Restaurants

Briggs Kitchen + Bar

I attended my first work event! Our office treated us to a three-course lunch at Briggs Kitchen + Bar. I was excited as the Executive sent me the menu beforehand so that I could do my research. Let’s listen to “Taking Care of Business” by Bachman Turner Overdrive for this post. 

The hostess had to separate us into two tables due to the large size of our group. I was lucky to snag a seat in front of 47, who regaled me with interesting stories of what it was like at her past firm. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any exciting first-hand experiences, so I just told her the stories the media reported about my old workplace. From what I read, consuming alcohol at work and expensing things with people with whom you’ve never met are big no-nos.

I chose the lobster poutine for my appetizer, Kuterra Salmon for my main, and the dark chocolate semifreddo for dessert. My lobster poutine was so decadent that even I couldn’t finish the whole portion. The thin-cut Kennebec fries were saturated in lobster cream and soft white cheese curds. I loved the generous pieces of sweet, juicy lobster. Forty-seven noted the rich flavour of the browned butter. I tried a couple of bites of her green salad, dressed in a crisp, tart vinaigrette. Her salad was good, but nothing beats lobster poutine.

I was even more impressed with my salmon. The restaurant itself was busy, and our group consisted of 19 guests. Despite the backlog of orders, my salmon came out perfectly cooked. The fish was tender and soft, with a delicious fatty favour. The milky green Thai curry gently infused the fish and firm pieces of bok choy with the flavour of coconut milk, lime and fish sauce. I enjoyed the salmon even more than the poutine. Unfortunately, I had to get back to work, so I asked for my dessert to go. I didn’t try it and ended up giving it away, as I was already almost dizzy from the high-calorie meal.

This lunch was my first visit to Briggs since 2017. I’m happy to report I enjoyed the set menu, attentive service, and fun company. Big thanks to the Executive for organizing the event and the ELT for taking us all out to welcome new and longtime employees.

Restaurants

Gut Oggau Wine Tasting – Vine Arts

Lately, one of my favourite things to do is to learn about wines from Erik, one of the owners of JUICEimports. On Sunday, he hosted a wine tasting ($30) to try all the Gut Oggau wines in stock and some unique gems from their cellar. Let’s listen to “Strawberry Wine” by Deana Carter for this post.

Our class started with a glass of sparkling organic cider from the Okanagan. The cider was fresh and bright. I bought a bottle for my neighbour, who recently became my dog’s godmother.

Located south of Vienna, Erik informed us Gut Oggau was one of the first wineries he ever signed. He fell in love with the uniqueness and personality of the wines. He considers the husband and wife team – Stephanie and Eduard – some of the most thoughtful winemakers dedicated to the land and their employees. For example, the owners pay their six full-time workers year-round rather than seasonally, so the employees can experience how the wines sleep in the winter and wake in the spring. As a result, the prices of their wines reflect this philosophy.

Erik mentioned that Theodora (2020, $50) was the winery’s entry-level wine. Yikes, I would never want to host a dinner party for Stephanie and Eduard. The cloudy yellow hue reminded me of chicken stock. My friend Bubbles said she could taste citrus.

We learned two interesting facts. First, Gut Oggau produces its wines without any sulphur, and second, sulphur doesn’t cause headaches. People get headaches from wine due to the alcohol or a reaction to the tannins. I wanted to pipe up and add that people also get headaches from excess drinking, but I read the room and decided to keep my thoughts private.

Photo Credit: @miss_minds

Next up was the Timotheus (2018, $79). Erik said in all of Alberta, and there are only 24 bottles of Timotheus. The vines are planted in complex soil, such as slate, sand, gravel and limestone. The texture and flavour sent shivers down my spine as the liquid tingled on my tongue. Erik described this wine as having intense character, with umami notes of white truffle.

The Mechthild ($158) we tried was sold out, which was fine with me as this wine was beyond my budget. Erik noted that the vines produced a low yield but produced the cleanest and highest quality grapes using a crazy, archaic process called a tree press. The person sitting in front of me described the colour as sunshine gold, with a gorgeous glow. I was jealous that I didn’t come up with that description myself.

My favourite wine was Winifred ($48). At first, I didn’t realize this wine was a rose. The texture was silky, with an aftertaste of fresh strawberries. My friend Bubbles said the gentle tartness reminded her of crab apples. I enjoyed this wine so much that I bought it for my next girls’ night with Kournikova, Quebecoise, and Betty.

The last wine we tried was the Athanasius (2020, $51). We learned this was the most planted grape in the winery. The vines are 38 to 40 years old. Erik described this wine as fresh and intense, aged in old Austrian oak. We marvelled at the dark, ruby red colour and the high viscosity. Erik mentioned the flesh of the grapes is red, which is rare as most red wines are made with white-coloured fruit.
I could tell these wines spoke to Erik, who said each wine tasted alive, soft and supple. This wine tasting was dirt-cheap, particularly for these wines. Erik himself rarely gets to try these bottles, so it was a luxurious treat for everyone. I enjoyed every wine I tried, though I got the impression from Erik’s physical and verbal reaction from drinking each wine that I didn’t fully grasp the greatness of these wines. Though I was out of my element, I was fine with it. I’m more comfortable with pearls being cast upon me than being a pig at a trough. I’ve recently signed up at Grand Cru Wine Society in the hopes of learning more about wine and food pairings.

Banh Mi · Sandwiches

Xich Lo – Vegetarian Banh Mi

Sunflower and I share an affinity for Swedish stockings and Vietnamese subs. When I dropped off a pair of sparkly tights I found at Simon’s, she insisted on taking me out for lunch. For this post, let’s listen to “DARE” by Gorillaz.

Since it was such a beautiful day, I recommended walking over to Eau Claire for a banh mi at Xich Lo. Sunflower is a vegetarian, so she was delighted to have options other than just vegetables. She picked the Vegan Ham with Mushroom Pate ($10.50). Unfortunately, Xich Lo ran out of cold-cut meats, so I chose the Tofu Sub ($10.50). I immediately got buyer’s remorse, so I asked if I could still get chicken cognac pate in my sub.

Sunflower poured a little of her mangosteen ($3.00) for me to drink. The smell was floral and, according to her, much sweeter than the actual fruit. I enjoyed the flavour but thought it would be better with some ice and vodka. She thought it would make a good sangria base. Great minds think alike.

I noticed Sunflower was supportive when I took pictures for my blog. She even suggested we cut the subs and plate them at work. I went a step further and showed her my secret – the ultimate banh mi pose. I told her that once, I managed to stack six subs for a close-up picture. I’ve got weird flexes that I’m oddly proud of.

Sunflower said her sub was delicious. She liked the crunchiness of the vegetables and the mushroomy umami from the pate. She felt the spiciness from jalapenos was the perfect spice level, and she usually douses her banh mi with sriracha. She loved the veggie ham and gave her lunch a 10/10.

The tofu in my sub was squishy and juicy, with a sponge-like texture. I wouldn’t pair the chicken pate with the tofu again, as the richness of the pate didn’t complement the soy-based tofu. However, that was my fault and not Xich Lo, who was merely accomodating my decadent tastes. I enjoyed the fluffy innards of the bread and the satisfying crunch from the cucumbers and jalapenos. I found my sub filling and satisfying.

It was nice to see Xich Lo so busy. I also think it’s fantastic they are offering unique options for vegetarians. Not many places in the city would go through the trouble of providing mock ham and mushroom pate. Hitting the Sauce gives Xich Lo two phat thumbs up.

French · Seafood · Special Occasion

Pat & Betty

For our monthly girls’ night, I picked Pat & Betty. We started the party at my house with a bottle of sparkling cider I picked up at Vine Arts. Kournikova enjoyed the dry, unfiltered bubbles so much that she snapped a picture. For this post, let’s listen to “Bread and Butter” by The Newbeats.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we were pleasantly surprised to receive the best table in the house. Usually, I get the worst table when I visit a new restaurant. Our spacious booth looked out onto the restaurant on the second floor. Québécoise liked how the top of the booth was arm’s length so that she could hang her arm around it.

