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Sichuan Gourmet: Lucky Brookline

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...>

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  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. The original comment has been removed
            1. 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.