Spicy Sichuan at Chili Garden (天府酒家) in Milpitas
Not to be confused with the “original” Chili Garden in Fremont, a new Sichuan style restaurant has opened in the popular Milpitas Square shopping center, arguably the largest Chinese shopping center in the San Francisco bay area.
My friends and I decided to put this place through its paces during lunch. First dish was the “Ants Climbing Tree” (螞蟻上樹; Starch Noodles with Minced Pork on menu). This dish should be DRY, but somehow Chili Garden’s version was wet with sauce. It is more befitting of the name “Ants Drowning in Sea”. This was the least popular dish of the meal.
Next came the “Water Boiled Fish” (水煮魚; Boiled Fish Fillet in Fiery Sauce), one of the classic dish that I use to measure a restaurant’s Sichuan prowess. It is fish fillet on top of abed of cabbage, all drenched in spicy, hot chili oil, and then topped with extra red pepper flakes and Sichuan peppercorns, which gives the signature numbing, “mala” sensation. The fish here is pretty fresh and the flavors were right on with the right balance of spiciness and numbness.
Another classic dish is the Chongqing-style Spicy Chicken (重慶辣子雞). It consists of deep fried pieces of bone-in chicken wings dry-fried with spicy hot dry red chili. The spicy flavors and the fried chicken pieces really work well together. This is a dish that is popular with anyone who can handle spicy food.
Cumin Lamb (孜然羊肉) is a popular dish found in Sichuan as well as Islamic-Chinese restaurants due to the influence from central Asia. The lamb here is from lamb rack/rib portions instead of just meat. It was tender and tasty without being gamey. The cumin flavor is not as strong as those that I’ve tried at other places.
Pork with Wood Ear (Mushrooms) was surprisingly good. The pork were in large slices and pefectly tender and flavorful. The wood ear mushrooms really complimented the pork in a nice savory sauce.
Steamed Flounder with Red Pepper (跺椒龍利) was just ok as the red, hot broth sort of over-powered any of the flavor of the flounder.
Last up was the only veggie dish of the day, and not very “veggie” at that. Chinese Celery with Dry Tofu was your standard typical stir-fry of dried tofu slices and Chinese celery.
W also received a free Sesame Bread with our lunch. It was baked very nicely with golden crust. However, I did not finish my piece as it was a little dry and did not have enough scallions as I liked. Also I was pretty stuffed from the rest of the dishes.
The menu also lists many specialties such as deer meat and Northern style dim sum items such as Green Onion Pan Cake, Chives Cakes, and even Zha Jiang Mian (Old Peking Style Noodle). So although the place is supposed to be Sichuan, it also incorpirates many of the items found at Northern Chinese or Beijing style restaurants.
Also surprisingly most of the items were pretty reasonably priced under $10. With its cheap price, good Sichuan dishes, and a good variety of other items, Chili Garden is defintely worth more trips.
Chili Garden Restaurant (天府酒家)210 Barber Ct
Milpitas, CA 95035