2018.10.16

You think you can handle it. You think you’re hardcore. But you don’t really know spicy until you’ve had Sichuan cuisine. Downtown’s about to get a big dose of the eye-watering, belly-burning, tongue-tingling dishes with the opening of a new Mala Sichuan.

The Houston Chinatown institution — and arguably, still one of the best restaurants in the entire city —  is opening  up new branch in Finn Hall, the new food hall coming to the 37-story JPMorgan Chase Tower.

Mala Sichuan is the first restaurant that’s been revealed for Finn Hall — and it’s clearly a headline grabber. It will be joined by nine other eateries, an Art Deco cocktail lounge, and a craft beer and wine bar.

Mala Sichuan’s husband and wife owners, Heng Chen and Cori Xiong, already expanded their take on Sichuan to Montrose, at 1201 Westheimer. Two more new Mala Sichuans are also already planned, one in Katy, and one in Sugar Land, in addition to the new Fin Hall food hall branch. With this downtown move, Mala Sichuan is breaking into a new scene and changing things up.

The food hall setup will yield some sizable changes in Mala Sichuan’s style. Personal plates will replace Mala Sichuan’s traditional family-style dishes. Since the food hall will be open all day, Mala Sichuan is also working on a new breakfast menu to satisfy early risers.

Food halls are finally taking off in Houston with the Bayou City finally catching up to the craze. The Conservatory marked Houston’s first foray into food hall mania back in the spring 2016. Now, two more food halls are scheduled for downtown.

At Mala Sichuan, you can expect classic dishes like Tea Smoked Duck and Basil Crispy Chicken, alongside the fruity innovations Plum Baby Back Ribs and Garlic Cherry Pork Belly.

The name Mala Sichuan rolls off the tongue as much as its food burns it. What’s in a name? Well, only the key to the restaurant’s style. Mala sauce is a celebrated spicy sauce made of chili peppers, Szechuan peppercorn and more simmered in oil. This isn’t  Americanized Chinese food. Mala Sichuan is as authentic as it gets.

The James Beard Awards can attest to that. Last year, Mala Sichuan’s chef Jianyun Ye was named a finalist for Best Chef Southwest. Now, it’s making a major downtown move.

Having some fire makes a difference.