HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >

Discussion

Sichuan Gourmet: Lucky Brookline

  • 164
  • Share

I was at Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica getting takeout and learned that there is going to be a third SG at the site of the former Chef Chang's on Beacon St. There will be a period of renovations before Sichuan Gourmet opens there.

I gather this restaurant has been closed for a short time? I am so out of then loop, that this came as news to me!

A search revealed this:

<http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/b...>

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. Your link is broken.

    The closing of Chef Chang's House to make way for Sichuan Gourmet was much discussed here. I was once a Chef Chang fan, but I'd stopped going long ago. I love the Billerica Sichuan Gourmet, so I'm quite excited about the change.

    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

    1 Reply
    1. re: MC Slim JB

      The link's not broken, EE just copied and pasted one character too many (often happens out here). Remove the > at the end and it works fine.

    2. Yea!!!! The more the merrier although I've only been to the one in Billerica - nice to know if I'm in Brookline or Framingham - I can get my fix!!

      6 Replies
      1. re: lexpatti

        Lucky Brookline? My first impression was that the food is surprisingly bland. We ordered several of the spicy dishes (on 2 occasions) and emphasized that we like it spicy and the taste was pretty bland (certainly not better or more exciting than Chef Chang's). Service is still chaotic, but the owner seems very nice. There are better chinese options in Brookline village and Allston. How has your impression been?

        1. re: percebes

          Really? What dishes specifically did you order? Are you ordering authentic sichuan spicy dishes or americanized general gau/orange beef type spicy dishes? We find the 2 and 3 pepper authentic dishes in Billerica to be quite spicy. We find Framingham to be more bland even when requesting it extra spicy.

          1. re: percebes

            Went there tonight and I loved it. Was a regular Chef Chang's customer, mostly out of convenience (walking distance from home). Sichuan Gourmet is much better. The level of heat was just about right. Chef Chang's was a little on the bland side; this was anything but. It must really depend on the dish.

            We had the dan-dan noodle, which was great and appeared quickly. Followed by yu-hsiang pork and dried chicken with chili. Chicken was recommended by server after we'd ordered double cooked bacon. She seemed to be discouraging us, warning it was very fatty. I get the impression some diners are unpleasantly surprised after expecting crispy american style bacon instead of pork belly. Not sure why we were swayed but will definitely go back for the bacon. The chicken dish was small crispy fried bits, like popcorn chicken. Tasty but more like an appetizer-type dish. Service was great: attentive (despite a full house) but not hovering. Will definitely go back soon. Lucky Brookline for sure.

            -----
            Sichuan Gourmet
            502 Boston Rd, Billerica, MA 01821

            1. re: nightsky

              The bacon is fatty but tasty. I can see many Americans who are unfamiliar with what to expect being dissapointed. We love that dried chicken dish but if you want something with similar flavor but with more chicken try the "old sichuan chicken" or the dried fish dish instead. Yu-hsiang style really isnt a specialty i dont think. try one of the dishes (chicken/fish/beef) with Napa cabbage and spicy chili sauce. Dan Dan noodles are a good choice too as are the wontons in chili sauce.

              1. re: hargau

                We actually requested the Old Sichuan Chicken but they were out of it. They were also out of the sweet potato & sesame cakes. Their yu hsiang was actually very good. Not as oily as I would have expected, and had much more heat than the Chang's version.

            2. re: percebes

              Had the same experience percebes. I was v. disappointed, I thought their double cooked bacon was meh. Seems to me, if I'm ordering an "authentic" dish, I should expect it to be authentic. I was also a little surprised that the server questioned my choice.

          2. Ugh.

            Got my standbys today -- beef with broccoli and peking ravioli. Yes, again, I know those are boring dishes. Fine. But I loved the Chef Changs version -- in fact, I'd be interested if others similarly felt these were the best respective renditions of these dishes around: very high-quality beef, enormous broccoli, tender dough on the dumplings, plenty of filling. Instead:

            1) My tab came to $21 with tax. I was shocked when I saw it, and did a quick check of the receipt. That's ridiculous for lunch for 1 person, even if it is a weekend (i.e. no lunch specials). I just pulled a Chef Chang's menu from my drawer, and my suspicion that the prices have been dramatically raised has been confirmed:

            Chef Chang's:
            Peking Ravioli: $5.75
            Beef w Broccoli: $9.75
            White Rice: $0.95
            Total = $16.45

            Sichuan Gourmet
            Peking Ravioli: $7.25
            Beef w Broccoli: $11.50
            White Rice: $0.95
            Total = $19.70

            So, first of all, that's a serious price hike (%20) for the exact same dishes.

            2) The beef was soft, extremely fatty, and grey. In addition, the garlic in the sauce was overpowering.

            3) The dumplings tasted like they'd been fried in yesterday's oil, and the dough was tough and flavorless.

            I guess I need to give up my favorites and change to something else. This really frustrates me. I understand all the criticism I'm sure to face -- that I need to open my mind, that it serves me right for trying to eat such boring American dishes, etc. etc. Fine, you're entitled to that opinion.

            But I'm entitled to my opinion that if you're a high-quality restaurant you should take pride in the food you serve -- all of it. That Sichuan Gourmet is apparently such a fine restaurant and that its owners are so well regarded for customer service only underscores my disappointment that they would not only massively increase the price of my favorite dishes but also dramatically cut their quality. It's almost an insult.

            But I won't give up on them, in part because of the universal praise on the CH board. So... at this location, what else?
            - Dan dan noodles
            - Wontons in chili sauce

            Anyone tried the minced pork with sichuan long green beans? Pork & eggplant with yu hsing sauce?

            16 Replies
            1. re: TroyOLeary

              It ain't chef Chang's any more. Thank god.

              Don't order old (Americanized) standbys which are on the menu cause that is what people expect; order the real Sichuan dishes (which admittedly if you like Americanized you may not even like).

              But as far as I am concerned Boston got a MAJOR upgrade with the change!!!

              1. re: StriperGuy

                Exactly! Its like going to the best steak house in boston and complaining that the pizza stinks. The only similarity between the two places is the building. Why would you expect the prices to be in line with each other? They are totally different places.

                1. re: hargau

                  I see your point (and StriperGuy's) and I generally try to order whatever a place's specialty is. However, I don't understand why restaurants put things on their menu that they won't bother to cook well. If you are not interested in making a decent broccoli and beef that's fine, just don't put it on the menu.

                  1. re: maillard

                    I think they just put them on the menu because 1) Its expected by americans that a chinese restaurant will have those things. 2) Sometimes a group of people who all want authentic cuisine may have 1 person in the group who refuses to try it yet wants to eat. Its really a lose/lose scenerio because if they didnt have those things on the menu, people would be still posting bad experiences saying "what kind of place wouldnt have these!"

                    I will go out on an even further limb and say this. Chef Changs for the past 10 years or maybe longer has been known for really bad americanized chinese food with way too much MSG. AND very good peking duck. (although i read the duck was slipping and not that great towards the end either).. So im willing to guess that the average person who actually liked the food at C.C. is not going to like the food at S.G... Thats a very broad statement but i think it would hold true in many cases. For sure if looking for the same familiar dishes.

                    1. re: hargau

                      I don't "refuse" to try new things. I loved 2 dishes which were good. They might be simple and they might be American and they might be boring, but, unless you had them within recent memory at Chef Changs, I'd ask that you reserve judgment. Sure, part of my fondness for these dishes might be childhood memories of afternoon lunches with my father, but I'm a fairly discerning guy and I assure you that they were good.

                      What annoyed me most on Sunday was the disrespect shown for the customer. I was being punished for liking boring American Chinese food. Just because Chef Changs was comfort food for me means I deserve to be fed tasteless, fatty beef and buffet quality peking ravioli? I assumed that a good restaurant would take pride in its entire menu. The beef and broccoli chow fun at Myers + Chang, for instance, is as high-quality as the rest of their menu (for the record, my favorite dish there is the slaw followed by the baby octopus)

                      I've always looked down upon those who order their steak well done or want California rolls when we go out to sushi. If nothing else, I'm glad to have had this experience as a reminder that, sometimes, comfort food is comfort food.

                      1. re: TroyOLeary

                        Too bad their dumplings were so lame. Sounds like on that front you need a trip to Wang's on Somerville, but that's a different story...

                        Hargau's list below sounds pretty good.

                        If they do the classic sichuan (steam or boiled) fish with chillies and sichuan peppercorns that can be awesome if blindingly hot and (ma la) numbing with the menthol of the sichuan peppercorn.

                        I do think that many excellent traditional Chinese places often don't have Western style service. If that bugs ya, this place may not be your kettle (er hotpot) of fish either. For me, when in Rome...

                        I also love Tendon, and am curious how their version stands up to others around town, but many of my Boston friends think I am nuts for eating "rubber bands."

                        Sounds like you are a pretty adventurous eater I would suggest asking the waiter for his recs as well, saying you want real sichuan food. But you will certainly need to be open minded to eat slow braised bacon, jellyfish, or tendon. The cumin lamb, meatballs, or shrimp below are not so off the beaten track.

                        I would ease my way into the more unusual items. Happy chowing.

