Armed with a vague mental recollection of some archived reviews (including J. Gold's), I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about with Chung King, 206 S. Garfield, Monterey Park. I had been nursing a cold and thought (wrongfully so, I would soon find out) that some spicy food could help clear the sinuses.
I promptly ordered the Fried Chicken with Hot Peppers that I recall was often mentioned as one of the restaurant's specialties. Being Chinese, I'm no stranger to Chinese food, but I am a total noob when it comes to Szechuan cuisine. What I saw in front of me overwhelmed me instantly. My first impression was that under that layer of hot peppers would lie some nice, large cubes of chicken.
I couldn't be more wrong. The dish should be called "Hot Peppers with Fried Chicken bits". Lost in the peppers were smallish bits of chicken. As expected, it numbed my tongue and accentuate the saltiness of the other dishes. Perhaps this dish should have been sampled last. At least the peppers weren't the type to irritate the throat.
Evaluated on its own merits, I thought the flavor was quite unique. But I couldn't consider it a typical entree. Would seem better suited as a snack food to be consumed with beer.
The other dishes we ordered were the Rice Crust with Three Delicacies (sizzling rice) and a tofu hot pot - I don't remember the exact names. The Rice Crust was quite good. The pot seemed more like a soup, and a salty one at that, as J. Gold rightfully describes the dishes at this place.
So, you can blast me as being uninitiated to Szechuan cuisine, and you would be correct. Or, perhaps, this place might be considered a bit overhyped, a la House of Nanking in SF. Either way, I won't be returning to Chung King anytime soon. It was good for the experience, but it's just not my cup of tea. YMMV, of course.
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