Sadly soggy, oily, yucky.
A disturbingly oily pork mince pastry is the last dish to arrive at our table and no one dares to touch it. I brace myself and pick a slice up with my chopsticks, its soggy bottom threatens to split and the filling inside almost become a table wipe. With quick thinking and a fast maneuver, I pick up my bowl to fetch it instead of dragging it across the table, thank god I manage to save it from a total disaster just by the second. Mr P follows suit, but Helen refuses to touch it.
Don't you just hate when friends ask you to bring them to restaurant where you had some great food in the past, and then when you go back with them and it turns out to be totally shit? I'm not just losing my credibility, the friendship possibly also in jeopardy. That's what happened recently, when Helen and I catching up with Mr P, a freelance journalist who we met at Tasting Australia in Adelaide for a cheap dinner in Chinatown. I overruled Mr P's suggestion of Mamak since I just came back from Malaysia and suggested to go to Chinese Noodle Restaurant where I had some great meals many moons ago. But this time is shockingly horrendous.
Chinese noodle restaurant on Thomas Street, Haymarket has been a long time favourite among Sydneysiders. With its cheap and cheerful menu of Northern Chinese handmade noodle and dumplings are particularly attractive to uni students and more recently frequented by young hipsters I've noticed.
Make no mistakes, there are actually two northern Chinese noodle restaurants tucked away at the same spot in Prince Centre, and the competitiveness is feisty. Young Chinese girls are standing outside, spruiking with laminated menus and both restaurants are just as busy. But Chinese noodle restaurant on the left is just a tad more popular with patrons waiting outside while perusing the menu and ready to order before even getting inside the restaurant. The service of this restaurant without a doubt is one of the most efficient yet can be a little brusque and pushy. Within the first 5 minutes of waiting, the lady has already come back to us three times asking whether we are ready to order.
The restaurant resembles of a tiny shoe box, with a horde of patrons squeeze inside the extremely cosy space, everyone seems to enjoying their meals under the fake plastic grapevine overhead and Persian tapestries on both walls, a typical kitschy decor to echo the scenery in Xinjang where Uighurian will feast under the real grapevine to escape the scotching heat.
When the lady tells us where to sit, we all simply laugh as the vacant space is humanly impossible for anyone to squeeze in. I carefully maneuver myself into a tight corner spot, trying to sit down without knocking down any bowls and plates on the table. Eventually I am in but with my right leg prodding at Helen the whole evening. The room is warmer than outside and when we realise we need to take our jackets off, it's already too late to move.
My cravings for dumplings are finally answered with a dozen of pork and chives dumplings to share. The dumplings are pan-fried to a light golden brown on the bottom, unfortunately it doesn't yield the crispiness as I was hoping for, the skin is also a little thick and doughy. Despite the pork mince inside is moist and garlicky, I couldn't help but keep drowning the dumplings in vinegar and dried chilli oil is the only way to give them flavour.
Chinese Noodle Restaurant is famous for its hand-made noodles. Sometimes you will get a glimpse of the noodle making in action through the kitchen window. The Xinjiang style stir fry noodles comes in a generous portion with tender chicken pieces entangled in greasy hand-made noodles where green capsicum and tomato chunks add colours and textures. The noodles are fat and slippery with random thickness from hand kneading, some parts are firmer and chewier than others.
Mr P orders Northern style fried rice, which looks nothing more than a normal fried rice to me. The steamed rice is wok tossed with scrambled eggs, carrots, shredded chicken, green peas and shallots, perhaps also a little dose of MSG. The lack of wok breath makes the dish looks uninviting and bland. This staple dish seems bottomless no matter how hard we try to finish it.
The sad looking pork mince pastry last to arrive at our table, at least 30 minutes late. Drowning myself in oil and jeopardising my weakening heart, I struggle and ate two slices, Mr P had one, Helen has none and not even trying to.
I notice a small inflation on the price since last visit, but our meal this evening is still consider reasonably cheap at roughly $12 per head. Unfortunately, the food is disappointingly underwhelming and force-feeding with fatty, greasy food in a confined space doesn't appeal to me. I ain't no goose, neither foie gras quality.
Chinese Noodle Restaurant (Chinatown Noodle Restaurant)
TG7, Prince Centre
8 Quay Street, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9281 9051
Open 7 days 11am-9pm