Asian dining all weekend---yeah!
Dinner at Chung King, finally. I liked it. The food, that is; there's no ambiance to speak of, just a brightly-lit room with formica tables and the ubiquitous Chinese cafe chairs. But the prices reflect the setting, very reasonable. And the liquor store nearby sells Stella Artois six-packs, which the Chung King staff will happily uncap for you (no additional service charge).
I picked out three cold dishes: peanuts with small fish (candied guppies), pickled Chinese green beans (delicious, but cut into tiny, tiny pieces that really keep you busy), and sliced pig ear (this was the standout of the three---nice crunch, just a hint of hua jiao [Sichuan peppercorn], and really pretty, in a "Body Worlds" kind of way).
For entrees we had:
-Stir-fried eel with pickled pepper. This was very nice, not too spicy or fishy, good eel flavor. And a nice contrast to the other "red-spicy" dishes ($6.99).
-Crisp rice crust with three delicacies (fish, chicken, and sea cucumber). This kind of grew on me, but it's one of those dishes thickened with a lot of corn starch, like in some Cantonese dishes. None of the delicacies really stood out. This was our non-spicy selection ($7.55).
-Sichuan cold noodles in special sauce. The waitress insisted we try this. I asked for dan dan mein because one of our party had never tried Sichuan food, but the waitress stood firmly against it. Maybe she thought we didn't have a good balance of flavors. Anyway, these cold noodles were heavy and sticky-sweet; yech, we left most of it on the plate. I'm certain that if one of our Chinese friends was with us, the waitress would never have made the suggestion. Or, at least we would have understood the argument ($4.25).
-Water-boiled fish. A great version of this standard dish (at least it compares well with what I've tried in Chengdu and Chongqing). The fish was like butter and the broth showed the deft hand of a cook who understands that more "ma" is not necessarily better. However, my brother found it excessively oily (he'd never tried it before anywhere else, though, and it's no oilier than any other place makes it). I think it's the best version I've had in L.A. It's called "boiled fish slices in hot sauce" on the menu.
-I got a take-out order of ma po doufu for the S.O., who couldn't join us. I tried a bite before he gleefully consumed it, and, like the water-boiled fish, it showed that you don't need a lot of hua jiao to make the point. I liked the fish better, but I'm not the one who's crazy about ma po doufu.
I've tried three other Sichuan places in SGV and this is the one I like best.
Chung King Restaurant
206 S. Garfield Ave (south of Garvey)
Monterey Park 626-280-7430
Cash only, BYOB