This is a review of 1919 Lanzhou Beef Noodle in Burwood NSW, and certainly not a review of the similarly named 1915 Lanzhou Beef Noodles, around 100 metres up the road.
There always seems to be a line outside 1919 Lanzhou Beef Noodle, and on our visit last weekend the waiting time happened to be around 15 minutes for a seat. I wonder if the bulk of the waiting time is due to patrons only deciding on what they want once they get into the restaurant, which is a bit silly as they have a very limited and focused menu, easily visible from the outside.
Forever a fan of the classics, I chose the Lanzhou Beef Noodles ($12.80 in small) with the thinner noodle option. I really enjoyed this bowl, and I can see how this simple noodle dish has become a staple not just in Lanzhou, but across China and Chinese diasporas. The clear noodle soup, flavoured with radish, coriander, and a little bit of chilli sauce just felt so clean and wholesome, not weighed down by any soy or fattiness. The lean beef had a light but aromatic flavour to them. The noodles were hand pulled in the store window, but to be honest were not more than a caloric vehicle for the rest of the bowl. I regret only getting a small size, as it seems that the extra $1 for the large gives you a lot more soup, which is truly the star of the show.
My dining partner and also romantic partner, forever the non-classic fool, ordered the Special Dry Beef Noodle ($13.80 in small) with wide noodles. This was probably just fine but didn’t live up to the standards set by their soup noodles. It had a bit of tomato flavour to it and a bit of stewed beef flavour as well. What ultimately brought it down was the fact that the sauce did not quite coat the noodles as a pasta sauce should, even though it kind of ate more as a pasta than a Chinese noodle dish. This meant that at a certain point you were kind of just eating really wide unflavoured pasta.
These pork and cabbage steamed dumplings (4 for $4.80) were alright.
I watched Lucas Sin’s cha chaan teng video for VICE at least three times over the last few months of lockdown here in Sydney, and have had a hankering for some Hong Kong Cafe style food ever since. Luckily the Instagram algorithm saw it fit to serve me photos of Hong Kong Bing Sutt’s delicious looking beef noodle soup over the same period of time, and while I was unable to order takeaway via the app (as I am illiterate) I took myself and my Cantonese-speaking girlfriend over there the first chance I could.
Hong Kong Bing Sutt’s milk tea ($5.30) is extremely rich and dark, likely owing to the traditional method of brewing Hong Kong milk tea which undergoes multiple prolonged steeps through a silk stocking filter to ensure deep extraction. While this is only imagined (the brewing of the tea was not witnessed by me), the rich and smooth flavour of the tea was directly confirmed. While the hot version served at the restaurant comes unsweetened with some sugar on the side, HKBS also sells bottled versions of its chilled pre-sweetened milk tea for $7 a bottle, which are also pretty good, if pricey.
The Mixed Beef Noodle ($15.80) was what drew me in initially, and was actually pretty great in reality. It comes default with thin egg noodles, stewed beef brisket, beef tripe, beef tendon, and beef tendon balls, though many of these elements can be customised to taste. The beef brisket was represented by both fatty and less fatty pieces, all of which were rich tasting and cooked to an extreme degree of tenderness. There was no skimping on any of the other components, including the deep soy marinated tendon and tripe, and even shared between the two of us we felt like we each had enough. The soup was flavoured with chu hou paste, which is a traditional sauce for Cantonese style beef brisket, and nice and warming. The noodles were not extraordinary, rather acting as a mere vehicle for the rest of the very good bowl.
I wasn’t such a huge fan of the BBQ Pork and Over Easy Eggs with Rice ($16.80), but my partner loved it. I felt that the big slabs of char siu were actually not as flavoured as I am used to, which was fine, but didn’t help to carry the bulk of the rice underneath as well as I would have liked. The over easy egg was very well done, extremely soft and runny in the centre. It was only at the bottom of the rice that we found some soy sauce. I think ultimately this was a dish that would have been more suited to being served in a claypot with a bit of thick soy sauce on top, and the bowl format just didn’t work as well.
This rice noodle roll was fine, but too vegetarian for me. The rice noodles themselves were soft and not too oily, coated in a sauce of sesame seeds, hoisin, and probably peanut butter. The sauce wasn’t overpowering, but I just like my chang fen with a bit of prawn or meat in it.