                        1. re: 9lives

                          Another note that occured to me while re-reading his initial post. I wonder if this was eat-in or take-out? The over-powering garlic comment got me wondering about something and thought i would note this. I have never got take-out from SG but when you eat in, many of the sichuan dishes are served with large globs of various ingredients put on top and meant to be mixed in before eating. I dont know how they handle this on takeout or if this even applies to the beef/broc dish in question. However, with dishes like the chicken/fish with sichuan chili oil, you will get an entire spoonfull of crushed garlic and one or two of crushed pepper, etc sitting on the very top of the dish when it is served.

                  2. re: StriperGuy

                    Striper -- Which "real Sichuan" dishes are worth ordering here?

                    (Despite my affinity for the two aforementioned dishes -- my childhood comfort food -- I assure you that I enjoy spicy food and experimenting with new flavors.)

                  3. re: TroyOLeary

                    Sounds like you dont like spicy dishes? Some non-spicy things to try.
                    Sichuan style meatballs
                    Tea smoked duck
                    Shrimp w/ garlic
                    shredded pork with fresh bamboo shoots.
                    Scallops with black pepper

                    For spicy dishes :
                    chicken/fish or beef with napa and chili sauce
                    Old sichuan chicken
                    Dried chicken with chili
                    Cumin lamb or beef
                    hot & sour wonton soup NOT the normal hot & sour
                    xiang la dry fish fillets
                    fresh bamboo with spicy wonder sauce

                    1. re: hargau

                      Cumin lamb or beef is a very easy dish for anyone to enjoy. More flavorful than spicy. I use it to get people to try something new.

                    2. re: TroyOLeary

                      Not to say I-told-you-so but i did say in your pre-order post on another thread that you would be dissapointed in those dishes and gave a list of suggestions in that thread as well. Im not a green bean eater but see alot of them go by in billerica so they seem to be popular.

                      1. re: hargau

                        You did, and I should have listened. Why no green beans?

                        1. re: TroyOLeary

                          just not a fan. My suggestion, since your open to new things and like spicy is to go and try:
                          Sichuan dumplings with chili sauce, xiang la dry fish filet. If alone that will be plenty with some white rice. If you have someone else with you, id suggest also getting dandan noodles or chicken and napa w/chili sauce. That would be a good start on some of the spicier dishes they are known for.

                          Im not a fan of tendon so cant answer on that one. I see alot of asians getting what looks like a cold tendon app.

                          If you alone and want a decent meal on the cheap, order
                          Zha Jiang Noodle Soup with Pork & Spicy Sauce
                          This is $7.50 and you will be hard pressed to finish it alone. Really tasty. Not sure if they have it in brookline, its not on the framingham menu but is on billerica. Maybe it can be ordered anyways, even if not printed.

                          1. re: hargau

                            went last night but didn't see that noodle soup - :-( But then again, we took hubby's boss so only 3 of us and we already had enough to order. I cannot go and NOT get wontons in chili sauce (I could have an entire meal with this and it's only an app) and Dan dan noodles (mega addiction here) but the boss doesn't do pork and it was still awesome. We also got the Old Sichuan Chix and Xiang la fish - both of these have peppers that you can avoid to keep the heat down.

                            this is billerica so I'm not sure of the menu in Brookline.

                            We've taken friends who don't like spicy and they loved the ragoon and fried rice and chicken/cashews and scallion pancakes.

                            I could never get tired of this place. Soooo awesome!

                            1. re: lexpatti

                              The noodle soup is on the billerica menu for sure. Its under "noodle soups" which is on the "noodles" page not in the soups section.

                              1. re: hargau

                                ahhhh, I was looking under the soups. Can't wait to go again. Thanks. leftovers for lunch, yum!!!

                    3. Went tonight for dinner. Hot and sour soup tasted strange like it had wine in it. Scallion pancakes were very good. Peking ravioli was tough and doughy tasting. Egg rolls were nothing special. The shredded chicken with cayenne and hot peppers was delicious and super hot. The fish filets in chili sauce was very good and we had the string beans which were very tasty. The white rice was dried out. The service was not so great. Slow, orders were wrong and had to wait a long time to be waited on. Waitstaff has a hard time with understanding english. Asked for soy sauce and got duck sauce. Customers were getting frustrated trying to find their waitress. Some of the food was very good and some was just ok.

                      1. The Chowhound Map is showing the Billerica location. Could someone post the address here for those of us who didn't know Chef Chang? Thanks a bunch!

                        1. 1004 Beacon St, Brookline.

                          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Phone: 617-277-4226

                            Open 11:30-10:30 Saturdays (didn't ask about other days)

                          2. Does anyone know in which of the three Sichuan Gourmet kitchens Liu Wen-jun is spending his time?

                            -----
                            Sichuan Gourmet
                            502 Boston Rd, Billerica, MA 01821

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: qianning

                              I believe you mean Liu Lijun? As far as I know, he moves around to the different branches fairly frequently. Sometimes I've called ahead to find out where he is on a particular evening. Not sure whether it makes any difference (in particular, I've never noticed either the Framingham or Billerica branch to be inconsistent in the slightest), but i figure it doesn't hurt. =)

                              1. re: lipoff

                                i've never been to framingham, only billerica, and while over all i'd agree that it is pretty consistent, certain dishes, i'm thinking particularly of chef liu's duck seem to vary. don't know if its a matter of who's cooking, or what day it gets cooked....

                            2. I hit is last night before a Sox game and it was truly excellent.

                              We had:

                              Dan Dan Noodles - superb
                              Cumin lamb - interesting rendition of this dish, also excellent
                              Dry fried string beans - tangy, spicy, also excellent

                              After this quick sampling with a buddy who didn't want them to really bring on the heat I am totally impressed. Really excellent food.

                              In retrospect did not order that well as the noodles and the lamb had similar spicing. Looking forward to really giving the menu a hit with a large group some time.

                              If my first visit is any indication we have a serious new Sichuan restaurant in town!

                              23 Replies
                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                I can't get enough of the billerica location - glad you tried and like it. Any of the dishes in Chili Sauce are fantastic (we've done beef and chicken), including the appetizer - Wontons in Chili Sauce.

                                I would love if this place did a tasting menu for a group - just keep bringing it on out. There's a place in Wolfboro, NH that used to do something like that - East of Suez
                                http://www.eastofsuez.com/html/aboutu...

                                1. re: lexpatti

                                  Agreed. I get to the Billerica location a couple of times a month. Has no one mentioned fresh bamboo shoots in spicy wonder sauce yet? (Oh wait, hargau did.)

                                  Also: dry fried (listed as "dried") chicken, beef with green peppers, mapo tofu, Sichuan gourmet bacon, gingu fish fillet, smoky hot chicken with cayenne, minced pork with long beans.

                                  It's kinda hard to go wrong, as long as you duck the All Day Special menu.

                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                  1. re: lexpatti

                                    For the tasting menu, just get a bunch of people together and order a bunch of stuff...still cheaper than the "tasting menus" you'd find at most restaurants ;-)

                                    My favorites at the Framingham/Billerica SG are the dumplings in sichuan sauce appetizer (they add a tiny bit of sugar that Sichuan Garden doesn't do and their dumplings are a bit better made), the dry fried string beans. The dry hot chicken is good.
                                    One time I had kung pao chicken (I know...americanized stuff but I sometimes get cravings too :-) in framingham and thought it was good.
                                    Can't wait to try the brookline one.... :-)

                                    -----
                                    Sichuan Garden
                                    295 Washington St, Brookline, MA 02445

                                    1. re: lexpatti

                                      The wood ear appetizer is awesome, and I can't go without getting the dumplings and the bacon. Someday I'll have to try the Billerica location, but I've never been disappointed in Framingham (though I will say that nothing in Framingham, including the three pepper dishes, blew my head off with heat).

                                      Everything is so fresh, and the sauces are obviously made from scratch, and not too gloppy with egg or corn starch thickener. Their food altered my whole notion of good Sichuan cooking. Can't wait to see some more reviews of the Brookline location, because I think it may be closer to me than Framingham.

                                      1. re: nsenada

                                        For blow your head off w/ heat, go to the Billerica location and ask for the fish bowl (the only one w/ 4 peppers on the menu). We affectionately call this the bowl of hell because it was hotttttt...enough to bother our digestive system for the rest of the day :-)

                                        1. re: Spike

                                          We had that one a few weeks ago in Billerica. The owner came over to our table, took one look and just said "wow"

                                          1. re: hargau

                                            I've been wanting to get that! Will they bring a box of tissues? The first time we went to SG, they were soooo cute coming over to ask if we were ok, even when we ordered "hhhmmm, toooo hot??" we said no, it's a good pain!!!

                                          2. re: Spike

                                            Which fish dish is the fish bowl? I had the fish fillets with Napa Cabbage and Chili oil, and it really wasn't that hot; I couldn't detect any Sichuan peppercorns, even tho I asked for it Ma La...We did have a dish I realy loved, potato slivers with sour cabbage,,,,(Framingham location)

                                            1. re: galleygirl

                                              it is called "jin gu fish fillets" and is the only 3 star dish. Sounds like brookline isnt as spicy as framingham which isnt as spicy as billerica...

                                              1. re: hargau

                                                Oh yeah - those were the spiciest thing we had in Framingham.

                                                1. re: hargau

                                                  Ah, I saw that on the menu, and tried to get some description from the waitress, but she didin't seem able to describe it...How is it different from the fish fillets in Napa and Chili oil?

