Chengdu Taste is the place to be for spicy, authentic Sichuan cuisine. The restaurant on Valley Boulevard and Ninth Street opened on June 26 and has already made its mark on the plentiful Chinese offerings in the San Gabriel Valley.
Owner and chef Rungang "Tony" Xu is a native of Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province and an area known for its tongue-numbing Sichuanese peppercorn. The Sichuan chilies infuse many of Chengdu Taste’s dishes.
On why he chose to open the restaurant in Alhambra, Xu – who has been a resident for a year – said simply, “It’s a good location.”
Xu servies up Sichuan tan tan noodles — also known as dan dan — with peanuts, sesame seeds, ground pork, and red chili oil, leaving a fuzzy, almost menthol-like numbness on the tongue. The addictive flavors make it easy to polish off in one sitting. The vegetable dish listed on the menu simply as "lotus root, winter melon, mushroom, vermicelli, needle mushroom" arrives immersed in a bath of richly red chili oil in a large stainless steel bowl, and also includes bean sprouts and black edible fungus. The pleasant spiciness of the dish is best eaten with the white rice that comes with the order.
While waiting to be seated for a late lunch, Alhambra resident Kevin Goo said that he and his mother found out about Chengdu Taste through Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold, who said the restaurant has been acclaimed as "the best Sichuan restaurant in town from the first days of its opening" and though the food is lighter than typical Sichuan offerings, it "is still quite spicy, flavored with a vast array of fresh, dried, pickled and ground chiles."
“We consider ourselves to be amateur foodies, especially when it comes to Asian food,” said Goo, whose local favorites include Banh Mi Che Cali, Noodle World, Mahan Indian Restaurant, and Grill ‘Em All. Goo tried Chengdu Taste's house special tea flavored duck, sautéed string beans, and fried chicken with pepper.
The house special tea flavored duck, a classic Sichuan dish that takes seven days to make, is accompanied by soft bread pillows and is tender, crispy, flavorful, and smoky. The fried chicken dish is a plate of small, salty pieces of chicken littered with small bones. “There were some flavors in the chicken I’d never tasted before, but I liked it," Goo said. "The prices are reasonable. The food is good. I’d come back here for sure.”
Chengdu Taste is located at 828 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, Calif., 91803. It’s open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m., and Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Connect with Chengdu Taste on Twitter.