One Less Dim Sum Option in Irvine--San Diego's Spicy City Moves In
For those of us who never got to try the dim sum at Royal Kitchen Seafood in Irvine, it's too late. That site is now occupied by a branch of Spicy City, which has been operating on Convoy St. in the Clairemont Mesa of San Diego for almost 10 years. Spicy City seems to be inspired by the Yunnan Garden chain--a Yunnan/Sichuan menu with a table full of cold appetizer items. If this had opened up in the SGV it wouldn't be anything special, but it does fill a void in the Irvine area. Spicy City is at 14310 Culver Dr., in the huge shopping center north of Walnut Ave.
545 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776
It occurred to me that I went here a few times and never reported back...
Don't go. It may be busy but the food is an order of magnitude less impressive than Chong Qing Mei Wei. The service is very nice but the kitchen is not capable. The Sichuan standard huo bao yao hua (fire-exploded kidney flowers) involves meticulous cutting to ensure maximum sauce coverage on a pretty pungent cut of meat; theirs looked like a child had been let loose in the kitchen with a pile of kidneys and a cleaver, and the taste was sour and uric to the point of inedibility.
I also was totally unimpressed with the water-boiled fish, and the vegetables in the twice-cooked pork were badly undercooked, as though they'd been thrown in the wok without being blanched first. The cold appetizer bar was fine, but it's fine at Chong Qing Mei Wei too, and the water-boiled fish and the twice-cooked pork are far better at the latter.
I went once a few weeks ago. I had about three dishes that were all solid, but the thing I enjoyed most was a complimentary soup they gave us with a rich broth flavored with sesame oil, some ong choy, and small, delicately tender pork meatballs. The soup was what the staff were eating for family meal, and they shared it with us because we stopped in close to closing.
I'm definitely stopping by for more items.
The Chinese characters in the window of Spicy City do in fact read 雲川園: "Yunchuan Garden". I haven't been yet, but I usually go to Chong Qing Mei Wei for my Sichuan and Yunnan needs. It's in the plaza at Jeffrey and Walnut, where Ay-Chung Noodle used to be next to Nice Time Deli.