I am a Chicago chowhound traveling to China in August. We will find ourselves in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Chengdu (Leshan, Emei City as well) I have seen a reasonable amount of recs for HK and BJ but not Chengdu. Where do you recommend? I am looking for amazing hot pot (including the meat to order...), as well as any other amazing restaurant that comes to mind.
If you are from China and need help in Chicago, I will certainly trade information. :)
Muztagh Travel has a couple of suggestions for Chengdu Hot Pot restaurants. Muztagh specializes in Western China and is oriented more toward adventurous backpackers than casual tourists, so I would tend to put some credence in their reccos.
Chengdu is probably less known for hot pot than Chongqing, but I'm sure they are probably no slouch when it come to that. If anything, Chengdu is known for a very wide variety of tasty "street" foods. Fuschsia Dunlop had an award-winning piece on the snack foods of Sichuan (mostly Chengdu) in Saveur, March 2005 issue. Unfortunately it's not online.
To whet your appetite, here's an uncommented gallery of Sichuan foods from my own website:
re: Gary Soup
Incredible. Especially to me. The last time I visited Chengdu, in 1981, it was a sleepy provincial capital. Unlike most places, where the best you could do was bland hotel restos or drab dingy places with names like People's Restaurant Number 7, Chengdu (like Peking, Shanghai and Canton) had one or two real restaurants -- Chengdu Restaurant and Furong Restaurant. How thrilled I was to discover Gong Bao Chicken! But its preparation was closer to that in a take-out restaurant on Manhattan's Upper West Side, and the food I later had in Flushing's Spicy & Tasty was a revelation.
Here's a couple of preview links to a work in progress on my own web site. A blogger friend Astrid let her excellent blog "Wrapped in Dough" expire because she's too busy in law school. I rescued all of the pages of her reports from a 7-month stay in China and am planning to package them on my website. I put a couple of Chengdu-related ones up tonight as a test; they're not even linked to the main page, and the form may change, but all the good stuff is here:
Your pictures and web links are amazing! Is there anyway I can see the rest of the Chengdu related links - Emei Shan, Leshan, and Chengdu from the Wrapped in Dough site? It was really exciting to read that. If you want to contact me directly please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'll try and get more relevant pages up tonight (I'd forgotten you are going to Emei and LeShan too). I'll add a cover page and a link from the eatingchinese.org mainpage. I'll email you too, if I remember so we don't clutter up this board.
My email address is in my chowhound profile.
Oh, man, am I envious! I loved Chengdu and there is excellent food to be found. Of course, I never wrote down the names of the places we ate in; mostly walked around town and stopped in the bustling places. I love mapo doufu and had several good versions. Also very fond of "water-boiled" fish (definitely no water in that dish---yow!). We were there in 2003, so I'm not sure how much it's changed.
We stayed at the Jin Jiang hotel which has a nice upscale restaurant (their fried pigeon sticks in my mind as very good). They also had a really good buffet breakfast, which is probably a good bargain, with several dishes that I hadn't seen elsewhere in China. The stinkiest of stinky tofu completely took me by surprise at that buffet.
You must go to Wenshu Monastery and sit in the tea area for a nice afternoon of people watching.
We had a nice hot pot (very medicinal) in the town below E'mei Shan. Again, I don't remember the name. We were there in April and it was quite cool; I don't know how much you'll feel like hot pot in the summer. Once you get into the temple, you can have lunch with the monks. Vegetarian, of course. It's so beautiful there... ah, to have more time and money.
We stayed in Leshan for a night, only long enough to take the boat to see the Buddha, and we were out of there the next morning. My recollection is that the town has nothing to offer culturally; seemed kind of dumpy.
If you have time, hire a driver to take you to Dazu to look at the stone carvings. It's off the beaten track (but so is E'mei Shan) but not too far from Leshan, on the way to Chongqing. Not sure if you would be able to manage using public trans. Totally worth the effort.
Have a wonderful and safe trip!
In Chengdu you have a lot of great options. Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible for me to remember all the places, but there is a very famous place for dumplings (called, I think, Long Chao Shou--龙抄手) that is not to be missed. There are a couple of locations: Chunxi Road Branch: No. 8, South Section of Chunxi Road, Jinjiang District; Huanhua Branch: No. 9-3, Huahua North Road, Qingyang District; Zhixin Branch: No. 1-14, Zhixin North Street, Wuhou District.
Also great are the crab hotpot places, which I have not seen elsewhere in China. They tend to be of the 'crummy but good' category, and there is a district in Chengdu where they seem to propagate, though of course I cannot remember where that is. One that I do remember is called "Guangtou Spicy Crab Hotpot" and should be worth a visit.
If you go to Leshan, the thing I remember most about the food there is the amazing proliferation of tofu specialist restaurants. I don't recall what it is that is so special about Leshan's tofu, but Xiba tofu is apparently a Big Deal, and there was a whole area along the riverfront with nothing but restaurants selling it. Definitely eat at one--you won't regret it!