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Is there better szechuan in LA than Chung KIng in San Gabriel?

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Because i went twice this weekend. two lunches in a row. i was in the neighborhood. saturday, i just had the beef with zi ran pepper. it was wonderful. sunday, i had friend chicken cubes, which were great, and the beef with zi ran pepper, which was INEDIBLE. just terrible. an insult. and never happened before.

it raised all sorts of doubt about Chung King. Which is one of my great pleasures in life. Is it just different chefs? Is the whole place in decline? Also, how can i bring people there if they create occasional crap?

This has been bugging me for a year. do we have a consensus about a better szechuan place in the SGV?

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Chung King Restaurant
1000 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

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  1. I've never been a fan of Chung King, back then or now. I've always felt it was living off of the JGold hype.

    Depending on my mood and what I'm looking for, I go to New Chongqing on the corner of San Gabriel and Las Tunas.

    8 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      I'll second Ipse's recommendation of New Chongqing, and agree that Chung King has gone way downhill.

      One note about NCQ: just because there's a hot pot burner on every table, don't feel compelled to order a hot pot unless you really want to. The dan dan mien, pearl rice with pork, fried fish, and spicy eggplant dishes (among others) are better in my opinion, and with each hot pot ingredient priced incrementally, you get more bang for the buck ordering a la carte.

      1. re: Bradbury

        "I'll second Ipse's recommendation of New Chongqing, and agree that Chung King has gone way downhill." There was a thread here a year or two ago, which unfortunately we read after an okay but disappointing meal at Chung King, on which was the news that the original chef had moved down to SD and if we wanted Salty Prickly Ash Ribs we'd have to make a day-trip out of it. Even in the original incarnation there were some non-stellar offerings, especially the very boring dan dan mien, but there was enough good stuff to make a bunch of us happy on several occasions. No more.

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        Chung King Restaurant
        1000 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

        1. re: Will Owen

          Did he land at a restaurant in SD? Is it as good?

          1. re: adamclyde

            I've only been to Ba Ren once and had a great meal. Search San Diego board for more info:

            http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/65?t...

            1. re: sel

              oh, so that's why it was so similar. I've been once to BaRen too, great stuff. But I never knew that is was the same chef/owner?

      2. re: ipsedixit

        Where are your favorite kung pao chickens? I really like Chung King and I like Tasty Garden in Alhambra.

        -----
        Chung King Restaurant
        1000 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

        Tasty Garden
        288 W Valley Blvd 110, Alhambra, CA 91801

        1. re: tenxtone76

          thread here on the subject
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/738133

          1. re: tenxtone76

            New Chongqing has the best kung pao chicken in my opinion.

            The one Tasty Garden isn't traditional Sichuan style kung pao, but if you like it, then that's all that really matters.

            -----
            Tasty Garden
            1212 S Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007

        2. Without purporting to rank Szechuan restaurants in the SGV, this is a favorite of mine:

          http://www.yelp.com/biz/yunnan-garden...

          3 Replies
          1. re: aventinus

            I like Yunnan Garden as well.

            But just be warned that while Yunnan and Sichuan share some similar qualities, esp. northern Yunnan cuisine, the focus and better dishes (e.g. rice noodles of Mengzhi) at Yunnan Garden are more indicative of the southern regions of the Yunnan province, which generally is not that similar to typical Sichuan cuisine found here in the U.S.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              What about the Westside? Do any of you have recs for me?

              1. re: mopeyboy

                Yeah - move out here! : ) Actually, I think the consensus is there's nothing remotely like Sichuan food west of the 710 Fwy, so you're out of luck. Numerous threads on Chinese food on the Westside, which usually end resigned to sort of bland Cantonese at Hop Woo, but I don't want to hijack the thread.

                -----
                Hop Woo
                11110 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064

          2. New Chonqing is very good, but my favorite is Shu Feng Yuan in the Focus Plaza. And I like Yunchuan Garden (on Garfield) over Yunnan Garden (on Las Tunas). For some reason, Yunchuan is always higher on the heat index.

            I rank all three above Chung King, which is..ok.

