Sichuan Garden at 295 Washington Street in Brookline reopened at the beginning of January with a fresh new face. The Brookline Village favorite still serves Sichuan food but with the liquid help of Blossom Bar, a 10-seat bar at the entrance of the restaurant. Owner Ran Duan is known for re-envisioning half of his family’s other restaurant, Sichuan Garden II in Woburn, into the critically acclaimed Baldwin Bar. Now he’s brought that same vision to Brookline.
Bar manager Will Isaza serves up South American inspired cocktails nightly. Isaza, whose family comes from Colombia, says that he and Duan designed the cocktail menu together. “We realized we grew up with the same flavors but in very different parts of the world,” says Isaza. The sweet, tropical fruit flavors of South American perfectly compliment the classic Sichuan ingredients.
Isaza is particularly proud of the “Bocadillo Sour,” made with Bacardi Carta Blanca, guava paste, mascarpone, lime, and mint. The recipe comes from Isaza’s family tradition of bocadillo, a Colombian snack of guava and cheese. The “Angie Valencia” with aguardiente, Aperol, papaya, kaffir, and lemon is another favorite, with lower alcohol content. All of the juices and garnishes are squeezed and cut fresh daily in-house. Isaza says it can take 3-4 hours to prep the bar every day with all the juicing the needs to be done.
Cocktails aren’t the only beverages getting a facelift at Blossom Bar. The team utilizes a unique water filtration system to filter and bottle their water on site. “When people drink fruity cocktails and eat spicy food, they drink a lot of water,” says Isaza. “We want people to have the best version of everything.”
As far as the food goes, the same kitchen staff that has worked with the Duan family for 20 years remains in the restaurant. But the menu that formerly had over 100 dishes has been paired down to 40, and a higher emphasis is being placed on fresh flavors and ingredients. Shortly, Sichuan Garden and Blossom Bar will be open for lunch, 11-2pm. Isaza expects the wine, beer and spirits lists to be filled out by early February as well.
Isaza says it’s a delicate dance between making upgrades and preserving the things longtime patrons love about the neighborhood spot. New waiters are paired in sections with veteran waiters to field any questions about the changes. In an additional effort to make locals feel welcome, half the restaurant is available for reservations, and half is kept open for walk-ins.
“Brookline Village is evolving,” says Isaza. “Hopefully we can be the hub where everything converges.”