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Chef Ma in San Jose for Chengdu, Sichuan Cooking


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Chef Ma in San Jose for Chengdu, Sichuan Cooking

Melanie Wong | Jan 31, 2013 11:41 PM

Earlier this month I walked through again the odd shopping complex on South DeAnza that houses various after school programs geared to Chinese kids as well as several food businesses including Sogo Bakery and Q-Cup in a mishmash of stalls, kiosks and food court seating. The largest eating space toward the back, formerly operated by Foodtopia ( ) and others since then, is now Chef Ma. The owner is from Chengdu and promotes the style of cooking as “Less oil and less salt, no MSG, healthy food”. Here are photos of the menus:

Early on a Friday evening, the other tables were filled with Chinese parents joined in waves by their young kids as each finished their enrichment programs for the day. While Chef Ma has been open for nearly a year, none seemed to be regulars and we all were eyeing our neighbors to figure out what to order. Everything going by looked tasty. Noodles and a couple appetizers seemed to be the most popular way to order.

The complimentary peanuts were wonderful, roasted in oil, lightly singed, and salty. Seasoned with dried red chile pods and some savory bits, the peanuts were so good, I wrapped up the rest in a paper napkin to take home with me.

Dry Noodles B3. Sichuan style noodle with spicy ground pork, $6.95, or dan dan mian was presented with flair and verticality. Heaped up in an imposing mountain, the dan dan mian ingredients were layered and somewhat separated so that one could mix in more or less of a flavor element to taste.

While the floral and citrusy scent of Sichuan peppercorns perfumed the dish, neither their flavor nor numbing qualities were prominent on the palate. But that’s my only negative. The biggest and most pleasant surprise was to discover chewy hand-pulled noodles as the base.

The red oil had far less sesame paste or peanut butter, if any at all, than most other Sichuan restaurants serve. This was also not as sweet as many.

So delighted with the dandan noodles, I ordered a couple more things to-go. Appetizer A2. Strips in chili sauce, $4.99, or fu qi fei pian, shown here packed to go was very garlicky and spicy hot but a bit light on numbing peppercorns. It featured a good amount of tripe, perfectly tender beef shank, and aromatic cilantro, scallions and peanuts.

Dim Sum A5. Pumpkin cake, $1.99/order, included two pieces. Chubby pumpkin-flavored mochi pancakes were filled with moderately sweet red bean paste. Deep-fried, the non-oily lightly crisp crust segued to a chewy soft interior. Freshly prepared and done so well.

My server was great, swooping in with a glass of ice water that I had earlier declined, when he saw me start to ignite from the chile peppers. Chef Ma’s cooking is solid and I have a very good feeling about this spot. Let’s hear some more eating reports.

Chef Ma
1600 S DeAnza Blvd. #30
San Jose
Hours differed on three signs, suggest calling ahead.

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