Kournikova and I asked Québécoise to pick the wine, as she knows what we like best. Québécoise recognized several wines from her favourite French regions at prices far less than she would expect to pay. I felt so giddy that I wanted to call my father up and tell him there is heaven on earth. It’s called Pat and Betty.

The first bottle we tried was the Clos Bellane Cotes Du Rhone Valreas (Rhone Valley, $67). We sipped away while snacking on the Roasted Eggplant Dip ($9.50). These are some of the best potato chips I’ve eaten – thick, crunchy, and with enough salt to bring out the full flavour in the potato. The eggplant was cool and light, with a consistency like whipped cream. The fried capers added a tart saltiness to the dip. Kournikova mentioned the chips went well with the wine.

My favourite wine of the night was the Domaine Tremblay Petit Chablis (Burgundy, $59). I noticed that this wine was lighter and had less acidity than the first white wine. Québécoise, you did your magic again.

Betty mentioned the Country Beef Tartare ($25) was even better than the other versions we’ve tried in Calgary. The beef tartare was saucy and silky. This tartare was unique in that the addition of the devilled egg aioli and sunflower sprouts added some Southern comfort. I loved warm, soft buttered toast. To me, it smelled like old-fashioned goodness.

Betty and Québécoise enjoy a good pasta, so I recommended the Crab and Shrimp Tagliatelle ($26). Oh, baby, this dish was rich and spicy. Betty noted you could tell the pasta was homemade. I thought the prawns were perfectly cooked, soft with no snap. Québécoise liked the addition of the fennel and dill.

Kournikova picked the Chilled Baked Beets ($15.50). The beets and ricotta were cool, light and refreshing. I could taste orange in the salad dressing. I loved the addition of dill, mint and pistachio but wished our dish came with more mint, as it went so well with the salad. Betty thought this dish was a good palate cleanser after the crab and shrimp tagliatelle.

I requested the Broccoli Puttanesca ($17). Man, oh man, this is a winner! The spicy tomato ragu and lemon aioli offered a nice acidity that contrasted with the broccoli’s smokiness and the umami from the anchovy and parmesan. In addition, the garlic bread crumbs added a delicious crunch to it.

I thought of L when I tried the Angus Beef Striploin ($44). The meat was so tender and buttery smooth. The chimichurri sauce was salty and accentuated the juices from the steak. He would love this dish. I was impressed that the sides weren’t just a side thought, so fabulous I had to pause and think, which bite do I want next? The steak or crispy duck fat potatoes or the butter roasted radishes? The correct answer is all three. I would order the steak again.

The dish I was most excited to eat was the Pork Belly and Scallops ($42) with caviar ($19). Kournikova mentioned the scallops were perfectly cooked. I could taste a slight sweetness from the Quebec maple. The moment I bit into the pork belly, I immediately worried I would come down with gout the next day. The pork fat was so hot, rich, and melted in my mouth. The exterior was seared to a dark caramel brown and crispy. The caviar was soft and so subtly flavoured, that I couldn’t detect the flavour. Kournikova mentioned this dish would be too rich for one person. With that bad attitude, no wonder she’s so thin. Québécoise tapped out, so I ate her portion.

We shared the Carrot Cake ($10.50). This is no ordinary carrot cake. The cake itself was fresh and moist, intensely flavoured with spices, sweet from caramel and crunchy from the candied pecans. The cream cheese was a little sour and sweet from what tasted like confectionary sugar.

I enjoyed our feast at Pat and Betty so much that I wanted to return for our next month’s dinner. Québécoise said we could come back, but after we try a new restaurant. I wanted to protest but then I remembered about my potential case of gout, so I agreed to book our next outing at Ten Foot Henry, as requested by Kournivoka.

17th Ave · Japanese · Restaurants

Lonely Mouth

On Saturday night, Québécoise and I checked out Lonely Mouth on 17th Ave. Since her in-laws were babysitting her girls, she was ready to rock and roll. The earliest reservation I could get was at 7:30 p.m., so we shared a bottle of wine at my place beforehand. I figured this girls’ night was the perfect excuse to try one of the bottles I’ve been saving from Vine Arts.

It felt nice to dress up again. I was so excited that for this occasion, I even donned my half-inch heels. However, this was probably one of the worst ideas I’ve had in a long time. With this in mind, let’s listen to “Fancy Shoes” by The Walters for this post. 

Lonely Mouth is located in the old Ox and Angela spot, near UNA. The room is narrow and dimly lit, filled with a young demographic, primarily women in their twenties and early thirties. I was one of the more matronly patrons in the restaurant. 

We started with a pretty pink cocktail – the Majira’s Ruin ($15). This dainty drink was an herby, sweet blend of gin, nigori sake, sparkling sake and a maraschino cherry. While I enjoyed the cocktail, I preferred the wine Québécoise picked out – Domaine Ventoura Chablis ($37, half a litre). My Cod, I love her taste in wine. She described the wine as clean and icy, and mentioned her husband always orders Chablis with sushi. He is a man of excellent taste!

The first dish of the night was my favourite – the Sashimi Platter ($26). I only ordered this because I saw Miss Foodie raving about the sashimi, and I know she gets this every time she visitsQuébécoise liked how the sashimi was presented on a bed of ice and that there were two types of soy sauce. The white soy sauce was for the two kinds of tuna and scallops, and the dark soy sauce was for the salmon. Québécoise exclaimed the white soy sauce was so light and paired beautifully with the scallop. The scallop was ample and silky, mild and sweet. She liked how the soy sauce wasn’t too strong and didn’t overpower the fresh, creamy flavour of the tuna.

Québécoise noted that there was no toughness between the grains of flesh in king salmon. She also thought the size of the slices was perfect – neither too thick nor thin, which allowed one to get the full flavour experience out of each cut. The red tuna was leaner than the pink tuna, the latter being my favourite as I prefer the fattier, meltier types of fish. Without a doubt, I would get the sashimi again.

My second favourite dish was the Bluefin Tuna Tartare ($19). Holy mackerel, this dish has a lot going on.

The udon crackers were light, filled with bubbly air pockets. The crackly texture and taste reminded me of Chinese shrimp chips, which contrasted with the smoothness of the tartare. The creamy mixture of tuna, avocado and miso emulsion reminded Québécoise of mayonnaise. I would get the tuna tartare again.

Québécoise’s favourite dish was the Okonomiyaki Brussels Sprouts ($13). She thought this dish was original. She raved about the crisp fried seaweed, the parmesan cheese, and the crispy leaves of the Brussels sprouts. 

We liked the Pickled Cucumbers ($6.50). The cucumbers gave off a floral scent. Québécoise noticed how cucumbers were scored with knife marks, which she thought helped saturate each crevice with its distinct, sour and salty tang.

We also tried a Negi Toro Roll ($7). I couldn’t taste the toro filling over the dominant flavour of the seaweed. Québécoise mentioned the rice was cool in temperature. 

Québécoise loved the Sweet Potato Donuts ($7), with miso caramel and sesame gelato. I tried a bite and thought the donuts were a bit overcooked. She liked how the dessert wasn’t greasy or stupidly sweet. She detected a spice that we learned from our server was shichimi togarashi.

We enjoyed our meal and planned to take our husbands here for a double date. On the way to our Uber, I tripped over a step. Boom! Let me tell you, the saying that the bigger you are, the harder you fall is true! I told Québécoise it was a good thing I’m not a leg model. Otherwise, I would be out of commission. She retorted that I could still model for Band-Aid. Hitting the Sauce gives her inability to walk in heels two phat thumbs down. 

Special Occasion · Steakhouse · Vegas

Gordon Ramsey’s Pub and Grill – Vegas

Jacuzzi disagreed with my suggestions for our last meal in Vegas. I planned to go to another Strictly Dumpling recommended restaurant or the Oyster Bar at Palace Station. Instead, he wanted to go to Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant – Hell’s Kitchen. I reminded him there is a dress code at Hell’s Kitchen, and he refused to bring a shirt, tie, or jacket on this trip. He countered with Gordon Ramsey’s Pub and Grill and stated his other sister Me Shell had gifted him some money to celebrate in any way he wanted. Fine with me. As I learned through his past commentary, Jacuzzi is not an Offspring fan. So for this post, let’s listen to something that’s more his style – “More Than A Feeling” by Boston.

