Dumplings and Dan Dan noodles get served up at the new Little Chengdu. Or for those more adventurous, pig ears and beef tongue and tripe.
These days, discerning eaters in Seattle can find any Chinese cuisine anywhere outside of the Chinatown International District. They share the same blocks as your teriyaki joints and Starbucks. The latest, Little Chengdu, brings Sichuanese cuisine to the Rainier Valley. It’s sandwiched between the busy drags of Rainier Avenue South and Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, a mile from Columbia City.
There is pork ear in sesame oil, beef tongue served with tripe. The spot is named after the capital of China’s Sichuan province, where peppers are fiery and fragrant. So why, oh why, is Little Chengdu so afraid to play with a little fire? Still, you could do worse than to chow down on some fresh noodles coated in chili oil and dumplings bathed in a salty, garlicky brown sauce for less than $10.
The menu: The sections are divided into: wontons and dumplings, noodles, traditional dishes, rice dishes and its signature dry pot. The last is a big plate of fried pork ribs, chicken or shrimp ($18.99-$22.99) with veggies, its most expensive dish, though it serves two. There’s also fried rice and chow mein for those looking for more traditional takeouts.
Dishes to get: Braised beef noodle soup comes in a tangy, salty broth, though a few stars below the heat level that the soup needed. The dumplings are drenched in that piquant chili oil and brightened with copious amounts of raw scallions and sesame seeds. The slices of beef tongue and tripe come in an oily, garlicky glaze with roasted peanuts for crunch. It’s beef carpaccio with Asian flavors. The dry pot features chunks of bone-in dark and white chicken along with slivers of crispy chicken skin and a medley of cabbage, green peppers, potato, onions, garlic, peanuts and dried chilies, all tossed with 20 spices. It has that pronounced peppercorn-coriander-like Sichuan scent, its most fragrant and spicy offering.
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What to skip: Mapo tofu — how can you mess up this dish! — has neither heat nor that salty-sweet, pungent punch of fermented bean sauce. The ground beef, bamboo-steamed with pumpkin and served with boa buns, was overcooked to the point of mush. Also mushy, the Dan Dan noodles, with minced meat and bok choy, lacked that chewy, al dente bite and numbing heat as advertised.
A sample bill: The pork dumplings ($8.99), noodles ($8.99), bamboo-steamed beef with pumpkin ($10.99) and mapo tofu ($12.99) totaled $41.96, enough to feed three for dinner.
Little Chengdu: Chinese; 2815 S. Hanford St., (Rainier Valley) Seattle; 206-760-9263, littlechengduseattle.business.site; Tuesdays-Thursdays 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5 p.m.-9 p.m.; Fridays 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9:30 p.m. and weekends 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9:30 p.m.; closed Mondays.