The new MaLuBianBian restaurant in southwest Houston offers a distinctive skewer-style hotpot experience that every customer can personalize.

With over a thousand locations worldwide, this trendy, whimsical burst of Sichuan cuisine and vintage-style decor is popular with millennials and Gen Zers. The local MaLuBianBian appears to be the only one in the U.S. outside of California.

The restaurant’s crowd-pleasing blend of spice and aesthetic is what moved Kevin Lin, manager of MaLuBianBian, to open the restaurant at the DiHo Square shopping center in the Southwest Management District.

“I was attracted by its cute interior design, authentic Sichuan flavor, and its vintage vibes. I believe that it would be a unique experience for Houstonians,” Lin explains. “So, I went to Chengdu (in China) to visit its headquarters and to learn about the origin and the culture of MaLuBianBian.”

The name of the restaurant means “side of the road,” referring to the evolution of the hotpot style from Chengdu’s mom-and-pop street-food stalls. 

The nostalgia style translates into bright blue tables, neon signs, and tableaus depicting the stalls in the 1990s. Every thoughtful detail of painted street scenes and traditional wood paneling makes you feel like you are feasting and sharing skewer hotpot on the streets of Chengdu in a past decade. 

Never had hotpot before? Here are some steps to eat and enjoy the communal experience:

Pick your soup base, build your sauce, choose skewers from the freezers, dunk the skewers of meat and vegetables in the boiling broth and leave them in to cook, then dip your cooked food into your sauce before eating.

Most people go for the classic spicy soup. We went for the two-pot combo: original and spicy. The classic spicy soup is a traditional Sichuan hotpot base with traditional flavors, such as Píxiàn chili bean paste, enriching the spiciness and thickness of the broth.

A condiments bar offers seasonings and aromatics that can be used to further produce a personalized meal. Chili oil, garlic, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and scallions are what I mixed into a sauce bowl before choosing dishes and skewers. 

There are many raw meat and vegetable dishes to choose from, such as fatty beef, lamb, shrimp, egg tofu, lotus root, and enoki mushrooms. Skewers include quail eggs, marinated meats, beancurd skin, fish balls, raw vegetables, seafood, and more. 

After gathering skewers in a basket, place them in your soup base and let them cook.

Make sure they are fully cooked, especially the raw meat slices, before taking them out of the broth! Then dip and eat to your heart’s content. Go for seconds and grab as many skewers and dishes as you want, because it’s all-you-can-eat hotpot: perfect on a cold day. 

9102 Bellaire Blvd. 
Houston, TX 77036

(281) 501-8165
Sunday – Thursday 12 p.m. – 10:30 p.m
Friday – Saturday 12 p.m. – 11 p.m.

— By Nicole Ting