Michigan Noodle Shop -
Our original plan was to first take the kids to the Disney video-game themed animated/CGI feature at Silvercity Riverport in Richmond and then drive over to Big Chef for our dinner after we were done watching the movie. But when we arrived at the plaza where Big Chef was located after the movie, we were greeted unexpectly by the restaurant’s sign; it seemed to indicate that it was a hot pot focused restaurant instead of one that specialized in traditional Chinese/Cantonese meals. There were also hardly any diners in the restaurant. An empty hot pot restaurant that purported served great non-hot-pot cuisine in a plaza where there were zero open parking spots (indicating that the other restaurants were full) was hardly confidence-inspiring. The sight was so discouraging, in fact, that we opted not to have our dinner there. We cruised around the plaza for a safer option. We found it in Michigan Noodle House; a bustling restaurant that served familiar cuisine which we knew would not put a hurtin’ on our bank accounts.
Michigan was your typical noodles, rice noodles, congee, and rice serving restaurant. We took the restaurant’s genre literally by ordering one rice, one congee, and one noodle dish. The noodle dish we ordered was the classic wonton noodles in soup.
The noodles were nicely teeth-bouncying and the soup was definitely not lacking in flavours. I also liked that the flavours of the eggs in the yellow noodles partly transferred to the soup. The kitchen also took extra care by cutting up the noodles into shorter strands so that patrons did not have spare extra energy by biting apart the usually unending strands of noodles. The wontons were as enjoyable as the noodles and soup. The filling seemed to be made up of 100% shrimp. I could detect none of the pork mixture that usually accompanied the shrimp. The whole shrimps in the wonton were also larger than usual and fresher-tasting than usual. The wonton noodles were signature-dish worthy.
The rice dish we ordered was the pork chops with onions on rice.
The pork chops and onions were sweet-and-savory, with the sweet dominating the savory. The sweetness was just right, and it was nicely augmented by the slightly crunchy onions. The pork chops were also unbelievably tender; they took almost no effort to bite through with my teeth. The white rice residing below the pork chops were drier than usual, but they were dry for a reason. They were dry so that they wouldn’t become unrecognizably mushy when drenched with the sweet pork chop sauce. Every component of this wish was well-thought-out and well-executed. In short, the dish was tasty.
The congee we ordered was the sampan congee.
I thought that the sampan congee was another winner. The congee was thin, smooth as tofu, and emitted a slight but recognizable tofu skin flavour. The whole peanuts and fresh, juicy lettuce added a crunchy textural contrast to the silky smooth congee. The fresh shrimp, cuttlefish, meat, and fish fillets also created layers upon layers of enjoyable textures when contrasted with the texture of the congee. I thought that the congee was really good, but my congee-connoisseur wife thought it was merely average. Although she agreed with my thoughts on the freshness and enjoyable textures of the ingredients, she was less enamored with the congee. She thought that the congee was too watery-thin. She preferred a more substantial and gooey-gluey texture when it came to congee. Since she is a much, much bigger congee fan than I am, I will defer to her thoughts on the tastiness of the congee.
Even though my wife, kids, and I ended up at a different restaurant than the one we originally planned to visit, we had neither regrets nor complaints. The food we had at Michigan Noodle House was actually good enough for us to totally forget that we had originally intended to visit Big Chef. The price of our meal was also probably half of what we would have paid if we were to visit Big Chef. Come to think of it, I don’t recall any meal at a sit-down local restaurant that my family had that was below $35; Zero, Zilch! Cheap and tasty; what a concept! I wish they had more of these types of restaurant in West Van or the downtown core so that I don’t have to drive the more than an hour or so that I needed to get from my house to Richmond.