Monday, 13 June 2011


360 Barlow Moor Road,
Manchester M21 8AZ

Bento Box Meals: £8.95-9.95

Yakisoba is emblematic of Chorlton.  A fusion of good ideas, some of which work and some of which don't, priced slightly higher than it should be.

At Yakisoba, bento boxes (fancy compartmentalised lunch boxes) rule.  The idea is that you get a bento box of salad, some sweetly salty cashews, miso soup (if you aren't having a soup-based main dish) or a vegetable croquette (if you are), slices of melon and orange, and deluxe prawn crackers.  Along with the bento, you order a main dish - the menu is extensive and covers noodle soups, dry noodle dishes, stir-fries, rice dishes, vegetarian; you name it, they've probably got it. The bento not only provides you with something to nibble while you wait (not long at all) for your food, but also provides respite in the midst of the over-large main dish portions.  The vegetable croquette is crunchy and faintly oriental, the nuts are moreish, the prawn crackers really prawn-y.

I ordered the Cha Sui and Roasted Duck Noodle Soup and my friend Claire ordered the Vermicelli Singapore Style.  A massive bowl (I could have used it as a helmet) overfilled with thin ramen noodles, vegetables, and two long stacks of duck pieces covered in an almost-spicy sauce and sweet and smoky char sui pork slices.  The broth tasted of stock and there was a slight film of oily grease on it, possibly from the meat. The meats were good, although after eating my way through the stacks I had little room left for the noodles, broth and greens.  The veggies, which included crisp slices of taro, crunchy green beans and pak choi were clearly fresh and tasted as though they had been cooked in the soup broth; definitely a good thing.  By the time I had gotten down to the noodles, they were soft and disintegrated readily, which was unfortunate considering the super-sized stack of them sitting in the soup.

The Vermicelli Singapore Style was also enormous, and Claire took home half of it.  The bowl of noodles was stir-fried, yellow, and chock-full of coriander, vegetables and prawns with well-aimed spicing that provided a good tingle but allowed room for the other flavours.

Yakisoba should give the option of cutting the portions and prices in half and offer its customers a "small" option.  I hate wasting food, and yet, barely halfway through my meal, I couldn't eat any more noodle soup.  In the recession with prices rising across the board, people don't want to pay for food they can't eat, and few tables were occupied on a Saturday lunchtime.

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