The Dungeness crab at Hip Hot, Tiantian Qiu’s Monterey Park Sichuan seafood restaurant, is stir-fried with ungodly amounts of chiles and Sichuan peppercorn, tossed with potatoes and vegetables, and served in a gleaming heap. It has been expertly dismembered – you won’t need special tools to get at the sweet meat – and the crab is fresh. You nibble on string beans fried with fermented shrimp paste – the smell is strong, but the taste is mild, perhaps a bit salty. Scallops on the half shell appear, the actual shellfish buried under a pungent slurry of garlic. There are spicy razor clams with a chunky hot-pepper sauté, and hot oysters with a bit of soy and rice wine.
You press a tap that has been plunged into the body of a watermelon, and as if by a miracle, sweet, cold juice flows into your glass.
It is easy to forget for a moment that Sichuan, a land-locked province, has no seafood tradition.