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Mar 7, 2013 03:41 PM

Specific Sichuan SGV Recommendation for Tomorrow

I'm craving numbing hot, and have a large group of people who want to follow my lead to the SGV tomorrow for dinner. I've been sifting through the various SGV/Sichuan threads, but it's difficult to sort out which Gardens and which Chong Qings have been closed or renamed or are "in decline..." Then cross-referencing to Yelp for amenities just makes me angry, because I have to read Yelpers. So I'm gonna run my specs up the flagpole and see who salutes.

Coming after the races at Santa Anita, so let's keep it north of the 10. (FYI, visited Chang's Garden in Arcadia recently, and found their Sichuan dishes not hot enough.)

Been to both branches of Chung King and what's now Yunkan Garden several times. Love both, but keen to try something new.

We'll have a largish group at 7:00ish on a Friday, so space will be at a premium. Reservations would be a plus; there'll be 8-12 of us.

Beer must be had, either from the menu or brought-in.

Must have: sichuan peppercorn dishes, plenty hot. Water boiled fish/beef, wontons in chili oil, cold bar, fried chicken cubes, etc.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. a good choice would be: "Hunan Style".

    Typically have BOGO crap beer and everything swims in chili oil. No cold bar, but that's for amateurs anyway. They do all kinds of spicy smoked ham/mushrooms. It's spicier than Sichuan, it's north of the 10, it has a coupla round tables for about 20 ppl.

    Reservations? They hate 老外.

    29 Replies
      1. re: TonyC

        Might be a good choice, except it's very specifically Hunan, not Sichuan. Water boiled fish/beef is non-negotiable.

        I'm shocked...SHOCKED...that hounds aren't coming to my rescue.

        At this point I'm likely to end up at Yunnan Garden (dicey with a big group on a Friday, right? I'll be fine, but I don't have blood sugar issues like some in my group) or Hong Yei, which I think might not be Sichuan-y enough. I've promised first class ma la, and there are one or two in the group who will know the difference.

        1. re: jesstifer

          There aren't that many "pure" Sichuan places in the SGV, and all but a couple of them are north of the 10 (and for that matter the other two are east of the 605 as well).

          Pretty much leaves Yunnan Garden, which is run by same family as Yunkun - albeit with a larger cold table and some menu differences, or the newish Spicy City. Spicy City has good versions of water boiled fish/beef, cold table and great fried chicken cubes. Not sure about the wontons in chili oil and I have no idea what their policy is on alcohol. You'd have to check with them.

          1. re: JThur01

            After reading your article last month and again being reminded here, went to Spicy City yesterday. H2O-Boiled Fish was very tasty, fish was perfectly cooked, multiple layers of chili flavor/heat. Problem was the complete lack of flavor/sensation from 花椒 (huājiāo). A hefty dose of wok-roasted Sichuan peppercorns is essential for this and many other Sichuan dishes. Its omission is unacceptable!
            My inclination is to not return and try other dishes, what would you suggest?

            1. re: sel

              The fried chicken cubes are good, and their stinky tofu is surprisingly good. I like their cold noodles as well.

              Hmm, interesting about the 花椒. I've gotten decent numbing from some dishes there, while some have been lighter than usual. Ask a server, perhaps they can answer and suggest dishes with more of the sensation. And report back, I'd be interested in that too!

              1. re: JThur01

                I'll try them again soon, I'd like an alternative to the pair of 'Yun....' restaurants. Thanks!

          2. re: jesstifer

            Yunnan Garden might take reservations. Have you tried calling them?

            1. re: jesstifer

              My last visit to Chung King was really sub par.


              My default for Sichuanese dishes is actually Yunnan Garden on Las Tunas.


              Their dishes will provide the ma la you seek. I find their wontons in chili oil to be the among the approximations in LA. And that numbing beef in the cold dishes case is spectacular, as is the water boiled fish. Be sure to balance your meal out with some cool dishes too... bitter melon with egg, jade celery, etc. Rice will not put out the fire-- it only absorbs it!

              Otherwise, you're probably looking at heading out to Shufeng Garden in Rowland Heights, though I know you're not interested in going that far. Great Sichuanese is, as JThur01 says, thin on the ground.


              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                +2 on Yunnan Garden.

                (As an aside, Mr. Taster, there's a Shufeng Garden in Monterey Park -- anyone know if it's related to the RH one with the same name?)

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  The newish sign outside clearly shows "Mrs. Chen's Tofu", the to-go menu shows "Mapo Tofu House" (in either language) and nothing about Shu Feng in Chinese. One of the owner's of Rowland Height's branch has Chen surname. OTOH, so does half of Rowland Heights.

                  The old LA County health inspection on 10/17/2012 shows: Shufeng (they got a B), but I never asked if they're related (because I'm an idiot).

                  I don't know how this joint, and H&H, survive...

                  1. re: TonyC

                    Ok, where is this Shufeng Garden in MPK? Apparently, I've managed to miss it, though I certainly can make out 花园 in Mandarin and I recognize 豆腐 as well.