            -----
            Yunnan Garden
            545 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776

            4 Replies
            1. re: JThur01

              We also had an ok but disappointing meal at chung king sg. Double disappointment because a friend from Phoenix came out and this was his first taste of ma la (though I don't know if it counted, because there were hardly any detectible notes of sichuan peppercorns). We absolutely LOVED Shufeng Garden in Rowland Heights though... how does Focus Plaza compare?

              1. re: Mr Taster

                I haven't been to the Rowland Heights location, so I can't compare it. For what it's worth, JGold has spoken well of the Focus Plaza location, though Chung King still comes off as his favorite - I believe more from a familiarity standpoint. Chung King's noted chef moved on to San Diego last year.

                Let me also state that I am not dismissing ipsedixit's recommendations, quite the contrary. NCQ is very good and I do like Yunnan, I simply prefer it's "sister" location, Yunchuan. There also are, or at least were, some menu differences as well between Yunnan and Yunchuan.

                1. re: JThur01

                  We had a meal a year or two ago at the SD restaurant and it was absolutely phenomenal, certainly on par with Shufeng Garden. Our meal at Chung King just didn't measure up. I think JGold needs to revisit a few times...

                  Mr Taster

                  -----
                  Chung King Restaurant
                  1000 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

              2. re: JThur01

                Shu Feng in Focus Plaza is closed, we need to drive all the way to Rowland Heights for Shu Feng.

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                Shu Feng
                18459 Colima Rd, Rowland Heights, CA 91748

              3. I heard Shufeng Garden in SG is closed now....

                15 Replies
                1. re: echoparkdirt

                  Sadly, this is true. December 19th was their last day. Rowland Heights location still open.

                  1. re: JThur01

                    If people are not careful (and most aren't), in about 10 years west SGV will become the Chinatown of today -- deserted and a shell of its former self; while east SGV will become what west SGV is and was in the late 1990s/2000s -- the new epicenter of Chinese food and commerce.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      we should try to save some great ones. im still missing that islamic chinese place at the Great Mall of China. Thinking of going to Omar's or JTYH today...

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                      JTYH Restaurant
                      9425 Valley Blvd, Rosemead, CA 91770

                      1. re: echoparkdirt

                        Omar's is incredible. What was the name of the Islamic Chinese place in the Great Mall of China? And there still any good restaurants in that Mall? And lastly where is it located?

                        thanks.

                        1. re: kevin

                          Tung Lai Shun is the Islamic Chinese that closed.

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/338077

                          1. re: sel

                            That's eight.

                            But check out Omars. The best restaurant i've had the pleasure of visiting in the past few months.

                            1. re: sel

                              Sure hope China Islamic @ 7727 Garvey Avenue in Rosemead is still open.
                              Very good Islamic Chinese food.

                              -----
                              China Islamic Restaurant
                              7727 Garvey Ave, Rosemead, CA 91770

                            2. re: kevin

                              That's the shopping center at 140 W. Valley Blvd. in San Gabriel (as opposed to the same address in Alhambra). Busiest restaurant there is the New Capital Seafood on the 4th floor, but their main selling point is their economical dim sum and dinner dishes. (Not to say the food isn't decent--it's probably the best value around, but it's not gourmet food.) Other noteworthy restaurants there include Dandan Guilin Rice Noodle restaurant, and what is perhaps the only remaining branch of Ay Chung Rice Noodle in California.

                              -----
                              Ay Chung Rice Noodle
                              1015 Nogales St, Rowland Heights, CA

                              New Capital
                              8823 Garvey Ave, Rosemead, CA

                        2. re: JThur01

                          I'm surprised, and somewhat disappointed, that no one here mentioned or noticed this at LA Weekly's Squid Ink blog: http://bit.ly/e7bBV4

                          1. re: JThur01

                            The death of the San Gabriel Square Shufeng Garden was noted... there's at least one thread about it already.

                            Edit: Hm ok, I guess this was the thread which noted the closure :) Why are you disappointed that nobody specifically mentioned the Squid Ink blog?

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              The closing of the San Gabriel Shufeng Garden is just one of the many first drops in the bucket of the diaspora of the West SGV. Everyone is moving points eastward to East SGV (e.g. Rowland Heights, Industry, etc.)

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                I'm of the opinion that a lot of this is because of the Great Recession. There are far too many restaurants for the local Chinese population to support, and the restaurants haven't expanded their clientele enough to include more non-Chinese patrons.

