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Back in Billerica -- Sichuan Gourmet, hoo boy!

Finally got an opportunity to have lunch at Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica: pork with spicy chili sauce, very impressive. I expect to get back here a few times over the coming months: any other dishes I should be seeking out?

Also, is Chung King Rick's Cafe in Billerica as bad as it looks? If so, it has an awesome bad-restaurant name.

What else is worthy these days in the Burlington/Bedford/Billerica axis? I already have visits planned to New Jiang Su (an old friend), L'Andana, and Summer Winter.

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  1. Bamboo Restaurant in Bedford near the Burlington line has an excellent Chinese/Sushi lunch buffet. They also have a seafood dinner buffet on Sunday night but I haven't tried it yet. I have been to Chung King Rick's Cafe in Billerica several times for their lunch buffet. I really like their fried chicken wings but haven't gone there recently. The other items on their lunch buffet were okay but nothing special. Cafe Luigi in Bedford has delicious food and very reasonable lunch specials. Cafe Luigi is always packed during lunch time so get there early.

    1 Reply
    1. re: buffet king

      Not quite a seafood buffet at Bamboo - rather, many seafood dishes and some sushi, and a general upgrade from the lunch buffet for a few extra dollars, and worth it.

    2. Not new, but respectable for the area, The Fish house, just down the road from New Jang Su at 184 Cambridge for fried seafood including the decadent fried lobster. Of course there's Naked Fish (yes the chain) at 15 Middlesex Turnpike in Billerica for a decent cuban themed cocktail.

      When I worked in Bedford a few years ago I was pretty impressed with Ginger at 78 Great Road and right next door was New York Deli (or something like that) which was surprisingly true to it's name.

      1. Rick's Cafe is terrible. I defy anyone to chew the meat served the one time our family went. Emerald Rose also stinks. Lester's BBQ isn't bad. Ginger, the Japanese restaurant in Bedford Center, is good. Ken NY Deli is next door and has good sandwiches and fries.

        If you take a left at 4-Corners in Woburn and head into Woburn Center, then you'll have many choices. There is a brazilian place that gets good reviews and an Indian bakery from which you can get some nice savories.

        5 Replies
        1. re: three of us

          RICK'S CAFE! TERRIBLE?! Are You Nuts?! The Food Is The Best Around And The Staff Is So Welcoming And Nice... Rick Is The Best... He Goes Out Of His Way To Greet Everybody And Always Makes You Feel Amazing... Never Had One Complaint And I Wouldn't Go Anywhere Else... The Restaurant Got A 90 Something From The Phantom Gourmet As Well As Other Awards All Hung Up And On Display...

          1. re: tibbs8705

            "The Restaurant Got A 90 Something From The Phantom Gourmet"

            this is no indication of quality.

            1. re: ScubaSteve

              Methinks it may be an indication of willingness to advertise......went there only once; the only memorable thing was the overpowering saltiness. I live 5 minutes away but wouldn't go back.

            2. re: tibbs8705

              My recent lunch at Chung King Rick's Cafe (whose truly awful name I had some fun with recently on the Not About Food board) was pretty gross, below-average American-Chinese junk: magenta spare ribs, chow mein, oversized greasy egg rolls, subgum egg foo yung and the like. It looks like the kind of place that makes a lot of money off its bar, including a big list of tiki cocktails. It seems like a popular drinking destination, even on a weekday at lunch.

              Of Course, I'm No Phantom Gourmet, So You May Find That Your Mileage Varies And That The Sight Of All Those Awards Influences Your Experience In Some Positive Manner.

              If you do value the Phantom Gourmet's opinion, you might want to consider the intrepid Yelper who dug into this and discovered that the Phantom has never actually reviewed the place: From Yelp Boston: "Another thing that is extremly (sic) bad, is the local advertisements. They claim a Phantom Gourmet rating of 70-80, yet Phantom Gourmet HAS NEVER REVIEWED THEM. E-mail Phantom, they will confirm this."

              I'd email the Phantom myself, but for some reason they never write me back.

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                I think that they're living on a reputation. To be honest, I don't know if they ever deserved that reputation - but I do remember that when they opened up years ago (when the plaza was new - Purity was the original main store - where O'Connors is now), I saw that they had shu-mai on their menu and was suitably impressed, since nobody else in the area did. Rick used to always be around - even after he opened up his other place, I think it was in Woburn. I don't think I've seen him in the last year. The fact is that there is much better food in the area. Sichuan Gourmet is of course best at Sichuan, but they can make a large selection of American-Chinese, including all the pupu platter junk, peking ravioli, and even general what's his name - they're all better executed than what you get at Rick's these days. Any wok fried noodle or rice dish is also much better at SG - less greasy, more meat and vegetables, more flavorful - but with less soy sauce. One of the best in the area for noodles (all kinds, including a good Pad Thai) is in Tewksbury at Long's - a bit of a ways off for lunch from Billerica center (unless you know the shortcuts). Clearly, Rick has seen better days, whether it was all that good back then or not.

