Fresh Fish and Frog at Hong Yei
There are a lot of new Sichuan restaurants in Los Angeles — real ones, staffed by chefs from Chungking or Chengdu, most of them with splendid cold-appetizer cases, decent dan dan mien, and food of a numbingly hot complexity most of us barely knew existed a half-dozen years ago. But at none of them, I think, is there anything quite like the Sichuan-style fish that is one of the specialties at the new Hong Yei in San Gabriel, a vast bowl of vegetable oil buried beneath 2 inches of toasted red chiles, and concealing a brace of snow-white fish fillets slow-poached in the flavored oil. The fish are firm yet melt away in the mouth, leaving a clean, spicy flavor behind, a wonderful dish that betrays little hint of the quart of grease left behind in the bowl, subtle almost in spite of itself. Some of the other dishes at Hong Yei aren’t quite up to the versions at other local Sichuan restaurants. The fried chicken with chiles is on the stodgy side, and the chile-marinated sliced beef too crumbly. The menu is plumped out with hotel-school eastern Chinese dishes that hardly seem promising. But the scarlet braised ma po tofu is first-rate. And I can hardly wait to go back and try the kidney with hot sauce, the Hong Yei tofu, and the many, many dishes made with what the menu calls “edible frog.” 288 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 614-8188. Beer-and-wine license pending. MC, V. Open daily, 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
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