Affectionally known as “Peaceful”, this Northern Chinese restaurant has been offering their traditional cuisine across several locations within the lower mainland for years now. And today we were at the one on 5th ave, celebrating an earlier Chinese New Year, with a collection of “Peaceful’s” most popular. A feast of 17 dishes, including their beef rolls and dan dan noodles. All prepared by owner and head Chef, Charlie Huang. Many may be familiar with him and his restaurant chain thanks to the interview and mention of both on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Dive-Ins, and Drives” television series.
But first, when it comes to a media tasting, plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
The event had a presentation component. We were treated to the artistry that is Chinese noodle and dumpling preparation, done by professionals. And a few lucky, chosen dinner guests had the opportunity to try their hand at it for themselves. I wasn’t selected as one of the few, but did get a front row seat of the action.
The “Blade sheer noodles” are my favourite type of noodles. I like their extra chewy texture and how you feel you are get more noodle per bite with them. They are more fat than long, with jagged edges. In order to make them our chef takes a large chunk of dough in one hand and special blade, that resembles a vegetable peeler, in the other. Then at a 30 degree angle he basically pares the dough like he would a piece of fruit. Quickly with short strokes. Normally they would be shaved directly into a pot of boiling water and cooked to order.
We would later enjoy the fruits of his labour in the “Mu-shu stir-fried noodles”. Wok fried starchy noodles with chicken, wood ear fungus, and lettuce. The texture of the noodles didn’t disappoint, especially with saturated sweet soya sauce coating each strip got.
The next demo was noodle pulling. Noodles are especially popular during Chinese New Year, as they represent longevity, due to their length. The longer the noodles the longer the life. So superstition states that you don’t bite down on your noodles, but instead slurp then, to save your luck. In order to hand pull noodles, the dough is repeatedly stretched to warm up the gluten. After a series of flips and spins (which could pass as a show in itself), the chef drags the noodles out. He pulls, removes the ends, pulls some more, and cuts off more end chunks. Then slowly, individual strands form within the whip of dough he is kneading.
These noodles were then used in the “Sizzled hot-chilli noodles” dish for us to try. The chewy strands got a topping of chilli flakes and oil, with some greens for freshness.
More popular are the “Dan-Dan noodles”. They are prepared with a spicy sauce containing preserved vegetables, chili oil, Sichuan pepper, minced pork, and scallions. I found that this version had a very aromatic citrusy flavour, especially zesty with peppercorn.
The “Xi’an cold steamed noodles” used similar, but flatter noodles. It along with the chilled temperature of this dish gave you a different mouth feel. You noticed the oiliness of the noodles more and how airy the dish was. I thought it would fair better as an appetizer, not unlike the other cold dishes below.
The “Sichuan cucumbers” were better served as a palette cleanser than a starter. Although it did well as refreshing way to get the appetite going. Fresh cucumber tossed in garlic and chilli.
The “Woodear mushroom salad” served a similar purpose, with a more chewy texture. I likened it to like a softer, vegetarian cartilage. It was dressed in a light soy vinegar dressing.
“Xi’an white lamb soup” is a traditional soup made featuring chewy clumps of dough and tender strings of meat. The lamb flavour was very prominent, zesty with peppery spice.
The “Sichuan broth braised fish” paired a mild white fish with strong punchy chillies, for a warming heat. Fish is commonly served during Chinese New Year as the word for “fish” in Chinese is similar to the work for “surplus”. And “surplus” ultimately signifies prosperity, a great thing to ring in the new year with.
I liked the build it yourself “Xing-Jiang cumin lamb with sesame flatbread”. The lamb meat was a little dry and overly flavoured with cumin, however sandwiching is between the fragrant and crispy sesame bun helped in both regards.
My absolute favourite dish of the night was the “Chinese rice cakes”. This was another great texture to chew on, seasoned in a sweet and salty brown sauce. You eat rice cakes during Chinese New Year as they symbolize growing in success. The Chinese word for cake is “gao”, which is also the word for “high”, taken this way it equals to “higher and higher” and therefore “growing in success”. As you can see, the significance of words and how they can be used and interpreted plays heavily into Chinese culture and superstition.
The “Sichuan thousand chilli chicken” was spicy, crispy chicken nuggets sitting amongst dried chilli shells and their seeds. It was spicy, but not so much so that a novice to heat, like myself, couldn’t enjoy it.
Similar in flavour was the “Sichuan string beans”, they had a nice crisp were a great vegetable dish to have on the table.
When you mention “Peaceful Restaurant”, many remember the name because of their “Peaceful beef rolls”, the dish they are most famous for. Beef and salty brown sauce wrapped in a crispy savoury pancake like a wrap.
The last demonstration of the night was dumpling moulding. This was done by Chef Charlie himself. He showed us the speed and precision he garnered through a lifetime of practice. In less than a minute he made over a dozen perfectly, plump dumplings. He did this by rolling out dough, stuffing it with a pork and green onion mix, then pinching the edges closed.
These would be boiled up and served with a soy dipping sauce. “Northern pork dumplings” with chives and bok-choy filling.
We also enjoyed some “Pan-fried vegetable dumplings” with their nice crispy coat. These dumplings are also popular during Chinese New Year because of their shape. They are similar to the traditional Chinese golden ingot, a currency used in imperial China from its founding under the Qin dynasty until the fall of the Qing in the 20th century. Seeing as they are shaped like the dumplings, the belief is that the more dumplings you eat the more money you will make.
And everyone loved the “Xiao-long bao steamed buns”. Round meat dumplings that you take in with one bite, as they are filled with soup. Biting them in half only results in a chin full of sauce.
To end we had “Sweet rice ball”, which isn’t actually on the menu. Glutinous rice balls, filled with red bean. They are sweetened by the sugary syrup that they sit in. I just wish I had more, they are so easy to pop into your mouth.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A great place for some solid Chinese food, coupled with the notoriety of being on tv, makes this a unique destination to check out, if you haven’t already. And with so many locations, it is easy enough to do so. Don’t deny your cravings.
43 East 5th Avenue, Vancouver BC, V5T 1J6