On Saturday, I had a craving for noodles so I convinced L to have lunch with me at Calan Noodle House. For this post, let’s listen to “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zeppelin. L disagreed with my choice of music. He said for a truly authentic experience, the post should play “Start the Riot” by Atari Teenage Riot.
The setup of the restaurant is confusing. When you enter, you can’t tell where to order. Customers are naturally drawn to the front right, as it’s closer to the entrance. The employee on the left side would periodically shout at customers at the door to order at his side.
L asked me if Calan was a new restaurant. I told him not really, it has been open for about a year. L wondered how many times that employee had to yell in a day, and since it was obvious it was not clear where one orders, wouldn’t they think it would be beneficial to have a sign? And if the restaurant wasn’t new, how come most of the customers didn’t know how to order? I could tell this lunch date wasn’t going so well.
Calan is a small space crammed with tables and chairs. The place is packed too, so it was difficult to wait for a seat because there’s no good place to stand.
After I ordered and L paid, I saw him standing by the exit. I could tell by his expression that he was considering bolting. In the car when we left, he confirmed he thought about leaving. Wouldn’t be the first time.
There was one employee who was clearing tables. She would move the bowls around and half-heartedly wipe the table. Then she would slowly move the dishes around again and pause, then stack one plate over the bowl, and repeat the shuffle. When L and I finally got a table, she forgot to wipe half the table. That was fine with me. At this point, I just wanted to eat and leave.
My number was called out. I was blocked halfway to the pick-up area because other customers were in my way. When I brought my tray to our table, a toddler got up and walked in front me. His parents were completely oblivious that I was carrying a tray with two steaming bowls over his noggin. I sidestepped the kid, clutched my tray and prayed I wouldn’t lose my lunch. I didn’t want to go through the ordering process again.
I could hear customers and employees speaking Mandarin. Our table was squished by the ordering station. An older woman came up and asked if the seat was free. I said yes and nodded, but she couldn’t hear me and asked even louder. I shouted to her that the seat was free. L winced at my response.
L ordered #7 – hand-pulled noodles in beef broth with braised beef. I ordered #2 – hand-pulled noodles in beef broth with pickled sour mustard. I made my meal into a combo with a tea egg and simmered tendon. The combo isn’t worth it. The tendon wasn’t anything special. The egg was hard to peel and it had no discernible flavour.
We both ordered long, wide noodles. The long strands were nicely cooked and chewy, and not pasty like some places. The noodles were difficult to eat and not uniformly thick. Some of the noodles were clumped together. The skinny noodles that other people ordered looked easier to eat. The stir-fried noodles looked and smelled delicious.
The mustard greens were super sour, which gave my soup more dimension. I liked L’s stewed beef pieces over my pho-like slices. I asked for my broth to be spicy. I can handle spice and I thought it wasn’t hot. I put more hot chili oil into my bowl and that didn’t do much either. L took a bite of my noodles and said he could feel the Szechuan peppercorns tingling in his mouth.
L thought his bowl of noodles were good, but the chaos really took the enjoyment out of eating out. He asked if Calan does a lot of takeout, because he would prefer to get it to go. Homemade noodles in soup are best eaten fresh, but yes, I saw that they do pickup and delivery.
I think this sort of food would work best in a food court or a sit down restaurant. I give Calan two fat thumbs down for ambience and one skinny thumb up for the noodles. I’m all for hole in the wall restaurants, but this place takes the cake. Next on my list is Mi Noodle for their Signature Spicy Noodle Soup.