A new ramen shop in TIT Creative Industry Park, Nonoodle’s signboard features its witty Chinese name, bu fangbian mian (不方便面馆), which literally translates: ‘not instant noodles restaurant.’
The sign doesn’t lie: it takes the cashiers and cooks far more than an instant to prepare our non-instant noodles, though they’re served fast by sit-down restaurant standards – in about five minutes.
Nonoodle’s concept is to offer freshly made, nontraditional ramen in six unique flavors served in a Styrofoam instant noodle cup. It’s a way to satisfy the urge to eat noodles from a cup (kind of addictive, if you ask us) while enjoying higher quality ramen than the dry block you get in classic fangbian mian.
The place also functions as a convenience store that sells a variety of overpriced Korean sodas, German beers and juices, as well as a collection of snacks and instant noodles in Korean and Thai flavors.
Behind Nonoodle’s transparent glass facade, a team of ramen chefs bustles about behind a counter, stirring ingredients into cups of noodles and ducking out between orders to wipe down a table or two.
Tent cards with photos of the six ramen varieties greet customers at the counter, each with a heart icon and the number ‘20,000’ beside it to indicate ‘likes’ on social media.
Of the three flavors we try – the Malaysian seafood laksa, tom yum soup noodles with prawns and Italian prawn and basil noodles (all RMB28) – the laksa leaves the worst impression, with a bland, flat taste that doesn’t deserve 28 kuai.
The tom yum soup noodles satisfy our most basic expectations, but complaints abound over the excessive use of bean sprouts. We’re all about the Italian prawn and basil noodles, though: served without soup, they soak up every last bit of the secret seafood sauce, yielding a full-bodied flavor.
We assume Nonoodle targets those working in TIT who want something other than a roujiamo as an afternoon snack.
With a chic design and notion, Nonoodle successfully draws the attention of curious passersby. But if it doesn’t want people to ‘say no’ to its noodles, it had better bring its produce to a much higher level.
Price: RMB40 for a bowl
Who’s going: workers at TIT, curious visitors
Good for: a spicy refreshment
[Photos by Tristin Zhang]