We both wanted to try the beef Wellington. Jacuzzi ordered the lunch set ($65.99), which included a salad or soup, a petite version of the beef Wellington, and a sticky toffee pudding. I requested the regular size of beef Wellington ($69.99) and a glass of Gordon Ramsey’s Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Cruz, $22). Our server recommended this wine as it was specially designed to pair with the steak.

Jacuzzi informed me that beef Wellington is challenging to make, as the temperature is critical and there’s no room for error. Worst yet, you can’t tell if the meat is served at its desired medium-rare until you cut it into the pastry when it is too late. I had no idea Jacuzzi was so into beef. He really should visit me in Calgary.

Our server was attentive and brought me a plate if I wanted to try Jacuzzi’s Caesar salad. I did take a bite and enjoyed the liberal amount of powdered and shaved parmesan cheese. Jacuzzi mentioned that Caesar salads are his favourite, and this was a nice portion of food for a starter.

I could tell it was the chef and not a server that brought out our beef Wellington because of his confidence and the swagger in his walk. When he presented our plates, he made direct eye contact, and I could see he was proud of his dish. I would be too, if I could whip up a Wellington like this for the mass crowds in Vegas. That’s some serious talent.

My knife crackled into the thin, golden brown pastry, cutting into soft, ruby-red meat. Jacuzzi declared the steak was cooked to a perfect medium-rare. He commented on the smooth, buttery texture of the beef. Despite the red colouring, the steak itself was nice and warm. I enjoyed the taste of the big flakes of sea salt, as I thought it brought out the flavour of the beef. The mushrooms on the bottom of the pastry gave this dish a unique, earthiness flavour profile. Jacuzzi reminded me to use the red wine demi-glaze with each bite.


The sides were delicious in an understated way. The mashed Yukon gold potatoes were whipped into silky submission. We both loved how the carrots, asparagus and potatoes weren’t drenched in butter or salt so that we could appreciate the natural sweetness and freshness of the vegetables. We both ate as slowly as possible to delay the inevitable, the end of our meal. Jacuzzi and I kept smiling at each other as we ate.

What shocked me about Gordon Ramsey’s Pub was the dessert. Fuck me! The sticky toffee pudding is so mind-blowingly good that it is swear-word worthy. The English toffee pudding tasted like Christmas. The caramel sauce was overwhelmingly delicious – drenching every warm, moist crumb. The vanilla ice cream was cold and satiny, melting into the hot caramel bomb of a cake. This dessert was so good I wanted to cry out in pleasure. The portion was so large that it would have been enough for a meal. I would come back here in a heartbeat. Eating here was the way to end a trip on a high note. Thanks, Me Shell, for taking us out for lunch in Vegas. Hitting the Sauce gives Gordon Ramsey’s chef two phat thumbs up.

Fusion · Japanese · Vegas

Cafe Sanuki – Las Vegas

After our big meal at Lefty’s, Jacuzzi and I decided to walk around to burn up all those extra calories. He stopped by for a coffee at Starbucks and asked me if I wanted anything. I said no. Let’s listen to “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” by The Offspring for this post.

He returned with a Perrier for me and said this was a long time coming, but it was his apology. Fourteen years ago, I spent a month with my brother in Toronto. On a scorching hot day, I asked him to bring me a Perrier when he returned from his class. He refused because he said he didn’t feel like it. It’s been an ongoing joke between us ever since, and whenever he asks for a favour, I always tell him he should have brought me my damn bubble water. Half an hour later, Jacuzzi ruined this special moment by drinking my sparkling water because he was thirsty and too lazy to line up again for a drink. He even had the nerve to balk at me when I refused to carry his half-drank bottle in my purse. I reminded him that he mocked my bag earlier, stating it was too bulky for travelling.

We left for an early dinner at Cafe Sanuki. Unfortunately, the restaurant was short-staffed and was closed for the next hour and a half. Our Uber driver warned us when he dropped us off that it would be near impossible to get a taxi or Uber in the next two hours due to the BTS concert. Jacuzzi and I decided to grab a beer to kill time. He vetoed the nearby pub, stating it looked too sketchy. Instead, we popped into a family-friendly Vietnamese restaurant. At the stroke of 5:30 p.m., we entered Cafe Sanuki.

I have wanted to hit this restaurant ever since I saw Mikey Chen’s Strictly Dumpling Youtube video. He liked the udon so much that Mikey filmed here twice. Cafe Sanuki makes their fresh-made udon using their Yamato udon noodle making machine. The owner even brings in two udon masters from Japan to ensure the quality is up to par with what you expect.

I ordered the dish Mikey recommended – Seafood in Mentai Cream Udon ($12.90). The mentai cream sauce was surprisingly light, and the fresh sea flavour from the egg roe was subtle. My bowl contained ample amounts of white fish, shrimp and calamari. I enjoyed the taste of lemon, garlic and green onions mingled in the sauce. The noodles were fantastic – so soft, slippery and fat. I’ve eaten udon numerous times in Tokyo, and I prefer Cafe Sanuki’s version.

Jacuzzi ordered the Cheesy Carbonara ($9.50). We had both never eaten anything like this before. The super cheesy sauce created almost a pool-like surrounding around the udon noodles. The sauce was so thick and heavy that you could see the long strands of cheese stretch apart when you pulled the noodles up.

What made this dish unique was the torching of the cheese on the top, combined with the smoky bacon pieces. Jacuzzi said this was so much cheese that one person couldn’t possibly finish a bowl. He exclaimed that you’d only love this dish if you dig a lot of cheese and bacon.

We agreed that the udon at Cafe Sanuki was incredible and worth returning to if we came back to Vegas. Simply Dumpling, you did it again! Hitting the Sauce gives Cafe Sanuki two fat thumbs up.

Hawaiian · Restaurants · Vegas

Lefty J’s Island Favourites – Las Vegas

For our first breakfast in Vegas, I picked a place recommended by Strictly Dumpling. Like most of Mikey Chen’s recommendations that appealed to me, Lefty J’s Restaurant is located off the main strip. Let’s listen to “Gone Away” by Offspring for this post. Jacuzzi complained that Offspring is so 90’s, but hey, that’s the era we grew up in.

Our Uber driver told us to avoid the “bums” around the strip mall. We didn’t see any, but we appreciated his concern for our safety. I told Jacuzzi to make sure he tipped our driver. We arrived when Lefty J’s Island Favourites opened at 10 a.m., but there was still a group from Singapore ahead of us who ordered a huge feast. We ordered what Strictly Dumpling recommended – the Five Meat Platter ($25.99). The owner told us our food would take twenty minutes.

Strictly Dumpling – aka Mikey Chan

While we anxiously waited for our food, Jacuzzi mentioned he appreciated the air con and the fun, vibrant decor. He noticed the artistic touches, like the flags and paintings. These niceties were all fine and dandy, but I was here strictly for the food. So when I saw a picture of Strictly Dumpling on the counter, I knew we were in good hands.

Twenty minutes later, our platter was ready. What a bounty of gluttony! All the meats were so hot that I burned my greedy little fingers eating too quickly. Our BBQ platter included two big scoops of rice sprinkled with furikake and a small container of macaroni salad.

Oh, my Ford. The fried chicken was marvellous. The batter was crunchy and sweet, encasing some toothsome meat. The kalbi ribs were thick-cut, chewy and fatty, with a nice char. We sat in happy silence, shovelling the food into our mouths. We only talked when I asked Jacuzzi which meat was his favourite. He preferred the fried chicken.

We were also a fan of the chicken teriyaki. You could tell the chicken was marinaded beforehand, then glazed with a sweet, buttery sauce. Jacuzzi liked it so much that he even ate the chicken skin that I removed from my portion.

The katsu cutlet was a large portion, sliced into long, strip-like pieces. The katsu sauce tasted like it was homemade, addicting with its complex, tangy kick. The beef teriyaki looked like it was pounded into a thin layer before being caramelized on the grill. I ate most of the beef as Jacuzzi was getting too full—what a lightweight.

