Brookline, MA: Going Meat-Light at Sichuan Garden
Like anyone who enjoys food a bit too much around the holidays, I pledge to clean up my eating habits every January. Smaller portions, fewer carbs, no more eating peanut butter out of the jar, and the classic dieter's vow: less meat, more veggies.
That all sounds pretty glum until I think about eating Chinese food. Sichuan food at Brookline's Sichuan Garden, specifically. Because as much as I love their Chongqing dry-fried chicken and double-cooked bacon, I'm also very satisfied by the produce-heavy options. These dishes are also just a few of the restaurant's underdogs that didn't get shout outs in Kenji's earlier review.
Tofu seems like a misnomer in the Green Bean Tofu with Roasted Chili Vinaigrette ($6.50), though these mung bean starch noodles (known, I believe, as liang fen) are smooth and slippery like bean curd. Here, they're served cold with mung beans, sharp fresh garlic and scallions, and a chili vinaigrette that looks hotter than it is. In fact, vinegar is the predominant flavor here.
Given the amount of oil involved in the House Special Eggplant ($14.95), this dish doesn't qualify as diet-friendly, but since it's one of my all-time favorite Chinese eggplant dishes, I couldn't leave it out: silky rafts of the purple Chinese fruit laden with finely chopped chicken and a garlicky, gingery, scallion-y, salty-sweet sauce.
At some point recently, the Minced Pork with Long String Beans ($11.95) lost a very important part of its name: pickled. Know that these crisp beans are seriously tangy, but the sourness is great with the bits of pork and the (fairly mild) chiles.
Sautéed Shredded Potatoes with Green Peppers ($9.50) is quite possibly the blandest looking Chinese dish I've ever seen, but it's also one of the tastiest. The subtle savory depth is still a mystery to me—is it the wok? a seasoning?—but that flavor combined with the vegetables' al dente bite is delicious.
About the author: Liz Bomze lives in Brookline, MA, and works as the Senior Features Editor for Cook's Illustrated Magazine. In her free time, she freelances regularly for the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, the Improper Bostonian, and Martha's Vineyard Magazine; practices bread-baking and canning; takes photos; reads; and watches baseball. Top 5 foods: fresh noodles, gravlax, sour cherry pie, burrata, ma po tofu.