This is good-time, cockle-warming, stomp-up-and-down food.
Fans of Adam Liston have been denied regular contact with his smart, bolshi blend of Korean, Japanese and Chinese flavours since he closed his Collingwood restaurant Northern Light in March.
His next project, Honcho, a Punch Lane restaurant centred on a multi-purpose grill, is not due to open until the end of September. Helping to stave off the hunger pangs until then, Liston has opened a pop-up called Honcho Noodle. Next to the Windsor Hotel, it's in the former Wallis & Ed space (some may remember it better as the old Hard Rock Cafe site), which will be torn down later this year when the hotel undergoes a significant and overdue renovation. In the meantime, it's been given a bit of a spruce with some red neon and branded rice paper shades, but it keeps the temporary, thrown-together spirit of the pop-up alive.
Honcho Noodle will be open only during winter, so the menu, a compact list divided into "Noodles" and "Not Noodles", is cold-weather-friendly with lots of comforting noodle soups and spicy flavours. The go-to dish is one of the simpler on the menu, a superb blend of soba noodles tossed with a completely satisfying mix of green onion oil, shredded white radish and black vinegar topped with shreds of nori. There's also a fortifying spicy Korean-style noodle soup containing barbecue pork, tofu and a soft egg, and a rich spanner crab udon dish with smoked crab butter.
As Liston's over-the-top snack of a prawn cracker topped with a mayo-heavy mixture of chopped prawns, bottarga and seaweed attests, Honcho Noodle is not for those after the subtle and polite. This is good-time, cockle-warming, stomp-up-and-down food. Over the winter months, plenty of us will be returning for the chicken and salted shrimp wonton noodle soup or the fab katsu-sando, washing them down with Japanese tap beer, sake or a Honcho Martini, an addictive mix of gin, vermouth and umeshu. This pop-up really pops.
Honcho Noodle, 1 Bourke St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9633 6265, honchomelbourne.com, open Tue-Sat 5pm-late.