Ventured to Brookline Village tonight for a preliminary run at Sichuan Garden.
For those who ever make the trip please be forewarned. Before you hop on the T if you cannot look at yourself in the mirror and sincerely declare 'These are my finest spicy food eating trousers' then you may want to change immediately. 8 of us walked into the restaurant tonight and 7 of us walked out. The eighth, an otherwise hale and spry specimen of youth, sat bolt upright after his third bite of Garlic Sauce With Shredded Cucumber and utterly liquified. He didn't liquify in a "i'm going all gooey with pleasure as I eat this" way but in a way rather more akin to the baddies standing around the ark at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie. Needless to say the waitstuff, unsurprisingly non-plussed, mopped him up immediately and in the end there was more room at the table for another dish.
Anyway, time to strip the style and dish the sauce:
With the exception of our scallion pancake each appetizer was swimming in chili oil. The chili oil at Sichuan Garden appeared to contain: chili oil, red chili oil, peppercorns, pepper flakes, perhaps a hint of garlic and perhaps a hint of citrus. Think tiny, tiny, tiny hint of citrus if it exists at all. There's no doubt some other stuff in there too but that's all I can remember right now. In addition, each appetizer, again excepting the scallion pie, came with a heap of ground peanuts on top.
Sliced Beef Tendon With Roasted Chili Vinaigrette -- thinly sliced pieces of tendon with some scallion.
Chili Noodles With Spicy Sesame Vinaigrette --
the chili oil in these thin spaghetti-like noodles definitely had a little vinegar in it. As I recall there were some beansprouts and green onion involved as well.
Garlic Sauce With Shredded Cucumber -- Our favorite chili oil, this time with a stonger hint of garlic, dousing sliced cucumbers. mmmmm .. the crisp and cool taste of cucumber with that chili sauce.
Scallion Pancake -- These were your standard scallion pancakes. They were good. A little crunchy on the outside but soft inside. Also good dipped in chili oil.
All the appetizers were excellent. And we saved the (enormous bowl full) or chili oil runoff from each dish and kept it to pour over white rice later. so, so good.
Camphur Tea Smoked Duck -- We ordered the whole half duck, coarsely chopped (not the shredded version). It was very good. Each bite of the flesh had the wonderful aroma and flavors of , well, camphor smokiness. Three of us seriously considered ordering take-out orders for the next day at home and I split the drumsticks open and sucked out the marrow. Excellent.
Braised Stir-Fried Sea Scallops With Chili Cucumber -- The scallops in this dish were cooked very well. They were very tender on the inside and flavorful but we didn't so much care for the brown sauce it was served with. It wasn't bad but it wasn't anything to write home about.
Chengdu Dry Hot Chicken -- boneless cubes of chicken given some unspeakable treatment to make them spicy, tangy, dry, and delicious. Served with sliced hot peppers. Very good.
Sauteed String-Beans With Spring Bamboo Shoots -- The beans were crunchy and the sauce fairly mild but still good. I have had less oily and better renditions of this dish here before but it was still OK. In the past it has been excellent.
Sauteed Shredded Potatoes With Green Peppers -- this was a very interesting and a very good dish. The potato was sliced thinly and cooked with a very mild (as in not spicy at all .. think genuinely serene) garlic sauce. It was both interesting and a wonderful complement to our other dishes. I'd order it again. Also, I don't know if I've ever had potato in a chinese restaurant before....
and ordered from the untranslated chinese only menu ( you have to ask special for this menu if you want to see it)
something I only know how to refer to as Chinese Okra. On our check it was something like Chinese Okra with Bamboo. I don't know what it was but it was pretty good. Another mild sauce with green and whitich vegetable bits in it. The green bits were at least in texture vaguely similar to cucumber (vaguely.... i can't think of a better description and I'm not up on my Okra enough to know how it fits) and the white bits were larger and more rectangular with a much more interesting texture. I really like the texture contrasts in this dish and the flavor was good as well. The vegetable was a little bitter but the table agreed we liked it.
Our own makeshift entree:
An enormous bowl of steamed rice, doled out as wanted and, once plated, covered with leftover chili oil. So, so good.
and for desert:
I don't know what it's called. A sweet, small mound of sticky rice with lotus seed and red bean and maybe some other sweetening agent. There was only enough for each of us to have a spoonful.
Needless to say this was a large meal. The total came to 98.00 including tax. With tip we each put in a little under twenty.
We all walked out stuffed and happy.
If anyone cares the menu numbers of our food were:
chinese okra isn't numbered but it's the second from the botton on the lefthand side on the chinese menu
I don't know if our dessert was on the menu but if you ask they shall provide.