                                In the old days, many of my relatives and family friends wanted to leave Chinatown because they wanted better homes and better schools. The western SGV fit the bill. Although I'm sure the culinary center of the SGV will start shifting east, I'm not entirely convinced it will move to the east SGV mainly because there are so many good school districts in the west SGV.

                              2. re: Mr Taster

                                because JThur01 may indeed by the writer Jim Thurman from squid ink!

                                1. re: echoparkdirt

                                  Whoops, missed that :) Sorry JThur01.

                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: echoparkdirt

                                    ;-) Writer?...you're too kind. I weighed whether I should even mention it, because I didn't want to come off as a shameless self-promoter. Too late, I guess.

                                    But, echoparkdirt is correct about that being the reason I'm somewhat disappointed.

                          2. I went to New Chongqing on San Gabriel yesterday.

                            The Kung Pao Chicken was fantastic, and much better than Chung King's version, which is getting gloopier and more sugary by the week.

                            The Dan Dan Noodles were exquisite. A light, delicate, completely wonderful take on the dish. Chung Kings version of these are extremely mediocre.

                            The "Fried Chicken Cubes" were great, but Chung King has served up more transcendent versions at times. I think New CQ is a little lighter on the "szechuan peppercorn" as well.

                            No cold appetizers was a disappointment.

                            My non-Chowhound eating partner, against my explicit wishes, got the "mustard pork noodles" which was soupy and uninteresting.

                            All in all, a great lunch and I just may head there over CK for my szechuan fix. I am always open to more suggestions tho...

                            -----
                            New Chong Qing
                            120 N San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91775

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: echoparkdirt

                              Have you tried Yunnan 168 on San Gabriel yet? It's worth a visit.

                              Funny, I ordered the pork noodles at New Chongquing under exact circumstances and agree.

                              Just fyi, Chan's Paris N in Arcadia does a really outstanding version of the chicken cubes. I think they call them something like "spicy chicken chunks" or something. It's loaded with dried red chilis which you have to sort of pick around, but it's seriously good. It's not a Szechuan place, just fyi.

                              -----
                              Yunnan 168
                              1530 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                              1. re: cant talk...eating

                                Yunnan 168, is good, but not Sichuan.

                                -----
                                Yunnan 168
                                1530 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Aside from the rice noodles at Yunnan 168, are there major differences in things like meat and veggie dishes btwn Yunnan-ese and Sichuan? Seems like their menus are awfully similar, at least these SGV places we're talking about.

                                  -----
                                  Yunnan 168
                                  1530 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                                  1. re: cant talk...eating

                                    It's more that Yunnan cuisine isn't that famous, so many of the Yunnan places also serve dishes from bordering Sichuan. The two cuisines are fairly different, though. Yunnan 168 and Yunchuan Garden / Yunnan Garden all serve Sichuan dishes alongside Yunnan ones.

                                    -----
                                    Yunnan Garden
                                    545 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                                    Yunnan 168
                                    1530 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                                    1. re: cant talk...eating

                                      FWIW, when I traveled in China, I didn't perceive a connection between the food in Yunnan and the food in Sichuan. I have been surprised to see that restaurants with "Yunnan" in the name serve food that I associate with Sichuan.

                                      1. re: sushigirlie

                                        It's all marketing. I've been to a number of restaurants where they specialize in one regional cuisine but serve dishes from other regions. I asked the owners/managers why they did this. Everyone had the same answer: a number of their customers keep on asking for them.

                                        1. re: raytamsgv

                                          The classic for me is the xiao long bao at the dim sum houses...

                                2. re: echoparkdirt

                                  Glad you enjoyed it echoparkdirt. Funny, I was telling myself I need to return to NCQ just before I read your post.

                                  We have ipsedixit to thank for recommending the Kung Pao Chicken. Normally, that's something I'd steer clear of, but I was quite impressed with it.

                                  I actually like the chicken cubes better at Shu Feng (since shuttered in San Gabriel, but still in Rowland Heights). NCQ's were very good, but kind of salty to me.

                                  To me, the noodles themselves are quite good at NCQ. With those noodles as a base, they can only get better with the toppings and additions.

