With the mala craze hitting Singapore’s shores, the search for quality and value-for-money alternatives has surged.
Riding onto this growing popularity, Qi — House of Sichuan, holding one Michelin star in Hong Kong for the past three years since 2016, has opened a branch in Marina Bay Link Mall.
With a private lift dedicated to bringing you to your destination, Qi — House of Sichuan definitely gave off the impression of being atas. Take the lift to the second floor, and you’ll be greeted with the luxurious interior that has been designed to make you feel like royalty (I mean, you’re going to a Michelin star restaurant, you’ll expect quality right?).
With an abundance of seats, there’s no need to fear the lack of tables (although it can get crowded around lunch hour, so call ahead to make a reservation to reduce your waiting time).
We sat by the glass panels that naturally lit up the place, abating the initial warmness from the yellow light. It was definitely a stark contrast to the bright-white office lights in the office, and it made lunch hour more pleasant. I guess this is what they call work-life balance.
While ambience does make a difference to a positive meal experience, we came hungry and the food was more enticing than the view we got out the window. With Qi — House of Sichuan originating from Hong Kong, we could not wait to try their take on the local staples.
Dumplings are a staple food in Hong Kong. We had a serving of Chilli Oil Wontons ($12) — a mixture of ground chicken and finely minced scallions wrapped in a silky thin wonton skin and coated in a chilli oil sauce.
Upon seeing the dish approach the table, my heart skipped a beat. The bowl of wontons was coated in a blood red chilli oil and with my low tolerance for spice, I hesitated before taking my first (small) bite.
To my surprise, the chilli was not overpowering at all. The tanginess from the vinegar and saltiness from the marinade of the ground chicken abated the spice, making it an appetising starter that definitely whetted our appetites.
For those whose spice tolerance is near zero, Qi — House of Sichuan offers an alternative. Their Bang Bang Wontons ($13) really did explode in a myriad of flavours on my palette.
Doused in a fragrant peanut sauce, the combination of sweet, salty, spicy and tangy flavours was done in perfect harmony. These signature appetisers certainly explained their Michelin star, and the dishes to follow lived up to the high standards set in stone.
The Chilli Fried Iberico Pork Sichuan Style ($45) made us slightly doubtful of its monetary worth. I mean, $45 for fried cubes of pork topped with a handful of cashew nuts.
But soon learnt that the pork has to go through stringent criteria before being classified as ‘Iberico pork’ — mainly to have exclusively subsisted on a diet of acorns.
We were greeted with a plateful of Iberico pork that had been fried with three different types of chilli. Crispy, salty and spicy, these tender cubes of pork now justified the $45 price tag.
The cashew nuts helped abate the spice. The dish was soon devoured and the usual ‘paiseh piece’ was nowhere to be seen (oops).
After the initial few dishes where the chef had been rather heavy handed with the use of chillies, the Sugar Glazed Ginger and Scallion Beef ($25) was a pleasant change to my palette.
The sugar glaze caramelised to form a crisp coating on the beef cubes, when contrasted with the tender, juicy interior, gave a variety of textures to what I had expected to be, a one-dimensional dish.
The ginger and scallions left a refreshing note that complemented the crispy treat. Having been marked as a signature dish of Qi — House of Sichuan, it remains a top contender on my list of “must-haves” for future visits to the restaurant.
When I first heard we would be having chilli oil soup, my doubt was reflected on my face. Think a bowl of spicy broth with a thick layer of oil atop.
However, the Braised Garoupa Fish Fillet in Chilli Oil Soup ($50) was a far cry from anything bad I’d imagined. The soup was light and appetising and did not have the layer of oil I’d been expecting.
Filled with an abundance of various spices, sweet potato noodles and succulent garoupa fillets, it was no surprise that we demolished this bowl of spicy goodness that was way bigger than my face.
Nice as it was, it fell on the high end of the spiciness spectrum, leading me to order a glass of milk ($5). While $5 is a steep price to pay for a glass of milk that was about the size of my palm, it was a necessary expense that I indulged in to satiate my burning tongue. But that might have been what they call 自找麻烦 (asking for it) as I’d greedily gobbled up three bowls.
Following the soup, we had the Chilli Fried Sri Lankan Crab ($115). With my mouth still ablaze from the Braised Garoupa Fish Fillet in Chilli Oil Soup, the taste of the crab was masked.
The most flavour I could get was the lingering saltiness (that might not have been a good indication if it could be tasted despite how numb my taste buds were from the soup).
We ended lunch with a serving of good ol’ Red Bean Pancake ($9), another dish that can be found on the menus of many restaurants in Hong Kong.
Entirely handmade, from the red bean paste filling to the crispy pancake sheet, it was the only dessert on Qi — House of Sichuan’s menu for a very good reason.
The red bean paste was not overly sweet, and the chefs were generous with the filling without flooding the crispy pancake. Hot red bean paste oozed with every bite, and was simply yummy in my tummy!
For a one Michelin star restaurant, Qi — House of Sichuan comes with a very affordable price tag. The variety of dishes reflect the flavours of Sichuan, from salty to sweet, sour to spicy, it is a restaurant I would definitely regularly patron if I lived or worked in the area.
But I’ll give you fair warning: Qi — House of Sichuan goes through 500kg of chillies every three weeks. So if you’re planning on making a trip down, make sure you’ve got your spice-tolerance ‘A’ game on.
But for those who are all-but-obsessed with mala and happen to be working in the Marina Bay Financial Centre, or anywhere in the vicinity, head on down to Qi — House of Sichuan. You’re definitely in for a treat because the dishes will add a little spice to your life.
Expected damage: $25 — $115 per pax