I had asked my friend to bring me to a unique spot in Richmond. I hardly get out that far, so when in the city, I want to make sure I am tasting the latest thing. And to see individuals willingly waiting in lines to eat with “Xiang Yuan Qiao” was reassuring.
Its name is in Chinese because this is the reality of Richmond, it translates to “…Cross Bridge”. The name of the restaurant and what they serve comes with an origin story. This heritage is noted on their menu and is seen in aspects of their decor; with even their mascot speaking to this history as well.
The story begins with a husband and wife who are farmers. Every day the husband would cross a bridge in order to tend to their fields. And every day his wife would pack him food and walk it to him when it was time for lunch. However, by the time she got to the field his meal of noodles in soup would be cold. So after much experimenting she found a way to keep her husband’s lunch hot for longer. She boiled the soup and added a thick layer of oil over it. This helped lock in the heat. She also kept all her ingredients separate, to later add in one at a time for the optimal cooking time of each. Soon this entire process was named “cross bridge” (in Chinese). Named after the journey she under took, which eventually led to this creation. Delicious rice-noodles that were eventually popularized in the Yunnan region of China, and what we were here to enjoy today.
The restaurant felt child friendly with its use of bright colours and a cartoon for a mascot. Their featured mural had pagodas on either ends of a body of water, separated by a wooden bridge. A blue sky and pink roses rounded out the rest of their hallmark scene. The same roses creeped around the room with spiralled clouds and butterflies in the wind. Also surrounding us was their mascot communicating with customers through thought and speak bubbles. She was a little girl dressed in red, dawning a traditional Chinese hat. She taught manners when eating out, while hawking gift cards.
The menu was a laminated sheet. It listed all their possible noodles in soup combinations. You choose the only available chicken soup base in either original or spicy, and then your desired protein to cook within it. Yet there were still so many options. I didn’t read it all, but simply stopped when I came across “Pork belly cross bridge rice noodles”, and made it my pick. The chicken broth doesn’t look like it, but it was actually very flavourful. It was a rich soup, one I couldn’t just drink alone. They were quick to absorb into the noodles with the individual ingredients for added texture. Like the tasty pieces of soften pork. I just wished that there was a lot more noodles than miscellaneous ingredients. Although having them separated like this means you don’t have to put everything in, but instead only include what you like.
Each set contains the same vegetables sliced or diced in their own individual sauce dishes. Leafy greens, black fungus, mushroom, bean sprouts, bean curds, and a quail’s egg. And in case you couldn’t guess what to do with it all, each tray comes lined with a how to guide, to ensure an optimal serving for lunch or dinner. Overall, I found the combination tasty enough, but in case you needed more punch, there was a help-yourself condiment bar by the door. Five black bowls filled with minced garlic, green onion, chives, chilli oil, and and sesame oil. You scoop out what you like into a separate dish, or even right into your dining bowl.
The only noticeable difference between my order and my guest was the extra orange oil in her Spicy “Lamb noodles”.
As a noodle in soup dish, i found it no different than other noodle dishes. The theatrics were nice, but the separation of ingredients and the extra oil in the broth served no purpose now, in a sit down setting; except for the great photo op and a reminder of their history.
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? – No.
I liked the idea and the execution that followed. It was a great experience with warming soup and delicious chewy noodles. However, given my proximity to them, it wouldn’t be a destination when they are other like noodle establishments around. Although, none that centred around such a unique dish originating from the Yunnan province dish. Don’t deny your cravings.