HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >


Chilli Garden?

I can't find a recent post on Chilli Garden in Medford Square - I think the most recent is from 2008.

I live nearby but have never been - what should I order? I know to stick to the Szechuan side of the menu, but that's it. I have no idea what the difference is between Dry Diced Chicken With Green Peppers, Chicken With Three Kinds Of Peppers, or Shredded Chicken With Green Peppers (for example). I'm okay with spicy, but want to avoid the spiciest things on the menu.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Most of my favorites there are quite spicy (like ma po tofu), but one non-spicy item I highly recommend is the appetizer, bamboo shoots with sesame oil. These are fresh bamboo shoots, not canned ones. My wife, who is not into super spicy, likes the crispy chicken with basil leaves and fish fillet with mustard green soup. The Sichuan style pork dumplings are not TOO spicy and are quite good. My kids can handle those.

    1. I don't think you really need to worry about the spiciness of it, nothing I've ever ordered has exceeded the 'mild burn' category.

      Just looking over my foodler records, some of the things I've been ordering a lot lately:

      sichuan dumpling
      thick noodles with cold chili sauce
      tender tofu w/ sichuan pickles
      ma po
      house special chix w/ dry diced peppers
      beef w/ napa and chili powder (this is water cooked beef)
      pork w/ leeks & sichuan bean sauce
      pork in vinegar & sweet sauce

      2 Replies
      1. re: jgg13

        If you don't think anything there is too spicy, I'm guessing you haven't tried the "wonton soup with chili sauce and vinegar"? I have a very high tolerance for spiciness, but it even makes me cough. It's delicious though- full of garlic, black vinegar, and a thick chili oil layer on top. Also love the chicken with mustard greens (pickled) and green pepper. They are by far my favorite Szechuan restaurant.

        1. re: erfer007

          We get that it with nearly order, I find it to be sweet, really.

          I'm not saying that nothing has heat but I've yet to have anything there Really Hot, but outside of ECG hell nights that rarely happens around here.

          A telltale sign is when mrs jgg13 hiccups. Id say once every few orders she'll hiccup, often from the cold noodles.

          I prefer the bellerica Sichuan gourmet but this is my 2nd favorite

      2. My favorites:
        Sichuan Style Pork Dumpling
        Tender Tofu with Sichuan Pickles
        Double-Cooked Pork Belly
        House Special Chicken with Dry Pepper
        Ma Po Tofu with Minced Beef

        My wife finds the sauce that the pork dumplings are in to be a little too spicy.

        Warning: we got the Sichuan cold noodles a couple times because it was a free special through Foodler, and though they were very tasty (and spicy), we both spent a lot of time in the bathroom the next day, both times. I don't know if it's just some personal reaction, but there it is.

        3 Replies
        1. re: dfan

          I get those noodles with every Foodler order ere due t the special and we've never had such issues. I do enjoy those noodles. It's not uncommon for those to end up being the spiciest thing they give us (going back to very little is truly hot)

          1. re: jgg13

            Also love those noodles, I get the version with chicken for a light lunch (no issues). That same sort of vinegar/soy/chili dressing appears in a lot of the appetizers, from the beef, tripe & tendon to the chickren & green pepper salad, and those do tend to be the spicier dishes in my experience. Heat tolerance varies so much, but I've found the chicken with 3 peppers pretty reliably very spicy. Dishes with spicy green peppers get most of the kick from the peppers, so it varies a bit. The house made sausage is pretty mild and quite good. Lamb with leeks and homemade bacon with leeks aren't spicy at all, just tasty. I also like the aromatic duck breast, which isn't spicy either.

            1. re: Aromatherapy

              aroma, you had me at Aromatic Duck. Despite living 10 minutes away, we hadn't been to Chili Garden in years. In fact, their neon window sign is so small we drove right past it the first go tonight.
              As usual, we had to try a lot of things but we are not the fire hounds that most of you seem to be. Our results:
              Kung pao Tofu This was a real epiphany for me. I have never had tofu this good. It was like fried soft puffy clouds. What a shame to dominate it with mundane celery. Maybe i could ask them to sub pea greens or watercress for the celery next time. Despite the blackened red chiles, this had no heat (which is fine for us, but fyi ) This is a dish I would drive a long way for.

