The Noodle Factory

Chinese food has a hierarchy not shared by many cuisines. There’s the elite, sampled at places like Zheng He’s and Hukama. There are the back alley artisans – the folks who dish up specialities from the most unlikely spots (take, for instance, the handmade noodles at China Sea). And finally there are the hordes of cheap, ramen-slinging eateries that make up the bottom rung. The Noodle Factory falls into the last category. This isn’t to say it is therefore inherently bad, only that it should be held up to a different standard. You don’t expect originality from such a place, and you can’t really rate its choice of ingredients. Instead you judge the seasoning of the dumpling mince or the crispness of the spring rolls. Unfortunately, lowered standards and all, The Noodle Factory – a chain that has recently swept through Dubai’s malls – makes for a poor dining choice. One of its mistakes is the menu: it looks too promising. Items like steamed Peking seafood ravioli and spicy miso-glazed chicken elevate hopes. When ordering, I thought I might be pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t. The wrapping on an order of mushroom and bamboo spring rolls resembled heavy artillery. I practically had to play tug of war with my teeth to break into it, and after a couple of bites I felt exhausted. This wasn’t a meal, it was a battle – and I was losing. I barely wanted to look at the crispy black bean chicken wontons that followed, and once I did I immediately regretted it. The golden hue and tough feel told me the kitchen had been a little over-enthusiastic with the deep fryer. When I finally tore through the helmet of dough, I detected no trace of black bean – just some clumpy, tasteless grey matter that I assumed to be chicken. Mains didn’t fare much better. My date’s ramen with wok-fried veggies was drearily bland. In its favour, the bits of asparagus and cabbage floating in the broth were a vibrant green – a sign that, at the very least, they were properly cooked. But the soup itself was little more than boiled water and a pinch of salt. My spicy miso-glazed chicken was equally poor. It, too, was fried, and tasted nothing like miso. Instead, it possessed the kind of flavourless heat that saturates a bad order of buffalo wings. The thought of dessert depressed me. I didn’t want to fight with any more food, especially a type of cuisine that I usually love. What crueler fate could await a sweet, unassuming banana than for it to be covered in a maliciously tough coating and hacked at by yours truly? I decided to just settle up and make a very hasty retreat. The bill (for two) 1x Small bottle water Dhs10 1x Spring rolls Dhs30 1x Chicken wontons Dhs29 1x Ramen noodle Dhs36 1x Miso chicken Dhs49 1x Steamed rice Dhs15 Service Dhs17 Total Dhs186

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