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Sichuan Food at Top Garden in Tewksbury . . . WOW!!!

lipoff Sep 14, 2010 11:34 PM

Tewksbury is not exactly around the corner for me, so I was secretly hoping for this place not to be that good. I had heard from a Chinese friend this weekend that it's good, but, really, that good? I mean, there are so many great Sichuan restaurants closer to Boston, so Top Garden couldn't possibly be good enough that I'd feel compelled to venture to Tewksbury again, right? Wrong.

This was the best Sichuan food I've had in the United States.

Maybe I should hold my tongue until I visit a few more times, or wait to post this until after my lips stop buzzing from the hua1 jiao1, but even with the surfeit of outstanding Sichuan restaurants in the Greater Boston area, I can't hold back from posting about this special place.

For dinner tonight:

fu1 qi1 fei4 pian4 (Roast Beef, Tongue & Tripe with Chili-Peanut Vinaigrette) was piquant, perfectly cut, and bursting with flavor and texture. This is one my favourite classic Sichuan dishes (a terrific cold appetizer) and it's hard to get exactly right. The knife work has to be superb, the various cuts of meat the right textures, and the sauce spicy but complex. This one hits all the right notes. As good as the best from Sichuan Gourmet, which says a lot.

si4 chuan1 pao4 cai4 (Sichuan Pickles) were a terrific plate of a diverse range of finely chopped pickled vegetables, covered in a nice, thick red oil. The cabbage was particularly good, with a nice saltiness and firm crispiness.

si4 chuan1 liang2 mian4 (Cold Noodle Salad with Chili Sesame Vinaigrette) was the only dish tonight that didn't blow me away. A very competently cooked set of noodles, topped with flavorful sesame seeds and very well sliced cucumbers in the same hot red oil. Noodles were good, but not house made. I think by itself it would have been better, but this was the third cold appetizer with the same red oil, and by its nature has a less complex flavor profile than the other dishes.

chuan1 yu3 ju1 la4 zi ji1(Szechuan Dry Hot Chicken) was the best rendition of my favorite Sichuan dish I've ever had. The chicken was fried on the outside, soft in the inside, cut quite small, and the depth and complexity of the sauce was just astounding. It was hot, spicy, numbing, piquant, sizzling, rich, sour, tangy, and zippy all at the same time. The peppers were dried and roasted just right, and the whole thing was airy, not oily. Wow.

ma2 po2 dou4 fu (Sichuan Style Tofu with Minced Pork) was ordered without pork, and this was among the very best versions of Mapo Tofu I've ever had. Just watch out, because it's not listed on the menu as Mapo Tofu, and is near the very bottom of the Chef's Specials, and is not cross-listed with other tofu dishes under Vegetables. The tofu cubes were pillowy soft. The sauce was rich and deep, with a very strong red oil base, but piled on with complexity. The fermented black beans were very bright and tasty. Just terrific.

Rice and tea were tasty too, and the service couldn't have been any more friendly.

The strip-mall location is unassuming, but the décor is seriously nice inside. Super-clean floors, beautiful wood carvings on the freshly painted walls, and intriguing light fixtures. However, the utilitarian metal tea-pot and vintage Chinese-American restaurant zodiac placements were out of place with the modern plates and bowls. As you can see by the pictures below, these dishes weren't plated haphazardly, but by a trained chef in a banquet-like style.

The menu, however, is a bit confusing. The Appetizers section seems totally Americanized. The Sichuan Cuisine section contains authentic cold appetizers. The Chef's Specials section includes both Americanized Chinese food and Authentic Chinese food. The transition between the two happens somewhere between General Tso's Shrimp and Kung Pao Chicken.

The authentic Soups are the Soups for two. The authentic Noodles are the one's not labeled as "Lo Mein." The Seafood category contains authentic dishes, as does the Vegetables Category. The Chow Mein, Chop Suey, Egg Foo Young, Fried Rice, Poultry and Beef categories don't contain authentic dishes. Neither does the Thai section of the menu. =)

They also have a separate laminated sheet with only Chinese characters on it. Some of these dishes are cross-listed under "Chef's Specials" on the English menu, but some are not. Do not fear, because I have copied the Chinese characters, and provided transliterations and translations below. Why they don't translate it themselves, I do not know. I can't wait to explore this menu further.

