A good friend of mine has been getting chi therapy from James Luo in Chinatown (I need to give him a plug: 200 Lincoln St., Suite 401, 617-953-6377) on a regular basis for some time, and she recommended that I pay him a visit. As she tells me, James comes from a family that has been performing chi therapy in China for five generations. James, however, left China a number of years ago and came to the United States where he started a family and opened up a Chinese restaurant (I'm not sure which one or where it was). At some point, however, James completely lost his vision and was forced to give up the restaurant. After re-schooling at the Perkins School, James returned to relying on his training in chi therapy to earn a living. (One might speculate that James's lack of vision contributes to his skill as a chi therapist!)
I visited James for the first time several weeks ago, and during the course of our visit, I chatted with him a bit about his personal history. Turns out that his best friend is Johnny Li, owner of the Brookline location of Sichuan Gourmet. I mentioned to James that our family was planning a birthday dinner for my father, and in particular were looking for a place that had soft shell crab on the menu. I told James that we love Sichuan Gourmet, and would love to go there for the birthday dinner, but that I don't recall ever seeing soft shell crab on their menu. (Do any area Chinese restaurants carry it when in season?) Well James sprung into action and told me that he would talk to Johnny and arrange everything for us. And on Saturday night, my family had dinner at Sichuan Gourmet and had some of the best soft shell crab we've ever had. The restaurant prepared it "salt & pepper" style for us, preparing half of it with a spicy Sichuan-style preparation (I don't want to use the word "sauce" because it was not heavily sauced) and half not spicy. I only tried the spicy ones, and they were amazing.
I have no idea whether this is something they'd consider making a part of their regular menu (when the crabs are in season), but Sichuan Gourmet is, of course, a great place for large gatherings, so perhaps anyone planning a party could ask Johnny if this is something they could do for them, as well.