Twisted Noodle Bar's menu might ask you to nominate the quantity of chilli you want in your soup on a scale of none, small, medium, large, super and extreme, but this is no mere schticky thrillseeker novelty. The tradition informing the bowls of noodles and other snacks here is Yunnanese cuisine. Located in the southwest of China, Yunnan shares borders with Burma, Laos and Vietnam, not to mention Sichuan, and its kitchens are famed for their diverse use of mushrooms, a multitude of herbs and flowers and – you betcha – some serious spice heat. Try opting for "medium" on your first outing. We're no spice wimps here at Time Out – we like our enchiladas to come pinking like a cooling engine block and our larbs to register on a Geiger counter if possible – so if the "large" has us mopping our brows, we'd suggest you treat the "super" with care and read "extreme" as "only for the extremely hard or foolhardy".
Or maybe it was the sourness that was clearing our collective sinuses; you can specify that too. And it's that quality that perhaps more than anything connects the dots between the classic oily, pork mince-rich concoctions of central China and the lifted aromatics of southeast Asia's hot-sour soups. Here, you've got a choice between Yunnan noodles in pork broth and rice or noodles in fish soup, with a short list of sides that can double as snacks or entrees.
In ten Yunnan noodle dishes, fine, rounded rice noodles are paired with a variety of ingredients, many of which will be familiar to ramen addicts. The Kunming bowl, flagged as something of a house specialty, has the noodles arranged over pork mince, cubes of spongy fried tofu, bean sprouts and preserved greens. They're topped with slices of roast pork, half a soy-darkened boiled egg, a cabbage-like chiffonnade of dried beancurd ribbons and a whacking dollop of chilli sauce. A little dish on the side holds a juicy deep-fried chilli chicken wing and lewdly curled slices of a sausage that's got to be Yunnan's answer to the frankfurter.
A random trawl through the sides turns up "soft pork bone" – bones braised al dente in soy – and cold bitter melon, exactly as described, crisp and bracing. These bits and pieces top out at around $4.60, so you can afford to order them more or less indiscriminately, and they tend to come up trumps, whether it's the cold tofu with century egg or the marinated beef slices.
Apart from the cultural focus, the thing that sets Twisted apart from your average Chinese noodle bar in Sydney is that it's as clean and smartly outfitted as its better Japanese competitors, and the flavours and presentation have a comparable clarity. There's a big flatscreen on the wall for those who like shirtless Asian wonder-boy pop and outdoor seating for those who don't; both camps enjoy welcoming and prompt service. It's open from lunch straight through to midnight, later still on weekends, so if you're a noodle obsessive who also happens to like dancing with the Scoville scale in the pale moonlight, this is the place for you.