Jerome’s recent dinner at Best Szechwan yielded some new favorites–like the “hot and numbing kidney flowers” (mala yao hua), actually called spicy fried kidney on the menu. It’s pork kidney, cut decoratively into little flowers like squid, stir-fried with lots of black wood-ear mushrooms and other vegetables in a thin gravy. The kidney isn’t as gamy as in, say, steak and kidney pie–it’s soft and mild, more like monkfish liver. The wood ear makes a great contrast.

Water-boiled fish slices (shuizhu yu pian), in this case sole, come in chile-oil broth with tons of yellow bean sprouts. It’s great, and very spicy, although it’s not a heat that burns on and on, and it’s balanced by other flavors like herbal and floral, and manages to be both rich and delicate.

Herbal smoked duck (zhang-cha ya) is warm and smoky, wonderfully balancing out the spicier typical Sichuan dishes. It’s smoked with camphor and tea leaf.

Three flavored sizzling rice soup (san-xian guoba tang) is short on soup–the broth is thickened and full of chicken, mushrooms, shrimp, pork, and bamboo shoots, but the house-made sizzling rice squares are smoky, crunchy, and really good.

Spicy wonton soup (chaos hour) isn’t a soup and doesn’t have wontons, but it is spicy. It’s actually Sichuanese boiled dumplings (different from wontons) in a chile-d up broth. No sauce needed.

Also good: braised shrimp (gan shao xia ren), nearly sauceless and mildly spiced.

Half a dozen main dishes and some cold appetizers, and four bottles of beer comes to about $70 with tax, before tip.

Best Szechuan Chili & Seafood [San Gabriel Valley]
230 N. Garfield Ave., Monterey Park

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