Hot steamy nights after a day at the beach, there’s nothing like a cheap night out, a ‘slurp your way to goodness’ heaven with a cheap Asian eat. Here’s our take on the ‘layers of meaning’ meals which give you a bang for your buck, fresh, cheap and cheerful, as well as BYO. Tell us your faves that we’ve missed in ‘Comments’ at the bottom of the page!
Cha Cha in Broadbeach is our other dining room. There’s a saying in our house, ‘Let’s eat at Jack’s tonight’ – our ‘home away from home’ tasty quick meal, enjoying owner Jack Suzue’s hospitality.
If you’re new to Japanese food, Cha Cha’s provides a great introduction – not all traditional, but the food is freshly made to order. We have our favourite dishes: Agedashi tofu (a generous serve of six pieces in Japanese wine sauce), Takoyaki served with BBQ sauce or Ginger Chicken (all $6.90) for entree, Fillet Steak Japanese style with seafood, ginger, lime, teppan, garlic butter or wasabi for main. Friends swear by the seafood, and there are lots of vegetarian choices also. The latest addition to the menu is ramen, and it’s some of the best in town!
Try the Japanese roasted wheat tea with your meal, or there’s a bottle shop just down the road. BYO is only $1 per person.
Top Noodle is the unglamorous sister of the exclusive Ten Japanese Restaurant, Broadbeach, and part of Bob Jones’ hugely successful Sushi Train group who brought sushi trains to Australia over twenty years ago.
Underwhelming? Yes, the venue is, but don’t write off the food! The menu boasts about ninety items: small izikaya-type share dishes such as Takoyaki, Gyoza and Tempura; some of the best ramen, udon, and soba on the Coast; main meals in bowls or on plates, many including rice and salad. There’s a take away menu, with Vegetarian and Spicy dishes clearly marked.
Our favourites are the Sui Gyoza (five soft dumplings in a delicious broth, served with chilli on the side (at $5 per serve, it’s absolutely addictive); Salmon Caviar (the glistening roe balls explode in your mouth); Tuna and Salmon Sashimi, very fresh and cheap; and the Eel bowl, which features the best eel we’ve tasted on the Coast, mild and moist without any fishy after-taste at all. Judging by the quality of these dishes, Top Noodle deserves many return visits!
Also try Daichi by Ten (Broadbeach), another of Mr Jones’ restaurants, for casual French-Japanese influenced cuisine.
The Noodle House is Rose Morton’s gift to the next generation of her extended family, where she teaches them her own recipes perfected over years of owning 21 restaurants and cooking professionally. “If you’re going to serve people, it has to be fresh,” says Rose. “When you cook, you must be honest about it, and put love and care into your cooking. No cutting corners. You have to be genuine, not greedy. If you say your fish is barramundi, then it has to be barramundi, not something cheaper.”
The kitchen may only be ‘hole in the wall’ in size, but the meals are quickly and efficiently prepared and served. If you walk past the restaurant before opening hours, the sound of chopping drifts out to the street, as vegetables are cut ready for dinner, the tiny kitchen overflowing with eager young chefs, toiling under Rose’s ever watchful eye.
From soon after 5pm, patrons start appearing to buy their take away meals, and not long after, the first diners arrive. There’s a large choice of Thai regional dishes: entrées and mains, soup, noodles and rice dishes, as well as house specialties and a specials board. With main courses ranging in price from $12.90 to $21.90, it’s fantastic value for such tasty food.
Muso Ramen Noodle and Gyoza Bar serves two dishes: ramen and gyoza in a few varieties – specialty dishes done well. I accept that ramen has a cult following, but I’m a recent convert, still learning to appreciate the ‘soul and depth’ of the dish. Great gyoza? Now that’s another matter…
Muso is usually packed with Japanese diners and deservedly so. It’s spotlessly clean and you’ve got to love that everything is made from scratch by Chef Akira Takagi: noodles made in house using a machine especially imported from Japan, ‘Tokotsu’ pork stock cooked for hours to develop the rich flavour, even bamboo shoots made in the traditional way! There’s pretty laid back music filling the airwaves and the service is cheery.
Dine under the mouth of ‘Muso’, a giant mural by illustrator Go Suga. As ‘Muso’ splatters his soup across the wall, carefully slurp up a bowl of Muso Tonkotsu original with miso, the noodles perfectly cooked, the marrow broth glutinous in consistency and so tasty it must be good for you! Then feed your addiction with a plate of pan-fried gyoza as well, the dumplings tender and sweet, served with a spicy chilli oil. But is one plate of gyoza ever enough?
