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Sichuan Gourmet (Billerica) a little help?

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made the trip down 3A yesterday with the Kid and while we liked the place and could see that it has potential for us i need a little direction with regards to ordering.

first, we got the Dan Dan noodles which we liked A LOT but i was wondering if this dish is traditionally made with vermicelli and not a more lo-mein like noodle.

we also did the Old Sichuan Chicken and while it was OK i was not too impressed with the frying. it also had a prominent 5 spice flavor and the spiciness was really not there.

another odd dish was the Minced Pork with Sichuan Long Green Bean. after we made the order someone came out to tell us that the long beans were pickled and 'very sour,' no biggie, we like sour, bring it on. when it arrived the long beans had been chopped so small as to make eating with chopsticks a slightly frustrating affair and it had no real taste other than pickles.

and lastly we got the Pork with Chinese Eggplant. now while the sauce was decent with a bit of heat i found the pieces of eggplant too big. granted the skin was scored so that when you bit down you didn't get all the skin in the first bite but really, these were big pieces. the pork was pretty good though.

i did notice that when we left we were the only caucasians in the place and that most people ordering were not using any type of menu, just chatting with the servers and being brought food. is there some secret code?

any help will be appreciated and if you can point us in the direction of the most authentic Sichuan dishes here we'd really love that.

TIA,
SS

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  1. If you want hotter than hell, try the fish dish that is the only 3 pepper dish on the menu. Comes out in a giant soup bowl w/ sichuan peppercorns floating all over the top. Then eat the spicy eggplant dish and it'll taste sweet :-)

    Dan dan noodles depend on who's making it. It can be done w/ white or yellow noodles (I prefer the yellow noodles myself).

    Also try the sizzling rice dishes. While not really spicy, it tastes good.

    And yes, this sichuan gourmet is frequented by chinese more than the other sichuan dishes in the area...mostly because the chef isn't afraid of laying on the spices (unlike the sichuan gourmet in woburn).

    If your son can survive the bowl of fish hell, I'd be impressed ;-)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Spike

      well he's done the Wings of Ass-Destruction at ECG.
      and we both loved the steamed beef at FuLoon.

      1. re: ScubaSteve

        lol...he's gotta try the fish stew from hell then. It's the only 3 chili item on the menu so you can't miss it ;-)
        Definitely get the spicy eggplant dish to go w/ it. You'll be amazed what other flavors you can taste from it afterwards...sorta sweet and eggplant tasting instead of just spicy before you eat the fish stew.

    2. Try the cumin flabor dry beef, the hot pots, the chicken w/ cayenne, tea smoked duck. Whole fish dishes.
      Here are some photos from framingham location.
      http://dimsumtimes.blogspot.com/2006_...

      5 Replies
      1. re: hargau

        i have their take-away menu with me and the only duck i see is J16 House Special Duck. is the Tea Smoked Duck on another menu?

        1. re: ScubaSteve

          On the Framingham menu anyways its listed under house specials as Tea Smokey Duck. I just looked at the billerica one and like you said it just has the House Special duck. Curiously Framingham doesnt have that one. Id guess they are the same.

          1. re: hargau

            allrighty then.
            there was a single sheet menu that we ordered the pork and eggplant dish from. it could be on that. we'll be going again soon.

            1. re: ScubaSteve

              The pork with eggplant is on their perpetual "specials" menu sheet, and is one of my favorites -- the spicy sauce (more of a tongue tingling than a hot sensation) and the sweetness of the eggplant contrast each other perfectly. I usually have them substitute chicken for the pork however.

        2. re: hargau

          the cumin dry beef is a huge love of mine. i wish i could find a place in the city that did that (since i don't have a car and the burbs might as well be nairobi for me). that's something i get every single time i go there.

          i like dry beef in general, but man ... being a cumin fan, that really kicks it up quite nicely.

          the other thing i really like there is (might not be the exact name) the braised chicken w/ napa cabbage. i'm able to find that (under varying names & meats) at local places though (e.g. Zoes)

        3. I like the chicken with spicy chili sauce (2 peppers). The chicken rests on bok choy and if you have any leftovers the next day, the chilis have turned the bok choy into instant kimchi.

          1. My favorites are the five flavor beef (not spicy at all, but thin slices of tendon with lots of flavor); the bamboo shoots (either the wonder sauce or the spicy version - great side dish), ma po tofu (super spicy), and the long wonton soup, which I get the large or 20 wonton size so I can slurp to my hearts content. Also love the dan-dan noodles. Don't go Tues night - the chef is off and the chicken soup (actually, everything) suffers. Weekends are very busy, but also seems to be the best food - maybe because of the high turnover.

