The next in my series of favorite Vancouver restaurants is one I’ve been to more often in the last few years than any other restaurant: Peaceful on Broadway near the intersection with Cambie. Access is even easier now with the Canada line right there.
Why do I keep coming back to this place? Let me count the ways:
◊ The food, first and foremost, obviously. It’s good and interesting without being weird. The selection is big. (Peruse their menu here.) Their prices are reasonable. I’ve tried a lot of items on the menu and I haven’t been let down by almost anything.
◊ The food always comes out extremely quickly. Tonight we went there and ordered five dishes, naively expecting that that would keep them busy and we’d have time to go through each dish before the next came out. No such luck. The first dish came out not even ten minutes after ordering, and at an interval of one a minute, each of the remaining dishes arrived at our small table. I much prefer this to the alternative: waiting forever for each dish.
◊ They have a wide variety of uncommon ethnic dishes from regions that are not typical Chinese restaurant fare: Tianjin, Shanghai, Beijing, Yunnan, Xi-an, Xinjiang, Gansu and Shanxi in addition to the usual suspects like Szechuan. They specialize in northwestern cuisine, which is one of the less well-represented of China’s many regional cuisines from restaurant to restaurant. You wouldn’t know this if you didn’t understand Chinese, because it doesn’t say it in English on the restaurant’s window, but it does say it in Chinese. Hence they have a number of lamb items on the menu.
◊ They make their own noodles in-house. It’s one of the restaurant’s big selling points and gimmicks. They can be justly proud of their noodles. You can see the cook spinning the noodles by hand in the kitchen behind the seating area. I took some shots of him at work while I was there tonight. Their noodles are flat out the freshest and best I’ve had at any Chinese restaurant. I’ve been to so many Cantonese restaurants where the noodles are literally inedible. I used to think Chinese noodles just weren’t for me. But I hadn’t tasted what real quality noodles are supposed to taste like. They prepare the noodles a variety of different ways – in the typical thin shape made by stretching the dough out, as well as the blade-sheared style and the gnocci-like “cat’s ear” style.
I get these almost every time I go. You can find these savory so-called “buns” at a variety of Chinese restaurants, but I really like the ones here. Some people have said they didn’t like Peaceful’s XLB, but I never had XLB before Peaceful, so they form my basis for assessing the dish, and so far I prefer them to any other XLB I’ve tasted at other restaurants in Metro Vancouver. I’m sure Richmond must have some killer XLB. Other XLB I’ve tasted either have a flimsy skin that breaks apart as soon as you touch it, releasing the precious cargo of liquid encased therein, or the skin is too thick and pasty tasting, or there’s too little liquid inside, or they’re dry… None of which have ever happened to me at Peaceful.
Another one I get often. Succulent, juicy and plump – Peaceful’s beef roll is almost erotic it’s so good. It can be a little bit greasy, but I don’t mind. The frying makes the skin really crispy. Long’s Noodle House has a nice beef roll that is drier and more wrap-like.
This is Peaceful’s signature dish (according to me). I get this almost every time I go there. It’s a great light appetizer that’s like no other veggie dish I’ve ever had. The mustard-seed oil is what makes this one. It’s crazy spicy and can nuke your nasal cavity if you’re not careful, the way a big chunk of wasabi can, but that’s part of the fun – inhaling frantically through each bite. It’s different from the spice of jalapeno or red pepper, which it complements wonderfully.
This is a great side-dish to order no matter what main you decide to get because it’s a good palate cleanser and cooler to have between bites of tangy or spicy mains. This time around I was a little disappointed by the dish because they didn’t put enough mustard-seed oil, and it didn’t scald your nose good the way it’s supposed to.
Peaceful has a lot of great noodle dishes, but this is one of my favorites. Look at those noodles, all uneven and thick. They’re beautiful. This is supposedly a classic Xin-Jiang dish, although I’ve never been there. I did manage to find this dish in a restaurant when I visited China, but that was in Xi-an. And the amazing thing was that I actually preferred Peaceful’s. The chicken was more meaty and tender and the sauce tastier.
This was our first time trying this dish. It was the only adventure we took during our latest visit. It’s again a regional staple, this time of Xi-an. (Ironic that I never tried it while there, instead trying a Xin-Jiang specialty.) For some reason they don’t list the main ingredient of the stew – the big chunks of bread that dominate the dish. The lamb is quite soft and good, as is the bread and the broth. It’s a delicate and interesting dish. The lamb taste is maybe a bit too much for me, though. Not the best thing I’ve had at Peaceful, but very interesting and good nonetheless.
These are some of the other dishes we’ve tried in the past: