Cheap Eats · Deli · Restaurants · Vietnamese

My Tho BBQ – Banh Mi

Until the COVID numbers go down, L and I are only doing takeout. One place that has been on my radar is My Tho BBQ. When we drove up to the Vietnamese deli, I was so excited that I squeezed L’s thigh. For this post, let’s listen to “You Need To Calm Down” by Taylor Swift.

I wanted to try three subs: Sate Beef ($6), Roasted Pork ($6) and Assorted ($6). I specifically asked for pate in my assorted because I read online that you have to request it. However, I was informed by the staff that pate automatically comes with the assorted sub.

My Tho has been a family-operated business since 1989. Even though there was a big order in front of me and customers after me, great care was put into making my subs. I noticed that compared Kim Anh Sub, Saigon Deli, Banh Mi Nhu Y and Thi Thi, My Tho gives the most vegetables.

I was surprised to see the generous amount of roasted pork in my sub. The meat was still warm and the crunchy skin was caramelized. I found the roasted pork rich and heavy, and it reminded me of Chinese BBQ.

FoodKarma tried both the assorted and the roasted pork, and she preferred the latter. One thing to note – the heady flavour of the roasted pork dominates the entire sub. If you like roasted pork and a lot of meat, you’ll enjoy this sub.

The sate beef reminded me a little of roast beef. I’ve never had a beef sate with the meat sliced so thin. The beef wasn’t heavily coated in a sauce, but it was still really tasty. L liked the addition of peanuts, which were dry and sweet. I found the homemade butter mayonnaise spread light and tangy.

L prefers My Tho’s sate beef over Saigon Deli’s version but not as much as Thi Thi sate beef or Kim Anh’s lemongrass beef. I liked the simplicity of My Thou’s sate beef. I would order this again, but the assorted sub is my favourite.

The meats in the assorted sub look artisanal, with some slices so delicate, it reminds me of prosciutto. Out of all the places I’ve tried so far, My Thou’s cold cut meats are the most unique. Saigon Deli’s cold cuts are the thickest, and the most hearty.

I’m a big fan of My Thou’s pate. For me, this was a Goldilocks moment. The pate wasn’t metallic or too subtle, it was just right. I like the creamy texture and peppery notes.

The carrots tasted like they were lightly pickled, and the onions looked like they were marinated. The bread was more flaky than Saigon Deli, and more akin to Kim Anh’s drier sub. My Thou’s cucumbers were cut into quarters, unlike Thi Thi’s dainty ribbons.

Another thing that sets this deli apart from the others is My Tho sells Vietnamese charcuterie platters. I plan to pick up a platter for make your own banh mi. My Tho is open seven days a week, from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Check them out! The assorted sub ranks up there with all the other banh mi heavy hitters in Calgary.

Taken without permission from My Tho BBQ.
Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House

Monday sucked balls. I told my man I was taking him out for dinner. Since we were both in a bad mood, I didn’t want to risk trying a new place. And for L, there is only one restaurant beyond reproach – and that is Sukiyaki House. For this post, let’s listen to “Buddy Holly” by Weezer.

We ordered a glass of Sohomare Tokubetsu Junmai Kimoto ($14, 3 ounce), which turned out to be L’s new all-time favourite sake. I found the Kimoto smooth, with a sweetness that blooms on the tongue. The flavour was pure and clean, without the booziness I find in some sakes.

L could smell mushroom and then after we finished our sake, honey. He wanted to buy a bottle for the house, but I don’t want something that delicious in our home. Summer is coming, and I can do without the temptation.

Our first appetizer to arrive was the Tako Carpaccio ($16). Double damn, this is a fabulous dish. The octopus was crisp and crunchy. The citrus dressing, mayonnaise, and crunchy seasoning went well with the greens and octopus.

Chef Yuki Koyama sent out a special dish for us to try – Hachibiki Carpaccio. The flesh was a reddish hue, with a firm, fatty texture. I had no idea that a slice of raw fish could have so much flavour. This fish is downright decadent. L loved the yuzu miso sauce, which he said reminded him a little of gomae, a Japanese spinach salad.

The Grilled Ika ($14) was cooked perfectly – each piece of squid was tender. I thought the ginger sauce made this dish the ultimate comfort food. L said the dish smelled a little like yakitori.

I wanted to try the Volcano Roll ($11) and L ordered a Tekka Roll ($5). The moment the plate hit our table; the smell of roasted nori wafted up. I enjoyed the warmth of the crisp sheet of nori against the cool, creamy tuna filling. The white sauce paired well with the squid in the Volcano roll, the combination reminded me of tzatziki and calamari.

Our selection of nigiri was excellent. I also noticed how much larger the seafood was in the nigiri compared to other Japanese restaurants in Calgary, such as Nami and Takumi.

The Aka Maguro ($4.20) was so good, it induced an exclamation of pure joy from L. The toro was soft and buttery, the flavour was rich and smooth.

I’ve always enjoyed the Amaebi ($4) at Sukiyaki House, but on this occasion, it was extra fabulous. The head was almost the size of a chicken drumstick. The deep-fried shrimp head was covered in a fluffy batter, and the meat inside the shell was hot. The flavour reminded me a bit of fried crab innards, another delicacy L won’t try. I swear, I could eat a plate of these. Had I known the fried shrimp heads would come out like this, I would have ordered two more.

Look at the inside – it was filled with shrimpy goodness! I’m glad I was sitting because surely, I would have swooned.

L does eat amaebi, which he enjoyed. The shrimp was served cool, the flesh was crunchy and sweet.

We loved the Hotategai ($4.20). The scallop was extra thick and wide. So effing good. The rice in all the nigiri was on point. I thought each piece of sushi had the perfect amount of wasabi – just enough to give each piece a touch of heat.

L was still hungry, so for dessert, we ordered Chicken Karaage ($12). These were gorgeous, crispy nuggets of meat. You can never go wrong ordering the karaage at Sukiyaki House. Personally, I would have liked more salt on the chicken, but I’m a salt fiend. The portion was generous. After eating this, how can I go back to paying $15 for a plate of hot wings at a pub?

The restaurant is at half capacity due to COVID safety regulations, but every socially distanced table was taken. I could hear the phone ringing off the hook, and see all the deliveries going out the door. Despite this, our food and service was excellent. There was one server we noticed in particular, because she exhibited polite mannerisms that reminded us of the culture in Japan, such as bowing and folding the receipt in half.

Thanks Sukiyaki House, your team succeeded in turning our bad day around. Hitting the Sauce is grateful this gem exists in Calgary. We don’t have to drive far to get a taste of Japan.

Chain Restaurants · Cheap Eats · Pizza · Restaurants

Red Swan Pizza

L was too busy this weekend to indulge my banh mi fantasies. Instead, we picked up a pizza from Red Swan in Bowness. For this post, let’s listen to “Crimson and Clover” by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts.

Veggie Girl and Uncle B raved about the pizza at Red Swan, specifically the Three Cheese Pizza (Large $19.95, thin crust option). L wanted a meat pizza but I insisted we try the pizza Veggie Girl recommended. He eventually agreed, which surprised me. Whenever I try to get him to eat something meatless, he looks at me like I’m trying to poison him.

Pro tip – if you don’t eat the pizza immediately, reheat it in the oven. Some pizzas tasted as good or even better when cold. This is not one of them.

One of the best things about this pizza is the crust. I love the light and crunchy texture of the bread. The toasted sesame seeds on the crust added a buttery nuttiness.

The tomato sauce was tangy, and it tasted like there was coriander or some other fragrant spice or herb. The toppings aren’t heavy-handed like a Spiros or Hanni’s pizza. The amount of tomato sauce, feta, cheddar and mozzarella to crust was about 1:1. Personally, I enjoyed the simplicity of the three cheese pizza. This was a nice change from the Greek style pizza I normally eat.

We each ate three slices and we were full. The next day, L microwaved the last two slices of pizza and mentioned it reheated well. If I lived in the neighbourhood, I would definitely order again.

Pro tip – Red Swan offers free local delivery (some conditions apply), pick up specials and combo deals. They even make vegan, cauliflower and gluten friendly pizzas. Give them a try – for the price, you can’t go wrong.

17th Ave · French · Seafood

Pigeonhole

I met up with my friend K-Pop. She lives alone, and since I’m one of her non-household contacts, she asked me to check out Pigeonhole with her. K-Pop was eager to try Pigeonhole because their menu offers her two most favourite dishes – beef tartare and foie gras. For this post, let’s listen to “In The Air” by Allah Las.

After consulting with our server, I ordered a gaymay/pinot blend (Pierre Goigoux, Chanturgue, France $66). He suggested this particular bottle because I wanted something dry, light and soft. K-Pop enjoyed this red as much as I did. She liked how the wine didn’t overpower any of the dishes we ordered.

Since I picked the wine, K-Pop ordered all the food. She chose the Atlantic Scallop Crudo ($15), Wagyu Beef Tartare ($16), Foie Gras Mousse ($17), Smoked Ham Croquettes ($10) and Honey Glazed Brioche ($8). I noticed each plate was gorgeously plated.

The scallop crudo was so fantastic, I would order this again. The scallops were silky smooth, the flavour was so clean and pure. I loved the combination of crunchy almonds, spicy chili-citrus oil, fresh basil and slivered celery. Each bite was bright and lovely, and with a lingering heat. This dish made me think of Chef Koji Kobayan because he’s known for his stunning carpaccio and tataki creations at Sukiyaki House. I’m sure Chef Koji would appreciate Pigeonhole’s version as well.

Photo credit: K-Pop

K-Pop is a beef tartare fanatic. She liked that it wasn’t salty, which allowed her to appreciate the flavours of the fried shallots and buttery smooth wagyu beef. She liked the use of traditional ingredients, such as the gherkins. I enjoyed the sharpness from the green peppercorns.

Photo credit: K-Pop

K-Pop is also a fan of foie gras. What she loved about Pigeonhole’s version was that she couldn’t taste the liver. The mousse was cool, light and creamy. The tiny bits of pink lady apples added a touch of sweetness. There was so much foie gras, K-Pop ordered extra lembas bread, a honey glazed brioche with whipped honey butter.

The croquettes were a winner. The creamy, cheese sauce was so addicting, I scraped every bit off the plate. The croquette reminded me a super crunchy tater tot, but a million times better. I loved the freshness the basil added to this dish. I would order this again too.

I was also impressed with the attentive service we received. Throughout our evening, we had different servers checking in with our wine, waters and food. It seemed like the staff were working together to provide the best experience for their guests.

Sometimes I get so stuck in my routine that I forget what it is like to eat something that is beyond my cooking skills. I’m glad K-Pop picked Pigeonhole for our dinner date. The dishes here are a gastronomical delight. If you haven’t been yet, this is a spot you need to check out. Hitting the Sauce gives Pigeonhole two fat thumbs up.

17th Ave · Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Sandwiches · Vietnamese

Kim Anh Vietnamese Submarines

L and I were out running errands when he suggested we pick up something for dinner. I suggested either banh mi or a shawarma. Since we were already on 17th Ave, we stopped by Kim Anh Vietnamese Submarines. For this post, let’s play “Cool” by Gwen Stefani.

I’ve eaten here at least six times and each time I find the service fast and friendly. Kim Anh sells a variety of Vietnamese dishes, such as vermicelli, spring rolls and salad rolls. I would recommend sticking to what their are known for – banh mi.

I’ve tried the Lemongrass Chili Chicken, Lemongrass Chili Beef, Cold Cut, Korean BBQ Pork, and Satay Chicken. My favourite is the Lemongrass Chili Beef ($8.75, + .50 cheese). However, I ordered the Assorted Cold Cuts ($7.45, +.50 cheese) for myself in order to do a proper comparison to Saigon Deli and Banh Mi Nhu Y. Pate and cheese are an extra charge.

When we arrived home, I cut up our subs in half and took my obligatory pictures. As I finished squeezing L’s sub together for a shot, I looked up and caught his expression. He looked patient, but it was so practiced, like he was resigned to never eating a sandwich without a production. I felt bad for him and then I comforted myself knowing that this time, I paid for dinner.

The lemongrass chili beef was spicy and saucy. The tang of the lemony herb was dominant in the beef. L liked the texture that the crunchy peanuts added to the sub. I noticed Kim Anh doesn’t overload the sub with cilantro. If I had ordered the beef sub for myself, I would request pate because it just adds another dimension of flavour.

The cold cut combo was packed with meats and carrots. The pickled carrots were sweet and wet. The flavour of the pate was much subtle than Saigon Deli and Banh Mi Nhu Y. My friend Asian Persuasion doesn’t like it when the pate is too strong because she complains it taste metallic. If you are like Asian Persuasion, you’ll like Kim Anh’s milder pate. Compared to Kim Anh, Saigon Deli’s cold cut sub is heavier on the meats.

The jalapeños were so hot, they burned a little on my tongue. The cheese is the type that sticks to the roof of your mouth. The taste of the white cheese reminded me a little of Laughing Cow cheese. I like the cheese in the lemongrass beef chili sub but not as much in the cold cut. In the beef sub, the cheese blends in but with the cold cut, the cheese sticks out.

The subs at Kim Anh cost more than their competitors in Forest Lawn, but that’s justifiable because of the higher rent on 17th Ave. I noticed that the bread at Kim Anh is shorter in length and more crumbly than Saigon Deli and Banh Mi Nhu Y. I like how Kim Anh pickles their carrots and the extra pizzazz in their lemongrass subs. These subs are smaller but there is no shortage in flavour or ingredients.

For an inner-city banh mi, Kim Anh does it right. I’ve noticed when I used a third-party food delivery, the price is within 29 cents to the in-store menu, and the portions are the same for pick up. It’s also the only Vietnamese sandwich shop I know of that is open until 12 a.m., and even later on a Saturday. Hitting the Sauce gives Kim Anh two fat thumbs up.

Cheap Eats · Deli · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Banh Mi Nhu Y – Assorted Sub

I’ve been on a banh mi rampage. Lately, all I think about and all I crave are Vietnamese sandwiches. For this post, let’s listen to “Love Story” by Taylor Swift.

On Sunday, I wanted to try Banh Mi Nhu Y in Forest Lawn. There were two people ahead of me, but each person was ordering bags of subs. When it was my turn, I ordered a Satay Beef Sub – Banh Mi Bo Sate ($7) and an Assorted Cold Cut Sub – Banh Mi Thjt Nguoi ($6).

When an employee cut into the bread, the outer crust flaked apart, showcasing a soft, airy crumb. I asked for our subs to be toasted, but I’m sure it would be just as good untoasted.

A lot of love is put into each sandwich. For L’s satay beef sub, the sauce was gently ladled on top of the beef. Pepper and peanuts were carefully sprinkled on, and then drizzled with another sauce.

My sub was generously smeared with a yellow butter and a dark pate. Three meats were added – simmered pork, head cheese, and ham. My cold cut sub was delicious. The bread was light and crackled when I bit into it. The meats had a nice chew to it. The pate was thick and smooth. The vegetables were fresh and unpickled. I didn’t find the jalapeño spicy. The heat level was mild and the pepper was juicy and crunchy like a green pepper.

I tried a bite of L’s sate beef sub. I liked how the satay sauce mingled in with the yellow butter. The addition of peanuts added a little woodiness to the sub. I enjoyed the black pepper because it added a surprisingly sharp note. I liked L’s sub so much that if I came back, I just might order the sate beef instead of my cold cut combo.

I asked L to compare Banh Mi Nhu Y with Saigon Deli. He said both tasted the same to him.  I vehemently disagree. I thought the bread at Banh Mi Nhu was lighter and Saigon Deli’s was chewier. The pate at Banh Mi Nhu was creamier and not as metallic. The meats at Saigon Deli have a rougher texture. Banh Mi Nhu is more generous with the butter/mayonnaise and pate than Saigon Deli. What I love about both stores is that you can tell the pate and mayonnaise is homemade, which gives it a totally deeper flavour profile than more processed spreads.

I’m going to continue on my banh mi rampage until L gets tired of humoring my weekend sub adventures. Next up, I’m going to post about the lemongrass beef sate and cold cut combo with pate from Kim Anh Submarine. To be continued.

Cheap Eats · Fast Food · Restaurants

Shawarma Knight – Beef Donair

I celebrate everything. I think that’s why when L proposed, he did it on Christmas Day. He knew I couldn’t rope him into a dinner. March 10th is our first date anniversary. I planned on subs from Thi Thi, but by the time we were finished work, my favourite Vietnamese sandwich shop was closed. Instead, and for nostalgic reasons, we opted for Shawarma Knight. For this post, let’s listen to “Feel It Still” by Portugal the Man.

Before L met me, he would frequent Shawarma Knight after hitting the pubs. When we lived in the hood, we would drop by after a night out on 17th Ave. Before the pandemic, Shawarma Knight was open until the wee hours. Now, you have to get there before 10:00 p.m.

I saw Skip the Dishes picking up orders, and the portions were very generous. L ordered the large Chicken Shawarma Wrap ($10.99) and I opted for the large Beef Donair Wrap ($10.99). Both wraps were enormous and filled with meat.

Service was genuinely friendly and methodical. One pita is placed on the counter underneath a larger, thinner piece of flatbread. The vegetables are carefully layered, then the meats and finally, the sauces. I like that the meat is carved off the spit and grilled for every order.

The beef was tasty and tender. In comparison, the chicken was more delicate in flavour and subtly seasoned. L liked how his wrap contained big chunks of chicken. I prefer the beef over the chicken because it’s more of a flavour bomb. The vegetables tasted extra good to me. I could taste the freshness of the parsley and the sweetness of the turnips. The red onions added a nice crunch to the wrap. Even the tomatoes were juicy.

Shawarma Knight is heavy-handed with the sauces. The garlic sauce is my favourite, because it is whipped and creamy. The sweet sauce is very sweet, so next time, I’ll ask for less sweet sauce or none at all. The winning touch is the bread. The outer layer is crisp from the grill yet chewy from the sauces. The double wrapped donair also makes it less messy to eat because it holds in the sauces and juices.

L thought the shawarmas were just as good as he remembered. I concur – I would eat here again. Hitting the Sauce gives the customer service and donair two thumbs up.

Cheap Eats · Deli · Vegetarian

Saigon Deli – Assorted Meat Sub

Jacuzzi asked me why all my reviews are positive in Calgary and more negative in Vancouver. I prefer focusing on what I like about a restaurant over what I didn’t enjoy. As for the difference in tone between the two cities, let me just say your company does influence the overall experience.

There’s one spot in Calgary that I wasn’t initially keen on, but after my second visit, I’m happy I gave it a second chance. For this post, let’s listen to “All The Time” by the Bahamas.

