Talk about Sichuan (or Szechuan) cuisine, and the thought of its intense spiciness, bold flavours and signature dishes of Mapo Tofu, Kung Pao Chicken and Dan Dan Mian come to mind.
Tian Bao Szechuan Kitchen 天宝阁, known for providing authentic range of Szechuan Xiao Chi at Ngee Ann City Level 5, has also opened at Bukit Panjang’s Hillion Mall.
The chefs are from renowned restaurant in Sichuan China, and thus are able to cook up a storm of Chinese households’ favourites.
For those who are concerned about extreme spiciness, some of the dishes have been tuned to suit local Singaporean palates, or you can always inform the service staff to tame the heat down.
On the whole, its spiciness level is “just nice”.
Interesting to note that other than Szechuan cuisines, you can also indulge in variety of Szechuan style Dim Sum dishes, from Steamed Prawn Dumplings, Wild Vegetable Pan Cakes, Pan Fried Dumplings, to Black Sugar Buns.
Not forgetting the cute and representative Sweet Panda Dessert. (Pandas live in the forests of the Sichuan province of China.)
Soupy Wok – Spicy and Non-Spicy
The Wok-Fried Soup dishes are the signature here, available in spicy and non-spicy options, meant for 2-3 to share.
For the spicy soups, you get choices of Boiling Spicy Fish Fillet ($27.00), Chilli Chicken with Yam ($26.80), and Sour & Spicy Beef ($28.00). All 3 come with tofu, quail egg, or enoki mushroom add on options ($3.50, or $4.50).
The non-spicy soups include Mushroom Pork Bone ($27.00), Seafood Combo ($29.80), and Tomato Pork Ribs ($26.80).
I had the Boiling Spicy Fish Fillet with Tofu 沸腾鱼加豆腐 ($27.00 + $3.50), which reminded me of a modern version of the classic Szechuan dish of ”Shui Zhu Yu” 水煮鱼 (Szechuan Boiled Fish).
The fish fillet are first quickly poached in seasoned water, then scalded over with sizzling hot oil that was cooked heavily with chilli and Szechuan peppercorns.
I took the fish slices mainly on their own first, and they tasted fresh, succulent (they still retained that ‘watery’ bite) and packed with flavour.
But as I went further down for pieces which absorbed some of the sauces, those would give you that numbing sensation.
It is an acquired taste, but once you get a hang of it, it can become addictive and you cannot stop having more.
Till the spiciness takes over.
Double Chilli Chicken
In comparison, the Double Chilli Chicken ($26.80) was so much tamer, without that numbing effect. Actually, I was disappointed it was not spicy enough considered it is called “double” chilli.
The savoury dish feels like a cousin of the Kung Pao Chicken, with a more family-friendly sauce base that would go well with rice.
Tian Bao Savoury Wok Fried
For the classic home-style dishes, otherwise known as ”Jia Chang Cai” (家常菜).
The offerings include Marinated Duck ($25, $45, $60), Soy Bean Pork ($16.80), Sweet & Sour Pork Ribs ($18.80), Golden Prawn Balls ($20.80), Prawn Vermicelli ($22.80), Prawn with Asparagus ($23.80), Boiling Pork Slices, Claypot Eggplant ($15.80), Beef Cubes with Mushroom ($26.80) and the popular Ma Po Tofu ($15.80).
The stir-fried dish of La Zi Ji ($18.80) 辣子鸡 came highly recommended, consisting of marinated then deep-fried pieces of chicken, dried Sichuan chilli peppers, spicy bean paste, Sichuan peppers, garnished with sesame seeds.
The dried chilies on the dish are not meant to be eaten.
I liked how the dish was ‘deceptive’, it didn’t look or taste THAT spicy at first. The saltiness and nuttiness of the aromatics made it quite addictive, and as I took more and more pieces (like having popcorn chicken), that tingling feeling hit you at the unexpected moment.
The “Cold Dishes” available include Spicy Chicken Slices ($9.80), Cold Black Fungus ($8.80), sesame Sauced Chicken ($9.80), Pickled Radish ($8.80) to more intriguing-sounding Blueberry Yam ($8.80) and Cold Sweet & Sour Ribs ($10.80).
I wondered if the Salty & Spicy White Fish 椒盐白饭鱼 are at the wrong part of the menu, since they were deep-fried and not exactly cold.
These were like Crispy White Bait Fish, which made an addictive starter.
Spicy Wanton Dumplings
Oh… these were some of the best Hong You Chao Shou 紅油抄手 ($5.80) I had in a while.
The origins of the name is said to mean “crossing arms”, because the way the dumplings were folded looked similar to the way people cross their arms during the cold seasons. Seriously?
The dumplings were plump, and minced pork wrapped within fresh and succulent. The touch of vinegar and chilli oil added more layers of taste, which even helped whet the appetite.
Dry Dan Dan Noodles
The quintessential Szechuan noodle dish. Tian Bao’s version of Dan Dan Noodles 四川担担面 ($6.80) came dry accompanied with a bowl of soup. Though not particularly memorable, this nutty bowl was decent.
TB Specialty Dim Sum
I initially didn’t expect to find Dim Sum items here, but can be a good way to cater to Singapore families and groups.
With that said, some of the items were unique-tasting, so don’t come here expecting the Hong Kong or Shanghai style of Dim Sum.
My recommendation would be the Egg Custard Pau 紫彩流沙包 ($4.80 for 2), coming with gorgeous violet-purple twirls, and bursting with yellow sweet lava in the middle.
The most popular TB Piggy 天宝萌猪仔 ($6.00 for 2 pieces) also comes with oozy molten fillings, though is taro-packed rather than custard. Taste wise, I preferred the former.
For savoury items, you can consider the TB Mushroom Pau 天宝蘑菇包 ($6.00 for 2 pieces).
I thought that the Crystal Flower 水晶花 ($5.50) was shrimp dumpling or something due to its translucent skin, till I took a bite and realised the blossom was sweet. So perhaps you want to check with the server as the Chinese naming can be ambiguous.
To cool down after all that heat, the Colourful Jelly 彩色缤纷 ($5.80) with 8 different ingredients should provide a sweet end to the meal.
Tian Bao Szechuan Restaurant 天宝阁 – Hillion Mall
17 Petir Road, Hillion Mall #01-15/16, Singapore 678278
Tel: +656266 5688.
Opening Hours: 11.30am – 4.15pm, 5.30pm – 9.00pm Daily
Tian Bao Szechuan Restaurant – Ngee Ann City
391 Orchard Road, #05-06/07 Ngee Ann City Podium Block, Singapore 238872 (beside Best Denki at Level 5)
Tel: +65 6734 4216
Opening Hours: 11.30am – 4.15pm, 5.30pm – 9.00pm Daily
* This entry is brought to you in partnership with Tian Bao Szechuan Restaurant.