By David Sutton
Shop SLG8-9a, Sub-lower G/F Westland Gardens
2-10 Westlands Road, Quarry Bay
Tel: 2565 1001
Grub: Mostly Japanese noodles, but there is also a good selection of rice dishes, tempura and snacks to tempt the inquisitive palette.
Vibe: Clean, modern interior with friendly, efficient staff. There are large, dining-room-like tables stretched across the middle of the venue with smaller tables around the edges for groups of four to six. There is a window at the back that provides a view into the kitchen.
Who to take: Friends and classmates - Miso Cool seems to be popular mostly with a young crowd.
What's hot: Noodles. It's what I went for, and no matter how good some of the other dishes looked, I wasn't going to be sidetracked. Besides, just choosing between noodles and noodles is choice enough. Most of the dishes can be ordered with a choice of either ramen, udon, jelly noodles and black ink spaghetti.
I'm not actually sure if I've ever had jelly noodles before. There is a dish called hot spicy jelly noodles with pork ribs which was very tempting, but I decided I wasn't in the mood for spicy, so instead I plumped for the pan-fried black ink spaghetti with Hokkaido seafood milk soup. To go with it I also ordered the mixed shrimp tempura and a yoghurt and peach smoothie called a White Lover which was on a special summer menu.
The smoothie arrived very quickly topped with a huge daub of whipped cream. It was pleasant but sweet, so I put it to one side to save for dessert.
The tempura and the noodles arrived in quick succession. The shrimp comes with an assortment of tempura vegetables, such as pumpkin and green pepper, which are crisp and tasty.
I'm not sure how much actual fresh milk goes into the milk soup. It's seasoned quite heavily, but I'd guess that the main ingredient is milk powder. Nevertheless, it is most agreeable. Trawling around with the large ladle-like spoon reveals a cornucopia of goodies including squid, shrimps, cockles and scallops, as well as seaweed and other vegetables.
I must admit, I'm not convinced that the spaghetti betrayed much of an inky flavour - the colouring is actually from squid ink - but it did look very cool against the white of the soup base.
What's not: Lunchtimes get really crowded. It is much better to go at off-peak times to be sure of getting a seat. If you must go at lunch, try to get there by noon or just after as there will be queues down the street well before one o'clock.
Cost: Expect to pay HK$40-HK$70 for ramen, HK$54-HK$80 for other noodles, HK$40-HK$70 for rice dishes, and HK$10-HK$30 for a drink.