Where: Noodle Kingdom (175 Russell St, Melbourne, VIC, 3000)
What: The usual noodle inspired fare
In my former life as a policy wonk, I was fortunate enough to work in the CBD, where I enjoyed Melbourne's incredible and cheap food on a near-daily basis. Noodle Kingdom was a perennial favourite among colleagues and friends. A bustling place and one of the few in the city that hand pull noodles (for more information on this ostensibly dying art, see this excellent Tiny Urban Kitchen post). The hand made nature of the noodles gives them a wonderful, slightly chewy texture, which is in stark contrast to the oft bloated noodles served in Melbourne's China Town.
Yesterday, en route to Footscray's Little Saigon Market, my beloved and I couldn't resist checking out the allegedly new and improved Noodle Kingdom, blogged about recently by Elisa on Nouveau Potato. Following her post, I noted that I was slightly concerned by the renovation - was part of Noodle Kingdom's....ummm....shall we say "charm" the fact that bags of chicken propped the kitchen door open and cutlery had to be thoroughly wiped down before use? Okay, so maybe not...
We entered the newly renovated premises and were blown away by the new decor - slate tiles on the floor, warm lighting, comfortable padded seats (rather than the historically bum-numbing wooden chairs) and sparkling tabletops. However, we soon noticed a box of capsicums sitting unattended on the floor - at least some things never change!
We were thrilled to see that the menu hadn't been revolutionised with the decor and our favourite noodle soups and #29 (a chili, noodle and meat salad) were still on offer. We were also delighted by the introduction of numerous new drinks - taro milk and lychee drinks were thoroughly enjoyed between us, even if they were ever slightly too sweet.
Our first dish arrived - my beloved's favourite - a vegetarian noodle soup. The broth was intense, thick and tasty. The noodles were pretty good, but just a wee bit bloated. I have had better at the establishment.
What looked like our second dish (yes, the aforementioned #29) sat on the drinks counter next to us waiting to be brought over. It appeared truly mouthwatering, with steam piping from the thick ribbons of noodles. We watched salivating....and watched....and waited...and watched... In hindsight, I should have simply risen from my seat and brought the dish to our table. However, I was not certain that the plate was intended for us, so I refrained. It turns out, this was our meal and, by the time the waiter delivered his dishes, it was a tepid shadow of its former self.
Don't get me wrong, all the flavours still certainly packed a punch, but we needed to engage in a little strategic mixing to ensure the extremities of the meal were once again warmed.
Overall, I have to say that the renovation is a step in the right direction for this cheap and cheerful icon of Melbourne dining. Two incredibly generous dishes and two blended drinks shared for around $12 a head represents outstanding value for money. Stellar value. Stellar food. Just not such stellar service....
With full bellies, we headed over to Little Saigon Market, where I purchased the most succulent lychees I think I may have ever eaten. I was also overjoyed to have the opportunity to procure fresh pandan leaves, some of which will most certainly flavour some dishes featured in upcoming posts.