I loved mixing the bites of meat with rice and julienned cabbage, as the crunchy greens helped to cut into the fatty, rich flavours. The side of macaroni was refreshing, slippery, creamy and cold. By the time we polished off the platter, we were both in a food coma.

We chatted with the owner while we waited for our Uber. She’s a sweet woman and reminds me of my Auntie Joyce. She said we should check out Strictly Dumpling’s other recommendation – all-you-can-eat sushi at Umami. But, unfortunately, that will have to be for another trip, as I wanted to check out Strictly Dumpling’s favourite udon restaurant – Cafe Sanuka. In any case, if you are in Vegas, I highly recommend checking out Lefty J’s. Hitting the Sauce gives Lefty J’s two phat thumbs up.

Burgers · Fast Food · Restaurants · Vegas

Bobby’s Burgers – Las Vegas

For our sibling getaway, Jacuzzi picked Las Vegas. I thought this was an odd choice because he refuses to dress up and doesn’t drink alcohol. I won’t gamble, and I hate buffets. The one thing we have in common is our love for food. For this review and the following Vegas posts, I’ll be playing The Offspring, as it was likely the only band Jacuzzi and I would have both listened to when we were teenagers.

I had planned to take Jacuzzi to a seafood joint off the strip the first night. However, we hit a slight snag in our travels and missed our reservation. Since we were famished and wanted to make it to the LA Comedy Club in time, we ordered burgers from Bobby’s Burgers at Caesar’s Palace.

I wasn’t expecting much, but the Bacon Crunch Burger ($14.99) was delicious. Jacuzzi was excited because the center of the patty was cooked to a beautiful pink. The beef was thick and hot, generously wrapped with crunchy bacon slices and potato chips. The cheese and sauce mingled in with the juices of the patty. Jacuzzi said this was a far better burger than Gordon Ramsey Burger.

I preferred his Bacon Crunch over my Palace Classic burger ($13.99) because the latter had too much iceberg lettuce and tomatoes, which chilled and watered down the flavour of the beef. Proportionally, the meat and cheese to produce were off. I would come again but stick to the Bacon Crunch burger.

Jacuzzi enjoyed his dark chocolate milkshake, which he thought tasted like vanilla. I took a sip and it tasted like a Wendy’s chocolate malt, but quadruple the price. He closed his eyes and exclaimed the shake was thick with the right amount of creaminess. I thought it was fine, but nothing special. The whipped cream tasted like it was canned.

The cashier recommended the onion rings over the fries. She said their onion rings were unique, in that the onions were sliced into nice, big pieces. However, the temperature of the rings was lukewarm, and the batter was borderline limp. In addition, I thought the onion rings were under-seasoned. Even the side of the ranch couldn’t save this side.

The important thing was we made it to the comedy club in time. Jacuzzi and I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of all the stand-up comedians. I told him the next day would be better foodwise, as we were checking out Strictly Dumpling’s picks.

Restaurants

Vine Arts – Domaine des Marnes Blanches Wine Tasting

I’m getting tired of my usual rotation of wines. I also want to find some mind-blowing wines for my upcoming dinner parties. I’ve been looking to increase my wine exposure and stumbled across a post through Vine Arts and Juice Imports about an upcoming Domaine des Marnes Blanches wine tasting event ($30). I snagged the last two tickets and brought my friend Bubbles. Let’s listen to “Ma Rue Fera Echo” by Doux si Doux for this post.

Erik Mercier featured 2020 wines of Domaine des Marnes Blanches from the alpine region of Jura, France. For this tasting, the cost of our tickets went to pay for the bottles we drank. Mercier said this was an inexpensive way for everyone to try wines that would usually be outside of their everyday wine budget. Also, since he exported these wines, it allowed him to share what he loves about the region and winery.

We learned that Jura is the rainiest region in France. The winery produces organic wines using a natural wild fermented process that creates lively, vibrant wines.

The first wine we tried was the Trousseau, a bright, fresh and juicy red wine. The colour was a light, bright red. Mercier described the flavour as a glossy berry with superb viscosity and a creaminess from the bacteria. He recommended drinking this wine while it was young. This bottle wouldn’t last a week in my household.

Next was the Pinot Noir. As Mercier took a sip, he shook his head in amazement and exclaimed, “Dang! This is a good wine!” He informed us this wine is similar to a Burgundy. He went into detail about the grape and the vines, but I lost focus because I started feeling a little tipsy and I stopped taking notes.

One of my favourite wines is the Chardonnay Les Molates. According to Mercier, this is the most planted vine at the winery. He stated Marnes Blanches uses the whole stems and clusters of grapes in the fermentation process, which acts as a channel to filter the juice. As a result, the lattice creates a clean, fresh juice that retains its acidity.

I loved how the chardonnay danced on my tongue. Mercier mentioned this wine drinks like a classic burgundy, but at half price. He said this wine was stupidly good, with surreal value. I bought a bottle to share with Wonderland and Double 07.

My second favourite wine was the Savagnin En Jensillard. I almost passed out from the heady smell of this wine. What a pretty, intense aroma! If I could bottle up infatuation, it would taste like the Savagnin En Jensillard. Mercier said this wine would pair with a Szechuan dish or spicy Thai food. I also bought this bottle for my upcoming dinner party.

Next up was the Chardonnay Les Molates. Mercier noted this variety was indigenous to Jura. A founder grape, the vine flowers early and ripens late while retaining its acidity. The result is a freshness similar to jasmine and stone fruit.

Our second last wine was the Chardonnay Sous Voille. This wine smelled like a sherry or port. Mercier mentioned this it was hard to describe, and often people are put off if they can’t put into words the flavour of the wine.

The last wine we tried was the Vin de Paille, a sweet, dry wine. He mentioned that some of his guests claim they don’t like sweet wines, but will drink soda and junk food.

Many of the wines we tried were available in quantities of three or five. I asked Mercier if they only had three bottles to sell and five customers who want them, who gets them? He responded it was first come, first serve. I would not describe myself as an aggressive person, but at that moment, I decided to jump up and sprint across the room, much like a quarterback or wide receiver. The heart wants what it wants, and I desired those wines.

I am going to make these Vine Arts events a regular part of my schedule. I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon than learning about delicious wines taught by a passionate and non-pretentious wine guide. Hitting the Sauce gives Mercier two phat thumbs up.

Pizza

Una Pizzeria

Since L’s been away, Bex.oxo has helped me with pet sitting, as my dog gets extra anxious when his dad is gone. On Tuesday, I received a text from her that my little boy had an unfortunate incident involving my new white couch. I told Bex.oxo not to worry about the crime scene, as I would deal with it when I returned. She didn’t listen to me and took care of the problem. I immediately called my mother-in-law, who was only too happy to take Brut to her house until L was back home. Let’s hear ” Wipe Out” by the Surfaris for this post. 

On Thursday, I told Bex.oxo that I was taking her out for dinner. We decided on Una Pizzeria in West Springs, as we both like the food, and I could make online reservations. If I’m going out for dinner, I’ll generally avoid any restaurant unless I can get a reservation. 

I asked Bex.oxo if she had any food restrictions. She told me to order whatever, and she would pick out any ingredient doesn’t like. I love how low maintenance she is. We ordered a glass of wine (Francis Coppola, $15, house sauvignon blanc, $9), Kale Caesar ($20), Gnocchi Bianca ($23), Veggie Pizza ($18), and Roasted Cauliflower ($16). 

Our server did an excellent job spacing out all the dishes. I enjoyed the leisurely pace as it allowed us to take our time to enjoy all the different dishes at their optimal temperature.

The first dish we tried was the roasted cauliflower. I never eat cauliflower at home because it tastes like rubber to me. To make cauliflower taste this good, you have to have a strong sauce game. Una nailed it. We enjoyed the combination of rich, hot buttery brown sauce, the cool tahini crème fraîche, sweet dates, and fresh herbs. Bex.oxo noted that the addition of fresh dill and the sweetness of dates gave this dish the perfect balance of lightness and decadence.  

