Monday, October 25, 2010

Grape expectations

"The best noodles," I'm told rather vaguely by an ex local. I don't cross the Harbour Bridge all that often, so I have to take their word for it and give it a whirl.

Located at the bottom level food court of the oddly sparse Lemon Grove Shopping Centre off that main strip of Chatswood, Grape Garden is a bit of a tough place to find unless you have a guide or happen to pass by on your way to the New Shanghai restaurant, strangely one of two in Chatswood.

Chef 'pulling' noodles at Grape Garden Beijing Cuisine, Lemon Grove
Shopping
Centre, Chatswood
As soon as we get there, the chef gets up from his late lunch at the table out front and asks what we would like. Noodles, is the simple answer and instead of waiting for us to decipher the menu board he asks what protein we would each like and how much chilli. If only ordering could alway be this easy and aided.

Grape Garden Beijing Cuisine, Lemon Grove Shopping Centre, Chatswood
Aside from the famed noodles, Grape Garden also does dumplings and has an array of traditional small cold dishes eaten like tapas of sorts. The selection includes vegetarian seaweed dishes alongside the likes of pig's ears; none of which I have tried yet.

Noodle dough ready for stretching
The highlight really are the noodles as each bowl gets a handful of freshly stretched noodles, or pulled to translate to lai mien. It's the real deal with bags of noodle dough on the tables, and this wheel of already 'noodled' dough, at the ready for a noodle order.

Pulling the noodles
When ordered, the chef gathers an amount of the dough strips in his hands, keeping them separated lest they stick together. And in a few lightning-speed motions, he stretches the dough, banging it on the steel surface, stretches again and heads to the stove with pots of boiling water. It's a quick show, but one worth catching.

Chicken noodles
Shortly after, he reappears with a bowl - my order of chicken with not too much chilli. This turns out to have no chilli in the soup base but is roasted chilli oil added on top of my serving - fine by me as I adore that chilli stuff as it's not too hot with all the flavour.

The chicken noodles come with choy sum, shallots and also some kind of nori like seaweed, which reconstitutes to briney, sloppy, green-black pieces. There's also an abundance of shredded skinless chicken - breast and thigh - submerged in the stock, also chicken, I think.

My hand pulled noodles
But to the noodles. Flat, wide and varied as a true sign of hand made noodles. The noodles have a good chew about them but in the initially boiling hot soup, they gradually soak in a lot and for the slow eaters (hello), they end up a little soggy and sorry. Thus, the recommendation is to eat as fast as you can without creating indigestion or looks of disgust from people surrounding.

Spicy pork noodles
Those in the know order the spicy beef or pork noodles, the latter of which is almost world's away from the chicken noodles I had. Same noodles, different world. The broth itself is tinted a deep red - fair indication of the heat level. But from a few sips of the soup, I noted an entirely different flavour profile; one that was heavy in spices and meaty so I don't even think it was the same stock base.

The pork mince is dotted with chilli and makes a nice textural contrast to the noodles and choy sum. It has bags of flavour in every mouthful, and makes up in taste every drop of sweat it draws from your brow. Next time, I'm ordering this, although hopefully they do a slightly less spicy version. Best noodles? Pretty darn good.

Grape Garden Beijing Cuisine on Urbanspoon

9 comments:

MelbaToast said...

I've only had handmade noodles a few times but I LOVE LOVE LOVE them. I like the chopped up ones as they're messy for me to try and eat with chopsticks.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I love how handmade noodles are a bit inconsistently shaped and how you can get slightly fatter or skinnier ones :)

Tina said...

Hi MelbaToast - I've never tried the chopped up ones - I'm afraid I won't like the texture...

Hi Lorraine - Agreed, makes for better chewing texture, I think

Betty @ The Hungry Girl said...

Damn! I might consider crossing the bridge for these noodles!!

Jen said...

What a great hidden gem! Thanks for sharing ;)

thang@noodlies said...

Hum, they do look yummy, there's also a Grape Garden Restaurant in Willoughby that's pretty good too.

Tina said...

Hi Betty - Crossing the bridge is such a big deal, isn't it? :)

Hi Jen - No probs :)

Hi Thang - Yeah, same guys I think. I believe this one is a lot more casual

Forager @ The Gourmet Forager said...

I have fear of crossing the bridge too - but those noodles do look worth it! Love how deliciously red & fiery spicy it looks!

Tina said...

Hi Forager - It's not so much a fear... but a reluctance :) The spicy one is awesome.

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