Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Kitchen Inn, Kardinya, Western Australia (Alissa and Don Eat Australia)

Outside of blogging, I'm a keen collector of vinyl records, in particular focusing on Soul and all its subgenres both old and new. One of the great pleasures of record collecting is when you dig up a record by someone who didn't blow up the way a Stevie Wonder or a Marvin Gaye did, but nevertheless put out work that, while obscure to the mainstream, is consistently excellent (see Sam Dees or Lou Courtney for example). In exploring Perth's restaurants I find a similar satisfaction; as fun as it is visiting a new, on-trend eatery in a blue chip prime location, its the discovery of hidden gems surprisingly buried in suburbia that are probably the most rewarding.

My parents had been raving about Kitchen Inn for almost a year now, but for whatever reason it was only after an aborted visit for a dirt cheap meal at G'Fun Cafe on South Street that eventually brought us to this unassuming restaurant buried in a small row of shops in suburban Kardinya. Literally under 10 minutes from home its a wonder we never got here sooner, but I guess unless driving through suburbia is your thing you'd never know it even existed. However seeing Kitchen Inn's subheading of 'Your Handmade Noodle Shop' (my italics)  I was really excited. I'm a massive wanton noodles fanatic, and though ramen has quickly overtaken it as my noodle dish of choice, it remains a strong, nostalgic favourite that conjures up memories of my childhood.

The interior was furnished in fairly standard Singapore/Malaysian decor, with plenty of nostalgic photos of days gone by when noodles were routinely hand made. Having arrived sometime before 6pm, the place was already fairly busy.

We sat near the back at a two person table with bright lighting - a nice change for my camera after the handmade by Edison moody lighting at Pleased To Meet You just a few days earlier. After placing our order, we sat back with some refreshing hot Chinese Tea and waited for our meal to arrive.

When selecting what I wanted for dinner, there were so many excellent looking dishes on the menu that it was a hard choice. Though Seafood Hor Fun was an early contender, in the end it was a choice between two similar dishes: Kolo Mee, and the dish I finally decided on - the Kampua Special. First things first; these noodles were incredible. Like homemade/fresh pasta, there is something magical that seems to happen when you make noodles by hand, and it goes to show that we've lost something along the way thanks to mass, factory produced noodles. I don't think I've tried a better version of these noodles in Perth, and even in Singapore you'd be hard pressed to find noodles of this quality anymore. Everything else was uniformly excellent, with the prawn cooked perfectly and with the char siu and siu yuk in particular being exemplary. Though of course not wanton noodles per se, with a bowl of short soup on the side and a bit of the provided chilli oil added, this would just about be my perfect wanton noodles dish in the Singapore/Malaysian 'dry noodles, soup separate' style. Mind you, they do have an actually Wanton Noodles dish, but since it didn't have char siu I decided this was the better way to go.

Alissa went with the Pan Mian - handmade flat noodle served with egg, char siu, mince pork, sambal chilli and anchovy (or more correctly, ikan bilis). Again, these mee pok-like noodles were of an excellent 'best in class' standard, having much of the same toothsome bite as the noodles in my dish. If you've ever had the Myojo instant Mi Poh Goreng, the Pan Mian tasted like what the instant noodles are trying to approximate but failing at. The mince meat was a tasty addition that made it look a bit like an Asian fettucine bolognese, though the heat-and-umami combination of sambal chilli and ikan bilis were an undeniably South-East Asian construction. Though I was more than satisfied with my dish, this was an equally strong choice I'd happily order on a return visit.

Finally, to enhance the Wanton Noodles illusion I was going for, Alissa and I shared a bowl of wanton soup. The wantons were nice and meaty and the broth as umami as one would expect, though I've probably had better wantons in Hong Kong - I think they do the wantons themselves better there, but as an overall dish the Singapore/Malaysian version is more substantial and fulfilling.

The Verdict: Excellent
I've been trying to head into Perth to try the handmade noodles at Noodle Forum, so the fact that there is a place so close to home making noodles of this quality is so convenient and, frankly, astounding; who would have thought a place this good would be tucked away in suburbia? My parents said the noodles here reminded them of how noodles used to taste in Singapore when they were growing up, and for me the Kampau Special with a side of wantons was almost the Platonic Form of what my dream wanton noodles would be (sorry Redring, but Kitchen Inn have you trumped). The regular serving sizes are all under $10, which I think is great value for noodles of this quality, and they even cater for vegetarians with faux-pork versions of many of their dishes! Along with the ramen at Kai and the bun cha from Little Lang Nuang, Kitchen Inn is a clear example of the excellent food that can be found in suburban Perth if you look hard enough.

Kitchen Inn Kardinya on Urbanspoon

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