Monday, September 9, 2013

Chengdu Taste

Last year for my now fiance's birthday, we went to Beijing Duck House. This year we continued our exploration of regional Chinese cooking. Six of us visited Chengdu Taste in Alhambra for Sichuan cuisine. Chengdu Taste is a relatively new restaurant which has become quickly popular, thanks in large part to Johnathan Gold's review in the Los Angeles Times. This is my second experience with Sichuan cooking. The first was at a restaurant in Northern California several years ago. I don't remember many of the details of that meal, just that at the time I thought it was the best Chinese Food I had had.





Note that this was the take out version of the menu. In the rendition given to us at our table had a few variations.

Sichuan cooking is known for one attribute above all others: Spice. Many of the dishes involve Sichuan peppercorns, which present their own unique brand of spice. They actually make your mouth go slightly numb.In addition, several different kinds of chilies in fresh, dried, and fermented forms are used.


Our first dish was the ubiquitously named diced rabbit with younger sister's secret recipe. This involved sauteed rabbit bits, green onions, peanuts, and sesame seeds in a deeply flavored sauce. The rabbit was diced small and filled with bones, but I did not mind the labor required to eat the dish too much. I am also not usually a fan of peanuts, but found they nicely balanced this dish.


Next was twice cooked pork. This was bar far the least interesting, and the mos typical, dish of the evening. I liked the vegetables (mostly leeks) , but found the meet rather plain.


Here we have tan tan noodles, also known as dan dan mien on many menus. This is probably the most prototypical Sichuan dish. I've previously had this dish at Lukshon  in Culver City, but that version paled in comparison to this. The noodles were perfectly textured and the elements of the dish meshed impeccably.


To break up the spice present in all of the other dishes, we ordered this dish of sauteed potato threads and onion. I liked it a lot, and it certainly served its purpose between bites from other plates.


Most exotic plate of the night goes to this dish intestine and chicken in a spicy broth. It was interesting, but not my favorite, which was generally the table's consensus. The pieces of intestine did not have much flavor on their own, but a chewy texture.


Flour cooked shipped was universally enjoyed by the table. The shrimp were large and flavorful with a good kick of spice.


Here we have the best dish of the night, boiled fish with green pepper sauce. Notice the huge amount of diced Serrano peppers, dried chilies, and Sichuan pepper corns floating atop the broth. This was also an immense serving. The fish was very delicate, but not at all overwhelmed by the flavorful broth. This is a must order. 

By the end of the meal, the Sichuan peppercorns had certainly had their effect. My tongue and lips were tingling. The food may not be for every palate, but spice lovers should give Chengdu taste a try. It was interesting that everyone at the table disagreed which dish was spiciest. I thought it was the fish, but others thought it was the shrimp, the rabbit, or the noodles.

I certainly want to go back and try a few more dishes, notably the toothpick mutton and the wonton with pepper sauce (complimented by a special note on the menu stating numb-taste). 

After dinner, it was back to our place for drinks and birthday cake.



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