Dinner at Sichuan Impression 锦城里 in Westwood/West Los Angeles

Dinner at Sichuan Impression 锦城里 in Westwood/West Los Angeles

If you’re a Chinese foodie, then you’ve been waiting for Sichuan Impression to open in the Westside since it was announced that they acquired the location that used house Jin Jiang, a Chinese American style restaurant (similar to those like Yang Chow in Chinatown) that was in business for over 25 years before shuttering this summer.

Sichuan Impression originally wanted to open last Sunday, but they didn’t quite finish setting up the place, so Tuesday became their opening day.  They opened with little fanfare, and by Thursday, they have been written up by EaterLA.  Since yesterday’s lunch service, long queues began for form as many locals, particularly ex-pats who work or study at UCLA come down for a bite one of Southern California’s most popular Sichuanese restaurants.

And they didn’t disappoint.  They brought in a chef from Chengdu to work with the other chefs and kitchen staff to create new dishes for this location, as well as ensuring that the kitchen churn out dish after dish of deliciousness.

The dishes, for the most part, are just as good as those at the Alhambra location.  One major difference here is obviously the prices, as they are slightly higher, compensating for the higher rents on the Westside.

Of all the dishes we ordered tonight, only the Impressive Sausages, Impressive Cold Noodles and the Wontons in Spicy Chile Oil didn’t impress me at all.  Flavorwise, they were rather ordinary, and the texture of the cold noodles (versus room temperature noodles) were unpleasant.

Delicious were the Bean Jelly, Steamed Chicken in Chile Sauce, Kung Pao Chicken, Stir Fried Lamb with Cumin, Mapo Tofu and Fish Filet with Rattan Pepper all sang with a depth of flavor with the expected spiciness from the chiles and numbing effect from the Sichuan peppercorns.

For their first week, they’re doing well with service and, especially, the preparation of the dishes.  Once the servers get into their groove, then things will be running like a well oiled machine.  The host station still needs more time to be able to answer questions by customers waiting for 20 or 30 or 45 minutes for a table and better keep order around the host station.

No reservations taken.  Just put your name, contact number and the number of people in your party and wait…but make sure everyone in your party is present when called as they may refuse to seat you not everyone’s present.

Now, if they could have spent some money renovating the restrooms.  The main dining room looks new, but the restrooms remind me of Chinese restaurants from back in the 1980s.

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Sichuanese Dinner at Spicy City 重庆麻辣成 in San Gabriel, CA

Sichuanese Dinner at Spicy City 重庆麻辣成 in San Gabriel, CA

Walking into Spicy City last Sunday night, we were caught off guard by the new furnishings and new tableware/settings.  The servers had to reassure us that that was all that changed with the restaurant.  They still have the same chefs and still churn out delicious Sichuanese food that we’ve grown to love over the last 4 years.

Even their menus are new, although I preferred the old menus as they had photos of all the menu items, making it easier to identify what you want to order and what else looks tempting to try.

Food is almost as good as the last time we ate here.  There were a couple of noticeable changes.  The Rattan Pepper Fish didn’t seem to have the depth of flavors as before.  There was definitely Ma (numbing quality from the Sichuan peppercorns), but not enough La (spiciness from the chiles).  The Lamb Chops were tasty, but they’re really serving you lamb ribs as opposed to lamb chops, where you’d expect a nice portion of meat attached to the bone (which was what we had the last time we were here several months ago).

Other than that, we enjoyed the food and appreciated them fulfilling a couple of requests, such as preparing the Fried Shrimp with Red Chilis with shelled shrimps rather than with the whole shrimp (shell and head attached).

And while we didn’t take advantage of ordering desserts, we were served complimentary plates watermelon and assorted moon cakes (as this the time of the Chinese Autumn Festival).

As always, click on the thumbnail to enlarge the photo.

Ruiji Sichuan Restaurant 瑞吉川菜 in Lomita, CA

Ruiji Sichuan Restaurant 瑞吉川菜 in Lomita, CA

Hard to believe that there’s been a true Sichuan restaurant in the South Bay area of Los Angeles (communities south of LAX) for almost 2 years now before I finally discovered them.  The prices here are slightly higher than the Sichuan restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, but the quality of their food pretty much rival the excellent ones in San Gabriel Valley.

The menu is huge and offers a wonderful variety of Sichuan dishes and more.  The dishes offer a good enough of a kick but not to the point where the spiciness would overpower the layers of flavors that exude from every dish from the very first bite.  And while most of the dishes were delicious, there were a couple of under-performing dishes, such as the Corn laced with Salted Egg Yolk and the Wontons in Spicy Chili Oil.  The corn was too sweet and had too much of the salted duck egg yolks dusted over them.  It ate more like a dessert than savory goodness.  The wontons tasted one dimensional, especially from the sauce the wontons were served with.

Other than that, it was a great dinner.  With so many offerings on their menu, we would have to make a couple of return visits in the future.

 

Sichuan Dinner at GuYi 古亦廚房 in the Brentwood Neighborhood of West Los Angeles

Sichuan Dinner at GuYi 古亦廚房 in the Brentwood Neighborhood of West Los Angeles

The Westside of Los Angeles is becoming a haven for only excellent Chinese restaurants, but specifically, Sichuan food.  A couple of years ago, China’s Meizhou Dongpo opened up their first US location in Century City.  Then GuYi opened up earlier this year, followed by West LA’s Hop Woo adding management and chefs with experience preparing excellent, non-Americanized, Sichuan dishes.  In the near future Sichuan Impression will take over the space where long time Chinese American restaurant Jin Jiang used to reside, in West LA as well.

