Peaceful Restaurant -
Although twelve degrees celsius in May is considered “pretty warm” in Vancouver – which is in the top two of warmest major cities in Canada – it is considered extremely cold in many other major cities of the world. Having lived in mild, warm weather for the past three years, the cool springtime local weather is something that my wife and I is still trying to get used to.
So to insulate ourselves from yesterday’s twelve degree daytime high, we opted for the warmth of Chinese noodle soup from Peaceful Restaurant for our lunch. Peaceful is often used as a point of reference for how good a Chinese restaurant could be in diner reviews about other Chinese restaurants in Vancouver proper. I’ve seen so many mentions of it’s supposed amazing noodles an XLB that I placed it’s downtown location at the top of my list of restaurants to visit for both Chinese noodle soup and XLB.
My wife was especially excited to be eating there because I had told her that Peaceful served excellent noodles that could be had with authentically sour and spicy broth. She practically jumped out of the car when we arrived at their downtown location. As I drove further down the street to find a parking spot, I got a call from her delivering the bad news: the restaurant was closed for renovation.
“Where can we go for lunch now?”, she asked on the other end of the phone.
“Peaceful”, I answered.
I told her that Peaceful’s main branch was a mere ten minute drive from their downtown location.
There was a mini-lineup that extended out its front door when we got to Peaceful’s main branch located on West Broadway. We were lucky enough to find a vacant parking spot right in front of the restaurant. But before I could even pull into the spot, my wife and mother-in-law hopped off the car to queue up.
We waited for about 3 minutes before a server came to the front of the restaurant and directed every group in line to an available table in the restaurant. We took our seats at a table that happened to be located directly across the little opening that served as the entrance to the restaurant’s kitchen area. We were able to hear every order being dictated to the kitchen staff as well as their conversations with each other, so ‘peaceful’ was not exactly the word that I would use to describe the ambiance that we felt while dining at the restaurant.
We each ordered a bowl of noodles for our main courses and shared an order of their famous XLB for our ‘starter’ course.
My mother-in-law commented that the xlb’s were aesthetically pleasing. Each of the eight buns included in our order had an uniform shape and size. Picking a bun up with my chopsticks, I found that the skin of the bun was not so thin that it could be breached by a slight accidental poke. Biting into the skin, I found that the skin was not so thick to evoke a doughy feel. The thickness of the skin was just right.
There was also a whole lotta juice contained in each xlb. After I bit into the skin, I commenced with the usual sucking motion for the usual two seconds. Usually, this would be enough for me to drain all of the soup from an xlb bun, but not here. There was so much soup in Peaceful’s xlb that I had have three go’s at it to get all of the soup out. There was so much soup that my wife burned her tongue on her second bite of her first bun because she didn’t expect there to be juices left in the xlb after her first bite. Every single drop of the juice was full of flavour. I could taste the essence of the meat filling and it’s unctuous fatty content in the juice. In fact, the juice had so much flavour that I couldn’t sense any flavours from the meat filling itself. Compared with the huge amount of juices in the bun, the amount of meat was rather paltry. It sorta felt lost in the sea of juice.
My mother-in-law ordered the seafood soup noodles.
She opted for the thicker knife-shaved noodles and they were as thick as a stick of Korean rice cake. She said that the texture of the noodles was pleasantly chewy and teeth-bouncing. My mother-in-law also liked the flavours of the broth, noting that she tasted both the sweetness of the vegetables and seafood in it. Another thing she liked was the fact that they included a lot of vegetables and seafood in her bowl. But as she ate more and more of her bowl of noodle soup, my mother-in-law commented that the flavours of her bowl began to feel monotonous and boring.
I ordered the Shan-Xi Spicy and Tangy Soup Noodles.
I chose the thinner hand-pulled noodles and thought they tasted very ordinary. I didn’t think the hand-made noodles tasted any different than the factory-made variety. The noodles were not as chewy and teeth-bouncing as the reviews made them out to be. I was also not impressed with the soup. It was not spicy at all and was only slightly tangy. The dominant flavour that I detected from the soup was that of black vinegar. My taste buds were otherwise unable to discern any other distinct flavours from the soup.
The best part of my bowl of soup was the textural contrasts that came from the various chopped-up ingredients of the soup. The mushiness of the potatoes contrasted well with the crispiness of the carrots and string beans which in turn contrasted nicely with the softness of the tofu, the firmness of the minced meat, and bitiness of the mushrooms. Unfortunately, the nice textural contrasts of the ingredients was not enough in itself to make up for the subpar noodles and the one-note soup.
My wife had the hot and sour noodle soup.
She also ordered the hand-pulled noodles and also thought that they were nothing special. Her bowl of noodle soup also came with almost the exact same ingredients as my bowl, minus the potatoes. My wife was not as impressed with the textural contrasts between the ingredients as I was. She thought that they did nothing to enhance or mask the rather week texture of the noodles. Whereas my spicy and tangy soup was not spicy and only a little tangy, my wife’s hot and sour soup was both hot and sour. But my wife said that the particular spicy and sour flavours of her soup didn’t really work together in harmony. She said the two flavours felt like two entirely separate components that were forced to live together in the same soup. All in all, she thought that her bowl of noodle soup was a failure.
In the end, we were not able to give the meal we had at Peaceful a passing grade. The XLB was certainly good, but good XLB can be had a a plethora of local Chinese restaurants. My mother-in-law’s seafood noodle soup was only average, and both my bowl of noodle soup and my wife’s was below-average. I think that Peaceful is another restaurant that fails to live up to it’s online hype. I probably won’t be visiting this restaurant again in the future…unless I find out that we totally missed the boat by ordering the wrong items like we did at Aki.
If we did indeed order the wrong items, please feel free to let me know in the comments below (I know the one item that I probably should’ve ordered but didn’t was their beef roll/wrap).