The scrambled eggs and beef satay sandwich was pretty yum. This, the rice noodle roll, and the hot signature milk tea came to a combo total of $13.80, which is pretty decent. The satay beef was good, as was the very light and soft scrambled eggs. The bread was mostly de-crusted, although some edges still had a bit of unfortunate crust.
These are the chicken wings in house made Swiss sauce ($8.80). I’ve recently been trying to lower my carb intake, so sadly many of the items on the menu at HKBS were mildly off limits to me on my second visit. The Swiss sauce in this dish is similar to the Swiss made stamp on my Chinese-made “Rolex” “Submariner”. More of an abstract vibe than a statement of origin, Swiss sauces are a purely Chinese based invention, a mixture of sugar, dark soy sauce, and shaoxing cooking wine. Classically boiled and shocked in an ice bath, these wings exhibited a good tender texture with a firm skin, however I must admit that after a couple of wings the strong shaoxing cooking wine flavour put me off having any more.
The beef brisket with special curry sauce and rice ($14.80) was a really good value, large meal of a classic Hong Kong style curry, big chunks of beef brisket, and potato served alongside a ball of rice. I appreciated that the curry and rice were served separately, minimising mess and also the desire to eat all of the rice. The beef brisket was tasty, though in my opinion could have been cooked to a higher degree of tenderness. The flavour of the curry was good overall, with the sauce highly compatible with the supplied rice.
The crispy pork belly with red beancurd sauce ($13.80) was really quite nice. The exterior batter is extremely crispy and made with fermented red bean curd (jiang dou fu 酱豆腐), which imparts a slightly salty, slightly sweet, and quite funky taste to the pork, almost similar to marmite pork ribs. The meat encased in the super crispy batter was moist, tender and fatty pork which tasted great on first eating, especially with the red sauce that neither my partner nor I could pinpoint as sweet-and-sour or sweet-chilli. Unfortunately as with many deep fried dishes this dish was a victim of entropy, and as our meal progressed on the loss of heat to the environment dulled its shine.
VERDICT Overall I enjoyed, though I think charging $7 for a small bottle of milk tea is a bit absurd.
I have no recollection of the first and second times I ate at Canton in Eastwood (according to Google they were 12/12/2015 and 10/12/2016), but let me tell you about the third.
We ate at Canton, one of Eastwood’s two Hong Kong style cafes, following an off-day teaching session on intracranial pressure management. With a narrow facade but surprisingly deep interior, Canton’s fitout boasts clever acoustic design, with my colleague KSEL pointing out that background noise was at a very minor din despite the restaurant being at full capacity, facilitating easy conversation at our table.
The half roast duck ($18.80) was perfectly adequate, if tepid in temperature. The skin was pleasantly crispy, with well developed musculature of the bird providing meaty bites. I also enjoyed the non-standard dipping sauce, which paired well with the duck with its mild sweetness and tanginess. Despite these good qualities I wish that the duck had not been served at room temperature, as a little bit of warmth can go a long way in opening up flavours and diffusing aromas.
Canton’s roasted pork belly ($18.80) was pretty good, if unusually fatty. Similar to the duck, the skin of the pig had a good crispiness to it, with the rest of the meat and fat melting easily into the mouth. I liked that this pork belly was not too oversalted and therefore more suitable to eat without rice compared to Parramatta competitor Sun Ming. I just wish it weren’t so fatty (but understand it’s a give and take).
The Special Noodles with Soup ($14.80), optioned with braised beef brisket and curry fish balls was quite good. The beef brisket was tasty, soft and tender, and I appreciated the inclusion of tendon along with it. The fish balls seemed like they were just a touch above the usual supermarket freezer stuff, though I wonder if I’ve just been cheaping out at Tong Li. They even gave us five fish balls between the five of us, though I don’t know if this was by accident or by design. An overall good noodle dish which would make a nice solo lunch.
I’ve been craving Hong Kong style claypot rice ever since watching this Goldthread YouTube video, and this was my time to finally have some. We chose the Cantonese Hot Pot Rice with Cured Meat & Chinese Sausage ($16.80). Whilst the rice was good with its crispy edges, I unfortunately thought that the salty toppings and addition of the traditional soy sauce on top made this too salty a dish. I’d probably have this again with some different toppings (love me some lap cheong though), and less of the soy sauce on top.