Column #1:
樟茶鸭 zhang1 cha2 ya1 Tea Smoked Duck
椒盐鱿鱼, 或虾 jiao1 yan2 you2 yu2 / xia1 Salt and Pepper Squid or Shrimp
干锅虾 gan1 guo1 xia1 "Hot Pot" Prawns
板栗烧肉 ban3 li4 shao1 rou4 Roast Chestnut Pork
腊肉回锅 la4 rou4 hui2 guo1 Double Cooked Chinese Bacon
竹笙丝瓜 zhu2 sheng1 si1 gua1 Squash and Bamboo Fungus
豆花鱼片 dou4 hua1 yu2 pian1 Soft Tofu and Fish Slices
干烧全鱼 gan1 shao1 quan2 yu2 Sichuan Style Whole Fish
沸腾鱼 fei4 teng2 yu2 Spicy Boiled Fish
泡椒全鱼 pao4 jia1 quan2 yu2 Pickled Pepper Whole Fish

Column #2:
火暴腰花 huo3 bao4 yao1 hua1 Hot and Spicy Kidney
毛血旺 mao2 xie3 wang4 Spicy and Aromatic Pork Blood
水煮牛, 或肉片 shui3 zhu3 niu2 / rou4 pian4 Braised Beef Filet (or Sliced Pork) with Roasted Cabbage, Leek & Celery
水煮鱼 shui3 zhu3 yu2 Spicy Boiled Fish
纸包羊 zhi3 bao1 yang2 Paper Wrapped Laamb
口袋豆腐 kou3 dai4 dou4 fu Braised Tofu Stuffed with Vegetables
全家福麻辣汤 quan2 jia1 fu2 ma2 la4 tang1 House Special Spicy Soup
川雅居回锅肉 chuan1 yu3 ju1 hui2 guo1 rou4 Sichuan Style Twice Cooked Pork
川雅居辣子鸡 chuan1 yu3 ju1 la4 zi ji1 Sichuan Style Hot & Spicy Chicken
川雅居回锅大肠 chuan1 yu3 ju1 huo2 go1 da4 chang2 Sichuan Style Twice Cooked Intestine
川雅居三椒羊肉 chuan1 yu3 ju1 san1 jiao1 yang2 rou4 Sichuan Style Three Pepper Lamb

In conclusion . . . go to Tweksbury!

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

Sichuan Gourmet
1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

 
 
 
 
 
  1. g
    GaryLovesFood Sep 15, 2010 06:56 AM

    I'm also a huge fan-- thanks Lipoff for reminding me to comment on this fantastic restaurant. For those who are fans of Sichuan Gourmet, I'd say Top Garden is every bit as tasty, with probably more heat and more subtlety in the complementary flavors. Pricing is a little more reasonable, but menu doesn't have as much breadth (not as many vegetable dishes, not as many authentic-but-not-killer-hot options).

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

    Sichuan Gourmet
    1004 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

    1. Ferrari328 Sep 16, 2010 07:55 AM

      Regular Menu can be found here http://topgardenrestaurant.com/index_...

      1. h
        hargau Sep 16, 2010 09:34 AM

        Is the place very large inside? I got the impression it was mainly takeout.

        3 Replies
        1. re: hargau
          d
          Dinsdale45 Sep 16, 2010 10:11 AM

          I was there last night, and it's bigger than it looks. Probably 10 tables and a big round table with a lazy Susan. I tried the bamboo shoots in chile sauce, dan dan mien, shredded beef with chile, dry fried chicken, and shredded pork w/ garlic sauce. All were very good, some with plenty of ma la. The pork dish was actually the hottest, even though it was supposed to be the most tame. We're planning a group lunch with our Chinese contingent next week.

          1. re: hargau
            lipoff Sep 16, 2010 01:18 PM

            Not very large inside, but definitely not just for take out. There are four four-tops, two six-tops, an eight-top round tabble, and maybe a one more table in an alcove near the front (where the staff were eating around 9:30 PM. I was really impressed by the decor and the nice plating of the food. Not to mention the food itself, if that's not clear!

            Ferrari, of course, thank you for showing them my translation. I think there are a few more dishes on their Chinese-only menu, like zhi3 bao1 yang2, kou3 dai4 dou4 fu, quan2 jia1 fu2 ma2 la4 tang1, zhu2 sheng1 si1 gua1, and jiao1 yan2 you2 yu2, in addition to the four at the bottom, which aren't on any English menu they have (or at least, I didn't see them!). In any event, it's nice to have a bunch of authentic dishes all in one place.

