Katherine MacAlister hopes that the future of food is not permanently orange
It was cold and wet when we arrived in central Oxford, the freezing gale permeating ones bones despite the layers, hats and coats.
We were hungry, indecisive and grumpy. Did I mention the cold? So where to eat?
Chozen Noodles was perched serendipitously on the George Street corner of Gloucester Green right outside the cinema. Steaming vats of hot spicy noodles beckoned to us through the window as its customers contentedly chowed down looking all warm and snug.
We were in there within about 15 seconds of stepping off the bus, peering over the counter at what was on offer, like Siberians on gulag day release.
Needless to say it was our first time there, the noodle bar popping up simultaneously with the eastern take-over of Oxford, nestling happy with the likes of Thaikhun, Yo Sushi, Banana Tree, Red Star, Itsu and Wasabi.
Less swanky, and much smaller than its oriental neighbours, Chozen is more of a smash and grab than a lounge. It boasts a few tables that you can share with neighbours, strangers or friends, all perched on stools, with your tray of goodies amid the strip lights.
It’s a self service style arrangement favoured by most fast food joints these days. Choose from an array of Chinese/Thai/Japanese dishes and mix with noodles or rice, served in a large paper cup with a spoon.
It’s pretty basic although every every hot food offering worryingly boasted the same colour, a day-glo orange like a canteen for oompa loompas.
My teenage sons were totally au fait with the set up, and had sat down with a katsu chicken curry with rice before I could say prawn crackers.
Katsu contains slices of breaded chicken which are carved up in front of you and then placed in a container on top of a ladle of rice, with a spoon of hot but very thin Japanese Katsu curry sauce splashed on top. Only the regular size was priced up behind the counter at£4.95, the large size came in at £7.45, which rankled.
I tried the red Thai vegetable curry in a regular size with rice and a side order of spring rolls.
The three sad spring rolls (£1.95) appeared on a cardboard tray, devoid of any dipping sauce, which I then had to pay 30p for separately. They were flaccid and lukewarm rather than hot and crispy and as such fairly unappealing.
My curry followed suit, gloopy to an extreme, boiling hot, it sat in ones stomach like a combustible ball of carbs, weighing you down. Just don’t go swimming afterwards.
It was substantial however, none of us able to finish our ‘cups’ of food.
And as I sat in the cinema afterwards, my bird seed ball still wedged and burning in my stomach like a satellite orbiting through space, I resolved to be more choosy in my more spontaneous eating.
Remarkably unmoved and unimpressed by my ‘meal’, Chozen Noodle is more of a pitstop than any valid form of dining experience, and I would prefer a bowl of Wagamama noodles, a Thaikhun pad thai, a laksu at Banana Tree or an Itsu asian salad any day of the week.
But for those with bigger appetites, less time and a penchant for carbs, Chozen Noodles is still a popular choice. Although having paid the bill, £26.55 for three cups of curry and a can of drink each, you might need to save up first.
Chozen Noodle, 22 George St, Oxford OX1 2AE