I'd been nagging friends for ages to visit Noodle Kingdom in Preston. It's a part of town I rarely get to but I knew it was a popular restaurant, and I'm always keen to visit anywhere that makes its own dumplings and noodles. My friends weren't as enthusiastic having been there a few times before, but last Saturday night they finally gave in.
It's probably not the best time to show up and expect to get a table straight away, 6.30 pm on a Saturday night, but it was only a ten minute wait fortunately. Inside is a little crowded and noisy but the décor is surprisingly restrained, lots of light and earthy brown colours. It's also one of those restaurants where you can watch the staff prepare the dumplings and noodles, something that always intrigues me.
But rather than be entertained by the preparation of food, we were more interested in its consumption. Always enthusiastic in our ordering, our selection of noodles, soups and dumpling dishes were soon on their way.
Having seen them being made in front of us our first choice was the fried pork dumplings. Consistent with a couple of the other dishes we tried, they were basically ok but should have been better. The filling was good and the skins nicely thin, but they had been overcooked to the extent of seeming more deep fried than pan fried. The end result was that the skin had a texture more like cardboard than the nice crispy/chewy feel I like.
Second dish up was the stewed beef with broad noodles. It was a very generous serve with good noodles and tender beef, and a step up from the dumplings. Unfortunately though, some of us found the soup a little salty.
One dish I liked was the Shanghai fried noodles. To me this dish is more about the texture than the flavour, as I love the slight chewiness of the noodle and the way it slithers down. What can ruin it though is if it's overly oily. I thought this was one of the better I've had, because while the flavours were certainly a bit muted there was no problem with oiliness whatsoever.
Last two mains were the pork belly in Chinese wine sauce and the Beijing style fried noodles. Solid dishes, nothing much to complain about but nothing particularly special either. I'd probably not order them again, not because I didn't like them but more to save the space for something else.
Finally to finish off, red bean pancake. I don't think I've ever had this where they've been so generous with the red bean paste, but unfortunately I thought it'd been over-cooked slightly rendering the pastry a little dry and hard.
A kind of frustrated experience. It wasn't that anything we ordered was bad, it just felt like it should have been better. Staff did appear to be rushing around a lot and it's possible they were feeling the pressure, resulting in a couple of overcooked fried dishes. It was also hard to get their attention at times, and bringing out one spoon when we said we wanted to share the soup between five of us was a bit poor, particularly when we had to ask twice for the additional spoons. Serves were very generous though, particularly given prices are fairly low. The end result was a restaurant I'd be willing to give another go if I'm in the area but I probably wouldn't make a special trip to visit from the other side of town again.
Food - 7
Ambience - 7
Service - 5.5
Price - 7.5
469 High Street
Preston VIC 3072
Tel: (03) 9478 8885