Dong Ba, Bankstown: Bun Bo Hue

Rating: 4 out of 5

Dong Ba
296 Chapel Road South, Bankstown 2200

dong ba bun bo hue

When Momofuku’s David Chang came to Sydney for the first time, he was given a list of go-to noodle restaurants curated by Deputy Editor of the AGT, Pat Nourse. Most of them are centred around the CBD but among the few that aren’t is Dong Ba in Bankstown. It doesn’t take a detective to work out that their specialty is Bun Bo Hue, if their windows are anything to go by.

The Bun Bo Hue ($10) is a huge serving of soup noodle goodness. If you’re not shy about animal products like processed meat or offal, this is deliciousness in a bowl. The round, white rice noodles are topped with chunks of tender pork, slices of fish cake, tender beef, and big firm, cubes of jellied pigs’ blood. Chilli flakes and chilli oil float on the golden broth, which is spicy, and fragrant with lemongrass and deep beef and fish flavour.

Enhanced with the fresh, crunchy bean sprouts, torn basil leaves and a squeeze of fresh lemon, you could almost imagine yourself in a busy street side stall in Vietnam. Now you only need to whisk yourself away to Bankstown for a slice of Vietnam.

Dong Ba on Urbanspoon

Menya Noodle Bar, Haymarket: Tonkotsu shoyu ramen

Rating: 3 out of 5

Menya Noodle Bar
Shop TG8, 8 Quay Street, Haymarket 2000

menya ramen

Menya Noodle Bar is tucked in a little corner of the Prince Centre eateries. I’ve walked past this place plenty of times without noticing it, since my eyes are always taken by the seemingly identical Chinese Noodle Restaurant and Chinese Noodle House, where you always seem to be accosted by friendly waitstaff trying to entice you into their restaurant, and not that of their rival.

As with most ramen restaurants, there are a fair number of choices on the Menya menu. Enough to make your mind boggle. I opt for the Tonkotsu shoyu ramen in the Menya mini size ($9.30 for a large serving, $7.30 for the Menya Mini size), which is still a substantial serving for me. In the bowl is a nori sheet, half an egg, slices of chashu, bamboo shoots and slices of fish cake. The soup is slightly lighter than a normal tonkotsu, with the addition of shoyu broth, meaning it is still full flavoured but not as heavy as a typical tonkotsu. This is perfect if you want a richer style soup without the tonkotsu regret!

The straight yellow noodles are soft yet have a good bite. The chashu is a delicious mix of meatiness and meltingly soft fat. The egg has a soft, deep orange yolk. I really enjoyed the lighter soup at the beginning of the meal, but towards the end of the bowl, I was finding the flavour a bit one-dimensional and tiring.

The service here is quick and the staff are lovely and friendly. Menya is a decent choice for a Chinatown ramen fix, even if it’s not one of the best.

menya ramen

Menya Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Sedap, Sydney: Penang char kway teow

Rating: 3 out of 5

Regent Place, 501 George Street, Sydney 2000

sedap malaysian

The cinema strip end of George Street has long been dingy and unappealing, but the addition of some great eateries over the last few years has really made the area much more attractive option for a night out. Regent Place is an example of turning a little alley way into a hub of cool.

Sedap has a very clever fit out that makes you feel like you’re sitting at a street hawker stall in Malaysia at night. Fairy lights are strung up on the ceiling, and rustic-style boards hang from the counter listing some of the specialties, like assam laksa and teh tarik. With a small space and loads of diners crammed in, the atmosphere is buzzing. We are lucky enough to snare the very last table available, thereby avoiding a hungry wait.

We are disappointed to see that the dinner menu lacks some of our favourites, which are on the lunch menu, such as nasi lemak and all the laksa variations. So we opt for the char kway teow ($12), which I think is always a good barometer for a Malaysian or Singaporean restaurant’s quality. It’s a famous dish, and one that every restaurant should get right.

