If you’re like me, you love spicy food. And by “love”, I mean,“addicted to”. Thai Isan-style jungle curry, Texas five-alarm chili—you name it, the more capiscum in the dish, the better. However, it’s equally important to ensure that whatever meal you’ve tasked your iron-clad stomach with digesting doesn’t simply pile on the heat at the expense of the dish’s underlying flavors. Alas, this very thing unfortunately happens all too often at many restaurants, especially Chinese and other ethnic Asian culinary establishments in Japan. This may be because the chefs have toned down the original recipe in order to accommodate the traditional Japanese palate, which has little tolerance for Scoville units. Result: they end up dumping a bunch of chili powder into the your order as an afterthought, usually resulting in a horribly bitter fiasco.
At Chen Mabou Doufu (spicy Chinese bean curd) in Akasaka, however, such concern is unwarranted. The eponymously-named signature dish is served in all its original fiery Szechuan glory complete with loads of sansho (Szechuan pepper), which makes your tongue and lips tingle like static electricity (they even give you a pepper mill-full on the side just in case you're a masochist)--delish! The dish is served as a set with free-refill rice, Chinese pickles and egg-drop soup, all for 1050 yen. Just one note and a coin with a hole in it for arguably the best mapo doufu this side of China—you’ll swear you’ve died a fiery death and gone to tian (Heaven).