            1. re: lipoff
              h
              hargau Sep 16, 2010 02:28 PM

              Hope to check it out very soon. Thanks

          2. Ferrari328 Sep 16, 2010 12:20 PM

            I tried it for lunch today and had to try the Roast Beef, Tongue & Tripe with Chili-Peanut Vinaigrette. Never had it before so I have nothing to compare against but that Vinaigrette was something else! What a complex flavor and the meats was excellent to. I also had to try (Surprise!) the Ma Po Dofu with pork. This was an truly excellent rendition with a deep red chilli sauce and a thick layer of ground Sichuan Peppercorns on top. Didn't see any fermented black beans. When I ordered it she asked it I liked spicy food and I said yes and it was spicy allright but not deadly so, but very very tasty. Even the chicken wing that come with the lunch was very flavorful and juicy and cooked to perfection. What a find and at $6.55 for most of the lunch specials, quite a bargain.
            lipoff, hope you don't mind but I left your translation with them suggesting they add them to the secret menu and she said that all of them was already on the menu except for the last four.
            Also thanks for writing this place up, would never have suspected such a quality place there in that location.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Ferrari328
              tatsu Sep 16, 2010 12:29 PM

              Looks like great stuff, excellent find lipoff!

              I'm sort of on the fence about black beans in MaPo Dofu. I'm accustomed to and prefer broad beans myself and I'm curious as to whether the inclusion of black or both is a regional thing.

              1. re: tatsu
                j
                Jenny Ondioline Sep 16, 2010 03:03 PM

                Fuchsia Dunlop's recipe--which is as authentic as any I've ever had and both delicious and easy to make--uses both broad beans and fermented black beans, though more of the former than the latter. I find they add a little depth to the flavor.

            2. KWagle Sep 17, 2010 10:01 AM

              Oh man, not *another* one. This is starting to get absurd. And my current DC doesn't have the appetite to let us investigate a significant part of the menu in one visit. :-/

              1. KWagle Sep 19, 2010 12:22 AM

                Thanks to lipoff (Hey Lipoff! gee, thanks :-)) I had to go check this place out tonight. I had the 川雅居 triple pepper lamb. They were appropriately surprised that I could read it and immediately pulled out a printout of this very web page, at which point *I* pulled out those truly awesome tools eStroke and Pleco, which as they often do caused a bunch of people to jump up from staff dinner to help explain the finer points of some of their menu items. In particular, they explained that the third pepper was 泡椒 (pao jiao or 'pickled' peppers, which are in fact brined.). The dish also has sliced garlic, a bit of cilantro, I believe a bit of basil, and, surprising to me, peanuts.

                The triple pepper lamb was outstanding--equal in quality to the lamb dishes from Lao Sichuan ("Sichuan Gourmet" if you prefer) though not the same in flavor. I was able to communicate my liking for hua jiao and pao jiao without merely getting an excess of dried peppers; while it wasn't quite as numbing as I liked, it was well-balanced and numbing enough after a few bites. It's quite worthy of being one of four (!) house specials, one of the others being the chicken dish that lipoff enjoyed. (Of course all of you know that you can tell the house specials because they're prefaced the restaurant's actual, non-sham name 川雅居 (Chuan Fine Restaurant)). I'll have to go back for the double cooked pork, but I'm still scared of stir-fried intestine.

                In all the excitement I forgot to pay, and when I went back I stopped by the staff table to find out what they were eating. They all seemed genuinely happy to have someone take interest in their work, which is unsurprising considering the quality of their product. And, they were eating frog! which was not on the menu, alas. (It is now on the menu at Lao Sichuan Framingham, and apparently selling well.) They said that if we wanted frog, say for some future Chowhound dinner planned by someone other than me they could probably do it with two days' notice, because frog has to be fresh, which is a euphemism for live until shortly before you eat it. (They're correct, of course.) The preparation they had looked much like the triple pepper lamb, a spicy sauce with pickled peppers in it. Frog or no frog, this looks like a worthy find, and I hope people are willing to make the trek to Tewskbury to try it.

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

                1. Luther Sep 19, 2010 03:33 PM

                  We tried Top Garden this weekend. Overall satisfying enough but for my 30-minute drive from Boston I'd choose the Framingham Sichuan Gourmet over this for sure. No reason whatsoever to venture past Thailand Cafe in Cambridge or New Shanghai in Chinatown if you're comfortable with the quality of the preparation at those places. I also prefer these other places to Top Garden because when I eat there I don't feel like I need to pass the "are you Chinese enough" test to get my food prepared properly. Just give me the menu, let me order the food on the menu, and you cook it for me.

                  Bamboo appetizer: very "green" taste to the bamboo shoots, not very bamboo-like. Doesn't have the delicious smoky flavor you get in SG's spicy wonder sauce.

