On our recent trips to Los Angeles our Sichuan eating has happened entirely at either Chengdu Taste or Szechuan Impression in the San Gabriel Valley (in the Alhambra motherships of both restaurants). This limited focus is not a mistake on our part: these are probably the two best Sichuan restaurants in the US. As our last meal at Szechuan Impression was in 2016 we’d planned to go back there on this trip. However, late-breaking extended family plans on the day we’d set aside for that meal saw us heading down to the South Bay instead. Casting around for possibilities in the general area we were going to be in I lighted upon a reference to Rui Ji Sichuan in Lomita. The cousins we were dining with were only too happy to give it a go and so we arrived for lunch in a large’ish group: four adults, one teenager and four kids below the age of 10. I am happy to report that all were very pleased with their meal.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when we got there but it turned out to be a large restaurant. The interior is bright, with nicely spaced tables and attractive decor. Given the size of our group I’d called ahead to make a reservation and we were given a private room with a large circular table. Though I didn’t over-order as drastically as I usually do we still needed all the room. That’s not to say I wasn’t tempted to over-order: the menu turned out to be large as well and featured a number of the dishes we like to eat at Chengdu Taste and Szechuan Impression, as well as a number of Sichuan classics. As our cousins did not have much experience with Sichuan food we decided to stick mostly with the classics. Here is what we got:
- Dan dan noodles. This was for the younger kids and ordered non-spicy as a result. They enjoyed it.
- Wontons in chilli oil. And those of us with higher heat tolerances enjoyed these wontons. They served the chilli oil on the side in case the kids wanted to eat these as well.
- Cucumbers with mashed garlic. We don’t often order this Sichuan classic—it was very good here.
- Steamed chicken with peppercorns and green chilli paste. Not quite as good as the excellent version at Chengdu Taste but very good indeed. I wish the Twin Cities’ own Grand Szechuan made this.
- Sichuan green beans. Another classic, nicely done.
- Steamed big mouth bass. I believe this was a special. A large big mouth bass, perfectly steamed with soy sauce and ginger. Adults and children alike made short work of this.
- Sichuan popcorn chicken. Crisply fried cubes of chicken tossed with chillies and Sichuan peppercorn. Very nice.
- Ma po tofu. A very good iteration of the classic.
- Dongpo pork hock. Also quite good though short of the excellent pork hock dishes at Chengdu Taste.
- Lamb soup in pot. This was on the specials board and was very good as well. Deep lamby flavour in the broth. They served a smaller bowl of broth laden with chillies on the side for the adults to spike their portions with. This was much appreciated by the kids who loved the base soup.
We ate the above with a few orders of rice.
Launch the slideshow for a look at the restaurant and the food (and please be sure to read the text for “Warm Tip” carefully). Scroll down to see how much it all cost and for thoughts on service etc.
Service was solicitous and friendly. We really appreciated their thoughtfulness in serving the wontons and soup so the kids could try them too. All of this came to about $190 with tax and tip. We were the equivalent of seven adult diners probably so less than $30/head. Which makes it a very good deal.
As I said at the outset, this is not quite in the class of the San Gabriel Valley’s finest. But it is very good indeed on its own terms and would be the best Sichuan restaurant in most American cities probably—though I wish I could say otherwise, it’s better than our local favourite, Grand Szechuan. If driving equivalent distances there’s absolutely no reason to go here over Chengdu Taste or Szechuan Impression, but if you’re in the South Bay it might be hard to justify the trek to the SGV over going here. I expect we will be back on our next trip to L.A. My mother-in-law is about to move from Koreatown to Seal Beach, which means we’ll be in the South Bay more often. Though as I think about it, it’s probably not very much closer from Seal Beach to here than to the SGV. At any rate, I’ll soon be in the market for South Bay recommendations if any Angeleno readers have any.