Are unexpected meals the best?
Sundays in the city is a weird time of the week to be looking for lunch in Sydney, as you can’t always predict which restaurant would be open for trade on the day of rest. After finding that our top 3 choices were closed on Sundays (the newly opened Jiang Nan Gallery included) we decided to try 1915 Lanzhou Beef Noodles- a smaller restaurant situated on the ground floor of the World Square precinct (Liverpool-Pitt Street quadrant).
I’m suspecting that this space was originally designed for a now defunct clothing store? As after taking a few steps in, then there are two steps down into the dining portion of the store with a mat haphazardly covering plastic water pipes leading to and from the kitchen. We were immediately seen to our table and we studied the menu. What attracted us to 1915 Lanzhou Beef Noodles, was the promise of ….. Beef noodles I guess. *Shrug*.
On the menu there were options of various soup noodles, dry noodles, and gravy noodles, and once you’ve chosen your level of noodle saturation, then it was time to elect your chilli level (full or less)- then it’s the choice of your wheat noodles to be rounded or flat, and the diameter or width.
Placing your order and payment was made back at the front counter, and we elected Lanzhou Beef Soup Noodles ($12.90) at the less chilli level with a rounded “trihedron” noodle; Combination Lanzhou Gravy and Beef Mince Noodle ($13.90) at the less chilli level with a flat 1.5cm width noodle; for drinks, a Herbal Tea ($3.50); and for dessert, Fermented Glutinous Rice with Beaten Egg in Milk ($5.80).
And as we were taking in the surrounds, already our orders started to arrive.
First to arrive was the Herbal Tea, which came in a soda can, with what my wife labelled as an “evil plastic straw”, but at least it was a bendy plastic straw!
The mindset I was taking this arvo, was to order everything which sounded out-of-the-ordinary, as I was telling my wife “I doubt I’d ever be back” so order all the weird stuff! But the tea wasn’t weird, it was just like a grass jelly drink, minus the jelly.
And literally within the same minute our dessert also arrived.
We left this to the end, so I’ll describe it for you after the mains. But as we were lining up the drink and dessert soup for their glamour shots the mains also arrived- piping hot, I must stress!
The Lanzhou Beef Noodles was the restaurant’s signature dish and the shop’s name-sake. When it was my turn to tuck in, I first tried the beef broth- the most distinct taste was the flavour of coriander (which I don’t mind), the beef was a brisket sliced into thin slices, and the noodles were nice and chewy. The flavour profile tasted a bit like Vietnamese pho, with the same elements, but served up in a Chinese style (and spicy).
The Combination Lanzhou Gravy and Beef Mince, was best of both worlds from the non-soup base portion of the menu- I think they literally mixed two dishes together! As there were so many elements dispersed among my plate- there were slices of beef brisket, beef mince, cauliflower, tofu, black fungus, herbs, and a saucy gravy coating everything? My scarf had a firsthand experience of that gravy coating. *covers face with hands*, when I attempted to unravel a clump of flat noodles, but to be splashed by a pretty generous flick of gravy sauce. I guess better on the dark-coloured cashmere Ralph Lauren scarf, than on the light-coloured Versace shirt. Haaha. But after that, I learnt my lesson and I was more careful with picking up the noodles. The taste was good, the lesser chilli meant that the Sichuan tongue numbing feeling was there, but not so overwhelming to ruin everything else. The OD mixture of ingredients meant that each scoop was a little bit different from the last, and the noodles were nice – clearly handmade, but a bit stodgy in parts.
And when we were done with our mains, we tried the dessert – Fermented Glutinous Rice with Beaten Egg in Milk. When it was served up, it was warm, but by the time we got to it, it was room temp. The soup was thin, not thick like a Canto dessert soup. It had a unique flavour, from the Fermented Glutinous Rice, and each scoop of the spoon brought up different floating bits. Your spoon might dredge up a portion of the boiled scrambled egg (either yoke or white), or you might come up with the glutinous rice, and/or peanuts, and/or sultanas, and/or goji berries – that added a different type of sweetness to the dish. In the end, I think the dessert will be what we’d most remember from our time at 1915 Lanzhou Beef Noodles.
Our end verdict, 4.0 from 5 Stars! (2.5 from 3 for Food (in the end everything was tasty, cooked well, and it was out-of-the-ordinary for your typical Chinese handmade noodle joint); 0.5 from 0.5 for Service (the staff were all polite and efficient); 0 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (it wouldn’t be too shabby if located in the heart of Chinatown, but it was on the shabbier end of the spectrum for World Square standards); and 1 from 1 for Value for Money (well sized mains at the $13 price-point, and a dessert and a drink for $36.10 total? That’s pretty good!)).
In conclusion, sometimes an unplanned meal is the best, as you have close to no expectations- so more often than not, you’ll leave pleasantly surprised. And that was how we felt when we left 1915 Lanzhou Beef Noodles, tummies filled with Lanzhou Beef Noodles. Although we enjoyed ourselves today, but it is sobering to see how World Square’s variety is slowly being eroded. As one by one, all of the original restaurants who opened their doors when the World Square first came into being – one-by-one they are closing down, to be replaced by another Chinese restaurant. Nandos, the most recent closure, to be replaced by another bubble tea store. *Headshake*. Isn’t it ironic, World Square, supposedly being a sample of what’s going on in the wider world? The gradual expansion of China into every corner of the world (have you seen the Huawei Youtube ad?), and soon the entire world – and World Square might be better known as China Square?
1915 Lanzhou Beef Noodles- Sunday 11 August (4.0 Stars).
PH: (02) 8592 3617
Shop 17, Ground Floor, World Square, 123 Liverpool Street, Sydney
Mon-Sun 11am – 9pm