As a recent addition to the line up on the main drag of Burwood Rd, this lot has changed hands a few times. From being a Japanese Teppanyaki joint 6 years ago to a Hubei-style restaurant called Chu Shan Tang, the current iteration is a restaurant that serves Yunnan cuisine. We were out for lunch with our friends and since our first choice (Emperor’s Bowl) was closed, we decided to give this place a try.
The legend of the Crossing the Bridge Noodle begins with a scholar who was studying hard for his Imperial Exams on an island when his wife would bring him food as he studied. By the time she crossed the bridge to get to him, she found that the broth was cold, the noodles soggy and the ingredients overcooked. This was when she decided to bring him his soup in an earthen pot with the noodles and ingredients separate, so that she could combine them on the island for him to eat. Given this rather poetic tale, I was very excited to finally try it.
This modern take on the classic Yunnan dish is actually what the English name of this restaurant (Yun Nan Cross-Bridge Rice Noodle) is based on. It was impressive seeing the broth come out as it was steaming hot and difficult to hold! The broth smelled nice, like a typical chicken broth. The serving of rice noodle was generous and well cooked with a bit of a bite.
When the raw ingredients came out, I couldn’t help but be disappointed with the presentation and portion. It was particularly disheartening to see only a single slice of cod fish and two slices of chicken breast, both very thinly cut to ensure the soup cooked the ingredients. I also suspect that the ingredients are frozen, not fresh, because when I played around with them, they lacked the springiness of fresh chicken and fish, and they all looked a bit too frosty, even the coriander and spring onions (c’mon, guys).
Combining all the ingredients, they cooked fast and the soup cooled a surprising amount. The broth tasted alright but lacked any sort of depth. I found it edible but uninteresting. The ingredients, when I was able to fish out the odd piece of pork or chicken, definitely did not taste fresh and definitely made me think it was all frozen. The noodles were a good match for the soup and kept their firmness very well.
Overall a disappointing display of the signature dish. To add insult to injury, the dish was a far cry from the picture denoting a generous platter of raw ingredients. It is important to note that this dish wasn’t cheap, at $12.80, making it difficult to justify.
My girlfriend ordered the vegetarian Cold Rice Noodles in Spicy Sauce, denoted in the menu as Cold Rice Noodles with Sliced Chicken in Spicy Source (sic) (Vegetarian). The dish consists of rice noodle, a rather spicy sauce, carrot and cucumber. It was topped off with bean sprouts, coriander and peanuts.
This cold dish had a spicy and sour sauce which, when mixed, had the flavours of a Vietnamese vermicelli noodle salad. Notable differences from its Vietnamese counterpart were the different noodles and the substitution of fish sauce for vinegar. The vegetables were crunchy and fresh however there really was not much more in terms of flavour. Like the Crossing the Bridge Noodle, there was too much noodle and not enough substance.
Next were the shared dishes we ordered to accompany our meal. The Pickled Cauliflower was spicy and sour, a theme of this restaurant, and a little too cold but refreshing for the palate.
The Tasty Black Fungus was nice and had a very strong vinegar flavour. The texture of the fungus was complimented well by the crunchy peanuts. For what it was, it was ok but not quite worth the $4.80 price tag.
I was somewhat surprised to see that the Special Deep-Fried Potato was actually frozen chips. The main issue of this dish was that the chips were under-fried, coupled with the sauce, this was a very… soggy dish. The sauce itself was weirdly spiced, being very sweet and lacked salt. We found this very perplexing as it is a fried potato dish so salt is to be expected.
The Noodles with Red Braised Beef was a solid choice by my friend. Consisting of rice noodles and beef marinated in five spice, the dish was topped off with spring onions, peanuts and Vietnamese mint. The overall feedback about this dish was that there was a good measure of beef with the noodle and the flavour was pretty good.
Our other friend ordered the Rice with Soybean Paste & Stir-Fried Ground Pork however, none of us were sure where the soybean paste was. He’s still convinced his didn’t have any. The feedback of this dish was that it had a kick of chilli but overall there was way too much rice and no “wow” factor. “Nothing to write home about” was the final statement.
This dish was very similar to the Rice with Soybean Paste & Stir-Fried Ground Pork except with the addition of tofu pudding and preserved vegetables. Our friend who ordered this dish commented that it was spicy, a bit too spicy for what it should have been and that there wasn’t much else to the flavour. My girlfriend tried some of the accompanying soup which had a strong chicken flavour which was nice but lacked any sort of depth. It was ok but not particularly enjoyable.
This is a conveniently located restaurant and though there are always going to be teething issues with any new restaurant, the owners and the chefs should understand that with the the competition and density of Burwood Road, there is little room for error. We will not be coming back to Qin Lan Xuan because as it stands now, there are many better options on Burwood Road.
This meal cost us $66 for 4 people. They accept cash or card ($20 minimum).