                BTW, I wouldn't trust anything from the Andelmans. I seem to definitely remember a review back when they were on their old site. Rick definitely used to advertise when they were on NECN. A lot of stuff disappeared when they went to their new web site, and probably all their great record keeping with it. I was, at one time, a regular on the old site, and I would trust my own memory that they had actually reviewed the place before I'd trust anything out of the Andelmans' mouths other than that they got paid a lot of money to say something, and that they are saying nothing about any place that didn't pay them a lot of money. Perhaps Rick didn't make a payment or dropped being an advertiser. In the end, it doesn't really matter - who cares if the BS is on the Phantom side or the restaurant's? The food is just not very good.

          2. When i worked in the area (years ago)... Bedford House of Beef was a very popular choice in my office. Mainly for their chicken kabob subs and salads. Not bad roast beef and fried seafood either.

            1. Stromboli's serves a decent pizza.

              The Augusta sub shop has a nice salad bar and a good soup/chili bar selection on most days. Their cordon bleu sub is very good.

              Masalaa is an excellent vegetarian southern Indian restaurant - one of those places that has you forgetting that it's actually vegetarian.

              3 Replies
              1. re: applehome

                Masalaa closed and is reopening as The Pongol, but I don't know when.

                1. re: Kiyah

                  That doesn't sound promising... Pongol... is that a Tiki bar or a lubricant for a video game?

                  1. re: applehome

                    I think it's another spelling of "pongal" which is a South Indian dish, and the name of a festival (Wikipedia says the fesival originated in Tamil Nadu).

                    Sounds like it will still be an Indian restaurant.

              2. You just can't go wrong with the service and fresh ingredients at Lanna Thai, north of 128 on 38. Try to get there once a month.

                1. I've only eaten at Sichuan Gourmet a few times, but have been very impressed. Thanks for the reminder that I have to get back there.

                  From what I remember, I've had the chicken with spicy chili sauce, which is probably very similar to the pork. Very good. The sichuan wonton with spicy chili sauce are quite good, and the fresh bamboo shoots with spicy wonder sauce were an interesting mix of textures, very tasty, but I would only order it with a group since it's really more of a small side dish. Lots more to explore on the menu, so please report back if you return.

                  1. There are so many wonderful dishes here - my favs include the pork with napa cabbage in spicy wonder sauce (the chicken version is good too), their dry fried chicken and chili, the chili fish (amazingly good - unexpectedly so since Sichuan is land locked), the beef tendon in spicy sauce app is wonderful - as is the spicy wonton app. Hmmm, the beef with green chili is also wonderful and I was surprised how much I liked the sesame beef.

                    Honestly, the only thing I've found off - and only occasionally - is the hot and sour soup.


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: aranthe

                      Funny, I agree completely about the H & S soup. The Kung Bao chicken is also a little too sweet. The Ma Po Tofu is the best I've had (ok not saying that much, but I've had it at Sichuan Garden and Chili Garden), and the Fish Filets w. Spicy Chili Sauce (I assume what you were talking about, aranthe) are great. The Old Sichuan Chicken is a great Dry spiced dish.

                    2. I would add Pho #1 in North Woburn and Sichuan Garden also in North Woburn as two very good places to try.

                      1. I've only had a few of the dishes at Sichuan Gourmet, but loved them all. The Ma Pao tofu is awesome (dare I say, better than Chili Garden?)...I don't think you can go wrong with anything there.

                        1. I know its tacky....but I love Jade Pacific in Burlington, so old school. Bamboo in Bedford is good too, we go to both since Waltham has EVERYTHING but a good Chinese restaurant, at least in my opinion.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: LovesFoieGras

                            For Waltham Chinese: have you tried Beijing Star? The foyer whiteboard and pink-menu specials are authentic Northern/Eastern Chinese, and wonderful, in my book. The tan menu is typical American-Chinese junk.

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              Absolutely-Beijing Star has about the best northern Chinese food in the Boston area.

                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                Spending a lot of time in Waltham, I stuck my head in a while ago. I was completely unimpressed. After asking the woman at the counter if they used ha jiao in their Sichuan noodle dishes (on the whiteboard in the foyer) and being told "we don't have that, we're a Beijing restaurant" I decided to order the twice cooked pork. It was pretty terrible--flavorless and swimming in a watery broth with the usual generic Americanized Chinese vegetable mixture. Truly, literally, swill for the white trade.

                                1. re: KWagle

                                  Uhhhh ask for the Chinese menu at Beijing Star. There are some gems on there.

                                  Beijing Star Restaurant
                                  835 Main St, Waltham, MA 02451

                                  1. re: KWagle

                                    Three places to order from at Beijing Star: Northern and Eastern dishes on the foyer whiteboard, the pink menu (traditional Northern and Eastern dishes), and the daily "specials" menu (usually four or five items that change every few days). The beige menu is indeed the American-Chinese stuff, not the worst of its type, but to be avoided if you are seeking more traditional cuisine.

