The turn of the season and the arrival of genuinely cooler weather means our thoughts turn, naturally, not to fireplaces and cocoa, mulled wine and the State of Origin, but spicy noodles. And there's no spicy noodle we want more right now than the mian tiao at Face2Face, a new arrival to Dixon House, one of the more rough-and-tumble basement food halls in Sydney's Chinatown.
The specialty here is noodle soups done in the style of Chongqing, the city of 30 million that seceded from Sichuan province to become a province in its own right in 1997. The noodles are made in-house with wheat, cut fine, and offered in three ways: dry, in a clear chicken stock, or, the main event, in a spicy Sichuan broth.
The dry noodles are very good even in their plainest form, dressed (relatively) simply with preserved vegetables, bok choy, spring onions, coriander, chilli, sesame and peanuts. The soups are similarly complete, roiling with chilli oil and Sichuan pepper, but there is much to be said for the choice of toppings: five-spice pork ribs, firm nubs of braised beef, gooey beef tendon, barnyardy braised pork intestines, bouncy sliced chicken giblets with pickles, or the chickpeas and minced pork, an option that has eluded us thus far because (a) it's made in such small quantities, (b) is so popular, or (c) both.
(Robust appetites take note: we've not found it necessary yet but an extra serve of noodles is free for the asking when you eat in-house.)
Accessories include soy eggs for $1.50, extra greens for $1 and some of the sides are also very much worth investigating, not least the fresh smoky pork sausage, even fizzier with Sichuan pepper than the soups. Face2Face does a brisk trade, too, in cold poached chicken feet, boxed-up with green chillies to go.
A word of warning: because the noodles are produced fresh each day, the kitchen can get overwhelmed, and often sells out of the signatures mid-service. Get in early to make the most of it.
Face2Face Noodles, Dixon House food court, Little Hay St (between Dixon and Sussex sts), Sydney, NSW.