A Chinatown Menu Close to Home
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 21:02
Happy Lunar New Year! Although transportation was difficult with the 30+ inches of snow that Nemo dumped on Boston this past weekend, many people still managed to celebrate the New Year with friends, family, and, of course, food. While Chinatown is the go-to destination to satisfy cravings for Chinese food, Brookline houses the delicious destination of Sichuan Gourmet.
Located on 1004-1006 Beacon Street in Brookline, Sichuan Gourmet is a great option for those who lack the time to venture all the way into Chinatown. Only a four-minute walk from the Fenway stop on the D-line, this restaurant offers the same great food you would expect in the heart of Chinatown without the hassle and crowds. Sichuan Gourmet has three other locations in Mass., located in Billerica, Framingham, and Sharon. Despite its multiple locations, however, this restaurant definitely does not have the typical Chinese restaurant chain feel. Like most Chinese restaurants, the decorations and ambiance are traditional and nothing special. The food, however, is what makes this particular restaurant stand out: it is flavorful, varied, and sensitive to the college student budget.
Sichuan is a province located in southwest China, and its food is known for its rich and spicy flavors. The dishes are prepared in a variety of methods including stir-fry, pressure cooked, roasted, boiled, braised, sautéed, steamed, baked, grilled, and more. Needless to say, one can never become bored when dining at a Sichuan restaurant. Sichuan Gourmet has embraced both ancient and modern cooking styles, giving it a diverse and impressive menu.
They offer a huge array of appetizers, main dishes and all of the classic soups. Among the appetizers, the Dan Dan noodles are a must. For only $5.25 you are served a heaping plate full of noodles with spicy chili oil, Sichuan pepper, minced pork, and scallions. While you can order the level of spiciness according to your taste, the Dan Dan noodles is recommended to be spicy because the Sichuan spice and chili oil is where most of the flavor comes from in this dish. In Chinese tradition, noodles represent longevity and are usually ordered for birthdays in order to guarantee a long life.
One thing I love about Sichuan Gourmet is how great it can accommodate large groups, including the restaurant’s willingness to reserve a table for 15. With the lazy susans and a sense of adventure, Sichuan Gourmet is the perfect place to celebrate birthdays or other special occasions. Private function rooms are also available.
Another noteworthy dish is their Ma Po Tofu with minced beef ($10.95). This spicy tofu dish can also be requested vegetarian and is full of flavor either way. The tofu is fresh and soft, cut into small pieces and smothered in a chili and black bean based sauce. What makes Sichuan food unique is the characteristic numbing sensation the peppers induce, and this dish will definitely give you a taste of that sensation.
A fun Chinese New Year tradition is ordering fish. Trying the fish filets with Spicy Chili Sauce ($14.50) is a great way to honor this tradition. If you follow traditions—despite how tasty the fish is—you must resist finishing the whole dish. The fish represents surplus and abundance, as the mandarin words for the two sound similar. The saying goes that, if you finish the whole fish, there will not be any surplus in the upcoming year.
If you are planning to pay a visit to Sichuan Gourmet soon, make sure to order Tangyuan, written on the menu as “Chengdu sweet rice flour balls” ($4.50). This glutinous rice flour dessert is traditionally eaten for the New Year and during the Lantern Festival, a celebration of the first full moon of the New Year. It symbolizes togetherness, as the dessert is as delicious as it is sticky.
Sichuan Gourmet offers a vast array of fish, seafood, beef, pork, chicken, and vegetarian dishes. The best way to do this restaurant justice is to go in a large group and try various dishes family style. For about $15-20 per person after tax and tip—depending on how hungry you and your friends are—you are sure to have an exciting meal full of flavor and variety.