This cute little workers cottage on the city side of Brisbane's Latrobe Terrace has been home to many culinary ventures but Hai Hai is set to put them all in the shade.
It reminds me of dining in Tokyo's famous back street alley ways where the air is thick with cooking smells and you have to rub shoulders to progress anywhere. It's certainly now where near as crowded at Hai Hai but the buzz amongst diners equals the anticipation I felt waiting for delicious dishes to arrive at the table in Japan.
It's a small menu with three types of ramen - pork, chicken and vegetable - available in both she (salt, a clean broth flavour) or Shoyu (soy, a slightly sweeter and richer flavour).
You can add variation to your meal with extra topping such as charsui pork belly, marinated chicken, half an egg and miso butter. There's also a short list of sides including steam buns, sweetcorn, coleslaw and karaage chicken.
If you are not familiar with ramen it's a menu to explore, if you are it's a menu to delight.
Going against the crowd, we were seduced by one of the night's specials, duck karaage with plum and kewpie mayo to construct DIY steam buns.
Despite a busy kitchen and over full dining room, the meals arrived promptly. Two small pieces of deep fried duck, a few slices of cucumber, an oversized dollop of kewpie mayonnaise and two steam buns.
At first appearance the duck didn't look appealing but as soon as I pulled it apart to create my bun the flesh was moist and tender with a crunchy deep fried exterior that had a delightful mixture of flavours and textures.
It was a stimulating and satisfying meal. The sort of food that's going to see this place amongst my list of regulars.
The wine list, although brief, included some interesting options. I quickly settled on a light rose and K2 was pleased with his Kirin beer.
Service is quick and pleasant and the seating options include indoor, undercover outdoor, and a few scattered stools on the footpath for the really hungry. I can't imagine it would be easy to eat soup out there.
Hai Hai opened in mid March and I'm hoping it will extend trading hours to include lunch. At the moment it's open from Tuesday to Sunday 5 pm to 10 pm.
Ed+bK rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Best tip: There is plenty of parking over the road under the Paddington Terminus complex but don't outstay the three hour parking limit as the price is high.
Disclaimer: Simply sharing food love. Ed+bK paid for her meal.