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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.

Signage

Interesting bowls

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.

Cold cucumber

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.

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    1. Great photos and report!

      1. I like the surgical glove technique!
        sounds like a good find.

        1. I love 5 star reviews from "reviewers" who only have one review. Also when they're from out of state.

          1. Per Yelp no alcohol lic. - did you BYO or see others doing so?
            I still cannot fathom the success of Chengdu Taste with that zero tolerance on booze.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ciao Bob

              I did not bring any or see any while I was eating. Most of the tables just had water.

            2. Thanks for the report.

              RE: Yelp
              Rumored had it this place was "providing" liang-pi to anyone reviewing them on Yelp and coming to the spontaneous conclusion it should get 5 stars.

              But you know what they say about rumors. Sometimes true. Sometimes only partly true.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ipsedixit

                I thought that was Chongqing (in the former Liang's Kitchen space) in San Gabriel that was reportedly "providing" free liang pi for positive Yelp reviews? At least that was the rumored location.

              2. 1) as someone who also has posted pics, yes it does lock for a while. but don't refresh or close the tab; if you open another tab and go to the same page, you can usually see (and be able to edit) your post within a minute even though the original page remains locked.
                2) was there an unimpressive/less impressive menu for the types who prefer a more sedate lifestyle?

                4 Replies
                1. re: barryc

                  In addition to what I ordered, there was a large number of various spicy items (soups, stews, tossed in spicy sauce), and lots of meat items that I wasn't able to try. If you mean, do they have tons of dumpling, rice, or noodles filling the menu, then not really. At least not as voluminous as cantonese restaurants.

                  1. re: blimpbinge

                    ok. actually i was referring to the "impressive appetizers/snacks" and "impressive local favorites" headings on the menu; if they had a categories of impressive items, i would expect them to offer a category of unimpressive items just to balance things out. but apparently that's just me being a literalist.

                    1. re: barryc

                      haha sorry, that went completely over my head!

                      1. re: blimpbinge

                        if they'd listed "impressive chicken feet" i'd still be laughing.

                  1. re: TheOffalo

                    "Of note: the crossed leg beef stew is evocative of a pho broth. In fact, it may the platonic ideal which every bowl of pho bo should achieve. Except this is at a Sichuan restaurant, and the pho is rice, not rice noodles."

                    Exactly!!

                  2. JG paid a visit this wknd. He didn't have to wait long, but if you, a pleb, visit during weekend dinner, plan to sniff Valley Blvd smog for 1.5 hours.

                    No BYO, no reservations (just like Chengdu Taste).

                    Alternatively, visit 口口香 in Rosemead, a joint that has been around for 3 years but remains untouched by the media frenzy.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: TonyC

                      First two characters before the "xiang" is rendered in squares for me (both in Firefox on Windows and in Mobile Safari on iPhone) on your under-the-radar Rosemead restaurant rec.

                      1. re: TheOffalo

                        It's actually the word mouth, so literally translated it's "mouth mouth fragrant" kou kou xiang:

                        http://www.yelp.com/biz/hot-pot-resta...

                        1. re: blimpbinge

                          LOL thanks blimp. Funny, I thought I've seen "kou" in computer font before and it didn't render as perfect squares. <insert joke about it being in simplified or traditional writing>

                          The way it appears in my browsers, it looks just the placeholder squares when certain special characters don't render properly.

                          1. re: TheOffalo

                            haha I also did a double take, but then remember seeing the same characters in the el monte area. Still haven't tried it hmm

                          2. re: blimpbinge

                            Hmmm...
                            Went Thursday for lunch with a friend - was a miserable experience.
                            There was NO one else in the restaurant while we ate. The service was tolerable.
                            Perhaps we also ordered poorly.

                            Cold beef - was very chewy, not much flavor, and easily one of the worst dishes I have had here.
                            Fish fillets in hot pot! OK - at this point I was ready to give up - a few pieces of fluffy fried fish, on a bed of rice in a stone pot like in Korean restaurants. No sauce, nothing!
                            Dan dan noodles - not listed as such, but when we asked the waitress said yes they do it - and pointed to some other dish. This was decent - ma la numbness w/o being too spicy.
                            I see the Yelp reviews are uniformly good, and all say really spicy. I was prepared to have the roof of my mouth blow off - but certainly the spice level had not reached critical mass!

                            1. re: suvro

                              A large number of their yelp reviews are fake, and an equally large number of patrons that were dining when I when that night were personal friends of the owner.

                              It's good that chengdu taste has some competition, but i think this place needs to be less shady n just be more consistent.

                              1. re: blimpbinge

                                They seeded the place with personal friends of the owner because you were dining there at that time, that night??

                          3. re: TheOffalo

                            Hehehe... I guess I'm a luddite who grew up using Mandarin - I read it as "kou kou xiang" on the first pass.

                          4. re: TonyC

                            What's the name of the joint in Rosemead for Sichuan ?????

                          5. Yawn...you eat at a restaurant specializing in Szechuan cuisine and complain about the food's heat?

                            1. Sorry, I only do Hunan impressions.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mc michael

                                Every time I see Hunan on a sign or in an article on the web, I swear it says Human, and then my inner Hannibal perks up.