eatlovenoodles's Qype reviews
49 Frith Street, Soho, London W1D 4SQ
eatlovenoodles wrote on 13 July 2010
It seems like a lifetime ago since I descended on Koya with a group that included fellow bloggers The Grubworm, Uyen, and Tom & Jen. Unlike most noodle joints in town, Koya sticks to one type of noodle, udon, prepared in the following ways:
atsu-atsu - hot udon hot broth
hiya-atsu - cold udon hot broth
hiya-hiya - cold udon cold sauce
Now you might think this would be manna from heaven to a noodle-lover but the thing is, udon isn’t one of my favourite noodles. I also prefer them stir-fried rather than in a soup or served cold. Combined with the hype generated by bloggers and critics, I was worried that Koya wouldn’t live up to expectations.
So it was with some apprehension that I ordered my niku atsu-atsu or beef w/hot udon in hot broth (£8.50). I needn’t have worried, as the noodles were of a quality that I’ve never encountered before in udon, perhaps they do go with soup after all. And the broth was also mighty fine, clean and natural with hints of ginger.
Being a bit of a pleb, I also ordered some tanuki or tempura batter bits to go with my noodles. The others went for different combos of atsu-atsu, hiya-atsu, and hiya-hiya, which met with universal approval. I particularly liked the look of Jen’s tempura that came with her hiya-hiya. One of our party went for a donburi rice bowl, which may seem a strange order but as you might have guessed was competently done.
However, much as I loved the noodles here, it was the small plates that I was most impressed with. In particular, the kakuni or braised pork belly with cider (£6) was truly outstanding – the ‘melt in the mouth’ cider infused pork belly combined wonderfully with the wasabi dip.
We also enjoyed the other small plates of kamo roast (roast duck), kaiso salad (seaweed salad), and lenkon salad (lotus root & green salad). All in all, a great meal with great company that cost around £20 per head with a round of drinks.
I returned a week later but was a little disappointed by my special of prawn & seaweed atsu-atsu. Whilst there was nothing wrong with the seaweed and noodles combo, there was only a solitary prawn and I felt a little short changed. However, the kakuni was again to die for, this time with an added bonus of a spare rib. And my friend enjoyed her buta miso hiya-atsu although she struggled with getting the cold udon into the hot pork & miso paste broth – is there a easy way of doing this?
Whilst Koya is pricier than many noodle options in London, I think its worth it and I’m pleased to report that this is one restaurant that lives up to the hype. I also noticed some seating looking into the kitchen on my second visit and I need to a bag a seat there next time.
15-21 Ganton Street, Soho, London W1F 9BN
eatlovenoodles wrote on 21 March 2010
Cha Cha Moon opened in 2008 amid much fanfare as Alan Yau went back to his Hong Kong roots to open up a Chinese noodle bar in Soho. I went a couple of times during the launch period but sadly the noodles didn’t live up to the hype. Apologists may point out that they were selling all dishes for £3.50 during this period but frankly low prices are not an excuse for some of the crap that was served.
Cha Cha Moon doesn’t do starters or desserts; they serve only mains and sides with the objective of getting punters ‘in and out’ as quickly as possible. That said my side dish of fried prawn guotie (£4.60) arrived first. This dish immediately got my hackles up, as these weren’t guotie, which are dumplings that are steamed and pan-fried on the bottom. These impostors were deep-fried with a meagre underseasoned prawn filling. They reminded me of the ersatz Chinese snacks that supermarkets sell and the only redeeming feature of this dish was the garlic soy dip.
Sadly things didn’t get any better with my wonton mian (£6.00). The broth was flavourless with the only discernible taste being a slight taint of ‘gan shui’ – the soapy taste of potassium carbonate. Now don’t get alarmed, as it’s normal for fresh egg noodles or san mein to use potassium carbonate to give it a springy texture. However, any potential aftertaste should be removed by rinsing the noodles thoroughly, something that they failed to do here. As the broth was so insipid, it was a relief that the garlic soy dip that came with the guotie was on hand to pep up the noodles.
On the plus side, the chicken and prawn wontons were properly seasoned although there wasn’t enough prawn for my liking. These were passable wontons but I’m not sure why chicken was used instead of the traditional pork. The portion size was a total rip-off too as there were only four wontons in the bowl. Most Chinatown caffs charge no more than a fiver for this dish and they serve at least five or six wontons. I was still hungry after spending £13 including tea and service, which is just plain wrong.
I know some of you may be thinking that I ordered the ‘wrong dish’ but if a Chinese noodle bar can’t knock up a decent bowl of wonton noodles then you do wonder what its raison d’être is? I mean would you think it acceptable if a pizzeria served up a sub-standard pizza margherita?
Service was better than I remember although their intention to get you in and out as quickly as possible wasn’t particularly well disguised (perhaps they’re more Chinese than I give them credit for). Some people may like the trendy interior design but I think it’s pretty soulless. The communal benches also got on my nerves, especially the one I was sat on with high chairs.