I’m a fan of Una’s organic local kale salad. The kale tasted like it was massaged with olive oil and lemon. My favourite part of this salad is the fine dusting of crunchy panko, sharp shards of pecorino romano and the still warm, salty, crumbly bacon. 

Oh my Cod, the gnocchi bianca was worth the calories. Each gnocchi was hot and super soft, dosed in a thick garlic cream and grana padano. I loved the complex flavour from the house-made bacon, as it added another layer of umami. I would get this again.

Currently, the pizza I liked best at Una is the veggie. Bex.oxo thought the feta went well with the roasted red peppers, sundried tomato puree, and honey. What she appreciates about the pizza at Una is the care put into all the ingredients. Like the finely slivered crunchy onions, the quality of the cheeses, and the sweetness of the peppers. I enjoyed the hot, stringy cheese and the puffy crust with the crisp edges and the crunchy bottom. The only thing that would enhance this pizza would be a side of garlicky aioli, which I didn’t see on the menu. Bex.oxo told me her favourite pizza is the Tiki, which I’ll have to try when we return.

As we were eating, I noticed an accumulation of mushrooms piling on her plate. Bex.oxo says she doesn’t like shrooms, and it’s a texture thing. I’m glad I didn’t order the mushroom pizza. I like the cremini mushrooms at Una, as they have a firm, meaty texture with a robust, earthy flavour.

I made Bex.oxo order dessert. She was so full that she could only have a taste. Our server came back with a lid. How adorable is that? I’m a big fan of Una, there’s more than just pizza, and I found all our dishes enjoyable. Hitting the Sauce gives Una two phat thumbs up.

Chinatown · Vietnamese

Pho City

Sunday was freaking chilly! After I finished running my errands, I felt like eating something hot and satiating. I remembered Foodkarmablog’s post on the pho dac biet at Pho City. Even though it was well past lunch, this spot was still busy. For this post, let’s listen to “Waiting” by Nora Jones.

The restaurant is modern and ideally set up for the downtown office lunch rush. Near the front of the room is a long communal table for solo diners. Service is fast and friendly. Within ten seconds, I was promptly greeted and given a menu and a glass of water.

Based on Foodkarma’s recommendation, I ordered a regular-sized Pho City Special Noodle ($14.50). Ah – now this is a good bowl of pho. Pho City nailed the temperature and the flavour of the broth. The soup was so hot that even after dumping all the chilled bean sprouts and basil into the bowl, the broth was still warm enough to cook the vegetables. The soup itself tasted slightly sweet and nurturing.

The noodles were bouncy and al dente. I loved how the chewy pieces of tripe would get tangled into the noodles. I took longer than usual to eat, and the noodles got a little too soft for me at the very end of the meal. So next time, I’ll eat more of the noodles first and then save the meats and vegetables till the end.

The generous amount of noodles was proportional to the amount of sliced beef, tendon, brisket, tripe and beef balls. What I loved about this bowl was that every single ingredient tasted fresh. I enjoyed each meat’s individual texture and flavour, though I found the meatball a little salty.

I felt cozy and warm after finishing my meal. Pho must have some medicinal powers on my eyesight. The trees and sky looked more animated in colour when I left the restaurant. Hitting the Sauce gives Pho City two phat thumbs up.

Chinese · Dim Sum · Restaurants

Golden Sands – Dim Sum Heaven

On Sunday morning, Beep Beep and I went shopping at Calgary Farmers’ Market. We picked up a cappuccino and chai latte from Analog and walked around the market. After I finished showing her around my favourite vendors, she told me there was a shop she wanted to check out. I was curious where she wanted to go, as she didn’t say a peep when I gave her my tour. Let’s listen to “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye for this post.

“Where is this place?” I asked. She spun around and said, “Right here.” I looked around and noticed several displays of crystals. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that this is where she was most interested in shopping. I must have stood around for half an hour while she cradled different rocks in her palm, feeling their energy. I overheard her talking to the staff about a green crystal that grew within another crystal. I felt like L, but without his patience. While waiting for her to pick a suitable rock, I called Golden Sands and made a reservation for 11:30 a.m. 

Getting a table here during peak hours is stressful. There was a long line-up when we arrived at the restaurant. The host was surrounded by customers, who were constantly badgering him for a table. I bugged him several times because I was worried we would be overlooked due to my inability to speak Cantonese or Mandarin. The host was polite and professional, and I have to say, adept at calming the angry. This was a tough crowd. Beep Beep could sense my anxiety rising with each passing minute. I started to wish she brought in her healing crystal. She passed me a menu to distract me. When I apologized to her for waiting at a crowded entrance, she said not to worry, and she knew the food would be good because it was so busy. I’m telling you, getting into a club in Vegas is easier than eating at Golden Sands. I even considered slipping the host a twenty-dollar bill, but I figured the other customers would eat me alive. Half an hour later, when the host gave us a table, I was so happy I wanted to hug him. I imagine that social display of affection during COVID would have gotten me kicked out of the restaurant. 

We ordered the Steamed Scallop w/ Black Truffle ($8.88), Deep-Fried Minced Pork Dumplings ($6.50), Pan Fried Turnip Cake ($6.50), Special Seafood Rice Crepe ($7.50), and Lemongrass Pork Chop ($9.88). I tried to order the Crystal Noodles with Beef Brisket & Tendon and Salty Fish with Scallop, Tofu and Eggplant Hot Pot. However, the kitchen was out of beef brisket, and the hot pot was only available at dinner. 

The wait was worth it. The steamed scallop dumpling arrived piping hot. The shrimp was large and crunchy. The scallop was silky smooth and sweet. The truffle wasn’t overpowering. Beep Beep mentioned that she’s never seen this dish in Vancouver. I told her the chef is from Vancouver, which is why Golden Sands is better than what we expect in Calgary. I hate to say this but Vancouver/Richmond has a much higher standard when it comes to Chinese cuisine.

The best dish was the seafood rice crepe. The rice crepe was similar to a wrapperless shrimp spring roll. The shrimp center was filled with a large cylinder of toothsome, bouncy shrimp. The noodle itself was glossy and silky, hot and gooey. Beep Beep mentioned she thought the seafood rice roll was unique and tasted fresh.  I would order this again.

The lemongrass pork chop was covered in a salty, pungent orange sauce. The batter was soft, puffy and sticky. I found the meat fatty and chewy. I liked the addition of the onions and seaweed-like garnish.

The turnip cake was lightly fried. The cake itself was soft and fluffy, and the texture was smooth. I would have preferred if the radish cake was served at a warmer temperature. No biggie, as I still enjoyed it.

Beep Beep enjoyed the minced pork dumplings. The pork filling was saucy and hot. She liked that the dumplings were shaped and coloured like a carrot. I found the dough sweet, and still sizzling from the fryer.

Service at Golden Sands is excellent and far better than what I experience in Vancouver or Richmond. I found everyone friendly and helpful, despite how busy it was. I plan to go back for dinner to try the other dishes Miss Foodie recommended. Hitting the Sauce gives Golden Sands two fat thumbs up.

Indian · Restaurants

The Curryer

For dinner on Saturday, I wanted to take Beep Beep somewhere I’d never been before. I remembered Miss Foodie recommended The Curryer, a Pakistani restaurant in the Beltline. As she is my number one go-to for restaurant picks, I knew we wouldn’t be steered wrong. For this post, let’s listen to “You Drive Me Wild” by The Runaways.

You have to order and pay for your food at the front counter before sitting down. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember which drink Miss Foodie recommended, so I just ordered what the owner suggested – the Anar Twist ($5.95). For food, I choose the Aloo Mutter Samosa ($2.50), Chicken Samosa ($3), Beef Korma ($15.95), Chicken Biryani ($15.95), and Kachumber Salad ($3.95).

Our drinks were fizzy and sweet, filled with pomegranate seeds and a jelly-like lychee slush. Since I’m sensitive to sugar, I would ask for half the amount of syrup the next time I visit.

Of the two samosas we tried, I preferred the aloo mutter, as I found the filling delightfully soft and savoury. I noticed the wrapper on the aloo mutter was crunchier and poofier than the chicken samosa.

