Brookline's Coolidge Corner has a multitude of restaurants, including a number of different ethnic eateries, but it is not the only section of town with lots of dining options. Washington Square, which is just west of Coolidge Corner, also has several places to get a bite to eat. And then there is Brookline Village, which is a short drive (or long walk) south on Harvard Street, and is an area with some real gems, perhaps because it has less foot traffic due in part to its slightly out of the way location. Washington Street, which forks off from Harvard Street in the heart of the village, has a few dining spots that don't get much press, including a Chinese restaurant called Sichuan Garden that has some of the best authentic Sichuan cuisine in the entire Boston area.
Sichuan Garden is located in a strip of businesses that includes another lesser-known dining spot (an absolutely terrific Turkish eatery called Family Restaurant) and is just around the corner from several restaurants that can be found along Harvard Street, including Matt Murphy's, Orinoco, Pomodoro, the Village Smokehouse, and a few other spots. The place is relatively spacious inside, with a small dining room to the left, a few more tables in the middle of the space, and a main dining area to the right, which includes round tables for larger groups. The interior of Sichuan Garden is comfortable and homey, and it is a serene, quiet spot, making it a very good choice for quiet conversation, especially on weeknights when it isn't typically all that busy.
While Sichuan Garden has some familiar Chinese-American dishes, the restaurant's real strength is its authentic Sichuan cuisine. A few appetizers of note include freshly made pork dumplings with a sweat-inducing roasted chili vinaigrette; a similarly hot bowl of dan dan noodles with minced pork and roasted chili vinaigrette that also includes Szechuan peppers that will literally leave your tongue buzzing (they actually cause tingling and numbing in the mouth); thin strips of jellyfish with a scallion pesto; shredded cucumber in a savory garlic sauce; a hot and sour soup that has a nice richness to it in addition to some heat; and a soup that consists of fish filets and pickled mustard greens. Entrees at Sichuan Garden are too numerous to list here, but a few standouts include tender and carmelized baby eggplant in a sauce with lots of garlic and chili oil; delicate glass noodles and minced pork mixed in a sauce that has a mix of heat and that same Szechuan pepper buzz; firmly-textured pan-fried noodles with a mix of tasty seafood items; sauteed beef filets and veggies in a spicy and savory tea sauce; shredded pork in a mild but flavorful garlic sauce; and fluffy, light-tasting fried rice that is nothing like the dried-out brown-colored rice that so many Chinese restaurants serve. Luncheon specials include a variety of combination plates, with one example being egg drop soup, spring rolls, vegetable fried rice, and sliced beef with shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots, all for well under $10.
The Boston area has plenty of excellent Chinese restaurants, but for Sichuan cuisine, this writer is hard-pressed to think of any that are better than Sichuan Garden. For good, solid traditional Chinese fare, this place can simply not be recommended enough. [Ed. note: Another location of Sichuan Garden can be found on Alfred Street in Woburn, just north of the Route 128/38 intersection.]
Copyright © 2010-2014, Boston's Hidden Restaurants (www.hiddenboston.com).