In a city known for the overall high quality of its Chinese food, it can be hard for eaters to find much beyond the Cantonese and to lesser degree Shanghai cuisine. Enter Peaceful Noodle, and the game changes. Even if Peaceful were the only place covering northern and western Chinese cooking domains, it would be ok because this year I live a 10 minute walk from their second location on 5th Ave just west of Main St.
We ordered three dishes between the two of us. All three were indicated to be specialties of the house. Xiao Long Bao (traditional Shanghai “soup” dumplings), cumin beef flatbread, and a Shanxi-style noodle soup, which I neglected to photograph.
The xiao long bao came out first. They were about the right level of hot, and could be eaten pretty much right away at least in nibbles. These were a little looser than expected, and not very soupy. So I would not say they are “authentic” Shanghai xiao long bao, which burst open to reveal scorching hot liquid. They are also smaller than the typical xiao long bao in Shanghai. But these are Peaceful Noodle xiao long bao, and I actually like them a lot. Josh and I had some xiao long bao recently at Shanghai River in Richmond. We could not help but compare the two interpretations. I prefer the Peaceful Noodle interpretation, whereas Josh preferred the Shanghai River due to their having a more “herbal” taste as he put it. Me, I found the Peaceful dumplings more subtle and nuanced, and the filling more delicate.
The cumin flatbread was a big surprise. I was not expecting to like it. Truthfully, I imagined a greasy central Asian thing that I would pawn off on Josh. Instead, I was transported to Central Asia in just one bite of the perfectly crisp toasty bread, and finished my entire half. Flavors, aromas, textures all were evocative, so I believe it triggered some of my Persian DNA.
The Shangxi noodle. Now this was another surprise. We had no idea what to expect. The description on the menu indicated there would be vinegar and chili, some vegetables, and of course their house made hand-pulled noodles. When it arrived, I was still finishing my flatbread while Josh was slurping, and he started to sweat and blow on his mouth. This was a good sign. I eagerly served myself a bowl and discovered delightfully springy noodles cooked just right, swimming in a powerful, fragrant broth dark in color with a chili oil finish. The vegetables were chopped finely, adding small splashes of thoughtful color. Every so often I got a hint of cumin. We both agreed this was a noodle dish unlike any other we have had, and look forward to investigating again.
I cannot recall the last time that we were a true 3-for-3, when everything we ordered was spot-on. Usually there is some small fault, and we favor one dish over another. In this case, I could not find fault with anything and Josh agreed that all three were impressive, satisfying, and certainly moreish.
I left feeling satisfied, and looking forward to our next visit. The biggest challenge will be branching out on the menu and ordering new things, because it would be easy to order these same dishes.
It is worth mentioning that the decor is good here. They have added some dark wood paneling that lends a warm and tasteful feel to what is really a down-home Chinese restaurant. Don’t let Guy Fieri’s picture turn you off; they have not gone the way of letting fame ruin their quality. If anything, they have risen to the occasion.
Peaceful Restaurant now has three locations. The original is Cambie at Broadway. Ours was at 42 E. 5th (at Quebec).