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Chengdu Impression - Sichuan Cuisine in Lincoln Park

Chengdu Impression - Sichuan Cuisine in Lincoln Park
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  • Chengdu Impression - Sichuan Cuisine in Lincoln Park

    Post #1 - January 12th, 2014, 11:34 am
    Post #1 - January 12th, 2014, 11:34 am Post #1 - January 12th, 2014, 11:34 am
    A recent article in the Reader caught my eye. Authentic Sichuan cuisine in Lincoln Park? This I've got to see.

    So I stopped by with a group earlier this week and had a fantastic meal. As we were being seated I recognized my favorite waitress from Lao Hunan who informed us that Chengdu Impression is owned by Tony Hu's nephew. While there are similarities to Lao Sze Chuan, I am pleased to say that Chengdu Impression stands confidently on its own merits and I preferred my meal there to my past couple experiences at the mothership.

    The menu does a great job of highlighting the authentic Sichuan offerings in pictures and relegates the Americanized dishes to the bottom corner of a page. The current menu features most well-known Sichuan classics, though apparently this is the soft opening menu and they have an expanded menu coming soon.

    We started off with the Fu Qi Fei Pian which is poached beef organs served cold in chili oil. This was a particularly meaty rendition which featured a lot of tongue and tripe. The meats were quite tender and were topped with plenty of fresh cilantro. We also ordered some dumplings which came in a delicious black vinegar sauce. The dumplings tasted like they were made to order using the typical Chinese supermarket wrappers. Sure it would've been nice if they'd used homemade wrappers, but the chewiness of the wrappers accentuated the tender ground pork stuffing really nicely. Sometimes homemade wrappers can be too delicate and the wrapper gets lost. I liked these dumplings.

    The next round was an order of the Suan La Fen and Dry Chili Intestines. Suan La Fen means sour spicy noodles, and these were exactly that. The broth is a mixture of black vinegar, chili oil, and lots of Sichuan peppercorns and it's filled with thin, translucent noodles. Admittedly I had to scoop up the chunks of ground chilis and peppercorns at the bottom of the dish to really deliver the ma la punch I was hoping for, but still the dish is quite spicy and packs a lot of flavor. The Dry Chili Intestines were my favorite dish of the night. The intestines were thoroughly cleaned, cut into small pieces, pounded flat then breaded and fried with lots of dry chilis. The intestines were crunchy yet springy with just enough funk to keep it interesting without reminding you why you clean intestines so thoroughly in the first place. The dish was lighter and fresher than most dry chili preparations I've had and really underscored the care coming from the kitchen.

    The final round was the Twice-Cooked Pork with Pancakes, Pea Leaves, and the Lord's Rabbit. I've had twice cooked pork countless times but never with pancakes. This preparation made so much sense particularly since the pancakes and pork are somewhat hard to tell apart so each bite was something of a surprise. The pork was fatty and tender and stir fried with black beans and Chinese leeks. The pancakes was cut into strips resembling the pork and took on the flavor of the black beans really well. This was a great rendition I'd gladly order again. The Pea Leaves were stir fried with garlic and beautifully fresh. The Lord's Rabbit was a little disappointing. Supposedly it was prepared with special fresh chili peppers which are labeled as tiger skin peppers elsewhere on the menu. As far as I could tell they used bird's eye chilis and the result was pleasant but paled next to the array of spicy and interesting dishes on the table. Next time I'll order the chilis on their own to get a better of idea of what they really are.

    So it was a great first trip and they are near my house so they'll likely figure prominently in our delivery rotation. I'm excited to see their expanded menu and couldn't be happier to see intrepid restaurateurs aiming to educate Lincoln Park on regional Chinese cuisine. I'm optimistic if they can succeed we'll see more and more interesting offerings in the area.

