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Has Sichuan Garden in Woburn gotten even better?

justbeingpolite May 20, 2013 07:35 AM

I was in the camp of preferring Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica, but went last night and had a great meal. Standouts were :
Chonqing (sp?) dry fried chicken. The bits were more tender than i remembered, and make the dry fried chicken at SGourmet seem a little dried out, plus they seemed better seasoned under the coating.
Crispy Fish Filet with Sichuan Chilli-Minced Pork- awesome
Ma Po Tofu- I've always preferred this here. Lots of ma with their la (or vice versa, I always forget)
The only thing I didn't love were the dan dan noodles, I prefer em cold and with the smaller vermicelli al dente noodles.
Add this to the great bar, two Trader Vic's Mai Tai's may have colored my opinion, and the fact that they do better Americanized chinese dishes for the less adventurous kids, girlfriends, out of town guests, and you have a real winner. Also the rooms are sooo much nicer.
Anyone else feeling a rise n the status of this place?

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  1. lipoff May 20, 2013 09:28 AM

    I think the Chongqing Dry Fried Chicken is the best dish at Sichuan Garden. I find that the Woburn location is better than the Brookline location.

    I think overall Red Peppers is the best Sichuan restaurant in the Boston area, but Red Peppers, Sichuan Gourmet, Sichuan Garden and Chili Garden each have their own strengths. Other restaurants, such as Fuloon, Mulan, Jo Jo Taipei, and Zoe's also do some truly excellent Sichuan dishes.

    2 Replies
    1. re: lipoff
      KWagle May 20, 2013 11:14 PM

      Are you referring to the truly fabulous house special version of the Chongqing dish, which comes in a wire rack lined with foil so the oil can drip out, or a more conventional version? (Is there a more conventional version? the reason I ask is because I thought their special dish had a different name.)

      1. re: KWagle
        justbeingpolite Aug 30, 2013 04:55 PM

        Just had that for the first time the other night, really a nice dish. Thanks for pointing it out KWagle, it's sometimes hard to track things on their menu, as some things appear several times, and some only once, as the house special Chongqing chicken. The rack is nice, and the peanuts are also interesting, and not in the conventional version, which has the name Chongqing (I didn't think the house special had the name, though I can't be sure cause I can't find it on the on-line menu)

        Edit: I just found it, it's called, simply "special dry chicken"

    2. yarm Sep 1, 2013 10:52 AM

      We love going there and sitting at the bar when Ran Duan is at the bar. Despite being out in the 'burbs, his bartending level is comparable if not higher than many of the well known establishments in town.

      While I find the vegetarian menu items to be little more than vegetable side dishes, they seem pretty willing to do chef's whim with tofu. Just careful answering "is spicy ok?" for they take their red pepper heat seriously. Otherwise, I have been quite pleased with everything I have had there.

      http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com

      1. StriperGuy Feb 12, 2014 02:24 PM

        Ate lunch their this week and had the Sichuan Duck with Black Tofu (which was I believe mung bean jelly... pale green semi-translucent jelly with black spots in it).

        Dish was generally delicious though in my book could have been even spicier.

        16 Replies
        1. re: StriperGuy
          r
          RoyRon Feb 12, 2014 03:42 PM

          The so called "Black Tofu" is actually a type of yam that in English is sometimes called Devil's Tongue. It is usually more well known by the Japanese name which is konnayku. It's very popular in Japan but I have always found it to be relatively tasteless on its own.

          1. re: RoyRon
            MC Slim JB Feb 12, 2014 03:58 PM

            Ah, Amorphophallus konjac, one of the least-appetizing-sounding, ahem, members of the plant kingdom. I prefer its alternate name, "voodoo lily". The Japanese also process it into "noodle" form as shirataki, likewise bland and gelatinous. It is not one of my favorite things. Mrs. MC uses a purified powder form of its main ingredient, glucomannan, to thicken her breakfast smoothies. I think of it as East Asian Metamucil.

            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

            1. re: MC Slim JB
              r
              RoyRon Feb 12, 2014 04:11 PM

              Hi MC. Voodoo Lily and Devil's Tongue both sound like male performance enhancement products. I have eaten it in many different forms in Japan and friends there used to tell me that it "cleanses" your kidneys but I never felt any different after having eaten it.

              1. re: RoyRon
                MC Slim JB Feb 12, 2014 04:28 PM

                I've seen many health claims ascribed to it in herbal medicine. I definitely believe it relieves constipation. They make a fancy cosmetic sponge from it somehow that I am told is very soft.

