Well no more 120 mile drives to LA for Chung King. While driving onto a side street to make a turn around on Clairemont Mesa Blvd, we turned into Diane Ave - I noticed what looked like a new Chinese Restaurant and pointed it out to my wife, who remarked after reading the Chinese name "hmmmm..this might be pretty good". So of course being the dedicated Hound that I am we ended up there for dinner, and have returned several times (to verify of course)! And finally good (not great, but good) authentic Szechuan!
At first sniff I knew this place had potential, you could smell the chilies and peppercorns in the air("I love the smell of napalm in the morning), the place was rather crowded even at 5pm, and everyone except myself was speaking Mandarin, a very good sign - also the cold dishes looked good and fresh!
The Fu Qui Fein Pein is excellent, great cuts of meat and tendon without the fiborous ligament between the meat - though not as "hot" as ChungKing, still the best I've had in SD, and the quality and taste far superior to DeDe's. The Beef tripe is ok, but it's the red peppers (not the hot type) gave it a sweet taste. The dried beef is sliced not shredded and I'm mucnhing on some as I write this up. The DanDan noodles were a bit strange - they were served hot, and though spicy, was truly lacking in the peanuts and sweetness that is to my taste.
Ed will love the Rice crust dishes, they have good flavor - though ChungKing is better, this is still a good rendition. Boiled fish in hot sauce is good, all is actually good. Next time we'll try the fried fish that was being ordered by everyone the two times we've been there.
We also noticed that the menu, which is the paper copy (they also have a plastic copy that has mostly the "gringo" stuff on it) looked eerily familiar to ChungKing - turns out the chef worked at Chung King and another Szechuan Restaurant(whose name escapes me at this moment) in LA.
If you like authentic style Szechuan, not city style (i.e. Spicy City), you might give this place a try, I believe it's much better than DeDe's or any other place I've eaten Szechuan in SD. I think the food even surpasses the food we had for our Szechuan Banquet a few years back. Remember as I stated years back - Szechuan is food of the people and the heat (though not really as hot as ChungKing or Oriental Pearl in LA) may bother some - also the amount of oil used may bother those not used to this cuisine.
Maybe we can schedule another Chowhound Szechuan feast....
Anyway, you be the judge!
Ba Ren Restaurant
4957 Diane Ave.
San Diego, CA 92117
(Right off Clairement Mesa Blvd between the 805 and Genesee)
They've been open for about a year - clientel mostly Mainland Chinese, Mandarin is the main language, though service is very good and the pewople friendly and helpful.