When an unassuming restaurant in Hong Kong sells a bowl of beef noodles for HK$150 (already a discount from its original HK$180 price tag), the must-ask question on the tip of everyone’s tongue is inevitably: Is it any good?
The answer is: Yes.
Olala 一碗面 (the Chinese name meaning “a bowl of noodles”) is part of the strange mix of restaurants in the Olala mini-empire that has marked its territory in the Star Street and the Pacific Place 3 development. This includes the sister French restaurant Olal and Olala Charcuterie. It’s all quite confusing, and strange to find this mix of restaurants under one name, but Olala一碗面 is one of the standouts.
The restaurant feels like a private kitchen in someone’s home. A calligraphy painting hangs on one wall, but other than that, there’s minimal décor and just a few servers attentively filling your tea cup while Taiwanese pop music plays in the background.
Despite the Taiwanese song list, the waiter emphasizes that “the cuisine here is 100% Shanghainese.” The straight-forward menu offers some local favorites in the “small dishes” column, such as xuan ni bai rou – thinly sliced pork served over chilled cucumber and doused with garlic, chili, sesame oil, vinegar, and soy sauce – which is authentic and rustically prepared.
But if you’re coming to this restaurant, it’s for their supreme beef noodles. So here’s a much more thorough dissection of their signature dish:
Noodles: Thick-cut and home-made by the restaurant with their own recipe, the noodles remain al dente even for takeout orders. (4 out of 5 stars)
Soup Base: It takes 10 hours of slow simmering beef bones, vegetables, and herbs to get the flavor-packed soy sauce concoction, which really hits the spot. But the added saltiness can also make you thirsty for the next hour or so. (3 ½ out of 5 stars)
Beef: The tenderloin cuts are left in chunky pieces with a good mix of lean meat and soft gelatinous tendons. It’s not as tender as it should be, but the generous portions are a welcomed sight. (3 out of 5 stars)
Make sure to top off your steaming bowl of noodles with a spoonful of the diced sour preserved cabbage, which adds a piquant punch to it (sort of like squeezing a lemon onto your steak in Western cuisine).
It leaves you stuffed and happy, and with bragging rights that you shelled up top dollar for something others have heard rumors about.
Olala一碗面, 33 St. Francis Street, Wanchai, Tel: (852) 2294 0426