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Inside Chengdu Impression’s First U.S. Location

The massive Sichuanese chain hasn’t altered anything on the menu for American diners

The Sichuan food scene in Los Angeles has long been dominated by Chengdu Taste and Szechuan Impression, but a new contender has just joined the mix. Chengdu Impression, a new restaurant based in Chengdu, China recently opened its doors in Arcadia on Saturday, February 11. Although the Arcadia location is Chengdu Impression’s first U.S. outpost, the chain is far from new to the game. They have 37 overseas branches under its umbrella group.

Arthur Tang, one of the chain’s managing partners, says their aim is to showcase “authentic” Chengdu cuisine, lifestyle, and culture. “Many people only know Orange Chicken when it comes to Chinese food. When it comes to Sichuan food, they think of dishes that are very spicy and filled with lots of seasoning. Unlike other restaurants, we haven’t altered anything on the menu for our U.S. location. We are bringing Chengdu Impression just the way it is in China to Arcadia.”

The restaurant is committed to bringing an reflective Sichuan experience to the customers, showcasing six chefs straight from Chengdu, China. The chefs are focusing on presentation and using healthier ingredients and recipes to battle the preconception that all Chinese food is MSG-laden and drowning in oil. Tang says that their pork is imported from Denmark and their shishito peppers are imported from Japan.

The restaurant is offering a “Chef’s Tasting Menu,” which includes an 11-course meal with three additional side dishes for $45. The 11-courses feature Chengdu dishes such as wheat buns with spicy beef, chicken in Sichuan green pepper sauce, mapo tofu with dried beef, sweet potato starch noodles with intestine, stir fried pork with shishito peppers, and their house special pork belly that takes 8 hours to make. Diners will enjoy the Instagram-friendly panda shaped sesame rice ball for dessert. The restaurant touts a smokers-friendly patio, and will soon have a full liquor license.

Diners looking to test their spice tolerance might be let down by the lack of intense mala flavoring other places like Chengdu Taste boast. Unlike other Sichuan restaurants that concentrate solely on the spicy, tongue-numbing mala dishes, Chengdu Impression focuses on all five of the distinct flavors of traditional Sichuan cuisine: spicy, numbing spiciness (mala), sour, sweet, and salty.

In addition to keeping true to the Sichuan cuisine, Chengdu Impression also pays homage to the city of Chengdu itself. The eatery’s bottom floor also functions as a museum with artwork from well-known artists that will be for sale and rotated every in and out every few months. The restaurant’s 6,700-square-foot restaurant interior includes a two-story skylight as well as woodcut statues and decorations from six well-known modern artists from the Sichuan city. Everything in the restaurant, including silverware, place mats, tea, peppers, and bean paste, are imported from Chengdu.

Perhaps the most unique part of the establishment is its upstairs dedicated gaiwan cha (a traditional Ming-dynasty tea brewing technique) space. This area will serve as a hang out for tea lovers to enjoy tea and pass time just like the way they do in Chengdu. Chengdu Impression plans to host tea-brewing classes featuring Sichuan tea leaves in coming months. In addition, they are actively looking to expand to Beverly Hills in the near future.

Chengdu Impression will be open Monday to Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (with a break between 3 to 5 p.m.), Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Chengdu Impression
21 E. Huntington Drive, Arcadia.

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