TODAY

Friday, August 22

Gapers Block
Search

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


Drive-Thru
« Chicago P.D.'s Sophia Bush Talks Food with Gapers Block Friday Foodporn: Loafin' »

Review Thu Feb 20 2014

Chengdu Impression Does Szechuan Justice

dsc_0691.jpgAuthentic Szechuan cuisine is masochistic -- it makes you sweat, makes you cry, makes you beg for sweet, sweet mercy (possibly even a couple bowel movements later). You leave the experience contemplating the fragility of mankind, yet you find yourself both mentally and physiologically stronger. If you order cashew shrimp or spring rolls at a Szechuan place, shame on you. If you order a dish not swimming in freshly chopped garlic, cilantro, Chinese celery, and numbing peppercorns, may the gods above have mercy on your feeble soul.

Chicago's classic Szechuan joint is Lao Sze Chuan, but Chengdu Impression in Lincoln Park cooks wonderfully authentic food, if you know what to order. (Plus, I trust Mike Sula on Asian-food related matters.) To preface, my family is from the Szechuan province, meaning my grandfather still makes his own chili condiments by frying up green peppers in his 50-year-old wok.

As a natural capsaicin lover, I went straight for the authentic dishes I grew up eating: the Fu Qi Fei Pian (beef shank, heart, tongue, and stomach mix in hot sauce), the heart-breaking rice jelly (rice jelly strips topped with chopped garlic and fresh chili sauce), QingChen Grilled Fish (fried fish in spicy broth), tiger skin pepper (Chinese pepper with black vinegar), and potato strips (stir fried potatoes with chilis). My meek-spirited friend ordered standard American fare -- pork fried rice, pork pot stickers, sesame beef, and Shanghai spring rolls.

dsc_0693.jpg dsc_0695.jpg

All my dishes were spicy, pungent, sweet, sour -- in short, spectacular. Yelpers often complain about the oiliness, the saltiness, the bony meat pieces -- but see, that's like going to Pizzeria Trianon Da Ciro and throwing a hissy fit because your pizza ain't Chicago deep dish. Chinese people often treat meats and vegetables as "condiments" that are scooped onto rice. For Szechuan cuisine in particular, white rice serves to soak up all the spicy and greasy bits from your chopsticks, and cooking meat on the bone keeps the protein savory and juicy. Cold water cleanses the palate, and servers provide you with plenty of napkins to soak up extra oil and/or tears of painful joy.

My favorite dish of the night was the heart-breaking rice jelly, slippery slabs generously topped with garlic and crunchy chili peppers. It's a nostalgic dish my mother used to make with mung bean powder, black vinegar, garlic, and Lao Gan Ma Chili sauce (which is a hundred times hotter than Siracha).

dsc_0697.jpgThough they've been open for only four months, Chengdu Impression plans to expand their menu, adding hot-pot to their already gargantuan menu. I admit, Szechuan cuisine is not for the fainthearted, but if you like authentic Chinese cuisine without the trek to Chinatown, it's worth the burn.

Chengdu Impression
2545 N. Halsted St.
773-477-6256

 

Add a Comment




Please enter the letter n in the field below:



Live Comment Preview


Notes & Tags

Items marked with a * are required fields. Please respect each other. We reserve the right to delete any comments borne out of douchebaggery or that deal in asshattery.

Permitted tags and how to use them:

To link: <a href="http://blahblahblah.com">Link text</a>
To italicize: <em>Your text</em>
To bold: <strong>Your text</strong>

Event Mon Jul 21 2014

A Garden Party at Rick Bayless' House

By Judy Wu

I was using Rick Bayless' restroom, I mused, staring up at the ceiling window that was projecting a heavenly beacon of light upon my less-than-angelic duties. I could barely distinguish Rick's faint murmurs through the orange walls, something about how...
Read this feature »

 

Events

Fri Aug 22 2014
Bridgepork @ Maria's

Fri Aug 22 2014
Kulturk├╝che: Make Your Own Crepes @ DANK Haus

Sat Aug 23 2014
Bridgepork @ Maria's

Sat Aug 23 2014
Food Truck Social @ Kendall College

Sun Aug 24 2014
Monkey Business Backyard BBQ @ Sportsman's Club

Sun Aug 24 2014
Food Truck Social @ Kendall College


Drive-Thru on Flickr

Join the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.


About Drive-Thru

Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Robyn Nisi, rn@gapersblock.com
Drive-Thru staff inbox: drivethru@gapersblock.com

Archives

 

 Subscribe in a reader.

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15