[UPDATED MAY 2015]
These restaurants also attract busloads of mainland Chinese tourists. We often see them milling about outside, enjoying a fleeting moment of freedom before being herded back on the bus again and off to another souvenir shop.
Both restaurants were refurbished in the last couple of months, with HLJ Asian Express transforming into Mr Noodle. The new fitout is a little more inviting and we're happy to see the new menu concentrating on noodle soups and dumplings. It's good simple food. We dig.
Chinese sauerkraut and shredded pork noodle soup - $9.90. The classic Chinese noodle soup with slices of pork and tangy pickled vegetables. The broth is light, thin and clean - perfect when you feel like something cleansing and rehydrating. A seemingly simple broth like this is the hardest to get right, and they do.
Healthy fish soup - $11.90. The same broth and noodles with a few hunks of fish, good old basa we think, poached in the broth.
We love the style of noodle here - a fairly thin, flat noodle that is soft and springy, they pack a lot in the bowl without turning the soup starchy.
Spicy pork rib noodle soup - $9.90. It's always a mystery when we order pork ribs on a Chinese menu, they could come out anyway from lardy deep fried in sweet sticky sauce to slow cooked tender bits on the bone like this. It's the same soup as the others but with an added chili kick. It's great but we reckon the plain broth is the most magical. The best thing about pork ribs is crunching down on the cartilage, chomping right through what looks like bone but is a chewable piece of pork.
The beef and tomato noodle soup ($10.90) is a chef's special, only today the chef has run out of beef, possibly owing to a busload of Chinese tourists filing in downstairs, so it's pork rib and tomato soup instead. We expected the regular broth with a few hunks of tomato but it's a full on Andy Warhol tomato flavoured broth.
Tossed jellyfish - $6.90. A cold side dish that goes well with hot soup. It's sweep and has a lovely hard jelly texture - we're not sure whether it's actually jellyfish or some kind of kelp, we must ask Spongebob.
[Back again May 2015]
Braised pork noodle soup - about eight bucks. A darker broth with some nuggets of pork belly, a dash of soy and vinegar give it extra zing.
Mr Noodle is at Shop 1/849 George St, opposite Central Station bus station. They have a newer sign up now.