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Restaurants / Openings

Houston’s Hottest New Chinese Restaurant Brings Serious Spice to the Energy Corridor

Plunging Into the World of Sichuan Cuisine With Wula Buhuan

BY // 03.07.19
photography Mai Pham

If you love spicy food — specifically, the fiery, numbing heat of Sichuan peppercorns — Wula Buhuan, a new concept from the owner of Spicy Girl Midtown and Spicy Girl West U, is now open and ready to serve.

Debuting just last week, the new Southwestern Chinese cuisine specialist took over the space previously occupied by W’Kana Express on Briar Forest, just off Eldridge Parkway in the Energy Corridor.

“It’s a good location,”Wula Buhuan owner Jojo Wang tells PaperCity. “There aren’t that many Chinese restaurants in the area.”

Pronounced woo-lah booh-hwahn, “In Chinese, it means that eating without spice brings no joy,” Wang explains. “The idea is that food has got to be spicy to be fun.”

And when she says spicy, she means it’s no holds-barred, unapologetically, steam-coming-out-of-your-nostrils spicy. In other words, if you’re ready to plunge into the fascinating world of Sichuan cuisine by a Chengdu-born chef who has been cooking professionally for the better part of 30 years, Wula Buhuan just might be your favorite new restaurant.

The menu itself looks like that of your typical neighborhood Chinese restaurant. A simple one pager, the dishes are listed in a simple, easy-to-navigate format under listings such as appetizers, soups and entrees.

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Wula Buhuan Spicy Boiled Fish
Wula Buhuan’s menu includes spicy boiled fish.

Those who have been to other Sichuan establishments in Houston such as Spicy Girl, Pepper Twins, or Mala Sichuan Bistro may be familiar with dishes such as cucumber salad, mapo tofu, couples tendon and spicy boiled fish. You’ll find all of those here, priced affordably in the sub-$10 range for most appetizers and soups, and in the $12 to $15 range for the majority of entrees.

But there are a whole host of other dishes to try and discover, from lesser known staples of Sichuan cuisine — chili oil rabbit, cumin lamb, fried intestines, to name a few — to the more common pork belly with sea salt, smoked duck, or combination lo mein noodle.

And even though Wang owns Spicy Girl, she says that the two restaurants are distinct from one another.

“Spicy Girl is more trendy and modern, while Wuha Buluan is more homey, more traditional,” she says. “It’s for people who want to taste the true flavors of Sichuan cuisine.”

Complementing the cuisine is the design of the 70-seat restaurant, which Wang oversaw herself. Dark woods throughout and several booths featuring intricate woodwork evoke a contemporary Chinese tea house theme.

Meanwhile, a striking, Instagram-worthy hand-painted mural and three large jute chandeliers imbue the space with a more contemporary air. Depicted in the mural are larger than life images of a Chinese family circa 1970, their faces and facial expressions bringing to mind the portraits of Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani.

Wula Buhuan plans to offer beer and wine in the near future. Currently, it’s a BYOB with a small service charge. To-go orders can also be placed via UberEats, DoorDash and Grubhub.

Wula Buhuan is open daily from 11 am to 9:30 pm and is located at 3346 Briar Forest Drive, www.wulahouston.com.

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