Fantastic Big Flat Lamb Noodle Soup in Verdun
I didn’t even know what it was before I tasted it, but I knew there and then that I’d been missing it all my life. I’m talking about Henan Hui Mian: braised broad noodles with lamb from Henan province in China. NYC chowhounds know it as “Fantastic Big Flat Lamb Noodle Soup” and fantastic is a pretty good descriptor for the one I had as well. The first bite I took of this famous Chinese snack had me floating off my chair. I was elated and it just got better as I inevitably made my way to the bottom of the bowl. This savoury lamb broth with its fresh hand-pulled broad noodles and its perfectly seasoned pieces of lamb meat packs a muttony punch. The soup also contains bean thread noodle, daylily, long thin slivers of seaweed, cilantro, a few leaves of bok choy and the occasional wolfberry. You can add to it some Changkiang vinegar and a condiment made up of dried chilli flakes in oil with sesame seeds, something I highly recommend. This is one serious life-affirming bowl of soup.
Where can one find this bowl of lamby goodness? At Lotus Bleu Restaurant in Verdun. It’s a hole-in-the-wall, mom and pop kind of place with very sparse décor and harsh neon lighting. It’s anything but upscale and that’s just fine with me. What really counts is that he food is yummy and the people there are incredibly friendly and helpful.
And if all the place served were just the Life-Affirming Lamb Noodle Soup™, that would be great in itself. But wait, there’s more! Daoko chicken is also a famous Henan dish. The preparation involves basting the chicken with a honey-water solution, deep-frying it and then braising it with a bunch of aromatic spices. The result is a fragrant and tasty bird with soft yielding meat and delicious almost completely de-fatted skin. The chicken is sold by weight as is the stewed beef which is sliced thin and served with a dressing of herbs and crushed red pepper.
But wait, there’s still more! They have a refrigerated display case filled with mystery meats and cold preparations. I’ve seen, on different occasions, pork tongue, pig’s ear, duck necks and even something the nice lady there was reluctant to confirm was pig’s rectum. Most of these are served as cold appetisers. I’ve only tried the duck neck. It’s spicy and very meaty, and eating it can be a bit of work, but it’s worth it.
If you go there during the day you might have the chance to try the steamed buns (baozi), the large pan-fried dumplings which come in meaty and meatless versions, or the glutinous rice in bamboo leaf (zongzi). I strongly suggest you try the steamed buns. The large dumplings are somewhat like the ones at Golden Stone, but both the wrapper and filling are superior here. The zongzi are a bit skimpy on the filling, but they still make for a great, cheap and filling snack.
You thought that’s all there was to this place? Think again! They make dumplings. Damn fine dumplings. The lamb and Chinese cabbage ones are crazy good. There’s also a hot pork and rice noodle soup that, while it doesn’t hold a candle to the Life-Affirming Lamb Noodle Soup™, is still pretty darn good, too. My sister couldn’t stop eating the Chinese cabbage with hot and sour sauce we had ordered one evening even if she was already full, and I really can’t blame her.
The menu also features some Sichuan favourites like “Boiled sliced fish in the Szechuan special spicy sauce” and “Home-style double sautéed pork slice” (twice-cooked pork) as well as a bunch of other seemingly out-of-place items such as Thai-style stir-fried noodles or rice.
On top of that the food is dirt cheap. You can walk out of there full to the gills for about $10 per person.
I’ve been three times at different hours and the place is never full. The patrons are almost all Chinese and almost all there for the lamb soup and the chicken. There are also a lot of people getting take-away chicken. Don’t miss this place. It’s a keeper.
Lotus Bleu Restaurant
4847 rue de Verdun
Five minutes west of Verdun metro station.
Opening hours are 10am to 10pm, closed on Tuesday.
Fantastic Big Flat Lamb Noodle Soup in Flushing, 41-28 Main: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/350358
Fantastic Lamb Noodle Soup Returns to Golden Shopping Mall: http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2008/0...
I haven't tasted their Sichuan style dishes, but the duck neck and pork soup were moderately spicy and the hot and sour cabbage was mildly spicy. For everything else you add the spice yourself using the chili oil and sesame seed condiment on the tables.
Oh, I'm really craving that soup, right now.
