About time. After more than a year of anticipation, Chengdu Taste — the celebrated Sichuan chain from Southern California — is planning to open this weekend, October 10-11, at 504 5th Ave S. Managing partner Sean Xie tells Eater Seattle the restaurant will offer just takeout at first, likely starting either Saturday or Sunday, before preparing to open for dine-in service soon after.
For those unfamiliar with the name, Chengdu Taste first opened in Alhambra, California, in 2013, and has built a reputation over the years for wonderfully spicy and creative Sichuan dishes, gradually expanding to Houston, Honolulu, and Las Vegas. Some of the most popular items include toothpick lamb with cumin and a cold spring onion chicken in pepper sauce that Eater LA praised for its “citrusy-grassy numb taste that deepens with each bite.”
The menu at the Seattle outpost — which can be pulled up on cell phones via QR code to minimize contact — will hew closely to that of the other locations, with mung bean jelly noodles drenched in chilis, sliced beef with green pepper, braised dongpo pork hock, and vegetable selections such as sauteed eggplant in spicy garlic sauce. There will eventually be Seattle-exclusive dishes, too, although Xie and his team didn’t have specific details on those yet, since they were still sourcing local ingredients. On the beverage side, there will be beer and wine, with cocktails coming a little later.
While the restaurant is starting with to-go orders only, the dining room is almost ready to host guests. Much of the furniture and artwork were imported from China (which proved to be a challenge during the pandemic), and there’s a bar set up, along with a small area in the back that’s separated for the rest of the dining area, almost like a private booth.
Xie says he’s excited to open up, even during a difficult time for restaurants, and hopes to ease into things with takeout. Chengdu Taste had been eyeing Seattle for years, and was the first city the chain considered for expansion outside of California.
When a vacancy in the historic Publix Building across from the light rail opened up in early 2019, Xie and his partners seized on the opportunity. The building has become a mini dining destination in its own right, with Hood Famous Cafe and Bar and the Seattle location of chef Masaharu Mormimoto’s Momosan also taking up residence over the past year.
Chengdu Taste also joins a robust Seattle Chinese food scene that has improved steadily over the years in terms of much greater variety, with Sichuan cuisine, Shanghai dumplings, biang-biang noodles, and fiery Hunan specialties appearing alongside the Cantonese fare that used to be the dominant player in the area. With hot pot giant Hai Di Lao opening at Pacific Place earlier this September as well, the momentum for more great Chinese food in the city doesn’t seem to be slowing down.