Chengdu Taste (Los Angeles, July/August 2014)

Chengdu Taste opened right before we got to Los Angeles last year and was immediately anointed the best Sichuan restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley (which is to say in the United States). We opted not to eat there last year on account of my general suspicion of hype. There were plenty of other places to eat excellent Sichuan at, we reasoned, and if it were still considered great a year later we’d eat there on our next trip. Well, the next trip is now and Chengdu Taste is still all the rage and so we decided to give it a go.

As the lines are reportedly out of control for dinner every day and for lunch as well on the weekends we opted to go for weekday lunch. Well, we got there at 12.15 and only just beat standing in line. It’s not the largest space and at peak times (which seem to be all the time) you may have to share a table if you don’t want to wait. And so we did. The two of us were seated at a table for eight that already had two young Chinese women at it. I don’t know if they would have seated more groups with us normally, but since we covered the table with food it wasn’t really an option. Ten minutes after we got there there was a crowd outside, and when we left at about 1.30 it had only just begun to abate (the photograph above was taken as we were leaving with most of those waiting having made it to the inside). There is a second location opening soon in Rosemead—we were told either this week or early next—and that should go some way towards easing the crush (assuming the second location is larger than this one).

The crowds are there for a reason though. I’d love to say that the hype is unwarranted but this was an amazing meal, perhaps the best Sichuan meal we’ve ever had. This is what we ate (click on an image to launch a larger slideshow with full captions):

With tax and tip this came to $85. So it’s a fair bit more expensive than the competition (our meals at Chung King and Yunkun Garden last year came to $55 and $54 respectively). But it’s also a fair bit better than the competition (we’ve loved Chung King for a long time but this was clearly better than any meal we’ve had there in a long time). There wasn’t a thing on the table that wasn’t excellent (sauteed lettuce included). And while this doesn’t distinguish it from its competitors, it must be said that we generated enough leftovers to keep eating this meal at dinner through most of the rest of the week. This was one of the best meals of our trip and we’ll be back for sure on every trip

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