Restaurant: Sichuan Impression
Location: 11057 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025. (310) 444-7171
Date: October 10 and November 6 & 30th and December 17 & 19, 2018 and Jan 9 & 30 and April 21, 2019 and July 16, 2019
Cuisine: Szechuan Chinese
Rating: SGV on the Westside
I’ve been waiting all summer for Sichuan Impression — one of my favorite SGV haunts — westside branch to open up and so it was that Yarom, Keong, and I descended on them at 11am opening day! Plus returned twice a month later for more updates.
They took up residence in the old Jin Jiang which I used to eat at all the time in the old Flektor days. Right above Hamasaku. Only problem with this location is the lousy parking (the lot’s always full).
The interior is newly redone — except the icky bathrooms.
Crowded on a Friday night.
There is some patio space too. Never see that at Chinese!
The menu is posh.
Yarom with the chef from Chengdu and the owner Kelly (on the right).
For my 11/6/18 lunch Liz brought this perfect light (low alcohol) Riesling. 2016 Peter Lauer Ayler Kupp Riesling Spätlese Faß 23. VM 93. This “two-star” auction lot is more northerly in fruit personality than the corresponding Fass 7, prominently featuring grapefruit and white peach laced with fresh lime and garlanded in apple blossom and honeysuckle. The lusciously fruited palate is buoyant, glossy and subtly creamy, but at the same time almost electrocharged in its expression of brightly juicy citrus. The vibrantly sustained finish gains mouthwatering appeal from a suffusion of mineral salts and invigorates with an impingement of grapefruit zest, peach fuzz and stone.
Juicy Steamed Chicken in Chili Sauce (10/10/18). This classic cold appetizer was excellent here. Not absolutely perfect. The sauce was great, but the chicken maybe could have been slightly better. But still very strong.
Impressive Bean Jelly (10/10/18). Green bean jelly, crushed peanuts, scallion. This actually was impressive. First of all, it’s cut in Chengdu street style instead of the longer noodles (which I also like). It’s cold, with the jello-like texture and the awesome tangy/spicy chili sauce. 10 out of 10 for this fabulous dish.
On our second and third visit (11/6/18 & 11/30/18) the dish was cut more like noodles. I actually preferred the slab version slightly although it was still great.
Bamboo shoots in chili sauce (1/30/19). This is a simple dish, possibly just steamed bamboo shoots with chili oil on top, but I liked it a lot. Nice crunch. Some real heat — and kinda healthy!
On 2/10/19 a version of the bamboo shoots with sauce on the side.
Cold Noodles (11/30/18). This is the worst dish I’ve had here. Cold, chewy, an not much flavor.
Szechuan French Fries (11/30/18). A little soggy but great flavor.
Eggs and tomatoes (2/10/19). A Chinese home classic.
Wonton’s in chili oil (11/6/18). Could have used a bit more chili oil, but the wontons were delicious. I just dipped it in the noodle sauce.
Impressive Sausages (4/21/19). Very good cold Chinese Sausages. Spicy and Sweet and Salty at the same time.
Shredded Pork with Garlic (11/6/18). Cold bacon-like pork with garlic and cilantro. I was actually expecting the pork in fish sauce but this was a great dish too. Not as hot as at Gu Yi.
Twice Cooked Pork (7/16/19). An excellent example of the classic Szechuan Dish. Tender meat, lots of salty/pork flavor, offset by the big strips of green onion.
Steamed Pork with Rice Flour (10/10/18). Marbled pork, pumpkin, scallion. I’ve never had this dish before. The meat was very fatty and very soft and had a moist texture from the rice flour — not to mention an interesting almost almond-like taste. Quite comforting and nice, if a touch “weird” to American standards.
MaPo Tofu (10/10/18). 10 out of 10 version of this classic dish. Salty, but not too salty, with lots of mala.
Everything hot pot (11/30/18). This had tripe, spam, shrimp, veggies, and some kind of scary dark organ meat. It was delicious though, particularly the spam.
Fish filet with green chilies (11/30/18). Really nice version of this dish. Thick soft fish and lots of green heat. Very delicate and flavorful.