A friend and I made the trip to Verdun on a cold and snowy evening a week and a half ago. From downtown, it's really not much of a schlep. Just hop on the green line, get off at Verdun station and walk five minutes, if that, to the resto.
Following SnackHappy's lead, we ordered the FBFLN soup, which was very much as advertised. Unlike everyone else we saw eating it, we split the soup between us and it took us a couple of attempts to figure out the least inelegant serving technique: because the noodles are very long as well as broad, it's best to use chopsticks to transfer a single noodle to your bowl and then spoon broth, meat and vegetables over it. The noodles were first-rate. The broth was far more delicate than I'd been expecting, so I found myself adding less and less of the condiments (black vinegar and chile oil) with each bowlful and enjoying it more and more as a result. The lamb was cut into small (1/2-inch?) cubes and there wasn't a lot of it (not a problem for me, a bit of one for my friend); the treasure trove of vegetables was a delight. I'd gone in expecting a heady, rib-sticking Cuisine Szechuan type soup, not this light bowl of nuanced flavours; adjustment made, I'd also declare the soup a delight. In fact, I've found myself hankering for it on more than one occasion since.
We also had the Daoko chicken, which is served slightly chilled and with a light, broth-like sauce. An interesting mix of savoury and faintly sweet, with the flavours complementing but not overpowering the chickeny goodness. With its higher ratio of skin to flesh and its intrinsically deeper flavour, the dark meat was more appealing than the somewhat dry white. This would be a great takeout dish for a hot summer day.
We also ordered the hot and sour cabbage, which is nothing like the versions at Cuisine Szechuan, Tapioca Thé or Oui&Oui. This came in a light orange-coloured sauce that wasn't particularly hot or sour. While neither of us were wowed, we had no trouble polishing it off. The sliced cucumber salad was a pungent, garlicy delight.
Overall, the cooking featured some new-to-me flavours and combinations of flavours. I was expecting something along the lines of Hunan or Beijing but, wheat noodles aside and based on a single visit, this seemed closer to Cantonese or maybe Fuzhou in spicing and technique.
Describing the decor is sparse and the lighting as harsh is putting it kindly, not that it matters. What was of some concern was the apparent lack of heating, except for a construction-type space heater at the very back of the long room. Whenever the front door was opened, a blast of icy air filled the front of the room, where most of the tables are. We wondered if they mightn't be adding some auxiliary heaters once the weather turned frigid but soon realized that the paucity of outlets meant there'd be almost nowhere to plug them in. Oddly, though the entrance has a double door that would impede the onslaught of cold air, it wasn't in use the evening we were there. All of which is to say that bringing an extra layer or two of clothing might not be a bad idea, especially for those who are sensitive to cold.
Service -- in admirably functional French -- was far friendlier than is the norm in such places. We were the only Caucasians and that seemed to delight our waitress (the wife?), especially when we ordered the regional dishes. Other diners brought soft drinks with them (there's a water cooler with styrofoam cups for people who don't; we forgot to ask about tea). A few patrons also dropped by for takeout.
Am looking forward to returning to revisit the soup and try some of the other dishes. If I lived or worked in the area, I suspect I'd be a regular. And when downtown, I'll consider it a viable alternative to Chinatown2, especially since the lower price tag would more than cover the metro fare. Thanks again for sniffing this one out, SnackHappy, and for sharing it with us.
I'm glad you enjoyed it, carswell. I should have mentioned that the soup came with a rather small portion of meat. I'm sure that if you asked you could get extra meat for a small fee. From what I've read, Henan and its capital Zhengzhou (the owners' hometown) is a bit of a crossroads which is why their cuisine is a mix of Northern, Southern and Western Chinese influence. And yes the broth is not so in-your-face although, after eating it, its muttony perfume lingers in my moustache for the rest of the day.
I should mention that, although the menu does not mention it, you can get your dumplings pan-fried for an extra dollar. I don't really recommend it. Much like when getting fried dumplings at Qing Hua, they get a bit of a heavy and greasy texture and the flavours get somewhat muted.
Verdun's Chinese scene needs more investigating. Not only is there a Chinese grocery store across the street from Lotus Bleu but there are a few other restaurants on Verdun and Wellington that cater to a the seemingly large number of mainland Chinese who live in the neighbourhood. Could we be looking at the makings of a Chinatown3? One can only hope.