The noodles arrive piled on a colourful plate with a generous dollop of sambal on the side. Bouncy flat rice noodles are wok-fried with lap cheong (Chinese sausage), slices of fish cake, bean sprouts, egg and three big king prawns. The noodles are sadly too soft and break up easily, but the flavour is smokey with a warm chilli heat, even without the extra sambal mixed through.

sedap char kway teow

By the time we finish our meal, the restaurant has a queue of people waiting for tables, so we bustle out to free up our table. As we linger by the front of the restaurant, I look over the lunch menu and decide that the next time I come here will definitely be a daytime visit.

Sedap on Urbanspoon

Twisted Noodle Bar, Haymarket: Yunnan noodle soup

Rating: 3 out of 5

Twisted Noodle Bar
Shop 44, 1 Dixon Street, Haymarket 2000

yunnan noodle soup

It wasn’t so long ago that the northern end of Dixon Street was a dingy strip with no life or atmosphere. Nowadays, it’s buzzing with diners, with lots of new eateries, and crowds lining up for the crazy and creative flavours at N2 Extreme Gelato.

Twisted Noodle Bar is right next door to N2, and we weren’t really quite sure what made this noodle joint so twisted, but we were happy to go along with it. We were seated outside, overlooking the Dixon Street buzz. The guy who took our order struggled to understand our questions about the different levels of chilli and sour indicated on the menu. Last time I came here, even the medium chilli blew my socks off, so in the end, I decided to go for the the “safe” small sour and chilli levels — the chilli level goes up beyond large to super and extreme!

twisted noodle bar chilli table

The Yunnan Noodle ($11.80) is one of the menu recommendations, and comes with a little side plate of slices of pan-fried frankfurter and a crisp-skinned chicken wing. The sausage was nothing particularly special, but the chicken wing was deliciously savoury (despite its oily appearance) and juicy inside.

The main event is a generous serving of noodles in a light-coloured broth. The soup is also light in flavour, but complements the chilli pork mince well without overpowering it. The white, round rice noodles are soft and slippery, but are firm enough to give a decent slurp. The fresh chives lend a light onion flavour and the slice of pork is tender and moist.

The small chilli and sour will give you some decent heat on your tongue if that’s your thing. If you’re feeling brave, go for a medium or large — I definitely wouldn’t recommend the super or extreme for first time twisters. But don’t worry if you’ve overextended yourself on the chilli. Just pop next door to N2 for some cooling gelato relief!

Twisted Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Pho Tau Bay, Cabramatta: Special beef pho

Rating: 5 out of 5

Pho Tau Bay
12/117 John Street, Cabramatta 2166

pho tau bay beef pho

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that one can find some of Sydney’s best pho in Cabramatta. This suburb in south-west Sydney is a hub for Vietnamese and Chinese, and is packed with restaurants, Asian grocery stores, and fresh juice bars.

Pho Tau Bay is situated at the start of John Street, the main drag of Cabramatta, tucked around the corner on a side street. Every pho fan in Sydney knows about this place, so don’t be surprised to find yourself queuing for a table, or sharing a table with other noodlers.

After a short wait, I was seated at a shared table and ordered the special beef pho (small $9, medium $10, large $11). Even my small serving was a sizeable portion, and had me feeling rather relieved that I hadn’t ordered a medium or large bowl of pho! The special pho was full of delicious beefiness, with slices of pink, rare beef, beef balls, tripe, tendon, and brisket, served with a side plate of fresh basil, wedges of lemon, and bean sprouts.

The broth is the star here, and it’s a gorgeous, dark, full-flavoured broth with hints of star anise and ginger. It is so comforting and warming that it was almost like receiving a big hug. The noodles are soft but still springy. The rare beef is a tender and juicy highlight, and the beef balls are bouncy with a nice, firm bite. Even the regular beef slices are spot on, full of beefy flavour when those of many other places are rather bland, like the flavour has been poached out.

If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s a fair trek for me to get out to Cabramatta, this place would be a weekly habit. On second thoughts, however, it would be a pretty worthwhile habit to keep. Much more satisfying and healthier for you than a packet of ciggies or watching Beauty and the Geek!

