This restaurant based its menu from the family banquets of Chinese painter/master Zhang Daqian.
China’s most popular artist was also a committed foodie — so much so that he would regularly prepare beautiful menus for the guidance of his personal chef of which many of these menus are now collectors’ pieces and come up frequently in auctions worldwide.
In addition to his prodigious skills as an artist, Chinese painter Zhang Daqian 张大千 (1899-1983) was also an expert chef and known to be a real gourmand. This restaurant is inspired by the menus and recipes left behind by Zhang Daqian and his family chefs.
四川小吃套餐 Sichuan Street Foods Set
I was attached into this restaurant because of this street food set. It featured six tasting size street food essentials for Chengdu and Sichuan.
伤心凉粉 “Sad” Mung Bean Noodles is a famous Hakka snack in Sichuan. There are two explanations for the peculiar name: one is the noodles were made by the homesick Guangdong Hakka people who lived in Luodai Town when they moved from their hometown to settle in Sichuan; the second is that the noodles are too spicy that people who eat the spicy jelly will be crying in pain, causing others to think that they have remembered something sad.
传统凉面 Traditional Cold Noodles is a Sichuan summer favourite. Noodles are cooked al dente and then flavoured with the local sesame paste and chilli oil. The characteristics of this dish are that the noodle strands are distinct, the noodle is not mushy, and the noodles have an alkaline taste.
Mention Sichuan and many would say 担担面 dan dan noodles. Little did they know that dan dan noodles actually originated in Chengdu. According to folklore, dan dan noodles were created in 1841 by a Zigong hawker nicknamed Chen Baobao. In the early days, he used a pole on his shoulders to carry the utensils needed to sell the noodles, so it was called dan dan noodles as this pole and action is called dan dan 担担.
钟水饺 Bell Dumplings was founded in the nineteenth year of Guangxu (1893), it was also called “Lizhi Lane Red Oil Dumplings” because the shop was located in Lizhi Lane 荔枝巷 and was seasoned with Sichuan chilli oil. The main difference with these dumplings from dumplings eaten elsewhere? There’s no vegetable of any sort in Bell Dumplings, just seasoned minced pork.
龙抄手 Sichuan “Dragon” Wonton is a traditional snack in Chengdu and was the name of the wonton that was made famous by a restaurant that was located in the southern end of Chunxi Road in the 1960s. 抄手 “Chao Shou” is the Sichuan dialect for wontons that are also eaten in Guangzhou. Sichuan has another method of eating wontons called 红油抄手 red oil wontons. This is the more common variation that is eaten outside of Sichuan.
赖汤圆 Lai’s Glutinous Rice Ball was founded in 1894 by Chengdu native Lai Yuanxin 赖元鑫. The quality of these rice balls are a beautiful, white outer crust that does not stick to teeth, chopstick or bowl when eating. The glutinous skin does not break during cooking to expose the filling. The soup does not get cloudy when cooked. They are usually served four to a bowl.
远威羊肉汤 Yuan Wei Town Mutton Soup
I happened to be there during 冬至 Winter Solstice and it was tradition to eat 汤圆 glutinous rice balls and specially in Chengdu, drink mutton soup. And 远威羊肉汤 Yuan Wei Town Mutton Soup was the top choice of many. The entire goat was used to make this soup. Nothing goes to waste. All the meat and offals are simmered in the stock made with mutton bones and simplest of spices to get rid of the gamey taste of goat. These are then chopped to bite size pieces and served with the soup.
Nothing beats a bowl of warm soup in winter. The soup was kept warm with a candle warmer. The taste was not like the mutton soup in Singapore which are heavy with spices. This has a natural sweetness to the soup. If you want something stronger, you dip the meat with the red chilli sauce or simply chopped chilli padi with soy sauce. The simplest of mutton soups, but the most flavourful.
The restaurant was newly opened in Apr 2021. It has been a tough period like most restaurants because of the pandemic, and even so as the infection peaked for winter with frequent lockdowns across China, affecting the tourism numbers.
The restaurant has a great concept, the food is above average, and the location is perfect – they are opened in a tourist hotspot. The price is also above the average in Chengdu but with Michelin entering the city, price for dining is set to go up.
I enjoyed my dinner even though it was an accidental choice – I didn’t want to try Sichuan street food on the street in the dead of winter, their street food set meal was not too expensive for 6 dishes (USD 7). I would definitely try the rest of the ala carte menu the next time I am in Chengdu.
Date visited : Dec 2021