Thursday, May 15, 2008

Some Like It Hot..and Some Don't @ Chung King (San Gabriel)

If there is a movie named after the food served here, it would be "Some Like It Hot".

Alas, it wasn't sexy hot like Marilyn Monroe, but an awkward hot just like how Jack Lemmon felt wearing the lady get-ups in the movie.

On a faithful afternoon, I went in very blindly on what to expect from the food served here. Didn't do much on the research or read up on the dishes that was served here. So I let my dining companions who do have good ideas on what to order at this location. We were very excited to try out this location because it was highly recommended by LA Weekly's Jonathan Gold.

The location of this restaurant is a stand alone restaurant on San Gabriel Blvd away from the busy streets of Valley Blvd and Las Tunas where galore of Chinese restaurants are bumper to bumper next to each other. It is a quiet small little yellow house in a street that is surrounded by local small businesses that is pretty much resembled what The Andy Griffith show was showing on its re-runs.

It is a small place with two big tables and a half dozen small booth seats. I was getting the feeling the decor matches with a Catina or a Mexican restaurant as I'm pretty sure the restaurant took over the former resident of this establishment. There is an AC blasting to cool down a hot afternoon, but a fan was blowing right into one spot of the table. Our waitress told me ahead of time in not to sit at that one booth because so many customers were complaining their hair was going to be cold dry, so I took it as a sign to move into another table before my dining companions shows up.

Before we ordered the dry beef, we tried to ask a question about a beef/fish in small pot as we wanted to know if the dish comes in a soup bowl. Our waitress was a little dismissive of the question and quickly suggested the dry beef in pot as she insisted that was the most popular dish. In a way I was taken aback by the exchange, but I was a little bit more appreciated when the dish came out because it might signaled to me that the fish was not good that day (or they found it easier to cook it along with the lamb. As the pictures indicated, they looked almost identical).

Dry Beef in Pot

My overall thought about the food runs in the line of it's spicy hot for people who appreciated, but not necessary for people who want just to try something new. The dishes are Sichuan (or popular spelled Szechwan) specialties that relies so much on Sichuan peppercorn which has this super numbing effect of making it spicy hot for all the diners.

The beef and lamb we have ordered with the spices are stirred dry until it was ready to be chew. The cold chicken in many of the other Chinese specialties would have been served with wine sauce or dipped in soy sauce. At this location, it was lavished with good amount of spicy pepper and thick hot sauce to change the flavor of the chicken. The won tons themselves were dipped in a bowl of spicy hot soup.

Spicy Chicken

For a brief moment I actually lost a sensation in my tongue as my taste buds went south after a bout of spicy food. After deciding to power through the spicy food and not slowing down because the spiciness of the food will overpower you.

I realized in that I really never got the full fulfillment on the flavor or the taste of the food. The spiciness can be overpowering and done it with a bit much to turn you red instead of letting you enjoy the succinct flavor of the regions of the food. That was a bummer point for me throughout the meal.

Spicy Hot Lamb

It is also a "take it or leave it" kind of a place, where it's not like Shin Shen Guimi where you dial up or dial down the spicy level of the food. It is very hard to tell whether or not they overdone the hotness of our food or this was the norm. If it was the norm, then we really were sweating after our meal. I felt like I was in Sahara desert searching for that elusive water fountain. Luckily our server came back often to check on us to get us plenty of liquid to quench our thirst.

Spicy Won Tons

After our initial order, the service was actually very good and attentive throughout the course of our meal. We really needed it throughout the meal to get our water refilled.

After enduring the pain and sufferings of our spicy food, I can honestly say that Orochon Ramen is nothing compared to this place. I probably would suggest people to come here if they love spicy food.

What's left of that dry Beef in small pot. All those hot peppers and spices!

Be warned though, it's not easy to endure for the people who are used to mild or medium spicy.

Chung King
1000 S. San Gabriel Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 286-0298


Chung King on Urbanspoon

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