First it was Times Square, and then the one directly adjacent to it. All of sudden, common sense returned, and I realized that I had turned too early, and that Commerce Gate was on the south side of Highway 7. (Goodness me.)
As with all Markham plazas during the weekend lunchtime rush, parking wasn't exactly abundant. Thankfully, we happened to encounter two families leaving the establishment soon after turning in.
The restaurant was a casual Chinese eatery that also offered several cha-chan-teng - style items. Due to its similar nature to Cattle Cafe, I shall be making direct comparisons between the two. (Yelpers had remarked on a lack of distinguishing features between Grand Noodle and Deer Garden Signatures, another build-your-own-noodle spot which happens to be located directly across, though I have yet to try this nearby competitor and likely will not make plans to do so in the near future.)
Labelled one through four, the noodle order form allowed customers to select their preferred choice of: soup base, noodle variety, two complimentary toppings, and the option of adding "premium" toppings or adding a drink to create a combo. The selection was grand, and thus allowed for endless combinations to be made. (Find the full menu here.) Alternatively, one could opt of ordering noodles entirely and munch in the direction of rice plates, simple sandwiches, or snacks such as garlic fries or rice rolls.
Hong Kong Milk Tea is a tricky drink to produce properly, but seeing that Cattle Cafe had exceeded expectations, I decided to try out Grand Noodle's ice-less version.
Grand Noodle's Hong Kong Milk Tea was sweet and milky, exhibiting faint hints of black tea. While the ice-less version was a tad sweeter than the hot variation, both had evidently been concocted using milk powder (also known as creamer), a synthetic ingredient found excessively in bubble tea shops. Needless to say, I dread both the sound and taste of this substance and preach the usage of real milk - be it soy or low-fat dairy - in beverages.
Cattle Cafe's ice-less milk tea had been served in a glass milk jug floated atop small chunks of crushed ice, enabling it to remain well-chilled at all times (even though the bowl did take up a good chunk of table space). It was also more pleasing flavour-wise, as it boasted a much more aromatic tea base and wasn't nearly as un-authentically creamy as Grand Noodle's version.
Selecting the Signature Pork Bone Soup had definitely been a most informed decision - it complimented the chewy Spinach Noodles and fluffy Fish Tofu nicely; the Beef Brisket was amazingly tender as well.
The second bowl was a little less impressive: the Chicken Soup had undoubtedly been derived from a can - Swanson's Chicken Broth if I'm not mistaken, the beef slices were a tad over-tenderized, and the enoki mushrooms were somewhat sticky.
Nonetheless, the portions were generous and definitely satisfying lunch options - Grand Noodle succeeds Cattle Cafe in this aspect!
My last word of note would be regarding their washrooms: only one stall is available for each gender, which means that wait times can be long during peak hours. At the same time, malfunctioning equipment will not be fixed when high traffic is being experienced - this means that the restaurant could well be out of accessible stalls for some several hours.
A budget-friendly find at the Western end of Markham, Grand Noodle is a place I can definitely envision myself making numerous re-visits to. (Though perhaps I'll steer clear of the slightly saddening milk tea next time...)
Prior to heading back, we stopped over at Wooffles & Cream.
Venturing into new, spicier heights, I decided to challenge my taste buds with a layered box of rice noodles, sweet potatoes, peppers, and lime juice-enhanced shrimp immersed in a mixture of their Sweet Chili Lime and Penang Curry sauces. I was breathing fire within a few bites, though that didn't stop me from devouring the remainder of the box. And of course, the Thai Iced Tea had been once again made to perfection.