Frogs, rabbits and intestines are all on the menu at Sichuan Impression in Westwood. If these don’t float your boat, no worries – there are more accessible items like chicken, pork and shrimp to numb your mouth. Famed for use of their peppercorns, Sichuan cuisine has a way of making your mouth feel both alive and incapacitated at the same time.
Any fears that this West L.A. outpost of the famed Alhambra restaurant might adapt their menu for a less familiar audience were for naught, as they have the same offerings – from non-spicy vegetables to exotic fare like pork ear, trotters, intestines and duck tongues. Dishes are ranked from zero peppers to 3 peppers to indicate heat levels. I was dining with a pescatarian, which immediately eliminated many of these more unusual dishes. Combined with my lack of tolerance for spicy food, it made narrowing down our choices much easier.
Their Impressive Cold Noodles with peanuts and scallions was like a vegetarian version of Dan Dan noodles. With only one pepper to its name, the noodles were tolerable in heat for my wimpy taste buds. On a hot day, the noodles were perfect, though the noodles themselves were rather ordinary. (They completely oversold the dish with the use of the word “impressive.”)
Our other one pepper dish, the Boiled Fish with Rattan Peppers, seemed rather innocuous at first. The fish was melt-in-your-mouth tender with rattan peppers, sprouts and fungus (the latter had sunk to the bottom). As you progressed lower into the very generous serving, the fish had absorbed more of the broth, making it more spicy. Oh, and if you eat a peppercorn (like I accidentally did), you’ll experience that funny tingling sensation that rendered my mouth useless for a bit. My husband, who has a high tolerance, loved this fish, and probably could easily down a two pepper dish. I have to admit, it was something special and made the trip worth it.
Since opening, Sichuan Impression has been steadily drawing heat-seeking diners to their 405 freeway-adjacent location in a mini mall at Santa Monica Blvd and Sepulveda. I have to give them serious props for not compromising their food to accommodate Western palates, and it’s reassuring to see that crowds of people are willing to wait to dine there. With such an overwhelming menu, Sichuan Impression has much to offer. I’m curious to dive in deeper and maybe even try a two pepper dish to pushing my limits.
Location – 11057 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Website – n/a
Kid-Friendly – Yes
Kid’s Menu – No
Vegetarian/Vegan Friendly – Yes
Gluten-Free Options – Yes