Dagu Rice Noodle offers an experience unlike any other.
The Shanghai-based soup chain landed in Canada in 2017, first setting up in Markham, Ont.
Edmonton’s location opened in October 2019 on Jasper Avenue, sandwiched between an Indian restaurant, Tiffin, and Gyu-Kaku, a restaurant offering Japanese-Korean barbecue.
It is a brutally cold day when I first take refuge in Dagu.
I throw myself into the long, sheltered foyer and am met with a blanket of heat and steam. The broth that has been cooking through the night is served at 300 F and arrives at the tables still bubbling.
At a few minutes past noon, the restaurant is well on its way to reaching maximum capacity.
The service is prompt and friendly and I am thankful to have someone willing to spend time explaining the process of ordering (checking off boxes) and understanding the two soup styles.
One is a traditional style where the soup is brought with all ingredients (save for the noodles) in the bowl. The other is called Crossing the Bridge, where ingredients are arranged in separate bowls and the customer adds and cooks the ingredients like you would at a hot-pot restaurant.
Crossing the Bridge takes its name from an incident long ago when a scholar studying for exams had his dinner brought to him by his wife. She had packed up the food and trekked across the bridge to the island where he stayed.
On the first night she brought him soup with all the ingredients together. By the time he opened the container, the noodles had soaked up all the broth.
To prevent this from happening again, she kept the components separate so her husband could assemble everything after she made her way across the bridge to his place of study.
Eating a soup from the Crossing the Bridge section seems more a social endeavour. If you stop in to dine alone, the traditional-style soup might appeal as a less fussy and faster undertaking.
The main feature of the traditional braised bone-in-beef is a rib bone well-endowed with tender meat.
Beneath it are a few meatballs, some large shards of cabbage, corn kernels and a hard-boiled quail egg. Bits of imitation crab also float in the peppery porky broth — an unfortunate inclusion, but understandable knowing the high cost of real crab.
The sour and spicy noodle soup with Xiangxi pulled beef has more flavour and more zip than the braised beef dish thanks to the inclusion of chilies and Sichuan peppercorns.
The beef has a noticeable smokiness and the only improvement would be to see larger pieces of meat than the little bits that disappear in the broth.
There are a few non-soup items, too, like crispy, salty chicken and crispy strips of pork; the first seasoned with five spice, the latter with Sichuan pepper.
Both are delicious snacks, especially when paired with a watermelon fruit drink topped with a concoction of cream cheese, whipped cream, condensed milk, salt and sugar.
Dagu Rice Noodle offers interesting dishes at affordable prices. The soup is filling, flavourful and satisfying, especially on those cold and blustery Alberta days.
Find Dagu at 10408 Jasper Ave. It’s open Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Go in the off-hours as lineups are a common occurrence.