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Jul 3, 2013 01:53 PM

Pyromania at Chengdu Taste in Alhambra

Having prototypical Cantonese taste buds I'm not the person to judge who has the spiciest food in town. But I have my suspicions that Chengdu Taste, whose recent opening was flagged by Tony C, and successor to Golden Shanghai at 828 W. Valley Bl., might be up there. First of all, I don't recall seeing a menu with such a high percentage of items marked extra spicy. Secondly, while I was in the restaurant, an agitated Asian customer was apparently complaining about the food being too spicy. Had I gone to the spicy side of the menu I would have ordered the rabbit in younger sister's secret sauce, but instead I had the tofu fish casserole, which really was a soup. Extremely tasty, so somebody in the kitchen knows how to cook. I'll let the rest of you rate the spicy stuff.

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    1. Having no idea what "rabbit in younger sister's secret sauce" might be, I was about to Google it, before I realized such a search would probably take me to the wrong side of the internets....

      Still, thanks for the heads-up; as someone who likes things on the hotter side I'll see if I can give it a try this week.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Bradbury

        Apparently there's a popular Chengdu dish called sister rabbit or second sister rabbit which is spicy but also the rabbit bones are very prominent in the dish. I'm assuming that's what the dish was.

        1. re: PeterCC

          I think it's called 二姐兔丁 and if I remember correcty, it's prepared with chili peppers, sichuan peppercorns, black beans, and peanuts. About 2/3rds of the dish is bones though.

        2. re: Bradbury

          I went yesterday, and this item is already crossed off their menu, including at least another dozen dishes. Had a plate titled Fried Chicken in Chilis, which turned out to be chopped up inch long pieces of chicken with the bone-in stir fried with green chilis and bell peppers. Tasty and spicy (asked for medium level of spiciness) but found that it was hard to eat with the sizes of the chicken being so small, that's basically almost just bones.

          Had their cumin lamb which was tasty and spicy. Does anyone one know the significance of having to skewer each piece of meat with a toothpick? I noticed they had a Toothpick Lamb (and a Toothpick Beef), so how does this plate differ from the cumin lamb? Strange.

          Have to go back with a group of friends in order to be able to try out more dishes.

          1. re: TripleAxel

            My guess is that the toothpicks would allow you to use your hands to pick up the pieces to eat.

          2. re: Bradbury

            jonathan gold ‏@thejgold 1h
            Nothing but sadness. Younger Sister's Diced Rabbit was crossed off the menu.


            1. re: Bradbury

              it's still on the menu as of 3 hours ago. #3 IIRC

              the rabbit was chopped into cubes, but with pieces of bone.

              1. re: barryc

                The thread has gotten so unwieldy that posts get missed.

                The rabbit dish was returned quickly to the menu.

                Looks much like the rabbit at Shu Feng (and bones too)

            2. I just ate here. Basically, this place is sensational.

              its not just the spice levels, which are gratifyingly high. Its the artistry of the entire package. This is high-brow, elegant, complex cooking.

              the prices are a little high -- the fried chicken cubes are 14.99 and the cumin lamb is 13.99 -- but the latter is absolutely worth it. (didnt try the cubes). It comes as a pyramid of toothpick-skewered lamb chunks dusted with a volcanic combination of spice and tingly crushed szechuan peppercorn, graced with cilantro. Unbelievable good, charred, grilled lamby perfection. The Tan Tan noodles were splendid. Both dishes seems to point to a level of kitchen artistry that puts chengdu taste above its szechuan competitors that I've tried.


              10 Replies
              1. re: echoparkdirt

                Hmmm, I think I'll give them a try tonight!

                1. re: echoparkdirt

                  Did you notice if hey have lamb ribs on the menu?A photo of the outstanding ones from JTHY is attached

                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                    didnt notice that. they do have some uncommon names for dishes, it might be some time until we find everything.

                    I encourage everyone to visit and publish dining reports!

                    Also, free WiFi :D

                  2. re: echoparkdirt

                    Are Tan Tan Noodles the same thing as Dan Dan Noodles?

                    1. re: narcissisticnonsense

                      Same dish/theory, different romanization and execution. Usually, japanese places use "tan tan" and chinese places use "dan dan" due to the way that they're pronounced in each respective language.

                      1. re: blimpbinge

                        They were Dan Dan noodles, essentially. I also got the Cold Noodles in Garlic Sauce, which was lovely with a unique flavor I could not pin down. Sweet.

                        1. re: echoparkdirt

                          today's dan dan noodles were on the seriously spicy side.

                      2. re: narcissisticnonsense

                        tofu = dofu. Asian languages often distinguish between aspirated and unaspirated consonants. We tend to aspirate T but not D which makes them easier to tell apart. Unaspirated T is almost interchangeable with D.