Saigon Deli is one of the most popular banh mi shops in Calgary. The foodies that really know their Vietnamese cuisine swear by it. Three years ago, I tried the chicken and beef sate sub at Saigon Deli. I wasn’t impressed. However, after seeing Foodkarma, MissFoodie, and JustaYYCFoodie post their pictures on Instagram, I realized I ordered the wrong thing. The banh mi to order at Saigon Deli is the Assorted Meat Sub ($6).

When I arrived on a Sunday afternoon, three staffers were furiously filling orders. Service is efficient and considerate. I don’t know how the staff can keep track of all the orders, as each request is verbally called out. One customer wanted only half a sub with pate. I wanted three assorted, two toasted with one without cilantro and the other with no cucumber, and the last one untoasted with no cilantro. Though there was clearly an overwhelming number of orders, the staff made sure my order was right. For example, when I mentioned I wanted one sub not toasted, I was asked if I wanted the vegetables on the side.

The pate has a rougher texture and a stronger, richer flavour than Thi Thi, Trung Nguyen and Kim Anh. The meats were thickly cut and flavourful. The toasted bread was crunchy, but not so hard it cuts into the roof of your mouth. With the smear of yellow butter and the smell of the pungent white onions, I found this sandwich rustic and satisfying.

In my books, Saigon Deli assorted sub ties with Thi Thi, even though the sandwiches are different from each other. Thi Thi uses pickled vegetables, and their pate is whipped and melts in your mouth. The cold cuts in Thi Thi’s sub are also thinner and more subtle in flavour. I also find Thi Thi is heavier on the mayonnaise and with the addition of melted white cheese, makes for a decadent treat. Saigon Deli’s cold cut is more meat focused – the amount provided in each sub is more generous than all its competitors.

Here’s a pro tip for both places. Ask for your sub untoasted and for the vegetables on the side. That way when you get home, the sub won’t get soggy and you get extra vegetables. Just look at the picture above of the first sub I ate immediately after ordering at Saigon Deli and the version below of the sub I reheated the next day at home.

This Wednesday is L’s and my first date anniversary. I’m planning on ordering banh mi from Thi Thi to celebrate. While I’m a big fan of Saigon Deli, Thi Thi is closer to us and L loves the sate beef sub. Hopefully Thi Thi won’t sell out by the time we finish work.

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Burgers · Cheap Eats · Happy Hour · Restaurants

Eat Crow Snack Bar

My brother Jacuzzi and I text each other when we are in a bad mood. He never takes my advice and he often ridicules my answers, but we usually end the conversation on good terms. My solution to him is to go out. I can’t think of a better place than Eat Crow Snack Bar to bring some cheer into your life.

Eat Crow has changed since my last visit. There’s now a handful of local beers, alongside their beers on tap – Lucky Lager and Lone Star. The music is at the optimal volume. The sound is loud enough to enjoy the beats but low enough to carry on a conversation. For this post, let’s listen to a song that was playing last night – “Get Money” by Junior M.A.F.I.A.

Unlike this song, you don’t need to get a lot of money to dine at Eat Crow, particularly so for happy hour. From opening until 5:30 p.m., wines are five dollars and snacks will set you back four bucks. Beers and cocktails are also on special. The regular menu is wallet-friendly, most dishes are six dollars and the most expensive item is twelve dollars.

I asked my server for a recommendation for the driest red wine. He suggested the grenache ($5), a choice I didn’t see on the online menu. I really liked this wine – it was a good, solid red that I would drink at home.

L enjoyed his Microburst Hazy IPA from Banded Peak (473ml, $9). I took a sip and found the IPA light, sweet and juicy.

The Chick Pea Fingers ($4) were delicious. The interior was soft and fluffy. The pesto sauce was bright with some nice spices and what I thought was garlic. I would order this again.

We each ordered a fun-size Crow Burger ($4). What the burger lacks in size it makes up for in flavour. The patty is seared on the outside so that it had this beautiful crunch to it. The beef is cooked to a medium, and the texture is so soft it caresses your tongue. The combination of the pickled zucchini and melted American cheese creates the ultimate flavour bomb. The flavour was so intense that as I ate, I wanted to suck back the juices.

We both tried the Crow Dog ($4). How good can a hot dog be? The Crow hot dog is mind-blowingly good. The weiner is juicy and salty, topped with a creamy sauce, caramelized onions and cheese. This is the ultimate umami pleaser. My favourite part of this dish was the light, crusty bread. The crackling sound the bread made when I bit into it was as satisfying as how it tasted. Heaven.


L wanted to try the Popcorn Shrimp ($12). I’m all for a cream sauce but I love Eat Crow’s pick – a chili lime dipping sauce. The sauce was bright and lively, with flavours that reminded me of Thai food, like coconut oil, cilantro and lime. The lighter sauce also highlighted the quality of the shrimp – there was a good crunch to it and it tasted a little like the the crab claws I would get at a Chinese banquet. There was a nice heat to this dish, the type of hot that sears your taste buds. We would order this again.

Around this time, I wanted to try another wine. I picked the Four Star Pinot Noir ($11). I found this wine sweet with a hint of vanilla. Our server asked me if I liked it. I said the previous wine was more to my taste and this one reminded me of vanilla. She looked so disappointed in my response that I wished I liked vanilla notes in wine.

My last dish was the Chili Dry-Rubbed Chicken Wings ($7.50). This was as good as I remembered in my last visit. The batter melts in your mouth. The chicken arrived so hot, I burned my fingers. Every time I touched the wings, I would be punished for my impatience.

This experience brightened our mood. The music was fun, service was excellent and the food was some of the best I’ve eaten in a long time. Make sure you make a reservation, because the secret is out and you won’t want to get turned away. I’m not the only one who thinks this is an awesome bar. I could hear two other tables exclaiming how fantastic the food is. Eat Crow makes it on Hitting the Sauce’s list of best restaurants in Calgary.

Pizza · Restaurants

Yum Yum BBQ & Pizza 3000 – Lovegastrogirl does it again!

Lovegastrogirl did it again! She out sauced the Sauce. I haven’t met my match. I met my mentor. In honour of Lovesgastrogirl, let’s play “Oops! I Did It Again” by Britney Spears.

Lovegastrogirl texted me and said she had lunch for me and L. After a brief, masked exchange at my doorstep, Lovegastrogirl told me to go inside and eat while I repetitively exclaimed, “Omigod. Oh wow! This is too much!”

I felt giddy as I opened up my presents. Everything was wrapped and sparkled with gold glitter. There was champagne, pizza, fried chicken, bath bombs, and soaps! I reluctantly put the champagne in the fridge, because as tempted as I was, I can’t drink and work. When I drink alcohol, I have the attention span of a fruit fly. I think that’s funny because when I’m sober, I have the memory of an elephant.

Lovegastrogirl brought us shallot and chili fried chicken from her favourite spot – Yum Yum BBQ. Each glorious box contained around five large pieces of chicken.

The sauce on the chili chicken was sticky and sweet. The thick, crunchy batter was well coated and crackled when you bit into it. This was my favourite of the two flavours.

L preferred the shallot over the chili flavour because the former showcased the freshness of the chicken. The glaze on the shallot chicken was subtly sweet. Neither versions were greasy or overly salty, and both tasted almost as good the next day.

I noticed the wings and drumsticks were larger and meatier than what you get at similar joints, like Wow Chicken and Olive Chicken. The meat was juicy and tender, white and unblemished. The quality of the meat reminded me of Cluck and Cleaver, but the texture was not as dense. To date, this one of the best fried Korean style chickens I’ve tried. The side of pickled daikon was nice because it helped cut into the ‘friedness’ of the food. 

L asked why Lovegastrogirl brought us pizza when she already gave us so much chicken. I responded that she’s just like that. She’s like my mother that way – she goes all out. For Pomp’s sake, I hope he has deep pockets.

Lovegastrogirl brought us a donair pizza from Pizza 3000. Iatehere, who is a bit of rebel, anti-influencer, raved about this pizza. He likes that you can get two donair pizzas for $25, and according to him, it is a far tastier option than other more expensive pizza shops. The exception is Annah Island pizza from Spiros. I know way too much about Iatehere’s pizza preferences.

The toppings were proportional to the dough, which was neither thick nor thin. The dominant ingredient was the sweet, creamy donair sauce. The flavour of the tomato and donair slices were secondary to the crust and white sauce. I enjoyed the crunch of the white onions.

L said the donair pizza was a step up from the pizzas we ate when we were students. I beg your pardon L. We still eat Delissio Deluxe Pizzeria, and only when it’s on sale. If you want a basic pie, you can’t go wrong with Pizza 3000.

Thank you Lovegastrogirl for brightening up my week. I can’t wait to drink the champs this weekend. I’m also looking forward to bringing you and Pomp dinner. I’m leaning to order something I haven’t tried before as well as some tried and true favourites. To be continued.

Chinese · Restaurants

Toi Shan – Chinese takeout

L’s parents wanted to treat us out for dinner. G-Mah had a hankering for Chinese food. I picked Toi Shan because of Iatehere‘s Instagram posts. He’s eaten at Toi Shan since the 80s, and he informed me that the food hasn’t changed. For this post, let’s listen to “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” by Baccara.

Toi Shan offers free local delivery AND free food for orders over $35. Bobbino ordered a feast, so we met the requirement and received complimentary Grilled Pork Dumplings ($12.50).

Bobbino requested Salt and Pepper Fried Squid ($16.95) and Cantonese Chow Mein ($13.95). L wanted Ginger Fried Shredded Beef ($15.25). G-Mah asked for the Buddha Delight ($13.95) and the House Special Fried Rice ($10.25). Our food was delivered within 25 minutes, and everything arrived hot and fresh.

Photo credit: Iatehere

Toi Shan serves westernized Chinese food. Their style of cooking reminds me of my childhood restaurant in Vancouver – Ridge Garden. On the weekends, my parents would order the same dishes: almond chicken, ginger garlic ribs, assorted crispy chow mein, fried rice, a cashew vegetable dish and sweet and sour pork.

G-Mah raved about the ginger beef. She said the beef was soft and not gristly like some restaurants. I liked that the batter was still crisp despite swimming in a light, sweet sauce.

L and Bobbino loved the squid. Each piece was tender and crispy. Bobbino reminded me of my mother when I saw him nibbling on the spicy garnish of green onions, carrots, and onions. Boss Lady says all the flavour is in the little crispy remnants.

I liked the spicy notes in the mixed vegetable dish, but I noticed the smell of the bamboo shoots was overpowering. It was almost like the shoots were taken straight from the can, sauce and all. At home, I always rinse the shoots and then soak it for at least 20 minutes. The chef was generous with the more expensive ingredients, like the cashews and broccoli. I would order this dish again, but I would ask for no bamboo shoots.

Surprisingly, my favourite dish was the fried rice. I wasn’t expecting to like it because I find that most Chinese restaurants in Calgary make a mediocre fried rice. Toi Shan’s version is full of flavour, and filled with tasty bits of eggs, peas, chicken, pork and shrimp.

The dumplings looked homemade and the pork filling tasted clean and wholesome. The wrapper was smooth and glossy. I enjoyed the smoky, salty flavour of the toasted chili oil. I was also impressed that Toi Shan gives out white vinegar for the dumplings because you don’t see that at westernized Chinese restaurants.

The Cantonese chow mein was awesome. L’s liked how the noodles were extra crunchy. It looked like the entire block of chow mein was deep fried, then covered in a Chinese style “gravy”. I thought it worked – the noodles retained its crunch throughout and the gravy was so saucy.

The portions are big. We had two containers full of food for the next day. I’d say six dishes would easily feed six people.

I like to open fortune cookies but I never eat them. I think I accidentally opened up Bobbino’s because I’ve never been successful in talking my way out of trouble. My second fortune cookie was more accurate, but I wonder if the saying applied to me or L. Overthinking is so unproductive.

G-Mah gave her enthusiastic approval – she enjoyed every dish and she liked how the takeout dishes were environmentally friendly. I’m happy I found a local Chinese restaurant that will accommodate my friends and family who prefer westernized Chinese food over the authentic stuff I like, such as beef tendon, chili oil fish and shrimp stuffed vegetables. Hitting the Sauce gives Toi Shan two fat thumbs up.

Bakery · Dessert · French · Restaurants

Le Picquenic and Peasant Cheese – Valentine’s Day

I told L I was taking care of our Valentine’s Day plans. He looked suspiciously skeptical and I knew he thought I was tricking him again. I swear, give your spouse a test the occasional time and he’ll never forget his lesson. I actually didn’t have any sinister plans. Quite the opposite. I felt that after 10 years of taking me out for Valentine’s Day, I could do something he liked. For this post, let’s listen to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Franki Valli.

I ordered L a Valentine’s Tea Box ($34 per set) because I thought it would appeal to his British sensibilities. I was impressed with Le Picquenic special touches, like the card, ribbon, and flowers on the box.

The Kyoto cherry rose tea was lovely. The tea smelled sweet and fragrant. You could taste and smell the roses and what I thought was almond.

The cucumbers in my heart shaped sandwich were thinly sliced. I thought I could taste a hint of dill and perhaps cream cheese.

The egg salad was a classic high noon tea sandwich. The filling was creamy and eggy, pressed between two slices of soft white bread.

L enjoyed the turkey and cucumber croissant. He thought it was a delicate bite. I found the croissant sweet.

The prosciutto and brie canapé was tasty. There was a lot of prosciutto in one bite and I enjoyed the saltiness from the meat.

The blueberry scone was baked just the way I like it – a little dry and crumbly. I like that texture because the butter tastes creamier against a crustier surface. The jam added a smidge of sweetness to the savoury scone.

The cream puff was my favourite of the bunch. The whipped cream inside the pastry was puffy and cloud-like.

For dinner, I ordered a Valentine’s Cheese Platter ($50) from Peasant Cheese. For this occasion, Peasant Cheese added macarons and cannelé from the French bakery Yann Boutique. What a spread! The presentation, quality of cheeses and assortment of condiments and crackers is bar none. In the dozen or so times I’ve ordered from Peasant Cheese, I’ve always been impressed.

I’ve ordered the mixed cheese plates before and I usually get olives, pickles and other sour and tart accompaniments. This time around, we were treated to dried fruit like apricots, figs, and other candied treats. I loved the radish slices and pea shoots. I wrapped each radish slice with brie and ate it like a wrap.

There was so much food on this platter, we only managed to eat a third of it. We left the remaining amount to be snacked on in the following days. I know that recently, people are building their own cheese plates. Personally, I cannot make one as pretty as Peasant Cheese. Food also tastes better when you don’t make it. Hitting the Sauce gives Peasant Cheese two fat thumbs up.

Chinese · Fusion

Respect the Technique – Lunar New Year

I wanted to order something special for Lunar New Year. On Instagram, I was immediately taken by Respect the Technique’s (RTT) “Ox Hound” special ($100 per couple). In celebration of Justin Timberlake’s apology to Ms. Britney Spears, let’s listen to her song, “Toxic”.

As it was a 15-minute car ride to get our takeout, I reheated the soup, noodles and pork belly. I didn’t microwave the fish because it was still warm and I wanted to preserve the integrity of the batter.

I was too impatient to eat, so I ignored L’s request to choose a playlist to listen to during dinner. I also didn’t know what music would jive with Chinese New Year. Back when I lived at home with my family, sweet silence was music to our ears.

In the soup, there was an earthiness from the assorted mushrooms and a saltiness from the lobster. The texture reminded me a little of hot and sour soup, cloudy and chock full of ingredients.

The Taiwanese pork belly was delicious. RTT buys their pork from Bear and The Flower Farm. I enjoyed the tasty flavour of the soft skin and the tender pork belly. The chicharron taste a bit like bacon, but with a dry, airy consistency. The bok choy was sweet and crunchy.

The lobster lo mein is a bougie Chinese version of spaghetti carbonara. Our individual servings contained big, firm chunks of sweet lobster. It took no effort to jiggle the meat out of the shells.

The house made noodles were chewy and coated in a spicy, creamy sauce. The combination of XO sauce, fresh green onions and tobiko worked well with the noodles. L loved the texture and flavour from the guanciale, a cured pork jowl from VDG Salumi. I would order this again.

The lobster dish was fantastic but it was the karrage fried fish that stole the show. The fish was fluffy and flaky. I took a spoon to the fillet and it parted easily from the bones. The crispy skin was delicate and lightly salted. The fish looked flat and thin but there was a lot of flesh on it. I’m curious as to what type of fish this was because I didn’t find it muddy tasting.

This was a proper feast to bring in the Lunar Year. The food was on point. L was impressed that the meal consisted of both Japanese and Chinese influenced dishes. I appreciated the quality of ingredients and big portions. This meal could have easily feed a party of four. I’d recommend keeping an eye on RTT’s weekly features for something special. Hitting the Sauce gives RTT two fat thumbs up.

17th Ave · Bars/Lounges · Beer · Happy Hour · Pubs

Newcastle Pub – Wing Night

L wants to be cautious on where we choose to dine out because of the new COVID-19 variant. We drove by Newcastle Pub and saw that it was quiet, perhaps because of the weather and time of day. In honour of the new documentary on Britney Spears, let’s listen to “I Wanna Go”.

Newcastle installed glass barriers between socially distanced tables. The room looked and smelled clean – even the walls and ceilings appeared freshly washed. When we sat down, we saw our favourite server Katarina going to each table to ask for a name and phone number. One of the new restrictions is that restaurants are expected to collect contact information from one person of the dining party.

L ordered an IPA ($7, 20 ounce) and I settled on a Wild Rose Velvet Fog ($7, 20 ounce). I still remember when I first came to Calgary, how much I liked Wild Rose beer. At that time, BC only had Granville Island beer, which tastes like what I imagine piss to be like. I can actually feel my mother cringing at that description. I’m not so worried because another restriction is that out-of-town visitors cannot stay in other people’s homes while these restrictions are in place, regardless of where they are coming from.

One thing we always order is the Truffle Fries ($9.75). The portion is huge and despite the fact the fries are piled high, there’s an even distribution of grated parmesan, truffle oil and fresh parsley. L likes that the amount of truffle isn’t overwhelming. I love the side of garlic aioli, even though this dish is decadent enough on its own.

I felt like wings and L said he would share it with me, just as long it wasn’t salt and pepper. I asked him why and he responded that it is the most boring flavour you can get. I questioned why he’s just telling me this now, as I’ve always ordered salt and pepper wings. L said how can you not know? It’s just salt and pepper, and now that he thinks about it, that’s not even a flavour. I think this pandemic is getting to us. I’ve never seen L so passionate about chicken. I was speechless.

I have to admit, hot wings ($3.50, $1.50 for a side of ranch) taste much better than the salt and pepper. The hot sauce had a nice heat to it and a pleasant vinegary tang. On wing night and regular nights, there’s always sufficient meat on the bones. However, on this day, the wings were extra meaty.


