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

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Sedap, Sydney: Penang char kway teow

Rating: 3 out of 5

Sedap
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.

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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!

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Sambal, North Ryde: Har mee

Rating: 3 out of 5

Sambal
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.

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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.

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BBQ King, Haymarket: Roast duck with dry noodles

Rating: 3 out of 5

BBQ King
18 Goulburn St, Haymarket 2000

bbq king roast duck and noodlesBBQ King has long been a stalwart of Sydney’s late night dining scene.  Open until 2am, it brings in all those revellers that are looking for an alternative to a late night lamb sandwich.  However, this place is open all day, so whenever your hunger strikes, you can get your fill of roasted meats.  Hanging in the window of the take-away kiosk side are glistening samples of whole roasted ducks with deep, red skin, chunks of char siu, and slabs of crisp-skinned suckling pig.

I’ve been to BBQ King many times over the years for their roast duck lo mein.  I love lo mein, or stirred, Cantonese-style, wonton noodles.  They have a slightly firmer resistance when you bite through, with quite a distinctive taste and texture, and when they are served dry, lo mein style, it soaks up all the lovely flavours of the sauce.  I’m a sucker for duck when there is a choice.  Yes, even if there is pork on the menu, and in particular, suckling pig with crunchy crackling.

On this occasion, the roast duck was succulent and tender, although the skin was soft and not as crisp as I’ve had previously.  The noodles were firm with nice bite, and the duck juices at the bottom were a sweet and salty combination of soy and honey, with hints of Chinese five spice and star anise.

Unfortunately, the noodles and the choy sum underneath were not served hot.  In fact, it was barely warm.  I’m not sure whether my plate had been sitting around on a bench for a while before it reached me, but it was disappointingly colder than it should have been.  Otherwise, it’s still a worthwhile visit for the duck, and if I was stuck for a late night meal option, BBQ King would still be a strong contender.

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707 Japanese, North Strathfield: Yaki udon beef

Rating: 3 out of 5

707 Japanese Restaurant
16 George Street, North Strathfield 2137

yaki udon beef

One of those types that are right up there on the Supremely Annoying People scale are those that will go to a specialty restaurant and will order anything but the specialty. You know the ones – they will order fish at a steak restaurant, or the chicken at a seafood restaurant. I accept that they may have been dragged there against their will, but hey, they have either have inconsiderate dining companions, or they should quit being so picky.

Having said all that, 707 Japanese in North Strathfield specialise in Japanese BBQ, where you can order cuts of wagyu fillet and tenderloin or ox tongue, and cook it yourself over the hot plate in the middle of the table.  It’s infinitely more fun when sharing with others, so on this occasion when none of my dining companions fancied a meat-fest, I was left to order noodles at a Japanese BBQ restaurant.  Yes, I became one of those people!

The yaki udon beef came out on a pretty, rectangular plate, loaded with strips of beef and a rainbow of vegetables, including crunchy broccoli, red and green capsicum, cauliflower, bean sprouts, and shredded cabbage.  The marinated beef was tender and juicy, and there was a good ratio of all ingredients so that I never felt like there was too much of one thing.  The noodles were a good balance of soft, yet firm, chewiness, and it was nice contrast to the crunchy greens.  The teriyaki sauce was sweet but not cloying, and brought everything together nicely.

The service here is friendly and polite, with my pot of hot green tea being refilled without even having to ask.  The decor is modern yet comfortable, with lots of dark wood, and the food came out quickly.  All in all, a solid and decent noodle experience.

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Tre Viet, Newtown: Beef pho

Rating: 3 out of 5

Tre Viet
152-154 King Street, Newtown 2042

beef pho

Newtown is a wonderful Inner West suburb of Sydney that has a cultural style of its own.  It has an eclectic mix of university students and arty types, being a hub for live music, theatre, graffiti and street art, and a vibrant gay and lesbian community.  The other good thing about Newtown is its main drag, King Street, being chock full of cheap eats, from Indian diners, Thai restaurants, bustling cafes, and many many pubs.