                  Sichuan wontons: decent but unremarkable. I prefer the type in broth and chili oil but these were in a soy based sauce.

                  Fu qi fei pian: thick but not awkwardly large slices of mostly tripe, and a nice red oil with a moderate amount of sichuan peppercorn.

                  Beef jerky with chili sauce: I liked this the best of the cold appetizers, just chewy enough but not too dry.

                  Tea smoked duck: tender and moist, and a generous portion. But no smoke flavor whatsoever. I'd recommend Fuloon's version as the best around Boston.

                  Ma po tofu: No sichuan peppercorn here, leaving the salty bean flavor overstated and unbalanced. I suspect ordering in English caused us to get underseasoned food, which makes me unhappy. We even had to ask for chopsticks (yes, for everybody at the table, do you really have to ask?)

                  Red-cooked pork and chestnuts: A weak version of this dish in a thin, under-flavored sauce. Chestnuts were dry and some pieces of pork belly were dried out. My favorite version of red-cooked pork near Boston is the pork shin in brown sauce at MuLan.

                  Towel gourd (loofah) and bamboo fungus: too salty

                  Water-cooked fish fillets: this was the best dish we got, with very tender pieces of fish and lots of bean sprouts cooking underneath. Good job of balancing the heat of the red peppers with the mild flavor of the fish, which held its own in the broth.

                  I know these are mostly complaints but the best I can do is objectively describe the flavor characteristics of these dishes as they contrast with what I consider better examples.

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

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

                  MuLan
                  228 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: Luther
                    h
                    hargau Sep 19, 2010 03:54 PM

                    very odd. We went tonight and had the Sichuan wontons. Really liked them. No soy based sauce. Chili based sauce. Here is a photo... Is this not what they gave you? note the soy based sauce in the background for the scallion pancakes that we also got. Will write about the rest of the meal when i have more time.

                     
                    1. re: hargau
                      h
                      hargau Sep 19, 2010 05:18 PM

                      I think this is a (crappy phone) photo of the fish dish you got as well. We loved this dish. Very generous portion too for a low price.

                       
                      1. re: hargau
                        Luther Sep 19, 2010 06:19 PM

                        son of a bitch... that is not what we got. As I mentioned, ours was in soy sauce, not chili oil broth. I ordered in English and pointed to the menu item I wanted, which I assume is what you did...

                        1. re: Luther
                          h
                          hargau Sep 19, 2010 06:33 PM

                          yea I ordered in english. It was #25 on the menu linked above "Sichuan Pork Wonton with Chili Sesame Vinaigrette".. After ordering, i did say "we like it authentic and spicy" and the waitress said " i think your friends from the internet sent you!" Everyone was very friendly.

                      2. re: Luther
                        lipoff Sep 19, 2010 07:58 PM

                        I am still never sure whether to be offended or grateful when I'm given a fork instead of chopsticks in a Chinese restaurant. I mean, I can't help but feel offended, because I neither need nor want a fork, but I think when I'm given a fork it's not because the restaurant wants to make me feel small, but because they genuinely see it as being accommodating and sensitive.

                        I also know that me speaking Chinese may get me better food at Chinese restaurants, but even at most Indian and Thai restaurants I find that a couple visits and some friendly conversation usually gets the authenticity meter pegged as high as it can go.

                        I wish we didn't have to do this dance, but it just seems like one of those obstacles on the path to superlative chow. My impression was that less of that would be required at Top Garden, where the staff seemed very proud of their food and were delighted that we had come to eat it.

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

                        1. re: lipoff
                          tatsu Sep 19, 2010 08:14 PM

                          My experience is pretty parallel to lipoff's.

                          <Sad_Trombone>
                          Even after ID'ing the province of Dongbei seconds after opening the menu at Golden Garden and having a friendly chat-- my second visit with my DC from Beijing, who lived two towns over from the owner! yielded toned-down to 7 on the volume dial sichuan fish fillets, just for me, the Japanese guy, ha ha.
                          </Sad_Trombone>

                          <Sad_Trombone>
                          Last time I had Pad Thai I very explicitly said "Spicy! Like home okay!?", waiving my hands crazily, like annoyed asians do. (Kind of like, "Dismissed! | Do what I tell you! | You got it?!") So, it came totally not spicy. Luckily he brought out prik pon pepper and other condiments beforehand and he watched me smother that dish worse than the mala at Red Pepper. He was like, "Oh! You like it SPICY!" "Yea, I like SPiCY!" "OK! Okay!"
                          </Sad_Trombone>

                          You just gotta shrug and say next time!

