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 Sichuan Garden and Blossom Bar a combination Chinese restaurant and cocktail lounge that has some of the best authentic Sichuan cuisine in the entire Boston area--and drinks that are about the best you'll find in the region as well.
Sichuan Garden and Blossom Bar are located in a strip of businesses that includes another lesser-known dining spot (a Turkish eatery called Anatolia that used to be known as 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 Magnolia Smokehouse, and a few other spots. The place is relatively spacious inside, though it feels just a bit tighter than before when it was a rather plain-looking Chinese restaurant without any bar area to speak of; now it includes a bar that takes up much of the left side of the space, while the right side is a partitioned dining area that looks a big more elegant than the original Sichuan Garden. Even though it feels more hip and trendy with the addition of the lounge area, the interior of Sichuan Garden and Blossom Bar is still rather comfortable and homey, and the dining area especially remains a mostly serene, quiet spot, making it a very good choice for quiet conversation, particularly 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 couple of appetizers of note include freshly made pork dumplings with a sweat-inducing roasted chili vinaigrette [ed note: a second view of the pork dumplings] and 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). Entrees at Sichuan Garden include such standouts as tender and carmelized baby eggplant in a sauce with lots of garlic and chili oil; minced pork in a spicy chili sauce; Chinese broccoli with lots of garlic; a deceptively-hot chicken with garlic and wood ear mushrooms; braised beef with Napa cabbage and plenty of heat coming from chili peppers; a house lo mein with the works (shrimp, chicken, beef, and pork); fluffy, light-tasting fried rice that is nothing like the dried-out brown-colored rice that so many Chinese restaurants serve; and Chinese-American comfort food such as hot and sour soup, crab rangoon, chicken fingers, spring rolls, and spare ribs. The bar side of the place is a bit like the Baldwin Bar section of Sichuan Garden in Woburn, but while that spot features award-winning cocktails with some Polynesian leanings, the Blossom Bar leans more toward Latin American-influenced drinks. And what drinks they are; from the sublime Gloria which is literally award-winning (Bacardi Cuatro Anos, passionfruit, lime, cinnamon, coffee, mascarpone) to the refreshing Angie Valencia (Aguardiente, aperol, papaya, kaffir, lemon) to the tropical-tasting Caracas Express (Santa Teresa 1796, Lustau Solera Grand Reserva, brown butter banana, lime), this is by no means your ordinary cocktail bar, as these drinks push the boundaries like few others do. They aren't cheap, but the cocktails here will probably stay in your memory long after you've left the place, much like that of the Baldwin.
In some ways, the previous incarnation of Sichuan Garden in Brookline is missed, as it felt like a comfortable old shoe--and one that served up some fantastic food. But the addition of the Blossom Bar is a net plus, as it adds an exciting new dimension to the place and like the Baldwin Bar, it is really tough to think of other spots that make cocktails this great. Kudos to Ran Duan and everyone involved with the newer and more shiny Sichuan Garden/Blossom Bar, which has the makings of a destination spot even though it remains a hidden gem of sorts.
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