The beef korma was excellent. The texture of the beef was tender and velvety, similar to Chinese-style brisket. The creamy sauce had a deep, smooth depth to it. I warned Beep Beep to avoid the drizzle of hot oil in the curry, as she’s sensitive to spicy foods. I would get the korma again.

The naan was fantastic! I loved the big blistered air pockets. The only other place in the city with flatbread this good is Yemeni Village. The Curryer’s bread is flaky and almost papery compared to Yemini’s softer, chewier bread.

The naan is so good that I would skip the rice and double up on the bread. There’s nothing better than fresh, crisp naan and a stellar curry.

The chicken biryani tasted like the chef just made it. The plump chicken pieces were slow-roasted, which made the meat pop easily off the bone. The long grains of the basmati was fluffy, aromatic, and liberally spiced. The owner recommended mixing the cucumber salad into the biryani, as it added a crunchy, refreshing element to the dish. I enjoyed the combination of the creaminess from the mint chutney and yogurt raita with the chicken and rice.

The Curryer is located only two blocks from my office. I enjoyed the food so much that on Monday, I told everyone I saw to check out The Curryer. When I told The Voice about the generous portions, he mentioned the prices sound more reasonable than what he paid at Saffron at First Street Market with his counterpart, Sophia. After I showed GC my pictures and described the naan and beef korma, he said he would check it out, even though he’s avoiding carbs. In my meeting with V, I told her she needs to try The Curryer. She asked me if that was the place GC’s been talking about. I said yes, but he hasn’t been there yet. I know L will be excited, as we haven’t been happy with the consistency of the food at our usual haunts. Hitting the Sauce gives The Curryer two enthusiastic phat thumbs up.

Restaurants

Park by Sidewalk Citizen

Beep Beep came to visit me on the weekend. Not much has changed since we were teenagers, except now Beep Beep obsesses over which private school she wants her kid in and all I talk about are fonts. Let’s listen to “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen for this post.

We went to Major Tom for a cocktail on Friday evening, then Ubered over to Park by Sidewalk Citizen. I’ve wanted to check this restaurant out ever since Bottlenick recommended the food and wine. Avenue Calgary voted Park as one of the ten best restaurants in Calgary 2022.

The restaurant itself is gorgeous, reminding me of an art gallery. Our table was by the door, which got a little drafty at times. We tried two red wines that night. My favourite was a German pinot noir (Dr. Die $14). I thought this wine was quite bold, which surprised me as I find most pinots weak in flavour and body. I know that Park gets some of its wines from JUICEimports, a wine importer that I think was associated with the old Von Der Fels.

The Charbroiled Lamb Skewer ($5) was nicely seasoned and juicy. However, I would have liked the skewer more if it was hotter.

Next, we both enjoyed the Hummous ($10). The hummus was thick and creamy, with a unique flavour. The marinated mushrooms were cold and chewy, with a texture that reminded me of eggplant. I would order this again. 

The Baked Feta ($15) arrived with the cheese blistered and smokey. I liked the pita that came with the feta over the pita that accompanied the hummus, as the latter arrived warm and crisp.

We weren’t hungry, but we wanted to try the Beef Bavette ($31). The beef was sliced into warm, juicy pieces. I thought this beef was perfectly seasoned. 

The breakfast at Park looks particularly good to me – I noticed shakshuka and a cured salmon plate on the menu. L’s not a brunch person, but perhaps I can convince my friend @bex.oxo to come with me. 

Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Ranchmen’s Club

Wonderland and Double 07 invited us to The Ranchmen’s Club for dinner. Since I first met Wonderland, she has consistently praised the executive chef, sommelier and staff at Ranchmen’s, so I was curious and excited to go. For this post, let’s listen to the James Bond theme song.

We met in the lobby and then moved into the Samson Lounge for a cocktail. When I sat down by the fireplace, the first thing I noticed was the deer mount. The room itself has a heritage vibe, like the Lougheed House, located across the street. Wonderland told me she often drops by the lounge to play bridge or to read a book.

Double 07 ordered a round of French Cowboys. I found this cocktail delightfully tart and refreshing. I loved how the bubbles fizzled on my tongue. Before I knew it, Double 07 told us it was time to go for dinner in the Mary Dover room, and we could bring our cocktails inside. Before finishing his sentence, I had already gulped my drink down. L has been trying to break that bad habit of mine since we met. Good luck with that, L.

I wasn’t expecting to dine in a private room, making the dining experience more intimate. We started with small cubes of cheddar cheese and French bread. The bread innards were silky, and the crust was chewy and flaky. Wonderland received gluten-free bread, as the staff are familiar with her dietary restrictions. Wonderland mentioned the cheddar was either two or three years old. L liked the intense, nutty flavour. I enjoyed the cheese, but I would have been content with the bread and butter because the bread was that good.

Double 07 picked out fantastic champagne. Wowee! The bubbles were tiny, with a soft, mellow flavour. I thought this champagne was really something special.

I ordered what the maître d’ recommended – the Caesar Salad, AAA Tenderloin Steak, and the Crab Hasselback Potatoes.

L and Double 07 picked Foie Gras and the Roast Duck Breast, and Wonderland ordered Oysters and the Rack of Lamb.

The lettuce in my salad was crisp and cold, with none of the bitterness I usually find in romaine leaves. I enjoyed the saltiness and softness of the whole sardines and the balanced flavour of the dressing. I thought Ranchmen’s makes a better Caesar than Caesar’s Steakhouse, which was previously my gold standard.

The red wine Double 07 picked out was phenomenal. The smell was so beautiful. I could sniff this wine all night long. The wine was smoky, smooth, with no sweetness to it. I was glad I was sitting down, or I would have been swooning from sheer ecstasy.

The knife crackling through the salty, charbroiled steak sent shivers down my spine. The texture of the meat was so luxuriously tender that I almost wept from the sheer bliss. I’m not exaggerating. I was quiet the entire time I ate, just marvelling at the pairing of the wine with the beef and the sweetness of the tomatoes and the crunch of the pickled onions. I grow my tomatoes, and even when I pick them at the optimal ripeness, they don’t taste this good.


I requested the bearnaise sauce as Wonderland recommended, but I didn’t have to choose, as I received the peppercorn Armagnac and the bearnaise sauce for my steak. The peppercorn and bearnaise added this rich, hot layer of flavour that coated the beef. The Hasselback potatoes were buttery and soft, topped with generous amounts of sweet, flaky crab.

Double 07 picked a 13-year-old dessert wine. The fragrance of the wine was earthy, like a garden in the morning. I’ve never smelled anything like this.

L picked the Spiced Meringue for dessert. The chef split L’s portion in half so I could sample it. I tasted a little clove in the spices. I thought the sour cherry granite nicely balanced the sweetness of the walnut nougatine. I loved the crumbly bits that melted in my mouth. My favourite component of the dessert was the rich smoothness of the birch creameaux.

This meal was something I could never prepare at home. I wouldn’t even know where to get these ingredients, let alone find the wines. What was different about this meal was that I didn’t get tunnel vision like I usually do. There wasn’t one dish that overshadowed another item. Every component worked well together, so I enjoyed the entire progression of the meal.

When I thanked our generous hosts for such an extravagant meal, I mentioned I didn’t know what to do when they came to our place for the next get-together. Wonderland genuinely stated that this was not a competition. I said that was good because there was no way I could ever top the chef’s talent or the sommelier’s skill. I’ll have to think of something special for when Wonderland and Double 07 come over for dinner. Perhaps I’ll have to enlist some professional help.

I ate my breakfast and mid-morning snack the next day. I usually enjoy my chicken and green onion congee and local boiled eggs with cracked pepper and salt. However, the morning after such as epic feast, I have to say my food did not taste as good as it usually does. Hopefully, my tastebuds will revert to their old self, or I will have to do some real soul searching. Thank you, Double 07 and Wonderland, for the excellent company and hospitality.

