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Set just off Lan Kwai Fong in the heart of Central, Hide-Chan is decked out like a traditional ramen shop, located on the ground floor of a modern commercial building. With wooden tables, low stools and bar seating, there is not much more in the way of décor apart from some menus stuck on the walls. Rather like Japan, the thermostat is set at a very balmy temperature, making it a rather sticky atmosphere to be slurping up hot noodles in.
Hide-Chan specialises in Kyushu-style ramen, and there are three main types: white Hide (simply with pork bone broth), black Hide (with roasted garlic) and red Hide (with Korean chilli sauce). We order the white Hide with the Korean chilli sauce on the side to try the best of both, as well as a bowl of black Tsuke Hide, which is when the ramen is served in one bowl and the broth in another, along with the pork and egg and other toppings. The white Hide includes the option for pork shoulder or pork belly and we opt for the fattier meat but neither the texture nor flavour are particularly succulent. The broth itself has a light flavour and lacks umami. The Korean chilli sauce on the side tastes more Cantonese to us, but it does lend the otherwise plain dish a bit of a kick. The egg is very nicely cooked and flavoured in the white Hide, but not so much in our other bowl of black Tsuke Hide, where it is overcooked and dry. The soup is black, thanks to the roasted garlic, which we had assumed would give it a nicely nutty and caramelised flavour. Instead, what we get is mostly a bitter, burnt taste and the soup is extremely salty. The best part has to be the hunks of pork (instead of the slices in the other bowl), which are tender and juicy. For sides, the deep-fried chicken soft bones are again very salty, and come without any lemon or mayonnaise to balance the flavours out. Still, they are quite tasty with a hint of spice, and delicious as a bar snack. We wanted to get something a bit healthy as well, but sadly the chilled tomato came at an unappetising warm room temperature. The best part of our meal was instead the pan-fried Hakata dumplings, which are crispy on the outside and satisfyingly greasy, with a pork and chives filling.
There is no wine list at Hide-Chan, but Asahi beer is available and is probably a better accompaniment to the ramen and salty bar snacks.
The staff at Hide-Chan are efficient, if brusque. The tick-your-own-box menus can be a bit confusing, but the waitresses are happy to come over and help. They are mostly helpful, but when we complained that our chilled tomato was anything but cold, we got little more than a shrug and a “Oh really?” without an offer to do anything about it.
Two bowls of ramen with three sides comes to HK$280. This is about right for Hong Kong, where a bowl of ramen with toppings comes to about HK$90 in most Japanese noodle joints.