Two Alhambra Businesses on Jonathan Gold's list of SoCals 101 Best!

Jonathan Gold,  renowned food critic for the L.A. Times, recently came out with his 101 Best Restaurants in Southern California for 2015.

TWO restaurants are on Valley Boulevard: Chengdu Taste and Szechuan Impression.

"Your next great meal in Southern California is as likely to come from that tiny storefront next to the 7-Eleven as it is from a Beverly Hills gastronomic palace. Los Angeles, which is both where American ideas about food tend to be formulated and where they come back eventually to die, can be a spectacular place to eat."

Check out their site for the full list (You have to sign up for the L.A. Times if you don't already have a subscription).


29. Chengdu Taste

  • Price: $$$$
  • 828 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra
  • (626) 588-2284
  • 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
  • No alcohol. Street parking. Cash only.

You occasionally run into food snobs — I met one just the other day — who claim that the San Gabriel Valley is really nothing special, that the only decent Chinese food here is to be found in rich people's homes. These people turn out to have come here from Hong Kong, of course, and their idea of fine dining includes lots of top-quality bird's nest and sun-dried abalone, but no matter. For the rest of us, there are the hourlong waits for a table at Chengdu Taste, a Sichuan restaurant good enough to have altered migration patterns from western China, and life without its mind-bendingly spicy mapo tofu, griddle-cooked bullfrog or toothpick-skewered lamb sizzling with chile and cumin is almost unimaginable.

If you order both numb-taste wonton and boiled fish with green pepper sauce, the waiter may object, because he believes that the sauce on the floppy, delicate dumplings will obliterate your ability to taste the subtleties in the Sichuan-peppercorn-zapped fish. Get them both anyway, and the tea-smoked duck, the beef with tofu pudding and the garlic leeks sautéed with dense house-cured bacon. It will feel as if you have been punched in the mouth, but it will have been worth it. The food is flavored with a vast array of fresh, dried, pickled and ground chiles, but the vivid scent of Sichuan peppercorn comes to the front, and the sensation is of numbness rather than pain.

99. Szechuan Impression

  • Price: $$$$
  • 1900 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra
  • (626) 283-4622
  • Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily
  • Dinner, 5-10:30 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, 5-11 p.m. Fridays to Sundays
  • No alcohol. Street parking. Credit cards accepted.

It is hard to believe at the moment, but not long ago Sichuan peppercorns were illegal, fuqi feiipan was unknown here and the only real Sichuan restaurant in town was a few tables crammed into a former House of Pies. But Sichuan cooking has exploded in the San Gabriel Valley, not least because of the success of Chengdu Taste. And Szechuan Impression, whose chef is fresh from a five-star restaurant in Chengdu, is probably the restaurant in town that leans the closest to Sichuan haute cuisine: not just toothpick lamb and boiled fish in chile sauce but also fresh bamboo sprouts lightly dressed with chile, chewy smoked pig's ears, tea-smoked spareribs, dry-fried farm chickens and soupy Leshan beef, all of which are distinctly less fire-breathing and a bit more nuanced than what you tend to find elsewhere in the SGV. Do you want Cinderella's Pumpkin Ride and some honey pomelo tea after your still admittedly spicy meal? You have been asked more difficult questions.


Jonathan Gold is the restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times. He won the Pulitzer Prize in criticism in 2007 and was a finalist again in 2011. A Los Angeles native, he began writing the Counter Intelligence column for the L.A. Weekly in 1986, wrote about death metal and gangsta rap for Rolling Stone and Spin among other places, and is delighted that he has managed to forge a career out of the professional eating of tacos. ~ LA Times


AlhambraChamberCommerceFoodLA TimesValleyJonathan GoldRestaurants

Oct 2021


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