                                                  1. re: galleygirl

                                                    Well it has brocolli rather than napa and it is much more soupy. Bright red soup/sauce. Very spicy. Same fish

                                                    1. re: hargau

                                                      Sound like I need to try it next time, for a change, and a little more spice! THX...

                                                    2. re: galleygirl

                                                      Picture a bowl of red floating chilis and you have to dive in to fish out the pieces of fish and vegetables.

                                                      If you try it at the Billerica location, don't tell the chef to stop cooking like a girl and add some real spice to it or you might need a lot of water :-)
                                                      At the other locations, it sounds like you have to tell them not to hold back on the spices...

                                                      1. re: Spike

                                                        Hmm - the "Gangou Fish Fillets" were what I had, I think. Here's a bad picture of them (from Framingham). They are on the left.

                                                         
                                                        1. re: nsenada

                                                          Ah, yes, the 干 锅 fish fillets. Man, those things are awesome. The manager at Framingham told me this means "dry wok."

                                                          We tried to order these at Brookline, and mistakenly ordered the Jin Gu fish instead. Fortunately the manager ("John"?) came over to clarify our order and we got the Xiang La fish fillets (they don't serve the Gan Gou fish yet) which were somewhat similar and good, but nowhere near the awesomeness of 干 锅 fish.

                                                          1. re: nsenada

                                                            What's on the right in that picture? Both look delicious!

                                                            1. re: maillard

                                                              Double cooked bacon - really good.

                                                          2. re: Spike

                                                            The funny thing is I've had that dish a lot in Billerica (its a favorite of my Chinese coworkers), and if you just "fish" out the fish and broccoli to eat, it isn't particularly spicy. I've never actually tasted the soup (with all those scary floating dried red chilies) for some reason. The leftover soup is always taken home by one of my colleagues, so it must be very good (given the typical Chinese cultural aversion to leftovers).

                                                            1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                                                              what i did last time was i took the leftover soup and poured it over the leftover white rice and microwaved it the next day. Made a tasty/spicy treat

                                                  2. re: nsenada

                                                    Just had my second meal in Brookline and it was fantastic. Had wontons in chili sauce, the fish with napa and chilis (which alone could easily feed 2), and a beef with hot green pepper. All spicy and flavorful and more than enough for 2 diners and leftovers. Amazingly, even though they use a lot of oil, the food isn't greasy or oily at all.

                                                    Anyone know if they have any off menu must-try items? Great Taste cafe downtown seems to have a lot of stuff you can order if you're in the know. I saw some plates of some kind of green veg that didn't seem to be on the menu. They weren't green beans; something deeper green and leafier.

                                                    1. re: nightsky

                                                      Most Chinese restaurants (all regional styles) will have a variety of green vegetables in the kitchen- just ask what kind of vegetable they have. It varies day to day, and they almost never list most of the options on the menu.

                                                      1. re: Luther

                                                        I think the specials menu lists "seasonal vegetable" or something like that

                                              2. Our Saturday Chowcrew had lunch there yesterday.

                                                I think I was the only one present to eats regularly at the Billerica and Framingham locations (almost weekly at Billerica). Everything was excellent, but substantially milder than the equivalent spicy dishes at the other locations. One caveat is that I normally eat with Chinese friends, so I may tend to benefit from assumptions about having a “Caucasian face, but a Chinese stomach.” However, even when I get takeout by myself, the hot dishes are always screaming hot. Nothing else in Boston is remotely close (Hell Nights excepted, of course). I can only conclude that it is being toned down for the Brookline crowd. So if you want the spicy stuff, you had better ask them to kick it up a notch (or 3).

                                                We had:

                                                Sichuan dumplings in chili sauce (regular & requested "mala" or numbingly spicy)

                                                Dan Dan noodles (regular & mala)

                                                Fuqi feipian (sliced roast beef, tendon, tripe in chili sauce)-one of my spicy favs

                                                Dried chicken in chili sauce (doesn’t actually have a sacue)-one of my spicy favs

                                                Fresh bamboo shoots in special sauce

                                                Sichuan meatball stew

                                                Chicken & bamboo shoots

                                                Sichuan string beans

                                                It was actually interesting to taste the fuqi feipian and dried chicken in milder forms. Different flavors come through when you are not sweating!

                                                It's a pretty big restaurant (probably bigger than the Framingham location), and there were a lot of Asian customers for lunch, so the word is out.

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                                                  The Dan Dan noodles and especially the dumplings (won-tons) were great! The dumplings were very delicately made and wonderful to eat...

                                                  I also really enjoyed the fuqi feipian, although I'm a hothead and wouldn't have minded it being hotter!

                                                  Those who asked for the meatballs weren't enthused; the bamboo shoots had a nice crunch and a delicate flavor (overwhelmed when eaten with the other dishes!), the string beans were fine (I didn't look closely at the menu - perhaps there are different variations that can be ordered?) and the chicken w/bamboo shoots (rainbow chicken) was for our companion who asked for a non-spicy, non-soy dish.

                                                  1. re: fredid

                                                    I've had a "Lionshead" sort of meatball soup/stew at the Billerica location several times, although not recently. I'm not sure if yesterday's version was the same dish or not, but the meatballs were smaller and much less dense in Brookline.

                                                    I liked the dumplings and the dried chicken the best. The dried chicken definitely had more flavor than usual. Typically it is so screaming hot (personally I think it might be their hottest dish, although it doesn't have the most "chili" symbols on it), less flavor comes through.

                                                    Of course, if you order the dish just for yourself, like I often do, the spice tends to build up so by the end of the meal your mouth is "mala" (thanks for teaching us that word, fredid!).

                                                    1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                                                      By the way, since it came up at the meal, "I am allergic to MSG" is pronounced something like:

                                                      "Wo du way-jing guow-min"

                                                      Weijing is MSG.

                                                    2. re: fredid

                                                      The Sichuan string beans didn't see as pickly (is that a word?) as at Billerica/Framingham.

                                                      1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                                                        We always stress that we like extra Yibin pickle and extra hua jiao. The weekend-only steamed bacon comes with a pile of Yibin pickle, and the noodles in "white sauce" (white oil) contain a fair amount as well.

                                                        1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                                                          I'm getting the impression from a lot of posts that the Brookline site is just not living up to the Billerica one. That's really too bad, as I've been waiting for this place, and only to be dismayed at the food. The string beans were not particularly different from others I've had. I think the dan dan noodles are much more flavorful at Mary Chungs. I didn't like their version of cold sesame noodle, just seemed to be swimming in oil.

                                                          -----
                                                          Mary Chung Restaurant
                                                          460 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                                      2. re: Tir_na_nOg

                                                        i loved the fuqi feipian. i could have eaten the entire dish myself. i also liked the wontons in chili oil, dan dan noodles, dried chicken with chili sauce, and sichuan style string beans. my only complaint is that the food isn't as spicy as the framingham location. the menu is also considerably smaller. hopefully they will add more dishes and turn up the heat

                                                        1. re: galangatron

                                                          Wow I find Framingham much less spicy than Billerica so if its less than that it must be low spice level.

                                                      3. I am sorry to say that I thought the lunch food was HORRID. That makes me very sad.

                                                        We went on Thursday for the lunch special. The space looks much brighter and welcoming -- opening up the rooms was something that was sorely needed. The hostess was very nice as was the woman that took our order.

                                                        The tea was great. The vegetable pickle thingie was a nice touch but very salty. And I like salt.

                                                        Annoyingly, some of the specials (mostly the Americanized) come with soup and egg roll/crab rangoon and the others only with soup.

                                                        Since my friend is an egg roll afficionado, she ordered General Gau's becasue it came with one(I tried to convince her otherwise since she's an adventurous eater) but that's what she decided on. I ordered the smoky cayenne chicken.

                                                        The hot and sour soup was a very odd bright yellow color (almost like antifreeze) and except for a heavy hand with the 5 Spice was utterly tasteless and forgettable.

                                                        The entrees were literally thrown down on our table *thump* with a literal grunt by a decidedly unhappy woman! WTF?

                                                        The General Gau's was sickening. Fatty overcooked chicken nuggets in thick, cloying sauce that had the viscosity of corn syrup. It was seriously the worst "Chinese" food I've seen in many years. The vegetable fried rice was totally dried out and tasteless. And, sad to say, the eggroll was horrible, too. Greasy, cold and tasteless. The hostess walked by about 20 times and saw each time that my friend refused to eat her chicken, but never inquired.

                                                        My chicken was better but had one flavor note: Hot. There wasn't much going on flavor-wise. And the chicken to pepper ratio left a bit to be desired.

                                                        We were both totally struck by the fact that everything we tried, ranging from inedible to just ok, was bland and tasteless.

                                                        I know lunch isn't always the best way to get a feel for a restaurant, but Chinese places thrive on their lunch business.

                                                        We may go back and give it another chance and order some of the chowhound rec's at dinner, but then again, the food was so terrible, we just might not.

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: C. Hamster

                                                          Hmmm. Went for lunch Saturday, tried the bamboo shoots, won tons in spicy sauce and my son insisted on General Gau. The won tons were unusually large, soft and silky, very delicate texture in hot sweet sauce; the bamboo shoots crunchy and also delicate; both from the Sichuan specialties menu, and not overly hot despite the rating. Disappointing and puzzling was the GG's chicken: fatty diced chicken, very few peanuts, no crunchy celery, gloppy sauce. They really don't want us to order this!
                                                          Service etc fine, but kind of dreary color scheme--did they not bother to redecorate?

