SGV: Pleasant Spice Levels at Szechuan Impression
Szechuan Impression opened last summer in Alhambra. I finally tried a bite from the recent LA Weekly Essentials Food Festival. After chatting with friends, we gathered up a group of 6 to check it out. At first it seemed like we ordered almost all appetizers but really, we ordered two apps and (practically) all meat dishes.
One of my favorite dishes at nearby competitor Chengdu Taste is the mung bean jelly. Szechuan Impression’s version is a much bigger portion and perfect for our large party.
The pickled cucumber provided a crisp and refreshing bite as a counterpoint the various spicy dishes.
I love pig ears fried but I also like preparations where the ears are still a bit soft and you get the crunch of the cartilage. These were great smoked. I piled a bunch on my plate and the sauces and oils from the dishes seeped over the pig ears, creating an even softer texture.
One of the popular dishes is the toothpick lamb. If you like skewers, this is a dish for you. I found it a bit of work to separate the meat from the toothpicks.
My favorite Sichuan dish is water boiled fish. I thought SI’s version to be spicy but not too mouth-numbing. One of the things the group talked about it was SI managed to create different flavor profiles for each dish. Some other places hits you with the same eye-watering, ma la punch for all dishes and suddenly you can’t distinguish anything else.
Fuqui Feipian translates to “sliced offal by married couple.” One of the popular street foods is cold sliced beef and offal. One particular couple became famous for their version and eventually the dish was known as sliced lung by married couple. At SI, there’s beef, tendon and tripe. I would have loved to have tried actual lung. Perhaps someone else will take up the challenge. Again, the spice isn’t overwhelming. It’s a pleasant, tingling buzz.
Someone in the group ordered the garlic shredded pork which turned out to be thinly sliced pork. We really enjoyed this dish with plain white rice. There’s a slick sauce that has also co-mingled on my plate with other dishes and pretty soon my plate is a cheerful glistening red.
Being a BBQ nut, I have a thing for baby back ribs. I’ve had tea-smoked duck before and was very happy to see the technique applied these ribs. The meat fell off the bone. If you like saucy ribs, I suggest dabbing the meat at the pool of chili oil that’s sure to be on your plate from the other dishes.
We heard so much about the rice powder dishes that we of course had to order the lamb. I had expected it to be crispy but since it’s steamed, it came out rather mushy. The texture isn’t entirely off-putting but I preferred the drier, smoked ribs.
A balanced Chinese meal always includes a vegetable. We went with the A-choy, greens that were stir-fried with garlic. Like the cucumber from earlier, this provided a good counterpoint to the spicy dishes.
SI has another popular dish, the bobo chicken that is only served at dinner. That means I’ll have to go back in the evening!
Szechuan Impression1900 W Valley Blvd., Alhambra, CA 91803 — (626) 283-4622 © The Minty 2015