Yunshang Rice Noodle
Address: 275 Bank St Unit 101, Ottawa, ON
Hours: 11:30am – 10pm (Sun – Thu); 11:30am – 10:30pm (Fri – Sat)
Ottawa has a bit of a thing for Asian noodle soups. From the daily line-ups at Sansotei, to the hand-made noodles at La Mien (RIP) and now at La Noodle in the Market, and of course the plethora of places to get your pho fix – there is no shortage of places to get a warm bowl of comfort food in the nation’s capital. New restaurant on the block Yunshang Rice Noodle further diversifies our options with its Crossing-the-bridge noodles, from Yunnan province in China.
Yunshang is a small chain, and after starting in Toronto, now has several locations there and as well as restaurants in Montreal, Vancouver, and New York City. Situated in the heart of Centretown on Bank at Somerset, the restaurant sits about 30 in its clean and crisp new digs. Lovely murals adorn the walls running the length of the restaurant, while the service counter is located at the back.
I showed up after work on a Friday, and the place was jam-packed, so a bit of a wait was in order, but the two people in front of me was a tenth of the size of the line at Sansotei, so I couldn’t complain. Once I was seated, the ordering process moved very quickly, with a staff member asking if I had been there before (which I hadn’t) and introducing me to the menu.
There are several types of soups, each with the same selection of proteins – beef, meatballs, fish, seafood, lamb and mushrooms. With just a handful of sides, they’re counting on the quality of their small menu, which I appreciate. I ended up choosing the noodles with spicy sauce ($10.99), a side of shredded cucumber in garlic sauce ($5.99), and a can of herbal tea ($2.99).
In just a few minutes I had my bowl of cucumber. It came as very chopstick-able hunks, rather than shredded, with was much easier to manage. The hunks of cuke were slightly soft, but still had plenty of crunch due to their thickness, and while they were covered in bits of garlic, the sauce toned down the expected pungency with a mild sweetness.
Just minutes after getting my cucumber salad, the main event arrived. The idea behind crossing-the-bridge noodles is that you get a stoneware pot of fiercely boiling broth, and then add in the tray of the dozen add-ins and noodles which come with it, cooking them. It’s like a personalized hotpot!
Staff was very good leading me through how to order, and then how to eat the noodles, but the menu doesn’t tell you anything about the add-ins. Luckily, you have long-winded blowhards like me for this!
- Most importantly, there’s a raw shrimp. This very common, very serious allergen should be enough of a reason to more clearly list these default add-ins.
- A soft-boiled quail egg
- A lightly fried cube of tofu
- Slice of ham
- Minced pickle
- Minced pork
- A few slices of Chinese sausage
- Tofu skin
- Shredded wood ear mushroom
- Corn kernels
- Three rolls of thinly-sliced beef
After dumping all the ingredients into the bubbling broth, I put the noodles in last, as I had been instructed.
While the broth calmed down once the cool add-ins had been, uh, added in, it was still very, very hot. Since I’m not a big coffee drinker, the lining of my mouth hasn’t been scalded into submission, so I had to blow on both the noodles and broth for most of my meal to ensure I made it home without any first-degree burns.
And after all of effort and spectacular display, how was the soup? Delicious.
The broth is made in house daily from a mix of chicken, pork and beef bones, and the rich, savoury flavour came through with each steamy slurp. Although I had ordered the spicy broth, I didn’t find it overwhelming, just a mild base of heat that built up slowly as I had more and more of the generous bowlful.
All of the add-ins were top notch, with standouts being the umami-packed minced pork, and the quail egg, which I was surprised to discover still had a semi-soft yolk after being in the hot broth for several minutes. The lone shrimp fared just as well from its hot bath, coming out firm and juicy, and the rolls of beef were thoroughly cooked, but still tender.
I made the bold move of taking advantage of the unlimited noodles, and by the time I finished those, I was full to the brim. The noodles themselves were about the same thickness as spaghetti, but were at the same time softer and springier, although not as much spring as ramen’s alkaline noodles.
Yunshang’s system allows you to get your food very quickly, but the steps of combining all the ingredients, allowing them to cook, and then eating the piping-hot soup balances that saved time to be somewhere near the length of a regular meal.
It’s worth note that I finished my meal without any oily-red broth stains on my clothing, which I was quite proud of, given my track record with Asian noodle soups. And if there’s one thing worse than chocolate stains, it’s chili oil!
Suffice to say after this long spiel, I’m a fan of Yunshang Rice Noodle. It brings something brand new to the city, they’re making great food right out of the gate, and it’s easily accessible in the centre of Ottawa. Head on over, patiently wait for your food to cool down enough so that you can eat it, and enjoy crossing the bridge to flavour country**.
*Cash and debit only right now.
**This is a reference to The Simpsons, not a certain frosted tip schmuck.