One of the more popular establishments on King Street is Tre Viet, a restaurant that claims to specialise in pho and traditional Vietnamese dishes.  Pho is a popular street food dish in Vietnam – cheap and very satisfying – and it’s probably the most well known Vietnamese dish alongside rice paper rolls.  It’s one of my favourite noodle dishes, since it’s a light and seemingly simple dish but still has wonderful complex flavours in the broth.

The beef pho at Tre Viet was served with slices of cooked beef but also beautifully juicy slices of raw beef that poach slowly in the wonderful broth.  The broth had a full beefy flavour with a hint of ginger and star anise, and also smelled of sweet coriander and onion.  A basket of Thai basil, bean sprouts and lemon wedges was served alongside, and these added some fresh crunch and more subtle flavours to the dish.  The thin white noodles were on the softer side but still slurpable.

Despite the busyness of the restaurant, we didn’t have to wait too long for our meals, and the service was friendly and polite.  The beef pho was satisfyingly good, with a lovely beefy broth and deliciously sweet tender beef, even if the noodles were slightly too soft, so definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.

pho garnishes

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Asakaze, North Ryde: Karaage udon

Rating: 3 out of 5

Asakaze
Macquarie Centre, Herring & Waterloo Roads, North Ryde 2113

karaage udon

I’m normally not a huge udon noodle soup fan, if only because I usually prefer a fuller flavoured soup such as a tonkotsu or a laksa to the udon’s typically lighter flavoured kakejiru.  However, I was about to head to the gym for a work out and was looking for a light meal, so settled on the karaage udon at Asakaze.

The restaurant is within the Macquarie Centre shopping complex, and attempts to woo passerbys with their display of interesting and creative sushi offers.  Being a noodle fanatic, I was obviously going to go for either a ramen or a udon dish.  The service was polite, and the food arrived after only a short wait.

The bowl of steaming noodle soup was served with the karaage pieces bobbing on the top, getting soggier with each passing moment.  There were also thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms, a piece of fried tofu, kombu, shaved carrot, a slice of pink and white kamaboko, and finely chopped spring onions.  The thick white udon noodles were a little bit too soft, being noticeably chewier on the inside after biting through, but the light coloured kakejiru was not too salty with a tasty umami flavour.  The karaage was quite good, despite the soggy exterior, with the marinated chicken being tender and not too dry.

Overall, the karaage udon is satisfactory, filling a hole before you embark on a shopping expedition, or head to the movies or the gym.  It’s not particularly good value, with the modest portion size and a price tag of $12.90, however it’s hard to pick too many faults with it.

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Canton Noodle House, Burwood: Beef chow ho fun

Rating: 3 out of 5

Canton Noodle House
45 Burwood Road, Burwood 2134

beef ho fun

Ho fun, or the thick, flat rice noodles, is probably my favourite type of noodle in the world.  Soft and silky, and readily absorbing the flavours of whatever you add, it’s delicious even when served simply with a little bit of soy sauce and chilli oil.  Growing up, my dad often made beef chow ho fun, served with marinated strips of beef, so it’s certainly a nostalgic dish for me.

This restaurant is in the suburb of Burwood, which has a healthy Chinese population, and as a result, a multitude of Chinese restaurant choices.  The Canton Noodle House is popular during both lunch and dinner services, serving with military efficiency a big variety of noodle dishes as well as the favourites like sweet and sour pork or salt and pepper squid.

The beef chow ho fun was a generous size, as is the case with pretty much every dish here, and had a pleasing glossy sheen without being too oily.  The noodles were soft and elastic, just as they should be, and this was contrasted with the crunchiness of fresh bean sprouts and subtle hint of aromatic onion from the stir-fried chives.  There was plenty of tender grilled beef to keep meat fans happy, although for a noodle fan like myself, I would have preferred a higher ratio of noodles to meat.  One slightly annoying thing was the varying sizes of beef, with some pieces small and dainty, but others so big that you couldn’t fit a whole piece in your mouth with looking gluttonous, let alone having some noodle with your mouthful of meat.

The dish was polished off without too many complaints, and considering the portion size, a good value proposition when washed down with free hot tea!

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