boredom at Hu's Szechuan in Palms
Ever hopeful, humanity refuses to accept that there is no good Chinese food on the west side. I am an example of that, having gone to Hu's Szechuan. The scholars here have instructed us that the menu at Hu's, though it reminds me way too much of Panda Express with its orange chicken and all, consists of real Szechuan dishes. So okay, I ordered the chili dumplings and the twice-cooked pork. The dumplings, which I guess are their signature dish, were pleasant enough though not distinctive or challenging. But the twice-cooked pork tasted like nothing. The restaurant employees were sitting down to their own lunch as I was eating this stuff, and I was jealous of whatever it was they were eating, because I bet that it had some actual flavor to it. Bleah.
Until J. R. Seafood opened up 10 years ago, Hu's Szechuan was in fact the best Chinese restaurant on the Westside. I had a Chinese friend living in Malibu who would make the trek all the time. However, with the opening of J.R., V.I.P. Harbor, Royal Star (if they're still open) and a couple of others, Hu's has slipped down the list by comparison.
we had dinner tonight at hu's. used jerome's guide to order and were pleased with the results. after ordering i told the waiter we wanted *very spicy* and he noted *extra spicy*.
started with the wontons. floppy, good meat filling, soy-ish sauce was a little sour & spicy & hot peppery (but not numbing).
chenpi chicken with orange peel. quite spicy. accidentally ate 2 peppers which i thought were peel. ouch. sort of dark molasses sweet, but also tangy & sour.
they automatically brought out a small dish of the sweet, cooling *spicy* cucumbers. nice contrast.
tan tan noodles. same sauce as the the won tons w/spinach & peanuts. decent flavor.
well, we weren't expecting chung king (SGV) quality or range of flavors or sensations, but it did blow my sinuses and warm the blood. i wouldn't say it was boring. IMHO, if chung king hits 6 targets, hu's hits about 3.5.
I'm Chinese, and you're right: There are no good Chinese restaurants on the Westside. Having said that, I'm really impressed with only 1 dish at Hu's: their Eggplant. And yeah, it's oily everywhere, so be careful if you ever get take-out. (At least they're considerate and double-box it.)
They seem to slice it in the right size. J.R. Seafood's Eggplant Dish has pieces that are too large, so the inside of the eggplant doesn't pick up any of the sauce. But I find that Hu's Eggplant dish is actually quite nice. It's not excellent, mind you...but quite nice.
If you really want to eat what the employees were eating, try asking for it. In any real Chinese restaurant (i.e. not PF Chang's), you can always order off the menu. If you see a sauce or seasoning you like but isn't paired with your desired meat or vegetable, try ordering it anyway. Most of the stuff is interchangeable.
Sometimes, Chinese cooks don't really know how to cook for non-ethnic Chinese patrons. They may assume that you want just the stereotypical fare. You can try asking the staff for a truly authentic Chinese dish. And if you really want to make sure, ask them nicely to cook it like they would for a Chinese customer (assuming you are not of Chinese descent).
Of course, none of this matters if: 1) they already are cooking this way; 2) they are absolutely bad cooks.
For the record, most my family and relatives worked in Chinese restaurants (big and small) for many years.