SGV: Getting Spicy at Chengdu Taste

kung pao crawfish

kung pao crawfish

Chengdu Taste is one of the latest San Gabriel Valley restaurants to be declared a “must eat.” Hearing about long waits, I made it one Saturday right as they opened at 11 a.m. Fortunately there were still plenty of tables but within 30 minutes, the place was packed. And it looked like at least an hour wait by the time we left. A couple waiting for a table even tried to sit next to me on the bench seat in between tables!

Chengdu Taste seems a bit more refined and has an extensive menu. There’s nice decor and seemingly more wait staff than needed for the mid-sized restaurant but they needed that staff since they were so busy.

I ran into a friend and he joined my Noodles Partner and I in exploring the spicy Sichuan menu. We knew we had to get the cold mung bean noodles with spicy sauce but the sharp-eyed Noodles Partner also found dan dan noodles or as listed on the menu, the Sichuan tan tan noodles.

There were so many sections but mostly the menu was sprinkled with red chile pepper symbols. The Noodles Partner said I probably shouldn’t order anything with more than 2 pepper symbols. She is always right as I looked like I had run a marathon and was breathless from the spice by the end of the meal. I probably drank about 5 glasses of water in a roll.

With that said, I chase that tingling Sichuan pepper and enjoy the rush when I can casually say, “it’s not that spicy.” Ha!

cold mung bean noodles with chili sauce

cold mung bean noodles with chili sauce

The mung bean noodles turned out to be reasonable in spice. I loved the vinegar in the chili sauce but the Noodles Partner wasn’t too fond of it. I had the leftovers later as a light dinner. I just loved the slickness of the noodles.

eggplant with spicy garlic sauce

eggplant with spicy garlic sauce

I can’t help but order eggplant every time I see it since I am so bad at cooking it myself. I had forgotten my Noodles Partner doesn’t eat vegetables barring a few exceptions. Next time I’ll have to get water spinach (aka morning glory stems or ong choy) for her. This dish was a bit on the oily side. I liked the eggplant more at Yun Chuan (formerly Yunkun) more. Still, this made awesome leftovers when I mixed in added ground turkey and tofu later for lunch the next day.

fish with Mama's chili sauce

fish with Mama’s chili sauce

One of the sections of the menu included a number of dishes with Mama’s chili sauce. I was surprised how tender the fish was though I wish we had gotten the water boiled fish instead so I could do a proper comparison to other Sichaun spots. This dish wasn’t at all spicy and I may have done a fist pump in the air when I declared that rather emphatically. This is a white rice companion dish. Be sure to order some to go with the fish.

Szechuan Tan Tan (dan dan mien)

Sichuan Tan Tan (dan dan mien)

As mentioned, we also got the dan dan noodles. It’s hard to say how good these were in comparison to my other recent dan dan noodle chases but it’s up there. I liked the sauce, the noodles but wanted a bigger portion and slightly more of that peanut-y sauce. The Noodles Partner declared this to be good.

The surprise sleeper hit of the meal was the kung pao crawfish. We had intended to get the tea-smoked duck but they were out and had been out of it since the night before. Our friend had heard the kung pao was good and thought this would be different. We were given a pile of plastic gloves which we donned to tackle the mud bugs. If you sucked on the heads or licked the shells, you got that mild tingling pepper burn but otherwise this wasn’t a spicy dish. I did think it was amusing we got the crawfish considering we were next door to Boiling Crab. However, these crawfish tasted fresh versus the frozen kind a block away.

I noticed Chengdu Taste had a whole section devoted to wontons. I’d like to return to try those out along with a water boiled dish and mabo tofu. We had actually ordered mabo tofu but it never arrived and so we decided to skip it for the time being.

Chengdu Taste

828 W Valley Rd., Alhambra, CA 91803  —  (626) 588-2284

© The Minty  2013