For our May issue (on newsstands now!), we rallied our appetites to come up with our list of “The 75 Best Restaurants in L.A.” What were those extra little somethings that helped each spot rise above the rest? Here, we showcase the X-Factors.
If you’re going to wait two hours for a table at a hot, both figuratively and literally, restaurant like Chengdu Taste, the food had better not be similar to something you can get down the street at a glut of other Sichuan restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley.
Fortunately, the peppercorn-induced hype propels Chengdu Taste above the rest. “Secret menu” items and daily specials like the Lion Fish—which technically is not the venomous species found in the Indo-Pacific, but rather a carp or tilapia—make dining at this Sichuan restaurant fresh and exciting.
However, Sichuan food is not Sichuan food if you’re not shoveling down fluffy steamed rice with your dish. My go-to item for this purpose is the Boiling Meat in Special Hot Sauce, which will snugly cling to every grain of rice, making the bowl go down with maximum savory and spicy flavor, like the Chinese like it. “Boiling meat” is a style of cooking that commonly involves beef, chili peppers, and oil. The proteins themselves are poached in boiling water so as to lock in the tenderness, then introduced to an oily elixir of chilis, peppercorns, and fermented chili-bean paste.
Chengdu Taste’s Boiling Meat doesn’t stop at the wispy slices of beef—a veritable anatomy lesson is tossed into the hot pot with cuts like beef tripe, pork chitterling, duck blood, and spongy Chinese ham. What further distinguishes Chengdu Taste is its controlled burn as opposed to the overwhelming málà or “numb hot” executed at most Sichuan places. This way you can have your heat and taste it, too.