- Business Advocacy
Chengdu Taste ‘most influential Chinese restaurant to open here in last decade’
Since 2013, when the first Chengdu Taste restaurant opened its doors, Chef Tony Xu has brought the flavors of Sichuan cuisine to the forefront of the San Gabriel Valley. For many, the experience is reminiscent of regional cuisine they grew up with. For newcomers, it has introduced an entirely different flavor palate unlike other Chinese food they may have become accustomed to. Alhambra has always offered a more authentic sampling of regional dishes from China than the ubiquitous American favorites such as General Tso’s chicken, but Chengdu Taste has grown in popularity with locals and foodies alike.
When purists are asked about their love of Sichuan food, many will cite the addictive quality of it due to the spice and complexity of flavors. Although generally known for searing heat and use of peppercorns to create a unique and spicy experience, Sichuan cuisine draws on 20 different types of flavor profiles, such as dry, spicy, sour, garlicky, and sweet.
Chef Xu has described his dishes as primarily fragrant or aromatic. This can be tasted in the restaurant’s popular dish, Toothpick Lamb with Cumin, which is exactly what it sounds like, bite-size pieces of tender marinated lamb painstakingly pierced with toothpicks, a seemingly labor intensive plate. However, diners can still find the unique searing heat and numbing quality in dishes like Numb-Taste Wonton and boiled fish with green peppercorn.
It’s like a burst of flavor mixing with the numbing feeling one gets when one is about to have a cavity filled; it is unlike anything anyone ever tasted. It’s not so much that the mouth is numb from it being too spicy but one can experience the numbing sensation from the famous peppercorns. The depth of the menu can be intimidating, and be prepared for the majority of the dishes to be spicy. However, many of the standard Sichuan cold appetizers contrast nicely and are very refreshing. One of the most popular cold appetizers is the Cold Diced Rabbit with Younger Sister’s Secret Recipe, a bony rabbit dish with a buzz of flavor.
Dishes like this have put Chengdu Taste on the map. Food bloggers and restaurant reviewers have been lining up among the devoted fans since it opened. The restaurant made the “99 Essentials” List with LA Weekly, which called it a “pilgrimage spot for spice masochists” and praised the restaurant for its nuanced and complex flavors in its first write-up of the restaurant in 2013.
World renowned Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold reviewed the restaurant several times and recently ranked the restaurant 25th among the 101 Best Restaurants in Los Angeles for 2016. He called it “the most influential Chinese restaurant to open here in the last decade or so,” and made several references and even a visit to the restaurant in the biopic documentary about the famous food critic and his experiences exploring the varied Los Angeles food scene, City of Gold.
Success such as this afforded Chef Xu the ability to open a second location in Rosemead a scant year after the first. When visiting, expect a bit of a wait at either location. Just know that the wait is well worth it.