Sheng Long Yu, owner of Shinto Japanese Steakhouse
in Strongsville and Kenko
in University Circle and Kent, is just days away from opening his fourth restaurant. When it opens next week in the former home of Koko Café in Asiatown, Dagu Rice Noodle (3710 Payne Ave.) will be one of the first locations of that international sensation in the U.S.
Dagu Rice Noodle has hundreds of locations throughout China, where the Shanghai-based restaurant began, a handful in Canada, and only one or two in the States. The house specialty is “crossing the bridge noodles,” a noodle soup-based meal that is similar, but not identical, to hot pot.
Sheng Long Yu
The star of the show, not surprisingly, are the rice noodles, which come from Dagu’s own facility in China. Crocks of still-boiling broth are delivered to the table in earthenware bowls that are heated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, so even after the noodles and garnishes are introduced, the soup remains hot.
“In our culture, soup is supposed to be served boiling hot,” explains Yu.
Broths are pork or vegetable based, spicy or not spicy, and served alongside those noodles and add-ons like quail eggs, tofu skin, bamboo shoots, kimchi, preserved vegetables, corn, Spam, beef, shrimp and various sauces and pastes. While “crossing the bridge” often refers to a romantic fable about a man and wife, it also represents the movement of food to bowl while eating.
Dagu shops also serve a selection of street food-style appetizers like Sichuan cucumbers, spicy duck tongue, braised lotus root, crispy chicken and sticky rice balls.
To drink, there are fruit teas and cheese teas, which might soon edge out bubble tea as the next hot beverage trend. Those who adore it swear it tastes better than it sounds thanks to its sweet flavor, silky texture and frothy cream cheese-based topping.
Yu was first introduced to the concept in Canada, where Dagu is spreading like wildfire.
“The last time I went to Canada, I went to one of the stores and thought, ‘This is great stuff. Why not bring it to Cleveland,’” notes Yu. “If there’s one thing that Cleveland needs, especially when it comes to noodle soup, it is diversity.”
Yu sent his main crew over to Shanghai to train at an existing Dagu shop that sees 800 customers in a day. He doesn’t expect to handle crowds that large at this 30-seat spot, but he does expect it to be busy.
“First of all, it’s between CSU and Case, and both have a lot of Asian population,” explains Yu. “Number two, Chinatown already has a decent amount of draw for the general public. In addition to that, everybody knows Koko Bakery [next door].”
Yu doesn’t plan to stop at just one, he says, noting that future shops are planned for Northeast Ohio, Columbus and Pittsburgh.
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