Mapo Doufu Restaurant, Beach Road
We drove by this place today (345 Beach Road, 6396-3132) when we noticed its name, and wondered if its eponymous dish would be any good. We decided to give it a shot. The first item we got, a hot & sour wonton, was off to a good start, with a tasty wonton stuffing and decently good seasonings. Something seemed a bit strange though when I took a sip of the broth it was sitting in though; it had overtones of slightly rank swine, if you know what I mean. Well, I brushed it aside for the time being, seeing that the wontons were better than I was expecting.
Next up was the knife-cut noodles, which are cut by hand, but nothing like the methodic exactness of soba. Instead, these were more like intentionally erratic slices of hand-cut dough rather than noodles, and they turned out pretty tasty too, with an impressive texture. Unfortunately, the broth in this one also had a bit of that rank swine taste...hmmm...
That's when things took a turn for the worse. The stir-fried string beans were soggy, and the namesake mapo tofu featured too much of that salted black bean stuff but not enough of that mainland peppercorn (despite the presence of a ground brown powder sprinkled on top). More importantly, it just wasn't spicy enough and seemed a bit toned-down.
So what's the verdict? Well, it was better than I was expecting, but it was definitely not as good as Chuan nor Hometown. Was it worthy of a second visit? Barely. There were some other interesting things on the menu that I wouldn't mind trying, like some cold rice noodles as well as a "saliva chicken," directly translated (I think it's supposed to be more accurately translated as "chicken so tasty and spicy that it will make you salivate"). And interestingly, they had Sichuan hotpot available too, although the broth didn't look like anything great from a distance (actually, it looks like they have a steamboat place at 271 Geylang called T-One, as well as a master restaurant at Sin Ming Plaza on Upper Thomson Road and even another at 251 Outram).
Well, I won't make any huge effort to come back here, but I will admit that I am a bit curious to know if that "saliva chicken" will really make me salivate. At least this place was surprisingly cheap at only about S$5 (US$3) a dish.