Newcastle Pub is one of the best run pubs in the city. I think part of the reason is the manager Jay is always helping out and he previously worked as an executive chef. In the nine years we’ve been customers, we’ve never experienced a bad meal or poor service. Keep up the great work enforcing the mandatory restrictions.

Mexican · Restaurants

Con Mi Tacos

On Sunday, I noticed L wasn’t his usual self. I had a feeling it was related to Calgary’s cold snap and the fact we haven’t gone on our yearly jaunt to Mexico. I suggested we brighten his day by ordering tacos and drinking Pacifico. For this post, let’s listen to “El Herradero” by Lola Beltran.

My go-to restaurants for Mexican are Con Mi Taco and Moose and Poncho. Con Mi specializes in freshly made tacos and seafood. Moose and Poncho serves up authentic dishes that are richly flavoured and hearty. Both spots are equally awesome. We ordered from Con Mi because they serve L’s favourite taco – al pastor.

I was impressed with the Prawn and Scallop Ceviche ($16). The ceviche came with three pieces of homemade sesame tostada. The crunchiness of the chip reminded me of a Lesley Stowe Raincoast Crisp, only nuttier and thinner. The shrimp was crunchy and plump. The scallops were succulent, silky morsels. The amount of lime was perfect, there was just enough acidity that it didn’t overwhelm the natural sweetness of the seafood.

The peanuts added a nice clean crunch and it reminded me of corn nibs. I thought the strong melon flavour of the cucumbers complemented the peanuts and seafood. L doesn’t like cucumbers and even he liked this combination.

We shared the Al Pastor Kit ($33), which comes with 2/3 pound of pineapple chili marinated pork, ten freshly ground hand-pressed corn tortillas, lime wedges, onions, pineapple, cilantro, salsa morita and vegan jalapeño aioli.

L’s face lit up when he bit into his taco. The texture of the pork was velvety with a smoky flavour. I loved the fragrance of the corn tortillas. L noticed I was eating everything even though there was cilantro in it. I actually like cilantro in Mexican food, it’s just in Asian food I find the herb obnoxiously strong. Con Mi finely minces the cilantro, so the flavour is more delicate.

I also liked that the onion and pineapple salsas were finely diced because it provided tiny pops of flavour and texture. There was so much sweet pineapple that each one of our tacos got a heaping amount. L noted that Con Mi is as generous with the seafood as with the sauces and garnishes. There’s no skimping in quality or quantity here.

My new favourite dessert is the Passion Fruit Cream Churro ($6). The churro itself was sweet and crunchy, and tasted a little like apple pie. The passion fruit cream was fragrant and perfumed with citrus. I would order this again.

When we feel comfortable dining in again, we want to try the deep fried shrimp, fish and soft shell crab tacos. In the meantime, we’ll probably stick to the options that are easier to reheat at home, like the birria, beef cheek and asada.

If you haven’t gone, I would recommend checking out both Con Mi and Moose and Poncho. Some Vitamin B (beer) and Vitamin T (taco) will surely cure you of the winter time blues.

Curry · Japanese · Restaurants · Tonkatsu

Katsuten – Tonkatsu

By Friday, I was getting extra squirrelly. I texted my brother Jacuzzi to ask him how he was dealing with B.C.’s pandemic restrictions. He said he loved staying in and he was happy playing video games with his wife.

L was already a step ahead of Jacuzzi. This ain’t his first rodeo. L suggested we order dinner from Katsuten, as it was conveniently located by our neighbourhood liquor store. For this post, let’s listen to “Ex’s and Oh’s” By Elle King.

Back in the day, Katsuten and Redheads Cafe were the only restaurants in Calgary that specialized in tonkatsu. Months after Katsuten opened, it was hard to get a table. With the pandemic and our cold snap, it was unusually quiet when L picked up our order.

I ordered the Tenderloin Katsuten ($16.50) and L picked the Loin Katsu with Curry ($15.99). Both entrees come with rice, salad and miso soup. I thought the portions were heartier than I remembered from past visits. Takeout from Katsuten travels well – everything was still hot and fresh.

Katsuten’s batter is different from Redheads, Koji Katsu and Shimizu Kitchen. Katsuten’s panko is made from white bread crumbs from Glamorgan Bakery, and the result is a fluffier, airier batter. Despite the fact our tonkatsu was deep-fried, it wasn’t greasy or heavy.

I tried a piece of L’s loin to compare to my tenderloin. My katsu is darker in colour and softer in texture. I was surprised that I actually preferred L’s loin, which is a thicker, leaner cut. The loin had this clean flavour profile that contrasted well with the richness of the batter. I noticed the curry wasn’t chunky like Redhead Cafe’s version, but runnier and more like a soup.

The shredded cabbage is refreshing. The yuzu dressing is tart and fragrant, with bright lemony notes. I also really liked the katsu sauce – much more subtle than the bottled stuff you can buy.

I’m pleased Calgarians have a variety of katsu restaurants, because each place has their unique take on tonkatsu. I would recommend all of them, each for something different. I love Koji’s supersized ebi katsu, Redheads Cafe’s chicken karrage curry, Shimizu’s ramen and tonkatsu combos, and Katsuten’s extra fluffy loin katsu. I’m sure right now, they could all use your business.

Cheap Eats · Mediteranean · Sandwiches

Shawarma Palace – Beef Donair

One of my favourite accounts on Instagram is @loaf2go. I appreciate Loaf2go’s frank and fair reviews. One place she’s raved about is Shawarma Palace. For this post, let’s listen to “Selling the Drama” by Live.

L and I have been on the hunt for a good shawarma ever since our go-to place has slipped in quality. Shawarma Palace has four locations. We visited the Forest Lawn restaurant since it was on our way back home. I heard the Falconridge location is the best, and it is frequented by members of the Calgary Police. I know this because I saw a Superintendent Asif Rashid tweet about it on Twitter.

When we arrived, there was a line-up. There was one guy who was being a real dick. He asked for extra beef and he was confrontational when the staff told him that would be a side order. When he left, he abruptly told the customers standing next to the door to get out of his way. As he pushed his way through, he tripped over the mat. I tried hard but I couldn’t help myself and smiled. Buddy, don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

The line doesn’t move fast. With each order, the beef or chicken is cut and then seared on the grill. I didn’t mind because I could tell the food is prepared with care. Check out all that meat action! After our donair was rolled, it was lightly grilled on a press. 

We each ordered a large donair ($10.49). Loaf2go recommends ordering it with garlic sauce, tahini and a little sweet sauce. I ordered all the vegetables except for tomatoes. I noticed the staff are generous when it comes to the sauces and meats, but less so with the vegetables.

This was a very good donair. The lettuce, turnips, parsley, onions and spicy peppers were fresh and crisp. The meat itself was tender and tasted of the grill. 

The focus of the shawarma is definitely the meat. The ratio of meat to pita and vegetables was 3:1. L thought Shawarma Palace gave too much meat. Sometimes I feel like I don’t even know him anymore. 

We both would come here again. However, the parking lot is a gong show. Someone blocked us in while we backed up, and then honked their horn. The staff and food get two fat thumbs up but the drivers in the parking lot get two thumbs down.

17th Ave · Burgers · Sandwiches

Alumni Sandwiches – Hot Chicken

On Thursday, I was feeling down.  L noticed my mood and announced we were ordering takeout for dinner and he was willing to drive anywhere. Anywhere? My mind immediately raced to all the restaurants on my list – My Greek Plate in Cochrane, The Sensory in Canmore, and Jerry’s in Okotoks. For this post, let’s listen to “(You Drive Me) Crazy” by Britney Spears. 

I didn’t take advantage of L’s niceness and instead, I picked a place I knew he wanted to try. L mentioned his students told him that Alumni Sandwiches makes a wicked spicy chicken burger. Apparently someone got the full spice chicken burger and it was so spicy, it made quite the buzz in their circle.

I informed L that I don’t have to make a mistake in order to learn from it.  I much rather learn from the errors of other people. We ordered two 1/2 spice Hot Chicken Burgers ($13) and one order of the Parmesan Fries ($7.5). 

Holy smokes – even at half spice, this is one spicy mamacita!  Despite the heat, the hot sauce was delicious. The spice was complex and with a depth you can’t find at a fast food restaurant.  

L prefers white meat, so he was pleased with the large, thick chicken cutlet.  The batter around the chicken was crunchy and flavourful.  So much better than Popeye’s!

The condiments complemented the chicken. The slaw and pickles added acidity and creaminess, which countered the heat from the hot sauce. The pickles were crunchy and sour, fragrant with dill.  The brioche was soft and buttery, the lightness of the bun allowed the chicken to take center stage.

L and I shared an order of the Parmesan Fries. The fries are seasoned with parmesan, rosemary, smoked paprika and aioli sauce. There’s a lot of different flavours going on with the parmesan fries, but it works. I loved that the fries actually tasted like a potato. The fries were so crispy, I felt like I was eating them at the restaurant.  However, I should have paired my chicken burger with something that would soothe the heat from the chicken – like a slaw, potato salad or macaroni salad. I could see the parmesan fries pairing well with Alumni’s turkey sandwiches, like the Dagwood, Turkey Club, or Roasted Turkey and Brie.    

L said to date, this is his favourite chicken burger in the city and he would gladly return. I concur. The food at Alumni travels well and we felt that ordering takeout didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the food. Hitting the Sauce gives Alumni Sandwiches two fat thumbs up.

Comfort food · Pizza

Hanni’s Pizza – S.M.O.G

There’s so much bad news out there that I’ve been seeking things of a lighter nature to counter the negativity. My newest source is Calgary Food – FoodYYC, a Facebook group that discusses customers’ experiences at restaurants. For this post, let’s listen to “You’re so Vain” by Carly Simon.

Even in this group, you can’t get away from heated debate. As you can see below, there’s some dispute about what constitutes a real pizza. Jason Lepla is the type of person I would gladly invite over for a dinner party.

There is no shortage of pizza joints in Killarney: Bow Tie Pizza, Spiros, Sauce Italian Market, Grecos, Jeanne’s Pizza Pantry, Hannis Restaurant, Village Flatbread and Newcastle Pub. Most of my friends and family each have a personal preference, depending on how they like their pizza.

L’s favourite is Hanni’s, perhaps in part due to nostalgia. The night we moved into our first house, we ordered takeout from Hanni’s. Nine years later, we can vouch that the pizza has remained consistently delicious. The pizza is always good and every now and then, spectacular.

We only order the S.M.O.G (12 inch, $24.99), a pizza densely laden with Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions and green peppers. The tomato sauce is tangy, with aromatic notes of rosemary. The cheese comes in hot and heavy. The crust is thick and crunchy enough to stand up to the toppings. The sausage is abundant and generously sliced, so each piece is fat and juicy. This is a stick to your ribs style of pizza that is so comforting and satisfying on a cold winter’s night.

The price is right too. A large specialty pizza will feed three to four people. L and I usually eat two slices each, and then we eat the remaining four slices for breakfast and lunch. Note that if you order delivery and live within 6 km, the delivery fee is only $3.

Japanese · Sushi

Sushi In

L and his colleagues ordered sushi for their Zoom work dinner. L picked Sushi In – a newish Japanese restaurant in our hood – for his takeout. For this post, let’s listen to “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles.

I saw on Google that Sushi Inn has only favourable reviews. That took me by surprise because no matter how good a restaurant is, there will always be awful customers. Sometimes I’ll read a review on Yelp and think to myself that I hope I never have interact with such a wretched human being.

L ordered two of Salmon Nigiri ($2.5), Tuna ($2.5), Tako ($3), Hokky Gai ($2.5), and one Ebi ($2.5) and Red Tuna ($3.5). The ratio of fish to rice was more than double. The rice itself was a little hard and colder than he would have preferred.

I ordered the Chirashi ($24). I noticed the amount of seafood in my bowl was generous. I counted three pieces of salmon, tuna, and sockeye salmon. I also received chopped scallop and two pieces of tamago. The tuna had a strong flavour to it.

The sushi reminds me a little of Red Ember in that you get more fish than rice. The prices at Sushi Inn are more than the nearby E-Mart but the quality is better. At E-Mart, the only prepared food I enjoy is the kimbap and fish cakes.

If I order again, I would try the cooked dishes like the chicken nanban and katsudon. When I went to pick up our food, I immediately noticed the appetizing smell of tempura hung heavily in the air.

Dessert

Palm Three Kitchen – Euphoria Cake

Due to a bunch of reasons, my birthday plans were postponed. Instead of ordering takeout, I opted to make a bolognese lasagna using a combination of Marcella Hazan’s recipe and Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. For this post, let’s listen to “In My Life” by the Beatles.

For dessert, I told L I would order my own cake as I feared if I left him to his own devices, he would buy me one from Dairy Queen. My friend Asian Persuasian reposted an Instagram story from Palm Three Kitchen that caught my eye. When I quizzed Asian Persuasian, she told me the owner is a pastry chef and not a home cook.

Photo credit: Palm Three Kitchen

The dessert I picked was the Euphoria Cake (6 inch, $20). When I ordered, I mentioned the cake was for my birthday and I wanted it delivered before dinner. Payment was contactless as I was able to e-transfer the money.

I was shocked that Palm Three Kitchen added a huge helium birthday balloon to my cake. I was so delighted and so excited that I wondered if I received enough attention as a child. A grown-ass woman should not be in hysterics upon receiving a balloon, no matter how awesome it is.

The Euphoria cake is perfect for my taste – decadent and not too sweet. The high quality dark chocolate made this dessert satiating, especially after a rich meal. Also, you don’t need a big portion because each bite is so satisfying. The 6 inch cake will feed between 4-5 servings.

Photo credit: Palm Three Kitchen

What I enjoyed about this cake is each of the five layers offered a different textural sensation. The base is made of a light chocolate cake, then topped with a rich ganache, chocolate goo, a thick chocolate shell, and a heavy dusting of cocoa powder.

My favourite layer was the hard chocolate shell. The chocolate reminded me of the Moritz icy squares I used to eat as a kid. The chocolate was cool and creamy and melted in my mouth.

Photo credit: Palm Three Kitchen

I thought the price was affordable enough that I would order on a regular basis. There’s also larger cakes available – like the Burnt Basque Cheesecake (10 inch, $40) and Two Layered Chocolate Cake (10 inch, $50). Keto and gluten-free options are available as well.

Photo credit: Palm Three Kitchen

Thanks Palm Three Kitchen for baking me a fantastic cake and for the birthday balloon. Your dessert takes the cake! Hitting the Sauce gives the Euphoria cake two fat thumbs up.

Beer · Burgers · Comfort food · Happy Hour · Restaurants

Jane Bond BBQ & Urban Shack Fried Chicken

I wouldn’t go as far as to call myself a political junkie, but I do follow municipal politics. The post below made me smile because it shows how good food can bring people together – no matter where they fall on the spectrum. Below is a picture of Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra and Craig Chandler sharing a meal at Jane Bond BBQ.

As the election heats up, may I can suggest all candidates running in the 2021 race spend some quality time eating at our local restaurants. For this post, let’s listen to “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles.

I ordered the Brisket BBQ Plate ($20), which includes half a pound of brisket, a side and coconut cornbread. I upgraded my side for the macaroni cheese (+$1). Jane Bond is having a special for their new shack style chicken. I ordered the 8 Piece Bird Attack (Regular $45, Featured $22.50), which includes boneless fried chicken (choice of five flavours), two dipping sauces, large creamy slaw, large fries, two Cajun corn cobbs and two pieces of coconut corn bread.

Pro tip – if you want both BBQ and fried chicken, you have to order each separately online. I went to Jane Bond’s website to order the BBQ and for the fried chicken, I clicked onto a subcategory on the website. Not a big deal, but a little confusing if you aren’t aware that Urban Shack Fried Chicken falls under the Jane Bond website.

The restaurant was busy when I went to pick up my order. There were about five customers inside waiting and two people outside in their cars. When I arrived, the staff were busy pumping out orders, so I was left standing there unsure as what to do. Here’s another pro tip. Walk to the front counter, catch an employee’s attention and tell them your name and what method you used to place your order.

After a 15-minute ride home, I thought it would be best to reheat the fries and chicken in the oven. I also microwaved the brisket, corn, and macaroni and cheese. Our fries crisped up nicely in the oven.

The beef brisket was soft, coated in a tangy, smoky sauce. There were some pieces that were well marbled with fat. I enjoyed the caramelized top part of the macaroni and cheese. Underneath the crust, the noodles were soft and saucy. The slaw was light and crisp. I found this salad necessary in between the heavy, rich bites of brisket and macaroni and cheese.

L really enjoyed the fries. The batter on it reminded me of the bulgogi fries at Wow Chicken. I love the corn bread. The texture was crumbly. The flavour was sweet and buttery, with a hint of smoke. The chicken was crunchy and the meat was tender. My favourite dipping sauce was the jerk sauce – it tasted like there was cinnamon in it. I enjoyed the heat and spice in the sauce. The corn was sweet and wet with butter and Cajun spices.

We ordered way too much food and we had ample leftovers for the next day. Below is a picture of all the food we didn’t end up eating. The cornbread was just as tasty in the morning. In fact, everything tasted good the next day.

My last pro tip of the post. I ordered ice tea, mistakenly thinking there was booze in it. I ended up ordering the regular ice tea (4 pack, $12). Get it! It taste like a mix between peach Snapple and SoCIAL LITE spiked lemon ice tea, but sweeter. Jane’s ice tea was a nice complement to our meal.

It’s my birthday week and I am looking forward to writing about our next food adventure. It’s a bit harder to celebrate with takeout because you have to make some allowances, such as the time and distance it takes to get your food and how certain foods are best eaten fresh. If you have any favourite spots ideal for takeout, let me know.

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – Birthday Omakase

For L’s birthday, I took him to Sukiyaki House for “omakase”. In Japanese, omakase translates to “I’ll leave it up to you”, meaning you entrust the menu up to the creativity of the chef. I got to say, Chef Koji Kobayashi knocked this dinner out of the park. For this post, let’s play “I Feel Fine” by the Beatles.

L and I toasted to his birthday with a glass of Kamoshibito Kuheiji Human Junmai Daiginjo, 2011 (3 oz, $15). Judith informed us that Sukiyaki House was the first restaurant in Calgary to bring in this particular bottle.

Judith is a sake nerd. Known as the white Burgundy of sakes, she described this sake as “bougie”, with lots of umami and sweetness. As we took our first sip, she pointed out the notes of bruised apple and pear. I thought this sake was light and not overly sweet.

We started off our meal with a plate of Hamachi with Daikon and Ponzu. L liked the seasoning as he thought it complemented the light, sweet flavour of the fish. If you notice my pictures have improved, it’s because L took all the photos below.

