Tina’s Noodle Kitchen, Highpoint.
Having checked out the swish new food area at Highpoint by myself, it’s a real pleasure to return with Bennie for another look and taste.
He, too, is impressed by it all.
We immediately note that the Vietnamese operation, Saigon Square, appears to be ready for business.
Sadly, we discover that it’s only open this day for friends and family, while the public opening will be the following day.
So we move on over to Tina’s Noodle Kitchen.
Like me, again, Bennie is knocked out that such adventurous and unadulterated food is being served at a shopping centre, at Highpoint.
It’s a nice place, with lots of tables and an air of spaciousness about it.
There’s a stack of staff members taking care of business and the open kitchen adds to the ambiance.
We take our time to peruse the long and lavishly illustrated menu (see below).
Apart from snacky items at the front and a list of “extras” both vegetable and meat at the rear, the menu appears to be devoted entirely to ingredient-packed soup-noodle combos in a dizzying range of variations, with prices mostly in the $13 to $14 range.
We love our sole dabble from the snack/smaller list – pickled vegetable threads ($3).
But these turn out to be largely unnecessary due to the sizes of our soup-noodle meals.
Beware – these are so big that at a pinch one could serve as a meal for two moderately hungry people.
Bennie chooses the deep-fried pork with pickles ($13.80).
He likes it – with some reservations.
The broth is salty and yummy, while the battered pork goes good though, unsurprisingly, becomes soggy – not necessarily a bad thing – as he progresses.
He slurps the slithery noodles and enjoys the pickles.
He has no time for the handful of quail eggs – he’s never dug them – or the “Canned Luncheon Ham” hidden within.
He may get the terminology wrong, but he sums up his feelings thusly: “Spam doesn’t taste good no matter what it’s in!”
As with Bennie’s bowl, my own spicy stewed beef ($13.80) is a mixture of the familiar and the not so.
The broth is good and towards the more fiery end of the spice spectrum, while the beef is chunky and tasty though quite solid.
For just about every mouthful that is comfortingly familiar another explodes with sheer, exotic strangeness.
I do know that in the process of enjoying this dish I eat at least three varieties of mushrooms or – more accurately, I suspect – fungus for the first time.
My attempts to discover what it is I’m eating – “Is this a mushroom, is this some sort of tofu?” – fail despite a couple of staff members giving it a crack.
They seem disinclined to find someone who can do so.
We enjoy our lunches but perhaps not as much as we may have wished.
I put that down to what I suspect is a mixture of us being pushed somewhat out of our comfort zones – even though we both choose dishes that are, superficially at least, among the least challenging on the menu – and the simple truth that perhaps this food style is not for us.
Nevertheless, we depart full of admiration – and even a little awe – for the fact that such things are being served at Highpoint.