The San Gabriel Valley is full of countless restaurants that are incredible. Unfortunately, many of them are unknown to the outside world of non-Asian people because they are holes in the wall or simply have no English on their menus. Chengdu Taste is not one of these places. It is well-known in many circles and so popular that it spawned a sequel and even a line out the door in the middle of the afternoon. But despite this when I grabbed a meal there with my buddy we were the only non-Asians to be found. Granted, in Rosemead the odds of Asian ancestry are pretty high, but that is not the point. The point is that this place had a reputation to live up to, even though the original location was closed for health code violations.
Thus, it began with Flavored Beef with Steamed Rice, a dish that is probably better-described in Mandarin on the menu, but is nonetheless a pile of rice topped with beef, brown sauce and peas. It was the least interesting of what we ordered, but still quite delicious. Next came the Dan Dan (Tan Tan) Noodles, a dish that seems like Americanized Chinese food, but surely is not. In fact, it is a glorious mix of scallions, chili oil, minced pork, Sichuan peppers (because we’re in Chengdu of course) and amazing noodles. Well, at least these were amazing.
From there we ordered the two dishes that the world insisted we eat. The first was Boiled Fish with Green Pepper Sauce, also known as soup. This was the slightly lesser version of the Boiled Fresh Fish with Green Pepper Sauce, but I honestly couldn’t tell that this fish wasn’t fresh. It had no fishy taste, and I assume that is thanks in no small part to the seemingly endless supply of Sichuan insanity (numbing) peppers and green/red peppers. In other words, this broth was insanely rich in flavor and the bean sprouts and fish took it all in while buffering at the same time.
Finally, we had the Tooth Pick Lamb with Cumin. This struck me as more of a Xinjiang food than a Sichuan dish, but the internet seems to insist that I am wrong. In either case, this was my highlight. These little bits of lamb were packed with flavor and while I don’t know how to explain this, they simply weren’t overly “lamby.” Moreover, the dish was pure meat (and wood).
I’d say I would go back to Chengdu Taste in a second, but I am afraid of the line that might accompany that repeat. It is undoubtedly worth a visit, but there is just so much good food in the SGV that is just calling on me to scratch beyond the surface.