Our second dish was the Duck Tempura with Shiso and Mozzarella. The ume jam was tart and plummy, which cut into the richness of the duck. I thought the garnish of nori and green onion was a nice pop of flavour against the warm, velvety cheese filling.

One of L’s favourite dishes of the night was the Rice Cracker with Deep Fried Salmon, Potato Salad and Yam Crisp. Shwing! The crunch of the batter against the soft creaminess of the potato salad was killer. The salmon itself was flavourful, made even richer with Koji’s special homemade teriyaki sauce. Koji’s sauce has this intensity that makes you stand up and notice.

At this point in our meal, I wanted to try another sake while L stuck to a pint of Asahi.  I ventured off and tried a glass of Yamagata Masamune Kimono Akaiwa Machi 1898 (30z, $11).

Judith informed us this sake is made from hamachi rice from the Akalwa region. The brewer uses a traditional method of sake brewing. Rather than having the lactic acid introduced in the fermentation process to cultivate yeast, the sake is allowed to naturally develop lactic acid on its own. This makes for a fuller, complex and richer sake. I enjoyed the melon flavour and the dry, light finish.

Our fourth course was the Matsutake Soup with Crab. The soup arrived boiling hot. The broth was clear and clean, which allowed the subtle flavours of the crab and mushrooms to shine. The wild BC pine mushrooms were thinly sliced, with a fragrance similar to sake. Drinking this soup felt so nourishing – simple but refine.

Next up, Judith showcased A4 Wagyu Nigiri. She torched it and then shaved a ton of black truffles. Real truffles taste so different from the truffle salt I buy. The flavour is gentle and earthy. The texture of the truffles was feathery and light. Seared, the wagyu gave off a mouthwatering smoky flavour. I loved the crunch of the salt. I thought this was an elegant bite.

Our sixth course was the Maple Smoked Anago. L doesn’t normally eat eel, but he loved Koji’s version. The seared aburi was soft, warm and deliciously smoky.

My favourite course was the Lemon Dengaku. Double shwing! Dengaku is similar to a cheesy seafood motoyaki but a billion times better. Half a lemon was filled with mussels, crab, scallops, asparagus, enoki, and matsutake mushrooms, then baked with a creamy, sweet miso sauce.

The flavour and freshness of the the seafood wowed me. The sauce had the perfect amount of saltiness in it. The lemon wasn’t overpowering – just enough to perfume each bite.

Koji created a beautiful platter of nigiri for us. This was an advanced sushi tasting. Each nigiri pairing was an adventure.

The bluefin chu toro was topped with sturgeon caviar. I liked how the salty pop of caviar mingled in with the fatty creaminess of the toro. The “Mother and Child” sockeye with ikura and chrysanthemum petals was another winning salty, creamy combination. The hamachi (yellowtail) was juicy. I found the lime zest with the kanpachi subtle. The cuttlefish had a pleasant crunchy texture. The bluefin tuna in the negitori with shredded kombu was soft and buttery.

Dessert was devastatingly charming. Not only was this the cutest creation, but the mochi had the nicest chew to it. As always, the fruit at Sukiyaki House was served at the optimal ripeness, just like in Japan.

Photo credit – Sukiyaki House

Koji, you truly are an artist. This was the best meal L and I have ever experienced. We are so lucky to have you in Calgary. L and I have an upcoming wedding anniversary to celebrate in December. We can only order takeout because we are staying with in-laws. We might just have to hit up Sukiyaki House for their new premium bento takeout box of spicy prawns, beef tataki, miso sablefish, a hosomaki, and a mini chirashi. Whatever takeout we end up picking up, we’ll make sure to support one of our favourite restaurants.

Cheap Eats · Curry · Japanese

Shimizu Kitchen – Dine-in COVID-19 edition

After a long day at work, L told me he was craving tonkatsu. He wanted to try Shimizu Kitchen, which is located near our house. I’ve been reading good things about Shimizu’s ramen, so I was in. For this post, let’s listen to “A Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles.

I recommend making reservations, as the restaurant only has a handful seats. By the time we left, every table was full. Shimizu was also busy with takeout orders. I was informed by our server that on the weekends, there is often a line-up outside the door.

The room is cozy, decorated with homemade signs and pictures of food. The overarching branches of the pink cherry blossom tree cover most of the ceiling. I saw an automated ramen contraption by the door, which is a common display outside restaurants in Tokyo.

L and I both ordered a bottle of Asahi ($6). L ordered the Tonkatsu Curry ($13.99) and I requested the Shimizu Miso Ramen ($12.99).

The deep-fried pork cutlets arrived still sizzling from the fryer. L had to wait a few minutes for the tonkatsu to cool before he could eat it. The pork itself was juicy, with a thin, crunchy batter. The spices in the curry was subtle and not as strongly flavoured as Redhead’s version. I thought the portion was generous for the price.

The broth in my ramen was so rich and heavy, with a nice smoky flavour. The broth was boiling hot, just the way I like it. When I pulled the noodles up with my chopsticks, I could see the broth coating each noodle.

The egg was cooked just right. The creamy yolk had the consistency of the centre of a Cadbury chocolate egg. The thick piece of pork was seared, salty and tender. The noodles were chewy and plentiful. Even the vegetables were stellar. The cabbage and sprouts tasted fresh and were crunchy and sweet. L thought my ramen was fantastic, particularly the complexity of the broth.

We received complementary ice cream for dessert. Despite feeling too full, I couldn’t resist polishing off the entire serving. Some people may find vanilla ice cream boring but I like the simple, milky sweetness.

I was chatting on Instagram with someone who knows the owners at Shimizu. She told me that the owners told her their little wooden spoons have grown legs and disappeared. Now they are trying to replace them but can’t because COVID-19 has changed their ability to buy supplies from Japan. For the love of small businesses, if you know of anyone that has taken these spoons, encourage them to bring it back. Wrap up the spoons and slip them in the mail slot in the morning or late evening. Maybe we can ask Crackmacs to retweet? This is what I would tweet out to Crackmacs, along with a picture of the missing spoons:

RT: MISSING RAMEN SPOONS IN GLENDALE! Help the owners of @shimizukitchen1 find their missing ramen spoons. These beloved spoons have miraculously grown legs and ran away. If you see any of these spoons in your kitchen, please return to Shimizu Kitchen, no questions asked. #yyc #yyceats @crackmacs

I’ll be back. The ramen is delightful and I’m interested to try the other noodle dishes. Our server told me he’s been obsessed with the owner’s newest offering – it was either tsukemen or mazemen. I couldn’t hear him properly through the mask, and he was busy so I didn’t want to ask him to repeat himself. Hitting the Sauce gives Shimizu Kitchen two fat thumbs up.

Fusion · Seafood · Special Occasion

Von Der Fels – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Quebecoise’s parents are in town, which meant she and her husband Sirski could get away for a double date. Both haven’t been to Von Der Fels, which in my opinion is the place to get mind-blowing food, with zero pretension. For this post, let’s listen to “Strawberry Letter 23” by Shuggie Otis.

Québécoise and I ordered a glass of bubbles to start – Aubusieres Vouvray France Chenin Blanc (5 oz, $16). L and Sirski chose a Kinabik pilsner from Sylvan Lake ($8). I enjoyed my bubbles – it was dry and smooth. I thought it was better than the bottle of champagne we had just consumed at our place. Québécoise disagreed and said nothing is better than champagne.

The restaurant is small to begin with, but with COVID-19 restrictions and the implementation of large plastic dividers between tables, there are even fewer tables available. We were lucky to snag the best seat in the house – the round table by the front window, complete with a view of the Calgary Tower.

Quebecoise and Sirski know more about wine than I do, so I deferred to them. Quebecoise asked for a white wine that wasn’t oaky. When she noticed our server also spoke French, she switched to her native tongue. He recommend a textured white wine- La Collière, Côtes-du-Rhône (2017, $60). Quebecoise was happy and exclaimed the wine was “bon”. She found the wine aromatic, bright and not acidic – a good choice because it wouldn’t overpower the food.

I knew Quebecoise would enjoy the Smoked Castlevetrano Olives ($8). These little olives are incredibly juicy with a subtle smoky aftertaste. My buddy Jaime goes crazy over these olives, so much she wanted to get an extra order to bring home in Kamloops.

The Korean Fried Oyster ($4) tasted of the sea. The plump oyster morsel was soft and creamy as a poached egg. The batter was light and delicate. The crunch of the cucumber garnish was refreshing.

Each couple shared a Green Tomato and Mortadella Tempura Sandwich ($8). I could hear the crunch of the thinly battered tomato as I bit into it. The tomato itself was firm, smeared with a sauce that reminded me of Thousand Island dressing.

The Pizza Fritta with black truffles and potatoes ($15) was lighter in flavour than I anticipated because I’m used to the pungent black truffle salt from Silk Road Spice Merchant. I enjoyed the contrast between the crackling of the batter to the softness of the slice of potato. I thought the simple sprinkling of salt was the perfect condiment for the combination of ingredients.

The seafood in the Scallop and Shrimp Crudo ($29) was so fresh. L thought the combination of the toasted pine nuts and the softness of the artichokes paired well with the silky scallops and sweet shrimp. I liked how the the artichokes weren’t acidic as I prefer a clean flavour over a strong herby marinade. We all wondered where Von Der Fels buys their seafood. I can’t remember when I tasted shrimp with such a soft delicate texture and clean flavours. This was L’s favourite dish.

One of my favourite dishes was the Wild Squid Haskap Berry Aguacile ($20). The batter was brittle and light, similar to the crispy skin on Sukiyaki House’s agadashi tofu. The non-fried squid was soft and tender, and again, with that pureness you can only get with super fresh seafood. The fresh basil and the brightness of the berry sauce was unique and made me think of Scandinavian cuisine.

My other favourite dish was the Charcoal Grilled Pork Toro Lettuce and Herb Wraps ($36). This dish reminded me of Peking duck wraps. I loved the combination of the sizzling, fatty meat with the fresh basil and lettuce. I actually prefer pork toro over Peking duck because of the intense smoky flavour of the pork.

At the end of the night, Quebecoise and I wanted one more drink. She asked for a cocktail that was fruity, herby and not sweet. What we received was pure heaven. If you want to get sauced, this is the drink for you. I asked our server what was in this magical elixir of life. The only information I could squeeze out of him was there was some champagne and strawberries in it. Quebecoise said she could tell it was really boozy. I could tell I was in love. If I could name this drink, I would call it the Cinderella because after consuming just one of these drinks, I can see why she lost her shoe after the ball. I’m glad L took me home immediately after, because I would have surely turned into a pumpkin.

Please Von Der Fels, put this drink on your regular menu. This cocktail is a masterpiece. The Cinderella cocktail ties with Klein/Harris’ D’Angelo martini for best cocktail in the city. Hitting the Sauce gives Von Der Fels two extra chubby thumbs up.

Japanese

Chicken the Hutt Pop-up Event- Bite Grocery and Eatery

Karplop is friends with Kaede Hirooka, the founder and co-owner of Respect the Technique. She wanted to support Kaede and co-owner Jonathan Chung and asked me if I would check out their latest pop-up event at Bite Grocery and Eatery. I looked at the menu and noticed the predominant theme was fried chicken. Say no more, I was in. 

When Karplop called to book our reservation, she was informed that the event was sold out. She told the person on the phone that she knew there were seats available for walk-in. Therefore, he could give her a reservation right when the event was open at 4:00 p.m. I love that about Karplop – she won’t take no for an answer. For this post, let’s listen to “Shut up and Drive” by Rihanna. 

As we examined the menu, I asked Karplop if she would share an appetizer with me. She glanced up and announced that we were going to share everything. Another thing I like about Karplop is that she knows what she wants.

The Gyoza Stuffed Wings ($10) came in a set of three. Is it just me or do these legs look sexy to you? Karplop sized up our appetizer and announced it was going to be difficult to share. 

The wings were lightly drizzled with black vinegar mayo and rayu. Rayu is a Japanese chili oil commonly used on noodles and rice. The pork filling tasted just like a gyoza. I was impressed with how much gyoza stuffing was inside the wing. Karplop noted that stuffed wings are difficult to make. 

Next up was the Fried Chicken Ramen ($15). The spices in the broth made me sneeze repeatedly throughout our meal. The chicken broth was light and the noodles were thick and springy. We both thought the chicken was really juicy and cooked well. Karplop regretted not ordering another piece of chicken because it was that good. Despite the bath of broth, the batter held up and made a loud crackling sound when I bit into the meaty thigh.

The Hutt Sando ($12) came with a macaroni salad. The bun was sweet and the texture was soft and milky, similar to the rolls you get at a Chinese bakery. I liked that the flavours of the tangy slaw, crunchy chicken and melted cheese held up to the heavy proportion of the bun. I can’t get enough of this cold macaroni salad – it is so creamy, generously speckled with mortadella, pickles and herbs. 

Kaede and Jonathan nailed the batter. When I was eating I felt like Jughead Jones in an Archie comic. I just needed a caption with the words “Chomp. Smack. Munch.”

Karplop said she was glad to see Kaede and Jonathan doing more pop-up events. She always enjoys the food and hospitality. I can see why. Looking forward to the next one! Urp.

Bars/Lounges · Happy Hour · Seafood · Special Occasion

Klein/Harris – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Lovegastrogirl knows how to make an entrance. I knew before I looked up that she arrived at Klein/Harris. I could hear her heels lightly clicking on the wooden floors. With her flowing trench coat, oversized floppy hat and face mask, she looked like a modern day Carmen Sandiego. For no particular reason, she even brought flowers for me! L is right. I can’t top Lovegastrogirl’s flair for hospitality. I think she even beats my mother in that department. For this post, let’s listen to “Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison.

I could have picked a new restaurant to try but I had a feeling Lovegastrogirl would love Klein/Harris. I thought she would appreciate the craftsmanship of the cocktails as well as the impressive cooking techniques deployed in the food. I could also count on the food and service as being excellent because the owners – Chef James Waters and Christina Mah –  can be found in their restaurant every single day. 

We started with the feature cocktail – a Classic Negroni ($10) crowned with pineapple foam. Christina informed us that our server Kaitlyn is in charge of their cocktail menu. As Christina herself is known as one of Calgary’s best mixologists, I knew we would be in good hands with Kaitlyn.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

We received an amuse bouche of pickled beet, crab apple purée, and crispy leeks. This bite was sweet, crunchy and tart. This was a nice introduction our meal.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

We started off with the Diver Scallops ($20). The three scallops were beautifully seared and silky smooth inside. There was plenty of smoky crispy bits of farmer’s bacon nestled with the braised peppers, Savoy cabbage and apple nosh. The broth was so good – it was sweet and salty. 

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

For my second beverage, Kaitlyn poured two wines for me to try. I picked one of her favourite wines – D’Angelo Miscela Tempranillo (9 ounce, $14.5). When she asked me if I would like a 5 or 9 ounce glass, I inquired if there was an option for a 20 ounce. I got a laugh from Kaitlyn and Lovegastrogirl but no definitive answer.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

One of the best things I have eaten this year is the Candied Pork Belly ($15). I could taste the smokey flavour of the grill on the sweet bread. Combined with the softness of the egg, the flavour and texture reminded me of French toast. The pork was tender and there was enough to go around for each bite of toast. The addition of the sautéed onions really made this dish. I would order the candied pork belly again. 

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

We shared the Friday Toast and Roast ($25) – sous vide pork shoulder with Swiss chard, quinoa, roasted acorn squash, apple and beet puree and mustard pork jus. The portion of meat was very generous – I counted four seared chunks.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

The flavour of the pork shoulder was very different from our pork belly appetizer. The pork was also soft but the sauce was tart and vibrant. I enjoyed the texture of the zucchini – it reminded me of a sweet potato. If this dish was a regular item on the menu, I would order it again.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

For dessert, we shared the Crusted Boursin Cheese ($21). I enjoyed the process of cutting into the pastry and smearing the cheese on top of the toast, then layering the house preserves and warm tomatoes. I know Chef Waters can work magic with meats and seafood, but he also does the same to something as simple as onions and tomatoes. The intensity of the flavour of the tomatoes made this dish pop, just like the onions in the candied pork belly appetizer.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

Lovegastrogirl seem to dig her Tanqueray Martini ($12) so I requested one too. I’m not normally a fan of cocktails but at Klein/Harris, it is a different story. Kaitlyn made me her favourite drink – the D’Angelo ($14.50, 7 ounce). The lemon peel provided a pleasant floral fragrance. The combination of the salty olive with the vodka and gin blend is something dreams are made out of. 

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

Lovegastrogirl was so impressed with the food, she wants to return with her fiancé Pomp. I know she loves a view, so I suggest she bring their in-laws and reserve the table by the window. That way, she can get her coveted cityscape of Stephen Avenue. She’s a sucker for a view.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

Christina informed me that Klein/Harris is opening a lounge located in the basement of the restaurant. I’m keen to go, as I’ll use any excuse to drop by for a martini. I wonder if Kaitlyn will make me a 14 ounce D’Angelo. If she laughs again, thinking it is a joke, I’ll quote Walt Disney’s unidentified and most likely unappreciated employee – “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Dessert · Patio · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

River Cafe – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Karplop and I were texting each other after work. She was craving pate and beef tartare and I wanted to go out and celebrate nothing in particular. The only restaurant open on a Tuesday night serving up pate and tartare was River Cafe. For this post, let’s listen to “Fancy Shoes” by The Walters.

As the weather was nice, we sat on the patio and enjoyed the view of the trees along the lagoon, set against the city skyline. Our server – Leah B – is at the top of her game. Everything she said or did seemed so effortlessly professional and personable. Exceptional service makes the difference between between a nice meal and a truly enjoyable dining experience.

Karplop and I toasted each other with a glass of Blue Mountain Brut ($14). I thought this sparkling wine was mellow and dry, with very soft bubbles.

We shared four Leslie Hardy oysters ($14). The oyster flesh was cool and smooth, with a little crunch at the end. I didn’t find the saltiness overwhelming like other east coast oysters. Karplop enjoyed the homemade hot sauce and I preferred the mignonette.

Leah recommended a glass of Sangiovese ($11) to pair with our appetizers. I approve of her suggestion – my wine was smooth and dry. I would order this wine again.

The Borderland Bison Tartare ($21) is swoon worthy. Karplop oohed and aahed over the vibrant colours of the flowers. What made this tartare stand out was the summery flavour of the compressed cucumber and bright, creamy mustard. The tartare came with three different types of crackers, each with its own unique texture. Standout dish!

Photo Credit: Karplop

I’ve tried the Chicken Liver Parfait ($19) a few months ago and I noticed this time, the brioche was drier in texture, which I prefer because it stands up to the thick, buttery pate. The pate looked like it was whipped, piled high on the brioche. Karplop enjoyed the combination of the fruit paired with the pate.

