Szechuan Impression | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015

Szechuan Impression

photo by Anne Fishbein

Lynn Liu and Kelly Xiao, Szechuan Impression’s young owners, had very specific aims when they opened the SGV restaurant last year: They hoped to bring the food that people grew up eating in the southwestern Chinese province to this corner of the southwestern United States, with an updated feel to appeal to younger diners. Plenty here will set your mouth and heart ablaze, in the true Sichuan style. But there’s also nostalgia and subtlety at play, much more than you’d typically find on a menu with these origins. If you love heat, or even just extremity, many dishes here will blow your palate out in a blaze of masochistic gratification, such as the boiled fish in red chile, or the “old-school hot pot starch noodle.” More interesting are the dishes that rely less on the urgent sting of overpowering flavors, or that pair those flavors with quieter pleasures. The fish with green pepper shows the famous Sichuan peppercorn’s intensely aromatic side. If this is just the first wave of a new Sichuan influx, all the better. It’s a very good beginning. —Besha Rodell