Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Week in Hong Kong: Upmarket ramen @ Mist (創作麵工房)

(See closest Auckland equivalents)

You know how we said Hong Kong was a great place for cheap food, and you could have a filling meal for less than 30 HKD, or around 5 NZD?  Well, that's obviously the low end of the scale, and prices can go a lot higher.  We wanted to try out the other extreme with a 3-Michelin-star restaurant, but unfortunately it was booked out.  Instead, we picked a nearby ramen restaurant, one with one Michelin star.

Tucked away in a quieter part of Causeway Bay, Mist (創作麵工房) was full when we turned up for lunch, so we left our name and number and went for a walk while we waited for a table.  We barely had time to shop, as the call came surprisingly quickly.  We were seated at a bench overlooking the kitchen and presented with a beautiful hard-cover menu listing 5 or 6 choices, which you could have alone or as a set (i.e. with drinks and dessert).  There was also a recommended special, the abura soba, over which everyone had food envy.

We were seated at a bench looking right into the kitchen.
I'll tell you right now: these were probably the most expensive noodles we have ever had, at around 150 HKD a set, or about 25 NZD.  They were also probably the most delicious ramen and soba noodles we have ever had.  You get asked what extra toppings you would like, and you absolutely want to be upsold the BBQ Pork (which you can see a chef flaming with a blowtorch) and the boiled egg (which is so much more delectable than the name suggests).

The abura soba special was the first to arrive.  These were thin, dry noodles topped with meat slices, with broth on the side, as well as two little jugs of sauce for you to add to taste.  If I remember correctly, one was an oily soy based sauce, and the other was a light vinegar.  We tried not to drool as the waiter showed where the cutlery was stored, in a personal drawer underneath the table.

The abura soba (red bowl) was served with broth (black bowl) and sauces (white jugs).  We also ordered an egg and BBQ pork as extra toppings.
The ume shio ramen is recommended in the TimeOut guide, and was served with a preserved plum as well as a shiso or perilla leaf.

Ume shio ramen
We were particularly impressed by the "boiled egg", which was not quite hard boiled and not quite soft boiled, but something in between.  The yolk was neither runny nor powdery, but just set, and the white was coloured by a soy marinade.

Get the optional "boiled egg" - it's delicious.
The next day, we came across a picture of a similar egg for sale at a roadside eatery in Sham Shui Po, where it cost 4 HKD—a fifth of the price of the egg at Mist.  It was labelled 溫泉蛋, meaning "hot spring egg", so for a while there, I thought we had been eating what the Japanese call onsen tamago (温泉玉子), with the egg cooked for the best part of an hour at a low 65 degrees C.

A similar looking egg for sale at a fifth of the price in Sham Shui Po.

After further research though, I discovered our eggs did not look like onsen tamago (温泉玉子, "hot spring egg"), which are more like soft poached eggs.  No, what we so enjoyed must have been ajitsuke tamago (味付け玉子, "seasoned egg") or hanjuku tamago (半熟玉子, "half-boiled egg"), marinated "half-boiled" eggs which hold their shape, which are apparently often served with ramen, though we've never seen one before (we'll definitely have to make it to Japan one day.)

All in all, we had a fantastic meal at Mist, with high quality noodles, broth and toppings all working together.  The food is well presented in a stylish dining room, and the smartly dressed wait staff complete the picture.  Just remember to request a drink and a mouthful of dessert if you order a set though, because for some reason, only those ask will receive.  It seems strange that a restaurant of this calibre will happily charge you 20 HKD extra for nothing more than having said the word "set", but this is only a small thing and the meals are well worth the money.

Closest Auckland Equivalents

There are many places where you can get ramen in Auckland, but not to the same level of excellence.  I have also yet to see hanjuku tamago offered here, though perhaps I need to try adding a boiled egg to my noodles more often.

* Ramen Do
167 Symonds Street, Eden Terrace
(09) 377 1313

The sign outside with "Japanse Noodle Bar" in some bubbly comic font doesn't inspire confidence, but this little eatery probably serves the best ramen in Auckland.  The glossy menu with coloured pictures calls them Hokkaido ramen noodles and they are very well cooked and beautifully presented, with half a hard-boiled egg in each generous bowl.

* Ramen Daikoku
Tyler Street (next to Britomart Station), Auckland Central
(09) 309 2200

Part of the Daikoku family of restaurants, Ramen Daikoku offers a good range of ramen in addition to other dishes such as donburi.

* Mentatz
28 Lorne Street, Auckland Central
(09) 357 0960

Popular with students due to its proximity to the university as well as affordable prices, Mentatz turns out tasty meals, though service can be hit and miss.

Restaurant Details

Mist
4 Sun Wui Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong (香港銅鑼灣新會道四號地下)
+852 2881 5006

Opening hours:
Mondays - Fridays 12 - 3pm, 6 - 11pm
Saturdays 12 - 11pm
Sundays 12 - 10:30pm

2 comments:

  1. Especially when they've managed to cook it so that the yolk has that consistency, yes.

    ReplyDelete

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