Eat the Strip

Noodle's Invitation

174 Colonnade Rd S Unit #28, Nepean, ON K2E 7J5

December 12, 2023 7:51 PM

By: Ameya Charnalia

I’d spent several months thinking of an email we received in September about a Chinese restaurant in a south-end industrial park.

Eat the Strip reader William’s pithy email had noted the name of the restaurant—Noodle’s Invitation—the dish we ought to order—dandan noodles—and a location. These dry noodles, coated in a chilli paste made with fermented greens, sesame oil and copious amounts of garlic immediately caught my attention.

After finishing work on Tuesday, I finally decided to make the trip south from our Carlington apartment to try the elusive noodles that had captured my attention in the fall.

Located in an eclectic industrial park near the airport, Noodle’s Invitation specializes in Chongqing-style cooking, a branch of Sichuan food famous for its liberal use of garlic, peppers and the eponymously named Sichuan pepper. Photos of classic Sichuan dishes adorned the walls of the no-frills restaurant.

After greeting owner Yuefang Liu, I sat at one of the six tables and asked for a bowl of the dandan noodles. Having learned to not underestimate spice levels at Sichuan restaurants many years ago, I opted for the medium spicy, the two alternatives being mild and very hot.

While waiting for my food, Yuefang told me the difference between the two principal kinds of Sichuan pepper—red and green. The former I was told is typically stronger tasting, while the latter is milder but pungent and has a stronger numbing effect. She brought me jars of both peppers and the heady aroma made my already ravenous appetite even stronger.

When the noodles arrived, I was told to mix all the ingredients before eating. This was to make sure the chill oil properly coated the noodles, ground pork and vegetables. Each bite provided a wave of respite from the cold, rainy weather outside, the heat from the chilli oil complementing the numbing effect of the Sichuan peppers, not unlike the satisfying feeling of having a sip of pop after eating something spicy.

Dandan noodles refer to type of carrying pole (dan dan) that was used by street vendors who sold the dish to passers-by
Dandan noodles refer to type of carrying pole (dan dan) that was used by street vendors who sold the dish to passers-by

Texture-wise, the crispy bok choy and peanuts provided a nice contrast to the noodles. I scarfed down my meal, thinking about how a bowl of these noodles provided me with unbridled joy. I shared this with Yuefang, who showed me other authentic Sichuan dishes she’s proudly served since opening her restaurant in 2018, several of them containing vegetables she grows in a community garden just down the road.

After paying approximately $15 for my food, I ran into one of Yuefang’s regular customers on my way out, both of us grinning ear to ear, knowing we had stumbled upon a true hidden gem.