Owner Emma Chen was inspired by the use of simple ingredients such as spring onion, coriander, garlic, chilli and Sichuan peppercorns in traditional Northern Chinese cooking. The food isn’t abundantly ‘sweet chilli’, the recipes are simple, and the flavours are subtle. Start with pork potstickers or sweet and sour pork dumplings – a real highlight – if you’re going to dian xin, or ‘dine in’.
For the main course, the restaurant recommends two tapas and a bowl of noodles if you’re sharing. For tapas, the gangbao beef short rib slices are sparse and dry, but tasty, while the spicy brinjal salad is flavourful. The black pepper chicken noodles, served with spinach, were like a watery pepper soup and although served beautifully, lacked the punch of pepper.
For dessert, find your fortune by splitting open a fortune cookie.
With over 26 years’ experience in restaurants, it’s unsurprising that Emma’s drinks list is succinct and savvy. From a wide array of cocktails, beer, soft drinks and exotic drinks – including coconut milk and aloe juice – drinks are ample. The wine list includes renowned winemakers and estates, while The First Sighting Shiraz picks up on the pepper in the food.
On a busy Friday night in Linden, the service is friendly, although some dishes weren’t served as promptly as desired.
PRON is unbelievably good at transporting you from Linden into another era. The red lanterns hanging from the ceiling, a large mural and black walls are an escape from Johannesburg entirely. Regulars include large tables of friends and families seated closely together.
Dumplings in the dark.
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PRON was recommended to us by a good friend, who's foodie credentials warranted a try. We managed to get a last minute booking for Friday night. Our friend recommended we try the breads, and whatever Emma (the owner) recommends, which is exactly what we did.
PRON has to be one of my favourite restaurants of 2019.
You will really battle to find better dim sum (dumplings and potstickers). We also had some pork and beef short ribs small plates with our bread. Upon her recommendation, we also ordered a chicken noodle bowl, which was incredible. The on-table chilli sauce was so good, we took two jars home with us at R40 each
What is even more sensational than the food, is Emma's enlightened hospitality. I was greeted at the door by my name (I've never been there) and Emma came to personally make sure we get the full experience of the menu. She also advised portions perfectly. We had a great selection without it being too much.
Having lived in China and Taiwan for 10 years I am wary of Chinese restaurants in other countries. Understandably, the tastes and flavours are modified to suit local palates, but that means I am disappointed!
PRON however is an excellent place for noodles. They even offer Dandan noodles, my favourite and spicy friend green beans, tasting just as I remember them. Cleverly, the chef does not try to offer a multitude of dishes. Just a few varieties of well cooked noodles topped with fresh ingredients and sauces.
Surprisingly, they offer “TAPAS” starters. In truth these are mainly small portions of Chinese dishes. Do not expect to be transported to Barcelona by the Tapas. The food is Chinese all the way.
The decor is kitsch Chinese, which adds to the atmosphere. The restaurant is not five star fancy, it is more like a traditional homely noodle shop that can be found across Beijing and the Northern regions of China. It feels genuine.
I enjoyed my evening at PRON and plan to go back – often!
Food is so so good.
Equilibrio Lifestyle Blog
Red Chamber is an Asian-food institution in Joburg. Every time I crave some good, traditional, wholesome Chinese, I wheel on over to Hyde Park Corner. Owner of Red Chamber, Emma Chen, has now opened a second restaurant in the trendy suburb, Linden. PRON (People’s republic of noodles) is an artwork. The décor is bright, slightly oddball and fun. It makes you smile as soon as you walk in.
The menu is divided into two parts: Tapas and Noodles, with a good number of low carb and vegetarian dishes amongst the noodle dishes. We decided to order mostly from the tapas menu and added some plain noodles to go with the meat tapas.
The best dishes of the night:
The hand-break bread. This is a flaky, warm flatbread that’s somewhere between naan and a croissant.
Tofu and cucumber salad. It was fresh and crunchy with an amazing secret dressing. I often find tofu chewy but the tofu in this dish was tender and tasty.
Wood ear salad with garlic and chilli. Wood ear is a special Chinese mushroom that tastes a little like a mushroom-seaweed hybrid. Apparently very healthy and delicious. I’d rush back just to have this dish again.
Chicken with red chilli oil. The stir-fried chicken is tender with fresh spring onion and other veggies.
Fish slices with five flavours. The first bite of this is a bit unusual but it just gets better and better as the flavours unfold.
The homemade noodles were divine. I’d go back for a full noodle meal in a broth some time. Often Chinese noodles have a slightly slimy texture but these were perfectly al-dente.
For the more adventurous Emma recommends the pig’s ear salad which is literally pigs ear (not a metaphor!). She also said the dry fried green beans is a signature dish which is very popular.
The wine list is small but of adequate standard and the service was quick, helpful and friendly. It’s a lovely space to visit and you leave wholly satisfied and without too much guilt after getting lots of fresh, beautiful ingredients.
I was very excited when PRON opened up, especially as it was being touted as a healthy asian option. I work nearby so I would have frequented it if I had found them more accommodating as I have dietary limits. I dont eat tofu and the vegetarian options are extremely limited. I had the only veg option sans tofu twice and wanted something different, as it is not a great dish. When I called and asked if it was possible to make a simple veg stir fry the owner told me to go to her restaurant in Hyde Park and wasn't interested in making a once off veg stir fry. It's a pity as i regularly order from restaurants during the week and would have been a regular if I had been able to get something that I could eat.