Regulars at Chengdu Taste, the Alhambra Sichuan restaurant famous for its toothpick lamb and its two-hour wait for a table, know they can order specials off the menu. Stop in for dinner, and servers regularly carry platters of lion fish -- a "secret menu" special of intricately sliced and deep-fried whole fish -- across the dining room to in-the-know customers. At least until the kitchen runs out.
The secret menu might have remained elusive for non-Chinese speakers, but organizers of the Chinese Cuisine Festival -- an event that takes place at 15 restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley through March 16 -- have printed an English menu of Chengdu Taste's specials, including dishes not normally listed or written only in Chinese.
Here's what's on the "secret menu":
Deep-fried squid $14.99
Sliced pork with house special sauce $10.99
Pig's kidney $11.99
Spicy crispy deep-fried frog $16.99
Hot spicy shrimp with sizzling rice $15.99
House special shrimp $15.99
Tomato beef soup $12.99
Sauteed ox tripe $10.99
Cabbage with rice noodles $8.99
"Flavoured chef's special fish" $12.99 to $19.99
Sauteed pepper squid with sizzling rice $19.99
House special tofu pudding $6.99
Lion fish (limited quantities) $25.99
Chrysanthemum fish (limited quantities) $34.99
Thin sliced sweet potatoes with spicy sauce $6.99
Preserved meat with sliced sweet potatoes $12.99
On a recent visit to Chengdu Taste, the lion fish and sweet potatoes with spicy sauce were sold out and mapo tofu was served instead of the house special tofu pudding that was ordered. But the hot spicy shrimp with sizzling rice was a platter of awesome: deep-fried shrimp with clusters of puffed rice, sliced green onions, garlic and, of course, chiles.
Also among the recommended dishes on the Chinese Cuisine Festival menu are the following house specials:
Green onion chicken in pepper sauce (numb taste) $10.99
Boiled fish with green pepper sauce (numb taste) $12.99
Wonton with pepper sauce (numb taste) $5.99
("Recommended only choose one dish above for best taste")
Mung bean jelly noodle with chile sauce
Boiled vegetable and meat in Szechuan Style special hot sauce (8.99 for vegetables, $11.99 for meats)
Toothpick lamb $13.99
Mapo tofu $7.99
Chengdu Taste, 828 W. Valley Blvd., Alhambra, (626) 588-2284.