Ba Yu Ren Jia Restaurant, Singapore
Man, my stomach is still burning after having eaten here (791 North Bridge Road, 6297-9148), which was rather unexpected. In fact, when I saw this fluorescently-lit place last week, I dismissed it as just another Sichuan restaurant in Singapore. But after the Sunday Times published a favorable review of this place today, it made sense to come check it out, especially since we needed to be in the neighborhood this afternoon anyway.
My favorite of the bunch was the sliced fish soup, which was puckeringly sour as a result of the pickles inside (a bit like drinking the juice that comes with a Teochew-style fish). I enjoyed the crab too, which surprised me with its fennel seeds, making these little fried thin-shelled crustaceans taste a bit like Xiao Ping's meat skewers. The warm taste of the beef noodles seemed worth coming back for more as well.
I did encounter a couple of my pet peeves though: the string beans were soggy and uninspiring, while the saliva chicken came attached to cut-up bones. The quality of some of the ingredients didn't sit that well with me either, and they seemed to use more brute force in the seasonings than places like the now defunct Chuan Restaurant, whose "water cooked fish" was more polished. But I left pretty satisfied in the end...enough to come back to try out more - including their hot pot. Now I've just gotta find some milk to douse out these flames in my stomach.