This week, Jonathan Gold returns to discovering hidden gems in the SGV in his review of Nothingness Restaurant. The oddly named strip mall establishment “refers to a positive Chongqing attitude toward life. A friend thinks that it may be something like the ‘no worries’ you hear from Australians. I’m still going with Sartre.” The Goldster doesn’t only get philosophical about the restaurant’s name, stating:
Why is there something rather than nothingness? Because the presumption of nonexistence does not allow for the possibility of live crawfish steamed in chile sauce, while Nothingness the restaurant does. Does existence precede essence? I haven’t read a lot of philosophy since college, but I maintain that the snap of the shell, the softness of the flesh, indicate that it probably does. [LAT]
J. Gold does find some fantastic frog in this nothingness, but decides to pass on the popular pig’s brain:
It is with this level of chile-scented vagueness you discover that Thunderbolt Frog is frog sautéed with peppers, onions and other vegetables, served in a big casserole bubbling over a small flame, and luhe fish involves delicious cubed fillets in a green chile sauce with pickled mustard greens, and huolala green chile beef is zapped with an electric exuberance of green Sichuan peppercorns among other things. The immediate identity of Brainstorming (BBQ Flavor) becomes apparent enough when you notice whole pig’s brains on half the tables in the restaurant (I passed; please forgive me). [LAT]
While the chicken with hot pepper impresses the critic, it doesn’t seem like the restaurant is particularly worth seeking out. Gold concludes, “Nothingness may not, perhaps, rank among the very best San Gabriel Valley Sichuan restaurants. Top-rate mapo tofu or that huolala green chile beef are too often followed by leaden fried duck in garlic sauce; bland, gooey eight-treasure duck; or overcooked spicy fried steamed pork.” The Times critic also recommends the salt and pepper beans, BBQ potato, and twice-cooked pork.