Sichuan Garden has been sold to a New York company. Its original 18 chefs, imported from China, have left, and what remains is just another elegant but overpriced house of stir-frying. Gone are the fiery dumplings, and in their place are mushy dough wrappers filled with anonymous meat paste. No more to be found are the sophisticated, intricately seasoned dishes; instead the menu runs the gamut of Orange Beef, General Tso's Chicken and Sweet and Sour Pork.
The dining room is still alone among Chinese restaurants in its quiet elegance and comfort, and the waiters treat their service as an art rather than a job. Among the appetizers I have found nothing outstanding but Minced Squab Soup in Bamboo Container, an intensely rich, clear broth with a soft dumpling of minced squab. Main dishes have somewhat more to commend them, but they are inconsistent. Shrimps are jumbo size here, served with walnuts to their advantage, but shrimp with garlic sauce was what one would expect -- no more. The best main dish was plain bean curd, designated House Special, with scallions, garlic slice and bits of pork in a sharp and smoky black bean sauce. 1220 19th St. NW. 296-4550. L $7.50-$15.50, D $8.50-$20. L daily ex Sat, Sun, D daily. AE, DC, MC, V. Res sugg. Full bar.