                          So if I ever open a sushi place, guys, all wasabi nasal shooters on the house.

                          -----
                          Red Pepper
                          122 White St, Haverhill, MA 01830

                          Golden Garden
                          63 Concord Ave, Belmont, MA 02478

                          1. re: tatsu
                            k
                            khanom Sep 25, 2010 08:06 AM

                            Having spent some time in Thailand, I have to say that I've never had pad thai come "spicy" from the wok.

                            In Thailand, pad thai is prepared with the expectation that the diner will adjust the flavor to his/her taste by using the condiments, which are usually available in a tray or metal rack with at least 3 and sometimes up to 8 condiments (depending on what other dishes are served at that location). This is true regardless of whether you order it at a street stall, food court, or restaurant. If he brought you those condiments, then he was giving you the option to flavor your dish exactly as it is done in Thailand.

                            Just my two cents. ^_^ Your sad trombone sound effects had me cracking up!

                            1. re: khanom
                              tatsu Sep 26, 2010 08:31 AM

                              Well thanks for that info. I didn't eat Pad Thai in Thailand myself, so I'm glad I was getting it "correctly".

                              I was surprised I could enter XML like tags, it's bad security-wise, but I guess they would rather spend more time and energy moderating our comments. Wahn-wahhhn!

                              1. re: tatsu
                                k
                                khanom Sep 26, 2010 11:33 AM

                                ah sorry didn't mean to come off so pedantic, only wanted to point out that you ordered it "spicy! like home ok!?". that, to me, would have been the signal that you wanted me to bring out my super secret condiment rack. you might have gotten a very different dish if you had just asked for it "spicy".

                                glad to hear you got the condiment tray though :) boston has come a long way in terms of thai food. it wasn't that long ago that i ordered pad thai at a thai restaurant (no longer in business) that served me the dish with *spaghetti noodles*...

                                or ordering pineapple fried rice and then sending it back to the kitchen because the chef had forgotten to put in any pineapple. of course, that was thailand cafe when they first opened, and i should have realized i was in trouble when i tried to order in thai and the waiter asked me if i could speak english :P

                          2. re: lipoff
                            KWagle Sep 19, 2010 11:59 PM

                            I think that if the staff *knows* we came to eat the food they're proud of, they'll give us the authentic spine tingling mouth numbing experience we want. But they don't always know that, and there's a very long history of dumbing down food for Americans. It's enough of a victory for the moment to see more places translating all but a handful of specials (including rabbit, frog, duck tongues, bullwhack, and pork intestine) and willing to translate the specials if we ask. They certainly get a lot more of my money than places like Peach Farm, where I think there *must* be food I want to eat, but I don't really know how to *find* it.

                            -----
                            Peach Farm
                            4 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111

                            1. re: lipoff
                              The Chowhound Team Sep 27, 2010 06:26 AM

                              We split some replies to this that got into the authenticity vs. taste debate over to our General Chowhounding Topics board: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/736756

                          3. KWagle Sep 19, 2010 11:32 PM

                            I went back tonight with Andy Tannenbaum for a second round, running into Hargau (Hi Hargau!) and his DC whose name I didn't get. We had the fuqi fei pian, the house special double cooked pork, and the house special chicken (which lipoff described above.) The fuqi fei pian didn't jump out as strongly for me as it did for Lipoff; it was good, but not notably better than what I'm used to. There seemed to be no tendon (can you confirm this, Lipoff?) and the tripe was sliced a bit thicker than I like, but not so thick as to be unpleasant. I have to admit, I haven't had this at either LSC/SG, or "New Shanghai" or "Thailand Cafe." That needs to be corrected soon. The winner for this dish for me is still Grace Garden in Odenton, MD. That place is really worth a trip even from Boston.

                            The double cooked pork was very good, it had squares of crunchy noodle in it as well as the pork and some black beans. Overall, for that style (a more sumptuous or unctuous pork, as opposed to the more charred and smoky style) it was excellent, though I would give the edge to Chilli Garden if their version weren't so danged salty--I mean, I love black beans, but they overdo it a bit. Around here I like the double cooked pork at "Gourmet Dumpling House" or "Thailand Cafe" equally well. GDH didn't use a lot of huajiao the last time I ordered it, but the did on a previous couple of visits when my friend Mycroft and I decided it was the best double cooked pork out there.

