Only bad Chinese restaurants make distinct impressions; the decent ones are all alike. That may sound like a complaint (not to mention third-rate Tolstoy), but it’s intended as a compliment. After all, Chinese food as we know it in this country is sticky, starchy comfort food, and we rely on its familiarity; when we order sweet-and-sour pork, we expect it to look and taste just like the sweet-and-sour pork we grew up with. If we were in the mood to experiment, we’d go to Blue Ginger.
So it’s all to the good that Rice Garden offers no surprises. The new take-out place in Brookline’s Washington Square has already proven adept at meeting the standards set by old favorites. Eggplant with garlic sauce ($5.95) is as luscious as ever, velvety but with a little kick. Lo mein ($5.95) remains a good-for-what-ails-you classic, smooth and soothingly mild, not bland. (Vegetarians beware, however; I ordered mine with vegetables and got plenty of chicken and shrimp for my efforts.) Curry dishes also lean toward the gentle and creamy rather than the spicy (so if you do want heat, be loud about it). The only disappointment was the sesame beef ($8.75). Though every bit as gooey and glistening as glorifried junk food should be — and I mean that as a compliment — the meat was somewhat tough; I’d stick with the chicken. But all in all, if you’ve got an itch for the wonton soup or egg foo yung of your youth, Rice Garden can scratch it with the best of them.
Rice Garden, located at 690A Washington Street, in Brookline, is open Monday through Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, and on Sunday, from 1 p.m. to midnight. Call (617) 277-8221.