Szechuan Impression: Strategically positioned to take Chengdu Taste's business?
It's quite clear to me, that their choice of location has less to do with.. location.. and more to do with being as close to chengdu taste as possible. Of course, rents may be cheaper this far down valley, but that's just what I feel their strategy is.
Their yelp is full of 5 star reviews, but most the 5 star ones are fake. The restaurant was absolutely packed today at 7:30pm, but at least half personally knew the owner. The other half appeared to easily best the noise level at new capital on saturday at noon. It was so noisy in there that I had to dam near shout anything I said to my party so that they could hear me. There was about a 20 minute wait even when calling ahead to "write our name down".
I'm going off the names of dishes from the receipt, as the names on the menu aren't even the same, and are a bit silly. I'll post them in a subsequent post and update the original post when I figure out which is which.
I also wrote the entire post only to have the beta photo style get me stuck in a loop (couldn't exit or press ok after trying to rearrange photos), which forced me to refresh and lose all that I wrote.
A large number of tables ordered toothpick lamb, but I had already tried that dish elsewhere so did not order it. Another two dishes I wanted to order was garlic pork slice (suan ni bai rou), and this brown sugar cake thing.
Overall, it was a nice dinner, and it will be interesting to see how they compete with Chengdu Taste. By the time I left, around 9pm, there was still a sizeable crowd in front of Chengdu Taste, but impression only had 1 or 2 parties waiting.
Cold Noodle (liang mian)
This was the first dish to arrive, it had a light, vinegar like sauce with a hint of garlic and hot oil. Very light dish that's perfect for a starter or as a light lunch. I'd order this again, as it tasted great and was only mildly spicy.
This was supposed to be our break from spicy food, unfortunately, it was packed with peppercorns and sliced chili's. It was actually spicier than the cold noodle. The texture wasn't different from other restaurants that have a cold cucumber dish w/ vinaigrette. It wasn't bad, but I don't feel that it's special enough to order again, especially since there's so much of the menu I haven't tried yet.
Boiled beef w/ white radish (leshan beef combo -"qiaojiao" leg crossingly beef")
If there's one word to describe this dish, it is PHO. Specifically PHO DAC BIET with all the meats, I kid you not. (ok, it's not the same, as there's no rice noodle, just similar) Also a bit similar to the korean sul lung tang.
How did people so far away from each other create what is essentially the same dish? I'm not sure, but it was quite tasty. The radish, beef, tendon, etc, were all extremely tender and tasty.
There was a dish of spices offered. The waitress said we should either dip the meat into the dish before eating, or mix some into a small bowl of the broth, but not to dump the dish directly into the beef dish itself.
Toothpick Chicken (leshan bo bo ji.. it also sounds interesting in cantonese)
When this dish arrived, I immediately thought "ma la guo", which it essentially was! Except that it was served chilled, and the meats and other items were all precooked. This was easily the easiest to share, but it didn't taste like I needed to go to a restaurant to eat it. I personally wouldn't order it again, as I'd rather go eat ma la guo.
The waiter said there were two prep methods, ma la, or green pepper (non ma la), and recommended ma la. I may try the other method next time to see if the taste changes.
They also recommended that we take the soup to go to reuse later on, and many parties appeared to take it to go. (possibly for hot pot or soup)
Boiled fish w/ green pepper
This dish, which was recommended by the waiter over "water boiled fish" was probably the most generic tasting and unremarkable of the bunch. I'm not even sure it's this particular shop. I think it's just this prep method. I mean you have fish fillets, peppers, and......?
Well what came out was some nicely cooked fish fillets in some spicy water too generic to be called a broth. I wouldn't order it again, but if spice and fish are your thing, maybe you'd like it.
Spicy Crab (finger lickingly juicy sauteed spicy crab)
This was the final dish to come out, and one of the better tasting ones. The prep style is similar to the cantonese ones with ginger n garlic, but with a ton of spices thrown in. The shell was as tasty as it was spicy. Which was unfortunate, because my spice level hit its' peak right as this dish arrived, and I could only enjoy one piece before I began drowning my tongue in their overly lemon'd and basil'd water.
I also think it was a tad overcooked, as the crab meat was stuck to the shells on many of the pieces, and a bit dry in others.
Dish of spices n chili for the beef soup
Not sure why the photo isn't turning.
Spicy Crab meat
All that nice crab meat, helplessly stuck on the shell. Near impossible to eat without tearing the shell apart, gnawing on the meat, and spitting the remainder out.