    Chengdu Impression
    2545 N Halsted St
    Chicago, IL 60614
    http://www.chengduimpression.com/ (very loud music!)
  • Post #2 - January 12th, 2014, 1:28 pm
    Post #2 - January 12th, 2014, 1:28 pm Post #2 - January 12th, 2014, 1:28 pm
    Thank you for highlighting this opening and sharing your impressions. As I work a few blocks north, I can foresee some interesting lunch deliveries or post-work meals. It is good to see new cuisines in area (which reminds me, I need to return to Rickshaw Republic). I was, however, surprised to see on their website that they are also doing sushi. I can not think of a spot that has done sushi & ___ where I thought either side of the menu was noteworthy. Any insight as to if there is a culinary reason why this team might be able to succeed at both, or if perhaps the restaurateur is not so intrepid after all? Thanks.
  • Post #3 - January 12th, 2014, 1:43 pm
    Post #3 - January 12th, 2014, 1:43 pm Post #3 - January 12th, 2014, 1:43 pm
    I took a look at the sushi bar when I was there and it looked pretty sad. I'm not totally sure why they decided to offer sushi given the number of sushi options in the area, but it's obvious both from the pictures of Sichuan province on all the walls and the layout of the menu that they are focused primarily on Sichuan food. There is a Jia's section of the menu, so there seems to be some relationship with the restaurant that used to be in the space. I guess they'd like to maintain some of the former clientele, but given how vastly different their menu is from what was there before, I don't see much opportunity for overlap.
  • Post #4 - January 12th, 2014, 2:40 pm
    Post #4 - January 12th, 2014, 2:40 pm Post #4 - January 12th, 2014, 2:40 pm
    I just ate our leftover Suan La Fen for lunch today, and it reaffirmed my excitement about this place. Though of course I would have preferred Katy's hand-pulled noodles over the slippery vermicelli, the dish expertly combined all the right elements: tangy black vinegar, spicy chili oil, ample fresh ma la, and noodles to sop everything up. It was as good as anything I would expect from the Sichuan favorites in Chinatown and elsewhere. I hope this place can find its niche in Lincoln Park!
    The meal isn't over when I'm full; the meal is over when I hate myself. - Louis C.K.
  • Post #5 - January 12th, 2014, 3:10 pm
    Post #5 - January 12th, 2014, 3:10 pm Post #5 - January 12th, 2014, 3:10 pm
    turkob wrote:I took a look at the sushi bar when I was there and it looked pretty sad.
    I've been once, didn't look all that closely at the sushi bar, but did think the itamae looked lonely. :)

    Venus is the waitress's name and she works at Lao Hunan, 6-days at Chengdu Impression and one at Lao Hunan, she recognized me when I sat down, though I did not recognize her without her red army uniform. :)

    Far as Szechuan at Chengdu Impression, I was shocked beyond words at how much, at least at first blush, we liked the food. Bone-in rabbit with powerful MaLa, Zhong's dumplings, think Chengdu dumplings at Lao Szechuan, Sole fillet with tender tofu, Beef with wild chili, Heart breaking rice jelly were all Chinatown quality. The only down note was Mouthwatering Chicken, spicy, but the chicken tasted dried out. Hopefully simply an anomaly.

    The owner is Tony Hu's nephew who I had met with Tony a couple of times in Chinatown. In the brief moments we chatted, he walked in as we were leaving, he said he was rolling out an even wider Chengdu/Szechuan centric menu in the next few weeks.
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #6 - January 12th, 2014, 3:39 pm
    Post #6 - January 12th, 2014, 3:39 pm Post #6 - January 12th, 2014, 3:39 pm
    Nice to see a place so close to me getting love from the board. I was completely oblivious to the Tony Hu connection. Unfortunately, I have not ordered from here as often as I thought I would. The sushi and Americanized dishes are just a continuation from the old Jia's menu. Though it sounds stange, there was a small loyal contingent in this neighborhood that enjoyed that stuff, so I'm thinking they just didn't want to lose that business.

    I've only ordered take out from here once. I was so excited to have some real Chinese around here, but I feel like I came away a little less impressed than all of you. Also keep in mind, that this was in September (I think?) so just a week or two after they transitioned from Jia's to Chengdu. Things may be far and away different now.

    I had an order of Sichuan wontons. Really mediocre in my opinion. I remember that the wontons just tasted a little off. Maybe a little sweet? I can't quite remember anymore. But I've had much better versions. I was also not happy with the chili oil. You can instantly notice a great home-made chili oil. And I'm sure this was made in-house, but there just didn't seem to be much depth to it, it was strikingly one note, compared to when I've ordered this dish in the past.

    Sichuan noodle salad was good, if a little boring.

    Sichuan Crispy Eggplant was interesting. I thought the taste was really great. The stir-fried chili oil, garlic, and beany components were perfectly balanced. But the texture was off. Most pieces were just not very crispy. Some were too oily. I'm thinking the may have just been due to getting this for pick up. Who knows how long it was steaming in that tray before I got there.

    I also got the Twice Cooked Pork With Pancake. Definitely my favorite dish of the night. I echo all of Turkob's sentiments regarding the pancake. Hadn't had it with Pancake before, but I thought the pancake worked. My tastes skew a little more beany (so when I make this or Ma Po Tofu at home, I really go to town). But this is pretty representative of most preparations I've had around here. Well done.

