Dinner last night

My photo tank is low, and in lieu of my impending Coynezaa trip to Hawaii, I’ll save the wildlife photos and show you instead last night’s dinner. In fact, today’s posting are not going to be serious, as I have other intellectual tasks and only limited brainpower.

My departmental friend and colleague Manyuan Long was born and raised in Chengdu, China. And Chengdu is the capital of Szechuan province, which happens to be the best area for eating in China (I visited there a while back and ate like an king emperor). I’m always bugging Manyuan to tell me what Chicago restaurants he likes, but he’s very picky. For a while he’s told me about Chengdu Impression, a newish restaurant that’s not in Chinatown but on the north side near Lincoln Park. Manyuan claimed that he liked the place a lot and that the food was authentic.

That was enough for me, and I’ve been bugging Manyuan for months to tell more about the place. Luckily, he invited me there for dinner last night, and we had a multi-course Chinese feast. Normally for two people you’d get maybe two dishes and a starter, but we had five dishes and a starter (needless to say, we brought home the copious leftovers). The food was terrific and here’s what we ate.

Starter (my single choice; Manyuan ordered the rest): Szechuan cold noodles. These were fantastic—and a good way to judge a Szechuan restaurant. They were bathed in hot chili oil and sesame oil. (Photos not that great because I used my iPhone, having forgotten my camera.) This is an appetizer you must always have in a Szechuan restaurant.

And the dishes. Smoked tea duck (yes, smoked over tea leaves) served with cucumber slices and hoisin sauce. The meat was crunchy and smoky from the tea leaves; yum!

Mapo dofu, tofu served in an incendiary hot sauce with Szechuan peppercorns. This was so hot that even Manyuan had trouble with it.


Steamed beef with mashed rice, also very spicy (and good!):

Twice-cooked pork, one of my favorites:

Spinach pork ball soup (this actually cooled off the spices on the tongue):

We were going to have dessert, but Manyuan forgot, and, full as a tick, I didn’t need it. And now I have lots of leftovers.



  1. GBJames
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    I hope Honey doesn’t read this.

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted December 20, 2018 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      It was tea duck, not honey duck 😉

      I was thinking about somewhere to eat on the way to the theater next week, and Lincoln Park is geographically about right – if I can find somewhere to leave the car. Thanks.

      • Posted December 20, 2018 at 11:39 am | Permalink

        There’s a free parking lot just north of the restaurant, but it was full last night. It was easy to find street parking; just turn right after the restaurant and then right at the first street after that.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Love the Chinese but cannot do the hot…

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted December 20, 2018 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      + 1.

      I also never eat stuff like cold noodles or cold soup. Despite people telling me they’re delicious, I can’t help thinking they’d be better heated! Yes, I know. There are all sorts of words for people like me. (At least I know Gazpacho, Naengmyeon, Naengguk etc are supposed to be served cold.)

      • Posted December 20, 2018 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        They usually aren’t actually cold, just not hot. Perhaps “room-temperature noodles” didn’t sound right.

        Koreans do eat cold noodles that are actually in an icy broth. It’s good on a hot day.

        • Posted December 20, 2018 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

          And the Japanese too. I think they’re called soba?


          • Posted December 20, 2018 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

            Yes, but the way soba is usually served it isn’t truly cold but room-temperature. I’m not saying they don’t have a truly cold version but I’ve never had it. Wikipedia says soba noodles are served “chilled” but I suspect they mean they have cold water run over them immediately after they have been cooked. That’s how I’ve seen Japanese chefs prepare them anyway. The Korean cold noodles are actually a refrigerated or iced soup and much colder.

    • Posted December 20, 2018 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      There’s lots of other Chinese food. Guangdong cuisine is not spicy. At least I can’t think of any at the moment.


  3. John Conoboy
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Got to visit Chengdu a few years ago. But, in spite of many of us in the tour group begging our guide to tell the kitchen that we really, really wanted our food hot/spicy we only got dishes that were slightly medium hot at best and mostly mild.

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted December 20, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      the phrase is “you got white boy’d”, the waiter looks at you skeptically and then ignores what you tell him regarding spice

  4. Posted December 20, 2018 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    We have a Chengdu Impression in the Los Angeles area (Arcadia to be precise). I’m not sure it is related to the Chicago one though. However, it is highly rated by local critics. I plan to try it someday.

    I am with you on the Szechuan cold noodles. That is a dish I seek often. Yours looks very good.

    Twice-cooked pork is one of my favorites as well.

    The rest looks really good too. Perhaps I’ll seek out some Chinese food for lunch but I would be setting myself up for disappointment after seeing your feast. We have good Chinese food in the LA area, of course, but too far to go just for lunch.

  5. JezGrove
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    To quote the waiter passing a diner’s table in a recent cartoon in Private Eye: “Everything alright with the photo of your meal, sir?”

  6. revelator60
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Hoisin sauce reminds me of one of the items in the Butterfield Diet Plan, which I recommend to everyone who wants to get into shape. Not necessarily a healthy or aesthetically pleasing shape, but a shape, nonetheless:

  7. rickflick
    Posted December 20, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    “full as a tick”
    I’m putting that in my list.

    • Posted December 22, 2018 at 4:22 am | Permalink

      …”full as a goog” is one I’ve used for a long time…goog being a chicken’s egg (Australian colloq.) as far as I know, not sure of the exact origin…

  8. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted December 21, 2018 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Steamed beef with mashed rice, also very spicy (and good!):

    Rice stovies! If it’s good enough for Eastern Scotland, it’s probably good enough for the mysterious Orient too.
    Needs a slice of beetroot though!

%d bloggers like this: