Hit up Golden Garden in Belmont on Friday. The tl;dr is that it's a great addition to the neighborhood and the Boston area in general, but I would say the technical skill in the kitchen is lacking. This is food that would be better enjoyed at a big round table with copious amounts of alcohol.
Overall, dishes tended to be presented as a heaping pile with little textural contrast. Most dishes were a bit too heavy on the salt and MSG, overwhelming the palate. The standout was indeed the much-lauded dumplings. I would recommend making a meal out of a few types of dumplings and another dish for a little contrast.
Cucumber with garlic: basic smashed cucumber, fine.
"Dry" tofu with peppers: this is one of my favorite dishes at Fu Run (Flushing Queens NY). The Golden Garden version was almost inedibly salty, contained only a few slices of pepper, and had very little sauce, highlighting the "cottony" texture of the dry tofu. The Fu Run version is so successful becuase it juxtaposes the cottony texture with a copious amount of silky clear sauce, and a great amount of sliced garlic and jalapenos to offset the simple plain flavor of the tofu.
Beef with peppers: standard shredded beef and peppers, OK, not anything special.
Sour cabbage with bacon: they were out of bacon so we got some thinly sliced pork. Another monotonous pile, a bit too heavy on the salt. Nice if you've got a sauerkraut craving.
Lamb with dry chili sauce: we were hoping for a dry-spiced lamb but this just refers to the (outrageously delicious) dry chiles used in the brown sauce. The smoky, sweet dried peppers they use were the stars of the dish.
Shredded potato with chili pepper: standard crunchy stir-fried potato, served warm, very tasty.
Pickled daikon with jellyfish (not pictured): tasty pickled shredded daikon (Korean style) but only with a few bits of jellyfish thrown in. Another heaping pile that unfortunately lacked any textural or flavor subtlety.
Pork, leek and shrimp dumplings: man oh man. Normally I consider boiled dumplings (Wang's, MuLan) to be filling comfort food but overall kind of watery and bland. These dumplings have serious character, filled with big chunks of well-seasoned ingredients, and boiled just long enough to be tender but not too wet. Amazing.
Prices are reasonable- total all-in was under $100. There is a half-page of typical Sichuan dishes but we didn't get the chance to try any.
Make the trip for the dumplings.
228 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139
63 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478