There were two families, newly arrived here from China. One came from Sichuan, a remote and verdant land of rivers and mountains that joins Tibet to central China – a land whose fiery, complex flavor-packed cuisine is famous worldwide. The other was from Fujian, that outward-looking coastal province of seafarers and traders. The families met in America and decided to open restaurants.
Their first restaurant served Americanized Chinese food, but customers told them they wanted authentic, traditional recipes. Who more qualified, they thought, than us? And so Chengdu Restaurant came to be.
The chefs all come from Sichuan, and the head chef started cooking in restaurants in China at the age of sixteen. Intense, powerfully flavored stews such as water-boiled beef or numbing pepper and spicy fish pack revelations of unexpected flavors. There are Sichuan dry pots, full of the tingle of Sichuan peppercorns and the heat of red-hot chili peppers. There are also lots of Chinese-American classics such as Mongolian beef.
“But we are from Fujian,” says the wife of one of the partners. “And Fujian people love seafood. So we also have live seafood and serve fresh whole lobster, eel, crab and fish.” It’s not on the menu, but there are fish tanks in the back. You just have to ask.