Chen’s Mapo Tofu – Szechuan Food By Michelin Starred Chef From Shisen Hanten. Mapo Don and Mapo Mien
Not to be confused with the famous Chen Mapo Tofu in Chengdu – without the apostrophe “s”.
This Chen’s Mapo Tofu at Downtown Gallery Shenton Way offers a range of Szechuan classics, such as the signature Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐), Dong Po Rou (东坡肉) and Dan Dan Mien (担担面) in a fuss-free environment, at casual-dining prices.
However, the surname Chen is in fact referring to Chef Chen Kentaro, 3rd Generation owner of Shisen Hanten (四川饭店) which originated and boasted 14 outlets across Japan.
His restaurant at Mandarin Orchard was also awarded 2 Michelin stars in the Singapore Michelin Guide 2016, which did catch some by surprise.
With Japanese heritage in its belt, donburi seems a right fit for Chen’s Mapo Tofu with the offering of Mapo Don, Tonpolo Don, and Chuka Don.
Nope, no Chirashi Don here.
The star dish of the place definitely goes to Mapo Don ($8.80). While Szechuan classics usually come smack at your face with bold and strong flavors, Chen’s Mapo Tofu was somewhat mellower and subdued, perhaps to cater to the local CBD crowd.
Still, each mouthful came with silky tofu and minced meat simmered in fermented bean paste fragrance, plus an occasional sting of numbness from the peppercorn.
This is best eaten together with their Japanese short grain rice, for an additional sticky and chewy bite texture.
For non-spicy eaters, you can find comfort in the Nasu Don ($10.80). Almost similar to the eggplant with minced meat (鱼香茄子) from regular cze char stalls, with generous amount of luscious minced meat sauce capped on rice.
Not a fan of rice?
Noodles options such as Kaisen Katayaki (海鲜生面) ($12.80), Dan Dan Mien ($8.80) and Mapo Mien ($8.80) are also available.
Maybe I will pass on the Mapo Mien as I still like my Mapo Tofu to go with rice to soak up all the spicy “zhup” (sauce).
Interesting to note, their Dan Dan Mien comes with the option of dry and soup, with the former striking some resemblance to Zha Jiang Mien (炸酱面). Go for the latter for lightly spiced and “gao gao” (rich) thick peanut soup noodles.
If the mains doesn’t satisfy your belly, there is also a range of sides such as Braised Pork Belly (卤五花肉), Banbanji Chicken (棒棒鸡) and Dumplings (红油水饺) to choose from. Available at a top up from $4 onwards.
Out of the few which I have tried, I liked the Pork Belly that has a nice fat-to-meat ratio, which was then braised till soft and melted in your mouth.
My dining partner even initially thought of it as soft charsiew typically found on ramen.
Chinese food with a light Japanese touch is definitely an interesting change from the usual food options, which would appeal to the nearby CBD working crowd.
I, for one am already a convert.
Chen’s Mapo Tofu
6A Shenton Way #02-29, Downtown Gallery, Singapore 068809
Tel: +65 6221 3206
Opening Hours: 11:00am – 10:00pm Daily
* Written by Lewis Tan @juicyfingers, a self-proclaimed coffee addict. Daniel’s Food Diary pays for food reviewed unless otherwise stated.
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