A very humbling ISO-Kung Pao
i am not big on chinese food in general, and honestly tend to prefer more "americanized" places.
is there anyplace in chinatown or vicinity where i can satisfy my occasional kung pao chicken cravings?
i know, i know...
Chu’s Kitchen in downtown LA
111 West 9th Street (west of Main)
Yang Chow does a decent kung pao chicken, but it is more expensive than Chu's if I recall correctly.
Hey, ron, I think I understand what you are looking for. Sometimes you don't care about the exotic or the "authentic" and you just want some ethnic or regional-type food the way you had it growing up or in your neighborhood, for instance red sauce spaghetti and meatball Italian rather than some special, particular, expensive pasta concoction.
There used to be a place that would be a great fit to what you want -- it was located towards the rear of the Grand Central Market, and featured a curved counter/bar with stools where they would serve very cheap plates of chop suey, chow mein, and other simple Americanized dishes of Chinese food. I don't think it is there anymore, I could be wrong.
I'm a big Yang Chow fan, to the dismay of many naysayers on this board (as you've experienced above). They may not be authentic, but I've found my favorite dishes there to be delicious and I always emerge happy. I do find that the container of hot chili oil does improve a lot of their dishes to my taste, but for me that's true at most Chinese restaurants. I once met someone for lunch there who surprised me by being vegetarian (no slippery shrimp!) and they did a fine job of adapting some dishes. All that said, kung pao chicken is not their best dish (it is bland there) and it is on the expensive side. If you go to Yang Chow get the hot and spicy wonton soup, the fried dumplings, the eggplant or string bean with garlic sauce, the cold noodles with chicken and peanut butter, and of course absolutely the slippery shrimp.
My favorite kung pao? On the westside, at Hu's. The kung pao chicken at lunch -- tender, velveted chicken -- or the kung pao shrimp at dinner -- big meaty shrimp. Both in a great tasty spicy complex sauce, with only meat, scallions, and peanuts, no filler vegetables such as carrot or zucchini, though I like it that way as well.
Chinese Friends. Broadway, on the north end of Chinatown. East side of he street. Been eating there for 25+ years...
You are correct, Chinese Friends does a good kung pao chicken. Many of their dishes imitate those served at Yang Chow at a buck or two less -- their sweet and pungent shrimp is a pale rendition of Yang Chow's slippery shrimp. They are linoleum tables and plastic plates vs. Yang Chow's linens and glassware, but most of the food is pretty good. They have easy free parking in the covered lot next door to the north.