Chengdu Taste altered the Chinese food scene in Los Angeles by making Sichuan food hip. Shortly after it opened in 2013, a slew of copycats sprang up around town in an attempt to capitalize on Taste's popularity — as did two additional Chengdu Tastes, in Rosemead (2014) and Rowland Heights (2015). You can most definitely taste the difference. Tony Xu opened the restaurants as an homage to his hometown, Chengdu — the capital of China's Sichuan province. The city is a melting pot of spices, where fistfuls of fiery chile peppers and tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns can be found in nearly every pot. At Chengdu Taste you'll find white fish steeped in a vat of chile oil, a platter of lamb sprinkled with cumin and panko bread crumbs, a piquant Mapo tofu over a fresh bowl of rice — and, still, a line. When the spice level gets too intense, wash it all down with a traditional smoked plum juice.
Credit: Jim Thurman