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.
Cha Cha Japanese, Broadbeach
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 provides a great introduction – not traditional, but all 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 ($18 – $20.80) for main. Friends swear by the seafood, and there are lots of vegetarian choices also.
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, Coolangatta
Top Noodle is the unglamorous sister of the exclusive Ten Japanese Restaurant in 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!
The Noodle House, Chevron Island
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 $13 to $22, it’s fantastic value for such tasty food.
Muso Ramen Noodle and Gyoza Bar, Mermaid Beach
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, tonkotsu pork broth cooked for hours to develop the rich flavour, even bamboo shoots prepared 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?
Malaysia Menu, Mermaid Waters
Unpretentious, simple but clean, Malaysia Menu’s the sort of nondescript place you’d find on Little Bourke Street or Dixon Street.
Serving arguably the best roti Channai we’ve tasted, flaky and light (rivalling Kampung Malay’s); steamed dim sum made in house, plump and flavoursome; plates piled high with crisp soft shell crab, another with succulent pork spare ribs, it can be a dining treasure. With most entrées priced at $7 and mains well under $20, they’re generous serves. Takeaway prices are several dollars cheaper again!
“Listen to that wok go!” My attention drifts to the distant sound of a gas burner, furiously ripping through the meals. Owner Frankie Wong’s skill is this flash-fried wok food: clean and fresh, not too fatty or oily, generous portions of tasty Chinese-Malay dishes: glistening, fresh tender prawns; crisp sesame-dotted beef strip ‘worms’; rich plump BBQ duck… It’s even possible to order Singaporean chilli crab if you phone ahead! Where else can you score Peking duck (2 courses) for $30, singapore chilli bugs for under $30, a banquet for $26 or a deluxe banquet for $38?
Not cheap in quality, it’s great value dining to enjoy any night of the week! ‘Homely’? Yes, but with genuine happy service to match.
JFX – Japanese Food eXpress, Southport
“Ira shai mase! Welcome!” There’s something undeniably heart-felt about this small diner. It may be hidden around a corner in Southport Central, but when you find it, you know that you’ve stumbled across a special place. You’re not only greeted warmly, but in true Japanese style you’re made aware of the values of the restaurant: energy, smile, greeting, passion, gratitude and cooperation.
JFX is a favourite haunt of local workers and students who indulge in deliciously authentic Japanese food at the lowest price – a good range of Japanese side dishes to share, such as gyoza, teriyaki karaage and takoyaki, or you may just feel like a rice bowl or set meal. A standard lunch box is $9 (or $11 with sashimi) for the meat, mixed salad, miso soup and rice. BBQ meat in a bowl with rice is $8, noodle dishes (such as the famous chige ramen) $9, or our favourite grilled teriyaki beef stone pot $10. Waygu beef and ramen are also available. All lunches cost under $15, but for students, there’s also a 10% discount. The food service is fast and friendly, and you can help yourself to a free miso soup while you wait. Express it may be, however it’s not rushed.
Kampung Malay, Bundall, Robina, Mudgeeraba
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 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.
Daichi by Ten, Broadbeach
We were quietly devastated when Mme Grenouille waved her beret adieu and departed the dining scene earlier this year. Say goodbye to the best macarons in town, to French breakfasts and dulcet accents which made us weak at the knees! Say hello to Daichi by Ten – same owner, casual dining with impeccable food quality, including tastes from Ten’s kitchen.
Chef Yusuke Ito, Sous Chef from Ten’s kitchen, brings French and Japanese influenced classics to Daichi: wagyu beef rillette with oven-baked baguette; handmade gyoza still sizzling on the hotplate; soft shell crab with rich tangy homemade tartare; ricepaper rolls filled with wagyu beef and sashimi-grade salmon and avocado (my standout dish). The dishes appear quickly with little attempt to pace their arrival, each one plated with a simple garnish such as microherbs, or a slice of lemon. Not fancy-looking, but all pretty damn delicious and polished off without ceremony…
Order a couple of dishes at a time to pace your meal, working through from cold to hot, or fresh to fried, depending on the specials.
A sidekick for Ten it may well be, a strange juxtaposition of haute cuisine and takeaway, a cultural experience which is sometimes a little lost in translation, but there are culinary treasures to be enjoyed at Daichi if you are patient enough to overlook some of the ambiguities. Daichi (dai-ichi) means number one, so perhaps it provides a worthy introduction to fine Japanese food in an informal setting while we’re saving up to indulge in the gastronomic experience of Ten…
Phó VietNam, Southport
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 (pictured). 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.
Amimoto, Surfers Paradise
It’s easy to get lost to the grunge in 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 passers by.
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 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.
Read more of Marj’s reviews on Good Food Gold Coast http://www.foodgoldcoast.com.au