HOT Sichuan goodness (is there another kind?)…in Alhambra.
What is it about heat that draws people to the flame…??
One would think that searing, grinding pain is not an attractive element to any meal, yet here we are. My own dear Father, a native of Alice, Texas still looks to add some kind of heat to any meal he has. Everywhere he goes, he asks for hot sauce, because that’s what he’s used to.
Everywhere…except a Shicuan place.
Because…well…he knows better.
Our first trip to Chengdu Taste (another local palace of fine Shicuan fare) scared him so much, he wouldn’t eat anything other than the one non-spicy item he saw on the menu. I kept offering him bits of my meal, only to see him wave me off time and time again.
I have the feeling the same thing would happen at Szechuan Impression.
Heat is different here. The peppers that are used and the searing sensations produced are different. Will you feel the burn? Will you get the sweats? Yes and Yes.
Will they tempered by a…very different feeling cooling sensation along with it? Also yes.
Shicuan isn’t for everybody. There are times I wonder if it’s for me, and I’m sticking (scrupulously) to the dishes with only one chili next to their names. (In case you’re wondering, there are dishes that have up to three.)
Walking into Szechuan Impression, you might be a little surprised. This is a very new looking, very modern joint. Imagine a space with modern Chinese art on the walls, and reggae playing over the speakers.
Actually, you don’t imagine that, that’s what’s going on in here, and it’s gives the place an interesting vibe. Especially since the food is so tradition, so hard core Shicuan. I’m in Alhambra, but I could swear I was in Santa Monica.
The service is a little scattered. I walked, helped myself to a menu, and couldn’t get the attention of one of the waitstaff behind the counter, working on a To-Go order. (Oh yeah, they do a decent bit of To-Go business here). There was one guy running stuff in and out of the kitchen, and another guy outside talking on the phone. What can you say, it was slow. But a couple of minutes after I got there, people started coming in. After I sat down, the Waitstaff turned on, and once they turned on, they stayed turn on.
Szechuan Impression is a good place, a different place. And the food is not for everybody, not for the faint of tongue. I still think I like Chengdu Taste just a little bit better, but I think Szechuan Impression can grow on me.
So long as they keep feeding me water. Yowza, that’s hot!
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: A seat within eyesight of the water pitcher.
There’s not a lot here that’s not spiced up in some fashion. The two things I got both had (surprise surprise) Pork in their name, so…
The first thing I got ahold of was the Garlic Shredded Pork. Lovely ribbons of Pork in a Sichuan chili oil and bean sprouts. Beware, this dish is served cold-slash-lukewarm. Don’t go in expecting a plate of sizzling Pork. This is not that. And don’t go in expecting lean slices of Pork either. The slices are paper thing, but come with a healthy ring of fat which may or may not be your thing. Still, it was a delicious dish. One I’d definitely do again. But next time, hopefully I’ll bring help.
The next thing was the Hou (Honest) Dao (Authentic) Dumplings. These are your basic Pork Dumplings steamed up, and smothered in that same Sichuan Chili Oil. Again, another repeat order. I got these after the Garlic Pork, and…for whatever reason, I found them to be cooling and refreshing afterwards. The dumplings are plenty meaty and plenty tasty, but the increasing level of burn that I got form the Garlic Pork was muted with this dish.
Don’t get me wrong, this was a total relief. I was worried that after the Garlic Pork that even my Spice level had been broken. Fortunately…
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: All joking aside, there’s no sense in ordering a meal you can’t eat. If you have spice issues, or are just not that fond of hot stuff, as much as I like Szechuan Impression, go ahead and stay away. For those of you who are the adventurous types out there, wander in carefully. Your definition of Medium Spicy and the Restaurant’s definition of medium spicy may be two different things.
What am I saying? They are two different things. I’d order a One Chili thing, and see if you’re prepared to up your game.
And remember, you’re job is to enjoy the meal, not prove your manhood.
PARKING: This is going to be interesting. There is a seven-eight space lot directly behind the restaurant. Only problem for you is that half the spaces are dedicated to the furnishing store next door. That leaves 3-4 for Szechuan Impression and if you’re not going during a weekday lunch, you’re going to find them filled.
You can part along the Main drag W. Valley Blvd., but I’d recommend parking on the side street of S. Ethel Ave. directly next to restaurant. Some of the block will be zoned for parking. Beware of any residential parking restrictions wandering back there.
1900 W. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91803
Tel: (626) 283-4622
Monday-Thursday: 11:30 am-3:00 pm / 5:00 pm-10:30 pm
Friday-Sunday: 11:30 am-3:30 pm / 5:00 pm-11:00 pm