    Now you all are making me feel like I need to start eating there a lot more often. I definitely will look to give them another try and explore more of the menu. I certainly hope this place, and places like it, last a long time in this neighborhood.
  • Post #7 - January 14th, 2014, 6:30 am
    Post #7 - January 14th, 2014, 6:30 am Post #7 - January 14th, 2014, 6:30 am
    Let me add to the chorus of surprise and excitement that an actual Szechuan restaurant serving actual Szechuan food has opened in Lincoln Park. A few of us met up for a lunch yesterday. Although we didn't have enough ordering power to put much of a dent in the great looking items on the menu (that is soon to expand), we did manage to order a small, but representative sampling.

    Chengdu Impression Fu Qi Fei Pian
    Image

    As described upthread, a slightly meatier version of the beef and maw dish served throughout the Tony Hu empire.

    Chengdu Impression Zhong's Dumplings
    Image

    For me, this was the only miss of the day. I felt these were under filled and a bit doughy. They also lacked the depth of flavor and hint of sweetness that these dumplings normally feature.

    Chengdu Impression Suan La Fen
    Image

    Good broth compliments these clear vermicelli noodles. The dish didn't feature the Ma La punch I was expecting from the looks of it, but it was very good and well balanced with just a modicum of heat. This was just one of several great looking dishes in the soup/noodles area of the menu; a section that bears further exploration.

    Chengdu Impression Twice Cooked Pork with Pancake
    Image

    How could I not order this dish, which is named nearly the same as the signature dish of Katy's Noodles. This was the best dish of the day, in my opinion. Although it is completely different than what is served at Katy's (pork belly instead of strips of stir fried pork, flat pancake instead of the ribbon cut noodle-like version at Katy's), I felt it was an equally great dish and will be a part of any order at Changdu Impression in the future.

    Chengdu Impression Tiger Skin Peppers
    Image

    No tigers were harmed in the production of his dish, which featured moderate to spicy peppers fried and blistered in a vinegar sauce with a few fermented black beans thrown in for good measure. Although lacking the depth of flavor of the similar dish served at Lao Hunan, it is still a great addition to any order. The fiery peppers are a great compliment to nearly any dish on the menu.

    All in all, I really enjoyed Chengdu Impression a lot. I'll be back often to work my way through more of the menu.

    Chengdu Impression
    2545 N Halsted St
    Chicago, IL 60614
    (773) 477-6256
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #8 - January 14th, 2014, 8:13 am
    Post #8 - January 14th, 2014, 8:13 am Post #8 - January 14th, 2014, 8:13 am
    I loved it too--especially the use of different vinegars in the sauces--they were definitely less oily than the other Sze Chuan dishes I enjoy around town. Also very excited that they'll deliver to my 'hood!!
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #9 - January 14th, 2014, 10:50 am
    Post #9 - January 14th, 2014, 10:50 am Post #9 - January 14th, 2014, 10:50 am
    No dry chili intestines?! You guys really missed out. :wink:
    The meal isn't over when I'm full; the meal is over when I hate myself. - Louis C.K.
  • Post #10 - January 14th, 2014, 11:51 am
    Post #10 - January 14th, 2014, 11:51 am Post #10 - January 14th, 2014, 11:51 am
    Teresa wrote:No dry chili intestines?! You guys really missed out. :wink:


    Needed more ordering power. There were quite a few things I wish we had ordered. At least I have a reason to go back.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #11 - March 2nd, 2014, 9:07 pm
    Post #11 - March 2nd, 2014, 9:07 pm Post #11 - March 2nd, 2014, 9:07 pm
    I was there with my parents, ordered spicy wontons, Dandan noodles (delicious), Bonbon chicken, stir fried peapods and Suan La Fen. All great. Would go back.
  • Post #12 - March 27th, 2014, 6:16 pm
    Post #12 - March 27th, 2014, 6:16 pm Post #12 - March 27th, 2014, 6:16 pm
    This place continues to bring joy and happiness! After the last few days' adventures (more on that to come), I was in need of spice and vegetables so decided to give the good folks at Grub Hub a look. Immediately saw Chengdu Impression and thought that would fit the bill perfectly. Tonight's order-all vegetarian (pairs4life, if you haven't been here, you MUST Go!): spicy bean curd with peanuts, Sichuan cold noodle salad and Pea leaves, all terrific. I don't think I've ever experienced longer lasting ma la (the tofu and noodles) and the greens were still crisp, oil free and full of fat slices of garlic. Perfection. And delivered in under 30 minutes (and I'm not that close to them). Best of all, nothing was oozing oil which was my only fear before ordering--the same noodles at LSC come in what I call "oil soup"--and while it tastes good, the after effects aren't ideal.

