Being the person in your friend group who loves spicy food can be a lonely place. You never get to eat where you want to eat, and you’re generally demoted to putting tableside chili flakes on everything. Convincing a group of grilled cheese enthusiasts to cross town for a restaurant that actively ignores personalized spice-level requests doesn’t go well. So you need the kind of spot that makes people realize spice doesn’t have to mean pain. You need Chengdu Taste.
Located in Alhambra in the San Gabriel Valley, Chengdu Taste is not some diamond in the rough. In an area known for having some of the best Asian restaurants in the country, Chengdu Taste is royalty. But unlike the dim sum spots with two-hour waits on the weekends, Chengdu Taste’s reputation is largely based on one thing - spice. And a lot of it.
Chengdu Taste specializes in Szechuan cuisine, which generally involves a type of peppercorn that will make your face go numb and stay numb. But this family-run Chinese restaurant isn’t in the business of searing off your tastebuds. They’re in the business of cooking some of the most insanely flavorful dishes you’ll ever eat.
The key to a meal at Chengdu Taste is knowing how to balance the spicy dishes with the non-spicy dishes. The toothpick lamb with cumin, the couple’s sliced beef, and the best dan dan noodles in the world all fall in the non-spicy category, and should be the cornerstones of your meal. From there, add the spice: the mapo tofu, the boiled fish with green pepper sauce, and the mung bean jelly noodles. These dishes will clear out your sinuses in one bite, but they’ll also simultaneously warm your ice cold heart. When spicy is done as well as it is here, it cures you.
Chengdu Taste is one of LA’s great restaurants - not just because the food is spicy, but because it’s incredible. And when you’re sitting in their big, casual dining room surrounded by all your friends, eating everything in sight, that becomes abundantly clear. The grilled cheese enthusiasts will be thanking you.
A signature dish at Chengdu Taste. The only issue we have with it is that it’s ruined all other dan dan noodles for us. These chili oil and peanut-covered noodles aren’t too spicy, and they’re the kind of savory greatness you’ll think about for months.
This is one of Chengdu Taste’s best appetizers. The cold, jelly-like noodles are delicious and your only line of defense between you and that wall of peppercorns sitting on top.
Don’t concern yourself too much with the chili oil here, this dish is not spicy. Served cold, this fantastic bowl of meat is more garlicky than anything else and a perfect come-down after the jelly noodles.
Mapo tofu is one of the more familiar dishes in Szechuan cuisine and you can find this Chinese stew on plenty of menus around town. However, none compare to Chengdu Taste’s. It’s mildly spicy, super flavorful, and big enough for the whole table to share.
Another one of Chengdu’s signature dishes, this is a must-order for big groups simply because every little piece of lamb comes with its own toothpick stuck in the middle. And because little pieces of cumin-rubbed lamb are delicious and concerningly addicting.
No way around it, this is spicy. But the fact that this soup-like dish is filled white fish and green peppers keeps it light and not too filling for an end-of-meal addition.