Chengdu Gourmet, a popular Squirrel Hill restaurant, opened a second location on the lower part of McKnight Road in August. They’re known for their extensive menu, full of both traditional Chinese and American Chinese dishes.
Chinese restaurants typically have larger than average menus, but Chengdu Gourmet takes theirs to the next level. They have over 250 unique dishes on their menu. Needless to say, I was bit overwhelmed when I first visited. My friends had been there before, and they helped guide me through the menu. We ordered from both parts of the menu to get an idea of the vast array of dishes they offered.
We started off with scallion pancakes and wontons in red chili oil. A simple dish, scallion pancakes need to be executed well to really deliver on texture and flavor. Chengdu’s pancakes wowed in both of these areas. They were extremely crispy without being too greasy. The crunch of the pancake in my mouth was unreal. The flavor of the scallions was subtle, but the vinegary dipping sauce paired nicely with the savory pancakes. This is definitely a must-order.
The wontons were definitely simple, but I believe simplicity is best when it comes to certain dishes. The basic pork wontons let the red chili oil sauce shine. It had a subtle heat that complemented the spices in the wontons.
All of the main dishes we ordered were served family style and were shared with everyone. I really enjoyed this communal style of eating, as it makes the meal more fun. Everyone picked a dish to order, so it felt like we all had a stake in the meal. We discussed our favorite dishes and what we liked about each one. There’s nothing I like more than food-based discussions.
We ordered a multitude of dishes, including diced chicken with dried pepper, Peking duck, lo mein, beef in spicy sauce (Sichuan style), beef ribs with bamboo shoots, and Mao’s braised pork belly. I definitely thought we over-ordered, but surprisingly, it was the perfect amount of food for four people.
The dishes that stood out the most were the diced chicken with dried pepper and the beef in spicy sauce (Sichuan style). I’m a fan of things with at least a little heat, and both of these dishes delivered on that. The diced chicken with dried pepper wasn’t actually diced. It was chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces and fried. The chicken was delightfully crispy, while also remaining tender and juicy inside. If I didn’t already know from the name, the generous amount of dried chilis indicated that this dish was hot. This definitely had a building heat, rather than an immediate punch. The first bite didn’t seem that bad, but by the sixth, we were reaching for our water glasses. The flavor made the pain worth it.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the beef in spicy sauce, but it blew me away. Chengdu Gourmet really knows how to cook meat. Just like the chicken, this beef was so tender that I cut it with only a fork. This dish was incredibly filling as well. In addition to the meat, this hearty dish had heaps of garlic, bok choy, and green onions. The broth was aromatic and full of flavor that only alliums can provide. The fluffy white rice soaked up the broth, making this dish near perfect.
The Peking duck was a classic dish that we knew we had to order. The whole duck was served with wraps, cucumbers, green onions, and hoisin sauce. A wrap is an ideal way to eat Peking duck. The hoisin sauce complements the slightly sweet glaze and the cucumber and green onion added a delicate crunch that contrasted with the softness of the duck.
The beef ribs with bamboo shoots and Mao’s braised pork belly were further examples of the restaurant’s meat-cooking expertise. The beef fell off the ribs and melted in my mouth. Pork belly can be a hit or miss sometimes for me, but Chengdu didn’t disappoint. The pork belly was tender, while also having a crackling exterior. The sweet and savory flavors present in this dish were unmatched. The vegetable lo mein was the perfect accompaniment to all of the meats.
We got such a small taste of Chengdu Gourmet’s menu that I’m sure there are some star dishes that we overlooked. I’d have to go back countless times to even consider making a dent in their massive menu, but that’s a task I would happily take on.