99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Chengdu Taste

photo by Amy Scattergood

Shortly after the Sichuan restaurant Chengdu Taste opened in 2013, long lines began forming on the sidewalk outside, making that stretch of the concrete universe on Valley Boulevard seem like the unlikely home of a pop-up concert or a pot shop. Nope, just hungry people waiting for a bowl of the pragmatically named “numb taste” wontons or a plate of the stunningly good “toothpick lamb,” which is just as pragmatically named and which you can see on pretty much every table in the place, making you also wonder whose job it is to skewer tiny bits of lamb with toothpicks day after day. Thank God somebody does it, as the dishes here are worth the inevitable wait. Which is to say that the lines have not perceptibly diminished — if anything, they’ve gotten longer. Is it worth the hype? Absolutely. For the wontons and the lamb, and also for the dan dan mian and the plates of fish, even the simple dish of spicy cooked cabbage. This is terrific food, done in the manner of Chongqing, sometimes lighter and milder than you’d expect at other SGV Sichuan palaces, but then sometimes not. Bring a book and maybe a lawn chair. And yes, order the rabbit with “younger sister’s secret recipe.” Would that Chengdu Taste wrote everybody’s menu.

-- Amy Scattergood