Jul 2013

Chengdu Taste – Alhambra

Chengdu Taste - Alhambra

Chengdu Taste was immediately added to my ever-growing spreadsheet of places to eat the moment Jonathan Gold mentioned it on his weekly chat this past Wednesday. The Astronomer and I absolutely adore Sichuan cuisine and seek it out whenever possible; there’s something about the numbing burn that comes with each bite, coupled with an avalanche of flavor, that never fails to get us giddy.

The restaurant, by the way, is named after the city of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province and a USESCO-designated “City of Gastronomy.”

Chengdu Taste - Alhambra

Whereas most dining spots in this neighborhood are fairly dumpy when it comes to decor, Chengdu Taste boasts a fresh coat of paint and plush red booths. The Astronomer, who I never realized noticed and cared about such things, was quite impressed with the surroundings.

Chengdu Taste - Alhambra

“Just order something that you like at Chung King or Yun Chuan and you’ll get something different, but equally delicious,” advised Mr. Gold during the lunchtime Q&A session.

We started with the “Cold Noodle with Garlic Sauce” ($5.99), a dish that we hadn’t ever tried before but sounded perfect on this warm evening. The sauce, a  mixture of crushed garlic, vinegar, and chili oil, was potent yet well-balanced. The toothsome strands soaked up the flavors just so. This seemingly simple preparation was one of tonight’s highlights.

Chengdu Taste - Alhambra

Even though our waitress gave us a funny look for ordering two noodle dishes, The Astronomer and I insisted on the “Sichuan Tan Tan Noodle” ($5.99) too. Tan tan noodles, also known as dan dan noodles, is my all-time favorite in the Sichuan culinary cannon.

Chengdu Taste - Alhambra

With just a pinch of pork, a smattering of scallions, and a double punch of chili oil and Sichuan peppercorns, the plain noodles were wholly transformed into a mound of spicy, tingly, and nutty goodness. This was a very, very good bowl of dan dan mien—the noodles’ texture was especially excellent—but Lucky Noodle King‘s rendition still reigns supreme.

Chengdu Taste - Alhambra

To accompany our noodle selections, The Astronomer and I chose two proteins. The “Toothpick Mutton” ($13.99), bite-sized cubes of musty meat seasoned with cumin, chilies, scallions, and cilantro and speared with toothpicks, was something kind of wonderful.

Cumin-scented lamb is always a treat, but Chengdu Taste’s preparation stood out for its incorporation of fresh herbs. The cilantro’s freshness paired incredibly with the mutton’s flavors and textures. This dish was not only delicious, but fun to eat too.

Chengdu Taste - Alhambra

From the “Mom’s Preserved Chili” section of the menu, we selected the “Stir-fried Beef with Mom’s Preserved Chili” ($11.99). This dish was the most traditionally spicy of the spread, but still as fetching as the rest. The tender slices of beef offered my molars relief after gnawing on the mutton.

Chengdu Taste - Alhambra

And finally, a bowl of “Wonton with Pepper Sauce” ($5.99). Following dan dan mien, wontons in chili oil is my second favorite Sichuan dish.

Chengdu Taste - Alhambra

The wontons’ skins and fillings were both first rate, but the chef was a touch heavy-handed with the peppercorns in the chili oil. I couldn’t feel my tongue for a solid 30 seconds after eating a parcel. Still, I couldn’t resist going in for seconds, thirds, and fourths.

Chengdu Taste - Alhambra

To finish, our waitress treated us to a traditional dessert. The chilled sweet soup contained blobs of clear jelly, peanuts, sesame seeds, skinless grapes, and quite possibly canned peaches. It was just what our tongues and stomachs desired after the onslaught of spice!

The Astronomer and I loved our dinner at Chengdu Taste and have plans to return with friends in the coming weeks. Everything was seriously tasty, and the service was downright hospitable. I am tempted to pull a My Last Bite and eat the entire menu…who’s with me?

{Attempting to eat the entire Chengdu Taste menu Flickr set here}

Chengdu Taste
828 West Valley Road
Alhambra, CA 91803
Phone: 626-588-2284

One year ago: Le Beurre Noisette – Paris
Two years ago: Wafels & Dinges – New York City
Three years ago: Fortune Cookies – Los Angeles (Hollywood)
Four years ago: Mr. Baguette – Rosemead
Five years ago: A Day in Tagaytay, Philippines
Six years ago: Đậu Hủ Xả Ớt – Fried Tofu with Chilies and Lemongrass

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4 thoughts on “Chengdu Taste – Alhambra

  1. Just discovered this place I can’t wait to return too! Favorites of mine were the cold garlic pork appetizer and twice cooked pork.

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