More on that later.
"Thanks for the report, exactly the kind that keeps many of us returning to this board"
- my sentiment exactly SnackHappy and carswell, thanks for the reports.
I did not catch the OP, but am glad that carswell posted today.
Unpretentious mom and pop places seem to come along only too infrequently, I hope to try Lotus Bleu soon.
Just to note that we experienced Bleu Lotus this evening. Excellent quality, traditional Chinese. Great find and well done. Phoned ahead and picked up. The order was taken without issues and all went very well indeed. When in the mood for Chinese again, I won't hesitate to return. It's enjoyable to have the ability to experience Chinese that isn't breaded to death and full of North American 'extras'.
Whoa! We just came back and it was amazing. The noodles in the noodle soup were amazing and it was a huge portion. DH complained there was not much in the broth in terms of meat and vegetables but he easily remedied that by eating the twice cooked pork with it. The dump;lings were very good but i would not get them next time as the dishes coming out of the kitchen looked mouthwatering especially the pork with fungus and the sechuan fish, which by the way cost 12.99 and came in a bowl bigger than my salad bowl. My 3.5 year old must have eaten half of the dumplings and a good amount of pork before the noodle arrived but when he tasted it he exclaimed mmm very loudly. He had 2 helpings.
there was no heating problem and we were served tea.
Thanks for the heads-up on this place! We went for lunch and were very warmly welcomed by a lady who I assume is an owner. She seemed very happy to see us. A nice surprise.
The dao kou chicken was quite tasty and served a little on the cold side. I think based on another user's report that this is on purpose, although I can't help but think it would have been even better a little hotter. The noodle was also nice even if the lamb slightly overpowered the broth. This can be adjusted somewhat with the chili flakes and vinegar.
Quality-to-price ratio is great. The two of us ordered a large noodle (huge, like a salad bowl) and small chicken which was also a generous portion, for $15 taxes-in before tip. The out-of-the-way location probably keeps things cheap. Definitely worth a visit especially if you have a car to get you there quickly. I'd like to try the dumplings next time, another lady was there making them out in the open.
I echo the sentiment of another user wanting more reports on restos in the area! I wouldn't be surprised if there were more of these places waiting to be discovered...
I'm glad I tried this place last night after seeing this thread. It was about 8h30 pm and the place was empty, but I went in anyways. The owner (I suppose) was very nice but we had some trouble understanding each other ; didn't look like he spoke French at all, English just a little bit. I still managed to order a lamb soup and a plate of pork/chives dumplings. I asked about the soup bowl sizes; he smiled and said a small bowl would be plenty for me! Rightly so, even being super hungry I couldn't finish the flat noodles and ate just 5 dumplings, keeping the rest for lunch today. They are really good and a steal at 3.99$ for 20 !!
He offered to bring me tea - it came in a big pot with a disposable foam cup. The soup came quickly, with a great aroma and lots of garnishes. There was about 2-3 tablespoons' worth of sauteed lamb pieces, a couple being mostly fat. The broth is very " lamby", which I very much liked at first but found a little overwhelming after a while. The noodle serving is very generous; they're thick and still have some bite. They filled me up very quickly. I didn't care much for the transparent bean noodles (no taste) and ate just some of the seaweed (a litle crunchy). Takes some getting use to I suppose.
My favorite part was definitely the dumplings - I'd love to go back and try some of the other ones. I asked the owner how best to reheat them, but he didn't really understand me and thought I was asking if there were vegetables in the dumplings. I had to mime a microwave! Quite funny :)
I have to say the decor / atmostphere isn't great; I'd order for take-out next time. There is a giant flat screen in the middle of the place, with CCTV4 on real loud. 2 Chinese guys came in while I was there and seemed to be regulars; they yelled out something to get the owner out of the kitchen at some point. Felt like I was in China for a while! A great trip for 12$ :)
Went today for lunch and I can 100% echo the positive comments here regarding the "great big noodle lamb soup" (small $7) and the Daoko chicken (large $9). Both delicious and very generous servings. Next time its the large soup ($9) and I'll make a meal out if it on its own. Not a lot of customers so go to it Chowhounders, the guy running the place is very personable and he needs all the help we can give him to keep the place going. He's only been in Canada 3 years and he's bringing genuine Chinese cuisine to our fair city.
