First Look: Omni Palace features giant hand-pulled noodles in North York

Watch the chef transform the dough through a large window in the back


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Spicy braised beef shank noodles (front), traditional Lanzhou beef noodles (left), lamb noodles with medlar and Chinese cabbage (right)

Omni Palace has landed in Canada, with its first location outside of China just five minutes from Fairview Mall in North York. The restaurant chain is known for its large hand-pulled noodles and the new space has 83 seats nestled in an emerging business and restaurant hub just south of Victoria Park and Sheppard Avenue.  

Omni’s legacy stretches back to 1920 when owner Jun Ma’s grandfather, Shizhai Ma, developed the original recipe (which is still in use today) and opened a mom and pop noodle shop. Today as the third generation owner, Jun Ma has partnered with Zhuolong Li to bring their famed Lanzhou noodles to Canada.

Omni Palace
The restaurant can seat up to 83 people with a window to the kitchen in the back

 

But the hand-pulled strands are only one part of the equation. There’s also the broth which includes fresh beef shank, whole chickens and bone marrow, plus 28 secret spices and herbs. The mixture is boiled for six to eight hours and then a secret process renders it as crystal clear as possible by removing any oil residue. There’s only one slight modification. “Our recipe originates from northwest China and there we like it a bit more salty but we’ve decreased the amount here to appeal to Western palates,” says Ma. “When people visit Omni Palace, I want them to taste the history of China and how we enjoy noodles. Whether morning or night, it’s comfort food for us.”

The new space is lined with red banquettes, black paneling, and pine wood arches. There’s also a large window to the kitchen in the back where diners can watch master chef Ao Ma transform dough into long elegant noodles. He can create nine different shapes, from thick and flat to thin and delicate. It’s a physically demanding process; he uses his body weight to heave, pull, punch and stretch the dough to create elasticity and get it into the desired shape. With over 25 years of experience, Chef Ma can​ create six bowls of noodles per minute.

Omni Palace
Chef Ao Ma is a master noodle maker

 

The menu highlights the hand-pulled stirred and fried noodles — effectively the stars of the show — but the cold dishes such as the lamb, chicken, rice, and skewer features warrant a taste as well.

Omni’s signature dish is the traditional Lanzhou beef noodles. It’s a spectrum of pretty shades, which are very important, according to Ma. It’s been given an ingredient upgrade but its once-humble origins meant that people had to be appealed by the dish through its colours. The five essentials include the soup’s crystal clear hue, white Chinese cabbage or radishes, red homemade chili oil and beef shank slices, green coriander and leeks, and golden yellow noodles. These five elements are what’s required to honour and represent the beauty of this Lanzhou-based creation.

Omni Palace
Clockwise from top: spicy braised beef shank noodles, traditional Lanzhou beef noodles, lamb noodles with medlar and Chinese cabbage

 

Cold appetizers are an ideal way to begin your meal and whet your appetite. They include shredded potato with green cucumber, marinated kelp, black fungus, bean curd strands, house marinated spicy beef tendon/beef shank, and spicy chicken with onion and green pepper.

If you relish that sweet build-up of lingering heat on your tongue, you’ll want to choose the spicy braised beef shank noodles. Hunks of fatty braised beef are served with noodles, bok choy, chili oil and green onions.

The lamb noodles with medlar and Chinese cabbage come with delicate angel hair noodles and slightly chewy slices of boiled lamb leg.

Omni Palace
The lamb noodle dish

 

The succulent roasted lamb ribs possesses a trifecta of addictive flavours: salty, sweet and fatty. They’re spiced with a blend which includes chili and cumin and then braised for two to three hours. Finally, it’s roasted in the oven for about 10 minutes so the skin gets crispy and golden.

Omni Palace
The roasted lamb ribs come with a special secret spice for dipping

 

The whole roasted lamb leg is the showstopper; it’s a mammoth sized portion of tender melt-in-your mouth meat. The dish is topped by sandy-coloured fried bread crumbs (meant to represent the golden desert in northwest China) before serving.  

Omni Palace roasted lamb leg
The r​oasted lamb leg

 

Sautéed spicy chicken is a hearty dish; featuring hunks of stewed chicken legs, it’s served with with starchy potatoes and red peppers, all surrounded by a moat of chili oil-based sauce.

Omni Palace
Sautéed spicy chicken with starchy potatoes, red peppers and a chili oil based sauce

 

Omni Palace is open for lunch and dinner Monday to Sunday from 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. (235 Consumers Rd., 416-493-0080).

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