                                    With your command of Chinese, you may have an easier time identifying dishes than I do: it took me a while to figure out that "jumbo meatballs in casserole" (or something like that) was in fact lion's head.


                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                      agree.. The hand cut noodles, scallion pie, jumbo meatball, smokey duck, some of the dumplings. All tasty.

                                2. re: LovesFoieGras

                                  Ahhh, Jade Pacific, what memories....

                                  When I worked in Bedford a few years ago that was a classic stop for us after work for some Scorpion Bowls and some good old fashioned Americanized Chinese!

                                3. I recently got back to Augusta's on 3A in Billerica for one of their awesome chicken cutlet sandwiches. Definitely worth a stop.

                                  Augusta Market
                                  599 Boston Rd, Billerica, MA 01821

                                  1. From the specials menu, beef with tender bean curd in brown sauce was good, did not find it as spicy as they seemed to think I would, dried chili and bean sauce flavors. Ma la lamb was also good: tender (some fatty) lamb slices served over raw cabbage, not as numbing as expected based on the name, again dried pepper and some bean sauce, moderate sichuan pepper. No complaints on either but can't say they're must-tries. The bamboo shoots with spicy wonder sauce was terrific again and they do a solid dry-fried green beans (with black pickle).

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: Aromatherapy

                                      MCSJ, Have you given Asiana Bistro a try? It's where Boston Market used to be, run by an original manager from Joyce Chen's. Pan Asian menu, but not bad execution, I think. Try the Hong Kong dishes, I think they're his specialty.

                                      1. re: raddoc

                                        Asiana wasn't on my list, but I'll add it, thanks! Been loving Sichuan Gourmet: fresh bamboo shoots with spicy wonder sauce, and a Sichuan peppercorn-laden dry fried chicken, yow!

                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                          mc, just found this thread while researching Pongol.My thoughts:
                                          at Sichuan Garden II in the Baldwin Mansion, try the Lemon Chicken ; as good as that of the old Royal Dynasty? on Main St. Camb.

                                          Don't bother w/Pho #1 if you want pho. ;weak flavorless broth.

                                          Yukky is best word for the indian bakery in woburn square.I was sooo excited when they opened but they obviously use alot of oil-based pre-prepared puff pastry dough and the fillings are worthless as well. sigh.

                                          Perhaps Wiinchester is not on your burl-bedford track, but Catch is very good.

                                          1. re: opinionatedchef

                                            Good tips! I think Pho #1's beef broth is pretty good (especially since my alternatives for Vietnamese are Boston or Lowell, not really practical at lunch), but the chicken pho tastes like they use soup base. I make a weekly visit to Sichuan Gourmet or Sichuan Garden; they are both better than most Sichuan options closer to Boston (though I haven't been to Fuloon).

                                            Is Catch is open for lunch?

                                    2. The Dan Dan noodles at Sichuan Gourmet are very good.

                                      1. Where to begin? Beef tendon in chili sauce. Chengdu noodles. Dan dan noodles. Mapodofu. Smoky chicken with hot chili. Beef with green chili. If you need to cool down, Rainbow chicken.

                                        However, I have not had any soups I liked at Sichuan gourmet.

                                        1. Not spicy, but delicious--"Liu Ya Zi" Liu's Duck (I think it is only on the Chinese menu...), also in the not spicy category, stewed meatballs in claypot. Occassionally they have tripe with pickle, very good.

                                          The bacon with fresh garlic sauce, and the "Chengdu Liang Fen" (bean based noodles in served cold in spicy sauce --not sure what its called on the english menu...), and the sichuan wonton in spicy sauce are all favorite appetizers.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: qianning

                                            The Opinionated Chef mentioned Pongol in Billerica. I recently heard a rave review, calling it "the Sichuan Gourmet of Indian food" in the area. MC, any reviews for us? Opinionated Chef, what was the result of your review? I'll search myself, but was reading this thread to get the name of the place.

                                            1. re: justbeingpolite

                                              I've only been to The Pongal for their lunchtime buffet, which I thought was quite good (Indian being one notable exceptions to my "no-buffets" rule) and featured a lot of regional dishes not usually seen on the typical Indian-American "all Punjabi all the time" kind of buffet. I hope to try its dinner menu before too long to get at some of the many a la carte dishes not served at lunch.

                                              1. re: justbeingpolite

                                                i guess i missed your question here 2 yrs ago, jbp! so sorry. anyway, my strong recomm is FORGET PONGAL. Get thee to Udipi Bhavan in Lowell outskirts. well worth the drive; we go 1-2x mo. see my other thread on it, which i'm going to try and update today/tomorrow.

                                                1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                  The Pongal offers dishes from all regions of India. Udupi Bhavan is South Indian and all-vegetarian. Your comparison is, if not apples an oranges, then Chinese and Thai.