Green Brook, NJ 08812
- Cost: $$$
- Credit Cards: All Major
- Alcohol: BYO
- Parking: Private Lot
- Take Out: Yes
September 4, 2015
I was shocked when EthnicNJ’s favorite Chinese restaurant closed this summer. While Cedar Grove’s Chengdu 1 is no more, its mouth-splitting Sichuan menu lives on at Chengdu 1 Palace in Green Brook, NJ.
For years, Chengdu 1 was THE place for sichuan food in Jersey. In a no-frills space next to a (now defunct) cineplex off Route 23, happy tables filled by mostly Mandarin-speakers enjoyed the fiery pleasures of Sichuan peppercorns. The spicy, creamy Ma Po Tofu at Chengdu 1 became my reference point for the dish. Adventurous diners could order Sichuan specialties like Frog Meat with Yellow Chives, Pig’s Intestine in Spicy Fine Pot, and Ox Tongue, Tripe with Hot & Pepper Sauce. Together with Chengdu 23 in Wayne, Chendu 1 was a key destination on New Jersey’s “Sichuan trail.”
Last year, Chengdu 1 opened a second location on Route 22 West in Green Brook, in the building that used to be Dynasty Restaurant, a popular spot for dim sum. Chengdu 1 Palace serves the same great food, at similar prices, in fancier surroundings.
The extensive menu includes most, if not all, of Chengdu 1’s Sichuan specialties, as well as more familiar Cantonese and Chinese-American standards. If you like spice, stick to the Sichuan selections. Dan Dan Noodles and Spicy Baby Wontons arrive in a very spicy, not too oily, red Sichuan sauce. Order Ants Climbing the Tree for translucent noodles with ground pork. Salt & Pepper Spareribs, Sautéed Lamb and Volcano Chicken are all delicious. Portions are large. The Chengdu 1 Palace menu also includes traditional and Sichuan-style hot pots that can feed a few people at a time.
We were fortunate to visit Chengdu 1 Palace with a friend who has lived in China and could consult with our server in Mandarin. The resulting fish fillet hot pot is one of the spiciest, most flavor-packed Sichuan dishes I have tried. Your mouth starts tingling and goes numb from the peppercorns, but you can’t put down the chopsticks. Cold water, I find, exacerbates the tingling sensation.
The ample dining rooms at Chengdu 1 Palace have large tables, perfect for family-sized groups. Service is fast and friendly. Servers are happy to help explain the more exotic offerings. Mandarin certainly helps, but isn’t required to eat well here.
Chengdu 1 Palace assumes the title of EthnicNJ’s favorite Chinese, and favorite Sichuan, restaurant. Essex County’s loss is Somerset County’s gain. Chengdu 1 Palace is a little farther from EthnicNJ headquarters, but we will happily reroute our food excursions along Route 22 toward Green Brook whenever we want some of the best Sichuan food in the Garden State.