There’s something to be said about cheap, oily, unpretentious food in a noisy setting where waitresses drop dishes onto your table with barely a smile. I know that sentence sounds somewhat facetious, but I’m actually being serious – there’s something to be said for service without a smile, and meals that barely crack the $15 mark.
Chinatown Noodle Restaurant in Haymarket is one of those restaurants – university students from all over Sydney know it as somewhere where they are guaranteed to get a filling meal for a cheap price. It’s a growing business as well, with a second branch open closer to the centre of town on Bathurst St, between Sussex and Kent Sts. That’s the branch that K and I visited one weekend while we were running a few errands in the city.
Red Braised Beef Noodles is one of K’s favourite dish – luckily, as it’s one of the few dishes that I can order for him in China when we eat at little street-side stalls due to my rudimentary grasp of the written language. It’s one of my favourite dishes as well – there’s just something about the tender slow-cooked beef in a rich soup that appeals. Unfortunately, this beef wasn’t quite as tender as I would normally prefer, and the tough stringiness of the beef stuck to my teeth. The handmade noodles were fantastic though – chewy with a bit of bite to them.
We ordered a half serve of the Soupy Pork Buns, and they were definitely a lot bigger than I was expecting! Chinatown Noodle Restaurant’s specialty is cuisine from Northern China, so my expectation of the southern Shanghainese xiao long bao was definitely misplaced. These are at least triple the size of a normal xiao long bao and the skin is a lot thicker as well. The soup is wonderfully meaty and juicy, but it still lacks that delicate je ne sais quoi of a xiao long bao.
We shared a Sweet Peanut Pancake as a treat – deliciously doughy and chewy, with sugared crushed peanuts as a filling. The flavour of the sugared peanuts was incredible, but it was very oily, leaving an unpleasant slick taste in your mouth.
The chicken salad bun was apparently a favourite of K’s friend during their university days. Unfortunately, I found this rather dry – not only was the bun a bit over-dry, but the chicken salad itself was very dry as well. The chicken was definitely a bit over-cooked. Not a winner.
Chinatown Noodle Restaurant is never going to win any awards for the quality of the food. Dishes are either over-oily, or over-dry. The quality of the meat cuts that they use is questionable, and the overall cleanliness of the whole restaurant is somewhat questionable as well. You certainly wouldn’t visit for the exemplary service either. But if you’re a university student on a budget, you really couldn’t do better than Chinatown Noodle Restaurant for an incredibly filling and hearty meal.
I won’t be back any time soon, because my budget does allow for a slightly more refined and enjoyable dining experience!