Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hong Kong - Mochi Cafe 萬豚屋

Sometimes, all we need is a little comfort.  Food included.  On a cold and wet day, there's nothing more comforting than a piping hot bowl of noodles.  Udon in this case.  Hand-pulled udon.

I guess there's a little cult status with this little joint tucked away in what is to me, an obscure part of TST, and across from the Kenjo on Hart Avenue.  Puts it in good company, I suppose, although I haven't chomped there.

Everything at Mochi Cafe is centered around their udon.  There are 3 soup bases to choose from - Tonkotsu (soup based garnered from hours of putting pork bones on the boil for hours and hours), a spicy miso Tonkotsu and Curry.  The other variable is the sides of pork (braised; deep fried with bread crumbs or sesame), beef, eel, etc. A wide enough selection to make it possible to eat here often enough but not so wide as to make it difficult for the small kitchen.

豬骨湯底豚肉烏冬 Udon in Tonkotsu broth with braised pork
On my first visit, I had the classic Tonkotsu broth with braised pork.  Served in a stone pot so that it is still bubbling for a couple of minutes at the table, it is hearty at sight.  A thick bubbling soup, with chunks of braised pork peeking from under the surface alongside a raw egg that's just been cracked into it before serving, then garnished with a generous handful of Japanese alfalfa.  The main event of the Udon however is coyly ticked under all that paraphernalia.

The udon was what won it for me.  Despite the heat, it managed to keep its springy texture throughout the whole experience.  There was no lumpiness or overt flour taste.  This was good on its own.  As the weather warms up, a serving of chilled udon would be fantastic.

The Tonkotsu broth was decent enough, with a meaty fragrance and sweetness from the bones.  The raw egg when stirred into the broth adds substance and taste.  Instead of the usual vegetables served in udon soups, the use of raw alfalfa adds crunch but without interfering too much with each spoonful since it isn't too fibrous.  With the exception of the braised pork which was overly chunky, a tad bland and tough, this was an enjoyable bowl of noodles.

So on my second visit (within the same week, mind you), I tried the curry udon with Sukiyaki-thin slices of beef.  The heartiness factor here goes up a notch, and like most Japanese curries, there's enough spice but no heat so that even the faint-hearted can enjoy.  And the thin slices of beef are much easier to enjoy than the pork chunks.  An overall "yums".  It's a nice alternative to the ramen frenzy.

Word of advice: since it's a small place, avoid the usual meal rush hours.  Go early or late so you don't have to queue.  On the 2 occasions I went for lunch, I was told to vacate my seat within an hour.  So I suppose that even if you had to queue, you shouldn't have to do so for more than an hour.  For me, it's probably worth up to a 20 minute wait, if you had to..

G/F, 19-23 Hart Avenue
Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852-3598 6282

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