After reading these posts, three of us finally made it out to lunch today eager for lamb noodle soup. Afer seeing there was a dollar difference between the large and small sizes, we all opted for the large. In addition we had an order of pork and chive steamed dumplings (20 in an order for 5.99, what a deal !), and a small plate of vermicelli salad with seawood. The salad was good but not special enough to re-order. The dumplings were good though, a generous serving, with a thick and rustic skin that turned out to be (I believe :-) the same daough as a the noodles. Very nice and much better than the infamous Qing Hua version, in my opinion. The large noodle soups were HUGE. With the appetizers or another dish, one can easily serve two people. The noodles were soft with a lovely texture, and even though they were rolled quite thickly, they sure were easy to slurp down. I ate the entire bowl with some difficulty, but it was so good I had to give it my best shot. However the two male friends with normally healthy appetites didn't do as well as me, and ended up taking the leftovers home. in a word, YUM YUM YUM. Can't wait to have the soup again, and the chicken next time too. People who are resto decor snobs be warned that the place has a certain charm about it; i felt like we were in Asia in a neighborhood diner..loved it! We ended up a $33 bill for three, not bad at all and we certainly enjoyed the meal. I suppose a meal with more protein would be more costly.
Ok so I went there after work today. The first thing I noticed when I walked in were the cute pink heart-shaped chairs lol. I went with my bf and we had the lamb noodle soup (#17), the twice-sauteed pork (#14) and the spring rolls (#20), and it was amaaaazing. The boyfriend normally refuses to try food he doesn't know, never mind ethnic food, so I wasn't expecting him to eat much but he ordered the pork dish and loved it!! So did I :D He wouldn't touch the soup though, oh well, more for me! The spring rolls were good, nothing special though, and the soup was amazing. And yes the small is quite big! Unless they mistook my order and gave me a large, although I specifically circled small on the menu. I loved all the coriander, and I had never had either type of noodles in my life before (there were thinner transparent gelatinous noodles that were amazing too) so I was very pleasantly surprised. And the lamb... it was the most tender, flavorful, delicious lamb I've ever had! I could have eaten a whole plate of just the lamb. Wow! I can't wait to go back there to try the daoko chicken! Of course we couldn't finish it all so I took home half the soup. And I loved the engrish on the vinegar bottle :P I didn't have too much trouble understanding/being understood by the girl who served us, like someone else mentioned there was another girl who spoke english better to help translate. Here are some pictures:
My first visit was months ago and whilst I thought it was good I wasn't wowed by anything. I had the cucumber salad and the pork/shrimp dumplings for take out - the dumplings tasted very, overtly "porky" - it was strange and a little unpleasant. With so many delicious dumplings in Chinatown 2 I just never got around to visiting again (even though Lotus Bleu is my local)
Anyway, last night I went for a second visit, dine in, with friends and was impressed. We had the lamb soup, cucumber salad, pork and chive dumplings (no strange taste this time), spicy tofu (essentially ma po tofu) and rice. Everything was delicious although we all thought it would be nice to try the lamb soup without the prescence of other spicy dishes, as the delicate flavouring was a little lost next to a spoonful of the spicy tofu! Self serve water, plates, soup spoons. The place was quite busy too, with lots of people dining in and taking away. All up our dinner was $31 before tip - a bargain! I will definitely be back - I am very keen to compare their fish in broth with chillies to the versions at Cuisine Szechuan and Sorgho Rouge.
Also, an update for their opening hours - it looks like they are closed Tuesday and Wednesday now.
I've been going there about once every 2 months. Now I'm fixated on the Spicy Pork Soup instead of the lamb soup. Stir fried spicy ground pork topping delicate laifun noodles. Very delicate and refined. Lunch time isn't busy at all, usually we are the only table with perhaps one or two additional occupied tables. Although it seems that tourists also read Chowhound; a pair of South African tourists came in last time I was there, stopped cold when they saw the decor, then sat down and ordered the lamb soup and had a nice chat with the owner.