Stewed duck with Chinese yam, Chengdu Impression
  • Mike Sula
  • Stewed duck with Chinese yam at Chengdu Impression

I’ve been going on and on about the changing landscape of Chinatown—everything’s going Sichuan. What I didn’t expect was a real Sichuan restaurant to open in monochromatic Lincoln Park, serving all sorts of delights like dry chile chicken, double-cooked pork intestine, and stewed rabbit Zigong-style.* Chengdu Impression took over the space once occupied by Jia’s, which served sushi and a mishmash of pedestrian things like orange chicken, Mongolian beef, and sweet-and-sour pork. The new owners kept some of those dishes on the menu, but that did little to alleviate the displeasure of aggrieved Yelpers, who’ve been calling the wahhhmbulances about all the spicy red oil, salt, and bony duck chunks.

The latter refers to the stewed duck with Chinese yam, a dish I loved at Chinatown’s new Sze Chuan Cuisine: carb-free mountain-yam noodles with bony duck chunks in an oily and blazing-hot brew. Part of the pleasure of eating this dish is gnawing around the duck bones for scraps of slippery skin and meaty bits, and expectorating the osseous shrapnel. I like it even better at Chengdu Impression, where the yam noodles are broad and chewy and the stew swims with bits of sliced garlic and Chinese celery. If a dish ever gives you license to abandon your table manners, this is it. Expect a spackling.

No tigers were harmed in the making of these peppers.
  • Mike Sula
  • No tigers were harmed in the making of these peppers.

How do you say no to a dish called “Tiger skin pepper”? These remind me quite a bit of one of my favorite things at Lao Hunan—”Famous Hunan chili in black bean sauce.” These are a bit simpler, though, and seared until wrinkly and served with black vinegar, they have an appealing fruitiness to them. And yes, they’re powerfully hot.

Chengdu Impression doesn’t have the sort of epic-length menu you might expect from a Chinatown restaurant, and it still serves a bunch of dubious-sounding sushi. But we’re in Lincoln Park, remember? The menu’s large enough to keep a serious Sichuan freak burning and buzzing for days and days. It’s not just good for Lincoln Park. It’d be good in Chinatown too.

Chengu Impression

Chengdu Impression, 2545 N. Halsted, 773-477-6256,

* Let us say nothing of Lao 18, Tony Hu’s ill-fated River North experiment, which according to Crain’s recently posted a sign announcing that it is “temporarily closed for kitchen remodeling” after just six months.