I was full but I didn’t want to deny Karplop her dessert. We shared the Peach Pavlova ($12). My favourite element of the dessert was the sorbet, which was sweet and creamy.

If there are anymore sunny days remaining, I recommend checking out River Cafe’s patio. There’s nothing better than sitting back and enjoying the last of the autumn colours in Prince’s Island Park. Hitting the Sauce gives River Cafe two fat thumbs up.

Beer · Burgers · Patio · Pubs · Restaurants

Bitter Sisters Brewery – COVID-19 dine-in edition

On Sunday, L and I were too tired to drive up to Hub Town Brewing as we had planned. Our ex-neighbours spoiled us the night before with homemade pizzas cooked on their new ceramic grill. Sirski’s secret recipe produced a crust that was crispy and light, with a unique flavour profile. We spent the night eating a total of five pizzas, each with a different combination of toppings and sauces.

For our Sunday day date, I wanted to try Bitter Sisters Brewery because of all the positive reviews I read. I can tell when online reviews are fake or genuine. You have to look for common themes and variation in writing style, as well as the reviewer’s history. For this post, let’s listen “We are Family” by Sister Sledge.

Finding parking isn’t an issue at Bitter Sisters – their private lot offers ample room. The patio and the interior of the restaurant is nicely decorated. You can tell the owners put money and thought into the build.

At the front door, there is a sign requesting customers sanitize before they enter the room. I also saw staff constantly cleaning and sanitizing tables after each party left.

L ordered a flight of beer ($10) and I requested a 16 oz of the Sassy Jack ($6.75). My saison was cool and bubbly. L liked how the peppery notes dissipated on his tongue in a matter of seconds.

On the menu, Sassy Jack is described as a beer that is designed to go down slowly. I’m glad L warned me the alcohol content in my beer was 7.2%. I took my time and sipped slowly, but the beer still wobbled me when I got up to leave.

L’s favourite beer was the Tropical Big Brother Butch Pale Ale. He liked the crisp and fruity notes. I tasted a slight bitterness that I found appealing.

The Fifi’s Dirty Blonde ale reminded L of a pilsner. When I tried the ale, it reminded me of the beers I drank in Prague.  His last sampler was a pineapple sour from Bitter Sister’s rotating line.

I wasn’t starving so L and I shared the Nashville Fried Chicken ($17). Wowzers. Now this is a damn fine chicken sandwich. What made this burger sing was the compilation of all the ingredients.

The chicken was well marinaded, covered in a spicy crunchy batter. L appreciated how the burger wasn’t overly sauced and the proportions of bun to chicken to broccoli slaw was balanced. I would have preferred a little more of that tangy creamy chipotle aioli, just so I could sop it up with the fries.

Our server was considerate enough to check if we liked cilantro. We asked for a side of the noxious herb, so I wouldn’t have to eat it. L loved the addition of cilantro in his burger. We both thought the bun was excellent – it was chewy and soft.

The fries were golden white, crispy on the outside with a fluffy interior. The portion was generous. These fries reminded me a cross between New York Fries and the Belgium frites from the Fritz European Fry House in Vancouver.

I can’t believe this place hasn’t been on our radar before. Bitter Sisters deserves much more hype. At these prices, the food is a steal. The beers are tasty and go up against any of Alberta’s well-known breweries. Service was excellent and because of the obvious sanitation rules in place, we felt safe eating here.

L and I are looking forward to our next trip. He wants to try the Viet style club ($17) and I want to sample the Steak and Fries ($20). Check them out before patio season ends. Hitting the Sauce gives Bitter Sisters two fat thumbs up.

Cheap Eats · Happy Hour · Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi

Ke Charcoal Grill- COVID-19 dine-in edition

I’ve been hearing good things about Ke Charcoal Grill, a restaurant specializing in yakitori. I convinced L to go, though I warned him that he needs to lower his expectations. L’s eaten his fair share of yakitori in Tokyo, so I knew he had preconceived notions on what it should taste like. Ke Charcoal is popular for its cheap and tasty food. For this post, let’s listen to “Joyride” by Roxette.

When we arrived, the hostess took our temperature. As with most restaurants, there is sanitizer at the entrance. For our safety, all our cutlery and sauces were individually packed. I liked how the tables were spaciously set apart. I also noticed that the staff were attentive and friendly, despite appearing understaffed.

L ordered a glass of Asahi ($6) and I stuck with tap water. I took a sip of his beer and found it flat. I heard from a reliable person with industry knowledge – Jude – that Ke Charcoal’s sake is inexpensive. I’ll have to try some on my next visit.

The Chicken Karaage ($8) is a winner. The chicken leg meat was juicy and the batter was nice and brittle. I would order this again.

To go with our skewers, I ordered two heaping bowls of rice ($5). The rice was fluffy and the fragrance reminded me more of Chinese rice than Japanese.

We started off with two skewers of Hatsu with teriyaki sauce ($4.60). I normally love chicken heart but these skewers were served cold and the texture was rubbery instead of tender.

Next up were two skewers of Mo Mo with teriyaki sauce ($4.80). The chicken thighs were tasty and served hot. The teriyaki sauce tasted heavy and sweet.

The cheese on the Yuki ($5.20) was sticky and stuck to the roof of my mouth. I preferred the plain chicken thighs without the cheese but that’s just a personal preference.

One of our favourite skewers was Negima ($4.80). So simple but so good. The green onion was deeply caramelized and it paired beautifully with the chicken thighs.

The Dunagimo ($2.40) arrived hot. I’ve never tried chicken gizzard before. The gizzard was addictingly chewy yet crunchy, and the flavour was surprisingly subtle. I would order this again.

My favourite skewer was Kawa (w/ sea salt $2.30). The chicken skin was super crispy. When I took a bite, the skin would flake apart and then melt in my mouth. I love eating chicken skin with rice, as the plainness of the steamed rice accents the texture and richness of the skin.

I didn’t know what to expect when I ordered Okra ($2.10). The okra was cooked perfectly – there was still a resistance when I bit into it. I loved the crunchy, juicy texture and I could taste the smoky flavour of the grill.

The Asparagus Maki ($4.80) skewers were yummy. The bacon was crispy on the edges but still soft on the inside, coating the asparagus with the flavour of hot pork fat. The texture of the grilled asparagus reminded me of green beans.

We tried both the Tsukkune with teriyaki sauce ($5.20) and with cheese ($5.20). These chicken meatballs were filling, but I found the temperature cool. I think if it was served fresh off the grill, I would have enjoyed it.

I thought that more than half the skewers we tried were awesome, particularly for the price. We ordered way too much food and the bill was half of what we would pay at Shokunin. However, you can’t expect the quality of Shokunin at Ke Charcoal’s prices. Ke Charcoal is an affordable, easy introduction to yakitori. The food reminded me a bit of Torikizoku – a popular and dirt cheap yakitori izakaya chain in Japan. I think the food at Ke Charcoal is far better than Torikizoku.

I told Jude that L wasn’t as impressed as I was with yakitori. She said that the food at Ke Charcoal is great when it’s hot. Sometimes when the yakitori is colder than she would like, she’ll inform the servers and they bring over a new set. I never even thought about complaining. Jude suggested the next time I go, I should ask the servers to ensure the skewers are hot.

Jude recommends the oyster special on Wednesdays, unagi, chicken meatball with shisho, scallop, miso sablefish, beef tongue with daikon and ponzu. She told me to request salt on the yakitori and togarashi on the side for L, so he can get that essence of Japanese yakitori he craves.

I was so excited after talking to Jude that I wanted to go to Ke Charcoal the next day. I told L that I would even pick up the tab. He looked at me sourly and responded, “Look, I know why you want me to go again. You want me to have a different experience. But I won’t. It’s not Japan.”

Wow L! Talk about being inflexible. In the circle of compromise, you aren’t meeting me halfway. I’m not going to pressure him again because I think I am too controlling over where and what we eat. Plus, I know Karplop will go with me. I’ll post an update on my second visit to Ke Charcoal shortly, because this is one izakaya I’ll be frequenting. Hitting Sauce gives Ke Charcoal two fat thumbs up.

Fusion · Italian · Japanese · Restaurants

Carino – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Cheese Pull called and wanted to meet for dinner. She asked me to bring L but he declined as he dislikes being the only dude out with a group of chicks. For this post, let’s listen to “Just a Girl” by No Doubt.

Cheese Pull and I wanted to check out Carino, specifically for the gyozagna – a fusion blend of gyoza and lasagna. Carino has moved a couple of doors down the street into spacier, fancier digs. The room is filled with natural light and has a fresh, airy feel to it.

I asked our server for a glass of wine that would pair with the lasagna. He recommended the Barbera ($11). Cheese Pull doesn’t drink. I noticed that kids nowadays don’t consume alcohol, perhaps because they have better coping skills than my generation did.

For my appetizer, I choose Chicken Karaage ($8). Each piece of chicken was bite-sized and juicy, with a light, soft batter. The taste of basil in the mayonnaise was prominent. Cheese Pull commented the batter wasn’t as crunchy as Sukiyaki House‘s karaage.

The Gyozagna ($24) was so good that Cheese Pull let out a low growling sound as she ate. If that isn’t a compliment, I don’t know what is. Each dumpling was so plump, stuffed with a pork filling that burst with its hot juices. The wagyu meat sauce was so rich and heavy it just melded into the lava of melted mozzarella.

I enjoyed everything about this dish. From the delicate dumpling wrapper to the fresh flavour of the tomato sauce to the crunchy bits of caramelized cheese that crusted onto the top corners of the dish. The portion was also very filling.

Cheese Pull packed half her pasta away while I ate my entire serving. I was planning on bringing L half my pasta but it was so decadent I couldn’t stop eating. Cheese Pull said it was his fault for not coming. Our server was surprised I crushed my plate.

 

I was too full for dessert but Cheese Pull ordered the Hassun ($12) – a trio of sweets. Cheese Pull said the lemon flavouring in the shooter glass was subtle with a consistency like apple sauce. Her favourite of the trio was the creme brûlée. I could hear her tap on the sugar until it broke. She described her creme brûlée as a fancy pudding. The tiramisu was deconstructed – with the bottom layer tasting strongly of espresso.

I plan to return and get L to order the gyozagna so I can order the Alberta Beef Tenderloin with Seared Foie Gras Ravioli ($49.99). If you haven’t been, you have to check Carino out. The food is unique and delicious. Hitting the Sauce gives this Japanese Italian fusion gem two fat thumbs up.

Beer · Restaurants

Two House Brewing – COVID-19 dine-in edition

L and I are big fans of Two House Brewing. Two House has excellent beers, strong COVID-19 safety standards, and a comfortable city patio. It also helps that our friend Numbers is their accountant and it is the only public place his enchanting wife Caviar feels safe enough to visit.

Photo credit: Two House Brewing Co.

L and I arrived early and got the last table inside the brewery. We noticed that almost all the customers were drinking Raspberry Pi Sour, a Berliner-style weisse ($7, 18 oz). You could tell because of the rosy glint emanating from the glass. I enjoyed this sour – it wasn’t overly tart or sweet.

When Caviar arrived, she sauntered over, wrinkled her nose and asked us if we preferred sitting inside instead of outside on the patio. I said we would prefer the patio, but this was the only table available. She cocked her head to the side and confidently informed us that she was going to get a patio table for us. Damn girl, I like your style.

Once outside, Caviar complained the music wasn’t to her liking. I enjoyed the music because it made me feel like I was in my twenties again. Music is a powerful thing. For this post, let’s listen to “Girlfriend” by NSYNC.

L saw his university friend Porteous sitting in the patio. Porteous came over to say hello. It turns out he has a beer named after him at Two House – the Porty Dorty Dortmunder. Porteous recounted the moment he found out Two House named a beer after him. He said it was the happiest day of his life and he called his mother right away to tell her the good news. Some guys have all the luck.

L and I enjoy all the beers we’ve tried so far (18 oz, $7). My usual go-to beer is the Belgian-style Fave Hef Wit Wheat Beer. I dig the hazy fruity flavour and the soft notes of orange and coriander.

L’s favourite beer is the NE IPA. He loves the citrus notes and hint of grapefruit. I took a sip and I liked it too. I didn’t find the NE bitter like most IPAs.

I found a new drink that I’m a fan of – the Lemon-Squeezy. It’s a low calorie blend of Bridgeland Distillery Limoncello and soda ($10, 18 oz). It’s light, refreshing and not too sweet. Caviar wanted to know if there was higher alcohol content in the 18 oz versus the 12 oz. Caviar and I joked with our server about changing the proportion of limoncello to “sober water”. Our server firmly told us that the ratio could not be altered. I’m glad because after two limoncellos, I was feeling wobbly.

While we were sipping the night away, two groups with dogs were turned away because the patio was full. I noticed a woman who took up a table for four. She drank one beer over a 1.5 hour time span while reading her book. I asked Numbers if customers taking up a prime spot for hours poses a problem for businesses especially since the government has restricted the number of customers. He said with limited space and decreased number of customers, all businesses are struggling to get by. I may have spoken too loudly because the woman got up to leave and shot me a dirty look. Hey lady, don’t get angry at me because you lack self-awareness. Her table was promptly filled by a party of four, plus two adorable dogs.

Two House Brewing Co’s safety standards.

For beverages, service and safety standards, Two House Brewery can’t be beat. If you get to know the right people, a beer might be named after you. One can only dream. Hitting the Sauce gives Two House two fat thumbs up.

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Patio · Restaurants

Inner City Brewing Company – COVID-19 dine-in edition

On Saturday, I told L to pick a new brewery for us to check out. He picked a winner – Inner City Brewing. The beer was so good, I was surprised that I had never heard of this place before. For this post, let’s listen to The Streets, “Could Well be In”.

Inner City’s vibe is very Vancouver.  The brewery looks like a modern warehouse straight out of Yaletown. From the taproom seating area, you can see inner workings of the brewery. I stole some photos from Inner City’s Instagram account because my photos were awful.

Photo credit: Inner City Brewing Company

To create their concept beers, Inner City Brewery takes inspiration from the city. “Our brewing strategy is to produce a wide range of beer styles, true to their origins. In our names and our packaging, we honour the location where the recipe originates and the diversity of the inner core of that location.”

L counted 22 beers on tap. I opted for an Old Fashioned ($12) because he told me Inner City receives good reviews on their cocktails. L ordered a flight of beers ($9). We nibbled on popcorn ($6) while we sipped the night away. I was saving my appetite for a late night banh mi. I wish Thi Thi would partner up with some of these breweries like Clive Burger did with National. Banh mi goes with everything.

Photo credit: Inner City Brewing Company

Our server Jaime makes a wicked old fashioned cocktail. There’s an option to select the ingredients to your liking, but I asked Jaime for his recommendation. I’m a fan of his favourite version- it was sweet, bitter, and perfumed with the strong scent of a lemon peel.

L was impressed with each beer we tried. The Heart of the City – Helles Lager was light and fresh. This is a good option for an afternoon of crushing beers in the backyard.

The Bridgelandia Modern Blonde Ale was similar to Banded Peaks’ Plainsbreaker. I liked how light and smooth this ale was. The Sunnyside XPA – Extra Pale Ale was another easy drinking, smooth beer. I could taste the citrus in it. L thought the Collectively Smashed was similar to Dandy Brewery’s Oyster Stout. Rich, dark and creamy, this beer would be ideal to drink during the Christmas season.

L ordered another flight ($9) and I ordered a second cocktail. He thought the Bridgelandia – Hoppy Blonde Ale was awesome. I don’t normally like hoppy beers, but this one was easy to drink. There was no bitterness to it.

L thought the Rooftop – Modern Lager was reminiscent of American beer. I asked him what that meant. The whole point of describing something is to word it in such a way that someone who’s never tried it would understand. He said a typical American beer taste similar to Budweiser, but this version was superior in flavour.

My favourite beer of the night was the BLX: 2005-10A-2 Weiss Bier. The Weiss was almost saison’ish with a pleasant herbal taste. L enjoyed the Brickworks – Traditional English Dark Mild. He thought this was a mild dark beer that reminded him of a Newcastle brown ale. I thought it was a very drinkable for a non-beer drinker. For a double IPA, the Lights of the City was super smooth and not bitter.

L and I both noted that all eight beers were neither too strong or sweet. I think it’s telling we tried eight out of 22 beers and we liked each one. All the beers were unique and different from each other. For a fun night tasting stellar spirits, you can’t go wrong here. We’ll be back. Hitting the Sauce gives Inner City Brewing two fat thumbs up.

Burgers · Pizza · Restaurants

Iron Goat Pub and Grill – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Karplop, H and I went for a hike on a looped trail at Ptarmigan Cirque. On the hike, I walked ahead of Karplop but I think the next time I’ll follow from the rear. Every photo she took of me included a clear view of my behind. I’ve never seen so many pictures of my butt.

For this post, I wanted to play “Back That Azz Up” by Juvenile or “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-A-Lot. However, after the second stern message from my father regarding the use of profanity in my blog, I’ll just play “Nameless, Faceless” by Courtney Barnett.

Ptarmigan Cirque is described as a moderate trail but I recommend wearing hiking shoes. I slid a couple of times and each time I let out an embarrassing loud scream. I could hear hikers around me call out to see if anyone was hurt.

We stopped by a peaceful meadow area to rest and saw goats feeding on top of the mountain. The views of the mountains and little waterfalls were so beautiful, I vowed to start exploring more of the area in the future. 

Photo credit: Karplop

After our hike, we stopped by the nearby lakes. When I took Karplop’s photo, she told me that Linda Olsen, the news anchor for Global, taught her group how to pose. Hand on right hip to stabilize, put weight on the right leg, put left leg forward, chin out and smile. I tried Olsen’s tips and I did look better than usual.

Photo Credit: Karplop

By the time 3:00 p.m. rolled around, we were ready for a bite. I suggested Iron Goat Pub and Grill as neither of us have been before. I was impressed with the safety standards and service. Before we were allowed to enter, the hostess asked us a series of questions regarding our health. My temperature was taken and lastly, my name and phone number were recorded. Once at our table, I saw staff constantly sanitize the tables, which were generously spaced apart.

Service was excellent. Lucy was personable and her genuinely friendly demeanour instantly put us in a celebratory mood. I was happy with Lucy’s wine recommendation. I asked for a white wine that was neither sweet nor oaky. Lucy recommended Sacchetto Pinot Grigio (6 ounce $9, 9 ounce $14). With the sun shining down on our table, I found my wine light and fresh. As H is only 11 years old, he stuck to a Grizzly Paw Pop Cream Soda ($4).