The Baked Pork Chop with tomato sauce and rice ($16.80) was really good. A generous serving of pork chop, with lots of cheese and mild flavoured housemade tomato sauce. The last time I had Hong Kong style baked rice was back in 2015 in Box Hill, Victoria, and I think this was much better than that time.
I wasn’t a big fan of the curry-flavoured Moroccan Chicken Wings (5 for $7.30), but KSEL liked it so much he ordered it twice in one week.
VERDICT There aren’t that many Hong Kong cafes out there, and I’m a big fan of this one. Can recommend a visit.
NBS Big Bowl (牛百歲) is not the most non-Chinese friendly noodle restaurant in Burwood, but perhaps one of the best. Tucked in an alleyway in the general Burwood Chinatown precinct (though isn’t all of Burwood a Chinatown?) across from the plaza, this tiny eatery with limited daily serves of food has perfected the art of beef noodles, though not the art of accommodating non-Chinese reading customers. Their main noodle menu is written behind the counter in Chinese with no English language menu or photos available, making their food extremely difficult to order. The only foods accessible to your regular Aussie battler (or Chinese immigrant who never learned to read or write) is what’s pictured on the front door and subtitled with English language – some lamb ribs and some pork hock.
The fourth item on the menu, 精品牛雜粉丝汤 – premium beef offal vermicelli soup ($14.99), was recommended on social media and I’m glad it was. Even though I had to order by showing them a photo of what I wanted, the lady serving me didn’t look too fazed – this has probably happened a bit in recent days. Service was extremely fast, and in the time it took for me to get cash out at the nearby ATM my giant bowl of noodles was ready to eat.
The soup was rich, beefy, and complex, having absorbed not only the beef flavours but also the organ flavours and the fresh vegetable flavours from the bok choy. Along with the several types of tripe there is also a large piece of stewed beef, which was extremely tender and tasty. The vermicelli, which I don’t normally go for, was delicious and a good vehicle for the flavours of the soup. Coriander and chilli oil was available for self serve, and I made sure to fill mine up with as much coriander as I could. Even my mother, upon seeing this photo, remarked that it looked tasty. Haters of organs will not enjoy this dish, but those who are willing to try will be duly rewarded.
I ordered the cumin lamb ribs ($15), one of the only things with a photo and some English words, so that I wouldn’t have to keep confirming to the waitress that I was a failed Asian. Even though I would’ve liked to explore the rest of their Chinese menu, I was quite satisfied with these cumin lamb ribs, which were again very tender and flavourful. It was a bit weird that they served them to us in a plastic takeaway container, but the taste and the price, and the addition of some chilli oil made it all worth it.
COMMENTS There’s probably a huge untapped business idea in making an electronic menu for these Chinese restaurants with no English menu and no pictures. I just can’t even speak enough Chinese to even convey this idea to them. Anyway NBS is good. Either bring a Chinese-reading friend (just being Chinese isn’t enough) or bring this blog post to show them what you want.
Long Meng Zhu is one of many restaurants that serve Ma La Tang in Mascot’s recently developed high-rise area, located mere footsteps away from its nearest competitor.
The concept is much the same as every other Ma La Tang restaurant. There is a refrigerated display of a variety of meat, seafood, and vegetables. The selection is a bit narrower than what you would find at a larger competitor like Yang Guo Fu Ma La Tang, but still reasonably appropriate. The meat are fresh and were still being actively topped up by the time I visited at around 10:30PM. What sets Long Men Zhu apart from many of its competitors is the array of soup bases on offer. Along with the classic spicy malatang soup, Long Men Zhu also offers a pork bone broth, a laksa broth, and a chicken broth.
I had a selection of sliced meats, vegetables, balls, and tofu in the pork bone broth. Service was fast however I did notice that one of my fish balls was still cold inside. The rest of the food was thoroughly cooked, and I did not get sick afterwards. The pork broth was quite nice and umami, a lighter option in terms of flavour than the usual malatang soup. It was actually so good that I drank most of it at the conclusion of my meal.
A shoutout should also go to the nice man working front of house, who was friendly and made me feel welcome as someone who pretend not to speak Chinese. He is probably the reason why there is a reasonably multicultural patronage at Long Men Zhu.
Pretty good, worth a try! The boss asked me if he would be seeing me at his restaurant more, and I told him to be honest probably no as I’m moving away from the area soon. I do want to bring my girlfriend back though.