Beyond Fiery Spices at Chengdu Taste

It’s the hottest new thing in town — literally.

Arrive at 7 p.m. on a weekday and you’ll barely snag a table. Come here on the weekends during dinner hours and you’ll definitely have to wait. The popularity of the restaurant is impressive considering that they’ve only been open for a month. You won’t be rubbing elbows with the regular L.A. crowd though — at least not yet. The majority of the patrons are Sichuan natives: young, recently immigrated yuppies who have somehow caught wind of the restaurant from their social networks. It’s a good sign.

Chengdu Taste is one of the newer Chinese restaurants on Valley Boulevard. Located in Alhambra in the former Golden Shanghai space, it’s an homage to Sichuan food, a subset of Chinese cooking that many in the area have already adopted, marketed, and sold. But here, the food is especially piquant and people have taken notice.

“I want my restaurant to be representative of the Sichuan way of life,” owner and chef Tony Xu said in Mandarin. “It’s not just about having good food. It’s about having delicious, authentic food that properly reflects the culture and tastes of Chengdu.”

Chengdu is the capital of the Sichuan Province in China — an area known for its fiery, tongue-numbing cuisine. In 2011, it became the first Asian city to be listed as a “City of Gastronomy” — an honor only granted to places with both strong gastronomic and traditional culinary practices.

A Chengdu native, Xu always had a long-held fascination with the food of his people. He apprenticed under local chefs back home and owned a Sichuan-style restaurant in China before he moved to Los Angeles in 2005. After various Chinese restaurant stints including one with Panda Restaurant Group, Xu partnered up with his friends and opened the doors to Chengdu Taste on June 25.

The Restaurant

Appropriately adorned with a scattering of Sichuan opera masks on one of its walls, the eatery is remarkably modern in comparison to its neighboring counterparts.


Read the full feature here on KCET