                                                          1. re: cassis

                                                            Love both those dishes, they are only 1 pepper rating and not very spicy.

                                                            1. re: cassis

                                                              GG's chicken should not come with peanuts or celery. That's kung pao.

                                                              But the GG was fatty and gross and hard as a rock. And the sauce was nightmarish.

                                                              I should have tried the bamboo.

                                                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                Oh sorry, that must have been what he ordered--in any case, few peanuts and no celery--serves him right!

                                                            2. re: C. Hamster

                                                              C.Hamster I agree with you on the weird looking and tasting hot and sour soup. My egg rolls were totally lackluster as well as the peking ravioli. My entrees were good and very hot but my rice too was totally dried out. I know what you mean about the hostess because we were having a hard time being waited on and she did little to help. The green beans and the cayenne shredded chicken were the best part.

                                                            3. A recent weekend dinner at Sichuan Gourmet Brookline was not very good. Sichuan wontons were pretty good but bamboo appetizer contained limp, broken bamboo pieces and a really meager amount of spicy wonder sauce. Yu xiang eggplant was way too sweet, and very cornstarchy in a style that suggests they're still pandering to the old audience (or they've at least retained a lot of kitchen personnel). Very little sichuan peppercorn in any of the dishes except dan dan noodles, which were rather good. The jingu fish fillets reminded me of the water-cooking style at the Billerica location (a little plain and not salty enough) but the broth was lacking in both garlic and spice flavors. House special duck was a very plain overcooked roast duck- no tea smoked duck available as far as I could tell. Double-cooked pork was fine but flat in flavor. I'll echo the previous comments about there being a generally underwhelming level of spice.

                                                              I'll go back in 6 months to see how things go, but for now, pretty disappointing. Definitely stick with Sichuan Garden for the Brookline area.

                                                              -----
                                                              Sichuan Garden
                                                              295 Washington St, Brookline, MA 02445

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Luther

                                                                I went to Sichuan Garden once since it's down the street from my friend's house. Despite seemingly communicating to the waitress that we liked hua jiao and wanted it in our food, there was no trace of it at all. I have to wonder if they even have any in the kitchen. Needless to say, I won't be going back there again. A few days later we tried Chilli Garden in Medford, which my friend recommended, and they did put some hua jiao in our food--a much more pleasant experience overall.

                                                              2. Like Antoine Walker and Dennis Eckersley before me, I returned. And I sure am glad I did. This time I went with a genuine pair of knowledgeable Sichuan eaters -- one of whom was actually born in China.

                                                                The food was delicious, bursting with flavor and heat. The wontons, as described above, were silky and delicious. The dan dan noodles were soft and exploded with sichuan peppercorns. The dried chicken was amazing, a perfect texture of crispy fried exterior without overwhelming grease. The beef with chili sauce was a half-step below the rest, but still fantastic (helped by not mixing in all of the mountain of chili flakes and garlic that was perched atop it). The sichuan meatball (which I only had a bite of) was also apparently a winner.

                                                                The meat was well cooked and high-quality. The scallions were fresh and perfectly cooked. The dishes were presented beautifully and with care.

                                                                So. I don't really know what to say. Why would a place put out the dishes described above, and yet also serve such inedible, low-quality beef with broccoli (and, apparently, General Gao's -- which I've always found inedible, to be fair)? How is half of their menu L'Express and the other half is Panda Express?

                                                                Either way, last night was one of the best Chinese meals I've ever had. Happy to stand corrected by the other half of the menu.

                                                                18 Replies
                                                                1. re: TroyOLeary

                                                                  Most excellent. Chow on!

                                                                  1. re: TroyOLeary

                                                                    You're a good hound for reporting back, even if the question still remains about the "other" half of the menu. Thanks!

                                                                    1. re: TroyOLeary

                                                                      I, too, enjoyed all of the above w/our chow crew last Saturday w/the addition of chicken & bamboo shoots and Sichuan string beans. Dumplings & dried chix were my favorites. Our C&B was tasty w/a nice contrast in textures. The SMB was ok, but not something I'd choose to order myself.

                                                                      1. re: TroyOLeary

                                                                        Troy. YES! Im so glad to read this!

                                                                        1. re: TroyOLeary

                                                                          Good to hear Troy.

                                                                          Next we have to get you to try Taiwanese dim sum (totally different from Cantonese dim sum). There are a few places that specialize in this where the cantonese stuff is just ehhhh ;-)

                                                                          1. re: Spike

                                                                            Thank you so much to all who offered suggestions and encouraged me to go back (hargau in particular). It worked (obviously) and I'm extremely thankful.

                                                                            Taralli -- what's up with the dumplings you liked? Or do you mean wontons? What I'm used to calling "dumplings" -- peking ravioli -- were no good.

                                                                            And what's this Taiwanese dim sum, Spike?

                                                                            1. re: TroyOLeary

                                                                              Oops, meant wontons!

                                                                              1. re: TroyOLeary

                                                                                Taiwanese dim sum has different flavors than cantonese dim sum and doesn't come on carts (you have to order off a menu)....different take on dan dan noodles, an interesting sandwich w/ hoisin sauce, scallions and five spiced beef, better peking ravioli if you're into those, etc. There's a good place on the newton/watertown line that does it well but the name escapes me right now... :-P

                                                                                1. re: Spike

                                                                                  There are a couple: Shangri-La in Belmont is excellent for Taiwanese Dim Sum,
                                                                                  Shangri-La
                                                                                  149 Belmont Street
                                                                                  Belmont, MA, 02478
                                                                                  (617) 489-1488
                                                                                  http://www.shangrilachinese.com/home....

                                                                                  and the place you are referring to is:

                                                                                  Chung Shin Yuan
                                                                                  183 California St
                                                                                  Newton, MA 02456
                                                                                  (617) 964-0111

                                                                                  -----
                                                                                  Shangri-La
                                                                                  149 Belmont St, Belmont, MA 02478

                                                                                  Chung Shin Yuan
                                                                                  183 California St, Newtonville, MA 02458

                                                                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                    I went to Shangri-la and the eggfooyoung was horrible! Just kidding!

                                                                                    Also there is Uncle Cheung's in framingham for Shanghai dimsum and Beijing Star in Waltham

                                                                                    -----
                                                                                    Beijing Star Restaurant
                                                                                    835 Main St, Waltham, MA 02451

                                                                                    Uncle Cheung's Restaurant
                                                                                    266 Worcester Rd, Framingham, MA 01702

                                                                                    1. re: hargau

                                                                                      The Moo Goo Gai Pan sucks too! ;-)

                                                                                      I am overdue for a Beijing Star Dim Sum.

                                                                                      -----
                                                                                      Beijing Star Restaurant
                                                                                      835 Main St, Waltham, MA 02451

                                                                                      1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                        We at beijing star for dimsum about 1-2 months ago. Had some great dumplings, scallion pie,etc... One thing that sort of grossed me out though. In the steamer most places will use a leaf or a pc of wax paper or something to keep the dumplings from sticking.. They had used random pcs of cloth that were cut from a large rice sack (you could read the writing,etc on it). I couldnt stop picturing this sack of rice on the kitchen/stockroom/truck/store nasty floor.... I still ate all the dumplings as they were tasty but it really nastied my mind out and im not sure how id feel about ordering them now...

                                                                                        1. re: hargau

                                                                                          Heck, 5 minutes in the steamer will kill off anything on that sack ;-) just a little basic microbiology.

                                                                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                            true but still not sure if "dead" floor jam is anymore appetizing than live ;)

                                                                                            1. re: hargau

                                                                                              Was hoping you wouldn't figure that out :b

                                                                                        2. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                          But what about the pu-pu platter?

                                                                                        3. re: hargau

                                                                                          Dim sum at Uncle Cheung's is good. But its approximately across the street from the Natick Sichuan Gourmet, so I never seem to make it there.

                                                                                          -----
                                                                                          Uncle Cheung's Restaurant
                                                                                          266 Worcester Rd, Framingham, MA 01702

                                                                                2. re: TroyOLeary

                                                                                  Yay Troy - honestly - I haven't eaten anything I didn't love (in Billerica), even when I'm with non-adventurous or spicy friends.

                                                                                3. I sure hope more people figure out that you shouldn't order the Americanized crap on this menu. I can just see the Yelp reviews. "OMG, worst General Gaus chicken evar!"

                                                                                  http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                    I told my friend not to!! But she wanted that awful egg roll. We both know good chinese and bad and we were both stunned at how repulsive that GG was.

                                                                                    So no Americanized food, for sure.

                                                                                    But what gives with the crappy, dried out rice?

                                                                                    And the neon yellow soup?

                                                                                    And the overall lack of any discernable FLAVOR components? Even in the sichuan dish that I had?

                                                                                    1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                      They've got kitchen issues right now, this is for sure.

                                                                                      1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                        was this the white rice that was dried out or a fried rice? If the latter im not shocked by that either.

                                                                                        1. re: hargau

                                                                                          Both

                                                                                          The fried rice was really, really bad.

