Nursing a Sunday afternoon hangover, four of us decided to venture to Montery Park for a Sichuan food experience.
After some searching, we found our initial destination- Best Szechuan. Unfortunately, the 'C' rating in the window was sufficient to scare off my companions (cowards, I tell you, fools and cowards), and we rolled across the street in search of Hua's Garden, which Johnathan Gold had written a positive review of at one point.
In place of Hua's Garden (at the same address)- Yun Gui Garden. We decide to try it.
On entering the interior was extremely clean and bright with some unobtrusive pastel color scheme. Seeing the somewhat out of place tattooed freaks, a waitress with excellent english comes to take over for our first server, and returns through the rest of the meal to answer our many questions.
We begin with some tastes from the cold counter-
bean curn noodles- a bit crunch/chewy, didn't leave much of an impression
green beans- very tasty with kind of a tanginess
radish- pickled?- a bit musky, cool.
pigs ear- gorgeous! Thin glossy strips streaked with a beautiful brown and creamy white- like shaved agate. The texture- a bit slippery-chewy but not unpleasantly- rich with hits of star anise and smoke
Yunnan rice noodle soup- a subtle light broth with rice noodles, cilantro?, beef shavings, tripe, and hacked chicken. Good but not distinctive.
Wontons in chili sauce- spectacular. Best wontons I've had in LA yet. Lovely little wontons, elegantly wrapped, with a fresh tasting pork filling in a complex, medium-hot chili sauce. I will order this every time I return, too good to ever walk by.
Yunnan style dried beef- chips of beef with hot peppers. One person remarked that it tasted like popcorn- maybe cooked in corn oil? Interesting, the sort of thing you just have to keep nibbling at.
Cumin lamb- sooooo good! Shredded lamb with an intense cumin flavoring. Just wonderful.
Szechuan special cured duck- a smoked cold duck dish, decent, but not distinctive.
Chickem chow mein- I resisted the ordering of this, but it was actually quite good, with a hint of cumin in it. This became necessary in order to prevent damage from the next dish-
Chingqing Mini Hot Pot- By 'mini', I think they were refering to the car, which was about the same size as this deep red metal cauldron filled with yam cakes, bean noodles, handfuls of dried red peppers, sichuan pepper, beef, tofu, and fish. My first experience with sichuan pepppercorns- a numbing mentholated mouth-feel like nothing I've ever had. This is spice as hallucinogen, rocking all of us back on our heels. The citrus nature of sichuan pepper floats around, accompanied by this sense of fire. The broth is rich and velvety with wonderful light chunks of flaky fish within it. This was truely spectacular- deeply soulful complex food, extremely satisfying on a grey day.
For finishers- 'rice bowl' a bowl of thin rice porridge with egg and little gelatinous sesame seed balls floating through. Odd, with a slightly fermented taste to the broth, the combination works well as a light digestive after a meal which seemed a culinary riot.
All in all, an extraordinary experience which reminded me of why I love Los Angeles so much.