                        1. re: LADave

                          Also depends on what transcription/romanization was used to distringuish between aspirated and unaspirated. Wade-Giles was the classic method that transcribed the "t" and "d" sounds in Chinese "backwards" in English in my opinion.

                          In W-G, the "d" sound is transcribed as a "t", so that's why the Chinese philosophy that's pronounced "dao" was traditionally spelled "tao".

                          The "backwards" part is that Chinese has a "t" sound, like in Taiwan. For whatever reason, W-G decided to transcribe that sound as a "t'" (there's an apostrophe after the letter). So Taiwan, properly written in W-G is "T'aiwan" but most people drop the apostrophe.

                          Pinyin transcribes the aspirated and unaspirated sounds in a more logical (in my opinion) manner. For the unaspirated "d" sound, they use the English letter "d". For the aspirated "t" sound, they use the English letter "t" without apostrophes.

                          Same for the unaspirated "g". W-G transcribes the general term for Chinese martial arts as "kung fu" even though it's pronounced with the unaspirated "g" sound. Pinyin transcribes it as "gong fu".

                          So the noodles are pronounced "dan dan" in Mandarin but may be spelled "tan tan" (in W-G) or "dan dan" (in pinyin).

                          (The Japanese version is spelled and pronounced with a "t" sound, "tantanmen".)

                          1. re: PeterCC

                            Hello from Daya, Taichung.

                            Point of clarification on what you're referring to generically as "pinyin". In your post, you're referring specifically to Hanyu Pinyin.

                            Don't forget that in Taiwan, in addition to Wade-Giles, they use the newish Tongyong Pinyin IN ADDITION to Hanyu Pinyin (which is the most popular one used in PRC).

                            For example, the Wade-Giles "ch" sound (as in "chung") is expressed in Hanyu Pinyin as "zh". Tongyong Pinyin (which is frustratingly used in city signage sometimes interchangeably with Hanyu Pinyin) expresses the "ch" sound as "jh" so "jhong" is the transliterated Tongyong Pinyin spelling.

                            Personally I feel the "jh" is a more accurate written expression of the correct sound than either zh or ch, but Tongyong Pinyin is the latecomer to the game and has a helluva road to climb to become widely relevant. (It's largely irrelevant politically now anyway as it is not longer considered the "official" romanization system for Taiwanese signage)

                            Mr Taster

                    2. just came here again. Fantastic. A woman from Chengdu was eating at the same time. She said the food was very authentic and tasted exactly like back home!

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: echoparkdirt

                        I don't see why that would be out off the ordinary in this area.

                        1. re: blimpbinge

                          Actually, it's very extraordinary.

                          Most SGV Sichuanese restaurants are bending towards the Chongqing hold-no-bar-back extra spicy with the sole aim of getting all the way through your digestive system.

                          It's extremely difficult to find any Chengdu style restaurant after Shufeng Garden at the Great Mall of China closed. Chengdu style food has a finer balance of spicy & numbness and you can still taste the disk - i.e. it's not spicy for spicy sake.

                          1. re: keepon

                            ^ This. Shufeng Garden and Chengdu Taste are definitely in the same vein. I'm very impressed with just the sample of dishes I had at Chengdu Taste, even if they were some of the more mundane. Went with the liang pi and spicy won tons simply to have a couple of small dishes to compare...and I didn't expect the lamb w/ cumin to be the toothpicked version. Some will grouse about the $, but that's the best quality lamb I've had in the SGV.

                            1. re: JThur01

                              The dollars are still not bad by West LA standards if I got that right though I haven't actually visited yet.

                              Do they served sliced fish dishes too ?

                              1. re: kevin

                                kevin, sorry I missed this is all the posts. No the $$ aren't bad at all, but I'm used to complaints about price - aside from dim sum or dinner service at dim sum places - when it creeps over $9. Unfortunately, I can't answer the question about sliced fish dishes (hopefully someone else will). While I studied the menu a bit, I was popping in (with someone else) for some basic items and didn't absorb the menu. Without a take-out menu as a reference, I truly don't know. Sorry. I only noted the filet dishes.

                                After the hubbub dies down, I'd love to go back and dig deeper into TonyC's recs.

                                1. re: JThur01

                                  Good grief - "sorry I missed this *in* all the posts" and "when it creeps over $9 in the SGV"

                                  See what getting in at 1AM does to me?

                                    1. re: kevin

                                      No...I just got home at 1AM and then attempted to type a post here at CH :)

                        1. re: judybird

                          They do not and according to the manager, they do not permit BYOB.