Question: Sichuan is a landlocked province. I know; I looked it up on
a map. And I understand why the new sort of Sichuan café in Monterey Park features
frogs and eels on its menu rather than grouper and crab. But there are times
when I want to eat as if I lived in Chengdu worker housing, and there are times
when something a little posher may be in order. Is there such a thing as truly
Sichuan seafood, or should I stick with the kung pao shrimp at the Panda
Inn — kung pao shrimp that happen to be better than you think they might
—Cynthia, Temple City
Answer: All the Sichuan restaurants have seafood, if you
count the deceptively named dish called water-boiled fish, which you should
— it is often the spiciest dish on menus filled with extremely spicy things.
And there are usually a couple of shrimp dishes on every menu. But the new ownership
of the venerable Best Szechwan in Monterey Park has remade the place
into something very like a Sichuan-style fish house, and the results, although
the menu looks a lot closer to Taiwan-style Sichuan than to the new kind, are
pretty good: dan dan mien; cold pork with spicy garlic sauce; tea-smoked
duck; even kung pao shrimp. The dining room is dotted with bubbling tanks,
and the live seafood here is often the best bet: fried rounds of tofu garnished
with chile sauce and lobster meat; braised fish with multiple chiles. The food
at Best Szechwan lacks something of the primal urgency of the cooking at Chung
King or Yungui Garden, but there is always the “jumping lobster,” a luscious,
boiled live crustacean doused with three kinds of Sichuan fire. 230 N. Garfield
Ave., No. 12D, Monterey Park; (626) 572-4629.
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