                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com

              2. re: MC Slim JB
                scoopG Feb 13, 2014 06:47 AM

                Its from a tropical plant (Amorphophallus rivieri) known in Chinese as 魔芋 mó yù or 蒟蒻 jǔ ròu and sometimes seen on menus as konjac.

                 
                1. re: MC Slim JB
                  tatsu Feb 16, 2014 09:59 PM

                  It somewhat bland but Japanese Konnyaku has an acquired taste/smell that is a bit grown up, like bamboo shoots. It's most commonly sold in thin block form and sliced for dishes like Oden or simmered foods, where it combines very well with other root vegetables. One of the more common presentations is to make an incision in the middle and turn one end inside the hole to make it twirl, it pretty much will seize in shape as it simmers. It is firm, but not quite as firm as jellyfish. I was always told it is was a yam. I believe the Shirataki noodles that are becoming popular with dieters in the US are probably new adaptations to be odorless, but I've never tried them. There is no way you'd want to make pasta with traditional konjac noodles.

                  I'd say Natto, Konnyaku, and Bamboo Shoots might be some of the top items on a list of acquired tastes for westerners that are commonly found in Japanese cooking. Maybe Uni too, but most people who embrace Japanese food love it. I really like Natto, but a lot of Japanese don't even care for it.

                  Konnyaku is very common but it is rarely served by itself nor is it a staple by any means unlike say, Cassava. (Itself somewhat notable because of its extremely low protein component, so much that children in Western Africa sometimes are protein deficient, the only populations to ever suffer it. Protein deficiency is nearly impossible otherwise.)

                  1. re: tatsu
                    MC Slim JB Feb 17, 2014 06:22 AM

                    I get the difficulty with natto and konnyaku, and might add stinky tofu to this list (something I happen to like), durian (which I don't, though the previously-frozen fruit we get here is far less powerful than the fresh version I first sampled overseas), and maybe jellyfish (another textural issue I've come around on).

                    But bamboo shoots? The better local Sichuan places serve fresh bamboo shoots, and I wonder who would find them challenging. Are you referring to some kind of fermented product, or is what we get here somehow lacking in distinctive aromas?

                    http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                    1. re: MC Slim JB
                      Nab Feb 17, 2014 08:07 AM

                      There are preps of bamboo shoots across SE-Asia that I often find more challenging than stinky tofu. Sometimes they're dried bamboo shoots that, when reconstituted, really express a funky musty odor. Similar to certain dried chiles or mushrooms (reconstituting chile pasados this past weekend made for helluva stanky valentines). There are also pickled bamboo shoots, like 'sup nor mai' (Issan style salad), which I don't even really order much because it's usually too much funkenstank.

                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                        tatsu Feb 17, 2014 11:05 AM

                        Those are pretty yummy the young ones marinated in chili oil. The smell of fresh raw bamboo shoots or even canned ones are not familiar to westerners. I would say it's similar to asparagus or artichokes, primitive vegetables that are off-putting to many.

                  2. re: RoyRon
                    StriperGuy Feb 13, 2014 02:04 AM

                    Thanks for the education Roy and MC. I liked the texture which is all the Konjac really had going for it.

                    1. re: StriperGuy
                      lipoff Feb 15, 2014 04:34 PM

                      Red Peppers does a nice version of this dish as well.

                      1. re: lipoff
                        tatsu Feb 16, 2014 10:03 PM

                        Not to be nitpicky, but I think they go by "Red Pepper". Sichuan restaurants seem to have peaked a couple years ago, but Red Pepper and Sichuan Gourmet Woburn remain two of my favorites.

                        1. re: tatsu
                          h
                          hyde Feb 17, 2014 01:07 AM

                          Red Peppers
                          " Noodles with stewed beef in house spicy soup"
                          is still the best soup for cold weather sickness in the Boston area.

                          1. re: hyde
                            t
                            Taralli Feb 17, 2014 04:31 AM

                            Red Pepper, Framingham
                            Red Peppers, Somerville

                            1. re: Taralli
                              h
                              hyde Feb 17, 2014 07:38 AM

                              Sorry. You are correct, meant to write "Red Pepper's".

                              Red Pepper in Framingham was my intent.

                          2. re: tatsu
                            lipoff Feb 22, 2014 06:45 AM

                            Not nitpicky at all, you are quite right!

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