Chengdu Taste | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015

Chengdu Taste

photo by Jim Thurman

The Sichuan restaurant trend has climbed to even greater heights in the San Gabriel Valley this year, elevating once-obscure provincial dishes, such as diced rabbit in younger sister’s secret sauce or “water-boiled” fish with green chiles, into the kind of experience that often requires waiting an hour outside a Valley Boulevard storefront. What continues to set Chengdu Taste apart is not only its electrifying use of lip-numbing peppercorns and tongue-lashing chile oil but its tantalizing restraint in the sweat-inducing heat department. The gustatory equivalent of a slinky burlesque performance, a meal at Chengdu reveals its heat slowly, giving way from milder dishes such as garlicky dan dan mian to deep-fried tubes of intestine that practically twitch with spice. The waiters, to their credit, prepare you well: The meal begins with a plastic sheath to protect your phone from chile-soaked fingers, and ends with a bottle of soothing yogurt accompanying the check. —Garrett Snyder