Anyone fortunate enough to walk the streets of Chengdu, known informally throughout China as ‘Land of Abundance,’ cannot help but be surprised to discover that there is still such a place. It’s a city that seems to have been situated at the precise boundary between earth and the heavens. If this is true of Chengdu as a city, it’s even more true of its great gift to the world: Sichuan cuisine. It’s a style of cooking that recognizes no social hierarchies or distinctions: while it’s perfectly at home in the imperial palace, long rainy alleyways can accommodate it equally well, and even street stalls suffice. Sichuan cuisine has its own gravitational attraction, and Alley 41 is emblematic of the spirit of the Sichuan region.
When I was a boy, I lived with my family in a picturesque alleyway in Sichuan Province, where my luck it was to enjoy a steady diet of the wondrous local fare. Later, when we came to the United States, what I longed for most was this authentic food of my childhood. I was convinced that New York too should have a restaurant that recalls the flavors and aromas of my youth – a place you would want to visit again and again, and never want to leave – and it was with this in mind that I resigned from my job in order to found Alley 41.
Alley 41 is located on 41st Street, a secluded side street just off Main Street in Flushing, Queens. I chose this location because of its resemblance to the small alley where I grew up. Ordinary people walk the streets, children follow their parents to eat snacks in the street’s small restaurants, and then run off contentedly to play. Starting from the door, everything is stylistically Sichuanese. Repeated partitions are utilized to recreate the feeling of an alleyway in Chengdu. The ‘laneway’ concept (designed by Eddy Tao, designer/founder of Eddy Tao + Associates) is divided into three areas: a front lane, an atrium, and the backyard. Distressed carved glass, cement bricks, and black iron are utilized to create an atmosphere with deep Chinese characteristics.
In order to meet exacting standards of authenticity, we took our time before opening in January of last year. Our Chef Long – also a native of Sichuan Province (?) and master chef of Sichuan cuisine – has worked in the culinary industry in China for more than 40 years. He had a long and fruitful apprenticeship with renowned Sichuan master chef Wu Changming. 80% of our ingredients are shipped directly from Sichuan Province in order to ensure the utmost authenticity. Although we maintain the highest standards of taste and freshness, we pride ourselves on making our restaurant accessible and affordable to all. While New York plays host to a dizzying array of global cuisines, it is my sincere wish that the food we serve at Alley 41 will stir the memory, recalling we Sichuanese to our origins. And I hope that more people who enjoy Sichuan cuisine can share new memories with us, enjoying the finest Sichuan flavor in an authentic Chinese atmosphere.