Where to Blossom Bar, where Brookline Village restaurant Sichuan Garden gets new life with a next-level cocktail bar.
What for Ran Duan’s opera-singer parents opened Sichuan Garden 20 years ago to support the family. Their son, an award-winning bartender, first turned their Woburn restaurant into a craft-cocktail destination, the Baldwin Bar. Now he does the same with the Brookline location, which means there’s another place to eat dan dan noodles and fei tang fish stew while having an expertly composed drink.
The scene A script neon sign reading “Sichuan Garden” marks the spot. Inside, restaurant-industry folks and hipsters cluster at the bar, while families with small children occupy dining-room tables. It’s the changeover hour; although it looks like a different restaurant, Blossom Bar retains Sichuan Garden’s longtime neighborhood clientele. Duan remade the room into a soothing sea of jade green with tin-tile ceiling and potted plants. He greets new arrivals at the host stand as bartenders mix multicolored potions and answer customers’ questions. A server appears with plates of chile-spiked food and bowls of rice, and two women clink glasses in glee.
What you’re eating The new menu has a tighter focus, highlighting Sichuan dishes. Pickles, dumplings, and dry hot chicken wings make excellent bar snacks — but then so do larger dishes like braised fish with Napa cabbage, double-cooked bacon, and eggplant with spicy garlic sauce. If you’re craving beef with broccoli and General Tso’s, fear not: There’s a thoughtful compendium of American Chinese classics at the back of the menu.
Care for a drink? The cocktails at Blossom Bar are designed to pair with the food, and they cut and complement the heat nicely. The Angie Valencia is a fine starting point, made with anise-scented aguardiente, Aperol, papaya, and aromatic citrus. The Broken Spanish — tequila with avocado, coconut, Thai basil, and lime — is rimmed in chapulines, grasshoppers, ground into a powder and mixed with Mexican seasoning. (Can’t get that anywhere else in Brookline.) For something straight to the point, there’s the Palm Viper, an elegant, Manhattan-esque drink of rum, vermouth, and bitters, its citrus-rind garnish neatly trimmed with pinking shears and clipped on with a miniature clothespin.
Overheard Bug talk, cocktail curiosity, speculation about the lives of other patrons. “Excuse me, but what’s this chap-thing on the rim?” one customer asks a bartender, who explains, adding: “It lends a really nice flavor to the drink.” “I’m not sure I’m ready to eat bugs,” she muses. “I think that guy is an editor at America’s Test Kitchen,” someone whispers, nodding toward an elegantly attired gentleman at the end of the bar. “He looks like an editor at America’s Test Kitchen,” her companion replies. A bartender is inventing an end-of-the-night tipple for two friends to share. They sip: “Ooh, that’s good.” A solo diner arrives and declares: “It’s my birthday tomorrow, so I figured I’d come have dan dan noodles and a cocktail!”
295 Washington St., Brookline,
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