Noodl House (not a misspelling--on my part, anyway) and it is at 827 Las Tunas. It has a much larger selection of Szechwan noodle dishes--about a couple dozen if I recall, and some of which are not spicy. As such this might be a better place for the poster to try.

            2. r
              RoachCoach RE: calabasas_trafalgar Feb 17, 2007 08:47 PM

              Both Chung Kings are good: San Gabriel and Monterey Park. Not too spicy? Ask for it. The waitresses are very accomadating(sp?) in general. Kong Pao Chicken & Yu Xiang Pork are classic sichuan dishes that are not that spicy. Anyway, both places have spice level indicators on the menu. But the dishes that totally addict me and my wife, and kids (9 and 6 yrs old, actually 6 year old will only eat the pig ear which is spicy) are the Ma Po Do Fu and the Chunking La Zi Ji(spicy fried chicken pieces) and the sliced pig ear and sea weed from the cold appetizer display at the counter. The julienned fried spicy potato is also good. Try it, it's truly one of the great cuisines of the world.

              1. r
                RoachCoach RE: calabasas_trafalgar Feb 17, 2007 09:18 PM

                oops, sorry, I didn't realize that you'd already been to Chung King. How about trying a Chengdu style Sichuan restaurant instead. Not as spicy as Chung King(Chongqing style). It's called the Little Chili in the Hong Kong Plaza on Glendora in West Covina. Good place and nice people.

                1. c
                  calabasas_trafalgar RE: calabasas_trafalgar Feb 18, 2007 11:04 PM

                  Looks like I will try Lucky Dragon, Little Chili and perhaps Noodl House. Thanks!

                  1. l
                    ladelfa RE: calabasas_trafalgar Feb 19, 2007 08:45 AM

                    There is a place actually called "Best Sichuan Spicy Seafood" or some variation on that. Formerly it was "RQW Spicy Chinese Food," but apparently they've had an ownership/name change in the past few months. You go south on Garfield from the 10 and it's about two strip malls before you get to Garvey, on the left hand side. It's way in the back. 230 N Garfield #D-12. Open every day, if memory serves.

                    The decor is nothing special, but the service is great and they take credit cards, too, which is something of a rarity in that part of town. Oh, and it's relatively inexpensive. How's the food? Well, we haven't been to either of the Chungs King, or even to Ding's Restaurant (which I've previously raved about here) since we discovered BSSS. We just keep going back to this place because so far everything has been at least good, and frequently approaching perfect. Currently this is my favorite restaurant in town, filling the vacancy left by the now-defunct Orient Pearl (did they inherit one of the Pearl's chefs?). I should also mention that their menu has great many dishes which are either meatless or which can be prepared that way to accommodate vegetarian diners.

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: ladelfa
                      Chandavkl RE: ladelfa Feb 19, 2007 12:35 PM

                      Actually it's been Best Szechuan since 2001 when it replaced Rong Hwa at that location. Somewhere along the way they added "Chili Seafood" to Best Szechuan--not sure when that happened.

                      1. re: Chandavkl
                        l
                        ladelfa RE: Chandavkl Feb 19, 2007 03:07 PM

                        I'm looking at the takeout menu I got from there and it says "R.Q.W. Spicy Chinese Food" on the front with the date Jan 2007 on the back. Also, the waitress told my dining companion (in Mandarin) that they had recently changed the name.

                        1. re: ladelfa
                          t
                          twinpooks RE: ladelfa Feb 21, 2007 10:47 AM

                          Best Szechuan Chili and Seafood on Garfield was our favorite for about 2 years - the braised shrimp, zhe zheng lamb and qong qing chicken were amazing (among other things). But last month (January) we went and there was an entirely new staff, new menu, and the name you mention (though not on the sign). Food was incredibly disappointing, staff was inept and not so friendly (especially when compared with the previous nice people) and our favorite dishes had been removed from the menu. We're horrified!

                          Does anyone know if Best Szechuan's owners have reopened anywhere else? Chung King doesn't do it for us, and Oriental Pearl was not quite up to the Best Szechuan standard as far as we were concerned. Help!

                          1. re: twinpooks
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                            Jerome RE: twinpooks Mar 27, 2007 05:15 PM

                            I haven't been in quite a few months, but I liked Best Szechwan very much. If it's gone downhill, that's too bad. In that case, I'd just walk over across the street to YunGui which has some sichuan dishes mixed in with the Yunnan and Guizhou dishes, or give it up and walk a few feet to Giang-nan for huaiyang food.

                            1. re: Jerome
                              s
                              sel RE: Jerome Jun 28, 2007 08:50 PM

                              I went to Best Sichuan a couple of weeks ago and only had Water Boiled Fish/Beef and Steamed Rice. This dish was excellent, firey and numbing (ma la flavor) in a complex broth. I wish that I had been in a group so I could try several dishes.

                              Also the service was very welcoming and friendly. I will be going back!

                      2. re: ladelfa
                        r
                        RoachCoach RE: ladelfa Feb 20, 2007 04:10 PM

                        Sounds promising...How I miss Oriental Pearl!

                        1. re: RoachCoach
                          mcmal RE: RoachCoach Mar 22, 2007 01:20 AM

                          I miss Oriental Pearl too. So after reading this thread I went down to RQW Spicy Chinese food. I never went to the Best Szechuan because I was always content to get my fix at Oriental Pearl or Chung King.

                          I don't know if RQW is the reincarnation of Oriental Pearl, or if my memory is off, but I swear it's the same menu, with a few minor changes (no frog on the menu, that I noticed), and I'm almost positive one of the waitresses is from Oriental Pearl. #1 on the menu, under Chefs Suggestions, is the same lamb dish that was #1 on the menu at OP. Chefs Suggestions is only written in Chinese and it was only after careful study that I realized what I was dealing with. Unfortunately I'd already ordered some safe dishes by that time, just to try the place out; so I'll be back for the lamb later this week. They've also got the whole fried crab in peppers that OP had, that I'll be getting too. The food I had? It's got that Oriental Pearl taste, but I didn't order the dishes I usually would have at ordered at OP so I'll find out more next time.