                                                                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                            i would expect that from the fried rice but the white rice in framingham/billerica is always very good. Soft/slightly sticky. I wonder if the volume is low and the stuff is sitting in the rice steamer too long...Hopefully they get it together.

                                                                                            1. re: hargau

                                                                                              Why would fried rice be dry? The whole point is to add enough oil that old rice gets nice again.

                                                                                              1. re: Luther

                                                                                                I thought the same thing.

                                                                                                I am guessing they "fried" up a lot of it and then left it sitting out because it was very dry, like when you deliberately dry out cooked white rice on a cookie sheet to turn it into fried rice. It was veggie fried rice, which ordinarily I would by psyched about because pork isnt my favorite, but the vegetable matter was lacking.

                                                                                                As was any taste.

                                                                                                Sorry to keep ragging but I was shocked, frankly, at how bad it was after reading all the chowish love for the place.

                                                                                                1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                  again, the chowish love the billerica and framingham location anyway, for the sichuan food. Things like eggroll, spare-ribs, peking ravioli,lo-mein, fried rice, general gaus, beef/broc, etc are all very NON-chowish at S.G.. Its pretty safe to say that if you can find the item on the menu at any americanized chinese restaurant like Chef Changs or Golden Temple, then its going to stink....Yes even the normal hot& sour soup isnt very good, although i have never noticed it being neon at the other locations. Try the Hot & Sour Wonton soup if you want a good soup.

                                                                                                  What is more concerning to me is that someone reported the white rice was really dried up. That is actually the most suprising/concerning part i have read. Also sounds like the Brookline location isnt quite up to speed in general. I have heard that even at the other locations that the lunch "specials" are not very good. Dunno i have never tried them, wouldnt even considor it.

                                                                                              2. re: hargau

                                                                                                Our white rice was as you said, soft/slightly sticky.

                                                                                                1. re: Taralli

                                                                                                  Not mine. My rice was dry and hard.I had white rice and even adding my entree sauce to it did not help. I liked a few things but a lot was wrong the night I was there.

                                                                                                  1. re: cherrytomato

                                                                                                    Had such a wonderful first meal at the Brookline location after years of being a Framingham regular. Asked for and received the wood ear mushroom and chile cold dish. Perfect mix of hot and sour. The owner came over to check on us because they had just started serving the dish and wanted to see how we thought it compared to Framingham. Thought it was dynamite. Followed that with wontons in chili sauce, dry fried chicken, and double cooked bacon. All compared favorably to Framingham (I haven't been to Billerica). Thought the rice was great. Personally didn't see any major flaws. Everything could have used a touch more heat but I felt the seasoning and flavors were great. Can't wait to get back soon.

                                                                                      2. Happy to report that the white rice on a recent visit was fine: not extraordinary, but not sub-standard, either. Closes at 9:30pm Sunday-Thursday, 10:30pm on Friday and Saturday.

                                                                                        http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                        14 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                          Sorry to say I was totally underwhelmed by the Brookline location. Went on Saturday afternoon last week and was really disappointed. We were warmly greeted by the owner who recognized us from Framingham. He went out of his way to explain that the menu was smaller and some things were different, like the Dan Dan noodles. Tried the Dan Dan and they were good, but somehow different than the Framingham version. Also tried the bamboo shoots in Spicy wonder sauce because so many people on this board spoke so highly of them. They were awful. Chopped pieces of ice cold bamboo with about three drops of some totally spiceless and tasteless sauce. What a disappointment. Sichuan Kung Bao chicken was almost blond in color and not so great. All and all not up to the usual standards that we love.
                                                                                          Went to Framingham today and had Dan Dan (Great!!) Chengdu Spicy dumplings(Killer)
                                                                                          Kung Bao chicken in a dark brown sauce with loads of peppers, peanuts, absolutely great.
                                                                                          Beef with Napa cabbage, loaded with red pepper flake and fantastic.
                                                                                          Saw someone order the Bamboo/w Wonder Sauce while there and it was a heaping pile of bamboo covered in sauce. Not the blob of white mush we got in Brookline.
                                                                                          Framingham any time. Brookline don't think so.

                                                                                          1. re: Walthamfoodman

                                                                                            i totally agree about the dan dan noodles. they didn't include the shredded cucumber and mustard greens and the sauce wasn't as spicy or flavorful as the framingham location

                                                                                            1. re: Walthamfoodman

                                                                                              Ate at Brookline for the 3rd time tonight. Another great meal, consisting of: cold szechuan noodles, old szechuan chicken, and spicy string beans. The old szechuan chicken is served with a small bowl of some kind of slaw that was slightly sweet with a bit of sesame oil. Great balance for the fried bits of chicken, which were crispy but not heavy or greasy at all.

                                                                                              Two of us had plenty, with leftovers. Everything was very tasty and fresh, and had a good amount of heat. Beans were much more gingery and less oily than Chang's were. The waitstaff is clearly trained to advise customers to be overly cautious. I can't imagine how people find the food bland. Only gripe is they never seem to have the sweet potato/sesame cake. I think it was printed on the (photo) menu by mistake.

                                                                                              1. re: nightsky

                                                                                                Now I'm mad I forgot to mention that slaw in my description of the Old Sichuan Chicken in my Phoenix review: that's an important part of that dish!

                                                                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                1. re: nightsky

                                                                                                  I found the food to not be bland, exactly, but I was pretty disappointed by it. I got the wontons in chili oil, dan dan noodles, and sichuan string beans. The wontons were a bit spicy and pretty good, but the noodles and beans were overly salty and not spicy at all (I guess maybe the beans aren't supposed to be?). I will definitely give them another shot, maybe try the xiang la fish fillet, old sichuan chicken, or something with spicy chili sauce. I'll also try harder to convince them to make it spicy. We asked for spicy, but I don't think we sounded confident enough about it.

                                                                                                  1. re: maillard

                                                                                                    dry fried string beans is a traditional sichuan dish that is not supposed to be numbing (i.e. no sichuan peppercors) or spicy (i.e. no chilis). i haven't been to the brookline location yet, but the old sichuan menu in billerica includes many traditionally non-spicy dishes, some of which are very good, for example: chef liu's duck (really it is a version of what in english is often called tea smoked duck), meatball casserole.

                                                                                                    if you are looking for spicy try: cold rice noodles with chengdu spicy sauce, hot&sour wonton soup, beef tendon with spicy wonder sauce, old sichuan chicken, double cooked bacon, jingu fish filets.

                                                                                                    1. re: qianning

                                                                                                      I had dinner last night for the first time in Brookline. Perhaps the stars just aligned right, and i chose the best dishes, wontons with chili, dan-dan mien, and a hot pork dish. But the dinner presented dishes that were as good as the best that i had tried in billerica. My server was from the Bilerica branch and told me that she thought the food was equivalent to their other branches.

                                                                                                      And it was not crowded at 7 pm on a Wednesday night.

                                                                                                      1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                                                                        oh, and if you want the food more spicy, then just tell the wait-person; here likely a waitress.

                                                                                                      2. re: qianning

                                                                                                        Yeah, the string beans weren't bad and the menu didn't say they were spicy, but they just seemed lacking. Maybe what was missing was the pickley flavor someone else mentioned?

                                                                                                        Thanks for the suggestions. The cold rice noodles sound like they'd be great for in this weather. I will definitely try those next time and be more emphatic in my request for spiciness!

                                                                                                      3. re: maillard

                                                                                                        I had the same lack of spiciness experience one time I went there (when I got takeout and specified "make it very very spicy," I was fine). When I was there I got the dan dan noodles and the ma po tofu and neither was spicy. Some of my friends got more traditional Chinese things, so I think that might prejudice the restaurant into giving you something less spicy (or maybe they're just uneven). I think the thing to do is just say "Last time I was here, it wasn't spicy enough" or "I've heard that sometimes it's not spicy enough."

                                                                                                        In general, I really like Sichuan Gourmet (though it's not nearly as good as the amazing Flushing, NY Szechuan Gourmet (no relation)). I definitely recommend getting spicier and more traditonal items. The Ging Gu fish fillet was excellent (and ferociously spicy). The old-style chicken and Dan Dan noodles were also very good. The ma po tofu was a bit of a disappointment though.

                                                                                                        -----
                                                                                                        Sichuan Gourmet
                                                                                                        502 Boston Rd, Billerica, MA 01821

                                                                                                        Sichuan Gourmet
                                                                                                        1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

                                                                                                        1. re: maillard

                                                                                                          I went last night for the first time and was also disappointed. I love Sichuan food (from multiple trips to China) and make do with New Shanghai (not bad and a bit greasy). I have not made it up to Billerica (usually on my bike or T), so I was looking forward to their new Brookline place. I only ordered two things (for takeout): Bamboo shoots with spicy wonder sauce and spicy double cooked bacon. When I ordered I specifically asked for spicy. The food I received was mediocre. The bamboo shoots were tepid, and the bacon also not very spicy or interesting. Now maybe it was I ordered take-out, but I was not impressed. Is is possible they have multiple chefs that leads to inconsistency?

                                                                                                          -----
                                                                                                          New Shanghai Restaurant
                                                                                                          21 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

                                                                                                          1. re: AmbigEthnic

                                                                                                            i was just there and thought the food was very good. But you do have to make it clear that you want food that is hotter than average as I am sure they do not wish to make the food inedible to someone who just dropped in; so perhaps saying that last time the food was not hot enough will help.

