Let's say that a correspondent has asked if you have been to the new Wuhan restaurant in San Gabriel, and let's say that you answer him, to save face, with the Internet equivalent of a smile and a nod. It is easy enough to find this restaurant — a quick Google search turns up a Facebook page, a post on a friend's blog and a Chowhound post by your correspondent, the San Gabriel Valley spicy-food maven Jim Thurman, whom I suspect has been the first customer at more than one Rosemead dan dan mian establishment. It is easy enough to find the restaurant, Tasty Dining, which is in a strip mall you have been frequenting since the 1990s, in a space you remember as a boba parlor.
It is even easy to order. The menu, though indifferently translated, is clear enough, and there are plenty of photographs on the walls. The specialty of the place seems to be something called griddles, which look to be something like hot pots, cooked at the table over Sterno burners billowing with flame. So you order one of those, choosing chicken wings instead of bullfrog, lobster, shrimp or pig's colon. The chicken-wing griddle is delicious, a dozen braised wings sizzling in scarlet oil with cauliflower, celery and mountains of potato, with more chiles, herbs and aromatics than it is possible to count.
When the waitress asked you if you wanted the griddle spicy, you told her "very," so her colleagues pass by frequently with glasses of sweet iced herb tea, partially to be helpful and partially, you suspect, because they are afraid that you might injure yourself. (I have never seen anybody eat this griddle, also known as a "dry pot," without breaking into a sweat.) You are happy and you are full, but this particular dry pot may have struck you as the Chinese equivalent of carne asada fries. You are not sure that this is all there is to Wuhan cuisine.
-- Jonathan Gold, Los Angeles TimesCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun