We ate marvelous vegetarian food at Monterey Park's Chung King Restaurant last week. And the enthusiastic service was almost hysterically good after a pair of round-eyes deployed some Mandarin. After stopping at Ding Pangzi Bakery & Deli for soy milk and a slushy (this place, run by a Pekingese woman and frequented by northern Chinese customers, specializes in farinaceous treats sold to go--the menu is vast; I'd never seen graham crackers sold in a Chinese restaurant before) and filling our wine bucket with ice we were ready for the marvelously ma (numbing hot) food at Chung King. The vivacious waitress recommended a range of appetizers, so in addition to seaweed threads and gingered celery we had a number of Sichuanese specialties, including a mungbean (mao2 dou4) dish with beancurd skin (bai3 ye4) and others based on xuecai and other preserved vegetables. Then a favorite I've only had at Chung King: he2 shui3 dou4 hau1 or "river water bean flower," a delicate plain bean curd served with a marvelously spicy dressing that you spoon onto it. Tiger skin blistered chiles (hu3 pi2 qing1 jiao1), my favorite dish of the day. Cold noodles unexpectedly dressed with crunchy sugar--good but decidedly odd.
Waitresses washed the wine glasses we brought, added more ice to our wine bucket, were anxious that every dish be to our liking. Truly astonishingly good service.
The 2002 Mueller-Catoir trocken riesling we brought was divine and went well with the meal for the first few courses, until all the chile heat overwhelmed our tastebuds.
A memorable meal.
Chung King Restaurant
206 S. Garfield Ave., near Garvey
Ding Pangzi Bakery & Deli
123 N. Lincoln Avenue (mall off of Garfield)