Kampung Malay fills a niche on the Gold Coast for Asian cuisine at a family price: Malaysian/Chinese food, consistency of product, friendly service and BYO ($1 per head). Regulars enjoy the $9.90 lunch specials or dine there any night of the week for the price of a takeaway.
Chef Jason Tan found his niche adapting Malaysian dishes to better suit the Australian palate. His food shows the influence of many other Asian cuisines, is more subdued and not as spicy as that of his homeland, but tasty nonetheless.
We cannot begin a meal without the Roti Chanai, a flaky short pastry-type bread bundled onto a plate, which you tear off and dip into the flavour-filled curry sauce. From there, choices vary, with everyone having their own favourite main course: Sizzling black bean beef, Chicken satay, Crispy roast duck or Yon ya chicken. All meals are priced under $20 and generous in size. There’s something for everyone on this menu, so families dine in a comfortable environment without straying too far from their comfort zone.
Phở. My eyes roll back, nostrils sniffing, in memory of dusky evenings in Hanoi, food carts propped up on a corner, diners sitting on crates. It’s hard to describe the layers of meaning in a good phở, achieved by hours of stewing and skimming beef flank, reusing some of the same stock from batch to batch, loading with slices of the cooked beef, noodles and bean sprouts, the richness of the stock cut through with mint, chilli and, most of all, squeezes of tiny native lime.
Phở on the Gold Coast? Truly, there’s not much competition! Phở Vietnam, in ‘ex’-Figtree Court, Australia Court, is arguably our best version of this dish. It’s not as ‘dirty’ as street fare, no doubt due to food regulations as well as food varietal differences, but add some chilli oil from the counter and it’s got a fair punch!
This tiny shopfront also sells a good range of other soups (Sour soup, Laksa, Egg noodle soup) as well as Rice paper rolls, Crispy skin chicken with vermicelli, Grilled tofu, Rice porridge, Chicken salad, and another of my favourites – the delicious Viet pancake! Order a fresh coconut juice or Vietnamese coffee to go with your meal.
It’s easy to get lost in the grunge of the Lido Arcade, Surfers Paradise. You can get a buzz haircut, choose your latest tattoo, buy a surfboard, or eat a meal at Amimoto. A rare reminder of the golden age of Japanese tourism, this hole-in-the-wall restaurant is worn in from over fifteen years of travellers’ use, frayed around the edges, but still fulfilling its core purpose: providing an authentic Japanese meal to passersby.
Don’t look at the clutter of boxes and containers at the front entrance. Take a seat at a vinyl-clad table under the gaze of the kimono-clad prostitute. The real action’s at the sashimi bar, as owner-chef Hidekatsu Fujino ceremoniously sharpens his knives and begins to carve pieces of shiny sashimi. Sold! It’s easier than choosing from the pages of menu items which confront me: the popular Chirashi Sushi, Bento boxes, rice dishes, noodles, katsu curries, à la carte grilled, fried and combination dishes.
My sashimi also arrives, shimmeringly fresh, topped with huge glistening pearls of roe which demand attention. Pick me! Pick me! The first sac pops open in my mouth, a little Pandora’s surprise of salty tanginess, a suitable entrée to the fishy delights and gyoza to follow. Somehow, when I look up, my surroundings seem irrelevant. The well worn cloak shrouding Amimoto simply fades away with the tang of salmon roe.
Hakataya Ramen, Surfers Paradise
How can a restaurant survive with only six items on the menu? Yet Hakataya’s trade is the envy of many other local establishments. Open for 14 hours a day every day, Hakataya’s on every traveller’s list of ‘must do’ places, highly recommended as the ultimate cheap and cheerful diner.
Don’t expect somewhere grand, however. Instead, the Surfers Paradise Hakataya is a tiny shop in the distressed ‘60s Centre Arcade, crouching below paint peeling wrought iron handrails. Yes, this is it! One of the most reputed ramen shops in Queensland. If you patiently endure the queue you’ll be seated amongst students and travellers from diverse cultures, bound together by canteen laminate, orange chairs and the love of ramen.
Don’t miss the gyoza. Served with motodashi sauce, vinegar and chilli oil, they’re a great intro to this menu, but the ramen is the real hero. Nagahama Ramen is Hakataya’s classic pork noodle soup. They claim that their pork bone broth has been simmered for 39 hours. The result: a thick collagen-rich ‘Tonkotsu’ soup. Full of flavour, it’s packed with thin ramen noodles and tender Char Siu (pork slices) which have been slow-cooked in soy and mirin. Add some extra chilli oil, takana and ground sesame seeds and you’re in soup heaven! (Hakataya is now also open at Pacific Fair.)
NOTE: This review has also been published on Blank Gold Coast.