New Chong Qing (San Gabriel) -- C'mon guys, this is ridiculous
Having had several pleasant experiences at NCQ in the past, I stopped by again while I was in the area yesterday. I'm used to getting whited (and I employed all the standard anti-whiting measures which have worked in the past here: "spicy", "Szechuan-style", "Please make it like you would make it for a Chinese customer"), but what I received was exceptionally disappointing.
The dan dan mein had no pork (!), and no detectable presence of szechuan peppercorns. Apparently the price of chili oil has gone up, because there wasn't much of that either.
The mapo tofu at least had a little pork, but the szechuan peppercorns were barely detectable. The dish was brown, not red. It had a mild chili flavor, but was overall a bland dish. It reminded me of the mapo tofu I've had at Cantonese places (when somebody else was ordering).
The pork with rice power was, as usual, unavailable.
Has NCQ completely lost it? Or did I just visit on a particularly inauspicious day? Can anybody recommend a replacement, preferably as far west as possible?
New Chong Qing
120 N San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91775
The stuff I've tried there has stayed more or less the same over time (recently vs. when they opened). I wasn't on NCQ's jock to start with, but I don't think they've gotten any worse - the food is just as mediocre as it was when they opened. I still go there occasionally since I live really close. Their business doesn't seem to be that great, so some of the issues may just be due to turnover of ingredients being slower.
Dandan mian can be made a ton of different ways - some places make it with pork; others don't. I don't think one way is more "authentic" than the other. Even if you ask for it very spicy, they don't always serve it with a ton of chili oil (I think it has to do more with random chance than whether you're getting whited or not), but they will happily give you more chili oil and chili flakes on the side if you ask. My gripe is not as much with the quantity as that sometimes there's a bit of a rancid taste. However, I did like the super crunchy bits (fried soybeans, I think, or maybe slow-fried peanuts) they used to serve on it at NCQ. If you want good dandan mian, try #1 Noodle House in Rowland Heights or some of the other places mentioned in the thread about that.
I also didn't think there was enough 'ma' in their mapo doufu, but that was true back when they opened. And some dishes were a little too sweet.
As far as replacements, Lucky Noodle King is pretty good, and not only for their noodle dishes. Shu Feng in Focus Plaza is gone; not sure if the one in Rowland Heights is too far for you -- haven't been to that location myself, but I think it's supposed to be pretty good.
Lao Bian Dumpling is a good alt, corner Mission and Las Tunas.
Lao Bian Dumpling
800 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776
Yes, it's completely lost it. It's a different restaurant, it seems. The decline can be charted in my three replies to this thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/738844. My favorite detail -- the fried chicken cubes that both my friend and I thought were fish!
Extremely disappointing. I've been going to Taste of Chongqing as a replacement. You should also try Chung King on San Gabriel if you haven't
Chung King Restaurant
1000 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776