Mala Sichuan Bistro

Mala Sichuan Bistro
9348 Bellaire Blvd.
Houston, TX 77036
Yelp 

BHD doesn’t really like spicy food.  What a wuss!  Just kidding.  No, not really.  Well, ok he has bad reflux so spicy foods really exacerbates that sometimes.  Alright, I’ll give him a free pass for health reasons.  Maybe he’ll do something else one of these days that warrants him a one way ticket to Pansyland.  In any case, he did oblige me by taking me out to the well regarded Szechuan restaurant in Houston, Mala.  It’s even on the Eater’s Essential 38 Houston restaurants.  This isn’t the kind of place you go solo or even in pairs.  You need an army to tackle this place because the portions are family style.  We came with 2 other friends, so we did our best with 4 people.   It turns out our 2 friends don’t eat pork!  I totally was anticipating this, but BHD was like “Naaahhhh.”  So we had lots of left overs at the end.

Red Oil Wontons red chili oil, ground garlic, sweet and spicy soy paste, sesame, green onions
I’m not sure why this dish was so popular.  The sauce and spice were tasty, but the actual wonton itself was mediocre.  I think I could probably whip together a better wonton.  They might even have better wontons in your local frozen aisle.

Dan Dan Noodle mala spicy sauce, sesame paste, boiled spinach, yibin preserved vegetables, spiced ground pork, green onions
This was pretty tasty with just the right amount of salt, sweet, spice, all balanced out by the chewy noodles swathed in delicious oil.  This and 2 other dishes would be sufficient for just 2 people.

Garlic Bacon boiled bacon, cucumber, sweet and spicy garlic sauce, green onion
Everyone on Yelp talked about his dish.  Bacon and cucumber?  Sounds weird to me, but it oddly tasted pretty good.  The secret was that sauce.  It reminded me of a garlicky and less pungent hoisin sauce.  You can’t eat too many of these or the sauce and wide ribbons of unrendered pork fat start to be too much.

 
Kung Pao Chicken

The requisite Szechuan dish we ordered for our non pork eating friends.  Not bad, but certainly not as delicious as Seafood Cove or Newport Seafood in Orange County.

Eggplant in Spicy Garlic Sauce 

Everywhere I go, I must eat this.  This is my favorite way to eat eggplant.  Slathered in garlicky, sweet, salty, oily goodness.  I’m pretty sure there was pork in here, but our friends quite enjoyed this dish.

Cumin Beef onion, cilantro, red chilies, mala spicy sauce

It is interesting to me that China uses cumin in certain regional cuisines.  It is definitely a flavor profile I am getting used to.  Naturally the spice and heat were off the chart with this one.

Water Boiled Fish Fillet 
This is what everyone comes here for.  I’ll be honest.  The tongue numbing spice from Szechuan peppercorns either from all the other dishes and/or this one made it hard to appreciate what was going on in this one pot dish.  There was fish, and I think it was tender.  There were vegetables, and they seemed well cooked.  Was this too salty?  Who knows because I couldn’t taste a darn thing but spice on more spice!
Chengdu Style Pot Roasted Prawns jumbo shrimp, asparagus, onions, ginger, pickled peppers, yibin preserved vegetables, ground pork 
I was disappointed by the overcooked prawns.  Flavorwise, things were headed in the right direction. The dish was well balanced.

Mala delivers fine Szechuan food to Houston.  There was no shortage of heat and tongue numbing spice.  There were a few missteps like the overcooked prawns and the mediocre wontons, but overall I would recommend this place if you’re in town and need a spicy Chinese fix.  This was nowhere near as sophisticated in flavor and depth as Chuan’s, but most Szechuan places never are.
10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome!
8 – Very good
7 – Good 
6 – OK
5 – Average
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT eat here

 

 


 

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