In the San Gabriel Valley, themed restaurants are a different breed. There’s the completely politically incorrect Uncle Yu’s Indian Restaurant — which has waitresses wearing skimpy Native American outfits. Then there’s the odd Jurassic Park–themed eatery in Rowland Heights. There was the short-lived toilet restaurant in City of Industry a year ago. And now there’s this: a Communism-themed hot pot restaurant in Monterey Park. It’s called Private Party Restaurant, and it offers family-style hot pot. “Yes, sometimes people get a bit offended,” admits co-owner Jessica Zhang.
The restaurant is adorned with 1960s-style propaganda posters, but if you read the Chinese text closely, it has nothing to do with actual Communist propaganda,“You need to come frequently to this restaurant!” is a common slogan pasted on the walls. One sign reads: “While you are young, do all the bad things you can do.” Next to it: “If you don’t eat, how will you have the strength to lose weight?”
Waiters don Red Guard military uniforms — complete with the hat and the red arm band. Even their shoes — plain and black — are a flashback to the era of Mao.
Zhang says that Commie-themed eateries are in vogue these days in Northern China, and that she and her three other co-owners decided to bring the concept to Monterey Park because “it’s fun” and because many of them are from Northern China.
Private Party’s Chinese name is si rén bang, which means “private help” in Chinese. But the word “si rén” also sounds like “four people” in Mandarin — significant (and intentional) both as a reference to the “Gang of Four,” a group of Chinese political leaders who ran the Communist Party near the end of the Cultural Revolution, and because there are four owners of the restaurant.
As for the food, Private Party does Northern Chinese–inspired hot pot. Items are boiled in a copper pot with a funnel filled with hot coals in the middle. Skewers can be purchased for a buck apiece and laid on top of the funnel to grill.
“Back in the day, before electricity, the coals are what heated the entire hot pot,” Zhang explains.
The menu is extremely thorough: There are 16 seafood items, 20 types of meat and a selection of vegetables. Portion sizes are commendable, and and the tomato broth is so flavorful you won’t even need extra dipping sauces. It’s a bit ironic, really; large stacks of thinly sliced pork belly, beef and fresh vegetables would've made a true Red Guard blush or recoil in shock.
Private Party Restaurant, 111 N. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park; (626) 872-0599.