Top Noodle’s quite a surprising package.
Although it’s in a prime position directly opposite the beach, at first glance it’s an underwhelming generic laminex-tabled eatery squeezed into a corner beside a shopping centre entrance. It undersells itself too in its presentation, with menu items pasted on the walls and an odd assemblage of crates, containers, eskies and fridges stacked just inside the front door. The cleaning bucket is there to greet you too! Hardly inviting!
At second glance, though, you realise that you’re looking through a grid of people zigzagged by Japanese waitresses buzzing from table to table. Busy patronage usually indicates that the food must be good, plus it’s been given the ‘thumbs up’ by friends!
Part of the hugely successful Sushi Train group who brought sushi trains to Australia over twenty years ago, Top Noodle offers far more than sushi. Its menu boasts about ninety items: small izikaya-type share dishes such as Takoyaki, Gyoza and Tempura; some of the best ramen, udon, and soba on the Coast; main meals in bowls or on plates, many including rice and salad. There’s a take away menu, with Vegetarian and Spicy dishes clearly marked.
Originally brought to Japan by the Chinese, ramen holds cult status among foodies. As ramen is Top Noodle’s house specialty, reputed to rival Hakataya’s in Surfers, it’s certainly worth a slurp! Master stocks for the five original soup bases are made in house from fresh quality ingredients, giving a selection of hot and cold ramen to choose from.
We’ve eaten at Top Noodle a number of times, and particularly enjoyed the Sui Gyoza (five soft dumplings in a delicious broth, served with chilli on the side – at $5 per serve, it’s absolutely addictive); Salmon Caviar (the glistening roe balls explode in your mouth); Tuna and Salmon Sashimi – very fresh and cheap; and the Eel bowl, which features the best eel we’ve tasted on the Coast – mild and moist without any fishy after-taste at all. Judging by the quality of these dishes, the extensive menu deserves many return visits!
Service is fast, with food arriving promptly, simply but pleasantly presented, albeit in a haphazard order (one entrée dish arrives after the mains)! On one wall, Michael Jackson dances silently, marionette-like, on the LCD TV, hardly getting a glance. There’s a whole mix of people dining: young couples who’ve been here enough to order without looking at the menu, surfers directly off the beach and extended family groups on holidays.
There’s plenty on the menu suitable for children: the Mini bowls such as Salmon Toto (minced salmon belly over rice) for $6, Gyoza, Karaage or Katsu Don, as well as milder soups. Top Noodle could also provide a great quick meal before the movies. On Tuesday nights there’s even an extra 10% off!
You may expect to find such good food in a traditional little Japanese restaurant somewhere, but alas, that is not the case. Top Noodle just doesn’t cut it in ambience. Is the bucket/container assemblage part of Top Noodle’s unassuming charm? Definitely not! Cramped for space it may be, but we think restaurant management should find a better solution to the obvious storage problem – a screen at least! I solve the problem on the night by choosing another view – ignore and extinguish!
Despite is appearance and sometimes patchy service, the bottom line is that Top Noodle provides great value for money. We’ll return there for the food quality and price. Order from the Main Meal section and you can eat well for under $15; or have a shared feast for $25. BYO’s only $2, and if you order a main meal between 3 – 5pm and you can have a free drink, or extra rice or noodles!
Top Noodle takes our prize as Best Cheap Eats on the southern end of the Gold Coast. It’s notoriously busy, so make a booking, or eat outside rush hour times. Expect excellent food at a good price. Overlook the rest, and you’ll come away satisfied.
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