I think Cha Cha Moon can probably survive catering to tourists and kids with silly haircuts but this is probably more to do with its Soho location. An exercise in style over substance, Cha Cha Moon (together with chains like Ping Pong and dim t) in many ways represent the worse of Chinese and Oriental cuisine in London. It says it all when the highlight of my meal was the garlic soy dip.
If you want noodles in this part of Soho, then go to Ramen Seto, where you won’t leave feeling hungry after spending £13.
72 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 6NA
eatlovenoodles wrote on 21 March 2010
Little Lamb is a specialist hot pot restaurant but if you’re looking for the Lancashire variety then you’ll be disappointed. By hot pot, I mean what the Cantonese call ‘daa bin lou’, Mandarin speakers call ‘huo guo’, and what the Japanese know as ‘shabu-shabu’. It’s also commonly known as ‘steamboat’
The version here is what passes for as the common or garden Chinese variety. This is despite the misleading claim that it’s a Mongolian & Chinese restaurant. No matter what you call it and what style you go for, hot pot makes for a fun and filling meal.
Ordering is simple here as you use a tick sheet akin to those found in dim sum restaurants. You can go a la carte but I recommend going for the £20/head set meal (min. 2 persons), where you choose a soup base and five dishes per person. Between the two of us, we saved around a tenner ordering this way.
For the soup base, we went ‘yin-yang’ with a nourishing herbal tonic and a special spicy soup, into which the assorted meat, seafood, vegetables, mushrooms, and noodles are cooked. The faint hearted should beware of the Sichuan-style spicy soup.
I’d forgotten how much fun, hot pot is and if you don’t mind cooking your own dinner then I strongly recommend Little Lamb.
26 Frith St, London W1D 5LD
eatlovenoodles wrote on 9 March 2010
First impressions were good with the incredibly helpful and charming owner on hand to help navigate us through the main menu and the ‘Chinese’ menu.
As well as Northern Chinese dishes, the menu has a selection of dishes from across China including Sichuan and Cantonese classics. In a mix of Mandarin, Cantonese, English, and drawing pictures, we managed to cobble together a decent spread. In descending order of excellence, we tucked into the following:
Spicy and fragrant casserole – this Sichuan style dish consists of 47 ingredients including king prawns, squid, mange tout and lotus root. It had the trademark ma-la numbing heat and was the definitely the star of the dinner. Although described as a casserole, it was actually a dry dish served in a small wok.
Next up was Beijing-style BBQ fish topped with dried chillies and Chinese mushrooms. This was from the Chinese menu and the owner described it as their No 1 dish. It was good although I prefer my fish steamed.
Yi Yang Fang pancake, with egg, sesame & coriander – a traditional Beijing street snack usually eaten for breakfast. It seemed quite appropriate that we had a pancake as it was Shrove Tuesday !
From the Chinese menu, ‘fresh’ jiaozi boiled dumplings filled with chives, egg & spring onion. Again a classic Beijing dish served with a vinegar dip.
To bulk out the meal we ordered stir fried Chinese kale or gai lan and stir-fry shredded potato. Spuds are quite commonly used in Northern Chinese cuisine although they were a tad bland here.
From the Chinese menu, zhajiangmian, literally fried bean paste noodles. Full disclosure here, I’m not the biggest fan of this classic Northern Chinese noodle dish even when I’ve had it in Beijing or in Seoul (this is reputedly Korea’s favourite Chinese dish). In theory, julienned veg, minced pork and fried bean paste mixed into noodles should be a winner. But I’ve come to the conclusion that zhajiangmian and I will never be best mates especially when cucumber is the only veg in this version.
The final dish was yu xiang qiezi from the Chinese menu. These are commonly known as fish-fragrant or sea-spicy aubergines. This was the low point as they were actually sweet & sour aubergines – a poor rendition of a Sichuan classic and the only real bum note.
Admittedly, I have a soft spot for places like these – seating capacity could be no more than 25 – but I really liked Taste of Beijing. This was largely due to their genuinely charming and helpful service. In particular their willingness to explain what was on the Chinese menu, which made a refreshing change from the mardy sods in Chinatown.
The bill came to £95 including some beers but the owner knocked £10 off the bill (this was a unsolicited discount), which we rounded up to £100 to include a tip – decent value for £20/head.
5 Macclesfield Street, London Chinatown, London W1D 6AY
eatlovenoodles wrote on 22 January 2010 (updated on 13 July 2010)
I’ve never understood why the Straits cuisine of Malaysia and Singapore isn’t more popular. Given the popularity of Chinese, Indian and Thai food in the UK, you’d have thought it’d be a winner especially as it has much in common with all three.
Whilst Indian is the traditional choice for post-pub dining, I reckon Straits cuisine would make for great way to end the evening. To put this theory to the test, I met up with my old mate, the Italian Shetland Pony, his missus and a few other muckers on a pre-Christmas Friday night out.
After a few beers in Soho – all in the cause of research – we pitched up at Rasa Sayang sometime after 11pm.
Being a bit of a control freak, I took charge and ordered some sides to share - 3 portions of roti canai, a portion of curry cheong fan (both pictured above) and 2 portions of spring rolls. The coconutty curry sauce in the first two dishes was really zingy and I wish I ordered more of the cheong fan as these rice noodles were very more-ish.
