A friend of mine pointed out that Sichuan Garden isn't as good as it used to be; Zoe's the place to go for Sichuan cooking now. Well, who am I to argue with a native Sichuanese? So I dutifully paid to visit to Zoe's on Beacon Street, a stone's throw from R. F. O'Sullivan's.
The menu looks very impressive, especially the back pages, fully translated. Not just a page of Sichuan specialities, but another whole page dedicated to "Nouth and South" specialities. And yet another for small plates.
The beef and tripe sichuan peppercorn and chilli oil is hefty. The plate is lareg, bolstered by a sizable pile of bean sprouts at the bottom. The beef isn't as delicately sliced as Sichuan Garden's version, but the tripe has a flowery crunchiness. The sauce isn't as hot as I would have liked (my forehead was dry), but is otherwise beautiful, exquisitely minced raw garlic harmonzing with the peppercorns and chilli oil. My lips and tongue tingle (literally) from the peppercorns.
Slices of lotus roots are used to sandwich minced pork, battered and deep fried. It's addictive, the crunchy roots contrast with just the right amount of tender pork, laced perhaps with ginger. Just irresistable.
A salad of cilantro, scallions, green chilli and dark 5 spice bean curd seems ok at first, but is most effective as a cool counterpoint to the fried and chilli-hot dishes.
Very good homey cooking. I'm putting it on par with SG for the moment, although the menu is vaster and somewhat more interesting.
I've just scratched the surface here and would like to return to see how the other dishes fare. For those of you interested in joining me this Saturday for lunch, send me an email (address above). I'm looking for a total of 6-8ish people.
289 Beacon St
Somerville (near Porter Sq T)
Saturday, May 17