                          1. re: mcmal
                            l
                            ladelfa RE: mcmal Mar 27, 2007 12:34 PM

                            We asked the waitress: the chef is indeed ex- of Oriental Pearl.

                            1. re: ladelfa
                              l
                              ladelfa RE: ladelfa Apr 25, 2007 08:48 AM

                              A followup on RQW:

                              We were there last week and the large sign up on the wall over the door was missing. Dunno if this represents another pending name change, or whether it just blew down in the weather (it was one of those vinyl store name signs lashed to the building with rope, if memory serves). At any rate, this makes the place only that much harder to find, which is a shame.

                              We took about ten people there for a birthday dinner banquet. I won't divulge all the details, but to summarize: we had about nine dishes, all meatless (the guest of honor is vegetarian), most on-the-menu and a couple special-requested in advance. Everything was excellent -- not a dud in the bunch. About half were spicy in that brilliant, buzzy sichuan fashion, but the non-spicy dishes held their own as well. I think we must have had tofu prepared in six or seven different ways. The hot-sour soup was incredible and very unlike the style one normally encounters; the stock was thin, not cornstarch thickened, and there seemed to be lots of sesame oil happening. One of the other standouts was this braised gluten in brown sauce. It's not on the menu, but periodically they offer it as a sign-up-on-the-wall type special. Get it if they got it.

                              All but three of us at the table were RQW first-timers, and everybody seemed to indicate that they'd be going back, presumably to try the meat and fish dishes.

                              1. re: ladelfa
                                mcmal RE: ladelfa Apr 29, 2007 02:46 PM

                                Wow, I didn't know they had ten meatless dishes.
                                I've now eaten here two times and both times I found it to be pretty good, but not quite the same as Oriental Pearl. But it's the same menu and they've got the things I missed from OP, so I'll keep going back. I'm really happy it's there.

                                1. re: mcmal
                                  l
                                  ladelfa RE: mcmal May 1, 2007 11:43 AM

                                  A few of the things we had were special-requested variations on dishes already on the menu (e.g. the crunchy fried chicken cubes with chili and onion, with battered pressed bean curd standing in for chicken). And there are several excellent vegetable dishes on the menu that we didn't order for the party (bitter melon, cabbage with chili, chinese okra).

                      3. n
                        nn91604 RE: calabasas_trafalgar Mar 27, 2007 05:28 PM

                        There is a guy and his wife that moved here from Chengdu and have a noodle shop in a strip mall in Rowland Heights. 18180B Colima Rd. GO THERE NOW. I spent some time in Chengdu (capital of Szechuan province) and this guy's food is some of the best I've ever had. Beef noodle soup is out of this world and his cold noodles are the freaking best on a hot day.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: nn91604
                          s
                          sel RE: nn91604 May 29, 2007 12:13 PM

                          I just noticed your post. Is this Sichuan place still there and do you the name?

                          1. re: sel
                            notmartha RE: sel May 29, 2007 03:27 PM

                            I believe it's No. 1 Noodle House located in the YES Plaza at Colima and Fullerton. It's at the food court area in the inside corner of the plaza, next to the shabu place. Haven't checked it yet.

                            Another sichuan restaurant close by is Manie at the Hong Kong Supermarket plaza (inside the newer section at east side of plaza).

                        2. r
                          RoachCoach RE: jeebo Jul 15, 2007 12:02 PM

                          Nice detective work. Please let us know how it is.

                          1. h
                            hungrygirl106 RE: calabasas_trafalgar Aug 16, 2007 11:38 AM

                            Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but isn't spiciness one of Szechuan's key components? Chung King rules and while it's spicy, perhaps you could request a toned down version? (Or course, doing that would mean doing yourself a MAJOR disservice....

                            http://infinitefress.blogspot.com/200...

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: hungrygirl106
                              j
                              Jerome RE: hungrygirl106 Aug 16, 2007 12:55 PM

                              I don't really understand.
                              It is a component - like salt or tarragon or butter or the acid of acid in french cooking. But not every dish is supposed to be blisteringly hot. there is supposed to be a "balance" of seven tastes - sweet sour salty bitter piquant "numbing" (ma2, produced by prickly ash flowers, aka sichuan peppercorn) and "strange" (an accumulated flavor caused by the right mix of the other tastes). The japanese have two extra flavors on top of the western four, fresh and "meaty"(glutamate present, meat, mushrooms, etc).

                              However, not every dish will have the same balance or even all of the constituent flavors any more than every western dish will have a sour or bitter component.

                              Avoid the shui zhu (water boiled) dishes if heat is an issue. Any good place - jia-wei/best szechuan, chung king etc will have a variety of dishes and the server should be able to help you. If all else fails and they don't understand you clearly - try one of the following phrases (clarity over politeness here)
                              1. Bu Tai La (not too spicy).
                              stronger request
                              不 太 辣
                              2. Wo Bu Chi (pronounced like Chrrrrrrrrrrr) La. (I don't eat spicy food)
                              我 不 吃 辣
                              Print this out and take it with you.

                              1. re: Jerome
                                b
                                banjoboy RE: Jerome Aug 16, 2007 05:28 PM

                                There are _plenty_ of dishes that are not spicy at Chung King, I take my 15-month old son there and he loves it. Like Jerome said, I don't let him get his hands on the water-boiled beef or the fried chicken, but he loves the tofu gan, most of the cold appetizers, etc.

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