              Eggplant w/ Garlic - soft and silky baby ppl eggplants. Not too sweet or salty.

              Aromatic duck (nothing uniquely identifiable for flavoring but moist roasted duck half)
              (BTW, this is listed last under Szechuan Specialty Apps.)

              V Good
              Beef Chow Fun
              Crispy Chicken w/ Basil (not as crispy as fried chicken and not much basil flavor; more like salt and pepper chicken in little squigly julienne pieces )

              Not so keen:
              Wild Fern with Pork - this was tooooo hot for us. They are , however, one of the few places doing much with fern, i believe. (Mulan too. it comes pickled in plastic bags;tastes kind of woodsy and has a neat crunch to it. i've bought it at 88 iirc. The Japanese call it zenmai.)

              Bamboo Shoot with Sesame Oil- what a pretty dish- they shave it like wide white noodles. Very fresh and tender.I think I just don't care for the vegetable, but it can be a nice refreshing complement to the spicy dishes.

        2. Chili Garden is great. I miss living nearby.

          Cilantro & Pepper Salad
          Beef Toungue with Peppercorn oil (not spicy)
          Shredded pork tripe with chili oil
          Dan Dan noodles
          Double cooked pork belly
          Ma Po Tofu

          2 Replies
          1. re: joth68

            Chilli Garden is luscious! I agree on double cooked pork belly and mapo tofu. We're also fans of the creamy spicy shrimp. I can't find it on the menu now, but if you ask for it, they will have it.

            1. re: Swankalicious

              swank, could you describe that shrimp dish more plse?

          2. I find Chili Garden to be generally fantastic. In fact, it is probably my favorite Sichuan food in the Boston area. Two standouts are worth a mention: their chicken w/ house-made pickles and their mapo tofu.

            1 Reply
            1. re: dlieb

              I don't get there as often as I like, and it's hard to claim I have a favorite place, but I do think there's more subtlety to their flavoring than any of the other places in the area.

            2. We live pretty close to Chilli Garden (CG) and it is a lot closer than Fuloon, which has been our go-to ever since the CH event there years ago. But at CG I have a dilemna, the same dilemna i face in some other Chinese restaurants: I (we) do enjoy spicy/hot food, but not crazy spicy/hot. And many reviewers (and myself) have encountered some pretty crazy hot cooking there. I always keep in mind our singular 5-years-ago experience at JoJoTaipei where, after rave CH reviews, we spent some $40-50, and walked out of the restaurant, having tasted every dish ordered, but having eaten nothing, because we were unable to handle their standard for hot/spicy.

              A number of Yelp reviewers counsel people to only order 'off the Szechuan side of the Chilli Garden menu' because the American side is meh to o.k. Personally, I think that's unfair to the restaurant and the eater alike. Like most Chinese restaurants, the owners of CG want you to be happy, and they adjust their dishes if you ask. There is, of course, the possibility that they will overreact, or translate incorrectly to the chef, in which case you can reach for your chili oil. Certainly not ideal, but sometimes it takes a few times for you to explain it better.
              So, given all that, i have been exploring the CG menu, asking for ' spicy but medium spicy'. I'm getting closer.

              Recent dishes:

              --Shredded Potato in sour and spicy flavor - Looking a bit like white lo mein, these are very simply cooked with chicken stock and vinegar and sliced shishito peppers. Crunchy and very refreshing; makes good partner for various meat dishes.

              --Shredded Beef w/Green peppers - Seriously lacked oomph in a way that I don't think red chiles could make up for.

              -- Twice Cooked Pork Belly w/ Leeks- big slices of fresh pork belly (think bacon but not smoky). Nicely balanced flavors.

              -- Deep fried Pork(Tenderloin fingers) in Vinegar and Sweet Sauce. Imagine sweet and sour pork with pork fingers, no coloring in the sauce, and vinegar mitigating the sweetness in the thin glaze.

              --Watercress w/ Garlic; Pea Tendrils w/ Garlic - simple and fine

              --Sweet and Sour Green Green Cabbage - I love a few of the Fuloon dishes with vinegar, and I wanted to see what this was like compared with a F fav of mine, Sour and Spicy Mandarin Cabbage. Different dishes, different cabbage. CG is standard cole-slaw cabbage, cooked with vinegar and a soy based sauce w/ red chiles. Very refreshing and , while not silky and unctuous like the F napa cabbage, still very worth ordering.