    If you haven't been--go (or grub hub it)!!
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #13 - March 28th, 2014, 8:13 am
    Post #13 - March 28th, 2014, 8:13 am Post #13 - March 28th, 2014, 8:13 am
    We went and thought it was only OK, but it's near my mom and we'll try again. Everything we had seemed a little soggy and wan.
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #14 - March 28th, 2014, 8:32 am
    Post #14 - March 28th, 2014, 8:32 am Post #14 - March 28th, 2014, 8:32 am
    I've definitely found the "gringo" dishes to be that way--of course, that's why SO likes them. But I've never experienced that with any of the more interesting dishes. And I prefer their greens to most around town.
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #15 - March 28th, 2014, 10:54 am
    Post #15 - March 28th, 2014, 10:54 am Post #15 - March 28th, 2014, 10:54 am
    Yes, my mom likes the old ones from when it was Jia's, but we ordered some of the dishes listed above as well (and tried to make it clear that she would be eating one way and we another). It was a Sunday, so who knows.
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #16 - April 5th, 2014, 2:45 pm
    Post #16 - April 5th, 2014, 2:45 pm Post #16 - April 5th, 2014, 2:45 pm
    was there last night. it's legit!
    ordered the bonbon chicken, fu qi fei pian, dry chili chicken, beef with tender tofu and tiger skin pepper.

    i prefer the bonbon chicken at springworld/lao yunnan.
    the fu qi fei pian was excellent.
    my friend liked the dry chili chicken most--i like prefer the various lao incarnations.
    beef with tender tofu was solid and the tiger skin pepper was excellent.

    i need to go back for more!
  • Post #17 - May 28th, 2014, 9:46 pm
    Post #17 - May 28th, 2014, 9:46 pm Post #17 - May 28th, 2014, 9:46 pm
    Finally got some more takeout from here. Really great!

    Fu qi fei pian was delicious. I brought a sichuan newbie with me. She found it not only interesting, but also pretty tasty.

    Pea leaves were nice. Ol' reliable.

    Suan la Fen was really nice. Ma la was detectable, but not overpowering. Like others said, I probably could have done with a bit more numbingness, but quite good. Love the balance of heat and the punch from the black vinegar, like the noodle cousin of gong bao ji ding. We ordered everything mildly spicy on grubhub, but it was quite spicier than everything else, and my friend could only eat a small amount.

    Wow. Loved the deep fried intestine! Porky. Crackly and chewy, but not crunchy or too dry. It's what chicharron dreams it was. Really great.

    Oh why haven't I gone here more?!?!
  • Post #18 - June 24th, 2014, 10:49 pm
    Post #18 - June 24th, 2014, 10:49 pm Post #18 - June 24th, 2014, 10:49 pm
    Love continuing the exploration of this menu. Tonight's new discovery was the Pork with Preserved Veggie
    (steamed sliced pork belly with preserved black vegetable leaf).

    Cheng Du Impressions-Pork Belly with Preserved Veg.JPG Pork Belly with Preserved Vegetables

    In addition to the preserved leaf, the dish included baby bok choy, chilis and possibly another veg or two. Fantastic black vinegar sauce with star anise (and I'm sure more spices). The pork belly was almost like smoked brisket--never had anything like it.

    Also ordered the Pea Leaves and the Bean Curd with Peanut in spicy Sichuan Sauce appetizer-- this may be my go to order in the future.

    Cheng Du Impressions-Tofu & Peanut.JPG Bean Curd with Peanuts
    Cheng Du Impressions-Pea Leaves.JPG Pea Leaves

    My only issue with CI is that sometimes I can get fatigued (and worse) by the each-dish-hotter-than-the-next meals I've sometimes had from them. Not their fault--mine for ordering wrong. With this combo, I feel like the spice levels were balanced between the dishes (tofu, very spicy; pork belly, medium spice (more flavor than heat); and pea leaves, clean, no spice, just garlic.)

    By the way, you can't tell from these pictures but the portions are enormous. My delivery order will easily make 3-4 substantive meals.

