THE Great Chow
Not to be confused with Great Chow (Japanese/Chinese in Quincy & Abington), which it undoubtedly will be, for all of you Ohio State fans this is THE Great Chow. And based on our 5 Chowhound's first visit, it is a serious new contender for Sichuan cuisine in the Boston area. Along with my old favs Sichuan Gourmet, Sichuan Garden, and Red Pepper, this is heady company for a restaurant that only opened in early December 2014 in Malden MA.
With easy free parking along Ferry St in front (1 hr), or further along the road with no time limit, TGC has an attractive, light and airy, although simple interior, with widely spaced tables and a few charming paintings of flowers on the walls. Although I had to laugh at the specials menu, which is only visible from outside the restaurant (you will have to judge for yourself as to whether the statue of a menu-wielding chef is actually Italian or Chinese).
Lunchtime on a Saturday was quiet, with only a couple of other tables occupied. But once the charming waitress, and then the owner, realized they had some serious Sichuan-seekers on their hands, we were treated to some excellent renditions of our favorite Sichuan classics. Nothing very unusual, so hopefully the specials will move in a more exotic direction in the future. Note, they also serve a wide variety of the ubiquitous Americanized Chinese, but that wasn't what we were there for, so I can't comment on their General Tso's.
1) Sliced roast beef & tendon w. chili sauce ($7.75)
~This is my standard-bearer for Sichuan cuisine, the classic fū qī fèi piàn, served cold, and it compares favorably with Boston's best from Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica. Very, VERY spicy, more moderate on the mala, light on the peanuts. Probably our consensus favorite, don't order if you can't tolerate the heat, and wait for your white rice to arrive first.
2) Sichuan Dan Dan Noodle ($5.25)
~Probably everyone's favorite Sichuan dish, this was tasty, with noodles still having a bit of Italian chew to them, which they often don't. Only moderately spicy and not very mala, and included some leafy greens. Not Dan Dan to dream about, like that at Han Dynasty in Philly, but decent enough.
3) Twice Cooked Pork ($10.25)
~Classic Sichuan, but only slightly spicy, so a welcome respite after the screaming fuqi. More veggies than many versions, but I like that. Not particularly smokey.
5) Cheng-Du Spicy Chicken ($11.95)
~OK, this is another of my must-order classic Sichuan dishes, and at Sichuan Gourmet, it's one of the hottest things on the menu. Here it isn't. Spicy, but not only for spice-nics (don't let the dried red chillies scare you off, which obviously you don't eat). Normally this would turn me off. But this was one of the most tender and moist, yet still crispy renditions I've ever had (I remember a similar version at Han Dynasty, although they couldn't do it consistently). Strangely, it was missing the typical green long hots, which usually provide a milder contrast with the firey deep-fried chicken, and in this case were substituted for by bell peppers. REALLY good!
[As an aside, I don't understand the name of this dish. AFAIK, it should be called chóng qìng là zi jī (Deep-Fried or Dried Chicken with Chili Peppers), and Chengdu-spiced Chicken is something else entirely. Does anyone know?]
6) Cucumber w. Scallion Sauce ($4.75)
~Another cold, and cool dish to relieve the palate. A very simple preparation with a dusting of chopped scallions.
7) Tiger Skin Peppers ($9.95)
~Mild-to-moderately spicy long hots (depending on your spice tolerance), quickly stir-fried with a tasty caramelized onion sauce. I enjoyed the leftovers for breakfast today, lol.
8) Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings ($11.95)
~A special (thanks Italian chef guy!), crisp and tasty, but not particularly meaty wings.
9) Ice cream (complementary)
~The owner was clearly excited by our complements about their cooking, and kindly offered us a couple of plates of strawberry ice cream topped with whipped cream, cherries and jimmies. Despite being stuffed, this went over well.
We were also excited to hear they serve Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), the pictures of which looked quite delicate, as they should be but rarely are. However, by that point we were were stuffed and will have go back to try them.
$74 + tip for the 5 of us (incl $1.50 per small bowl of rice), leaving us stuffed with a few leftovers to take home.
If you are in Malden, THE Grand Chow is definitely a place to stop by, and if you are into Sichuan, It's well worth a drive out of your way.
Main website: http://greatchowmalden.com/index.html
Order online: http://thegreatchow.com