Pho Tau Bay on Urbanspoon

Ramen Zundo, Sydney: Tantanmen

Rating: 4 out of 5

Ramen Zundo
Shop 10.30 World Square, 644 George St, Sydney 2000

ramen zundo lanternsWorld Square’s little alleyways, crammed with side by side eateries, reminds me a bit of Asia. The buzz and brightly lit doorways transport me the streets of Sapporo or Hong Kong or Singapore.

In the midst of action is Ramen Zundo, and I’m immediately drawn to the front window, which is filled floor to ceiling with red and white lanterns. Very striking. The menu is a dazzling array of choices, with curries and donburi, and enough ramen options to render this hapless noodler torn between tonkotsu or chicken broth, small or large, standalone ramen or a set, mild or spicy. As tempted as I was by the tsukemen, the Zundo black (particularly after I loved the black ramen at Hakata-Maru), and the Double Soup – can’t decide between tonkotsu or chicken broth? Have both! – I opted for the tantanmen.

ramen zundo tantanmen

The tantanmen ($12.80) came after a much shorter time than it took to place the order, and was delivered with a  sweet and polite nod and smile from our server. The menu indicated that this would be a spicy affair, and the anticipation was heightened when I saw the liberal sprinkling of dried chilli flakes on the noodles. First things first, I had a taste of the soup and it certainly had a lovely, rounded flavour with a fiery kick to finish, and didn’t feel very heavy.

The yellow, straight noodles were soft with still a bit of bite. The pork mince was flecked with more chilli, but it was delicious and moist, and particularly tasty when spooning it out of the bowl after it had absorbed the soup flavours. Some freshness and texture was added with the baby bok choy and sweet bean sprouts.

This was a very enjoyable noodle experience, with something on the menu to suit everyone, and polite and quick service. Next time I might work up an appetite and get a ramen set so that I can sample the curry or donburi without missing out on my noodle fix!

ramen zundo restaurant

Ramen Zundo on Urbanspoon

Sambal, North Ryde: Har mee

Rating: 3 out of 5

285-297 Lane Cove Road, North Ryde 2113

har mee sambal

Laksa and char kway teow may be the most well-know Singaporean-Malaysian noodle dishes, but a stand out option for prawn lovers is always the har mee. It’s not for the faint hearted though, since the prawn stock can pack a punch. It is made from the simmering of prawn heads and shells, sometimes with the addition of pork, and the intense prawn smell and taste will overwhelm your senses.

The har mee at Sambal ($13.80) doesn’t quite hit you between the eyes like others that I’ve had.  It still has a lovely sweet, prawn flavour but it is not up there in the intensity scale.  This would be a good thing if this was your first ever har mee and you wanted to ease yourself into it, but for seasoned har mee veterens, this might be a tad disappointing.  It is a light-coloured broth, filled with the typical mix of yellow hokkien noodle and thin rice vermicelli.  It is topped with thinly sliced pork, which is a bit on the dry side, and within the soup you will find a few half slices of prawns, although you’ll be left foraging in your soup for more.  Mixed in with the noodles are fresh bean sprouts for some added crunch.

The service here at Sambal is pleasant and efficient, and even when it is jam packed during lunch service, the meals still come out relatively quickly.  There is a nice buzz and atmosphere here when it’s busy, and they have an outdoor dining section too, which would be fantastic on a nice sunny day.  Overall, it’s a decent Singaporean-Malaysian establishment.  The har mee may not be a huge hit with some, but will definitely appeal to others.  Just in case you were wondering, the laksa and char kway teow here are worth it.

Sambal on Urbanspoon

Thuy Huong, Marrickville: Bun thit nuong cha gio

Rating: 3 out of 5

Thuy Huong
304 Illawarra Road, Marrickville 2204

thuy huong bun thit nuong cha gioMarrickville has been a melting pot of immigrant cultures for a long time, but is best known now for the plethora of Vietnamese restaurants and Asian grocery stores.  It’s a vibrant little community, with Sunday markets, cafes, restaurants, and an annual Marrickville Festival.

Along the busy Illawarra Road strip is the popular Thuy Huong restaurant.  It is simply decorated with tiled floors and wooden tables, and is a modest, family-run restaurant.  However simple it may look, it is always filled with diners – couples, families, and friends sitting with tables overflowing with large, steaming bowls of pho.

