This week for Cheap Eats I head to a new Asian-fusion venture in Ponsonby chop chop.
Fish of the Day ($18)
Soft-shell crab ($16)
Steamed pork bun ($8)
Now normally I wouldn’t touch Asian food that’s been mucked about with so as to be termed ‘fusion,’ but Moochowchow changed all of that for me. Some people, like Che Barrington, know what they’re doing when it comes to the mixing of Eastern and Western cuisines. The fusion masterminds behind Moo not long ago opened The Blue Breeze Inn in Ponsonby Central, a decidedly more Chinese venture, and even more recently opened a subsidiary eatery right next door called Chop Chop Noodle House & Whiskey Bar.
Chop Chop Noodle House pulls its inspiration from old-school kung fu movies and cowboy Westerns, but it has a decidedly Tiki-bar appearance which is a nod towards its sister restaurant Blue Breeze Inn. The service here is as fast as lightning (see what I did there?) and it’s the sort of joint one comes for a quick bite. Although drinks are rarely the focus at Cheap Eats (mainly because they are neither cheap nor edible) attention must be paid to Chop Chop’s, whose menu features a number of imaginative cocktails (including non-alcoholic versions) worth a visit all on their own. My virgin Drunken Master ($8) was a tangy, lime and pear concoction with a delectable, sherbet-like topping of freeze-dried mandarin. The menu itself is short, which would make one think that choosing what to eat would be a simple task but it is not. There are ‘fried’ offerings, of which Zoe and I ordered exclusively from due to their inherent shareability, and ‘bowls’ of ramen, including a monstrous-sized Cobra Kai Super Ramen noodle bowl. The descriptors of each dish are enigmatic, outlining simply ‘soft-shell crab, cucumber, sweet miso’ ($16) for one dish and ‘pork bun’ ($8) for another. We ordered both, plus the fish of the day with udon noodles, kimchi and ginger soy ($18).
All three dishes arrived quickly and together, leaving Zoe and I torn between which dish to start on first. I began by dismembering the soft-shell crab, an exceptional dish of crisply fried crab partially doused in a piquant dressing, be-speckled with that ubiquitous Japanese topping of shichimi togarashi; the latter lent a fiery kick that was quelled by the soothing cucumber salsa that accompanied it. The pork bun was a large steamed bao which Zoe and I happily split: it had that perfectly fluffy, bleached-white bread exterior housing a comforting pork filling that was cleverly off-set by the addition of another tangy cucumber dressing, but this time fragrant with mint. Although a peculiar pairing in theory, I thought the minted dressinged worked well to lift out of obscurity what would otherwise be just another steamed pork bun. Last but not least was the fish of the day, terakihi to be precise. Both impressive in taste as it is in appearance, this was the dish that I’d been looking forward to trying, having seen its image well circulated on Instagram. A bundle of terakihi pieces had been wrapped in udon noodles and deep-fried to create a crispy cage that was imaginatively paired with a spicy tomato salsa that hailed more from the Orient than Mexico.
Zoe and I left a little too full but inspired with the belief that Asian-fusion can work, although fusion is food better experienced in the flesh than through the written word, so you’d best be on your way to Ponsonby Central to try it soon.
Location: Ponsonby Central, 140 Ponsonby Road
Phone: (09) 360 0708
Hours: 12pm – midnight every day
Prices: fried $8-$18; bowls $14-$18; cobra kai super ramen $25; add-ons $1-$2; sweets $10.
Credit Cards: Yes
Suitable for Vegetarians: No
Bathrooms: Neat and shared with the other restaurants in Ponsonby Central
Wheelchair Accessible: No; tables and seating are all bar height.