Proclaiming that Sichuan Impression is some of the best Chinese food in the city is something no one will fight you on. The food is delicious, intense, and, aside from a handful of other spots in the San Gabriel Valley, unlike anything else you can get in LA. But as much as we love the tea-smoked ribs, boiled fish, and spicy wontons, the original location in Alhambra does have one flaw - it’s hard to fit a big party into the tiny space, which is a problem when the food is best enjoyed with help from friends. But the West LA location has solved that problem.
Having a meal at the Sichuan Impression on Santa Monica Blvd. is like being in the middle of a celebration - even if the only thing you’re celebrating is the food. It’s rare that a second or third outpost of a restaurant improves upon the original, but the newest location has done just that with the same great food and a big, fun dining room. The crowded second-story space fills up quickly with co-workers, families, and UCLA undergrads doing everything they can to avoid the dining halls. Since the tables are so close together, you’ll feel like you’re eating with the entire restaurant, not just the people you walked in with.
The massive menu opens dramatically like a Jumanji board to reveal a giant photo of the house specialty dishes. This is where you’ll want to focus most of your order. All the food at Sichuan Impression has tons of flavor, but not everything is going to blow your face off with spice. Order a mix of the spicy dishes (boiled fish and a mapo tofu that’ll clear your sinuses out for a year), and add in some milder ones (lamb on toothpicks and tea-smoked pork ribs). This food isn’t hot for the sake of being hot - but if you try to avoid the spicy dishes here, it’s truly your loss.
One thing to keep in mind - if you plan on dining in, just know that wait times at night might be up to several hours. Don’t let that deter you from eating the best Chinese food on the Westside. Use our hack and put your name on the online waiting list. That way you can spend more time being horizontal on your couch instead of standing around on a sidewalk in West LA. None of your friends will fight you on that one.
Tea-Smoked Pork Ribs
This is the most popular dish at Sichuan Impression and for good reason - it’s incredible. The meat basically falls off the bone, and because it’s not covered in heavy sauce, you can even eat it on a date without looking like a monster.
Anyone who’s ever thrown even a mildly successful dinner party knows the power of toothpick food. This dish is toothpick food at its prime. The lamb is fried and seasoned in cumin, giving it a nice kick.
The truth is that this dish is very intense. But if you’re looking to clear out any lingering sniffles and want to try one of the best things on the menu, you need this tofu and minced beef stew.
Street Corner Potato Strips
These slightly spicy Sichuan-style fries are a total crowd pleaser. It’s an ideal dish to pick at throughout the meal.
You won’t find this dish on the front section of the menu, but it absolutely needs to be ordered. The wontons themselves are excellent, but it’s the chili sauce on top that takes it to the next level.
Topped with rattan pepper and green peppercorns, this fish might be one of the most mouth-numbing things on the menu. Once you’re able to get past the fact that you can’t feel the roof of your mouth, you’ll realize the fish itself is absolutely delicious.