Let’s start with a confession. This review may not be as detailed as it should be.
I refuse to eat humble pie, though - and lay the blame squarely on the food. It was so good, I got carried along in an ecstasy of eating and neglected the little notebook I always keep on my lap, hidden beneath a napkin, during reviews.
We were almost at the end of our dinner at Noodle Doodle, the Asian restaurant which moved into Cubana’s former home on Sheffield’s Trippet Lane in November, when I realised and hurriedly began scribbling away..
Blessedly, the portions were so huge we got to take half our meal home, which A. made this place incredible value, and B. meant I could refresh tastebuds and notes the next night.
The interior is good, too. Noodle Doodle prides itself as being Sheffield’s first restaurant serving authentic Malaysian cuisine and the backstreet Cuba vibe has been replaced with a bright, crisp red and white theme. The kitchens have extended, so the dining area doesn’t feel too big.
It is owned by Malaysian chef Jack Au and his wife Penny Looi plus a Chinese business partner. Penny works next door as a lettings agent and it was she who discovered Cubana were moving to Leopold Square.
Service? You can’t fault it. From the moment we walked in, we were lavished with attention. We mentioned the parking ticket machine was out of order and as we settled at the cosy table next to the radiator selected for us, a note was written to pop on our windscreen.
We nibbled complimentary prawn crackers as we surveyed a menu boasting over 300 dishes, mostly traditional and modern Cantonese, Szechuan and North Eastern Chinese (the most unusual feature deep-fried pork tripe, sauteed chicken gizzard, pork fat ends, spicy frogs legs and 1,000 year old egg). But we headed straight for the 24 Malaysian dishes at the back. They are virtually all mains and descriptions are basic - lists of ingredients as opposed to glowing eulogies to flavour, so we picked three and hoped for the best.
First to arrive was Laksa Curry Noodle, a massive £7.50 bowl of steaming, aromatic, coconut milk-enriched broth with big, fat egg noodles, soft slices of belly pork, huge prawns, tofu, lightly fried bean curd and... boiled eggs (fresh!) Deepened with shrimp paste and fired through with chilli, it was delicious. As we slurped, crispy butter prawns with shredded egg (£8.80) arrived. How do you’ shred an egg? Even after we’d eaten it we still haven’t a clue. It was splendid, though. More enormous prawns in a featherlight coating with sweet, frazzled strands of gold (we’re guessing this was the egg) sprinkled with fried Thai basil.
Beef Rendang (£8.50) was equally stunning. Slow-cooked, meltingly soft meat in a sauce laden with star anise, lemongrass and coconut went perfectly with Malaysian roti bread, made of soft, flaky layers and superior to any Indian bread I’ve tried.
Wine and beer is available but we carried on being adventurous and tried plum juice (refreshing, definitely plummy and not too sweet) and Malaysian milk pearl tea (£2) which I could get addicted to. It tasted of Muscovado sugar and had soft pearls of tapioca in it to suck up with a giant straw. Noodle Doodle is open every day, 11am to 10pm and is great value(the bill was just £34.50). Love spicy Asian food? Use your noddle and head to Noodle Doodle.