More of that good peppery, spicy stuff in Monterey Park.
I was almost embarrassed to walk in. The place was nearly deserted.
Granted it was like an hour and a half after lunch, but…what are you gonna do.
Shen Yang is the second Northern Chinese place I’ve been to in as many weeks. This time I was going to do it right. First at Chengdu Taste, then at Szechuan Impression, I saw the Lamb Sticks on the menu, and both times I got something else.
Today was the day. I was coming off a particularly stressful day, and Toothpick Lamb was the thing that was going to pick me up.
Walking in, there were two tables occupied. One table of four men, and one guy who looked like he was kitchen staff.
I’m interrupting their lunch.
The Hostess here didn’t look particularly thrilled to see me, but still got me a table, took my drinking and food oder in a snap, and we off to the races. I figured, as long as I didn’t start making any kind of ridiculous demands, we’d all be cool.
You might be forgiven for driving by Shen Yang during any sojourn through Monterey Park. I’m on relatively familiar ground. One of my many 99 Ranches is right around the corner. I’m walking distance from Tokyo Fried Chicken Company. I’m a two minute drive from Elite. I have every right to think I know what I’m doing around here.
And yet, here Shen Yang is…and I never knew about it.
It is one of those places with the Peppers that makes your mouth slowly go numb as you eat them.
Now, I have to say again (if I haven’t said it already) that the Sichuan Peppers may be an acquired taste. I like them. I even like the heat they throw off.
The disconcerting thing, the thing you must get used to as you eat all this wonderful stuff is how it makes…well, everything that’s not covered in these peppers taste.
It can be a bit mediciney, truth be told. Drinking the water that I was supposed to be using to cool my tongue down, tasted strange. This is totally normal. For the uninitiated, this is what is supposed to happen. Just let it ride.
WHAT SHOULD YOU GET?: If you look at Yelp, you will see some absolutely fabulous recommendations as to what to get here, but like I said, my date with Toothpick Lamb destiny had been delayed long enough.
I’d gotten Lamb Sticks many a time at the 626 Night Market and even at Liang’s Kitchen in Monterey Park (also a two minute drive from Shen Yang’s). Each time they were labeled “spicy” and eat time I handled them easily. I had more trouble with hardened chunks of fat than I did with the spicy stuff it was dipped in. I knew going in these were going to be a different story. When my Hostess asked how spicy, I said “Medium with a measure of trepidation…
…but to my surprise, my Toothpick Lamb arrived and it was delicious. It was spicy, but spicy tasty, not “find me a firehose, my mouth is on fire”. Whatever they did here, Medium translated as to perfect as far as spice level–
–oh yeah. There goes the numbing.
I’ve already warned you about that, so just keep working. At no point (at least if you’re me) will you feel your mouth set ablaze. If you have any doubts, just go for mild and enjoy the ride.
The hardest thing is working through the Toothpicks themselves. Once you get in a rhythm, you should be able to strip those suckers in one bite, but every once in a while you’ll have to go back for a second nosh. And don’t forget the onions in the mix, they’re delicious too.
That being said, I was too chicken@#$% to bite into one of the peppers.
I’m not that crazy.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: I think the concerns raised on Yelp about there being a language barrier at Shen Yangs between the Chinese and non-Chinese native speakers is overblown. You’ll be fine.
Also, the numbing effect last about 30 minutes after you finish eating, so it doesn’t last forever.
PARKING: Not as easy as it looks. There is a lot in back of the restaurant that Shen Yang’s shares with another business. But it looked filled up, and I wasn’t about to tempt fate with their neighbors.
Parking along Garvey seemed a bit much to ask. There is a lot of traffic along that street, and you don’t necessarily feel comfortable leaving your ride as alone and exposed as it is. Plus there’s the matter of climbing back in, or climbing out.
I found a spot on the next right over, on North Chandler. Found a free spot there, and hoofed it half a block. No problems.
Shen Yang Restaurant (Monterey Park)
639 W. Garvey Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Tel: (626) 576-9088