Sichuanese Dinner at Spicy City 重庆麻辣成 in San Gabriel, CA

Sichuanese Dinner at Spicy City 重庆麻辣成 in San Gabriel, CA

Walking into Spicy City last Sunday night, we were caught off guard by the new furnishings and new tableware/settings.  The servers had to reassure us that that was all that changed with the restaurant.  They still have the same chefs and still churn out delicious Sichuanese food that we’ve grown to love over the last 4 years.

Even their menus are new, although I preferred the old menus as they had photos of all the menu items, making it easier to identify what you want to order and what else looks tempting to try.

Food is almost as good as the last time we ate here.  There were a couple of noticeable changes.  The Rattan Pepper Fish didn’t seem to have the depth of flavors as before.  There was definitely Ma (numbing quality from the Sichuan peppercorns), but not enough La (spiciness from the chiles).  The Lamb Chops were tasty, but they’re really serving you lamb ribs as opposed to lamb chops, where you’d expect a nice portion of meat attached to the bone (which was what we had the last time we were here several months ago).

Other than that, we enjoyed the food and appreciated them fulfilling a couple of requests, such as preparing the Fried Shrimp with Red Chilis with shelled shrimps rather than with the whole shrimp (shell and head attached).

And while we didn’t take advantage of ordering desserts, we were served complimentary plates watermelon and assorted moon cakes (as this the time of the Chinese Autumn Festival).

As always, click on the thumbnail to enlarge the photo.

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Yunnan & Sichuan Dishes at Yunnan Restaurant 雲南過橋園 in Monterey Park, CA

Yunnan & Sichuan Dishes at Yunnan Restaurant 雲南過橋園 in Monterey Park, CA

When eating Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley of Greater Los Angeles, there are only a few Chinese restaurants that specialize Yunnan cuisine.  It’s probably not easy to offer considering it’s province of China that features over dozens and dozens of minority ethnic groups, such as the Miao, Dai and Bai peoples, and many of the dishes are made with regional ingredients we most likely don’t have in the U.S.

From what little research I have done, I found that Yunnan Restaurant offer at least a half dozen of dishes that are popular within that region of China, such as the every so popular Yunnan House Special (Crossing Bridges) Rice Noodle Soup with boned-in Chicken, and square slices of sandwich ham meat.   This dish was served table side, where a server will bring out all the ingredients on a compartmental tray and then start mixing them into the broth, followed by the long thick strands of rice noodles.  It was hearty but a light dish as well.

The Cured Pork with Leeks was tasty, but was too salty.  The same can be said for the Yunnan Dried Beef, which was a little salty and chewy.

We supplemented the rest of dinner by ordering some of the more Sichuan dishes such as the Kung Pao Chicken and the Chungking Style Spicy Shrimp (it’s normally whole shrimps with shells deep fried, but they offered to prepare a version with shelled shrimps.  I wonder if that was suggested to us since our table was half non-Chinese.  We opted for the shelled version).  These 2 dishes were stand outs for me.   We enjoyed the slight sweetness in the Kung Pao Chicken.  So much so, that we finished the dish in minutes.

Though the rest of the dishes ordered were good, they didn’t have enough Sichuan peppercorns nor the ma-la flavor profile to make the dishes sing.  Nevertheless, price-wise, you get ample amounts of food for your money, and that Cold Appetizers Bar at the front of the restaurant is a much try.

 

Return Visit for More Sichuan at Best Noodle House 重慶小面 in Rosemead, CA

Return Visit for More Sichuan at Best Noodle House 重慶小面 in Rosemead, CA

Second dinner here revisiting some of the dishes that we enjoyed during the last dinner and trying a few new dishes as well.  Most of the dishes were excellent.  Aside from the dried red chiles and Sichuan peppercorns, their usage of a chile bean paste (combination of red chiles and broad beans) was what made many of their dishes stand out, particularly with their Szechuan Dumplings.

The chile bean paste also provided a very bold and rich flavor to the broth that was served with their wontons.  Every drop of that broth was devoured.

Their Spicy Cold Jelly (noodles) were good as well.  The only fault with the execution of this dish is the temperature of the jelly.  Would be perfect if the jelly was cold and firm to the bite, but it was room temperature, giving it a less pleasurable taste.

Their Kung Pao Chicken had a great flavor with a hint of sweetness from the sauce, and a bit of crispiness from the flash fry of the chicken cubes.  Wished they had used a better quality of roasted peanuts as the ones in the dish didn’t have the crunchiness I’ve experienced with Kung Pao from other restaurants.

If you want that good smokiness from the Mala flavor (combination of the spiciness from the dried red chiles and the numbing effect from the Sichuan peppercorns), then the Lamb Chops have that.

We ended dinner with what appears to be the only dessert offered on the menu:  Black Sugar Ice Jelly.  Clear gelatin cubes in a slightly sweet broth made with black sugar, which is an unrefined sugar that has a darker brown color than brown sugar, and fermented rice that floats on top of the broth.  Nice palate cleanser and very refreshing.

If decide to eat at Best Noodle House, bring CASH, or arrange to pay them via PayPal or Venmo.

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the photo.

