Brookline, MA: Going Meat-Light at Sichuan Garden

Hub Grub

A weekly profile on a favorite New England dish.

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Green Bean Tofu with Roasted Chili Vinaigrette. [Photographs: Liz Bomze]

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sichuan Garden

295 Washington Street, Brookline MA 02445 (map) 617-734-1870; sichuangardenrestaurant.com