If you’ve ever found the bounty of great restaurants on Dominion road daunting, this might be the place to start. And if you’re a seasoned Dom road regular, then you’ll already be nodding along, because since late 2019, Chongqing Noodles Master has been quietly creeping up the ranks of the best eateries on the street. It's an inexpensive gem – a secret that I almost want to keep to myself so it doesn’t become so busy that I have to queue for a table.
It’s become a ritual to visit the joint (at least) once a week with a friend to bask in a warm, springy bowl of their Spicy Beef Noodle Soup or Dry Mixed Chickpea and Mince Noodles, silky, spicy dumplings as well as a Cucumber Salad, and indulge in a cheeky sip of peach soju. Occasionally, I've visited with a group, and we've shared a feast and left full and happy without breaking the bank. There’s a casual, friendly atmosphere and the staff are helpful, knowledgeable and passionate, so I mustn’t keep Chongqing Noodles Master a secret.
So to help acquaint you with it, and properly explore the new supper menu, I enlisted the help of dish food editor, Claire Aldous, and a friend, Yi You (known as Xiaolongboi on Instagram) who was raised in Zhejiang province in China, has visited the city of Chongqing, and is the man responsible for introducing me to the unmissable deliciously soft sweet steamed pork.
Chonqing, referenced in this restaurant's name, is home to more than 30 million people, and until 1997, was part of Sichuan province, so you'll note a few of the hallmarks of Sichuan cuisine in the food here, including, yes, that tingly numbing Sichuan pepper… Yi tells me that there's a saying in the region, that ‘even the woks are spicy’, referring to the way the cast iron woks used in the region retain spice from years of chilli-rich cooking. He also says that the taste of the food here is authentic - very close to what you'd get in China - if you ask for spicy, Chongqing Noodles Master will have even the most seasoned spice-fan sweating. However, if you aren't a fan of spice, there is still plenty here that you'll enjoy.
The chicken skin skewer and the pork rib skewers.
We started with a series of tender and generously spiced rich, cumin beef, pork ribs, potato (all served on skewers) and melt-in-your-mouth lamb ribs. The skewers and ribs cool down fast so eat them while they're hot - aside from just temperature, the texture is juicier and more tender while they're hot. The eggplant in this section is soft and topped with masses of garlic (stir that in so you get an even spread throughout as you tuck in). Claire's pick from this section was the chives. They're smoky, but the grilling also morphs the chives into a milder, sweeter version of their usual selves. This classic is the same as Yi ate as a snack from street vendors as a teenager in China. Similarly, his after school snack is on the menu: soft, crisp skewered toast, like a more savoury version of French toast. There's no order in which savoury or sweet foods are eaten in China so it's perfectly acceptable to go for this or the Deep Fried Glutinous Rice Cakes and Brown Sugar syrup the moment you walk in the door.
Chives and toast.
If you're going with a few friends (which we highly recommend you do!) you can't go past the Barbecue section of the menu. We got the Special Deep Fried Duck in Sichuan Style (an entire duck!) which arrived at the table on an electric fry pan, so that it sizzled away in front of us on a large piece of paper and had us exclaiming, ‘oh my god have you tried this!?’. The meat is cooked gently for 4-6 hours (if they run out of this, they can't just whip up another) so it’s sweet, almost caramelised, soft and juicy with crispy skin. There is chilli in the dish, it's softened by the cooking and has more of an aromatic effect than one of much spice.
Special Deep Fried Duck in Sichuan Style.
Fried chicken enthusiasts must try the Deep Fried Chicken in Sichuan Style, which is served piled amongst some very spicy chilli to impart flavour onto the chicken, but you aren't meant to eat the chillies themselves (caution, they are absolutely nuclear-level hot). The fried chicken itself isn't as hot as the chillies but still packs a punch and is served with the bone in, as most things here are, which, as Yi and Claire agree, results in more flavour.
Deep Fried Chicken in Sichuan Style.
Another must try is the pork. The cut used is a less used one: the hanging tender. The meat is flavourful, with a similar texture to a pork hock, but darker and softer, while the outer layers of it are crunchy and salty like pork crackling. There's only around 1kg of that meat on every pig, so as well as being relatively unknown, its uncommon, but I'm surprised it isn't a more in-demand treat - because I want more.
Pork - served with chilli powder.
There's so much more to say about Chongqing Noodles Master. They have bubble tea, fruit tea (their specialty), wine, beer, soju (the sweetness of this boozy, fruity beverage helps mellow the effect of chilli, if you find you've overdone it!).
There is free parking out the back, and the food here has been made with the love of a home cooked meal by people proud of the cuisine of their homeland, and if you look around the restaurant at its peak time, around 9pm, you’ll see friends sharing hotpots, skewers, soju and beer over this hearty and delicious food.
Should you want to try the dishes that have us craving more, we made a little highlights list of some of our favourites to give you somewhere to start:
Chicken Skin Skewers
Spicy Beef Noodle Soup (available in non-spicy)
Deep Fried Chicken in Sichuan Style
Dry Mixed Chickpea and Mince Noodles
Pepper Salt Squid
Spicy Lamb Ribs
And for vegetarians…
Vegetarian Noodle Soup
Chongqing Noodles Master
Chongqing Noodles Master
215 Dominion Road, Mount Eden
215 Dominion Road, Mount Eden