Good Chinese food, let alone good Sichuan food, might be the last thing you’d expect to find in Arab Street, which makes a trip to Le Fuse (formerly situated at Upper Serangoon) all the more surprising and delightful.
The Arab Street newcomer earnestly mentioned that they are bringing Chinatown to the Bras Basah-Bugis district, and we concur: The place is starkly different, from the storefront sandwiched between a carpet gallery and Turkish lamps shop to the service to the revamped menu, which features all the greatest-hit dishes you expect to find in a mala restaurant to more refined offerings that symbolise Sichuan cuisine.
Singaporeans are perhaps more familiar with la mian (hand-pulled Lanzhou-style noodles), and we have seen a bumper crop of halal Chinese restaurants specialising in them in the past couple of years.
However, few may have heard of the handmade equivalent from Sichuan Province. China is huge, so just imagine the vast interpretations of noodles from across the regions!
Deluxe Sichuan Beef Noodles
Though Le Fuse is more popularly known as a mala spot, and you could eat well going that route, the new menu is packed with Sichuan specialty noodle dishes, like the excellent, addictive dish of Deluxe Sichuan Beef Noodles ($16.80).
A big bowl of handmade wheat noodles swim in a pool of potent soup made with a sichuan peppercorn that fills your mouth with a pleasant heat. We reckon it is mild enough for the general masses.
A bed of beef cubes, brisket, and vegetables sit atop the aforementioned noodles, and you are encouraged to mix the whole shebang up so you get a bite of everything in every mouthful.
Ma La Xiang Guo (The Halal Eater Pick!)
Le Fuse’s claim to fame and its pièce de résistance was, and still is, the Ma La Xiang Guo (from $18.80 for Large, serves 2-3 pax).
We tried it when it first opened, and we had it again recently. If we liked it before, we are obsessed with it now.
For the uninitiated, mala xiang guo is typically a dry, stir-fry dish of ingredients of your own choosing.
At most places, this is how it works and you pay for what you choose. Which is often not the best way to mala as the price to pay might shock your system even before the tongue-numbing mala could.
Thankfully, Le Fuse takes the guesswork out of eating mala by introducing a standard base which comprises of basic ingredients such as lotus root, chicken sausage, black fungus, leafy vegetables, and cauliflower florets, tossed in a spice-infused chilli oil with a spicy level of your own choosing. There’s Mild, Moderate, Extra Spicy and Spicy Crazy Level.
We chose Moderate which turned out to be the ideal spice level for everyone at the table as it delivered scant heat and subdued flavours. We also recommend adding extras like chicken, beef slices, prawns and instant noodles to make it a heftier, more filling meal.
Ma La Tang
Also worth noting: The Ma La Tang (from $18.80 for Large, serves 2-3 pax), or soup version of the Ma La Xiang Guo. We were challenged to go for the Spicy Crazy Level for this one.
The ma la tang delivered precisely those sensations we felt earlier, though the difference in the pain and pleasure levels were quite distinguishable. There’s a reason it’s called Crazy. This dish is definitely not for the fainthearted.
Of all the items we tried, this was by far the hardest to swallow, as every spoonful of the dish was laden with the buzzing, anaesthetic-like numbingness and heat known as mala.
We imagined this would be perfect if it’s the only mala dish we had that day. However, if you plan to order several spicy dishes, limit your mala choices to perhaps just one.
By the end of the meal, we were all delirious with heat. Our mouths burned and tingled, and our faces were basically pools of sweat at this point.
The fact that we kept eating, despite the agony, made us question the nature of free will in the universe, or at least wonder if we could eat mala daily. (Please don’t.)
ChongQing Diced Chicken
This is another must-try when you dine in Le Fuse. It is a dish of crispy, hot and numbing ChongQing style dry-fried chicken ($14.80) with dried chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorn.
In Chinese, the dish is often also called La-zi-ji, meaning dried chili pepper chicken, which is essentially what it is.
The dish was served in a mini wok, and you need to find the chicken among the chili peppers, which showed how many chili peppers were used in this dish.
The dish seemed to be stir fried in very high oil temperature, which helped to remove the extra water content inside the chicken, further allowing the mala flavour to permeate better.
This made it such a flavourful and addictive dish, much like how most mala snacks are. It’s definitely the dish we kept returning to throughout our time at Le Fuse, just to see if we had missed another piece of chicken.
Seek relief from all that heat with Le Fuse’s mocktails or selection of Chinese tea. Though really, we feel neither could quell the pain with any type of efficiency.
The restaurant also has a humble selection of desserts like ice cream and chocolate cake, but a soft serve at nearby Overrun might do a better job at cooling off one’s insides.
Fortunately, the restaurant’s interior was reasonably air-conditioned which helped to alleviate the heat stress. A portable aircon on each table would be better, but that’s probably too much to ask for.
On the menu at Le Fuse; 47 Arab St, Singapore 199744
Food4/5 GoodHot, tongue-numbing mala.
Price4/5 GoodFixed pricing. Not by the weight as per other mala stalls. No need to agak-agak here.
Ambiance3/5 NeutralReasonably air-conditioned. Could do with cooling the place even more.