When chef Tony Xu opened Chengdu Taste in Alhambra last summer, word of mouth and Xu's innovative use of Weibo, Chinese Twitter, quickly led to notoriously lengthy lines. Waits of more than an hour were common as people queued for the opportunity to sample dishes ranging from Sichuan standards to those not previously seen around these parts.
While Chengdu Taste might not have been the first Chengdu-style restaurant in the SGV, or the first to have rabbit, the quality of the food and effort from the kitchen took the more subtle, slightly less fiery cuisine from the capital city of Sichuan Province to a new level. This commitment put it on many Best Restaurants lists, including our 99 Essentials.
When Xu announced a second location to open in Rosemead, it quickly became the most anticipated opening in the San Gabriel Valley in some time. Originally slated for an April opening, a series of delays — most notably a lengthy wait on a gas meter installation — pushed the date back further. And further. On Sunday, Aug. 17, finally, the new location, also called Chengdu Taste, opened for lunch.
Tucked into a strip-mall behind a McDonald's, the new restaurant doubles the space and seating of the Alhambra building and features a much larger kitchen, designed by Xu, to help cooking line flow. Inside, the restaurant has a much brighter, much more open feel. A separate take-out area and cold counter are other additions of note.
See also: 99 Essential Restaurants, 2014
So, what can one expect from the new location? A larger list of featured lunch selections. There will be new dishes, including at least three more rabbit dishes in addition to the ever popular Diced Rabbit with Younger Sister's Secret Recipe. A temporary version of the new menu shows many interesting additions. Yesterday — and perhaps for the time — they're working from the Alhambra menu.
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There were the normal opening day problems. They had no rabbit, the only noodles available were the cold garlic variety and they had no wontons in numbing spice. The staff was very apologetic, citing their first day. There was no need — since one dish after another at Chengdu Taste is worthwhile anyway. Go in open-minded and you'll be rewarded with one sublime dish after another.
Will there be waits? We were third in the door and the place was nearly filled by the time we'd finished. By dinner time, there was a line. Bring a book (an actual book!) or some form of entertainment and kick back. It's worth the wait. And they may have rabbit.