                                                                                                            I was extremely impressed by the price quality ratio when i went; better than the Billerica branch that i frequented until recently..

                                                                                                            1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                                                                              I went today for the first time, and had the dan dan noodles and the old Shanghai chicken. The chicken was beautiful, but the dan dan noodles... they were maybe the best thing I've ever put in my mouth. They are what good people eat in heaven. The alpha and the omega. My god. How have I gone almost 33 years without this joy in my life?

                                                                                                              1. re: TimTamGirl

                                                                                                                That's a really good question.

                                                                                                                I'm no connoisseur of dan dan noodles, but theirs happens to be one of my favorite dishes. I think it's the Yibin pickle that makes it rock.

                                                                                                                "Old Sichuan" is the real name of their restaurant, and that's their special dish. (The house special is usually named after the restaurant, but you wouldn't know what it is if you can't read their Chinese name.) You can get a beef version in Framingham, but I haven't had it yet.

                                                                                                                The Lao Sichuan Chicken is pretty nice, but I like the "gan guo fish fillets" much better--something else you can only get in Framingham.

                                                                                                  2. ya know, Billerica has a really strong following of "authentic" diners and for quite some time, I wonder if they have to play it safe with a new location (spice wise) so not to scare the norm away. I love spicy food and the pain is soooo wonderful in Billerica. Give them a good chance because they know spicy well. They forewarned us when we went the first time (becuase we ordered several HOT dishes) and then kept coming by to check on us (of course being the only white couple in there might have them wondering if we could really handle the heat).

                                                                                                    43 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: lexpatti

                                                                                                      For the third time (ever) and the second time recently, I went to Billerica. Last time, I had the Lao Sichuan Chicken for carryout, but i opened it up there because the manager was interested in my iPad translation tools. This time, we had the dan dan noodles, beef with hot green peppers, and dry fried lamb with cumin. No matter how hard I try, I can't get them to put enou huajiao in my food. The dan dan noodles had a small amount (noticeable to my DC but not to me) and the cumin lamb, despite my calling the manager over and asking first if it had huajiao in it and then if they could make it 'jia ma' had none that either of us could discern. I'm pretty sure I've had the same dish in Framingham and it was in fact numbing, but no dice here. On a previous visit a few years ago, even the ma la beef (not on the menu) was quite la but not ma at all. The beef was generic, good, but I've had equally good at a lot of places. The noodles were okay, but not the outstanding dish they are in Brookline or the almost as good dish they are in Framingham. The lamb was outstanding, except for not having any huajiao in it--a fair amount of cumin and fried to be slightly crispy the outside.

                                                                                                      I was somewhat dismayed that the manager, whom I believe was the same one who was interested in the iPad tools, didn't come over on her own to check up on us, which happened in Framingham when we were new and happens in Brookline as well. So of the three, i think Brookline is actually the most interested in pleasing the new customers. If they had just a few more items on their menu, like the gan guo fish, I'd probably go to Brookline first, and I'm just not excited to go to the one in Billerica, especially with "Top Garden" nearby.

                                                                                                      I believe Hargau has always recommended the Billerica location for heat. The only dish we left to the kitchen to decide on was the beef with green peppers; the peppers were hot but there could've been more of them. The lamb, despite being ordered 'jia la' was by my standards not particularly hot, and once again seemed to have gotten merely a handful of dried peppers added. The 'ma la' beef from my previous visit was in fact excellently hot, but you couldn't order it off the menu, and it wasn't particularly ma. Since I'm much more interested in extra numbing than I am extra hot, I have to say I'm just not that impressed with the Bilerica location.

                                                                                                      (For those of you that didn't catch this the N-1th time around, 'ma' is numbing from the seed pod of the Chinese prickly ash, and 'la' is hot from the fruit of certain varieties of capsicums. There is no such thing as "the famous ma la peppercorn" even if you happen to be Todd Kliman. Nor is Knoxville west of Atlanta.)

                                                                                                      1. re: KWagle

                                                                                                        There is certainly no such thing as a "ma la peppercorn" but the prickly ash seed pod you describe IS COMMONLY know as Sichuan peppercorn.

                                                                                                        1. re: KWagle

                                                                                                          I have never been to brookline location but have been to framingham a few dozen times and Billerica countless times. I have always felt that Framinham was less spicy and more catered to the mall dwellers in the area. The 3 dshes you ordered i have had many times and none of them have ever had sichuan peppercorns in them that i can recall. I think perhaps it comes down to you being obsessed with those peppercorns and everyones perception of what alot of them is different. I equate it to someone who puts alot of salt or black pepper on everything. Say you loved everything with alot of salt and went into a fancy american restaurant and told the waitress "i want this extra salty".. She may relay that to the cook but chances are he isnt going to oversalt the food for you.. Now with salt, luckily you have it on the table and can do that yourself.. So likewise i think what they should have done in this situation is brought you a small bowl of these peppers to add as you like.

                                                                                                          On that note of all the Sichuan dishes in the area, the most of those peppers i have ever had was at Sichuan Palace in Chelmsford in their version of the dry fried chicken dish, I have not been there in months and have heard it changed owners. I dont know if it changed cooks or anything else so i am skeptical to recommend you try it. If you do, other notable dishes we used to get were the Sichuan Beef Noodle Soup and the stir fried rice cakes. Never was a fan of the Sichuan Spicy Dumplings there (either kind they offer)..

                                                                                                          -----
                                                                                                          Sichuan Palace
                                                                                                          7 Summer Street, Chelmsford, MA 01824

                                                                                                          1. re: KWagle

                                                                                                            Where have you had these dishes that you are led to believe that they should _always_ contain a high quantity of sichuan peppercorn? That just may not be how the chef at Billerica likes to prepare them, and you're not going to convince someone in the kitchen to prepare a dish in a way he/she thinks is overseasoned.

                                                                                                            I was frustrated with the lack of sichuan pepercorn in my order at Top Garden recently because I believe ma po tofu, for example, should always have a fair amount as a critical flavor component.

                                                                                                            I actually was at Billerica this weekend and one of the dishes in our order was xiang la dry fish filets, which makes marvelous use of a prodigious amount of whole sichuan peppercorns (and big chunks of celery to further accentuate the metallic taste). We didn't ask for any extra- that's just how the chef there likes to make this dish. In contrast, the dry fried green beans had none, which was fine, although I did particularly love the way Chun Li used to make this dish (with a "ma" that snuck up unexpectedly from the green beans) at Rice Garden back around 2000.

                                                                                                            Interestingly, the only time I've gotten make-my-forehead-drip-sweat heat at Framingham was when we had a large party and I ordered by collecting everyone's choices ahead of time, printing out the full order in Chinese and just handing the paper to the waitress.

                                                                                                            -----
                                                                                                            Top Garden
                                                                                                            1921 Main St Ste 1, Tewksbury, MA 01876

                                                                                                            1. re: Luther

                                                                                                              The XIang la dry fish is one of our favorites in billerica.

                                                                                                              1. re: hargau

                                                                                                                ditto hargau!!! We love that xang la fish, and the dan dan noodles, and the wontons in chili sauce (if I could only order three things, this would be it).

                                                                                                              2. re: Luther

                                                                                                                I do ask for salt and they always bring me a shaker. Now I'm wondering why they just couldn't bring me a bit of huajiao powder. In fact I do plan to get some and carry it with me, but finding good huajiao is hard. There's a grocery in Chinatown which apparently has the good stuff, but I haven't tracked it down yet.

                                                                                                                I've had the noodles at both other locations, and they did have a small amount of huajiao. I did not expect the beef with hot green pepper to contain any huajiao. One reason I expected it in the lamb was that the manager at Billerica told me they used it in that dish, which is what I remember from Framingham. The xiang la I've only had at Brookline before, since I can get gan guo fish at Framingham, and it did have a noticeable amount of huajiao, but the Brookline staff knows i like it that way--I have no idea how a random diner would get it. But my DC doesn't like fish, so both that and the water-cooked fish were out.

                                                                                                                As for whether these dishes should contain a *high* quantity, well, they probably shouldn't. But Sichuan food in general should contain a noticeable amount in at least some of the dishes, and in general I've found that (except in the cases of advance preparations which they can't change on the fly) they don't contain *any* unless I ask. Even if i do ask, the waitstaff often can't direct me to dishes that have the flavor i want, for example at "Sichuan Garden" in Brookline, which I'm unlikely to bother with again for that reason. That would be why I asked our server, and then the manager, what was in the lamb dishes. (The same was true when I ordered the house special chicken a few days prior--I asked if the dish contained what I wanted to eat, was assured it did, asked for extra as a way to insure I got even enough, and still didn't get enough.) Eventually I'll learn to ask in Chinese which dishes contain huajiao, but my skills aren't up to that level yet, so instead I have to resort to not eating at restaurants which don't give me what I want to eat.

                                                                                                                I believe that other posters have reported the staff fussing at them about what they order at this location in particular (such as telling people that something was a cold dish instead of just bringing them what they ordered.) I didn't encounter exactly that, but the staff here seems less likely to bring me what I want to eat than at either of the other locations.