Though I wasn’t much of a fan of the food at Meizhou Dongpo, it was quite the opposite with GuYi and Hop Woo (both whom have created dishes that are spicy and are packed with indepth flavor).

What a even more surprising about GuYi was that their Sichuan cookery has improved since my first visit back in May.  The dishes were well prepared and seasoned well, offering a good amount of spiciness and mouth-numbingness without the dishes being extremely salty as many other Sichuan restaurants seem to do.

Highlights of our Labor Day dinner at GuYi were the Fish with Green Chiles and the Steamed Chicken in Chili Sauce.  The flavors were outstanding; the spice level, good; and an adequate amount of mouth numbing Sichuan peppercorns used in the dishes.

Because GuYi is located on the west end  of the 3rd Floor of Brentwood Gardens shopping mall, their prices have to be on the higher side in order to compensate for the higher rents they have.  In addition, some of the portions were on the trimmer side. However, the deliciousness of the food made it easy for us to overlook that.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge the photo with captions.

 

酸菜魚 Dinner at Tai 2 太二 Chinese Sauerkraut Fish in City of Industry

酸菜魚 Dinner at Tai 2 太二 Chinese Sauerkraut Fish in City of Industry

Sichuan style restaurant that specializes in spicy whole fish cooked in a spicy broth made with sour pickled vegetables (aka Chinese sauerkraut), dried red chiles, and Sichuan peppercorns.  The dish is can be quite spicy depending on the level of heat you choose.  We went with Medium Spice level, and it was quite spicy for our table.   The Sichuan peppercorns gave that nice numbing effect that somewhat neutralizes the burn from the chiles.  Unfortunately, the dish was quite salty.  In fact, almost all of their dishes were over-seasoned.

The fish used was tilapia.  In our Extra Large sized order, the used 2 loosely filleted tilapia.  I say “loosely filleted” because the skin is not remove, and you would definitely encounter bones that are still inside each chunk of fish meat.  So, eat with care.

Pricing here seemed rather high for the quality of the dishes, and their sizes.  Even a bowl of steamed white rice costs $2 per bowl.

Service here is typical of restaurant from Mainland China.  The staff is nice, but other than serving you your dishes, and provide you with the basics, they don’t do anything extra, such as refilling water glasses.

The best dishes of the night were the chicken feet and the vegetable dishes as well.

We did enjoy quirky English names given for their dishes, almost literal translations from the quirky Chinese names.

Xian Kitchen 西安食府 in City of Industry, CA

Xian Kitchen 西安食府 in City of Industry, CA

Small restaurant that opened back in 2014, serving up regional cuisine from Shaanxi Province (陝西) in North Central China, where hand-pulled noodles are popular, as well as flavor-forward dishes incorporating the use of ingredients such as cumin, garlic, green onions, dried red chiles, and vinegar.  Bordering the Sichuan Province to the north, it’s understandable why the last 2 pages of their menu feature many of the dishes you would find in Sichuan cuisine such as Mapo Tofu, Eggplant in Garlic Sauce, and Kungpao Chicken.  However, the most noteworthy dishes are the rou jia mo (肉夹馍, the Chinese style hamburger of baked buns made with fermented dough), lamb pao mo (羊肉泡馍, a lamb soup with rice vermicelli and pieces of bread made from fermented dough, often described as Chinese pita bread), and qi shan ground pork noodle (岐山臊子面, made with a rich, bright red broth using red chiles and vinegar.  Noodles, bean curd, egg, and green onions were featured in this noodle soup.)

The most of the dishes we ordered were delicious and quite distinct in flavor.  Popular with our table were the lamb pao mo, rou jia mo, and the qi shan ground pork noodles.  Quite a hearty dish was the Big Plate Chicken, which is a Uyghur dish (Xinjiang being not too far west of Shaanxi) made of hand pulled noodles, sautéed chicken, fried potatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic and cumin.  The dish was so big, it can easily feed up to 5 on its own.  Even a simple dish as stir fried cabbage with dried red chiles and black vinegar came out to be very flavorful.

Unfortunately, dumplings were the weakest part of the meal.  Though they’re popular in Southern and Northeastern China, the ones offered here were just not well seasoned at all.  Quite bland.

Service is here is “no frills” and may come across rude and flippant, but that’s how most Chinese restaurants are that don’t specifically cater to a Western audience.

Click on the thumbnail to enlarge.

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Awesome Sichuan at Chongqing Xiao Mian in San Francisco 

Awesome Sichuan at Chongqing Xiao Mian in SF

Sometimes, the easiest way to figure out where to go to grab some good eats is by using Yelp.  At times you’ll find substantive reviews that would draw you to a restaurant, and if you enjoyed your food, then it was a win-win situation.

Such was the case here.  This place was reminiscent of some of the excellent Sichuan places in the San Gabriel Valley, just east of Downtown LA.

We originally wanted to order the Steamed Lamb with Sweet Sticky Rice Pot, but they were of it, along with the beef counterpart.

Food had great flavors, and just spicy enough to create a little sweat and a little numbing sensation (thanks to the cracked Sichuan peppercorns).

This is one place I’d go back the next time I’m in SF, or even Fremont, CA.

Chongqing Xiao Mian

915 Kearny Street

San Francisco, California 94133

Telephone: 415.983.0888

Szechuan Style Mouthwatering Chicken – Bone-In Chicken with Ma La Chile Oil, Bean Sprouts, Scallions, Sesame Seeds and Peanuts
Cumin Lamb Skewers (Menu states 4 per order, but we got 6)
Lamb in Pickled Mustard Greens Noodle Soup
Steamed Vegetables
Chongqing Xiao Mian