                            The chicken seems to be their implementation of Chongqing chicken, which is a chicken dish with huge amounts of dried chillis in it--far more than a person could eat without getting sick. From what I understand, It's named after the city in which it originated, 重庆, on the edge of Sichuan province. Apparently this dish is also called "hunting and pecking" since that's what you have to do to find the chicken (though I can't find a reference for this now.) I'd've been happier if the chicken were in larger pieces--I might have to go grab some Old Sichuan Chicken tomorrow along with some fuqi fei pian--and had fewer dried peppers, but other than the excess of peppers, I liked it a lot--crunchy, hot, numbing. But looking at the picture above, I wonder if we actually got the same dish--Lipoff seems to have far fewer peppers, or maybe he just ate 'em all up.

                            We also tasted the beef jerky and the boiling fish--thanks, Hargau and DC! They were both good, though I prefer non-fatty beef in the so-called jerky (which I believe is actually "dried" by deep-frying... that seems to be confirmed by Dunlop's recipes.) The fish comes in two versions, the usual 水煮鱼 and what Hargau had, which is called 沸腾鱼 (literally "boiling" fish, or "braised" on their menu) and is served in a mini wok chafing dish.

                            I'm tempted to go back and try the intestine, which would be the fourth house special. Overall, I think the lamb was the clear winner among the dishes I've had, probably due in part to my getting extra pao jiao--I'm just not a fan of dried pepper hot.

                            As we were finishing, a three-generation Chinese family arrived and we chatted with them a bit about the various dishes they had ordered, most of which were not Sichuanese (though they did have the spicy tendon and the water cooked fish, which comes in a bowl) and that was really pleasant.

                            Based on my, Lipoff's, and Luther's three somewhat different experiences, I wonder if there's one cook that stands out amongst the staff. I think my overall take is that it's very good, but not really *better* than the other places we frequent, but it's nice to have such a bounty of good Sichuan in the area. I'd certainly be happy to check it out again. And I'm still inclined to try to roust people to explore "Thailand Cafe" or "New Shanghai" in more detail. The latter in particular *really* impressed me on my one visit.

                            ~ Kiran <entropy@io.com>

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: KWagle
                              h
                              hargau Sep 20, 2010 10:43 AM

                              We noticed as we left a van in the driveway with another restaurant name on the side. My memory is foggy but im 99% sure it was Thailand Cafe. Did you see this too?

                              1. re: hargau
                                h
                                hargau Sep 20, 2010 01:22 PM

                                my GF confirms that the van did say Thailand Cafe Cambridge on it, so these places must be related.

                                1. re: hargau
                                  KWagle Sep 20, 2010 03:48 PM

                                  I have some vague memory of something like that! But I wasn't driving and thus was completely unobservant. Maybe I'll have to stop by tonight for some twice cooked bacon or something. :-)

                                  One thing that serves to suggest a connection is the use of "spicy capsicum" in the menu entry for double cooked pork. I've seen this only twice before; once at Chuan Tai AKA Thailand Cafe. I can't remember where else i've seen it.

                                  1. re: KWagle
                                    h
                                    hargau Sep 20, 2010 04:29 PM

                                    I just polished off the leftovers. After we left last night we noticed a icecream place about a block up the road "Mac's Dairy Farm". They serve Richardson's icecream so we had to stop. At that point we were both ready to burst.

                                    1. re: KWagle
                                      9
                                      9lives Sep 20, 2010 06:52 PM

                                      Sichuan Garden in Brookline Village.....http://sichuangarden2.com/dinner.shtml

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

                                2. d
                                  Dinsdale45 Nov 3, 2010 12:08 PM

                                  Just had another very good meal here. The Sichuan fish filets in hot sauce, dry dried chicken with chiles, and dan dan noodles were damn tasty. Our Chinese DCs ordered a couple of items off the non-English menu, a thin-sliced pork belly /garlic/leek dish and steamed fresh young bamboo (?-they called it bamboo but it didn't look like bamboo to me) which were both excellent.

                                  18 Replies
                                  1. re: Dinsdale45
                                    justbeingpolite Nov 3, 2010 02:19 PM

                                    Did it look anything like this?

                                     
                                    1. re: justbeingpolite
                                      d
                                      Dinsdale45 Nov 3, 2010 02:55 PM

                                      No, it looked like pale green chunks, like a cross between celery and melon.

