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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:

A-Frame
Akasha
Alcazar
Angeli Caffe
Angelini Osteria
Animal
Antojitos Carmen
Attari
Babita
Bludso's
Border Grill
Bottega Louie
Bulgarini Gelato
Cacao
Campanile
Casa Bianca
Chang's Garden
Chego
Chichén Itzá
Chung King
Church & State
Ciro's
Comme Ça
Cut
Dae Bok
Din Tai Fung
Drago Centro
El Huarache Azteca
El Parian
Elvirita's
Euro Pane Bakery
Eva
Fab Hot Dogs
Father's Office
Fig
Gjelina
Golden Deli
Golden State
Good Girl Dinette
The Gorbals
Guelaguetza
Guisados
Huckleberry
Hungry Cat
Ink.
Jar
Jitlada
Kiriko
Kobawoo
La Casita Mexicana
Langer's
Larkin's
Lazy Ox Canteen
Le Comptoir
Little Dom's
Lou
Lucques
LudoBites
Lukshon
Mantee
Marouch
Mayura
Meals by Genet
Mélisse
Mezze
Mo-Chica
Mother Dough
Mozza
Musso & Frank Grill
Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa
Newport Tan Cang Seafood Restaurant
The Nickel
Night + Market
Oinkster
101 Noodle Express
Palate Food + Wine
Park's Barbecue
Picca
Playa
Pollos a la Brasa
Providence
Ray's
Red Medicine
Rivera
Rustic Canyon
Salt's Cure
Sapp Coffee Shop
Sea Harbour
Son of a Gun
Sotto
Spago
Spice Table
Street
Tacos Baja Ensenada
Tasting Kitchen
Terroni
Tsujita L.A.
Vincenti
Waterloo & City

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Chung King

1000 S. San Gabriel Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91776

626-286-0298