Karplop and I shared the Ahi Tuna and Wonton Nachos ($19) and the Coconut Shrimp Salad ($20). Lucy was kind enough to offer to split the salad for us since we were sharing. Unlike most non-Asian restaurants, I could actually taste the ponzu in the ahi tuna. I enjoyed the process of putting the charred pineapple salsa and greens onto the crisp wonton wrappers. Karplop liked how there was enough ahi tuna for each bite.

The coconut shrimp salad was tasty. There was a sweetness in the coconut batter and a pleasant crunch to the jumbo shrimp. There was a tad too much dressing on the greens, so next time, I would ask for it on the side. The avocado and charred corn and bean salsa went well with the fresh corn chips.

H didn’t know what he wanted to eat so Karplop ordered him a Kids Pasta with an order of steamed broccoli ($12). I noticed the big chunks of parmesan cheese shavings and thought it was pretty gourmet for a kid. H liked his creamy pasta so much, he wanted another serving. Karlpop told him to eat his steamed vegetables first and if he was still hungry, she would order him another dish. After he ate his broccoli he wasn’t hungry anymore. Mom knows best.

Near the end of the meal, H dumped his soda into his mom’s drink. She chided him and then sniffed her glass. “H, did you backwash?” He smiled and nodded. Alarmed, I leaned over and said slowly, “If anyone ever wasted my wine, I would be very angry.” Sometimes you need to establish boundaries early to prevent the potential for future miscommunication. Karplop confirmed that H poured his soda into her empty wine glass. Smart kid.

Photo credit: Karplop

I would go back to Iron Goat Bar and Grill. The view is scenic and the safety standards is one of the best I’ve seen during COVID-19. What really made the meal was the service. You know how a beautiful outdoor setting can make wine taste better than it actually is? Courteous service can make a nice meal into a very enjoyable experience. Hitting the Sauce gives Lucy two fat thumbs up.

Beer · Burgers · Happy Hour · Patio · Pizza · Restaurants · Seafood

Roof Top Bar @ Simmons – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Lovegastrogirl and I met up for girls’ night. Finding a restaurant for her is tricky. Based on her Instagram photos, the emerging themes are: a) spectacular view b) photogenic cocktails c) pretty plates of food. I picked the Roof Top Bar at Simmons for the view and because I wanted to try Connie and John’s pizza. For this post, let’s listen to “7 rings” by Ariana Grande.

Getting to the Roof Top Bar was a trial. I walked from my house, which is 7 km away. I’ve walked much further before without any issue, but this time I wore shoes without stockings. By the time I reached Chinatown, my ankles and the arch of my foot were raw and bloody. I limped into Chuen May and cried out, “Theresa, I’m not here for dim sum. I’m bleeding. Could I buy some band-aids from you?”

Theresa told me I was silly for offering to pay her. She and her sisters brought out a first aid kit and offered me five different types of band-aids, a disinfectant wipe and Polysporin. She even offered me extra ones to take with me. I thanked her profusely and told her I’d be back for my dim sum refill. Patched up, I was ready to go and made it just in time for my reservation.

Lovegastrogirl started off with a cocktail and I ordered a glass of white wine. She likes to snack and try a lot of dishes. I am not listing all the prices because Lovegastrogirl treated me out and some of the dishes she ordered were not on the website menu.

I am a fan of the nachos. The chips arrived blistering hot. Lovegastrogirl noted that the cheese was layered throughout the nachos and just not on the top. I liked the unique dipping sauce of dill and the hot heat from the hot peppers.

For my second beverage, I tried Connie and John’s pilsner ($10). I thought this was a sweet and easy to drinking beer. I knew I would like this beer since it’s from my favourite brewery – The Dandy Brewing Company.

Lovegastrogirl was craving oysters. The fresh oysters we received were thin and salty. If I had to guess, I would say these were an east coast variety. The oysters were accompanied with lime slices and hot sauce.

Lovegastrogirl likes her spuds and wanted to try the Greek Spiced Roasted Potato Wedges ($9). She enjoyed how the fries were poofy on the inside and crisp on the outside. Again, we got more of that lovely creamy dill sauce.

My favourite snack of the night was the featured Meaty Pizza By the Slice ($6.95). I loved the thick, melty layer of cheese. The crust was thin, crunchy and flavourful. Lovegastrogirl thought extra cheese was added to our slice because of the lacy cheese bubbles over the edges.

The view up here is something else and not something you can find easily in Calgary. Lovegastrogirl thought the vibe was very Vancouver. I would return for the view and the pizza in a heartbeat.

Thanks Lovegastrogirl for treating me out. I have a couple of ideas of where I can take you on our next date. There will be a clear view of me, and I promise the food, cocktails and ambience will deliver.

 

Italian · Pizza · Restaurants

Azzurri Pizzeria – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Karplop and I met up for pizza night at her place. As she lives near all the Italian stores, we stopped by the Italian Super Market so I could stock up on some staples. For this post, let’s listen to “And She Was” by Talking Heads.

As we were shopping, Karplop pointed out Rio Mare tuna is the only canned tuna Miss Foodie will eat. Dammit Karplop, why did you have to go and say that? Now I had to buy it. Seriously, Miss Foodie should create her own stamp and start labeling restaurants and food products so customers know it was Miss Food approved.

When we went to order our pizzas to go, Karplop informed me that Miss Foodie only orders the Cotto e Funghi ($24) at Azzurri Pizzeria. Again Karplop? You know how impressionable I am. Of course I changed my order from my beloved Ten Pizza ($25) to the mushroom pizza. Karplop ordered the Italia ($26) and said we could share both pizzas.

While we waited outside on the patio, Karplop mentioned several times that it would be best to eat the pizzas straightaway because the crust is crispier. However, we decided to take our pizzas to go because we had wine at her place. When we got back, Karplop rushed to lift the lids up and fanned the pizzas to help with the condensation.

I thought the mixed mushroom pizza was a subtle combination of delicate flavours and textures. The prosciutto was so light and clean it reminded me of the deli sliced ham my parents would buy for our sandwiches. The goat cheese was smooth and soft with a little tartness to it. The mushrooms were earthy and with a prominent aroma.

Karplop’s sausage pizza was the opposite of the mushroom pizza.  The homemade Innis and Gunn Italian sausage was juicy and spicy. The zesty tang of the San Marzano tomato sauce was dominant. I enjoyed the crunch of the red caramelized onions and the strong flavours of the Genoa sausage, which rounded out this hearty pie. Between the two pies, I have to say I preferred the robustness of the sausage pizza over the refined flavours of the mushroom pie.

I can see why Karplop was so focused on preserving the integrity of the crust. I appreciate the thinness of the dough and the big air pockets within the crust. I particularly liked the charred bits and the chewy texture of the bread. Azzurri only used “00” flour and the dough is hand stretched, tossed, then baked in a 900 degree Marra Forni brick oven.

I told Karplop that I read a Google review by a customer who complained the crust was burnt and she had to pick off the black pieces. Karplop laughed and said that is the way its supposed to be and the charred bits doesn’t taste burnt. She wondered why the customer wasn’t aware that this was a specific style of pizza making. I was tempted to quote Biggie Smalls in the Google review and add, ” … and if you don’t know, now you know.”

If you are a pizza lover and enjoy quality over quantity, check out Azzurri Pizzeria. This place is something special. And if you got a beef with the style of pizza they make, think twice before posting a negative review because you are going to get burned. Hitting the Sauce gives Azzurri two fat thumbs up.

 

Beer · Burgers · Patio · Restaurants

Annex Ale Project – COVID-19 dine-in edition

L and I have been hanging out at Annex Ales Project. Lately, this brewery has been my new go-to spot for fries and a pint. For this post, let’s listen to “Can’t Stop Feeling” by Franz Ferdinand.

I normally avoid sugary drinks, but L has gotten me hooked on Annex Ales root beer ($3.25, 355ml can). The flavour is unique – it is an easy to drink beverage but with complex, non-pedestrian root and herbal notes. I actually prefer the taste of this over regular beer, but the latter beverage serves medicinal purposes. L said the Saskatoon Lemon has it going on – it’s light and refreshing and the Saskatoon berries remind him of the prairies.

Photo credit: Annex Ales

While I’m not a true beer drinker, I’ve been enjoying Good Authority Golden Ale (7oz, $3.50; 16oz, $6.50) and the guest tap – Florida Weise ($7, 14 oz). I like the lemony tartness of the weise and the citrusy notes in the Good Authority Ale. The ale has a touch of bitterness that I find almost pleasant.

Recently, we snacked at Lil Empire’s, which is located inside Annex Ales. L ordered the Empire Burger with Cheese ($12.49) and I picked the Classic Crunch Chicken ($13). We shared an order of regular fries ($4) and on a subsequent visit, the Dirty Fries ($8).

God damn – this is a beautiful burger! I could taste the quality of the beef, which was so juicy and flavourful. I loved the contrast between the warm, oozy creaminess from the cheese and sauces to the cool, crunchy lettuce. The buns are perfect – puffy, sweet and not too bready, so it becomes one with the patty and cheese. This burger was so good, I wished I ordered it instead of my fried chicken burger.

My chicken came out hot and crunchy. The batter and thinness of the cutlet reminded me of a schnitzel. The secret sauce was zesty with what I thought tasted like dill or relish. I liked that there was more chicken than bun. Both burgers came with insanely delicious pickles.

The fries are thin and crispy and properly salted. The dirty fries remind me of a hot dog, as it’s loaded with tasty bits of hot dog, mustard, relish and Empire burger sauce. I prefer the regular fries because done right, nothing is better than the simplicity of perfectly cooked and salted fries.

Annex Ales is a busy spot, and for good reason. There’s a nice selection of beers, cocktails, non-alcoholic beverages and comfort food that is several notches above pubs and fast food. As well, there’s a dog friendly patio. We will be back for the cheeseburger, fries, beers and sodas. Hitting the Sauce gives Annex Ales two fat thumbs up.

Photo credit: Annex Ales

Happy Hour · Restaurants · Seafood

A1 Bodega Cafe – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Karplop is my new #1 pandemic buddy. I love that she’s up for anything and most importantly, she only takes one photo of her food. Serious foodies spend so much time setting up the perfect shot that by the time they finish working, the food is cold. I just wanna eat my food as it was intended, hot and fresh. For this post, let’s listen to “Temperature” by Sean Paul.

We arrived at A1 Bodega Cafe in time for aperitivo hour. If you buy an alcoholic beverage, you get a complimentary tapa. Karplop and I started off with a Strawberry Pomegranate Negroni (2oz, $12).

The cocktail was strong and boozy. I enjoyed the strong scent of citrus. Karplop noticed A1 Cafe uses the big ice cubes for their cocktails, which results in a less watery beverage.

For our first round of tapas, we picked the Mortadella and Mussels Escabeche. When our server learned that Karplop and I were going to share the tapas, she mentioned the appetizers were bite size and thus too small to share. When she left, Karplop looked me dead in the eye and said flatly, “We are Asian. We can share anything.”

Karplop cut our little tapas in half. The mortadella was my favourite – the meat was served warm, topped with pea and pistachio pesto. I thought I could detect some pate. I want to try the full-size mortadella appetizer the next time I visit.

The mussels in the Mussels Escabeche were served cold. The smoked pimentos tasted both sweet and sour.

We shared an entree size of Mussels ($22). When I ordered this dish, I didn’t realize the mussels would already be de-shelled. The tomato sauce was creamy and spicy, with a noticeable amount of heat. Karplop liked the addition of fennel, which she thought cut nicely into the sauce. The focaccia bread was warm and crusty, the ideal vessel for scooping up that heavy tomato sauce.

We ran out of focaccia bread and Karplop didn’t want to waste the sauce, so we ordered the Portuguese Sweet Rolls ($4). The bread itself was sweet, while the top was warm, buttery and salty. I found the insides of the rolls too cold.

We asked for a recommendation for a wine that would pair with our pasta dish. Our server recommended the Volcans Pinot Noir ($11). For our complimentary tapas, we tried the Pide Chips and Confit Tomato.

The chip came with hummus and zaatar. The Pan Con Tomate was clean and simple, though the bread quickly became soggy. The next tapas I want to try is the deviled egg and smoked olives.

My favourite dish of the night was the Paccheri ($18). I enjoyed chewing on the thick noodles alongside the oily, meaty flavours from the Bolognese sauce. I also liked the heavy-handed layering of parmesan, so plentiful there was cheese stuck to every noodle. I enjoyed this pasta so much, I picked up two bags from their market to make at home.

I’m keen to return to try the flatbread, the mortadella, and of course, the paccheri pasta. I know L will like this place too. I checked out their draft beer list and spied Cabin Brewing Co, Eighty-Eight Brewing, Ol’ Beautiful, Zero Issue Brewing and Blindman Brewery.

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – COVID-19 dine-in edition #2

On Saturday, L and I met up with Grohl and Flower Child for dinner. Grohl wanted Chinese food but Flower Child insisted we have sushi. I was relieved. Grohl lived in China for a period and ever since, he’s been trying to relive his culinary experiences. He doesn’t listen to my recommendations and orders what he remembers from his travels, then complains the food is terrible and not at all like it was in China. I told L we had to pick a restaurant that Grohl couldn’t find fault with. My reputation was at stake. We decided on Sukiyaki House because we knew head chef Koji Kobayshi and sous chef Yuki Koyama’s culinary creativity would impress our friends.  For this post, let’s listen to “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis.

This post won’t list the prices as Grohl and Flower Child treated us out. As well, I won’t describe the assorted tempura, agadashi tofu and nigiri we ate as I’ve written about it extensively in past posts.

tempura

When I saw FoodKarma Instagram posts on Koji’s summer creation – the Irodori Hiyashi Udon – I knew I had to try it. This bowl of sea treasures cost around $17, which is fantastic value. Our bowl was filled with generously sized pieces of hamachi, snow crab, scallop, ebi, ikura, shitake, tamago, and shredded seaweed.

udon

The chilled udon noodles were thin and chewy. The cold dashi soy broth was refreshing and light enough that it didn’t mask or take away from the natural sweetness of the seafood. I made use of the side of yuzukosho, which added a spicy kick. This cold seafood udon special is available only for a few more weeks, so come quick before it is too late.

special

Koji created a stunning plate of tuna and hamachi tataki. I thought the sweet onion ponzu sauce went well with the denser, stronger flavour of hamachi as well as the lighter, softer pieces of tuna. The garnishes of daikon, micro greens and edible flowers tasted as pretty as it looked.

hot roll

Grohl requested a spicy roll. I asked our server Justin if there was a roll so hot it would burn Grohl’s ass. Justin laughed at my grossness and said Yuki could create something off the menu – the Spicy Aka Oshizushi. The roll was hot but in a restrained way that really worked with the flavor of the red tuna. The topping of micro greens, green onions and crispy shallots added a freshness and crunch factor with each bite.

L said he could taste gochujang spice in the sauce. Justin informed us that there were two other Japanese spices added for extra heat. Grohl raved about how good this roll was and just like that, my reputation was restored. Thanks Yuki.

Sushi

Grohl ordered a piece of the house made smoked wild eel. Apparently, wild eel has a smokier flavour profile and more texture than regular eel. Justin mentioned the chefs reduce the unagi sauce from the soy cure the eel is boiled in.

Grohl and I ate a piece of Hokkaido sea urchin (uni). He closed his eyes as he ate and exclaimed that the uni tasted like a blast of the ocean. I enjoyed the clean sea flavour and the cool, creamy texture. Justin mentioned Hokkaido uni is much sweeter compared to other sea urchin in Japan and the rest of the world.

We all tried a piece of chu toro. Justin informed us that Koji and Yuki use the fattier cuts of bluefin tuna. This one was a winner! I thought the white and pink hue was particularly pretty and the tuna richly flavoured with a soft, almost buttery texture.

dessert

For dessert, we shared the flourless chocolate soufflé with house made green tea ice cream. The souffle was warm and coated my tongue with the taste of dark, rich chocolate. I really liked that the flavour of the matsu kaze tea matcha was so intense.

empur

Thank you Grohl and Flower Child for an epic meal. Hopefully you will have time for us to take you out before you leave. I know a great Korean restaurant for ass burning ‘fire chicken’.

Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

River Cafe – COVID-19 dine-in edition

With COVID-19 hampering our summer plans, L and I are making an effort to visit the more picturesque restaurants in Calgary. I’ve been wanting to return to River Cafe ever since we celebrated Ottawa and Soup’s wedding in 2019. For this post, let’s listen to “She’s Got the Look” by Roxette.

We didn’t manage to score a patio table but in the end, it worked out for the best. It was a cool night and the breeze would have prematurely chilled our entrees. Instead, we sat by the window and were afforded a view of the patio and passersby roaming around Prince’s Island Park.

champagne

I chose a glass of champagne (Gardet Brut, $19) to pair with our fresh oysters while L stuck to a pint of Establishment Brewing Company beer ($9). Whenever we share a plate of oysters, L ensures I get the largest ones. He knows the way to my heart.

Oysters

We ordered four west coast oysters ($19). One variety was Sun Seeker and the other (I think) was Kusshi. The Kusshi was soft, fat and creamy. The Sun Seeker had a lighter flesh with a texture that reminded me of watermelon. The oysters were served at a temperature slightly below room temperature.

Oyster 2

L would have preferred a mignonette over the pickled Salt Spring Island ginger but I disagree. With these oysters, I wouldn’t want anything to cover up those clean ocean flavours.

Oyster 3
We shared the Chicken Liver Parfait ($19). Our toasted brioche was generously spread with a mousse-like pate. The nectarine, cherries and Saskatoon berries were served at the optimal stage of ripeness.

pate

The nectarine was sweet and juicy, but the skin still had some resistance. The meaty softness of the cherry melded with richness of the pate. The ice wine gastrique was unique – I found it tart and sweet.

toast

I paired my Beef Tenderloin ($52) with a glass of Bordeaux (2015 Chateau Patache d’aux Medoc, $14). The beef was well-seasoned, soft and almost buttery in texture. I was surprised there was so much flavour in this cut of meat, as I normally find tenderloin bland.

Tenderloin 1

The emerald broccolini stalks were cooked so that it still retained a crunch. I could taste a smokiness on the charred florets. I loved the combination of the crispy onions and the decadently creamy Popular Bluff pureed potatoes.

Tenderloin 2

This beef was more satisfying than the steaks I’ve tried at Caesar’s Steakhouse. Though the steak appeared smaller in size than what you get at a traditional steakhouse, the portion we received was filling. We were so stuffed, we declined dessert.

dessert

Thanks L for an incredible meal. I’m keen to come again, perhaps in the afternoon for oysters and wine. I love this restaurant so much, River Cafe makes it on my list of Best Restaurants in YYC. 

River Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chinese · Restaurants · Seafood

Sun’s BBQ – COVID-19 dine-in edition

L’s friend Grohl is visiting from Texas. His wife informed us that their ten year old daughter Hepburn wants to be a food critic. After they finished their 14 day self isolation, L and I took Hepburn out for dinner. For this post, let’s listen to “Exhile” by Taylor Swift and Bon Iver.

Hepburn’s favourite cuisine is Chinese and she wanted to dine in. With Hepburn in our care, I wanted to pick the safest place. I know Sun’s BBQ was professionally disinfected before reopening. All employees wear gloves and face masks and guests have their body temperature measured and hands sanitized before entering the restaurant.

SUn's

I stuck with hot tea while Hepburn drank a can of Sprite ($3) and L sipped on his Tsing Tao beer ($6.50). Prior to our visit, I consulted with Miss Foodie and Ms. Biz. Miss Foodie recommended any of the hot plates or casseroles. Ms. Biz approved of the deep-fried chicken knees and vegetable stir fry.

Hepburn looked at the menu and pointed to the deep-fried chicken knees. When I told her what it was, she and L vetoed the dish, despite my assurance that deep-fried knees are delicious. Hepburn wanted crab and L wanted anything but the chicken knees, a casserole or a hot plate.

great pic crab

The Stir Fried Crab with Ginger and Onion ($54) was superior to the crab I tried at Kam Han. The crab tasted like it was fresh and not previously frozen. At Kam Han, the texture of crab meat was like canned crab and the meat stuck to the shells.

crab 2

Our crab arrived so hot, my hands burned from the heat of the shells. The crab meat was flaky and sweet.  I even ate the crab fat inside the body’s cavity. When the soft innards are fried, it has a creamy richness similar to deep-fried oysters. I would order the crab again.

crab leg

The Scallop and Tobiko Fried Rice ($16.99) was light in flavour. I was hoping for more wok hei in the rice. Hepburn enjoyed this dish, though I thought it was only average.

rice

I ordered Thai Style Grilled Chicken ($18.99) because I’ve seen it featured on Taste of Asia’s Instagram account. Hepburn didn’t care for it and L said it was okay. This is a dish I could cook at home, though I would have seasoned the chicken more and ensured the skin was crispy and not served soft.

chicken

I’m pleased with Sun’s BBQ safety standards but if I go for dinner again, I’d heed Miss Foodie’s advice and order a hot plate or casserole. From what I sampled,  Sun’s BBQ is best for lunch when they offer their BBQ meats on rice or noodles. Perhaps this experience will serve as a cautionary tale as to what happens when you fail to follow the cardinal rule of Chinese restaurants – order what is recommended by trusted sources. Miss Foodie and Ms Biz, I’ll never disregard your advice again.

Sun Chiu Kee BBQ Restaurant 新釗記 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fusion · Restaurants · Vegetarian · Vietnamese

Pure Kitchen & Bar – COVID-19 takeout edition

L and I dropped by Uncle Ben’s house for dinner. Since Veggie Girl is having pregnancy cravings for bún (vermicelli bowl), we ordered Vietnamese takeout.  I picked Pure Kitchen and Bar because their vegetarian dishes offer a more varied selection than its competitors. For this post, let’s listen to “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige.

My photos are particularly bad as I didn’t feel like even putting in my usual half-ass effort. Pandemics make me unmotivated for self-improvement. Hopefully Pure Kitchen and Bar doesn’t mind me using some of their Instagram photos.

Screen Shot 2020-07-22 at 11.35.43 AM
Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I’m a big fan of the Papaya, Mango & Shrimp Salad ($13).  I thought there was a lot of shrimp in this dish, particularly for the price. The fresh basil was aromatic and plentiful. The shredded papaya and mango was pleasingly chewy. The chilli lime sauce was really spicy. I liked all the crunchy elements in the salad –  peanuts, fried taro and crispy onions. I couldn’t finish this salad in one sitting and the next day, it tasted just as good.

Screen Shot 2020-07-22 at 3.22.06 PM
Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

L and I shared the Salted Duck Yolk Shrimp Tempura ($15). This dish illustrates how Chef Lam has mastered the art of takeout. I want to know how the shrimp remained so crunchy almost forty minutes after picking up our order. The dipping sauce of nori and tobiko mayo stood up beautifully against the crusty battered shrimp. He needs to charge more for this dish.

Veg

I ordered Veggie Girl the Vegetarian Vermicelli ($15).  She raved about the texture of the fried tofu and noted that other Vietnamese restaurants often skimp out when it comes to the vegetarian dishes. Veggie Girl mentioned the vegetarian spring roll tasted similar to a Chinese style egg roll.

Screen Shot 2020-07-22 at 11.34.50 AM
Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I ordered Uncle Ben the Lemongrass Ultimeat Feast Vermicelli ($17) because he doesn’t often get the chance to eat meat. The ultimeat feast includes chicken, beef, shrimp and a pork spring roll. Uncle Ben mentioned the shrimp was large and not like the peanut sized ones that other Vietnamese restaurants use. He said that all the meats were generous in size and not overcooked. When Veggie Girl mentioned she was digging her spring roll, Uncle Ben chimed in that he enjoyed his spring roll as well. When I pressed him to describe the flavour he said, “It tastes like a good spring roll”. Uncle Ben, for the love of my blog, you got to work with me.

Screen Shot 2020-07-22 at 11.34.37 AM
Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I ordered L the Caramelized Chilli Lemongrass Chicken ($17) but I substituted vermicelli noodles for the rice. When I handed L his food, he asked me what I got him. I reminded him that in March, he wanted to try the lemongrass chicken but with noodles instead of rice. I tried a bite and I can confirm that I prefer the original rice version. The rice soaks up the rich flavour of the lemongrass better than the noodles.

Screen Shot 2020-07-22 at 11.36.25 AM
Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I ordered the Crispy Chicken Noodle Soup ($17) to eat the next day. The broth contained strong notes of garlic and something sweet. I opted for the spicy broth version and by the end of my breakfast, my whole face was perspiring. Yes, this is definitely a pho to eat at home alone, and in the dark. The portion was so generous I was able to make the soup last for two meals.

pho

With the rising number of COVID cases in Calgary, L and I are being extra careful where we dine. Currently, Pure is only accepting takeout or delivery orders. If you are ordering pickup, you have to call the restaurant once you get there and an employee will bring out your order to the door. I’ve ordered twice now from Pure Kitchen and I’m satisfied with their safety precautions.

salad

Pure Contemporary Vietnamese Kitchen + Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

Burgers · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Charbar – COVID dine-in edition

Aga visited me last Wednesday from Lethbridge. She told me that she’s been unlucky when it comes to dining out in her new city, particularly for Vietnamese or Chinese cuisine. I felt sorry for her and let her pick the restaurant for our dinner date. As this beautiful bout of summer weather always makes me feel frisky, let’s listen to “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley.

Aga picked Charbar in East Village. We were lucky to get a patio table, with a view of Bow River. Since COVID-19, the menu is more limited but it still has the old favourites, like the Charbar burger, steaks, and seafood.

char outside

We both started off with a glass of Sacrifice Rosé ($11). We enjoyed our rosé – it was dry with a tartness that reminded me of raspberries.

wine

I contacted Miss Foodie the night before to ask for her recommendations. She suggested the cabbage salad, the burger, and the ceviche. The night after I ate at Charbar, I had a dream about Miss Foodie, a person I’ve never met.

menu

In my dream, Miss Foodie and I were living in a student residence and she just came back from a dinner. She put her leftover prawns in a pot on the stove but she had to leave after taking an urgent phone call. I didn’t bother to reheat the food and just ate it out of the pot.

I asked my friend Karplop if she thought I was weird for dreaming about eating Miss Foodie’s leftovers. Karplop laughed and said no, I was normal and I probably had that dream because Miss Foodie has been posting about BC spotted prawns on her Instagram account.

ceviche

Aga and I shared the Eggplant Milanese Chips ($14), Charred Napa Cabbage Salad ($18), Tableside Ceviche ($19), and the Double Stacked Gaucho Burger ($19). Aga was initially hesitant to try ceviche because she has never tried marinaded raw seafood but she figured she would put on a brave face since she was with me. Thankfully, she was a fan.

chip

Each piece of shrimp, mussel, clam, and baby squid was squeaky clean. The lime marinade was zesty and refreshing. I liked the addition of the toasted popcorn – it provided a fluffy crunch followed by a nice chew. My favourite piece of seafood was the squid – it was glossy white, with a satiny texture and tender to the tooth. The ceviche tasted even fresher than I’ve experienced in coastal cities, such as Cabo San Lucas.

chip

Our server recommended ordering the eggplant chips to go with ceviche. The chips went well with seafood as it provided a crunchy, salty vessel to the seafood.

salad

I’m not a salad person, but there are four restaurants in Calgary that make one worth eating – Pure Modern Asian Kitchen & Bar, Una Pizza + Wine, Cotto Italian Comfort Food, and Charbar. The charred cabbage tasted like the yakitori I ate in Japan. The avocado was creamy with a texture similar to chilled butter. Aga raved about the freshness of the mint and the bright citrus dressing. My favourite element of the salad is the lentils – it tasted like fresh peas but with the watery texture of raw bean sprouts.

close up burger

I’ve said repeatedly that Charbar makes one of the best burgers in the city. The double patties are well-seasoned and juicy. I didn’t find the burger as saucy as previous visits but I think I prefer it this way so I could taste more of flavour of the beef. Aga liked the avocado topping in the burger. I’m partial to the beef fat fries – the interior was soft and mealy and the exterior shell was ultra crunchy.

half burger

I chatted with out server and asked him if he thought their customers adhere to the new safety precautions. He said staff keep a close eye on everything – from sanitation standards they had in place before COVID-19 to ensuring customers follow procedures when entering the restaurant. He mentioned that Shoppers Drug Mart offers free testing, so after his shift ends on Sunday, he gets tested and finds out the result before his first shift starts on Wednesday.

fries

Dining out has its risks, much like grocery shopping, working, and any social outing. Since the pandemic, I’ve been making an effort to pick restaurants that are upfront, fully transparent and put in precautionary measures to better protect everyone’s health and safety. Personally, I felt safe eating at Charbar. Hitting the Sauce gives Charbar two fat thumbs up.

Charbar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Chinatown · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Paper Lantern – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Lovegastrogirl and I checked out Paper Lantern, a new underground tropical Vietnamese lounge in Chinatown. On Friday night, Paper Lantern was spinning some nostalgically old R&B tunes. So, for this post, let’s listen to “Try Again” by Aaliyah.

When we sat down, I immediately noticed two things. First, the staff take sanitation seriously. I saw tables being thoroughly cleaned in between parties. As this was Lovegastrogirl’s first time out in a restaurant since COVID-19, Paper Lantern’s safe practices put our minds at ease. Second, the music is played at an optimal level. For what my terrible eyesight lacks, my excellent hearing makes up for in spades. The music was loud enough to get into yet low enough to carry on a private conversation. A pet peeve of mine are restaurants that play music at a power level their speakers are unable to handle, resulting in fuzzy bass.

pina
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

The prices at Paper Lantern are easy on the wallet. Well-made and sizeable snacks range from $7-$12. Cocktails cost from $10-$18, wines from $9-15, and beers from $6.5 – $8. On the evening we visited, pina coladas were on special for $8 and a shot of premium rum sold at cost.

room
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

Lovegastrogirl and I had no problem sucking back our pina coladas. Our chilled glass stayed frosty until the last delicious drop. I liked that my drink wasn’t too sweet and I enjoyed the balance of rum to the flavours of the coconut and pineapple. A coconut flake lodged in my throat and I started self-consciously coughing. I looked around the packed room and thankfully, no one gave me stink eye.

Break even
Photo credit: Paper Lantern

Paper Lantern does a “break-even” special – a shot of premium liquor sold at cost. We tried Flor de Cana ($7.22), a 25-year slow aged 80 proof volcanic ash enriched rum from Nicaragua. I enjoyed the clean burn in my throat as it warmed me up.

shot
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

We shared an order of Beef Thịt Lụi Nướng ($8). We received three skewers of soy marinaded beef, topped with grilled and crispy onions and accompanied with a dipping sauce of coconut hoisin. We requested no peanuts due to Lovegastrogirl’s allergy.

skewers

I enjoyed the taste of the charbroil beef and the generous toppings on each skewer. Lovegastrogirl taught me a new trick. Get your friend to shed some light from their phone while you take a photo. Not only do you get a clearer and brighter picture, your flash doesn’t go off and blind other customers. L will be relieved.

skewer single
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

We tried the Thịt Ba Chỉ Ram Mặn ($10) – a stir fry of pork belly, shrimp and pineapple on top of steamed rice. I enjoyed the sweet and tart glaze on the caramelized pork and shrimp. The portion of protein and rice was generous. I would order this again.

pork bowl

I’m planning on bringing my work family in early August to check out more of the menu. Office Dad said he will come if he’s allowed to bring his wife Jay Low.  I like his wife, so I said sure. Office Dad told me that Jay Low used to have a little, but now she has a lot. He said don’t be fooled by the rocks that she got, she’s still Jay Low from the Block.

rice bowl better
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

For our third drink of the night, Lovegastrogirl ordered a Saturn cocktail ($10) and I ordered a glass of Reynolds Branco. This white wine was described as a tropical vacation in a glass.  I found this wine rich, creamy and smooth. I thought this was an unusual wine and I enjoyed the chance to try something different.

Saturn
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

I’m thrilled that Calgary has a unique speakeasy in the heart of Chinatown. This is something the neighbourhood needs – an urban escape with tropical beverages and  yummy Vietnamese bites. Chinatown is changing and I’m loving it. For information about the entrepreneurs behind Paper Lantern, check out food writer Elizabeth Chorney-Booth’s detailed review.

Cheap Eats · Chinatown · Chinese · Comfort food · Curry · Restaurants

Calgary Court Restaurant – COVID-19 dine-in

The thing about Chinese restaurants is that you have to know what to order. Perhaps because of the super long menu, not all the dishes are winners. I rely on my friend Ms. Biz to guide me to the best food. For our lunch date with Karplop, Ms. Biz picked Calgary Court Restaurant. For this post, let’s listen to “Heart is Cold” by The Damn Truth.

Ms. Biz recommends the HK style dishes at Calgary Court. She picked the Spam and Egg Sandwich ($6.25); Sliced Fried Fish Cake Noodle Soup ($10.50); Shrimp Dumpling Soup (sui kow, $10.95); and Hainan Style Curry Tender Beef Combo ($16.50). Karplop thought Ms. Biz ordered too much food. Ms. Biz tossed her sleek ponytail and stated that when she treats, she likes to ensure her guests have plenty to eat. In that aspect, Ms. Biz reminds me of my mother.

The beef curry combo includes a soup of the day, steamed rice and a coffee or tea. For an extra dollar, you can upgrade to a cold milk tea. Ms. Biz asserted that the only restaurants that make an authentic Chinese milk tea belong to Taste of Asia Restaurants. She pointed out that even the complimentary tea we were drinking was Yellow Label Lipton tea. When I asked why Lipton tea is considered a positive, she answered it is the standard for HK style milk tea.

Ms. Biz asked me if I was familiar with this style of soup, as it is a herbal broth that Paw Paws (Chinese word for grandmother) make for their family. I was surprised to see so much soft meat on the soup bones. The broth was sweet and hot. The pieces of carrots and melons were firm and not overcooked to mush. The broth was infused with tangerine peels and dates, which according to Ms. Biz is conducive for cooling down your body temperature in the summer months.

One of Ms. Biz favourite dishes at Calgary Court is a quintessential HK staple – the luncheon meat egg sandwich. The mountain of pale yellow eggs is almost custard-like. The crispy golden brown slice of spam gives the sandwich a pop of saltiness. The softness of the fluffy bread melded against the eggs and spam and perfectly cradled the two ingredients together.

Ms. Biz believes Calgary Court makes the best sui kow (shrimp and wood ear mushroom soup dumpling) in Calgary. I gasped in disbelief, “Even better than Lucky Place?” Ms. Biz doesn’t jest. One order of sui kow comes with six dumplings and each dumpling contains two large pieces of whole shrimp. What makes this dumpling irresistible is the delicate crunchy filling of shrimp, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. Karplop mentioned the flavour of the broth was tasty and encouraged me to drink more. I love eating with Karplop and Ms. Biz. They are so giving, I always feel cared for when I eat with them.

Ms. Biz mentioned that though the ho fan noodles aren’t made in house, the noodles are still homemade. She pointed out how generous Calgary Court is with the black seaweed and sour pickles. The fish cake was sliced thin and silky soft. Ms. Biz said what makes this soup sing with umami is the addition of ground dried flounder and pepper flakes.

My favourite dish was of course the most fattening one – curry tender beef. The beef was marbled with juicy bits of fat. The potato was so soft, it disintegrated when I bit it. Ms. Biz said the sauce is made with condensed milk and coconut milk. I could tell because the curry was ultra rich and creamy.

The week prior, I ordered takeout from Calgary Court. I ordered a dish FoodKarma recommends – the Shrimp & Egg Fried Ho Fan ($16.99). I was impressed with the large pieces of pink, crunchy shrimp. The wok hei was subtle. The portion of egg sauce and noodles was so generous, it spilled in my takeout container. Make sure you get some of Calgary Court’s chili oil – it added the necessary heat that cuts into the thick, eggy sauce.

I told Ms. Biz I didn’t care for the Pan Fried Turnip Cake ($6.50) because I found the texture too hard and oily. Ms. Biz said to never order dim sum at a HK style restaurant. Around this time, Ms. Biz saw a friend from across the room. He came over to chat with her. I overheard him say he ordered the salt and pepper squid and tofu and shrimp dish. I fought the urge to tell him not to order dishes like salt and pepper squid at a HK style restaurant because no one likes a know-it-all.

FoodKarma and Josiahhh saw my Instagram posts of all the food and recommended the next time I come, I try the Baked Portuguese Pork Chop on Rice ($16.99). I also want to try the Hainan style steamed chicken with rice ($15.99), which appears to be a featured specialty dish. I know L would enjoy the food at Calgary Court.

Photo credit: Taste of Asia

One of many things that impress me about a Chinese restaurant is the wide selection of dishes you can get and how common it is for diners to customize their dishes. I think it’s impressive that a chef can make so many dishes and improvise based on a customer’s preference. I also want to mention that during my past two visits, how good the service has been at Calgary Court. As I don’t speak Chinese, I really appreciate the extra dose of courtesy I received from staff.

 

 

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Burgers · Cheap Eats · Comfort food · Fusion · Happy Hour · Pubs · Restaurants

Eat Crow Snack Bar – COVID-19 dine-in edition

On Monday evening, L and I checked out Eat Crow Snack Bar, a new restaurant that took over Brassiere Kensington. For this post, I’m going to play a piece by conductor Liang Zhang from the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. I know nothing about conductors, but according to my father, Zhang is the bee’s knees.

