Ok, I've been here a few months, I've looked around a bit. I've gotten a little local advice, but there's not much of it since my new company is still hiring and we're still small, and about half of us non Canadian native.
So, let's start with something nice and easy, hm? Dan Dan noodles. Pork and sesame and maybe some peanut and chewy, rough cut noodles and the whole thing should be ideally between in that zone of too thick for a stew and too thin for a sauce.
my point of reference, btw, is 101 Noodle Express in the SGV, for those so-cal folks out there. It was the first place I was pointed at by my friends and continues to be my favorite.
Far and away the best was Peaceful Noodle. I went to the one downtown on Dunsmuir, but there are a few locations in the metro area. This was the closest I had to my standard. While I don't know that the noodles were hand cut (they looked a bit too regular for it), they were certainly fresh and properly cooked, nice and chewy, and they held on to the sauce really well. One addition was fresh spinach along side that cooked gently in the bowl as you ate. I actually prefer it to the cucumber that 101 Noiodle serves but that's just me. An eminently solid choice, and doable as a work lunch, so that's a bonus.
Next was Shaolin Noodle House on Broadway. I actually went here having gotten confused with another place called 'Shaolin' in Richmond (which I haven't been to yet). This was different than other versions I've had. It was a much thinner sauce, and the bits of pork were more bite-sized than ground. The noodles were 'rougher' than some. Maybe they do theirs by hand? All in all, it had all the flavors of the dish, but in separate bites. This one has a lot of the sesame sauce, that one is all meat. Very good, but.. different.
Finally, there was ChongQing on Commercial Drive. The noodles were clearly manufactured, the sauce was a meatless but perfectly serviceable sesame-paste sauce and you got some bbq'd pork on the top. Fine, but nothing special. My own fault really. I've since found that ChongQing is the kind of Chinese food you have when you're out with your Jewish grandmother. If you want sweet and sour pork or Egg Foo Yung or a sesame beef lunch special,, ChongQing has you covered, and it'll be tasty as those things go and it won't be too pricey. Those looking for more exciting fare probably have better choices, but it's nice to know it's there when I'm in the mood for it.
And REALLY finally, an extra: Lao Shan Dong Homemade Noodle in Burnaby,. A coworker and vancouver native recommended this as the best possible chinese beef noodle soup. I don't have enough samples to say it's the best, but it is DAMNED tasty. Better, even, than 101 Noodle's version. Tender chunks of beef, lovingly braised and full of rich, pot-roasty flavor mixed in among thick, springy noodles and a broth you absolutely should, and probably will, drink straight from the bowl when you're done. And like almost all these places, it's criminally cheap. I wouldn't expect to pay more than $15 a person at any of these places for lunch (many, you can get out for around $10 including tip!), and not too much more for dinner.
There is certainly no shortage of good Chinese (and Filipino, and Korean, and Thai, and... ) here, such that if you randomly wander in to whatever place is closest, you're apt to find something at least pretty decent, and just talking to a few people will lead to a wealth of opinion on their personal favorites. I expect I'll really enjoy hunting down my own perfect spot.
Anyone got any favorites of theirs?