Chengdu Taste (Alhambra)


#1

What are people currently liking at the Alhambra location? Any ordering tips, or new off menu items?

I made a reservation there this weekend, and will order the Lion Fish ahead of time. I’m intrigued by a bunch of dishes only served at the Rosemead location (e.g., Catholic Church Chicken and Kung Pao Braised Pork Belly), but their no reservations policy won’t work for me.

Based on advice from other threads, our Mandarin speaker will communicate to the server that we want the food very spicy.

Pending other guest’s approval, here’s what I’m going to suggest we order. I was thinking 15 dishes for 7 people. Is the restaurant good at pacing the meal, or should we order in waves? If I trim the 17 dishes below to 15. does anything redundant stand out? Should I double up on anything?

I’m coming from SF, and I’ve put @'s next to dishes less common at SFBA Sichuan restaurants. Also, someone’s allergic to peanuts, so lemme know if there are any other dishes we should specifically ensure the server knows not to include them in.

And when the menu list things as green pepper, does that mean green Sichuan peppercorns, green fresh chilies, or a combination of both?

Appetizers

  • Red chili chicken and mixed vegetable skewer (bo bo; red oil) peanuts? @
  • Green pepper chicken and mixed vegetable skewer (bo bo; green pepper) peanuts? @
  • Diced Rabbit with Younger Sister’s Secret Recipe (peanuts) @

Chef Recommendations

  • Beef with crispy rice crust @
  • Snowflake beef slices in golden sauce @

Tofu pudding

  • Sliced fish with tofu pudding in hot sauce

Steamed dishes

  • Flour steamed pork

Baby ginger dish

  • Frog with baby ginger @

Homely dishes

  • Sauteed wild yam @
  • Sautéed eggplant with garlic sauce (fish fragrant)
  • Cuiyun boiled fish with pickled cabbage & chili @
  • Toothpick lamb w/ cumin
  • Sautéed arden lettuce
  • Sauteed string beans

Pickle series

  • Frog with mom’s preserved chili sauce @

Noodle & wonton

  • Wonton with pepper sauce (numb taste) @

Order 1 day ahead

  • Lion fish (tilapia) @

Etc.

  • Rice
  • Beijing yogurt

#2

i actually went today (by myself)…my favorite food in LA period.

My favorite things are the kung pao chicken (not your typical kung pao, best one ever), toothpick lamb, sauteed eggplant and string beans.


#3

Seven dishes for three people was about twice as much as we could eat, so doubling up is probably not necessary.

Boiled fish with green pepper was fresh green chiles.


#4

Thanks!

Btw, taking your advice not to drink the broth, I sought out the same dish at Z&Y in SF a few weeks ago. The server confirmed its a seasoning/cooking sauce rather than a soup. They use green chilies (Serrano or jalapeño) and red Sichuan peppercorns, neither of which seemed to add any flavor or heat. Still, it was a great preparation and the chicken was as succulent as you can imagine (other dishes were less successful).


#5

15 dishes for 7 people is fine as long as you want leftovers for a week


#6

As a general rule of thumb at Chinese restaurants, you get 1 dish per person which should be plenty of food already especially since you eat them with rice. Anything more is typically gonna result in quite a bit of leftovers.


#7

Heheheh with my crew, we each choose one dish to NOT order, and then order the rest of the menu.


#8

LOL. Leftover city?


#9

After a day of intense LA eating, we were overjoyed that our reserved 7:30 table wouldn’t be ready until 8pm, and gave us an extra 30 minutes of appetite recovery.

Dishes were exciting in flavor and fun in presentation. I get why many consider this the best Sichuan restaurant in the US. The kitchen seemed to pace our fifteen dishes with foresight. Bobo ji, chicken and vegetable skewers, whose delights were unknown until unearthed from a pool of spicy liquid, started the meal, and I returned to them whenever I needed a moment to ponder the entire feast. The meal ended with the Lion fish, which I reserved and confirmed over the phone twice, and which neighboring tables coveted (we of course shared after we were stuffed).

I ordered everything with extra “hua jiao” (Sichuan peppercorns) and “la jiao” (chilis) and no peanuts (a guest’s allergy). Food was spicy enough to excite the senses, but not an exercise in machismo. Two keys to my enjoyment were being assertive when we needed plate changes and sipping lots of Beijing yogurt, a necessary palate cleanser and heat tamer.

Here’s a dish by dish breakdown, roughly in the order I’d get them again. Portions were gargantuan, especially for the price, and our LA friends took food home.

Lion fish. This was an impressive dish, even without the presentation, which looked like something out of the Body World’s exhibit at the California Science Center. Pieces of skin and flesh were sliced from the body, but still attached, and the skin formed tubes around the flesh as it fried. Plucking each piece off, there’s a light sweet and sour sauce, a crunch, millimeters of air, then flesh. Unbelievable. There was still a ton of custardy fish in the carcass, but, tilapia not being a favorite of mine, I didn’t stomach much of it beyond the cheeks.