              --Kung Pao Tofu- no heat and seriously lacked oomph.

              --Beef Noodle Soup- maybe this is an acquired taste, like Marmite or Natto, but we managed to scrape off about 1 Tablespoon of beef from the abundance of intestines? silver? chewy fat? No veggies, tons of thin vermicelli noodles. I spent quite a long time doctoring this one.

              --Crab Rangoon- These are disappointingly crab-skimpy and it is still worth our while to make a separate trip for these to the (otherwise awful) Shanghai Village in Arlington Center.

              Many CHs and Yelpers have lauded CG cold noodles and dandan noodles and many others of their Szechuan appetizers. Have you tried some entrees and veggies to add to this? Ribs, Double Cooked, Catfish, Mooshi, Mongolian, Hot Pot Sauce? This menu really is HUGE!


              8 Replies
              1. re: opinionatedchef

                It's possible that your requested modifications are having a negative effect, it's not always "hold he red chile". If they're the ones I'm thinking of, neither the shredded beef nor the Kung Pao should be viewed as "lacked oomph", doubly so of one has a bit of a heat aversion.

                CG is one of the few places I've found that can actually bring some heat without having tondo the super duper secret handshake, fwiw.

                With the exception of some apps and the occasional americhinese wonton soup (there's a separate one in the sichuan menu) I stick completely with the sichuan menu. A recent fave has been a pork dish w/ chile and beam sauce. But I can't think of anything I've consistently disliked, although many things have visit to visit quality variation. Based on my foodler history, in terms of mains the most frequent things I ordered over the last year have been that pork dish, the water cooked dishes and the house special chix. I did spot a couple that I remember not liking - the beef & bean sprout hot pot and the Taiwanese basil chix

                1. re: jgg13

                  Agree. Note that the Kung Pao tofu is off the "Mandarin" menu so it probably never had much oomph. I've been sticking with the Sichuan menu since they opened and the owner (!) steered me away from the "American" side (though I've shared dishes from that side that were perfectly ok to pretty good).

                  1. re: Aromatherapy

                    Ah, I assumed it would be exactly the same thing as the kung pao chix but w/ tofu instead. I'm pretty sure that they have multiple items which live in both sections, I've often wondered if they actually would end up preparing them differently if you explicitly ordered one or the other. I suspect not.

                2. re: opinionatedchef

                  Taste is so personal. I have never had a dish at JoJo Taipei that is super hot (not their style of cooking in my experience nor typical of the Taiwanese food I've had, though I'm not at all an expert). I have had Szichuan dishes that are beyond my tolerance for heat so I tread more carefully there.

                  1. re: teezeetoo

                    I was thinking something similar. I've never been to JJT but I don't associate extremely spicy dishes w/ taiwanese cuisine, particularly not if one isn't explicitly trying hard to find it. That's why I was wondering if perhaps their requesting a milder form of the dish is leading to the cooks just rolling their eyes and giving them a very toned down version across the board.

                    1. re: jgg13

                      I concur. Nothing I've had at JJT has been noticeably hot (though some things are spicy in other ways.) And I do have to wonder if asking for non-hot food gets things toned down across the board: for example, the shredded beef with shredded green peppers that I'm familiar with uses long-horn pepper, which can be quite hot. If you made that with bell peppers, it would indeed lack all its oomph, none of which (IME) comes from red peppers.

                      (It's certainly true that asking for hotter food can result in equally unbalanaced dishes.)

                      1. re: KWagle

                        100% agree on your last point BTW. There are all sorts of things where I was certain I was simply not doing the right secret incantation for getting the heat and then I finally did and realized that it completely unbalanced the flavors.

                        My #1 example of that was chacarero where I kept increasing the number of "extra" I'd put before "hot" and then finally just got a container of their hot sauce and slathered the thing ... yeah it was hot but I realized I should be careful what I wish for.

                    2. re: teezeetoo

                      Yes, I was so baffled by that description of super hot dishes at Jo Jo Taipei that I half wondered whether opinionatedchef was confusing them with a different restaurant. Not least because her original review mentions no such problem: