Michelin-starred Qi - House of Sichuan not too hot
It seems that overnight, Michelin-starred restaurants from Hong Kong have popped up at Marina Bay Link Mall.
First, Forbidden Duck from chef Alvin Leung of the three-starred Bo Innovation was launched. At the same time, Qi - House of Sichuan, awarded one Michelin star every year since 2016, also opened its doors earlier this month.
And from May 28, the Singapore menu will be similar to the one in Hong Kong, so you will get the full Michelin experience.
The signature dishes seem to fall into the red and scary category, but the ones that look "safe" will be the ones that get you.
The Chili Oil Wontons ($12) looked innocuous because the dumplings were pale and plump, but they were delicious, with enough fat and flavour to make you want more.
But when soaked in that sauce of roasted chilli oil, garlic and vinegar, it was heat all the way. There was no let up, which obliterated all pleasures.
The Braised Garoupa Fish Fillet in Chili Oil Soup (from $40) was more palatable. There was less oil in this version, but the heat was just as intense.
There were dimensions to the soup - hints of bitterness, saltiness and spiciness.
The fish was almost an afterthought. It was sliced so thinly, it might as well have been.
Visually, the Chili Fried Sri Lanka Crab ($115) is a winner - a pile of crab under a heap of bullet chilli. It was pretty and more aromatic than tasty, so your nose will be teased but your taste buds might not be.
I loved the Slow-Cooked Beef Short Ribs with Mala Sauce ($75). The Black Angus short ribs were marinated in black pepper and sea salt overnight, then stewed before being grilled.
The sauce was mild but highlighted the incredibly tender meat.
The Sugar-Glazed Ginger and Scallion Beef ($25) remind me of bak kwa, and since it had been ages since I had any, I responded positively.
It was also a reminder that there are other flavour profiles in Sichuan cuisine. Not everything is designed to numb your lips.
Perhaps the Michelin accolades heightened my expectations too much, because by the end, I could not muster any genuine excitement for the meal.
While there were a couple of dishes I liked at Qi, I have certainly had more pleasurable - but certainly less refined - meals at Sichuan restaurants in the heartlands.