I had high hopes for the newly opened Hana Hana restaurant in Chinatown which is based on the self-service concept of picking a base dish and choosing your own toppings in a canteen style set up. We are big fans of the ever popular noodle canteen Menya Mappen which strikes the perfect balance between affordability, tastiness and efficiency. So one Friday night I headed over to see whether it was a worthy rival to Mappen.
The restaurant is located diagonally across from Market City’s Easyway entrance. I was surprised to find that it wasn’t busy at all around 6.15pm on a Friday night with plenty of communal and private tables available. The first thing that you do when you walk through the door is to make your order on the touchscreen order stations to the left of the walkway, a nice technological touch which Mappen lacks.
There are plenty of traditional Japanese noodle or rice combinations to choose from for your base dish and I decide to try their half sized Miso Ramen. Straight ahead from the order stations is a counter with neatly arranged toppings on trays just waiting to be picked. You are handed your chosen base dish on a tray and then slide your tray along the counter, picking up anything that looks tasty. I like the sound of the Beef Croquette to add some bulk to my meal and the crunchy crumbed exterior looks promising.
The half sized bowl of Miso Ramen is smaller than the portions served up at Mappen although the pricing is similar. I’m not overly impressed on my first sip of the soup which seems a bit thinner than I am used to and there’s not much of it in the bowl either. On the upside, the noodles are decently springy and I’m glad that Hana Hana also offer a free sprinkle of tempura flakes and shallots on top of your dish because it gives some much needed flavour.
Half Size Miso Ramen $4.90, Beef Croquette $2.50
On a quest for more flavour, I started on the generously sized Beef Croquette but the minced meat wasn’t as flavoursome as I was hoping it would be. In fact, the overall taste and texture of the mash potato filling was rather bland and I was disappointed by my choice of accompaniment for the ramen.
Even though I liked the touchscreen ordering system, for now, it still looks like Mappen is ahead in the canteen self-service restaurant game in Sydney as Hana Hana doesn’t quite live up to expectations. As much as I was hoping for a quieter alternative to get my fix of cheap and cheerful Japanese noodles, I think I’ll continue braving the crowds at Mappen.
5/209 Thomas Street
Sydney, NSW 2000