God Said: Let there be Dojo

11 February 2008

Stef Porter guides you through NOODLE HEAVEN and NOODLE HELL

Picture the scene. Four good mates. Just been to see a play at Queen’s. It’s half nine. We’re all hungry, but none of us wants to be wined and dined. We don’t want a two-hour three-course sit-down gourmet dinner. We want something cheap, tasty and warm.

It’s times like this when you hope the gastronomic gods are on your side. That night was one of those nights. It’s like an out-of-body experience as the warm aroma of wok-fried noodles draws you towards Dojo. For those of you who don’t know Dojo Noodle Bar, it’s like Wagamama but about a quid cheaper. If you’re a cheapskate like me, you’re sold. One thing about Oriental noodle bars like this one is that they’re always crammed. Don’t be put off if there’s a queue, as their turnaround is pretty rapid. The atmosphere is noisy, chatty and highly informal. The wait staff patrol earnestly, seizing any loose glassware and unwanted crockery like ravenous birds of prey. A word of warning—do not go on a date/romantic liaison to Dojo. Firstly, it’ll be over before you know it (the story of my life); secondly, your whispered sweet nothings will simply go unheard; thirdly, your longing looks into each other’s eyes will be seen by everyone similarly aligned and could produce unwanted results; fourthly, you will no doubt cover yourself head to toe in noodles; and finally, such is the proximity of the person sitting next to you on your bench that footsie is non-discriminative.

If you want a laugh, a gossip and a good meal, Dojo is ideal. The food is quick, fresh, healthy and flavoursome. The menu clearly describes all constituents of the dish as well as how spicy it is. You have to make an initial decision between soup-based noodles and wok-based noodles, a decision which is pretty self-explanatory. Once you give your order to the waiter or waitress in numeric form, your chosen dish will undoubtedly arrive within five minutes. That night I went for wok-based noodles with duck and mange-tout—39b if I remember rightly. I loved it. Simple, really tasty and filling. It always takes a while to eat if your chopstick skills are as poor as mine! Only costs about 6 quid, which I think is a bargain. All washed down with a cool Japanese beer, you can comfortably buy dinner and a pint for under a tenner. I would strongly recommend Dojo noodle bar for a group of chatty friends with an appetite. And, I think is worth reiterating— Dojo is not the place to relax with a bottle of wine talking to your loved one about Valentine’s trips to Paris.

…and thus spake SATANOODLE

As a man committed to food in every way, I see it as my responsibility to delve into the hidden depths of the Sainsbury’s Basics range. To tie in with our Oriental theme I plumped for the tantalising option of Sainsbury’s Basics Chicken Flavour Instant noodles priced 9p. This decision was a rookie error. I must now come clean; I do have several packets of these noodles in my kitchen cupboard which I regularly throw into stir-fries.

On this occasion, however, I chose to dine simply on the noodles themselves with the “chicken” flavouring powder. I think to say that it tastes like chicken is a little misguided. Anyway, I closely followed the fool-proof instructions and ended with a yellow sticky gloop. I was not particular excited. Perhaps the most extraordinary concept to grasp is that as you devour your noodles, which start off with a soupy consistency, the starchy pile gradually turns to a cumbersome brick. Not pretty. It was one of life’s lessons that I will never forget. My advice is to open the packet of noodles and ceremoniously dispose of the “chicken” element.