I arrived at Chung King under the pretense of some serious bromance. Now, every since J started applying to dental schools, it’s been like pulling teeth (heh, pun intended) to get him out of the house… let alone eat a proper dinner at a restaurant with me.
Perhaps it’s a medical student mentality. He needs to stay grounded, stay “in the zone.” That’s part of the reason I headed up to San Fran for a weekend trip. I needed someone to go out with — even if she was all the way up north.
But when J’s childhood friend asked him to go out for some Sichuan food, he didn’t even hesitate. Heck, he barely even asked what was going to be on the menu (a rarity for him).
I let him be. The kid’s stressed and at least I was going with.
And as the circle of bros caught up on Pokemon card trading tactics in elementary school, I marveled at the food. To be honest, the restaurant can be potentially frightening at night. It sports a fluorescent red light as signage and it stands by itself on the corner of San Gabriel and Fairview. The interior is dark and because it’s such a tiny space, there aren’t much conversations going around. I believe our party of seven was the largest around.
As for the food? Amazing.
I started off with the boiled fish in Sichuan peppercorns. It has everything to make a mouth go foul: a generous heaping of coarsely grated garlic on top, thick, starchy chili oil, dangerously blood red chili flakes, and scallions for decorative measures. Now for those who aren’t familar with the mala qualities of peppercorns, they literally numb and have almost a lemony/peppery aftertaste. But with the spice comes an addictive longing for more. The white, flaky fish was drenched in sauce. And even though my tongue was burning, I found myself taking a big helping, slathering it all on my bowl of white rice and consuming each bite greedily.
Our host for the evening was generous enough to suggest some non-spicy options. Bean curd, cabbage , and a smoked pork dish were among our selections. As a tofu fanatic, I found myself reaching for the bean curd in between bites.
But the highlight of the night had to be the fried chicken.
Oh god how do I describe it? Perhaps a string of adjectives will be appropriate: crispy, peppery, meaty, crunchy, convenient (no bones), and of course — spicy. I found myself subconciously comparing the dish to Bowien’s version up in SF. Just as good, but nowhere near as famous.
Six dishes for seven people and the price came out to be an average of $10 per person including tip and tax.
1000 S San Gabriel Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776