Heartening news for numbing spice fans: Alhambra favorite Sichuan Impression, one of the most acclaimed Sichuan restaurants in the country (alongside Chengdu Taste), is set to open its third location in the former Jin Jiang space in West L.A. this week.
Due to limitations in space and alcohol permitting at their original location, owners and Chengdu expats Kelly Xiao and Lynn Liu have been eager to expand their popular restaurant concept beyond the SGV, first with a location in Tustin in 2016 and now, after two years of planning, a westward outpost with a beer-and-wine license firmly in place.
“We’ve listened to our customers and we’re finally opening on the Westside,” says managing partner Will Zhang. The newest location has room for 120 diners, with interior design and furnishings inspired and sourced from Sichuan.
Zhang says the menu is a replica of Sichuan Impression Alhambra, cooked by the chefs who migrated from the other two branches, which means the same Jonathan-Gold-lauded dishes, like boiled fish with rattan pepper and toothpick lamb, will be available—and now with the option of being accompanied by pitchers of beer. The recipes are still under the auspices of Lynn Liu, as they have been since day one of the O.G. opening.
The arrival of modern Chengdu-style cooking in a part of the city not known for robust Chinese food options is a significant development. It seems to line up with recent speculation that decorated Chengdu chef Yu Bo is planning to open an avant-garde Sichuan-inspired fine dining restaurant somewhere in Los Angeles proper.
Of course, the recent excitement belies the strides that have been made in Southern California’s booming Sichuan food scene in last five years. With two female entrepreneurial food lovers at the helm (and with no ties to massive Chinese food conglomerates, as is the case with the places like Meizhou Dongpo and hot pot chain HaiDiLao), Sichuan Impression has thrived and stayed relevant since 2014, capturing the idyllic “Chengdu lifestyle” through flavorful and cheekily named dishes like “leg crossing(ly) good” soup, spicy “street corner” fries, and “school yard” jelly.
It also helps that members of the management team regularly return to the sub-provincial city to sample the latest foodie happenings (when Chengdu diners were fiending for spicy rabbit heads a few years ago, Liu added braised rabbit head specials to the menu). Another key: Sichuan-specific spices for all of the chain’s outlets are still sourced and produced by local families, and used only by the restaurant.
What’s next for the enterprising outfit? According to managing partner Ivy Wei, a separately branded, fast-casual Chinese concept featuring many Sichuanese street eats will be opening at Chinatown’s Far East Plaza before the end of the year.
Sichuan Impression, 11057 Santa Monica Blvd., West L.A., (310) 444-7171.
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