The formerly unknown Sichuan Garden II at the Baldwin in Woburn has been making waves of late, as its bar is considered by many to be one of the top drinking spots in the entire Boston area, thanks in part to its sublime cocktails. The name “Sichuan Garden II” hints at another location, and there indeed is an original spot in Brookline Village that is much different (in some ways) from the one north of Boston. And while the Washington Street eatery might not attract those who love a good pisco punch or a velveteen rabbit, it does attract those who prefer real-deal Szechuan fare to the more common Chinese-American food that’s popular with the late-night crowds and those doing takeout.
While Sichuan Garden II seems to have it all in the atmosphere department—history, romance, charm, coziness, and elegance—the original Sichuan Garden in Brookline is rather plain both inside and out, though it is a comfortable and serene spot, making it perfect for quiet conversation and a relaxed meal. The setup of the interior is rather basic, with a small dining area to the left, a larger dining room to the right, and a few more tables in between—and with nary a bar in sight where people can sit, which makes it a lot different from its sister restaurant in Woburn. The main dining area has large round tables, which help make the place both family friendly and a good spot for social gatherings, and the restaurant is rarely crowded, especially on weeknights.
While the Brookline location of Sichuan Garden does offer a handful of cocktails, the two Sichuan Gardens are worlds apart when it comes to their drinking scenes—mainly because the original location doesn’t have one. But as for dining, the two are a lot more similar, with the menus being almost identical. If you like spicy dishes, the original Sichuan Garden is a dream come true, offering sweat-inducing takes on pork dumplings, dan dan noodles, and glass noodles with minced pork—this last dish creating a literal buzz thanks to the Szechuan peppers that cause a tingling and numbing feel in the mouth. For the less daring, items such as sauteed beef filets and veggies in a savory tea sauce or shredded pork in a relatively mild garlic sauce are offered, while those who want more traditional Chinese items can choose from braised whole fish, lacquered duck, wok-roasted prawns with pepper-spiced salt, and more.
The original Sichuan Garden in Brookline doesn’t quite have the “wow” factor that its newer Woburn spot has, but those who frequent the place don’t seem to mind, as the food is marvelous, the prices are reasonable, and the vibe is pleasant and laid-back. Add to this plenty of parking nearby and a location convenient to Boston (whose border is only a minute away), and you have a nearly ideal spot for those who love good Chinese food.
SICHUAN GARDEN. 295 WASHINGTON ST., BROOKLINE. SICHUANGARDENRESTAURANT.COM
Marc is the founder of @hiddenboston, a textbook editor, a hike leader for @AppMtnClub, and a food and travel writer and commenter for DigBoston, NBC/NECN, WBZ, WMFO and indie617.