Sichuan Gourmet disappointment
After reading so many terrific things about Sichuan Gourmet in Framingham, I finally was able to give it a try on Tuesday evening. Unfortunately, the restaurant I ate from and the things I have read about here on Chowhound are very different! I am aware that I might have hit an "off" night, but it left a mixed impression (and a hankering for the consistency and skill Sichuan Garden have shown recently). As you know, that first impression is important; I was with Dr.Jimbob at his venture to Wang's, and haven't been remotely tempted to return!
Not that Sichuan Gourmet was bad, it just didn't fill me with awe and wonder like I was hoping it would. After a Chowhound I trust recently talked about their knifework and their skill with flavors and spice, I was very disappointed.
I tried five items:
Sichuan Wonton with Spicy Chili Sauce: Terrific! The wonton skins were thin and delicate, and the fillings were lovely. They were in red oil, and there was grated garlic over them.
Dried Chicken with Chili Sauce: I asked them to hurt me with this dish, basically, and got this. Dry fried chicken with "dragon's tooth" pepper bits and green pepper. I was told it had ground pepper and hua jiao, and that it was killer. It had neither, and it was not. Wasn't very tasty, either, just sorta there. The leftovers lost consistency points when reheated, but a night in the fridge did somehow bring out more flavor.
Sliced Lamb with Scallion: This was more like lamb with lamb and lamb and a few pieces of onion and scallion. The lamb was showcased beautifully, but the lamb was very gamey and was more like mutton. There really wasn't much to this dish, other than... lamb.
Ma Po Tofu: Mostly this was spicy. There was a nice undercurrent of garlic, but no sign (aroma, flavor, or tingle) of Sichuan peppercorn, ginger, or meat. To be fair, the menu says "(with meat as required)" and I did not. Nicely spicy, but there really wasn't much more than that to this dish.
Beef & Napa Cabbage with Spicy Chili Sauce: This was second place winner this evening, after the appetizer. Lots of nice, tender beef, lots of nice veggies, lots of red oil. Lots of visible garlic on top, and this was the only dish with any visible hua jiao. The dish was tasty and spicy, redolent of garlic and beefy goodness. There was no hint of flavor or aroma from the Sichuan peppercorn, but there was regardless a nice tingle on the lips.
Clearly, this wasn't a horrible set of dishes, but I was expecting more. Should I assume that this was an atypical visit and give the place another try? If so, are there other dishes y'all would recommend?
Great update - thanks!
Some of the dishes I've really liked there in the past include pork belly with garlic (suan4 ni2 bai2 rou4) that showcased beautiful knifework, their made on the premises sausage (probably more of a Hunan dish), dry wok fish (gan1 gou1 yu2 pian4 - crispy fish dry fried with tons of peppercorns/hua1 jiao1). I haven't been that psyched with their cumin lamb, which was a bit gloppier than I would have liked. Muttony flavour in the "lamb" dishes are probably typical in my experience with the cuisine.
I don't know if it's a big factor, but it might be worth checking where the chef is (there are two branches) -- I typically call ahead.
This is what I usually get when I go:
Sichuan style string beans
Sliced Roast Beef & Tendon w. Chili Sauce
Sichuan Double Cooked Bacon (meh but it's fatty = good)
Chinese Eggplant w. Yu Xiang Sauce
and then throw in an obligatory fish dish if necessary, but usually, that meal is satisfying because it is absolutely better than anything else you can get in and around Boston - that's what counts in my book, when you can just plow into your food, mop up the chili oil with rice or something else.
I may be biased - my background is Shanghainese, I go with my friend who's a native of Lanzhou. We both eat at a high level of spicness but have too many friends that do not so we often have to moderate ourselves. In general, do not go looking for a miracle. It will not happen.