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Say hello to bottomless noodles in boiling-hot bone broth
Dagu Rice Noodle (115 Dundas West, at Bay, 416-901-9208, daguricenoodle.ca) is a restaurant chain beloved across China for its hearty, endlessly refillable bowls of noodle soup. The company has two locations in Canada, including one in Markham a third, in Scarborough, is about to open its doors.
Dagu’s popularity (which can be seen in the non-stop lines at lunch and dinner outside the Dundas location) has largely to do with its careful choice of restaurant locations. In China, they set up shop in malls and major centres, explains Dagu rep Closs Tong, so their brand consciousness is super high. But what keeps diners coming back, he says, is the broth: “Every night, they cook 100 pounds of pork bones for the broth, so the soup is really fresh.”
In addition to making for a tasty brew, the restaurant says, the bones also infuse the broth with piles of collagen, a protein that’s great for skin and hair. (Hey, if slurping down a vat of noodle soup can also make me cuter, that’s a bonus!)
That broth, available in myriad flavours, is brought to your table still-bubbling there’s a safety notice pasted to all tables, and bowls are slid out of the kitchen with a long handle for safety. “If it’s not boiling, we don’t serve it,” Tong says. And in case you run out of noodles or broth, you can just ask your server for more.
Bowls come with a whack of toppings, including quail egg, Szechuan pepper pork, ham, corn, bamboo shoots, and a green fermented cabbage paste, which Tong calls “the secret sauce.” You can get your soup in two ways: Classic noodle soup, which comes fully loaded with everything, or “crossing the bridge” soup, where noodles, broth and condiments are all brought out separately.
“In China, there’s the story of a scholar who was studying late,” Dagu rep Calvin Du explains. “His wife lived across this long bridge, and she would bring him soup all put together. By the time she finished crossing the bridge, the soup would be cold, the noodles would have absorbed all the base, so it wasn’t that great. So she separated the ingredients, brought it to him, and he put it together – and that’s why it’s called ‘crossing the bridge’ noodles.”
Here’s a closer look at the menu.
Mushroom crossing the bridge noodle soup ($9.99) is super-comforting and rich – without containing a lick of dairy. (Dunk meat in the soup, hot pot-style, to cook it.)
Pickled cabbage soup ($10.99) is flavoured with a liberal scoop of sour green cabbage (think sauerkraut, but with earthier, grassier notes) for a slightly sour umami bomb.
If you’re not feeling noodles, or want to round out your meal, there’s a selection of sweet and savoury sides.
Fried chicken ($6.99) gets a warm flavour from a hit of five-spice.
A more traditional Chinese side is the thinly-sliced beef, tripe and tongue ($6.99) in a spicy chili oil with peanuts, soy and vinegar.
On the sweeter side, there’s mini squash pancakes stuffed with red bean filling ($3.50) and sweet sticky rice ($3.50).
The drinks menu is actually a brand new addition for the Canadian restaurants, calibrated to current food trends in the Toronto market. You can get matcha drinks, yakult (a yogurt-based drink) or some truly killer cheese drinks (if you’ve never had one, picture a cheesecake smoothie) in a bunch of fruit flavours. Get them for here or to go (along with the rest of the menu) at the handy takeout counter.
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