Kungfu ramen? It makes me want to karate chop the air at the thought.
We happen upon this new noodle house on a recent walk through Chinatown. Gone is the former Vietnamese pho restaurant Xic Lo next to the Dong Nam Asian grocery store. In its place is Kungfu Ramen.
Making hand-pulled noodles in the kitchen
The menu promises "Secret Recipe Hand-Pulled Noodles" and as we take our seats in the mostly unchanged dining room, we hear the sporadic thump from the kitchen, later identified as the sound of noodle dough hitting the stainless steel counter.
Cucumber in mixed sauce $6
We start with a side dish of cucumber in mixed sauce, fat chunks of cool cucumber and red capsicum mixed with soy and plenty of garlic. The serving is huge, but I'd probably prefer a mixed salad option so we can try more things, like spicy tofu, shredded potato, spinach in ginger sauce, and shredded seaweed. With each dish priced at $6, we stick with one and still can't finish it.
The cold salad bench in the dining room
Kungfu ramen (beef) $10
Our waitress explains that the soup base here takes six hours to cook and "is very good for you", creating visions of the rich broth used in Japanese ramen dishes. I order the kungfu ramen, which the waitress reassures me is their signature dish.
Cold beef slices
A plate of cold beef slices, a little dry in appearance, arrives alongside my noodle soup. Immersing it into the broth helps rehydrate the meat.
The soup is not quite the broth we're expecting, neither meaty, fatty nor herbal, but rather bland and insipid in flavour. The only flavouring agent comes from the chilli, a fiery slick of dried chilli and chilli oil that hits the back of the throat in a cough-inducing encounter.
The noodles, while fine and smooth, taste a little soapy to me, a sentiment echoed by Mr Manchego. Perhaps this is a result of the flour coating on the noodles?
Kungfu ramen served with vegetable $10
Mr Manchego has the vegetable ramen, served with tender spinach. There is no shortage of carbs here - each bowl holds a huge portion of noodles, but we lose interest about halfway through.
Watching the action in the kitchen is much more fun, and it's only now that a waitress boasts that customers can specify the thickness of noodle they prefer, as each batch is made fresh. I'm disappointed that this wasn't explained as I would have asked for thicker noodles in my soup.
What we also notice is the charcoal grill in one corner of the kitchen, and we find ourselves looking mournfully at the tempting skewers of chicken wings and shish kebab. Which is how I find myself back at Kungfu Ramen only a few days later, this time with Pika.
Fried noodles with lamb $12
This time I stick with the fried noodles, convincing Pika to share a plate. On my initial visit I'd noticed most patrons ended up requesting doggy bags to take home leftovers after struggling to finish.
Pika's eyes widen when the plate of noodles lands on our table. It's a family-served portion, a mountain of noodles that wouldn't look out of place on a Chinese restaurant lazy susan.
Slightly thicker in width and satisfying chewy, I find the fried noodles much more enjoyable than the ramen soup. The lamb isn't overly strong in flavour and there's plenty of colour with stir-fried garlic shoots that are crunchy and sweet.
Charcoal grill with chicken wings and shish kebab
Sharing a plate of noodles gives us plenty of space (and budget) to order skewers of chicken wings and shish kebabs.
Shish kebab $2 per skewer (minimum two per order)
We extricate the lamb from its flat skewer, mindful of poking someone's eye out as we hold the steel swords aloft. Dusted with cumin and chilli, the lamb is fragrant and deliciously tender.
Barbecue chicken wing $4 per skewer
Slash marks through the chicken wings ensure the meat is cooked through to the bone. We deliberately wait a few minutes to allow them to cool from their searing hot state, fresh from the grill. The wings are fatty, crisp, sticky and slightly smoky from the grill. They'd be perfect with beer.
We emerge satiated and happy. Sometimes it's worth going in for a second round to win the battle in kungfu.
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215A Thomas Street, Haymarket, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9281 3678
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10/14/2010 03:01:00 am