Chen’s Mapo Tofu – Satisfying Japanese-Szechwan Mapo Tofu Dons
Chen’s Mapo Tofu which opened earlier this year, is set up by a third generation chef, Chen Kentaro, who gets the Japanese inspiration in his food from his Japanese mother. An affordable alternative to his One Michelin Starred Shisen Hanten restaurant, Chen’s Mapo Tofu is a casual restaurant that serves up Japanese-Szechwan cuisine. Located on the second floor of OUE Downtown building, this restaurant sees crazy crowds during lunch hours. They operate on a self-service system where you order and make payment at the counter out front before waiting for your number to be called and collecting it from the station.
The most popular option is their Set Meal 2 ($10.80 nett), which comes with half a portion of their signature Mapo Don, half a portion of their Dan Dan Mien (Soup/Dry) and a choice of Sour Plum, Calamansi or Herbal Drink. You get the best of both worlds with this set, and it is a good deal as the drink alone is already $3.
Feeling slightly apprehensive about the spicy looking colour, we tried the Mapo Don. It was less spicy than we anticipated (think: xiao la level for mala), and is well suited for those who prefer heavy flavours. Unlike our usual mala, the peppercorn taste is not too distinct here. The silky smooth tofu cubes fell apart easily in our mouths and complemented the spicy sauce. We liked that the Japanese short-grained rice used soaked up the gravy well and had a subtle bite to it. While the spice level was manageable at the start, it started a burn in our tummies midway through the bowl. We were glad we had the Dan Dan Mien to offset some of the heaviness from the Mapo Don.
The Dan Dan Mien comes with a side of soup, and is marked as ‘spicy’ on the menu. However, the spice level is much more manageable compared to the Mapo Don. We tried the dry version which was topped with a portion of minced meat and a dash of chopped spring onions. We liked the slightly nutty sauce that the noodles came in, but the noodles itself was rather dry and gets sticky really quickly. We would recommend eating this before the Mapo Don!
For those who can’t take the heat, get the Chuka Don ($11.80) instead. It consists of Stir-fried Seafood and Vegetables on top of the same short-grained Japanese rice. Instead of the spicy gravy that consists of fermented beans, this dish comes with a slightly starchy sauce resembles the one used in the classic Singapore Hor Fun. The stir-fried seafood consists of squid, 2 prawns and fried fish slices. Assorted greens such as black fungus, mushrooms and cabbage are included as well. We recommend mixing well, so that the luscious and addictive gravy coats each grain of rice well.
The service staff recommended two popular sides to us – the Szechwan Dumplings ($4) and the Szechwan Popcorn Chicken ($4), both of which are marked as ’spicy’ on the menu. The portions for the sides run small, with only 3 dumplings in the Szechwan Dumplings. We liked that the skin was quite thin and contained a decent portion of minced meat, but would have preferred it to be more juicy as it was a little dry. The Szechwan Popcorn Chicken look like the sort of frozen popcorn chicken you can get from your neighbourhood bubble tea store, but they pack a spicy punch. They are breaded in a Sichuan spice mix, before being fried.
You might hesitate before paying for what is essentially tofu cubes, but I feel that the price is affordable for the quality of food that you’ll be getting here. For our indecisive friends, get Set Meal 2 to satisfy your craving for both rice and noodles. By the way, all prices here are nett, without any service charge or GST.
Chen's Mapo Tofu
Address: 6A Shenton Way, Downtown Gallery #02-29 068815 Singapore
Opening Hours: 11am-9.15pm Monday-Friday, 11am-3pm (last order 2.15pm) Saturday. Closed on Sundays.
MissTamChiak.com made anonymous visit and paid its own meal at the stall featured here.
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