Toothpick lamb w/ cumin Aromatic, spicy, and juicy. I understand that toothpick lamb was popularized in the US at Chengdu Taste. For reference, Chengdu Taste opened in mid-2013, and the first one toothpick lamb in the SFBA appeared when Berkeley’s Chengdu Style opened in January 2014.

Red chili chicken and mixed vegetable skewer (bo bo ji): cold liquid, Intense chili oil, full of heat, mala numbing. A mystery in every bite— soft juicy (presumably poached) chicken flesh as well as feet, heart, and gizzard; potato slices, cauliflower, wood ear mushrooms. For some reason, this dish has not become popular in the SFBA, and, to my likely out of date knowledge, is only available at Chendu Style (Berkeley), Spicy Way (Milpitas), and was at least initially offered at Bai xing jia hunan fusion (San Jose).

Green pepper chicken and mixed vegetable skewer (bo bo) citrusy green Sichuan peppercorns, serrano (jalapeno?) peppers, and the same sticks as the other one. I don’t think this preparation is available in the SFBA.

Chicken with green pepper sauce
Delicious sauce, mild green onion flavors, and if I remember correctly citrusy, Sichuan peppercorns. I bow to the chef’s chicken poaching mojo.

Sauteed wild yam
A cooling, mild haven. Yams have a lovely savory quality in this dish that I prefer them to charred chili potato shreds.

Sautéed eggplant with garlic sauce (fish fragrant) Kapow! It’s plated in a bowl and unlike any version I’ve had. Pickled chilies brought the heat level higher than any other dish. I was unable to enjoy this until its temperature reduced, but god it was good.

Sauteed string beans Easily the best version I’ve had of this dish, which I tend to avoid. It had just the right amount of ya cai and ground pork.

Red oil Wonton a classic.

Sliced fish with tofu pudding in hot sauce we were all familiar with this dish and though well executed, similar flavors were distributed among other dishes and we should have skipped it.

Diced Rabbit with Younger Sister’s Secret Recipe Royal Feast in Millbrae makes this as a special order, and the two chef’s versions are comparable. Complex red sauce, I think I tasted some doubanjiang. Lots of small bones.

Snowflake beef slices in golden sauce knots of enoki mushrooms wicked up the beef juices.

Rabbit with baby ginger another well executed dish that got lost in the fray. Some slices of ginger had absorbed meaty flavors and were a highpoint of the meal.

Beef with crispy rice crust* a giant mound of food, encrusted in a rice-based panko-like crust. I’d like to try this again— we had to send it back because they forgot to exclude peanuts, and it was too late in the meal to enjoy deep fried when it came out. That said, pieces of rice crust fell, along with several dribbled sauces, into my rice bowl, and created quite a nice “dessert.”

Sautéed arden lettuce whoops, I forgot to try any.

There was no complimentary dessert, so we walked to Salju. Sesame shaved ice, and a taste of someone else’s passion fruit topping (real stuff!) capped off the evening.


SGV crawl, Taco crawl, etc. itinerary
#10

There were two pages of menu supplements


#11

If you do that at Chengdu Taste, bring a few big coolers.


#12

I’m already sweating and salivating looking those pictures!

I guess I’m just not made out for spicy food since I didn’t enjoy my lone visit at Chengdu Taste all that much. My palate was destroyed after a few bites. :hot_pepper:


#13

I think my sweat instantly evaporated :slight_smile:

Do you eat dairy? If so, the Beijing yogurt was a huge help for us to manage the heat, and reset our palate throughout the meal.

Also, the server had separate lines on the bill regarding my request for extra Sichuan peppercorns and chili heat, so it sounds like the kitchen can scale those up, or down, as per customer needs.


#14

Can you explain this? How is tilapia incorporated in with the lion fish?


#15

Oh, the whole preparation is a single, enormous Tilapia. We were expecting to get the invasive species Lion Fish, but realized when they put it down that the name “Lion fish” is metaphorical (like the mane of cabbage on pork meatballs being called “Lion’s head meatballs”).


#16

Lion fish <> Tilapia, good marketing though


#17

Thanks. That’s unfortunate that it’s tilapia. So were you only able to enjoy the cheeks and skin from that dish?


#18

I gotta get on this crew. Pronto!


#19

The flesh/filets and skin are removed from the rib cage into sets of unified Medusa tendrils, and the deep frying helped tame, so to speak, the Tilapia funk enough that I fully enjoyed the flesh and skin.

But the cheeks and some scrapes I did of the rib cage were, um, flavorful enough that I stuck to the tendrils, of which there were more than enough for the table.


#20

Am I the only person on FTC that doesn’t find the flavor of tilapia offensive???