                                                                                                                1. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                  I think they have been told to do that in situations where they dont know the diner. I cant imagine how many uninformed people send dishes back cause they are cold or too spicy or too rubbery or too fatty. I was at the framingham location once and we ordered a noodle dish.. Ants on tree i think it was.. Waitress told us "you wont like that, very rubbery".. This went back in forth a few times and we insisted on trying it. In the end we were sad to say she was right. We didnt like it, too rubbery! lol

                                                                                                                  Kwagle have you been to South East Asia in Lowell? they dont have the peppers you like but they make the dishes VERY spicy in general. If they say its spicy, believe it. You can see the menu online

                                                                                                                  1. re: hargau

                                                                                                                    I think in cases where they don't know the diners, the best approach would be for the manager to come over and discuss the cuisine and dishes with the customer. (Frankly, I often wonder what those Chinese restaurant managers are actually being paid to do, because they don't seem to be doing nearly as much work as an American restaurant manager would.) Perhaps I just need to start sending things back if they don't have huajiao when they should.

                                                                                                                    This also makes me wonder whether or why people in general send dishes back merely because they don't like them. I feel it's both reasonable and desirable to send things back if they're badly *prepared* but not merely because *I* made a choice to order something I end up not liking. In the case of not getting huajiao when I was told I'd get it, that does fall into the category of "badly prepared". But if something is rubbery, I want to hear about it before I order it, not later in the process. If that means a manager has to talk to the customer, too bad for them, I guess. And having heard it's rubbery, which doesn't have to come with a sketchy allegation that I won't like it, if I order it anyway that's my choice and can hardly complain. And now I want to try those ants on a tree, because I didn't think they were made with a rubbery noodle at all--that would be something new.

                                                                                                                    I tried SEA a few years ago, shortly After the change in ownership. I had been hearing reports for years about how it had gone downhill, and when I finally got around to going there (for the lunch buffet, which had ben specifically recommended) I was not very impressed. I planned to go back and try it again, but the early hours combined with the availability of Sichuan food have stymied that plan.

                                                                                                                    For many years i wanted my food hotter and hotter, but after a few years of eating Chinese food, I've become less fond of food that aspires to being spicy by just being more hot. That's one reason I like huajiao--it makes the food much more spicy in a much more complex way, especially combined with fresh (not dried) chillis and lots of garlic and scallion.

                                                                                                                    1. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                      The SE asia lunch buffet has gone down hill. We still go once in a while but only if we get there early. Plus they know us so if something we want is empty we just tell them to fill it. I would suggest you go in the evening and order off the menu. I can make a few recommendations if you like. The Gra Pao is one of my favorite. Very spicy but very flavorful

                                                                                                                      1. re: hargau

                                                                                                                        Ahah, I got there pretty late. I should try to get back for dinner sometime. Please do make some recommendations, maybe even start a new thread if there isn't already a SEA thread.

                                                                                                                      2. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                        I think you are definitely THE MAN to single-handedly change the culture of Boston-area Chinese restaurant managers. Whip them into shape, share your extensive SKILZ, heaven forbid, share a little savoir faire with those clueless resto managers.

                                                                                                                        I am sure we will all benefit once you have educated them on how to properly run a Chinese restaurant.

                                                                                                                        Stripey

                                                                                                                        1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                          Quite.

                                                                                                                          1. re: StriperGuy

                                                                                                                            lol. i have been in a friends chinese restaurant when loud yelling between staff members broke out and the entire staff got up and walked out. Im talking everyone. They had to close the place down.. He explained to me that the cooks, waitstaff, etc at most of these restaurants work as makeshift unions or gangs. If they are not happy you are not happy... So there is alot that goes on behind the scenes that makes managing a chinese restaurant alot harder than other restaurants... Not to mention, whens the last time you have seen an american resaurant manager sit down and clean 10,000 peapods? Take out the trash? Take the takeout orders on the phone? Shovel snow in the walkway,etc etc.. I think its quite the opposite.

                                                                                                                          2. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                            My own feeling about sending dishes back is a bit different. I will send a dish back if:

                                                                                                                            a) there's an obvious yet recoverable kitchen error, like an undercooked steak, that can be quickly remedied without the rest of my meal or that of my companions being disrupted too much.

                                                                                                                            b) the menu or server has somehow grossly misrepresented the dish, e.g., by claiming it had some desirable ingredient it lacks, or failing to note some major ingredient that might have steered me away from the dish had I known about it.

                                                                                                                            c) there's some other egregious, less recoverable error, e.g, unadvertised bugs.

                                                                                                                            Note that my list doesn't include a dish that is what it's supposed to be but isn't something I like. I treat this in the same way I do wine: if it's not spoiled and I ordered it, I'm paying for it and keeping quiet about it, whether I like it or not.

                                                                                                                            I feel that my own ignorance about a dish is not the restaurant's fault. If language barriers are an issue, it's mainly incumbent on me to bridge the gap. Some level of miscommunication, missed expectations, and unhappy surprises are an inevitable cost of doing business if you are an adventurous but largely English-speaking chowhound.

                                                                                                                            For me, the joys of adventurousness far outway the mishaps. What's the alternative: sticking to places where your intentions are always perfectly understood, where there is no chance of surprise, happy or otherwise? How boring is that?

                                                                                                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                                        2. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                          I love sichuan peppercorn. Best I've found in the USA was bought in Portland, ME at the Portland Spice Company - which has, unfortunately, moved to a less convenient location. They have had fresh, tasty stuff. Most that I've found is really old and has lost its life.

                                                                                                                          But ... and this is a big but (not butt) ... most people can't stand the numbness and the astringent quality. It's a taste acquired by exposure, much like heat. So it doesn't surprise me that they don't believe customers who say they want lots; they'll assume the customer thinks he wants a lot but really only means a little.

                                                                                                                          My daughter tells me that at her school in Xian the food would be covered in it. If you're used to a lot, your definition of "a lot" may be radically more and so you sensibly decide that the request can't be for that much.

                                                                                                                          1. re: lergnom

                                                                                                                            Here's a Sichuan (relative) newbie chiming in. I get how different people like/love/tolerate different levels of heat. (My current preference probably lands somewhere between American "hot" and Asian "medium/mild".)

                                                                                                                            But what gets me is the "ma" of "ma la". How is "numbing" a GOOD thing?

                                                                                                                            Flame away....

                                                                                                                            1. re: brandywiner

                                                                                                                              That could be asked of any flavor. For example, how is the "burning" of 'la' a good thing? It's really the same question. What I always wonder is, how is the citrusy aspect of huajiao a good thing?

                                                                                                                              1. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                                Fair enough. It just has always seemed to me that the numbing aspect tended to obscure flavor, rather than enhance it. As always, YMMV.

                                                                                                                                1. re: brandywiner

                                                                                                                                  Ahah... I was originally confused and thought you hadn't tried the numbing spice yet. I find it to be enjoyable in much the same way that I enjoy chilli peppers or garlic, and find it enhances those other flavors. I've suggested that SG mark their numbing dishes on the menu with stars, like "Joe's Noodle House" does, so that I can order them and you can avoid them.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                                    KW, have you tried Chili Garden in Medford Square? Its more Chongqing style than Chengdu, i.e. heavier spice mix and a bit oilier, and the owner there used to make a big deal about her "direct" source for Sichuan peppercorn, 花椒. That said, I haven't been in a while (SG is more to my taste, and geographically more convenient), so things could have changed.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: qianning

                                                                                                                                      I've been very impressed by CG on the few (recent) occasions I've been there, but I don't get there as often as I'd like. I haven't figured out who might be the owner or manager; on my few visits there seem to just be a couple of waiters around. They have a large number of dishes I haven't seen elsewhere, such as double cooked sausage, beef tongue with numbing but not hot sauce (which is amazingly good and shows off the citrusy aspect of huajiao excellently) and some kind of fern dish I can't remember the details of. Now I kind of want to go there now. :-/

                                                                                                                                      In fact, for a few years the ban on huajiao was actually enforced and I believe people had to smuggle it to get the good stuff. "Joe's Noodle House" basically told me the same thing the CG owner told you.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                                        In that case, one other place you might like is Sichuan Palace in Chelmsford, which also tends toward the Chongqing style. Their Qongqing hot pot is the real deal, other dishes are also often more of an eastern/yangtze valley Sichuan taste.

                                                                                                                                        -----
                                                                                                                                        Sichuan Palace
                                                                                                                                        7 Summer Street, Chelmsford, MA 01824

                                                                                                                                        1. re: qianning

                                                                                                                                          Can you recommend any specific dishes at SP?

                                                                                                                                          Their website, for reference, is

                                                                                                                                          http://www.sichuanpalacemd.com/

                                                                                                                                          not whatever is listed in the idiotic empty page that Chow seems to want to generate for every restaurant they know nothing about.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                                            We used to go there alot as its a bit closer to us than SG and much more relaxed. (more room,quiter,no wait)... Our favorites:
                                                                                                                                            The dry fried sichuan chicken- i recommend this one for you as it has more of the peppers you like than anywhere i have been. It also has way more of the dried red type hot peppers too. More than anyone can eat. They are fried nice and dry though and its sort of fun picking thru them for the chicken bits.

                                                                                                                                            The Sichuan spicy beef noodle soup. This is quite good here with lots of fatty beef parts. (i dont think it uses the peppers you like)

                                                                                                                                            The fried rice cake dish. (not spicy)..

