Opening a restaurant in any city is a risky proposition. Opening a noodle restaurant in Vancouver especially so. And opening a noodle restaurant in Vancouver, within strolling distance of this city’s best-known noodle joint is downright audacious. And yet, this is what the owners of Peaceful Restaurant have chosen to do, setting up shop just doors down from The Sha Lin Noodle House.
The place opened for business about a month ago and, while smaller than its same-block rival, Peaceful Restaurant offers a more varied menu of Northern Chinese creations, Mandarin-inspired noodles, dumplings, and main dishes to tempt the temerarious palate: “Cat Ears” noodles described as “Chinese gnocchi”, lamb dumplings with carrots, napa cabbage and green onions, slow-braised Mandarin ham hocks. It is a noodle house – with its long windowed cooking area allowing curious customers a peek at the smacking/slapping/pinching/pulling noodle-making process – and so we really should have sampled the noodles but, alas on this day we did not, electing to go instead with three types of dim sum, two mains, and a veggie dish.
The first dish up was the Peaceful Beef Rolls, five-spiced beef rolled in a green onion flatbread with hoisin sauce. It proved to be our favorite on this visit – crispy on the outside yet pleasingly soft and sweet on the inside, rich but incredibly satisfying. I could have made a meal of just these. The second dish, the Szechwan Style Beef Tendon, were as fiery as advertised – thinly sliced and served in a blend of coriander, green onion and, oh yeah, chili. I’m not a big fan of tendon, but Peaceful Restaurant’s version offers an interesting take for the uninitiated – but only those willing to punish their taste buds with a little heat. An accompanying bowl of steamed rice is highly recommended. Next up, our third dish, the Tian-Jing Steamed Buns, a.k.a. siu long bao, were somewhat bigger yet subtler in flavor than those I’ve enjoyed elsewhere although they tended to fall apart a little too easily. (Incidentally, we brought the leftovers home and, during her late-night snacking, Fondy declared them delicious, even better cold). The fourth dish was another scorcher, the appropriately titled Szechuan Thousand Chili Chicken. The chicken pieces are flash-fried, then tossed with ginger, green onions, garlic, and red chilis. Described as a “tongue numbing dish”, it certainly was and while I enjoyed it, I also think jalapenos are for pussies, so consider yourself warned. Our fifth dish was a plate of the soft top, crispy-bottom Huang-Jing Pan-Fried Buns. We found the bun too thick and yeasty, the ensconced minced pork and scallion center too bland. Finally, our sixth dish, the humor-my-wife veggie selection, was a surprisingly good gai lan with minced garlic.
Our waitress, Amelia, was first-rate, steering us toward those spectacular beef rolls, checking in on us whenever we seemed to be slowing down, and generally doing a first-rate job with the surrounding tables in fluent English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.
A welcome addition to the Northern Chinese culinary scene here in Vancouver, and a very interesting addition to that neighborhood in particular, I’ll be keen to see what kind of following Peaceful Restaurant develops over time. Their beef rolls were enough to convince us to return for a second visit. And, yes, next time we’ll try the noodles.