French

Cassis Bistro – Girls’ Night

Kournikova, Betty, and I met at Québecois’ house before our dinner at Cassis Bistro. Québecois popped some bubbles, and we also tried a new white wine Kournikova brought over. We picked this French bistro for our monthly dinner because Betty has a penchant for beef tartare, and Cassis makes the best in town. We also live within walking distance of the restaurant, so we didn’t have to turn any of our husbands into chauffeurs. For this post, let’s listen to “Poisson Rouge” by Saint Privat. 

I asked Québecois to pick the wine. She selected the Graves Peyrat Bordeaux ($70). She mentioned she loved the smell of the wine. I enjoyed the soft, mellow notes. I’m a fan, and I would order this wine again.

When our appetizers arrived, I asked Betty to help me take the photos. Kournikova thought the tartare was better than Orchard. Betty felt the potato chips paired best with the tartare – she loved the delicious saltiness of the chips.

Our server gave us a glass of dessert wine to pair with the foie gras. I would never have guessed a sweet wine would be such a perfect match. I thought the wine amplified the flavour of the foie gras. Kournikova said that’s what she likes with a proper wine pairing – you get so much more out of the experience. Québecois appreciated the combination of the pear with the foie gras because she said it cuts into the fat. I loved the way the foie gras melts in your mouth. 

I ordered Steak Frites, but I was over the moon with Québecois mussels. Holy smokes – what a beautiful bounty! The moment I tried a mussel, all the other food on the table ceased to exist. 

Each mussel was so fat and bursting with the flavour of the sea. The texture reminded me of a poached egg – hot, silky and soft. At the end of our meal, I noticed that each mussel was still at the optimal consistency, despite having sat in the steaming broth.  

If I knew the mussels were like this, I would have ordered my own bowl. But, in the end, I didn’t need to as Québecois couldn’t finish her dinner. I must have eaten about half her meal. She is a most generous and wonderful friend. 

During dinner, all I could talk about was the mussels. Kournikova said she could tell I enjoyed the mussels because I talked about them for so long. I realized I was repeating myself for about half an hour. I looked up and saw the glazed expression of Betty, who was politely listening to me rant. I realized two things. First, I’m a boring person. Second, I need to give more credit to L, as he is a very patient man. 

We were full, but we still ordered dessert. The Marquise ($14) consisted of three or four different layers and textures of chocolate. I liked how in each bite, I could taste a variety of chocolate that was fluffy, creamy, crunchy or fudgy. The port was spicy, with warm notes. 

The service was lovely, and the food was excellent. And those mussels – sweet Bejesus- are so impressive that I would order it as my last meal if I were on death row. Thank you, Cassis and Québecois, for a sublime meal. 

Fusion · Vietnamese

Pure Street Food – Part Two

On Sunday, Bex.oxo invited me to National Geographic Live. Before the presentation, we planned to dine at Maven, but the 1.5-hour wait deterred us. So instead, I suggested First Street Hall & Bar, as I knew Bex.oxo would find something she liked. Let’s listen to “Delicate” by Taylor Swift for this post.

We stopped by for a coffee at Alforno. As we sipped our cappuccinos, I showed Bex.oxo around the market. She noticed all the vendors are notable restauranteurs in Calgary’s food scene. I had the best intention of checking out Actually Pretty Good and La Mano, but I remembered seeing Foodkarma’s post on the dry noodles at Pure Street Food. I’m a sucker for a good recommendation, so I ordered the Hu Tieu Mi Kho Noodles ($15) and Spicy Bo Kho Brisket Sesame Donut ($6).

What blew me away was the sesame donut. The shell was thin, light and crackled when I bit into it. The brisket was so tender; I barely had to chew. The crowning glory in this donut was the layers of fresh basil, chilled cucumber and crunchy carrots. I noticed as the donut chilled, the flavours became even more pronounced. For me, this was like a banh mi but intensified. We both didn’t use the dip. We felt the donut was flavourful enough and didn’t need anything else. 

The Hu Ties Mi consisted of wok-tossed egg noodles, char sui, ground pork, spring greens, slices of fish cake, and a side of rib bone soup. The portions are so generous. I made Bex.oxo eat some of my lunch. I was instructed to sip the soup independently rather than mixing it into the bowl. I loved the broth’s flavour, which was so vibrant and lively. The big piece of rib meat was soft and meaty. I would order the soup again.

The sauce on the noodles had a robust spicy kick to it. The noodles were chewy, soft and sticky. There was so much char sui, ground pork, and noodles, the portion was big enough for two meals. 

The spring roll was killer – thick and densely packed with a savoury filling. I thought this was one of the better Vietnamese spring rolls in town. You can tell there was no scrimping of ingredients or love. 

I’ll have to come back and try another vendor other than Pure Street Food. Old habits die hard. But if I died that afternoon, I would have passed away happily. The sesame beef donut was one of the best things I’ve eaten in 2022.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Banh Mi Date #11 – Secret Vietnamese Cafe

I’ve wanted to try Secret Vietnamese Cafe ever since I watched Jeff’s Channel on Youtube. Now that I work in the Beltline, I have the perfect opportunity to further my goal of eating at 19 different banh mi shops. Eleven down and eight more to go! Let’s listen to “Nothing’s Going To Stop Us Now” by Starship.

Secret Cafe has a cozy coffee house vibe, unlike the more utilitarian banh mi shops in Calgary. I noticed several extensive menus posted on the walls when I walked in, showcasing pictures of sandwiches, pho, noodles, curries, appetizers, and Vietnamese subs. When I told the female owner I wanted a banh mi, she recommended the Special Combo Sub ($8.99). She asked me if I wanted my sub spicy. I responded in the affirmative. Pro tip – unless you can handle the heat, don’t ask for spice. My tongue was on fire for hours. 

The cafe was busy with regulars who knew the owners. Two customers ordered the lemongrass pork vermicelli when I was there, and another person ordered pho. Several people came in to pick up their order. 

I asked for no cilantro but still got it anyway. No biggie, as it was easy to remove. I enjoyed the crushed peanuts and the rich flavour of coconut milk in the beef. I also liked how the whole sub was warm – from the toasted bread, melted cheddar cheese to the hot, tender pieces of pork, chicken and beef. The thick slices of carrots tasted lightly pickled. The cucumber and onions were thinner in width. 

How does Secret Vietnamese Cafe compare to the other banh mi heavy hitters in Calgary? The vegetables come in coarser chunks. I prefer the delicate crunchy layers that Thi Thi has mastered with cucumber ribbons, razor-thin onions and julienned carrots. I like the freshness of Secret Cafe’s meats, which I found better quality than To Me Subs. I prefer the lightness and crumb of Banh Mi Nhu Y and Trung Nguyen subs over the heavier bread at Secret Cafe. Price-wise, I thought Secret Vietnamese Cafe offered better value than Kim Anh Sub but had less of a flavour bomb.

I noticed the owners like to banter with each other while they work. If you know of or have grandparents who emigrated from China, you’ll know what I mean. I don’t get homesick anymore, but if I needed a dose of old-school love, I’d come here to soak up the memories.  

Restaurants · Vietnamese

Rau Bistro

One of my favourite cuisines is Vietnamese food. Pre-COVID, I would host make-your-own salad rolls and hotpot-style dinners for my friends. However, after dining out at Rau Bistro, I realized my homestyle version sucks in comparison in terms of variety, quality and technique. For this post, let’s listen to “Hit That” by The Offspring.

L and I ordered the Wrap Two Combo ($20) and one Seven-Course Beef Set ($35). Next time, I would pick the beef set and not the Wrap Two, as the items in the wrap combo are also in the beef set. Instead, I will order the Shrimp and Yam Beignets ($12), Bun Man ($15), and Bun Bo Hue ($15), which I hear from trustworthy sources are stellar choices.

The beef congee was homey and oh so delicious. At Rau, the soup is more broth-like and not the thick and fluffy style you find at Chinese restaurants. I appreciated how the soup was served boiling hot, which allowed the flavours of the oils and meats to pop. I enjoyed the vibrancy of the herbs and the interesting texture of the various meats, like the tripe and chewy bits of what I thought were white fungus and tendon. I would order this again.