                    1. re: JThur01

                      Is this the place that's known in English as Saporous Grill?

                        1. re: Chandavkl

                          What, this place?

                          The Chinese next to "Saporous" reads "big lucky restaurant"... the sign in the entryway reads "Northern pan fried vegetables". Not sure why anyone would confuse this with Sichuan/Shufeng Garden... I'm left baffled by your response.

                          Mr Taster

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            Yelp reviews dating back to October give this address. Perhaps one of those restaurants which don't bother changing the exterior signage.

                    2. re: TonyC

                      Sub-sign "Mrs Chen's mapo", main sign of "Mapo tofu house".

                      Some parts of the menu is all kinds of crazy, showing kidney with tofu flower, pickled chilis with tofu flower, etc.

                      1. re: TonyC

                        That makes it the four faces of Eve, which probably ties the record.

                    3. re: ipsedixit

                      I remember that Shufeng Garden was in Focus Plaza for about 6 months, but I didn't know of an outpost (whether legitimate or not) in MP.

                      My problem is that since I don't live in SGV, I'd hate to go and wind up with Chowhound regret... seriously, the thought of having a bad Sichuan meal when in such close proximity to Yunnan Garden would bug me for days.

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        Let's not get carried away, I wouldn't commit to dining there without more info. It would be safer to head to Rowland Heights. This definitely requires further investigation. I probably won't be in the area for a few weeks, so...

                        1. re: Mr Taster

                          OK here's the deal. The signage outside still says Saporous Grill. The menus say Shufeng Garden. And the business cards say Ma Po Tofu House. Take your pick. No cold table, but the menu looks like it could be the same enterprise as Monterey Park.

                          1. re: Chandavkl

                            What's the Chinese equivalent for Sybil?

                            Mr Taster

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              Answering my own question, I'm going with:


                              Mr Taster

                            2. re: Chandavkl

                              Well, according to the LA County Health Dept., it's Shufeng Garden ... at least as of Oct. 2012.


                          2. re: ipsedixit

                            Went to Shufeng Garden in MP. They say they are the same as the Shufeng in RH

                            Dan Dan spectacular. Zhong Dumplings spectactular. Not enough szechuan peppercorns in the Chicken Cubes. No cold table. Will return.

                            1. re: echoparkdirt

                              Thanks for the reconnaissance work, echoparkdirt. The whole thing still seems a bit dodgy (no cold dishes?!) but it's worth giving it a shot.

                              Mr Taster

                              1. re: echoparkdirt

                                Please see separate thread for an update...

                                1. re: echoparkdirt

                                  Thanks for the reminder. The Zhong dumplings, requested extra spicy, really rang my bells.

                              2. re: Mr Taster


                                >>I find their wontons in chili oil to be the among the BEST approximations in LA.


                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  Yes, thanks to Chandavkl and echoparkdirt for the initial report and visits. Wow, Shufeng is still my favorite place for Sichuan. If I don't have to go the extra distance to RH, all the better.

                                  Taster, keep in mind Shufeng in the San Gabriel Square didn't get around to adding a cold table until near the end.

                            1. re: banjoboy

                              Everything but the noodle dishes at Lucky Noodle are not very good.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Really? I love their spicy water boiled fish!

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    Lucky Noodle is not so lucky for customers

                            2. Thanks, all, for the rare unanimity! Went to Yunnan Garden, and yes, they did take a reservation for our large group.

                              We loved it. House special noodles were divine. Likewise the cold spicy beef. The wonton, agreed, were the best I've had. Boiled fish, and Dan Dan Noodles, too. In general, liked the soups and stews better than the stir frys, which were very salty and, I think, heavily MSGed. Tried the frog stir fry; wife said, "Ack, frog knees!" and that about sums that up.

                              Service was good, but why must they always ask if we're ready to order while we're still taking coats off? Do Chinese walk in the door already knowing what they're going to order for 10 people? Only other gripe was that "beer and wine" means beer. And beer means Budweiser, or nothing. We also ordered way too much food; server insisted on bringing two of almost everything. Good problem to have, as the bill was still less than 20pp, and my wife is presently scarfing cold wonton.

                              1. Would love to try Lucky Noodle King. Yelp said no alcohol, though. Do they allow BYO? Otherwise it's strictly for lunch. ;-)

                                1. Adding Yunnan Garden to my list. Has anyone tried Taste of Chong Quing on Valley Blvd? If so how does it compare?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: young_chower

                                    Taste of Chong Qing was promising, definitely in the Yunnan/Yunkun tier, but...sadly, it closed last year and was replaced by a second Haige Star Boulevard.

                                    1. re: young_chower

                                      I've always preferred Yunkun slightly over Yunnan, but that seems to be one of the great SGV debates...made even more humorous by the restaurants being run by the same family. Yunnan usually has a few more cold table items.

                                      1. re: JThur01

                                        My God, I just went to Yunkun and the cold table was enormous!

                                        that was yummy. wasnt a huge fan of the dan dan noodles or the Fried Chicken Cubes....