I ordered a Texas Paloma ($13) and L ordered a Lone Star beer (HH $5, regular $7.50). The dried grapefruit garnish was a pretty, decorative touch. The combination of Texan Paloma, Epsilon Reposado, Ketel One Grapefruit, Rose Vodka and grapefruit was surprisingly balanced and subtle. I was expecting a cocktail that was heavy on the tequila. L took a sip and mentioned that in our next visit, he would partake in a cocktail instead of his usual beer.

grapefruit

The Spicy Chicken Wings ($8.50 w/ ranch dip) is a winner. If you are a wing connoisseur, you need to try these wings. The seasoning is mildly spicy and dry. The batter is thin and crisp, and so light the skin melted on my tongue. The chicken is good quality – plump with unblemished, silky white meat.

Each order comes with three pieces of chicken, and each wing is equivalent to three or four pub wings. I estimated I got about nine regular size wings worth of meat and skin. I would come back to Eat Crow just for the wings because it was that good.

Another must order dish is the Crow Burger ($6). The patty is thick and tender and explodes with juicy flavour. Though small in size, this burger is packed with so much meat, cheese and pickles, it was satiating. The Crow Burger rivals all the heavyweights in Calgary – Charbar, Clive Burger, and Burger 320.

The Magic Fries ($6) is also worth ordering again. Golden brown and perfectly munchy, these fries are delightfully addicting. I love the soft, mealy texture inside the crispy shell. Extra bonus – the portion is large enough to share.

I ordered my second and last cocktail of the night – the Humble Pie (HH $8.50). Made with Highroad Alberta vodka, sparkling wine, raspberry and lemon, this drink reminds me of the Framboise fortified wine from Elephant Island Orchard Wines. Not too sour or sweet, this cocktail is too easy to drink. I couldn’t taste the three ounces of booze, but I could sure feel it.

The Humble Pie cocktail came with a baby lemon tart. The custard is creamy and bright with a citrusy zing. The crust is brittle and buttery. The fresh mint and dehydrated strawberry garnish wasn’t just decorative but added to the flavour profile. I would order this cocktail again just for the lemon tart.

L and I shared the Crow Joe ($6). This is an incredibly messy slider. With every bite, an equivalent amount of the filling would drip down onto the plate. The sauce reminded me a little of Heinz beans.

The Handmade Pirogies ($10, $2 bacon) arrived supersized and fluffy. L enjoyed the sweet caramelized onions and smoky bits of bacon. I’m curious to know what my friend Sirosky would think, as his family makes their own pirogies

Eat Crow charges prices similar to El Furniture Warehouse, a restaurant that sells all dishes for $5.99 (plus extra for upgrades like bacon, cheese, and sauces). However, the food quality at Eat Crow is significantly higher and vastly tastier than El Furniture Warehouse. I’m keen to return to try some of the vegetarian dishes, as well as those delightful wings and the Crow burger.

Eat Crow Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – COVID-19 dine-in edition

To celebrate my good news, I told L that I was taking him out for dinner at Sukiyaki House. Judith, Justin and Chef Koji Kobayashi must have also been in a celebratory mood because they spoiled us rotten with complimentary bougie treats. For this post, let’s listen to “Wanna Be A Baller” by Lil’ Troy.

Judith treated us to a taste of Masumi, a sparkling sake that is fermented using an ancestral method. The sake tasted like a mellow champagne. When I sipped on this liquid gold, my entire scalp tingled.

sparkling

Judith also poured us a glass of an exclusive bottle of sake. Jikon is a sought after brand in Japan – there are only 30 stores that carry this sake. She informed us that Kiyashō brewery was going down the drain until his son decided to take sake into a different direction. He wanted to make a better product, so he focused on a smaller batches of sake, paying more attention to koji and rice quality.

sake glass

Judith added that omachi is one of the oldest rice strains with no cross breeding. This type of rice is extremely hard to grow due to its tall height, which can get damaged easily in the wind. Omachi rice grain is also difficult to brew due to its fat round shape. Brewers prefer to work with a flat grain. The extra effort is worth it because omachi rice creates sakes that are layered, earthy, diversified, and herbal.

sake

As we were enjoying our sake tasting, Chef Koji Kobayashi sent over a stunning plate of red snapper sashimi. His food is art because it appeals to our sight, smell and taste. Sorry Koji, my poor attempt at photography doesn’t do your work justice.

sashimi

The fish was so buttery soft it melted on my tongue. With each bite, I’d take a piece of snapper, swirl it in the ponzu sauce and then top it off with the micro greens and a flower. I thought I could taste sesame in the little crunchy bits sprinkled on the top.

bite

We ordered the Assorted Tempura ($20) and a pint of the Asahi Draft ($7). Our tempura arrived steaming hot. This is the first time since Japan that I’ve been impressed by the taste and texture of tempura.

beer

Judith instructed us to add the grated ginger and daikon into our tempura sauce. The batter was pale blonde, ultra light and crisp. The tempura tasted clean, not the least bit oily or greasy. Double damn – this was some fine ass tempura.

Tempura

My favourite pieces of tempura were the kinoko (enoki mushroom) and black tiger shrimp. I enjoyed the process of pulling the delicate enoki legs apart and then dipping it into the sauce.

mushroom

The shrimp was cooked until it was a pretty pink hue. The shrimp meat was delicately crunchy and sweet. Next time, I want to special order just the shrimp and enoki mushrooms. The heart wants what it wants, or else it does not care (Emily Dickinson, 1862).

platter

We ordered a selection of our favourite pieces of nigiri. Aka Maguro ($4.20); Hotategai ($4.20); Amaebi ($4), Ebi ($3); Kani ($3.70); Maguro ($3); Shake Atlantic ($3); and Sockeye ($3.50). Always having the same sushi chefs at the helm means that we can expect the same consistency when we dine at Sukiyaki House. Yet again, the sushi rice was perfectly cooked and seasoned. This is important to me, as personally, I think the rice is just as important as the fish.

ebi

I preferred the firmer texture and richer flavour of the sockeye salmon over Atlantic salmon. Compared to the sockeye, the Atlantic tasted milder and fattier. The cooked shrimp was excellent, with its trademark crunchy texture and sweet flavour. Unlike other Japanese restaurants, the ebi at Sukiyaki House actually has flavour.

shrimp

The regular maguro (tuna) was smooth and tasty, but the fatty, satiny Aka Maguro (bluefin fatty tuna) was mind blowing. Spend the extra dollar and get the blue fin tuna! Best buck you’ll ever spend. L enjoyed it so much he wanted to get a second piece.

scallop

I love the way the sushi chef prepares the hotategai. The scallop is sliced so that all the silky crevices glide all over your tongue. Sensational! I don’t know any other sushi restaurant that does this.

second order

L’s colleague Dallas recently told him that he dined out at a fancy Japanese influenced restaurant.  One of the dishes was a $12 slice of raw fish. Dallas said he wished the server told him why this piece of fish was so special to warrant the price tag, because as someone who doesn’t know much about sushi, he wanted to know what he was eating. L wants to bring Dallas and his wife to Sukiyaki House to get an understanding of the high standard used in excellent Japanese cuisine. At Sukiyaki House, not only do you get Koji – who is trained in Japanese fine dining and Yuki – a sushi artist, but you also get educated by servers whose knowledge of saki and food enhances the experience by giving you a deeper appreciation of the food and drink you are consuming.

Sukiyaki House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Cheap Eats · Chinatown · Chinese · Restaurants

Lucky Place – COVID-19 dine-in edition

 

Ms. Biz and I met up in Chinatown for lunch. Though my go-to restaurant Chong Fat just opened up again, I took this opportunity to dine at Lucky Place. I still fantasize about the dishes Ms. Biz ordered back in June 2017. For this post, let’s listen to “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey.

I notice when my mother, Office Dad or Ms. Biz order off the menu, there’s a series of follow-up questions, suggestions and recommendations. With my severely limited vocabulary, I can’t do the necessary dialogue. I wish my parents pushed me harder in Chinese school.

menu 2

The dish I dream about is the Beef Shank and Tendon with Gai Lan and Double-Fried HK Style Chow Mein ($15). I’m not joking. Below is a picture I keep at my desk in case my boss wants to have a team lunch in Chinatown. That way, I can easily show the server at Lucky Place the dish I want to order.

Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 4.15.43 PM

Once in a blue moon, I take the picture out and stare at the glistening pieces of tendon and beef shank. Sometimes I wonder if my love for dining out is a problem, bordering on obsession. I can’t stress about it. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

eef

As I said before, beef shank and tendon chow mein isn’t on the regular menu. Ms. Biz requests that the chow mein is pan-fried on both sides and gai lan is substituted for bok choy.

Hot and smooth, the tendon was soft and almost jelly-like. Lucky Place’s tendon reminds me of bone marrow, rich and full of fatty beefy flavour. I thought the portion of beef shank and tendon was very generous for the price.

Chowmein

The double pan frying of the noodles results in a brittle texture that soaks up all that rich brown gravy. The dark emerald green leaves were slightly bitter while the slender stalks were sweet and crisp.

Small Bowl noo

Ms. Biz ordered a combo set – Minced Pork and Century Old Egg Congee and Thai Style Salted Fish How Fun ($9.99). The moment this dish hit our table, I could smell the fish. I loved the pungency of the fish and pork floss. Ms. Biz mentioned salted fish is expensive to purchase at a store.

fish noods

The rice noodles were marvelously chewy and caramelized from the wok. The fragrance of the wok hei always gets me weak in the knees. Most home cooks can’t achieve the coveted wok hei because you need a commercial stove to cook at a high temperature.

noods two

A lot of Chinese restaurants serve congee that is smooth and liquidy. I prefer Lucky Place’s version because the soup is thick and fluffy. The soup was loaded with goodies like slippery chunks of century old egg, shards of fresh ginger, ground pork and green onions. This is my ultimate comfort food.

congee

If you aren’t fluent in Chinese, show the owner the pictures on this blog or pick up a version of their new English menu. Ask for the Beef Brisket & Chinese Greens on Rice ($11.95), then request a substitution of fried chow mein ($1.50) and gai lan ($1.99). If there’s any confusion as to what type of noodles you are requesting, point to my picture.

menu 3

Please be patient when dining at this restaurant. The owners are doing the best they can while doing the work of four, so service is slower. English is not their first language, so be open to communicating by pointing at pictures or showing images from this post.

Trust me. The food is worth the effort and the prices are a steal. This feast was only $25 and I had leftovers for L. To date, I haven’t found any other Chinese restaurant in Calgary that makes tendon this good. Hitting the Sauce gives Lucky Place two fat thumbs up.

Lucky Place Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Happy Hour · Restaurants · Seafood

Rodney’s Oyster House – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Out of an abundance of caution, L and I decided that this summer, we will not be visiting my family in British Columbia. So for our first dine-in restaurant experience since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, I picked Rodney’s Oyster House. For this post, let’s listen to “The Kids Aren’t Alright” by The Offspring.

I prefer Rodney’s in Calgary over the Yaletown and Gastown locations in Vancouver. The Calgary location has better ambience and service. Also, the shuckers at the Calgary location are more experienced. I’ve yet to eat an oyster with shell remnants.

Ambience

We noticed management implemented several safety measures. All the employees wore masks. The front door and washroom doors were propped open, enabling touchless entry. At each table, there was hand sanitizer and an option to download the menu onto your phone. The restaurant is spacious, so there was plenty of room in between tables.

sanitizer

From Thursday to Saturday, between 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Rodney’s offers a wicked happy hour. On the day we visited, the shucker’s choice for Six Oysters and a Drink ($15) was Savage Blonde Oysters (PEI). We also ordered Beach Angels ($3.35, BC) and Marina Top Drawer ($3.35, BC).

Menu

I found all the ingredients at Rodney’s incredibly fresh, from the parsley and onions in the calamari to all the seafood we sampled. Right before we received our oysters, I saw an employee grating the horseradish.

East Coast

L and I liked that all the oysters were served cold. I don’t like eating raw oysters at room temperature, which seems to be the norm in Cabo. The Savage Blond oysters were salty, with a crunch that reminded me of celery.

The Beach Angels were creamy and robust in flavour. The Marina Top Drawer were sweet and briny but not as meaty as the Beach Angels. I would order the Beach Angels again.

Best wcoast

New on the menu are the Pan Fried Oysters ($12). The oysters were thin and flat, with a pleasant deep sea-like flavour.  The panko crust tasted like it was pan-fried in butter.

Fried Oysters

I enjoyed the delicate, crispy batter on the Rhode Island Calamari ($11). The squid was tender and silky. L preferred the tangy White Boy Ranch sauce over the tartar sauce that came with the fried oysters.

calamari

The best dish we tried was the Atlantic Haddock Tacos ($12). I’ve eaten a lot of fish tacos in my life, and Rodney’s is hands down the best. The haddock was generous in size, flaky and sweet. The batter was ultra light and the crispy shards melted on my tongue. The fish didn’t taste oily or greasy.

Tacos

I loved the composition of the taco. Instead of putting the toppings on the top, the chili lime and chipotle slaw was on the bottom.  This helped to retain the integrity of the batter and the heat from the fish. The contrast between the chilled coleslaw and hot fish was tantalizing. I liked how the flour tortilla was thin yet proportionally large enough to wrap around the sizeable piece of fish.

taco close up

Dining out takes a noticeable chunk of our budget but eating at Rodney’s reminds me why for us it’s worth it. After taking into consideration the effort to buy oysters and then having to clean, shuck and dress it, the savings isn’t worth it.

Food

When we dine out, I get to choose a little bit of this and some of that. I don’t know about you, but at my house, there isn’t a wide selection of dishes that I can eat at a moment’s notice. I also don’t own a deep fryer. I’m a decent home cook, but I can’t cook seafood nearly as perfectly as Rodney’s chefs. Of course, there’s the obvious. We don’t need to cook or clean up after our meal, which takes away from the experience.

close up fried oyster

The restaurant was full, but considering the food, service and ambience, there should be a lineup to get inside. We enjoyed our tacos so much I wanted to return the following week. However, that will have to wait. I have a date with L at Sukiyaki House and after that, I want to support Black-owned restaurants in Calgary. I was also given a generous gift certificate to Beirut Street Food, my favourite place for Lebanese food, that I want to share with L’s parents.

plate oysters

I’ll miss traveling for the foreseeable future, but Rodney’s makes travel restrictions tolerable. For seafood, you can’t go wrong here. Rodney’s Oyster House gets two fat thumbs up and it makes it on my list of best restaurants in #YYC.

Rodney's Oyster House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi · Vietnamese

Cooking Mama YYC – COVID-19 edition

Lovegastrogirl did it again! When I opened the bags she dropped off for our dinner, L shook his head and said, “You finally met your match. I don’t think even you can top her.” If this was a competition, she won. For this post, let’s listen to “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled, Ludacris, Rick Ross, T-Pain and Snow Dogg.

Lovegastrogirl said she was bringing over snacks. In reality, what she brought over was an epic feast. As she had food for her fiancee Pomp sitting in the car, she wouldn’t join us for dinner. I was able to persuade Lovegastrogirl to enjoy a glass of wine with me. When she left to bring Pomp their dinner, we opened up the treasure bags she left behind.

We started with Assorted Sashimi ($24.99) and Coho Salmon ($10.99) from True World Foods. The pieces of fish were sliced thick and bursting with flavour. The sashimi at True Worlds reminds me of Japan. There’s a noticeable difference in the freshness, moisture and the texture of the sashimi.

L and I were impressed with the rich, buttery taste of the tuna sashimi. The salmon was marbled and smooth with a rich mouth feel.

The sashimi with the translucent colour had an enjoyable, crunchy-like texture. The sashimi with a beige like colour tasted smoky with a rich, fatty flavour profile.

Lovegastrogirl drove across the city to pick up two special dishes from CookingMamaYYC. The feature of the day was Crack Cha Nem ($16) – shrimp spring rolls with vermicelli. Anyone who is a fan of Vietnamese food needs to try Cooking Mama’s crack rolls and steamed rice rolls.

Lovegastrogirl contacted Cooking Mama and asked if she could save an order of Cuon Thit Heo – steamed rice pork rolls with sausage ($14) from the previous day. Cooking Mama is a one-woman show – so she only makes a set number of select dishes per day.

Photo credit: CookingMamaYYC

I reheated the spring rolls in the oven until it was crispy. The dominant flavour of the thick shrimp shell reminded me of the famous garlic prawns from Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas. I’ve never met Cooking Mama, but I can tell she cooks with love, generosity and mad culinary skills.

The mixed mushroom and noodle filling was very tasty. L noticed that the noodles were thicker, smoother and bouncier than the usual vermicelli noodles at Vietnamese restaurants.

I loved the pork steamed rice rolls as much as the crack spring rolls, though the two dishes are completely different from each other. These rice rolls were total comfort food – savoury, soft and squishy.

L and I both enjoyed the slices of pork. The texture reminded me a bit of a fish cake. The flavours were perfectly balanced – there was no jarringly sweet or sour notes. The softness of the rolls contrasted with the fried shallots and steamed bean sprouts. The sprouts tasted sweet and clean. The portion was so generous that I gorged myself and still had leftovers.

Photo credit: CookingMamaYYC

Cooking Mama told me I should try their rice rolls when its fresh. I resteamed the rolls in my rice cooker and this dish was so good, I can’t imagine it could be even better. Cooking Mama’s food is making it on my Best #YYC Restaurants, even though technically, it’s a home business.

As I ate, I could sense my rapturous cries alarmed L. I looked up from my food and asked him if this was not the most exquisite food he’s ever eaten? He said the food was excellent and he would be happy to order again, but he felt my enthusiasm was in part due to the fact Lovegastrogirl and I had consumed a bottle of wine. I informed L that I have enjoyed wine prior to a meal before and I didn’t experience this euphoric joy. L referenced an incident seven years ago. My neighbour the Wine Wizard and I indulged in a couple of drinks and a pizza from Papa John’s. I had proclaimed the pizza the best thing I’ve ever eaten. I remember that night well. I told L I would order catering from Cooking Mama for a future party and then we can settle this dispute once and for all.

I asked Lovegastrogirl what she thought of Cooking Mama’s food. She thought it was fantastic. Pomp said it was great considering the food sat in her hot car for over three hours. Sorry Pomp, I can get a little chatty. I promise I’ll make it up to you.

Lovegastrogirl also bought us mochi from True World and a bottle of wine her father-in-law recommended. Holy moly! This is serious business. How am I going to match her, let alone top her?

I have a few restaurants in mind. If you have any suggestions, shoot me a message. Thanks again Lovegastrogirl for making my week. I’ll break open that bottle of wine you bought me when you visit me in June.