Globe NorthWest Dining out

From tame to exotic, Sichuan dishes delight

Diners braving the winter chill can warm up with diced chicken fried with chili peppers. Diners braving the winter chill can warm up with diced chicken fried with chili peppers.
December 28, 2008
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Sichuan Palace
7 Summer St., Chelmsford
Telephone: 978-256-8545
Open Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. ,Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m.- 10:30 p.m.
All major credit cards accepted for purchases of $15 or more
5 percent discount available on all orders paid by cash
Handicapped accessible
Takeout available

Need to escape the winter chill? Head out to Sichuan Palace in Chelmsford, where an eclectic blend of contemporary Asian fusion creations and traditional Chinese-American dishes will delight the senses and warm the soul - and at prices that won't break the budget.

Open since July, this cozy spot offers a range of Asian dishes in a dining room designed by a feng shui master to complement the theme of peace and harmony. The room, awash in earth-tone hues, offers patrons respite from the hustle and bustle of passing traffic on busy Summer Street.

Sichuan Palace's menu is extensive, including soups, seafood dishes, beef, pork, and poultry options, as well as a plethora of vegetable dishes. Many of the entrees are traditionally Sichuan, featuring flavors both hot and spicy, while others cater to the American palate.

My husband and I decided to be adventurous and try a bit of both. For starters, we ordered vegetarian spring rolls ($4). They were crisp and flavorful, featuring bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, and shredded cabbage and carrots.

Diners looking to try something a bit more exotic should sample the kidney with garlic ($7), a pork kidney sliced and served cold with a spicy garlic sauce.

Many of the dishes here feature traditional Asian spices, such as cumin, lemongrass, and chili pepper. All are created with homemade sauces by chef Rongfu Shao. Shao, who was trained in China, worked in restaurants in Los Angeles and Miami before settling in New England.

"A lot of Chinese restaurants use premade sauces, but we prefer to create our own," said Ying Han, who with her husband, Hui Wang, runs the restaurant. Wang owns Sichuan Palace with two partners: Shao and Bo Yu.

The business partners take pride in using only the freshest ingredients in their dishes, which are large, making it possible for diners to share.

Of the entrees we tried, our favorite was chicken with broccoli ($11.50). It stood out for its tender chicken and perfectly cooked broccoli. The secret: The chicken was boiled whole, leaving the meat so tender it literally slipped off the bone at the slightest touch.

My husband also raved about his sesame beef ($13), which featured deep-fried beef cooked to order. The chef prepares each dish individually, making it possible to accommodate diners' requests. My husband asked for a spicy entr??e, and was not disappointed. He was, however, a bit surprised that the beef was crispy, with a texture that reminded him of General Tso's chicken.

Those looking for a unique Sichuan dish can try offerings such as jellyfish, frog legs, and oxtail. There are also a number of house specials - from whole flounder in spicy bean sauce ($16) to braised pork hock in a brown sauce ($13) - that will appeal to more adventurous diners, as well as those seeking traditional Sichuan fare.

"All of our house specials are traditional Sichuan dishes that you can't find anywhere else in the suburbs," said Han. "The skill of our chef makes it possible for us to offer these dishes, which are really only found in Boston's Chinatown."

As at many Asian restaurants, the dessert options are limited. We passed up the opportunity to try poached egg in fermented rice soup ($5) or sweet potato cakes ($5) in favor of an old standard: vanilla ice cream ($4). It was creamy and smooth, the perfect ending to a memorable meal.


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