For the mains, I let people order their own - I had beef rendang (pictured above) – spicy yet with the distinct taste of the coconut milk coming through. ISP ordered a giant bowl of curry laksa (photo at top) and I guess he enjoyed it as he soon polished it off. Other mains included nasi lemak and a couple of dishes that I didn’t make a proper note of – one was a stir fried noodle dish of Hokkien origins and the other was a chicken curry served with roti.
A great end to a great evening - Straits cuisine is ideal for late night dining be you sober or drunk. Rasa Sayang is far superior to your average late night ruby and much better value too. The damage was a mere £14/head including service and a round of drinks.
Update - July 2010
A quick mention for my favourite dish here, fried fish vermicelli (£6.90). In Cantonese, this dish is called yu tou fen, which translates as fish head vermicelli ! As well as the fried fish head, this dish includes fried fish, preserved veg, tomatoes, tung choi (morning glory), and rice vermicelli in a broth topped with fried shallots and spring onion.
As with many of the best soup noodle dishes, it’s the broth that makes the dish. In this case, the milky broth is different class, with fishy undertones cut through with the almost medicinal qualities of Chinese wine/tonic. This is a “if Carlsberg did noodles” bowl of noodles and whilst fish head may not be to all tastes, it is in my opinion, one of the finest noodle dishes in London.
35-36 Greek Street, London W1D 5DL
eatlovenoodles wrote on 22 January 2010
YMing has a great location in the heart of Soho on a brightly lit corner of Greek St and Romilly St. The menu claims to consist of 'traditional Chinese cuisine from the Northern provinces of China' but in reality the offerings are a mix of dishes from all over China, some Anglo-Chinese dishes and a few of their own creations.
The first starter to arrive was phoenix tail (£6.50) – king prawns wrapped in bacon. This was a bit of a surprise as we had ordered prawn rolls with almond flakes (£7.00). It was a cock-up but we were too hungry and a bit 'too-British' to care. There's not a lot I can say about prawns and bacon so let's move swiftly on.
The other starter was spare ribs with cumin – Beijing style (£7.00); fried ribs tossed in a mix of pepper, garlic, chilli and cumin seeds. Ribs can be boring but these were incredibly moreish with the cumin lifting it to another level.
The mains included sautéed flavoured chicken supreme (£9.80), Gansu duck (£9.50), and dry cooked beans (£7.00). Of these, our favourite was the chicken as it was deeply infused with the taste of the dry tangerine peel (guo pei), a common ingredient in Cantonese home cooking.
The beans were a faithful rendition of the Sichuan classic. The food was above average - in particular the ribs and the chicken - but there was no outstanding dish. The portions were also a bit on the small size but with the help of steamed rice we were full. Service was excellent and I think this is the only Chinese restaurant where I've seen tablecloth scrapers deployed.
The bill clocked in at £70 for two including service and a decent bottle of Alsatian Pinot Blanc (£20)
5-6 Pleander Street, Soho, London NW1 0JT
eatlovenoodles wrote on 22 January 2010
Ramen Seto, a homely little Japanese caff on Kingly St is ideal for a quick bite if you're out and about around Carnaby St. I've come here on and off for years but I can't actually remember the last time I ate here so it was an ideal time to revisit.
The menu consists of sushi, sashimi, gyoza, tempura, one-dish rice meals, fried noodles, and last but not least soup noodles. To start, I ordered two pieces of sea bass nigiri (£2.80) – there was nothing wrong with it but I don't think sushi is their strength. To follow, I plumped for the negi chicken ramen (£6.50), a hearty bowl of soup noodles served with finely chopped spring onion (negi), half a boiled egg, and topped with fried chicken.
I was initially underwhelmed by my ramen as it seemed a bit basic (no veg or seaweed) and the broth was slightly underseasoned. However this bowl of noodles soon grew on me. The weaker broth didn't matter so much as the spring onions added flavour but it was the incredibly moreish fried chicken leg served off the bone that lifted this dish.
27 Wardour Street, London W1D 6PR
eatlovenoodles wrote on 22 January 2010
I went for wonton noodles served at an old favourite, Hung’s on Wardour St (near the Chinatown arch). This place is my regular Chinatown haunt and it has barely changed in all the years I’ve eaten here despite a refurb and name change (it used to be called Crispy Duck). It might look tiny but its on three floors so don’t be put off if it seems full.
Whilst it won’t change your life, Hung’s wonton noodles (£4.50) tick all the boxes. The wontons have the right mix of prawn and fatty pork, they use the proper fresh egg noodle (san mein in Cantonese) and the broth isn’t MSG laden. It’s not a big bowl but compared to the miniscule portions that you sometimes get in Hong Kong, it's a supersize portion. Anyway, you get your money’s worth with six wontons.
I tried king prawn dumpling soup noodles (£4.80) a week later, these dumplings are bigger than their wontons and have more king prawn. They're known as sui gow in Cantonese or shui jiao in Mandarin. In my opinion, these are tastier than their wontons !