I just discovered a Sichuan oasis in the past-128 wasteland: Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica (there is apparently also a sister restaurant in Framingham).
Well, maybe I didn't discovery it, as it has been around since 2002 and there is a Boston Globe review posted on their website. Plus, all my Chinese coworkers have apparently been eating there on the sly for a couple of years. Actually, I'm kinda pissed that they never mentioned it to me (until I invited myself along as the token non-Chinese last week).
A basic strip mall atmosphere, but OMG, is the Sichuan food ever great! So good, in fact, that I've had lunch there 3 times in the past week (and even convinced my company to order takeout for our Friday party, although unfortunately toned down a bit for the wimps). To listen to my two coworkers from Sichuan province, the food is very authentic. But all I know is that it is hot, HOT, HOT!!! (well, OK not everything was spicy, but ~ half the menu does justice Sichuan cuisines reputation).
I've tried so many dishes, that I can't remember them all, but a few stick out in my mind (hopefully I get the names right, since all the ordering was going on in Mandarin):
"Sliced Roast Beef & Tendon with Chili Sauce" The scary red color makes it look a lot spicier than it is. Just spicy enough to wake you up, and the contrast between the paper-thin beef and chewy tendons is wonderful.
"Sichuan Style Double Cooked Bacon" Bacon, smoke and spice...what could be better? Amazingly smokey.
There was also a very spicy dish of crunchy, fried diced chicken with mild green chilies--very good. And a dish of shrimp and sliced bell peppers in a mildly spicy, sticky sauce that was excellent. Unfortunately, I havent tried the famous Sichuan wontons, so I dont know how they compare to the local standard bearer at Mary Chungs in Cambridge.
The owners of Sichuan Gourmet are a husband & wife team of ex-biomedical researchers, and his brother, who graduated from a cooking school in Chengdu Sichuan, and was formerly a chef at Sichuan Garden in Brookline (also very good, by the way).
Reservations are highly recommended, as they open at 11:30AM, and by 12 Noon their ~50 seats are packed. Be on time too as they'll give away your seats if you are 5 minutes late!
502 Boston Road (Rte. 3A), Billerica, MA
(Strip mall next to the Billerica Mall)
Definitely worth driving out of your way.
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