    If you haven't been, GO (or order if you are lucky enough to live in range)!
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #19 - June 28th, 2014, 10:09 am
    Post #19 - June 28th, 2014, 10:09 am Post #19 - June 28th, 2014, 10:09 am
    I love the Chengdu dumplings and the Sichuan wontons at LSC. How do the dumplings at Chendu Impression compare? I see above a mention about the Zhong, which look like the Chengdu dumplings at LSC - are these essentially the same?
  • Post #20 - December 6th, 2014, 7:59 pm
    Post #20 - December 6th, 2014, 7:59 pm Post #20 - December 6th, 2014, 7:59 pm
    Anyone know what's going on with Chengdu Impression? I've tried to order a couple of times in the past month, but the online store is not accepting orders and no one picked up the phone tonight.
    "There’s only one thing I hate more than lying: skim milk, which is water that’s lying about being milk."
    - Ron Swanson
  • Post #21 - December 6th, 2014, 10:56 pm
    Post #21 - December 6th, 2014, 10:56 pm Post #21 - December 6th, 2014, 10:56 pm
    bfolds wrote:Anyone know what's going on with Chengdu Impression? I've tried to order a couple of times in the past month, but the online store is not accepting orders and no one picked up the phone tonight.

    In mid-November we tried to make a reservation and were told that they'd be closed for a few days for renovations. The best case scenario is that those renovations have taken longer than anticipated.

    =R=
    Gardening is a bloodsport --Meghan Kleeman

    Why don't you take these profiteroles and put them up your shi'-ta-holes? --Jemaine & Bret

    There's a horse loose in a hospital --JM

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #22 - December 7th, 2014, 9:45 am
    Post #22 - December 7th, 2014, 9:45 am Post #22 - December 7th, 2014, 9:45 am
    I talked to the owner last month who has been spending some time at Lao Hunan. He told me that they are going through renovations and are expecting to reopen at the end of December with an expanded menu. He's been planning the expanded menu since they first opened, so he was pretty excited it was finally coming together. It's been driving me nuts since they figure prominently in our delivery lineup.
  • Post #23 - December 7th, 2014, 11:05 am
    Post #23 - December 7th, 2014, 11:05 am Post #23 - December 7th, 2014, 11:05 am
    Expanded? Like most Chinese restaurants in Chicago (aside from Han 202 is the only I can think of), they already had a grillion options on the menu.
  • Post #24 - December 29th, 2014, 5:11 pm
    Post #24 - December 29th, 2014, 5:11 pm Post #24 - December 29th, 2014, 5:11 pm
    Is this place still closed? I keep thinking about the awesome food they serve.
  • Post #25 - January 28th, 2015, 9:16 pm
    Post #25 - January 28th, 2015, 9:16 pm Post #25 - January 28th, 2015, 9:16 pm
    dondonmofo wrote:Is this place still closed? I keep thinking about the awesome food they serve.


    Still closed but I drove by tonight and the lights were on and people were working inside so hopefully it open soon.
  • Post #26 - January 28th, 2015, 9:32 pm
    Post #26 - January 28th, 2015, 9:32 pm Post #26 - January 28th, 2015, 9:32 pm
    JoeChicago wrote:
    dondonmofo wrote:Is this place still closed? I keep thinking about the awesome food they serve.


    Still closed but I drove by tonight and the lights were on and people were working inside so hopefully it open soon.


    That's probably the best news I've heard all day!
  • Post #27 - January 29th, 2015, 10:05 pm
    Post #27 - January 29th, 2015, 10:05 pm Post #27 - January 29th, 2015, 10:05 pm
    Behavioral wrote:
    JoeChicago wrote:
    dondonmofo wrote:Is this place still closed? I keep thinking about the awesome food they serve.


    Still closed but I drove by tonight and the lights were on and people were working inside so hopefully it open soon.


    That's probably the best news I've heard all day!


    Agreed. Been jonesing to get back but every time I drive by there have been no signs of life.
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #28 - February 17th, 2015, 5:52 pm
    Post #28 - February 17th, 2015, 5:52 pm Post #28 - February 17th, 2015, 5:52 pm
    And Eater says they are open again!

    http://chicago.eater.com/2015/2/17/8052 ... ts-chengdu
  • Post #29 - February 17th, 2015, 7:05 pm
    Post #29 - February 17th, 2015, 7:05 pm Post #29 - February 17th, 2015, 7:05 pm
    HALLELUJAH!
  • Post #30 - February 17th, 2015, 9:45 pm
    Post #30 - February 17th, 2015, 9:45 pm Post #30 - February 17th, 2015, 9:45 pm
    Yes! Especially since 1) I am a northsider & 2) Lao Hunan is going away.
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening

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