Hidden in plain sight, Mean Noodles is not hard to find once you enter the alley from New Market Street in Sheung Wan. Run by the OPENUU design duo Caroline Chou and Kevin Lim, Mean Noodles reflects their love of good design and their passion for delicious food.
Mean Noodles is envisaged as a casual noodle shop that specializes in traditional Southeast Asian cuisine with contemporary style. The entrance is emphasized with green stainless steel window frames and logo. The vintage metal look and concrete finish allows the noodle shop to blend harmoniously with its surrounding neighborhood.
As a trained architect and professionally certified chef from Le Cordon Bleu (Boston), Lim worked closely with Chef Ming Tsai of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, MA, where he discovered his love of exotic ingredients. Blue Ginger was also one of Chou’s favorite restaurants in Boston, as she attended Wellesley College, a 10-minute walk to the restaurant.
Chou and Lim are enthusiastic about the strong and intense flavors found in Southeast Asian cuisine. Lim has spent a great deal of time in Malaysia, and both he and Chou love traveling around southeast Asia in search of local eats, such as hawker stalls or hole in the wall places. One of their favorite dishes is the Thai Yen Ta Fo Heng, a classic Thai noodles dish. After discovering this not so well known Thai pink noodles dish, Chou and Lim began seeking it out whenever they visited Thailand.
The name Mean Noodles is part nod to western slang and part play on the Chinese word for noodles. “Mean” describes something cool, awesome, interesting, nice and with all the goodness – as in having a “mean bowl of noodles.” “Mean” also sounds like “noodles” in Chinese.
As both the design team and chef-owner of the restaurant, Chou and Lim faced the challenge of coming up with a consistent concept from logo, branding, noodle recipes, all the way to the interior and facade. Chou and Lim took their cue for the interior of Mean Noodles from Malaysian Batik, a popular textile art in leaves and floral motifs. The colors are light and vibrant, with carefully crafted lines and floral patterns on the fabrics.
The open kitchen fosters interactions between the customers and the chef, giving diners an opportunity to watch as their food is prepared. The hanging cabinets above the bar have custom “MEAN” lighting to emphasize the attitude and taste of the noodles. The kitchen subway tiles have been finished with green grout, emphasizing the line motif from the dining room. The standing bar across the seating area allows customers to grab a quick bite or an informal happy hour drink.
The marble tabletops and marble mosaic tiles compliment the mean green tiles, contrasted with the mustard seat fabric. Mean Noodles also takes advantage of the high ceilings to provide a comfortable and airy atmosphere for diners to enjoy. Customer comfort was also a major consideration in the design process; diners can utilize the USB outlets provided to recharge their electronics when dining, while bags and purses can be hung below the marble tabletops to allow customers to sit comfortably.
Project name: Mean Noodles; Design Studio: OPENUU; Designer: Caroline Chou, Kevin Lim; Project location: Sheung Wan, Hong Kong; Photography: Nirut Benjabanpot;