Xian Kitchen 西安食府 in City of Industry, CA

Xian Kitchen 西安食府 in City of Industry, CA

Small restaurant that opened back in 2014, serving up regional cuisine from Shaanxi Province (陝西) in North Central China, where hand-pulled noodles are popular, as well as flavor-forward dishes incorporating the use of ingredients such as cumin, garlic, green onions, dried red chiles, and vinegar.  Bordering the Sichuan Province to the north, it’s understandable why the last 2 pages of their menu feature many of the dishes you would find in Sichuan cuisine such as Mapo Tofu, Eggplant in Garlic Sauce, and Kungpao Chicken.  However, the most noteworthy dishes are the rou jia mo (肉夹馍, the Chinese style hamburger of baked buns made with fermented dough), lamb pao mo (羊肉泡馍, a lamb soup with rice vermicelli and pieces of bread made from fermented dough, often described as Chinese pita bread), and qi shan ground pork noodle (岐山臊子面, made with a rich, bright red broth using red chiles and vinegar.  Noodles, bean curd, egg, and green onions were featured in this noodle soup.)

The most of the dishes we ordered were delicious and quite distinct in flavor.  Popular with our table were the lamb pao mo, rou jia mo, and the qi shan ground pork noodles.  Quite a hearty dish was the Big Plate Chicken, which is a Uyghur dish (Xinjiang being not too far west of Shaanxi) made of hand pulled noodles, sautéed chicken, fried potatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic and cumin.  The dish was so big, it can easily feed up to 5 on its own.  Even a simple dish as stir fried cabbage with dried red chiles and black vinegar came out to be very flavorful.

Unfortunately, dumplings were the weakest part of the meal.  Though they’re popular in Southern and Northeastern China, the ones offered here were just not well seasoned at all.  Quite bland.

Service is here is “no frills” and may come across rude and flippant, but that’s how most Chinese restaurants are that don’t specifically cater to a Western audience.

Click on the thumbnail to enlarge.

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Another Sichuan Feast at Hop Woo 合和 in West LA

Another Sichuan Feast at Hop Woo 合和 in West LA

Came back for a hedonistic feast with a group of about 22.  This time, we wanted to sample more dishes on their Sichuan menu, as well as offering a couple of familiar Cantonese dishes to give our palates a rest from the barrage of spicy, mouth numbing food.  And in this meal we got quite a bit of that numbing quality from the Sichuan peppercorns used in the Boiled Fish with Rattan Peppers, and Rock Cod Fish.

Food was excellent as before, but many in our group enjoyed the shrimp, cauliflower and eggplant dishes a lot.

So glad that the former owner of Meet in Chengdu in Monterey Park sold off the restaurant in order to join forces at Hop Woo, bringing with him one of his better chefs.

Sichuanese and Cantonese Food at Hop Woo Restaurant 合和 in West LA

Sichuanese and Cantonese Food at Hop Woo Restaurant 合和 in West LA

I can remember when Hop Woo first opened on the Westside.  It was around 2000, and I was working for a solo practitioner/attorney in Bel Air at the time.  I discovered them when I was running errands in the area.  At that time, much like their sister restaurant in Chinatown, they were serving solid Hong Kong style Cantonese food, as well as offering a deli section with roast pork, BBQ pork, roast duck and soy sauce chicken to name a few.  However, when the interest plateaued over the years, so has the quality of the food.  And with that, the crowds became smaller at nights and weekends.

Recently, noticing the Los Angelinos’ craze for authentic Sichuanese cuisine, a new manager brought in a chef who specialized in preparing popular Sichuan dishes, and the result, from word of mouth, was packed dining rooms full of Chinese expats who work in the area or work/study at UCLA.

When ordering the Sichuanese dishes, ask specifically for the Sichuan 四川 menu, a paper menu, separate from the regular menu.  When ordering dishes such as Mapo Tofu or Kung Pao Chicken, which appear on both menus, indicate you want the Sichuan menu preparation, so that you don’t end up with the Americanized version.

The highlight of the menu is the Spicy Chicken (口水雞, cold chicken in spicy chile oil), where the meat is moist and silky, the type of chicken meat you expect in Hainan Chicken, but only now, it’s drenched in a bath of red chile pepper oil with sesame seeds.  Add Sichuan peppercorns, and you have an amazing dish that tingles you mouth nicely.

Their other dishes are quite good as well, especially when you ask them to reduce the amount of salt used in the preparation of the Sichuan dishes.  Sichuanese and Hunanese restaurants in the US, for some reason, use a lot of salt in their dishes.  Sometimes it enhances the Ma-La 麻辣 flavor (balance of the numbing sensation from the Sichuan peppercorns (or Ma 麻) and the spiciness from the dried red chile peppers (or La 辣).  Sometimes, after the spicy burn settles, it’s just salty.  Asking them to cook with reduced salt seemed to have solved that issue for us, though I wonder with the reduce salt, if it might have altered the flavors somewhat at all…

One disappointment has been the lack of Spicy Cold Jelly (Noodles).  It’s never been available every time I’ve eaten there in the last 3 months.    Oh, and parking here is a bitch.  Arrive early to find parking in the streets in the area.

Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the photo.

 

TEMPORARILY CLOSED: Delicious Sichuan Fare at Best Noodle House 重慶小面 in Rosemead

TEMPORARILY CLOSED: Delicious Sichuan Fare at Best Noodle House 重慶小面 in Rosemead

A true hole-in-the-wall found on the eastern end of the city of Rosemead where Valley Boulevard and Mission Road intersects, where the food is mouth-numbing from the aggressive use of Sichuan peppercorns as well as the spiciness from the dried Sichuan red chili peppers and chili oil.  Then tastes the layers of flavors found in each dish, and you have a delicious meal, and for me, it’s some of the best Sichuan food in the Los Angeles area, and at a price point that’s lower than many of the well known Sichuan restaurants such as Chengdu Taste and Szechuan Impression.

Place is CASH ONLY, and their servers speak Mandarin, Cantonese and English.