Spicy saucy Sichuan

Wing’s Restaurant

The kung pao chicken lunch special is spicy with chili oil, sweet and garlicky, with flecks of green onion.

The kung pao chicken lunch special is spicy with chili oil, sweet and garlicky, with flecks of green onion.

photo by rebecca huval

Good for: Saucy fried meats and late-night delivery
Notable dishes: Lunch specials, eggplant in spicy garlic sauce

Wing’s Restaurant

3653 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95816

(916) 454-1925

The steaming pile of fried chicken wings tempted my husband to break his vow. Studded with chili pepper seeds and green onions and braised with a molasses-like sauce, the Hot Braised Chicken Wings ($12.95) reminded him of his mother’s stories of her childhood in Hong Kong, where the seven siblings would squabble over their portions on the rare night of wings for dinner. The shared memory was enough for my husband, a pescatarian, to tear into a piece of chicken for the first time in roughly a decade.

The wings at the new Wing's Restaurant are dankly appropriate for post-420 nourishment. Their sauce is sticky as tree sap, tasting of caramelized sugar, garlic, salt and a sharp zing of spice. My husband adored the marinade, but kept his same opinion of chicken everywhere: “Tastes like an old sock.” Mind you, as a carnivore, I loved this leg meat and judged it to be fresh and juicy.

This year, Wing's Restaurant has revived an East Sacramento storefront that's cycled through Chinese eateries. Most recently it was Canton House, and before that, China Cafe, both of which received lukewarm reviews. Now, Wing's seems poised to change the storefront's reputation with its generous portions, affordable prices ($6.95 for most lunch specials) and saucy, spicy grub. Billing itself as Sichuan and Hunan, it delivers until 10 p.m. every day, filling a neighborhood need for late-night munchies.

The interior looks like a dim living room, with the shotgun-style restaurant letting in limited sun even midday, but the food was colorful enough to shine without much light.

The sweet and sour fish fillet ($10.95) looked like a murder scene if blood were orange, with flakey fish encased with a thin-battered, fried shell that was softened by the ample sauce. It tasted mostly sweet and slightly tangy, and came with produce that added a juicy spurt to the thick melee: pineapple, carrots, green bell peppers.

Par for the saucy course, the kung pao chicken ($6.95 for lunch) was spicy with chili oil, sweet and garlicky, with flecks of green onions. The lunch specials arrive with soup and your choice of fried rice, noodles or brown rice. In this case, chow mein offered a fitting complement to the kung pao, with egg noodles that were springy with freshness. The hot and sour soup was spicy with white pepper and pleasantly suffused with egg.

But it was the eggplant with spicy garlic sauce ($6.95 for lunch) that felt like the best harmony of all between entree and flavor. The sautéed eggplant was silky soft, adding a burst of thin water to contrast with the thick sauce.

The lunch dishes were delicious for the price, but the restaurant did suffer for one factor I rarely notice: the service. The waiter there on most days seemed shy and unsure of himself, but to some patrons, it read as rudeness. One time I asked, “Could I please eat to stay?” He replied, “Yeah, sit down.” No flourishes of gentility here, but the wait staff will refill your lemon-infused water with regularity.

Besides, who needs performative politeness when a sniff of these chicken wings has the power to break a pescatarian?