Restaurants & Bars

Houston Sichuan

Mala Sichuan Bistro - Chinatown


Restaurants & Bars Houston Sichuan

Mala Sichuan Bistro - Chinatown

brucesw | | May 20, 2011 05:38 AM

9348 Bellaire

I have been touring the small number of Sichuan restaurants in Chinatown, sampling a dish or two at each, and happened upon this brand new one, tucked in a corner where Brothers was, a Taiwanese restaurant I think, back behind Don Café; the grand opening banner still hangs over the door and it isn’t listed on any review sites yet, although I’ve submitted it to b4. Turns out it’s only been open a little over a week.

It’s a nice room, not your typical Chinatown hole in the wall - a little larger, more nicely appointed, about on a par with Banana Leaf Malaysian though less casual and less cramped. At least half the tables are set up for hot pot. There is a large lighted aquarium in the back with very large fish - I meant to get a picture and ask if they ever find their way to the kitchen or if they’re just for show but I forgot. There’s a picture of the room on Yelp under the listing for Brothers. The menu is as weighty as any of the other Sichuan restaurants I’ve been to; the staff is very friendly and fluent in English. There wasn’t a printed menu to go and there’s no website so I can’t remember many of the dishes.

As I’ve done at the three other Sichuan restaurants before this I went with the Dan Dan Noodles for comparison sake; this must be like Sichuan comfort food - noodles in a puddle of mala, the Sichuan Peppercorn/red chili pepper/oil/ginger/etc.concoction that is used in many dishes, garnished variously, usually with minced pork and scallions at least.

The Dan Dan was described as having the usual garnishes plus Chinese preserved vegetables and spinach. I think the preserved vegetable is a pickled Chinese cabbage, minced. Dan Dan usually looks rather bland and uninteresting as presented, kind of pasty, but becomes much more interesting when some of the mala is stirred up. These were the thinnest noodles I’ve encountered, more like spaghettini; it was very, very aromatic and I did find a couple of small spinach leaves in the mix. This was also the largest portion I’ve been served; it is described on the menu as spicy and it was but just a little, neither the spiciest nor blandest version I’ve had so far, with some heat and just a little numbing effect. I think next time I’ll ask for the medium spice level and see where that gets me.

I also went with the sauteed green/long beans with garlic and also some of the preserved vegetables, as I recall, off the lunch menu. This was very garlicky and a little sweet - a nice counterpoint to the heat of the noodles.

All in all a good meal and priced in line with all the other Sichuan places I’ve been to. The Dan Dan was $3.95 and was practically enough for a meal in itself; the green beans were $4.95 as are many of the lunch specials.

One of the interesting dishes I was able to remember from the menu, under the House Specialties, was Couples Lungs. I had to look that one up! It’s an authentic Sichuan dish of offal but usually not including any lung. I don’t know that I’ve seen that on any other menu.

I have just one more Sichuan place in Chinatown to try then try to decide which one to look into further; I suspect I’m going to be hitting all of them again.

Banana Leaf
9889 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036

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