I'd like to thank all the LA hounds whose posts on this board helped me to have a couple of good 'hound experiences on a trip this past week. I'd have tried more places, but I was only here for a couple days, and some of my meals were "working lunch" or "working dinner" brought into the meetings I was attending.
1) A Korean buffet (Koji, maybe?) in the space that appears to have been previously occupied by Musha - NW of Carson and Western (the Musha Tokyo Restaurant sign is still hanging on the outside of the building). OK, normally I don't expect excellence over quantity at buffets, but a "do it yourself" Korean BBQ buffet is a neat idea. Quite tasty, and a good value for the money, at least at lunch time. I got there just as they were opening, and the ingredients available all seemed freshly prepared, with no signs of "been on the buffet too long" symptoms. If you go, try the bulgogi, the spicy chicken, and if you're feeling adventurous, the sliced beef heart.
2) Chung King Fried Chicken and chilis - Monterey Park
Can I come out with a big flat bed trailer and just take this place with me back to Baltimore? I had read the various reviews of this place in general, and this dish in particular. It lived up to all expectations. I really think the use of the "numbing spice" (szichuan peppercorns) in the dish is brilliant, in that it cuts some of the unpleasant burn of the large quantity of chilis, yet allows the full flavor of the chilis, chicken and onions to come through. I also noticed that the chef had removed the stems and seeds from the dried chilis, which also probably contributed to the balance of flavor to raw heat. I had the cucumbers in garlic sauce as an appetizer, which made for a lovely contrast.
There was a family at one of the big round tables, and the head of the clan turned and looked at me with sweat pouring down my forehead (the waitress alertly brought lots of napkins early on for me to mop my brow), and with a note of concern in his voice said "Is hot?" I grinned back and said "It's WONDERFUL!" which got a round of approving laughter and clapping from him and his family. I think I was adopted on the spot.
I only wish I had known it was "cash only". Had I known beforehand or noticed the sign prior to starting the meal, I'd have gone to an ATM, so I'd have had enough in my wallet to order another dish or two prior to heading to LAX for my redeye flight back. To steal a line from the Governator, "I'll be back!"