The bun thit nuong cha gio is a good choice if you can’t decide between the pork or the spring rolls for your rice noodles – why not have both!  It’s a huge portion, and the bowl is brimming with BBQ lemongrass pork, three crisp spring rolls, and loads of fresh salad topping the soft, rice vermicelli noodles.  Pouring over the nuoc cham dressing, I tuck into the refreshing mix of cold noodle and salad contrasting with the hot pork and spring rolls.  The charred and caramelised pork is juicy, and the spring rolls are filled with pork mince, cabbage, black fungus, and carrot, although aren’t as porky as I’d like.

I always love a good bun.  This one ticks the boxes, with a delicious mix of textures and flavours – crunchy fresh cucumber, bean sprouts and carrot having a party in your mouth with soft noodle, meaty pork, and sweet, salty and sour dressing. If you’re in the area, Thuy Huong is definitely a good choice for a satisfying Vietnamese feed.

Thuy Huong Coffee Lounge on Urbanspoon

Ichi-ban Boshi, Sydney: Wonton-men

Rating: 4 out of 5

Ichi-ban Boshi
Level 2, The Galeries, 500 George Street, Sydney 2000

ichi ban boshi wonton men ramen

If a ramen could be judged by the size of the queue, Ichi-ban Boshi undoubtedly has a good thing going.  On each of my visits, there has been a throng of hungry diners waiting for a table.  Thankfully, the queue seems to move fairly quickly, especially if you’re willing to share a table with other ramen fans.

It’s a slightly odd experience coming to Ichi-ban Boshi for dinner.  The restaurant is situated right at the top of the Galeries, next to Kinokuniya bookshop.  In the evening, when the centre is closed, dark and quiet, it’s as though the restaurant is an oasis of light, food, and chatter.  Claiming a table is a matter of jotting down how many diners are in your group on the grid provided, specify whether you are happy to share (presumably this increases your chances of getting a table sooner), then take a number and wait.

On this visit, I decided to try the wonton ramen ($13).  Wontons are more familiar in Chinese cuisine, so this dish is a clever fusion of Chinese and Japanese styles.  The thin, straight noodles are served in a light, shio soup, along with choy sum, seaweed, and a dollop of miso paste.

The noodles were spot on in their springiness and bite, but the absolute highlight were the triangular-shaped wontons.  Each wonton was generously proportioned, with a huge hit of juicy prawns in each one.  However, if seafood isn’t your thing (gotta say though, your loss!) there is a huge range of different ramen dishes to appeal to your taste buds.

Ichi-ban Boshi on Urbanspoon

Have you wondered how the noodle ratings work?

If you’ve made it to this humble little site, then you are undoubtedly a noodle fan.  You have a friend here in the Noisy Noodler, as I’m on a mission to bring you the best noodles in Sydney.  Oh alright, I don’t really need an excuse to eat noodles, but if I find a good noodle, I’m more than happy to share it with you fellow noodlers rather than keeping the secret to myself!

You may have noticed ratings at the top of each entry, but you may or may not have wondered how I award the given rating for each noodle establishment.  Wonder no more!  It’s not a particularly technical rating system, but one that’s based on gut (how very appropriate!)

The benchmark that I use in giving a restaurant a rating is whether I’d be happy to spend my money to dine there again, and whether it’s memorable enough for me to make a special trek there or recommend it to others.

Here are my noodle-ability ratings:

  • 5 out of 5 – A sensational noodle experience, and worth a major trek across town.  In fact, if you are a noodle fan, your life will be incomplete without trying this noodle!
  • 4 out of 5 – An excellent noodle experience that makes you instantly recognise you’re onto something good.
  • 3 out of 5 – A solid and decent noodle experience.  It won’t change your world, but if you’re in the area, it might be worth a visit.
  • 2 out of 5 – A below average noodle experience, and one that did not live up to expectations.  It may make you feel like you wasted your time and hard-earned money.
  • 1 out of 5 – A complete waste of a meal.  Inedible.

beef pho an bankstown

Get noodling!