            1. i ate at the framingham location on a monthly basis for the last 4 years. most chinese restaurants keep 2 menus while one's more authentic chinese, the other tend to be americanized. this place combines the 2 so i guess the best thing to do is avoid everything that seems familiar.
              as far as the dish you ordered, i can only decipher a few as translations between chinese and english are never perfect. dandan noodle comes usually in white noodle, but i don't see why it can't be done in other ways. the minced pork and long bean is one of those classic chinese peasant dishes from the past that spark sporadic interests even among chinese. personally i like it. i think the beans are marinated/preserved in vinegar before use, though i am not sure. the acidity is what makes the dish and the strong flavor "goes down well" with plain rice.
              this is what i would usually order when i eat there. do remember that i am describing the entries here and because i usually order in chinese, i have no idea what they name the dishes in english.
              for appetizers, the cold noodles are great; so is the beef with tendons.

              tea smoked duck is good, though it may be a little dry. if you and your family don't mind eating some amount of pork fat (like bacon), the twice cooked pork is pretty good. i like the bamboo shoots with ribs. there's also an entry on the weekend menu that featured pork bellies sandwiched between slices of taro root then steamed to silky perfection.
              the "stew from hell" dishes are not bad if you haven't had it before. you get to choose between pork, beef or fish. though they are not americanized, there's some distance between this and the real thing.
              another dish they have from time to time features boneless fish pieces cooked in a heavily spiced broth. very fragrant.
              the one problem they have is that they really don't have too many good veggie dishes. so i suppose you can order like a chinese and ask them what veggies they have that day and what's the reccomended method of preparation.

              good luck eating.

              1. The secret code is called Mandarin Chinese. Seriously, there's a batch of Sichuan dishes that are sufficiently stereotypical that if you're a native speaker, you don't need a menu, you already know what you want. Same goes if you're a regular.

                The web site menu has a batch of the usual super-spicy stuff, if what you're looking for is serious heat. I'd suggest the Sichuan wontons with spicy chili sauce (HongYou ChaoShou, though I think this is better done at FuLoon and at Sichuan Garden); the beef with spicy chili sauce (ShuiZhu NiuRou, laughingly called "boiled beef"); and the Ma Po Tofu. Chili pepper chicken, known by various different names, would be another thing to look for -- depending on the place, it is called GeLeShan LaZiJi or ChongQing LaZiJi. This latter is insanely hot at Sichuan Garden, never tried it at Sichuan Gourmet.

                1. That cumin beef sounds interesting. I did not remember seeing it on our Billerica menu.

                  Looking at their website, it is on the Framingham menu but not the Billerica one! WTF?

                  Can you order it there anyway?

                  1. I love sichuan gourmet in Framingham. Incredibly nice staff and never disappointed by the food. I'll admit I am not trying to burn my mouth out, so most dishes there are the right spice level for me. Dan Dan noodle, Chengdu Dumplings, Beef with Napa Cabbage and Chili sauce to name a few.
                    The one time I went to the Billerica one, we were made to feel so uncomfortable that we left. We were the only non chinese there and the waitress assumed we were morons who didn't know what we were ordering. It also took her twenty minutes before we even got waited on. All we got was water on the table and at that point I said good bye.
                    In the Framingham location, there are always more Chinese and tons of familys as well. Many times we have been the only white folks there and we have always been welcomed with open arms. I won't spend my money somewhere I am treated poorly.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Walthamfoodman

                      Never had the slightest problem at the original Billerica location, and I've probably been there 50 times (although I occasionally still get offered a fork!). I think the food is actually better, but you have to enjoy the 100% Chinese-hole-in-the-wall-next-to-the-laundromat atmosphere, which I think is a big part of its charm (most will probably be more impressed with the fancy digs in Natick). They have great fuqi feipian (sliced beef tendon in chili sauce), which may be the best around. Also love the dried chicken and chilies (small crispy cubes of chicken with green chilies and dried red chilies). Both really spicy.

                      1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                        I agree. Never had any issues and i also agree the food is better then the framingham location.

                        1. re: hargau

                          I'm glad you enjoy the food and the location as much as I enjoy the Framingham spot.
                          Maybe it was a bad day when I went in, but being pointed at and then laughed at is not what I am looking for. The bottom line is go to places you enjoy:)

                          1. re: Walthamfoodman

                            The staff was pointing and laughing at you?

                            1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                              It was very strange. I had never had that happen anywhere. I'm not trying to cast aspersions on the place, just telling you what happened. I don't get up and leave a place once I am seated, but it was very uncomfortable. It's possible that I was wrong,but I have to go with how I felt. Maybe I should give it another try.

                              1. re: Walthamfoodman

                                Don't wear the Dr. Who scarf this time!

                                You should bring one of those sliding cards that Chowhound used to sell in the old days. You could pick the ethnicity and then show it to the waiter to convince them to serve you the "good stuff". The Chinese phrase translated as "I have a Caucasian face, but a Chinese stomach!".

                                1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                                  If you have a problem with a waiter, talk to one of the two sisters who run the place. They are helpful and very friendly. (I actually find the brusqueness of Chinese waiters similar to the experience you used to get at old style Jewish delis--if they detect the slightest chink in your armor, you are fair game. Like when I asked for milk at the original 2nd Ave Deli in NYC many moons ago.)