                                      1. re: Dinsdale45
                                        justbeingpolite Nov 3, 2010 03:00 PM

                                        hmmm,
                                        how 'bout this:

                                         
                                        1. re: justbeingpolite
                                          d
                                          Dinsdale45 Nov 4, 2010 06:31 AM

                                          Nope. I just pushed my Chinese friends to identify what we ate. Apparently, it was a mix of bamboo fungus (the whitish pieces) and "towel" or "loofah" gourds (green pieces). Doesn't sound very appetizing, but it was good.

                                           
                                          1. re: Dinsdale45
                                            StriperGuy Nov 4, 2010 06:38 AM

                                            Gosh I LOVE that dish! Love it.

                                            Can't remember where I've had it in Boston.

                                            1. re: StriperGuy
                                              Nab Nov 4, 2010 06:53 AM

                                              New Shanghai does a very fine job with this dish, though I'm not sure it looks as pretty as what Dinsdale's got up there - is that from Top Gahden ?

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

                                              1. re: Nab
                                                d
                                                Dinsdale45 Nov 4, 2010 07:10 AM

                                                That's a web image, but our stuff looked very much like that.

                                              2. re: StriperGuy
                                                tatsu Nov 4, 2010 07:59 AM

                                                Spicepepper Garden in Acton does this as well. I like it, the texture is just right, somewhere betweeen bitter melon and squash. And bamboo pith/fungus is always great, I like in soups as well.

                                                -----
                                                Spicepepper Garden
                                                36 Great Rd, Acton, MA 01720

                                                1. re: tatsu
                                                  h
                                                  hargau Nov 4, 2010 09:31 AM

                                                  What else do you get at spicegarden? We have been twice and after the last time decided there was no reason to return.. Thoroughly unimpressed with everything we have tried. Last time we had dandan noodles that tasted like a box of spaghetti from marketbasket with a little bland sauce on them.. Some cold "spicy" chicken dish that tasted like bbq sauce.. dumplings that clearly came straight from the freezer aisle. It was sad..

                                                  1. re: hargau
                                                    Luther Nov 4, 2010 10:26 AM

                                                    barilla or dececco?

                                                    1. re: hargau
                                                      f
                                                      frond Nov 4, 2010 02:03 PM

                                                      I recently went there with Chinese colleagues. I asked what they would recommend and two of them said the sushi. Out of the 4 dishes I have had I only liked the eggplant with garlic sauce.

                                                      1. re: hargau
                                                        tatsu Nov 4, 2010 04:51 PM

                                                        well it's not the greatest. but they do run specials and some are pretty good. while i do not eat meat, i like some fish dishes.

                                                        here's a review with pics. http://www.areyoueye.com/a/index.php?...

                                                    2. re: StriperGuy
                                                      c
                                                      cambridgedoctpr Nov 4, 2010 01:01 PM

                                                      I love this dish, too, and get it at Thailand Cafe; it is done very well.

                                                    3. re: Dinsdale45
                                                      galangatron Nov 4, 2010 07:11 AM

                                                      the green vegetable is loofah. sometimes referred to as "chinese okra" on restaurant menus. thailand cafe on mass ave in cambridge has a nice version of this dish

                                                      1. re: galangatron
                                                        GretchenS Nov 4, 2010 01:53 PM

                                                        We've had something called "Chinese okra" at Chili Garden and really loved it.

                                                        1. re: GretchenS
                                                          KWagle Nov 5, 2010 08:02 PM

                                                          I have no idea why anyone would think to call it "Chinese okra" but they do. (It's in several dictionaries that way.) As anyone who has eaten it would know, it's nothing like okra, and a lot like other bottle gourds such as cucumber.

                                                          The Chinese name for the so-called bamboo fungus,竹笙, does in fact include the word bamboo, but AFAIK (unlike, say, corn smut) the fungus has no relation to actual bamboo plants. I like it a lot. Wikipedia has a useful article, which is actually much more on-topic than the part I excepted below. :D

                                                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phallus_...

                                                          "According to a 2001 publication in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, the smell of the fresh fungus can trigger spontaneous orgasms in human females. In the trial involving 16 women, 6 had orgasms while smelling the fruit body, and the other ten, who received smaller doses, experienced physiological changes such as increased heart rate. All of the 20 men tested considered the smell disgusting. According to the authors, the results suggest that the hormone-like compounds present in the volatile portion of the gleba may have some similarity to human neurotransmitters released in females during sexual activity. The study used the species found in Hawaii, not the variety cultivated in China."

                                                          1. re: KWagle
                                                            d
                                                            Dinsdale45 Nov 6, 2010 05:25 AM

                                                            Reminds me of "When Harry Met Sally".

                                                            "I'll have what she's having".

