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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Kungfu Ramen, Haymarket Chinatown

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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Kungfu Ramen on Urbanspoon

Kungfu Ramen

215A Thomas Street, Haymarket, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9281 3678

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25 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/14/2010 03:01:00 am


  • At 10/14/2010 8:41 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I wouldn't expect a good ramen soup in a place with that name, either. On the other hand, it's great that you had the courage to go back and find something worth the visit. Thanks for sharing!

  • At 10/14/2010 9:40 am, Anonymous Howard said…

    LOVE the look of the charcoal grill, it's my fav way of cooking. I'm a bit sad Xic Lo has gone, we use to go there during the uni days at UTS. But at the same time, it was getting a bit out dated and the food wasn't all that good. Good to see something with potential has replaced it.

  • At 10/14/2010 10:39 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    I'm so glad that happens to you too! I often get bored halfway through enormous noodle soups. Now I'm not alone! :D

  • At 10/14/2010 11:44 am, Anonymous Betty @ The Hungry Girl said…

    Oh, Xic Lo is gone?! I never even tried it, I always thought it'd be there! haha... I like the name of this restaurant, and the fried noodles look good. Will have to remember to share though!

  • At 10/14/2010 12:00 pm, Anonymous Tina said…

    Looks like hand pulled noodles are du jour now...!!!

    Shame about the ramen... Do you know if the ramen noodles made on site too?

  • At 10/14/2010 12:33 pm, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    Hehe funny name.. OMG Such great value for those lamb shish kebabs! I'm drooling at the thought of it!

  • At 10/14/2010 12:58 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Ramen? What's ramen? All I can see are those succulent lamb shish kebabs!

  • At 10/14/2010 1:07 pm, Anonymous FR said…

    omg where is my fork. I want to try that food right now. Thanks for sharing this info with us. I will check it out soon.

  • At 10/14/2010 3:38 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Eat now.. and live to eat another day! Mmm charcoal grill looks goood and yayayaya rammeenn!

  • At 10/14/2010 3:51 pm, Anonymous JanJan @ Cooking for My Love said…

    Hand-pulled noodles are one of my favourite Northern China dish!

  • At 10/14/2010 6:16 pm, Anonymous billy @ a table for two said…

    6 hours to cook the broth and is still bland? And I also assume the vegetarian ramen is using the same stock?

    man it reminds me that I still need to go to Mappen.

  • At 10/14/2010 9:45 pm, Anonymous thang @ noodlies said…

    Not missing Xic Lo too much, but I'm confused, it's called Ramen, but the dishes seem like they are northern chinese?

  • At 10/14/2010 10:22 pm, Anonymous Jenny @ Musings and Morsels said…

    For those that missed Xic Lo, it exists in Parramatta as well (whether it still stands, I can't be sure).

    Anyhow, I'm so glad you reviewed this place as I too was eyeing it just the other week! Thank you!
    I agree with Thang, from the look of it, I'm fairly certain the food is Northern Chinese, rather than Japanese (maybe a mumbo jumbo of both?). The skewers/kebab sticks, the idea of the hand-pulled noodles, even the noodle soups themselves...all wouldn't be out of place at a Xi'an or Xinjiang restaurant.

    Very disappointed to hear it didn't live up your expectations; I was ecstatic when I first saw it. Just too bad.
    Still, judging as it's still very new, improvements can be made.

  • At 10/15/2010 12:45 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    It indeed has a catchy name but it's the skewered meats which have captured my attention!

  • At 10/15/2010 9:37 am, Anonymous JT @areyouhungary said…

    Ah I love cucumber in any type of sauce, I don't really know why. Maybe it is because of the little crunch you still get even though it is soaked through with vinegary or salty goodness?

    Anyway, those wings seem reason enough to visit!

  • At 10/15/2010 7:09 pm, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    Shame Xic Lo is gone as I did like that place. Although, this place looks much more appealing! So nice to be able to request your noodle thickness

  • At 10/16/2010 12:34 am, Anonymous Jasmyne said…

    Hi, just stumbled upon your blog and I love it! Been meaning to try ramen, I've never seen it around south-west Sydney where I live. Great post!

  • At 10/16/2010 5:05 am, Anonymous Maria @ Scandi Foodie said…

    Love the "back stage" photos! As much as I'm not a big noodle fan (you can all shoot me now), this place looks very inviting!

  • At 10/16/2010 9:13 am, Anonymous Iris said…

    Thanks for alerting us to the false advertising. Seems "ramen" is just an appropriation of "lamian" (Chinese pulled noodles), namely Lanzhou lamian as written on the Chinese shop sign.

  • At 10/17/2010 8:52 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    I went here last night (Saturday) before the basketball, and was disappointed. The service was terrible and the staff resorted to handing out cans of coke to placate people. If the noodle width is tailor made then they should definitely pitch this at the beginning. It might make patrons more patient, or not. I might take the advice and try it a second time but wouldn’t take my friends just yet. Maybe its just teething problems

  • At 11/02/2010 7:59 pm, Anonymous Adam said…

    I have no idea why they changed the name from Lan Zhou to Kungfu Ramen but it is not an impressive change. It had two other names previously and the waitstaff still wear uniforms featuring the fourth oldest name.

    I'm still happy they are chasing away customers because it's the best north-western halal Chinese in Sydney and I don't want the secret getting out ;)

  • At 11/15/2010 3:17 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Despite the restaurant's identity crisis consequent to its intermarriage of Chinese Kunfu, Japanese ramen and a pirated Pizza Hut man making noodles instead of pizza, I feel that justice must be given to what it truly is and capable of.

    It serves authentic North-western Chinese style cuisine, a novelty in this market. It is for food lovers who dare fall in love with new and un-compromised flavours.

  • At 2/02/2011 11:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i detect a theme here, first with the chefs gallery review, and now this one; you seem to dislike thin and go for thick handmade noodles. (while i am quite the opposite and much prefer the thin ones).

    anyway, i went to the kungfu ramen shop on george street today and must say i was mightily impressed! especially with the cold lamian. it has a mild garlicky flavour and comes with some cold meats and some sliced cucumber+tomato. they served us the thin noodles and they were much better in both texture and flavour compared with chefs gallery. you should have another go!

    incidentally, glad the xiclo is gone. they were terrible, i went there twice and both times their beef noodle soup was very poor.

  • At 2/28/2011 6:06 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's worth noting that the Japanese word for "Ramen" (as well as the noodle itself) actually comes from the Chinese "Lai Mein" (literally translated as 'pulled noodles'). Especially remembering how the Japanese pronounce "Ra" as "La".

    Given that as far as the Chinese is concerned, "Japanese Ramen" is like saying "Japanese Pasta", and that there is no known/recognized english word for "Lai Mein", they took that translation for their name.

    Agreed that it's confusing, but at the same time, I don't think they were trying to "steal" the Japanese name, so much as "steal it back".

  • At 8/30/2013 2:20 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    coming WAY late to this party, but I've just eaten at KungFu Ramen twice in two weeks. Maybe they've taken the criticism to heart, because the broth in the Ramen soup was very rich tasting and satisfying, not at all bland as earlier commenters have said. And I've had handmade noodles in both China and Japan, and I thought that these were quite good - flavorful, chewy, and I didn't get the 'soapy' taste that someone else had described. All in all, I've been a happy customer, and very satisfied with the value for money.


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