Fish filet in golden sour soup (11/30/18). Photo is after it was mostly eaten. Awesome fish dish. The soft fish complemented perfectly with the mild tangy soup/sauce.
Tea Smoked Pork Rib (10/10/18 & 11/30/18). Pork rib, dry chili, scallion, minced peanuts. This was a moderately contentious dish in the group, but I loved it as always. The meat is super tender, melt from the bone, with a dry and nutty heat.
Sweet and Sour Shrimp (10/10/18). Super garlicky, spicy, tangy. Really like this dish too.
Sizzling chicken with chilies (11/6/18). Nice version of this dish. Not as heavy on the peppers and aromatics but I liked the celery (coated in chili bits).
Pig trotters (11/30/18). Chewy, but lots and lots of flavor.
Kung Pao Chicken (11/30/18). Fabulous. Very much Chengdu style with the heat, sweetness, and tangy quality.
Kung Pao Shrimp (12/19/18). Not only did it have the same goodness (and lots of ginger) but there were tons of succulent shrimp!
Griddle Style Shrimp (11/30/18). Really nice flavor.
Frog hot pot (11/30/18). Not our favorite. The frog meat was good, if boney but it was a bit overcooked and the sauce more flat.
Ginger Rabbit (4/21/19). Rabbit was meaty and had minimal bone for rabbit. The sauce had a nice ginger flavor and was HOT — very hot for mortals.
Spicy Hot Free Range Chicken (1/9/19). This dish was one of the hottest dishes I’ve had here, with a searing green/red almost Hunan style heat. Nice flavor and a lot of good garlicky burn.
Griddle Cooked Squid (4/21/19). Great griddle cooked flavor. Hot but not too hot. Nice chewy squid. Crunchy vegetables. Excellent dish.
Cumin mutton (11/6/18). Super tender. Awesome version of this Szechuan classic.
Mustard Greens (11/30/18). Really delicious. Crunchy with lots of garlic.
Lettuce (11/30/18). Also very good.
Crunchy veggies and egg with tomato (11/30/18). Boring stuff for vegetarians.
Rice cake with syrup and peanut dust (11/30/18). Interesting gooey/chewy texture and pleasant flavor. Mild though like most Chinese desserts.
Natural Bubblegum Gelato made by me for @sweetmilkgelato (11/30/18) — turns out you can simulate bubblegum with a bunch of fruits and vanilla! — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #bubblegum #weirdflavors #natural
Pina Colada Sorbetto — just like the cocktail with Thai coconut milk, pineapple, a touch of lime and dark rum — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato (11/30/18) — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #PinaColada #CocktailIceCream #pineapple #coconut #lime #rum
Service was nice but very slightly confused as this was the opening hour for the entire restaurant. The owner Kelly was super nice. They have one of their chefs in from Chengdu for the opening, and the food was extremely tight, extremely authentic, and as good as the SGV branch. He will head home at some point, and so it will be interesting to see where it goes. The menu is big and interesting with all sorts of non-American favorites like intestines and kidneys and rabbit. Yum!
Super excited to have this on the westside — and they have a liquor license too so we will be coming back for a wine dinner in November.
I have heard that the lines are quite bad at dinner time and the staff hasn’t totally figured out how to service the demand yet — but they seem committed to figuring it out. I’m happy it’s busy too because that means it will do better and last longer! Because this is real Szechuan food (or as close as we come in America).
My second lunch on 11/6/18 was medium crowded. They took a bit of time to take our order but it came fast and everything was still delicious. It maybe was 5% less on point than the first time, probably because the Chengdu chef returned home, but it was still really really solid and about the same as the SGV version.
Third dinner on 11/30/18 was very good. A few dishes were off like the cold noodles but most were great. They had a bit of a tough time (although they tried) with the complex two table ordering and were bringing things out a bit fast. But they also had the best bus boy ever!
For my catalog of Chinese restaurant reviews in China, click here.
High acid, fruit hiding a bit, but very nice.
Tasted like a pinot. VERY fruit forward.