Yet another restaurant has joined the ranks of the heavily-populated East Asian food scene in Collegetown. Shi Miao Dao (recently added to Google maps) is located on 416 Eddy Street in between De Tasty Hot Pot Restaurant and Four Seasons, two local, coveted staples, so we were eager to see if it would meet our expectations.
Shi Miao Dao Yunnan Rice Noodle is a sit-down restaurant serving rice noodle soup, the specialty dish of the Southern province of Yunnan, China. They started as a successful chain in China with over 750 locations, and have since expanded to North America with shops primarily located in New York City and Toronto. Besides Ithaca, other New York locations include East Village in Manhattan, and Flushing, Queens. US locations span from Philadelphia and Detroit to Houston and Denver.
Shi Miao’s name, 十秒到米粉, or “ten seconds until crossing the bridge rice noodles,” is a reference to the time it supposedly takes for your noodles to be ready. Typically, “crossing the bridge” noodles consists of a bowl of broth brought out so the person indulging can then add the noodles and customize a selection of toppings. These include sliced meats, pickled vegetables, lettuce, quail eggs, etc.
Walking in for a casual, Friday afternoon lunch, on Nov. 4, we were pleasantly surprised to see the establishment was quite busy. We were greeted and sat down at one of the few rows of wooden tables. We were then handed menus, much of which were in Mandarin. We noticed the waiters spoke Mandarin, the background music was in Mandarin and many of the students seated also seemed to speak Mandarin. It was an authentic environment, to say the least, but we could see how it could be overwhelming for someone’s first time.
We ordered the sour and spicy cucumber to start, which came almost immediately. They were marinated in chili sauce and tasted strongly of peppercorn at first in your mouth, but then leveled out to a tangy, sour finish. We both thoroughly enjoyed them, especially because the taste was quite dissimilar to anything we typically eat on a daily basis.
Catherine ordered the Original Crossing Bridge rice noodles and Margaret ordered the tomato soup with rice noodles, which we were told were the two most popular items (the tomato soup being one of the only vegetarian options for Margaret). We were chatting as we waited, and not even a few minutes had elapsed before our noodles were brought out steaming hot in stone bowls. In contrast to the traditional serving style, everything was already combined.
Catherine’s noodles were perfectly chewy and the broth was warm and rich. The wilted lettuce added a nice crunch and the beef and fish tofu were a flavorful addition to the broth. There were a few pieces of spam she didn’t care for and the singular quail egg could have offered more, but overall it was a comforting and delicious meal that reminded her of home. Sadly, it seemed like there were a substantial amount of noodles in the dish, but after finishing it, she wasn’t quite satisfied and would have ordered more food if she hadn’t been in a rush. Was this the best noodle soup she had ever tasted? Probably not, but as someone who grew up eating authentic homemade Chinese food and frequented Chinatown in Flushing, Queens, this was definitely comparable, and she is pleasantly surprised to be able to have this experience in Ithaca. She would rate her experience and food an 8.5/10.
This was Margaret’s first time trying rice noodle soup, and she only has good things to say regarding her first impression. Margaret’s noodles were also very nicely cooked, and the tomato-based broth tasted sort of like tomato sauce (in a good way!). This was her first time trying fish tofu as opposed to a more standard firm or extra firm tofu, and she thought it was delicious smothered within the broth. She is personally not a huge fan of the flavor or texture of cabbage, but recognizes the authenticity of the dish, and agrees that it added a necessary crunch. Similarly to Catherine, she was not completely satiated despite the rather large portion size. This may have been due to the fact that this had been her first meal of the day (at 2 p.m.). She was very happy to find a vegetarian option at Shi Miao Dao, too, as she expected to find mostly meat-based dishes that aligned more closely with the classic rice noodle soups. Overall, she would rate the experience and the food a 9/10 only because of the cabbage.
After analyzing our experience, we definitely see why the items we ordered are the most popular. In terms of the restaurant itself, we found it very interesting that although the majority of Collegetown’s restaurants are local, Shi Miao Dao, which originated in China, has blown up to become a chain that ended up in Ithaca, New York, of all places. We will definitely be returning for a hot, comforting meal in the cold winter months to come, and recommend you all do the same whether this is your first time trying rice noodle soup, or not.
Margaret Haykin is a sophomore in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at [email protected]. Catherine Zhang is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].