Tag Archives: chow mein

Noodle Nation or is it oil orbit?

Noodle Nation: 1-3 Bourbon Street, Aylesbury, Bucks

Noodle Nation is a fast-paced Chinese restaurant specialising in rice and noodles. In fact, that’s pretty much all you can have. The restaurant is light and, thankfully, much warmer than the wintry weather outside. Service is friendly and efficient, if a little confused between staff at times as they all try and seat, serve and talk to you.

If you don’t like to cuddle up to other diners then this may not be the place for you. A couple may be squeezed in between two groups of four or the group of four may be squashed, with embarassed smiles, against the single couple by the window. It can be annoying but the staff do their best to seat you comfortably and, as it’s a fast-turnover, you won’t be getting to know your dining neighbours well anyway.

So on to the food. Garlic and chilli chicken with yo min noodles (wheat and egg) was a vast portion. I mean huge. For roughly £7 it’s not bad but for your stomach it might be painful. The noodles were separated from the chicken which lay in thick chunks – not so great for scooping up between chopsticks with your noodles and beansprouts. The food was cooked well but soaked in oil, even the sauce glinting with the stuff as it began to separate upon cooling down. Hunks of garlic gave great flavour but all in one go instead of being spread out through the dish, and the same went for the chilli. A side of satay sauce was strong but a little gloopy.

Despite the name, I was rather disappointed at the variety of food on offer, the noodle-bar section seeming particularly sparse though you can have noodles from the rice-bar section if you wish.

It’s great value here and for a quick meal or causal get-together it’s a lovely choice. However, be prepared to cosy up with both oil and fellow noodle-lovers.

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Topwok – If all you want for a Chinese is spring onions and cucumber

Even the spring onions were minimal, presumably because cucumber is cheaper. Topwok is a fairly cheaply-priced establishment on Princes Risborough high street and happens to be the only Chinese, surrounded by roughly ten Indian restaurants. Along with a large array of Chinese dishes, to eat in and takeaway, it also serves pizza; something that always make me nervous when it claims to be a Chinese restaurant is how it can devote time to also making pizza. My fears were realised when I tried one and discovered it to somehow manage to resemble cardboard and rubber at the same time – I suppose I was lucky it was hot.

The service we received was friendly and quick – the order was on time and correct and served with enthusiasm. I only wish we could share their feelings about the food.

For starters we shared the quarter crispy duck, accompanied by the pot of cucumber and spring onion which provided a refreshing side. The duck was enjoyable; dry and mostly crisp without too much oil and reasonably priced too. The prawn crackers were acceptable but how hard are they to get right?

Oh, if only we’d stopped there. But, like most people, we had ordered main courses too. I had ordered a chicken chow mein and, unless my food is soup, I prefer it not to be swimming, or even glistening. Unfortunately this was both, and in oil of all things. The food was blandly seasoned and overpowered by salt as well as lacking in the title ingredient: chicken. It was edible, the noodles well-cooked but the prawn chow mein that we had also ordered was summed up with a similar conclusion. The third main dish we tried was supposed to be chicken in a garlic and ginger sauce accompanied by a medley of vegetables. The chicken was unappetisingly pale and extremely bland and soft, absent of ginger or garlic. The vegetables were soggy and overcooked, the whole thing slopping about in a gloopy murky gruel. Needless to say we didn’t finish that one.

Being our only local Chinese I’d like to say that I’d be an enthusiastic supporter, keen to help the local economy and food scene to thrive. The dine-in restaurant may be better but given that it shares the same kitchen, and my criticisms are with the quality of the food only, I won’t be rushing back to find out.

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