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Restaurants & Bars 5

Best Szechwan

Jerome | Mar 19, 2005 08:10 PM

So finally ate at best szechwan. They have the gwailo menu and the "REAL" menu, chinese characters only.

Sorry, that's the way to go. Knowing this, armed with two older guidebooks to China in Chinese, (one just for Beijing, but it includes descriptions of Sichuan restaurants that have the names of famous dishes. Note: I'm no expert or even close to it when it comes to the range of food of the old Kingdom of Shu, ie Sichuan. I don't know the full range of Chengdu snax, or chongqing banquet dishes, the range of freshwater fish, the way they deal with dried seafood or fish brought up river.

Short descriptions of the dishes follow, plus the explanation of one misstep in ordering. Note on famous dishes as well. Note: sichuan food is known for seven taste components - sweet salty sour bitter piquant (la - capsicum) numbing - ma (sichuan peppercorn component) and guai, strange (don't know).

COld dish- MaLaYaoHua - Mala (Numbing and piquant)flower-cut pork kidneys. These were boiled and sauced, placed over spicy marinated bean sprouts. The cut makes the meat tender and lets it absorb more sauce. Cilantro abounds, and nuts and I liked it, others not so much.

GuaiWeiJi - Strange-flavor chicken. A FAMOUS dish from Sichuan. Bits of chicken along with some hacked bone, calcium rich and tendony and a fave with one, are served in an intensely interesting sauce beyond my ken. I'm sure there's some tangerine peel, peppercorns, anise, chilies (whole dried pods are visible), garnished with beautifully-cut chunks of cucumber. Thoughtit would be warm, was cold. Really good.

Hong You Chaoshou - spicy wonton (red-oil "stir-fried hands"). Served in more liquid than elsewhere. More subtly spiced. The dumplings were bigger than I'd had before and the noodle "skin" was softer and more delicious. The broth had vegetable leaves floating in it and the only was a smattering atop the liquid. Fish them out and eat them, leave the broth, it's just for flavor. tasty, worth while. Famous Dish.

DouBan Yu, Spicy bean paste fish. The fish here was a very fresh and mild Carp I think (liyu). The fish was surrounded by bits of doufu and peas that were happier here, I promise you, than in MaPo Doufu (they make it, we didn't get it this time). The fish was delicate and a good mild balance to the intensity of the paste-rich sauce. Good, a house specialty, FAMOUS DISH.

Frog "BAO" - not the same bao as in XiaoLong Bao. The character Bao (the word for preserve over the fire radical) means (acdg to Mandarintools.com) "to heat; to boil a saucepan." The frog is fresh in the back. Very spicy, a few bones, a bit moist and fatty, served with a watery sauce and nice bamboo shoots. Interesting with large party. ALso good because it's a different method of cooking.

ZhangChaYa - Camphor (&) Tea (smoked) Duck. This came warm, no sauce, cut up duckling. NOT FATTY AT ALL, quite lean without being dry. Intense smoky flavor (The duck is roasted and then minutes before it's done, is placed in the roasting unit above a tray of camphor wood chips and tea leaves which smoke the duck). I Loved this. Intense flavor of a different kind. QUite good and a Famous dish.

I think we might have done better if we'd ordered a few cold dishes from the ready area to have another cooking style (ba - sliced cold dry dishes), and tried maybe a GanShao (dry roasted - meaning dry pan fried so the beef, e.g. gets like jerky, shrimp is also done this way) dish or a yuxiang (fish flavored) dish like the well-known eggplant, or a dish of stirfried pork with szechwan preserved vegetable (zhai-cai). But how much can a few people eat? NO need to answer, I'll find out soon enough.

If you take this review, and ask about ganshao dishes, or twice-cooked pork (huiguo [returned to pot] rou) or the above dishes you'll enjoy the place. The english language menu is just sad. Tell them you like frog if you're adventurous, it's not just legs, (no heads, at least no frog heads, relax). There are live crabs and there are a few non-sichuan dishes on the menu, avoid them - they have yangzhou fried rice. No. Not here. Walk 10 feet and have it at Giang-nan if you can't live without it.

THey also have a specialty we didn't try - Pijiu Ya, yeah, beer duck. The duck is somehow cooked with beer as an ingredient. Could be good. I was set on the camphor tea duck which is a classic dish. But the waitstaff said that the beer duck was good. Someone else can try it and let us know.

For some reason, the restaurant isn't listed on the lapublic right now - glitch I imagine. They had some problems - could come from the live frogs in the back, whoknows? But the restaurant is at or near the following address

Check the mall at
306 N Garfield
Monterey Park, CA

Number? Didn't get it. It's in the same mall as Giang Nan but in the southern wing at the eastern end of the wing, giang nan is at the eastern end of the northern wing.

Unlike Yungui, this is just sichuan food, yungui has Yunnan, Guizhou as well as Sichuan dishes.

Have fun.

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