                                                            1. re: KWagle
                                                              StriperGuy Nov 6, 2010 09:11 AM

                                                              I find that publication suspect at best, absurd actually. More likely just a little mythology reinforced with a spurious publication.

                                                              Ironically I have seen stinkhorn (though not long net stinkhorn) mushrooms growing around fresh pond and they do have a rather suggestive appearance.

                                                              The one I saw looked more like this:

                                                              http://bugguide.net/images/raw/IKCK4K...

                                              3. Ferrari328 Apr 21, 2011 07:19 AM

                                                Having been for lunch here numerous times, time for an update. Very friendly service, place is still neat and clean. Most Friday's at lunch VERY busy, some days with 3 round tables filled.
                                                Food.. They have two versions of the Kung Pao Chicken, one standard American and one Chinese version. The Chinese version comes with a big heaping of the fried red chillies. Delicious!
                                                Tried the General Tso's Chicken and it was well executed but a bit light on the chicken content.
                                                Twice Cooked Pork Belly with Spicy Capsicum. I have had a problem with this dish since day one since it completely lacking the Capsicum and I have discussed this with the owners and the only thing that happened was that it did come out with Thai birdeye chillies. When I recently ordered it again, no chillies and two (2) black beans. It should really be described as Twice cooked pork with leeks and be marked as non spicy on the menu.
                                                Shredded pork with Bamboo shot is marked as spicy on the menu but it's not. However ordering it spicy get you a delicious spicy dish that I really like.
                                                Chengdu Fried Dry Hot Chicken. Delicious and a favorite!
                                                Smoky Hot Shredded Beef with Cayenne Chili is not hot and completely lacks the Cayenne. Ordered it after talking to the owner to make sure that the English translation was accurate but it did come with the ubiquitous Thai Birdseyes and no Cayenne.
                                                Sichuan style Tofu with Minced Pork. Excellent!
                                                Sichuan beef noodle soup, Pork Pickle Noodle Soup and Spaghetti in Fried Been Sauce (Really Noodles with Peking Sauce) has all been removed from the lunch menu (still printed but whited out on some menus) but are all excellent. At $7.25 on the regular menu still a very good deal.
                                                You can skip the included app and order soup instead and the Hot and Sour soup is really good. I like how all the veggies in the soup are minced, gives it a nice crunch!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Ferrari328
                                                  Ferrari328 May 18, 2011 12:00 PM

                                                  New owners as of very recently and according to him, same chef. Prices will go down, hopefully the quality will stay the same. Most dishes will come in a small or big size and the specials will still be there and I noticed the the special appetizers also went down in price. For lunch you now get soup AND appetizer. They also take American Express that the previous owner nixed despite AE sign being on the door. I also spoke about the missing capsicum in the pork belly dish, hopefully something will happen. Also mentioned the missing Cayenne chili in the Hot Shredded beef.
                                                  I will also, again, give them a copy of lipoff's translation of the specials so they can put the english translation on the handout. Just plain silly not to do it.

                                                2. q
                                                  qianning Feb 20, 2012 02:25 PM

                                                  Whatever this place was like in previous days/earlier incarnations at this point it is atrocious. We had a truly miserable lunch there today.

                                                  The dining room had the feel of a place that is losing money and cutting serious corners, you know like there was no heat, no napkins, and grunginess everywhere. As for the food, spicy wantons the texture of cardboard, eggplant cooked in oil that had seen way better days, and a tilapia that tasted more of mud and dirty tank water than fish. Dreadful, just dreadful.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: qianning
                                                    lipoff Feb 20, 2012 02:44 PM

                                                    =(

                                                    1. re: lipoff
                                                      s
                                                      seek6 Mar 2, 2012 02:37 PM

                                                      New owner as of April 2011
                                                      http://articles.boston.com/2011-12-28...

                                                      1. re: seek6
                                                        KWagle Mar 5, 2012 02:10 AM

                                                        The text of that review is eerily familiar. I believe I read it a few years ago. Can anyone confirm this?

                                                  2. Ferrari328 Apr 25, 2012 12:12 PM

                                                    Bye Kevin who took the place over a year ago is now history and there is new ownership, since a couple of weeks back. Ordered the Bamboo Shots with Shredded pork for takeout today and when I asked for the green peppers to be added confusion ensured. Kevin used to throw in finely sliced thai peppers for me to make it spicy but today I ended up with red and green peppers. Still was decent dish and the Hot and Sour soup was much improved and really nice. Best of luck to the new owners.

                                                    http://thedailylunch-woburn.blogspot....

                                                     
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