And got a “feature” on Eater under the new VOX guise. That felt good. Chuan’s is awesome. It’s the Republique of Sichuanese food in America. It will succeed as such whereas Lao Sze Chuan Las Vegas will fail. Mark my words. The story was first published on Eater on 10/10, my hat-tip to the Taiwanese Independence Day, also Mary Chen, PT’s birthday:
Beautifully designed Chuan’s brings Sichuanese local dishes in a modern-rustic setting to LA.
Chuan’s is the first non-franchised outpost of the highly glamorous “Ba Guo Bu Yi”[BGBY] Chinese restaurant empire in the US. BGBY was established in 1996 by Mr. He Nong, a highly respect watercolor painter of lotus flowers in China. In 1998, disgusted by the rapid expansion of Yum Brands’s KFC in China, He (pronunced “huh”) took it upon himself to turn the Chinese millenials towards Chengdu style Chinese food instead of the more popular Cantonese style, Western influenced cafes that were rapidly expanding from Hong Kong towards inland China. By mid-2000s, thanks to glamor of Sichuanese food and He’s dedication to promoting his “culinary culture”, He Nong had become the proverbial Danny Meyer of Sichuan restauranteering.
He Nong had become the proverbial Danny Meyer of Sichuan restauranteering.
Even while finding capital for expansion into major Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing, He was still painting. In 2001, his water colors traveled to Malaysia for a multi-national exhibit. In 2004, 60 of his paintings were placed in a Germany in a China-Europe exhibition; 10 of those paintings were given to Japan, France, Australia, etc. as national gifts. His 2005 water color titled 秀水沐山川 won him the title of the “Peoples Artist“. After 30 years of painting, He Nong had become China’s own living Monet, except Monet wasn’t also the CEO of a restaurant corporation.
Beyond operating an empire of over thirty upscale Sichuanese restaurants, He Nong is the chairman of the multi-faceted conglomerate Chengdu Jove Industrial. Joe Bastianiach may be an empire builder and a TV show judge, but under Jove Industrial, He Nong operates a culinary school, a boutique hotel, a food processing company that produces seasoning and snacks, an interior design firm, a book publishing company, and a handmade furniture production company. Chengdu Jove Industrial also dabbles in real estate and has developed three commercial complexes.
Despite being busier than Queen Bee herself, He Nong can still be spotted at his newest restaurant baby in Temple City. This particular outfit of Chuan’s in under the management of partner Carol Chen, who brought in a team of Chengdu chefs and paired them with an American FOH. Every member of the waitstaff speaks English but the kitchen doesn’t kowtow to the US palate.
Every member of the waitstaff speaks English but the kitchen doesn’t kowtow to the US palate.
A beer and wine license is coming, and the stage is already set for nightly Sichuan opera showcase (courtesy of the Jove Industrial’s “cultural division”). Furniture was obviously produce by Jove group and imported from China, but the overall design was a joint effort between BGBY HQ in Chengdu as well as an LA-based architect. This Trans-Pacific style of cultural integration, evocative of BYD’s tech center in DTLA, is also apparent in ingredient selection: witness the dish of California avocados and Chinese cucumber salad, witness the use of large mouth bass.
The menu is relatively concise, and is still subject to additions as the alcohol and dessert menu are still in the works. The most prosaic dish of twice-cook pork featured delicately sliced pork belly sauteed with fermented black bean, leeks, and the untraditional jalapeno peppers. The slightly spicy end result is accompanied by 8 palm-sized buns in case patrons wish to produce Sichuanese pork sliders. This unctuous peasant dish is eons above any rendition of twice-cooked pork found in Chinese take-out shacks.
This unctuous peasant dish is eons above any rendition of twice-cooked pork found in Chinese take-out shacks.
The meaty heavy hitters of rice-powder steamed beef on yams and bullfrog hot pot — served in massive ceramic washbasin — are two other highlights of the menu. Chengdu expats will appreciate the hard-to-find greens such as fresh Houttuynia cordata (chameleon plant/heartleaf) and childhood street bread of brown sugar “guo kui” . Despite Chuan’s dedication to Sichuanese cuisine, non-spicy eaters can find solace in dishes such as braised pork belly, “crispy meat with beans” soup, and whole steamed fish. Some of BGBY’s signature dishes in China even makes an appearance in the form of braised soft shell turtle “calipash”.
With the opening of mainland Chinese restaurants all over Los Angeles (ie: Dongpo Meizhou, Little Sheep, Haidilao, Three Travellers, Singapore Leaf), the feel, and the growth of Chinese dining scene is definitely changing. Thanks to the star power of He Nong, Chuan’s is the definitive future of Chinese cuisine in SGV, if not in America. Its arrival in LA is akin to Wolfgang Puck opening Spago in Chongqing.
Finally, a bit of trivia: Chuan’s Temple City officially opened on September 26, 2014, exactly 18 years to the date He Nong opened the first Ba Guo Bu Yi in Chengdu city.
5807 Rosemead Blvd
Reservations are accepted.
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