                                  1. re: echoparkdirt

                                    Update on New Chong Qing:

                                    Went there with a couple friends for lunch. Dan Dan Noodles and Fried Chicken Cubes were wonderful.

                                    However, bad news to report. I'm going to declare "Echoparkdirt's Law" -- the longer a Chinese restaurant serves Kung Pao Chicken, the more brown sugary it will become.

                                    The Kung Pao Chicken, which previously was eaten immediately, went unfinished. Much too sugary, with that tell-tale burnt brown sugar smell. Not good. The "Stir Fried Lamb" was bland and uninteresting, and went almost uneaten.

                                    Made me want to give Chung King another try.

                                    -----
                                    Chung King Restaurant
                                    1000 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                                    New Chong Qing
                                    120 N San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91775

                                    1. re: echoparkdirt

                                      Did you tell them?

                                      They would've taken it back, no questions asked.

                                      I've done this before at NCQ when our beef dish came with too much gristle, and the fried chicken was cold.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        Nope, didn't ask it to be taken back. Next time I will. But I will check out Chung King again. Very concerning!

                                        -----
                                        Chung King Restaurant
                                        1000 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                                      2. re: echoparkdirt

                                        Dismal experience at new Chongqing today.

                                        Kung Pao chicken was gloopy and sugary after I specifically asked otherwise

                                        Spicy chicken cubes were, eh, tasted like fish. Both me and my friend thought it was fish. We were assured it was chicken, but we kept on tasting fish. We then investigated by examining the insides, but we couldn't prove anything -- the bits of the meat were so small and so surrounded by batter, we could not confirm our suspicions. Anyway, this spicy chicken/fish cube dish was mediocre. Very few sichuan peppercorns if any

                                        Dan Dan noodles were much worse than last time, nothing special

                                        Both me and my friend, who has joined me on most of my trips there, vowed to never return!

                                        Sad.

                                        -----
                                        New Chong Qing
                                        120 N San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91775

                                    2. We had the dan dan mian and spicy lamb chops at Chung King today. While I still prefer Lucky Noodle King's ddm for more Sichuan peppercorn the peanut sauce style, my wife preferred Chung King's, being more subtle and balanced in flavor but packing more heat. We both agreed on the spicy lamb chops - wonderfully seasoned and plenty of chile heat.

                                      -----
                                      Chung King Restaurant
                                      1000 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                                      Lucky Noodle King
                                      534 E Valley Blvd #10, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                                      1. Not all Chung King operators performed with similar results.
                                        I realize this post is going on 4 years old, with its most recent post over 3 years ago, this ABC posting should cause some raised eyebrows.
                                        http://www.abc.ca.gov/datport/LQSData...

                                        Wonder what Chung King 5.0 or thereabouts will now be featuring, and will it be any good?
                                        This address has had a certain magic over the years, both good and bad, but this ownership change will certainly cause a reassessment.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: carter

                                          Hope good. I love it.

                                          1. re: jessejames

                                            Especially with Naoki Matsumoto as its owner!

                                          2. re: carter

                                            We started going to Chung King Monterey Park about 8 or so years ago (after the original Jonathan Gold review), when the original owners were there. Our understanding was the San Gabriel restaurant was an offshoot from before our time, but completely different owners/chefs (SG CK was a good second, but nowhere near as good as orig CK). Once the original CK owners left Monterey Park, the restaurant slowly went downhill, and on our last visit about 3-4 years ago, it was actually inedible (poor quality cuts of meat with fat and gristle, WAY too much salt etc). Then around the same time we heard the original Monterey Park owners opened a Chung King on Pioneer Blvd in Artesia. When we walked in the door, we were so happy to see the original owners and were delighted that the original quality of Chung King was found in this new branch. About 1-2 years ago, they sold the restaurant (we were told they retired) but the chef remained at the Artesia branch and the food was about 90% of what it had been. I haven't been to Artesia in about a year, since discovering not only Chengdu Taste but also fantastic Yunnan Garden aka Yun Chuan Garden at 301 N. Garfield, MP. They have my all time favorite fried chicken cubes (yes, better than orig Chung King and Chengdu Taste). It may have something to do with the chicken skin :)

                                          3. Try chengdu taste

                                            1. I like Spicy City