After reading a review in the Globe, Chilli Garden in Medford, MA went on the Food Quest list. I made one unsuccessful attempt to find it, and then last night on attempt two, was successful. And hooray, it was worth the trip!
I'm not a huge Chinese restaurant fan, but I like interesting food that is well-prepared, and I believe you get that here. I'm guessing from the very mixed on-line reviews I have read of the place that their specialties are impressive while the Chinese standards are not as interesting. So I made sure I ordered the specialties and this worked pretty well.
By the way, I find this to be true as well at Wang's Chinese Cuisine (formerly Wang's Fast Food) in Somerville, which makes dumplings to die for but most other things I have ordered have been eh.
Anyhow, I ordered the "house special chicken with dried pepper" ($10.95), asking for a little less spice than the two "bombs" on the menu. It arrived first, a heaping plateful of freshly fried chicken pieces in a salty, spicy coating with bits of red chilis and black beans. I didn't know it would be breaded and fried (and I'm not a fan of fried), but it was delicious. I also ordered won tons in chicken broth ($3.85). The won tons were great, but the broth had little flavor at all and got left in the bowl. My companion ordered the whole fish in spicy sauce ($15.85) which takes an extra 15 minutes. And yes, it's the whole fish, head and tail and eyeballs and all, and it fills the whole plate. The meat was very tender and the sauce spicy and vinegary.
Service was good, and we received a lot of refills on water -- very necessary with all the chiles. When I go back (and yes, it's definitely worth a return trip), I want to try the scallion pancakes, the hot and sour soup, the green bean starch with chili sauce, and the ma po tofu.
Food quest fulfilled! Next on the list: Russo's Market in Watertown for exotic fruit, with a side trip to Arax Market on Mt. Auburn Street to pick up pita and latvian sardines of course. And soon I'll be headed to Detroit, land of all things um, midwestern? So if anyone has a food quest to suggest there, I'll take it! (I've already got Zingerman's Deli on the list, and I'd love hints on Greektown).