Ever since Chen Kenmin (as in Iron chef Chen's father) introduced Sichuan cooking to Japan in the post-war period, mabo tofu has become a standard dish available just about anywhere. While the standard Japanese version is a bit sanitized for Japanese palates, there seems to be a recent movement towards more authentic ma-la versions around Japan. In Hiroshima, there's a restaurant that specializes in mabo dishes, and have introduced a fantastic version. One that, I think, can only improve upon the dish.
At Shisen Mabosenka Lala (I'll just call them LaLa), roughly translated as Sichuan mabo specialist LaLa, you can get a good standard versioin true to its Sichuan heritage. Their version isn't scorchingly spicy nor renders your tongue worthless with the Sichuan peppercorns, but they allow the diner to adjust either ma or la levels with a spicy and flavorful la-yu (chili oil), and a pepper mill of Sichuan peppercorns that are on the counter and tables. Then, to top it off, LaLa offers a version with horumon (beef small intestine). I can't believe no one has ever thought of this before. It's almost the perfect next ingredient in an already perfect recipe. The sweet, fatty, slightly chewy pieces of horumon provide the best textural accompaniment and pick up the flavors of the sauce. It was absolutely brilliant. The Japanese bloggers have already been on the beat here.
LaLa is a modest restaurant run by a couple with mostly counter seating and a few tables. I'm certain I'll be making return trips here often.
Photos and info: http://r.tabelog.com/hiroshima/A3401/...