                                                                                                                                            We have never been a fan of their dumplings, they have 2 kinds. Both homemade i think. The sauce is always too watery/not spicy for us. We still seem to order them...

                                                                                                                                            The hot pots are popular here (shabu shabu) but we have never got them.

                                                                                                                                            I will have to find a menu to make more recs as my memory is foggy... I cant find a working website for them aymore.. Their site was sichuanpalace.net not the one you provided. Neither works though.... (im guessing the md was for something in maryland..)

                                                                                                                                            1. re: hargau

                                                                                                                                              Since I prefer the food at SG we rarely go to SP except once in a while (annually or less) for Chongqing hot pot. That said we have been a couple of times with larger groups where someone else was doing the ordering, and the dishes definitely have that heavy to chilis/sichuan peppercorns/chili oil very little if any sugar flavor that I think you (KW) are enamored of, and the flavors really remind me of the food in Chongqing. But since others were ordering, and it was a while ago, I really don't remeber the exact dishes.

                                                                                                                                              Anyway, when we've been there for hot pot, I've had no trouble convincing the staff to serve us "the real deal", and I would expect you'll do fine just ordering off the menu.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: qianning

                                                                                                                                                I stopped by to pick up a menu, and on the way out I saw the picture of the crispy chicken with dry chillis (it's breaded and deep-fried from what I can tell) which I believe to be the dish Hargau likes. (I normally know it as "Chongqing dry hot chicken.") I went back to the counter and asked if that had huajiao in it. She said it didn't, but the chef could make it that way. So I tried to ask which if any dishes already had that ingredient, and she basically said, as near as I could tell, that none of their dishes had that stuff in it but the chef could add it.

                                                                                                                                                Since I was on the road and didn't have time to deal with sending something back if the chef decided to just wave the bag over the wok before cooking (ike those idiot recipes from the ancient times that told you to rub a cut clove of garlic on the bowl while making a salad) I decided to pass and come back another time when I had more time and could sit down with some actual recommendations (which, BTW, do not always have to be hot or numbing, but *do* have to be prepared in the manner that a member of the kitchen staff would prepare for himself or his friends.)

                                                                                                                                                Seriously, it had never occurred to me that a restaurant or chef might not believe customers "who say they want lots; they'll assume the customer thinks he wants a lot but really only means a little." I understand *why* they would have this literal prejudice, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. I figured that learning to say/write the Chinese words for what I want would help overcome the idea that I don't actually know what I'm asking for, but it doesn't seem to help as much as I'd like.

                                                                                                                                                Perhaps my next approach will be to write out, in the presence of the FOH staff, a note that says "加花椒粉" and ask them to take it to the cook or kitchen manager. (I want the powder because the peppercorns impart less flavor and also fall to the bottom of the plate.) This is McCawley's suggestion: write out your order in Chinese. (He claims that Chinese diners often do this.) Maybe this will get me, as McCawley said in his book, "treatment befitting a normal human being."

                                                                                                                                                1. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                                                  Unless they have changed staff, they always had tons of the peppercorns there. We are going tonight so will see. The chicken dish is essentially the same as the one you got the night i saw you in tewksbury.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: hargau

                                                                                                                                                couldnt find my copy of their takeout menu... May have to go tonight.. Have not been there in quite some time.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: hargau

                                                                                                                                                  Argh, sorry. I thought I corrected that when I typed it in, and apparently corrected it from MD to MD. It's MA, of course,

                                                                                                                                                  http://www.sichuanpalacema.com/

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                                                    ahh yea that is it. On the house specials the fish either 5 or 6 cant recall but one of them had way too many of the peppercorns you like in it for our tastes. You would love it.. I think it was the one with the tofu but not sure... They also have specials usually on a board in the hall.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: hargau

                                                                                                                                                    Apparently you also liked the dried beef dish, or at least found it interesting, likewise the water-cooked pork.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                                            I see a snuff box filled with mala in KWagle's future.

                                                                                                                                            If you are dead-set on carrying your own, you can find it or order it from Penzey's, who has a local store in Arlington. Just don't OD!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: tatsu

                                                                                                                                              All these tastes are really a matter of palate training, much like appreciating beer or other alcohol when you're young. Only a few things almost can't be learned, notably a food eaten in Laos that causes extreme drowsiness unless you've been raised eating it. You need to establish a tolerance for it and even relatively small amounts can make you very sleepy as an adult so learning to handle it is unlikely.

                                                                                                                                              Eating hot food becomes very enjoyable as your palate (your brain) learns that your mouth isn't actually on fire. Eating the astringent sichuan peppercorn becomes more enjoyable when the effect becomes expected.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: tatsu

                                                                                                                                                Two friends have gotten Penzey's huajiao, and in both cases (a couple of years apart) it was far too citrusy for my taste and not very numbing. I plan to stop by H Mart but people have said I really need to go to Ming's in Chinatown for the good stuff. If you want the citrusy aspect, Penzey's is an excellent choice though.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                                                  Well, there's always the $5 S&B Sansho kind. Maybe it's decent?

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: tatsu

                                                                                                                                                    here's a link. $4 so don't expect a transcendent experience, but any japanese store will have it. it's the same variety of peppercorn.

                                                                                                                                                    http://www.amazon.com/Sansho-Pepper-1...

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                                                    I have not seen them at hmart. There are alot of places on the net with them. Here is one
                                                                                                                                                    http://www.amazon.com/Szechuan-Pepper...

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: hargau

                                                                                                                                                      I saw some at the small Asian grocery in the same strip mall as "Sichuan Palace" but, having been told by the chef at the awesome Grace Garden that I should look for bright red ones, I passed on them since they were almost brown. I really need to get to Ming's. :-/

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                                                        I recently got a sack of "dried prickly ash" from the big C-Mart on the eastern edge of chinatown. It's not the freshest spice I ever bought but it works. I used it to make the sichuan oil recently demonstrated by Mark Bittman in his ny times podcast and it definitely tasted like the flavor I know from good sichuan restaurants- not hard to do at all. It was like $3 and it is a generous quantity. It's in the place where they have the plastic packages of spices- I kept asking the people who work there for "peppercorns" and eventually someone led me to it.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                                    I stopped by the Brookline location to show the FOH manager, whose English is very good, a new book that was recently recommended on the Pleco forums, namely _Eating Out in China_ by Alan Hoenig, published by EZChinesey.com (that's the name of the publisher, and also their website.) (They have a "forthcoming" book called _Chinese English Menu Guide_.) I also wanted to show her McCawley. The author of Pleco is interested in licensing both books for their dictionaries, and I'm hoping it'll actually happen, because neither McCawley's line-counting strategy nor a list by ingredients is actually very useful to me. But, Hoenig's book also has a listing organized by Pinyin, which is presumably quite useful to Chinese speakers.

                                                                                                                                    http://ezchinesey.com/
                                                                                                                                    http://www.amazon.com/dp/098223242X/

                                                                                                                                    As often happens we talked for a fair while, and I asked about the dry-cooked lamb. She said it shouldn't have huajiao in it at all, that was in the Chengdu ma la lamb, not the dry lamb. So I told her that the manager told us they were the same except for cooking method, and somewhat bemusedly she asked if I had talked to a man or woman, basically implying the women don't know as much about the dishes as they might.

                                                                                                                                    I also looked over the menu, which no longer seems to have "mouth watering chicken" on it, but had a new dish "xiang la" blue crab. I asked about this, because the "xiang la" fish is deep-fried, and I was hoping for soft-shell crabs. She said the crab was not deep-fried (but I never asked about the soft-shelledness) and further said (in pretty much these words) that in China, 'xiang la' was more abstract, not tied down to any particular preparation.

                                                                                                                                    In fact, a quick perusal of their menu revealed that what they translate as "dried" chicken with chili sauce (which I've never had) is actually called xiang la dry-cooked chicken. She says that xiang is 'delicious' (the literal translation is "fragrant" as in "yu xiang") and (as we know, but certain reviewers don't) 'la' is spicy. (The literal translation is 'pungent', but it's commonly used for chilli heat.

                                                                                                                                    )

                                                                                                                                    Their web page doesn't list the crab but does list "sepia with red sauce" (which wasn't on the paper menu, alas.) Wikipedia claims this is a genus of cuttlefish, which is exactly why I wanted to show her the books. *I* would never have guessed sepia was anything but a plant.

                                                                                                                                    I came home with a small container of fuqi fei pian, which was good, but not as good as the truly awesome preparation at Grace Garden in Odenton. I suppose I should get some from Chuan Tai ("Thailand Cafe") tonight and compare them.... hmm.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: KWagle

                                                                                                                                      After all the bally hoo about this place opening, and my experience there, as well as what others are saying, this place can't close fast enough for me. What a shame. For all the claims about "authentic", their xenophobic responses to the diners is ridiculous. There was nothing wrong with the menu @ Chef Chang's. And, they were certainly amenable to tweak the items on the menu, to make them spicier, without questioning the diner's request.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: CookieLee

                                                                                                                                        I wouldn't call their responses xenophobic; I think cautious is more like it. They seem to really want to please their customers, so they are careful to make sure people don't order things they might not like, especially people who might be expecting more gloopy/deepfried american-cantonese dishes. If you express an interest in the sichuan dishes they will be happy to explain. They seem to always have seasonal greens available that aren't on the menu. Just ask.