Chung King: 99 Essential Restaurants 2011

I spend an alarming portion of my reviewing life trying to prove a simple proposition: There must be a better Sichuan restaurant in the Los Angeles area than Chung King. I have chased around the San Gabriel Valley for years, looking for a crunchier version of fried chicken with hot peppers; a fresher version of the misleadingly named water-boiled fish, which combines soothing texture with acetylene-torch heat; and great, multiflavored beef casseroles so spicy they attack the nervous system like a phaser set to "stun." And while I have great affection for the Yunnan this and the Chongqing that, and while I wish Hacienda Heights' Shufeng was not quite so far away, there is no doubt: Chung King is still the gritty, grungy, pickle-spiked star of the local Sichuan restaurant community, the best source among many for Chinese bacon fried with leeks, for the cold, hacked chicken with chile, and the oozing lava of its ma po doufu. Chung King's brand of Sichuan cooking, sizzling with four or five kinds of chiles and smacked with the cooling, numbing sensation of Sichuan peppercorns, lies halfway between dentist's-chair Novocain and the last time you could afford a lot of blow. 1000 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel. (626) 286-0298. Daily, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Beer. Lot parking. Cash only. Chinese/Sichuan.

99 Essential L.A. Restaurants 2011:

Jonathan Gold's Introduction
Anne Fishbein's Photos
The Google Map

The List:

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