The cold, wet papaya salad with beef jerky was a wild explosion of sour and tart notes. The dressing on the strands of bean sprouts, papaya and carrots were refreshing. The lime-marinated medium-rare beef salad offered lively bites from the crunchy slices of onion, balanced by the mellowness of the chopped tomatoes. I also enjoyed snacking on the shrimp crackers, which were light, crispy and melted in my mouth.

I’m a fan of the steamed giant meatball, which was like a more subtle, juicier version of a Chinese dim sum dish, sui mai. The meat was soaked in a peanutty sauce, soft and warm, cupped in a dumpling wrap. This was so tasty, that I ate most of it, as L preferred the skewers.

All the meats in the wrap combo and beef set are winners. The grilled la la beef and satay beef each tasted different, garnished with sauteed green onions or garlic. The meat cooked in the fondue was lovely, soft and tender. I found the shrimp paste plumper and fresher than Rau’s competitors.

I appreciated the generous amount of basil, mint, pineapple, lettuce, cucumber and pickled carrots in both dishes. Unfortunately, our wraps have no pictures because L and I haven’t mastered our wrapping technique. I had to throw away two rice wrappers because I didn’t soak the crepe long enough in the warm water, resulting in a sticky, congealed mess.

There’s so much thought and care that goes into every dish. I noticed even the sauces were prepared in such a way to offer a completely different flavour profile. For example, the spicy tamarind sauce was topped with peanuts and chillis. The fish sauce was light, sprinkled with heady garlic notes and sweet pieces of carrots. I found the anchovy sauce intense with pungent, savoury, salty notes.

Rau is different from the norm – there isn’t anything generic about the flavours here. L noted that even though the portions were so generous, he didn’t feel gross or overstuffed. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend visiting Rau Bistro. This is a restaurant worth hitting up. Hitting the Sauce gives this gem two phat thumbs up.

Japanese · Seafood · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Belated Valentine’s Dinner

There are so many new restaurants, recommended by chefs and influencers who really know their food, that I haven’t been to before — for example, Pat & Betty (@janohansen), Rau Bistro (@thehungrygnome), Golden Sands (@miss_foodie, @foodkarmablog), and The Curryer (@miss_foodie). I should try more places out because, truthfully, I think I have the most repetitive blog. If I find a restaurant I love, I’ll write about it post after post. The problem is, I don’t particularly like trying new places. Let’s listen to “Over and Over” by Nelly for this review.

I told L I wanted to go to Sukiyaki House for our belated Valentine’s dinner. I like coming here because I know what I am getting. When I visit on Wednesday, I know that Sukiyaki House receives its fresh fish straight from Japan. When the restaurant is slammed with orders, I know we are in good hands because Koji Kobayashi, the head chef, is so efficient; he’s equivalent to three chefs. I know that extra staff get called in when it gets unexpectedly busy. I also know that the team monitors the food quality. Once just before I finished eating a dish, Justin came over and asked if I liked it. I said yes. He said he was checking in with me because I was looking at the food carefully and eating much slower than usual, so he wanted to make sure there was nothing wrong with the food. How’s that for customer service? I’m not the only one that sees what a gem this place is, as Avenue Magazine just rated Sukiyaki House one of the 10 best restaurants in Calgary.

I was craving something fattening and delicious, so we ordered Chicken Kaarage ($13). I paired this dish with a glass of French Sauvignon Blanc ($11) and, later, a crisp Asahi draft beer ($7). The squeeze of lemon cuts nicely into the crunchy crevices, adding brightness to the succulent chunks of chicken. The flavour of the julienned green onion was prominent.

Holy maki, Chef Kobayashi stuns again with another unique creation! The tuna tartare was paired with dainty pieces of nori that were battered and crunchy like a thin potato chip. The tuna was creamy with tiny crunchy bits, similar to watermelon. The scent of cucumber perfumed each bite. L raved about the subtle spice in the tartare that crept until you felt its heat. I noticed L was smiling as he ate.

We did our usual round of nigiri: Amaebi (Raw Shrimp, $4), Ebi (Steamed Shrimp, $3), Hamachi (Pacific Yellowtail, $4.20), Hotategai (Scallop, $ 4.20), Maguro (Tuna, $3), Shake (Atlantic Salmon, $3), Tako (Octopus, $3), Toro (Tuna Belly, $4.50) and an Aka Tekka Roll (Red Tuna, $6.50).

L wondered how they could get the steamed shrimp to taste so good. The shrimp is always so crunchy with explosively shrimpy flavour. The salmon and tuna were creamy, soft and cool on the tongue. We noticed that all the fish was served at the optimal temperature, neither cold nor warm. The flavour of bluefin tuna made my whole body tingle. I felt like the toro was richer and thicker in texture than the Maguro tuna. The Hamachi was meaty and tender, with a pleasant texture and flavour. The raw scallops were fat and clean tasting, with a silky, gorgeous mouthfeel. The scallops were so good I chewed as slowly as possible to enjoy the sensation and flavour. L loved that the nori (seaweed) in the maki roll still had teeth to it – like it was just toasted and had that dryness that snaps apart when you break into it.

I announced to L if I died that night, I would die happy. He agreed and said if this were our last meal, it would be an excellent way to leave the world. It’s always a good litmus test of a restaurant if you happily contemplate the end of your life after eating such a meal. I asked L how is it possible that one restaurant might give you so much pleasure? L responded that Sukiyaki House has a dream team – Anna, Judith, Justin, and Koji.

Even though I love coming to Sukiyaki House, I know I have to venture out. So I’m going to take a deep dive into the top ten list. I am usually skeptical of recommendations outside of my circle of friends, but I recognize several incredible restaurants on the list, which indicates this is a list worth investigating.

Bakery · Dessert · French · Restaurants

Yann Haute Patisserie

L and I started a new tradition. We go out to a restaurant to celebrate Valentine’s Day on any day other than February 14th. The reason is that most restaurants are far too busy to give us the experience we want. For this post, let’s listen to “White Wedding” by Billie Idol.

L picked up a lovely sake, a dozen long-stemmed red roses and he made my favourite dish, spam musubi. I, in turn, surprised him with desserts from Yann Haute Patisserie. I have to say that we both killed it this year. The roses were gorgeous, and the sweet sake and salty spam musubi pairing hit the spot. However, the star of the show was the desserts.

I ordered a set of Lovely Eclairs ($16), Paris-Calgary ($7.90), and Mille-Feuille ($7.90). The pair of eclairs came in chocolate and vanilla. The chocolate was intense – the glaze, the chocolate itself and the ganache filling. In comparison, the vanilla eclair was light, and the vanilla bean flavour filling was pronounced, but in a wholesome way, like an old-fashioned vanilla ice-cream cone. Of the two, I preferred the heavy, luxurious flavour bomb of the chocolate.

I let L eat the macaron that crowned the Paris-Calgary dessert. He said the macaron tasted terrific. The dessert itself was like a Ferrero Rocher but with high-quality, fresh ingredients. The center was piped with hazelnut praline and cream. The flavour reminded me of a chocolate hedgehog. L couldn’t believe how much work went into this dessert – the gooey center, crispy shortbread, cream and puff pastry.

The mille-feuille was made of beautiful crispy layers of caramelized puff pastry, oozing with thick, creamy Madagascar vanilla bean cream. L exclaimed that whoever made this dessert has mad culinary skill. I concur.

L loved that all the pastries weren’t too sweet. He said all the desserts were excellent yet different from each other. I’m not a sweets person, but I’m such a fan I plan to return to buy some more cakes. Honestly, I would be happy to make a meal out of these creations. The pastry chef at Yann Haute is so talented, I’m turning over a new leaf. Hitting the Sauce gives Yann Haute (and L) two phat thumbs up.

Beer · Pubs

Waterloo Kitchen and Bar – Tacos

I’ve been trying not to eat out as much in my quest to get fitter. However, after having my hair done by the talented Mai at Good Salon, I was in the mood to go out.

L was tired and thus less likely to humour my more frivolous nature, so I had to appeal to his tastes. I knew Major Tom wasn’t on the table right off the bat. So I called L and announced I wanted to take him out for tacos. He agreed but requested the restaurant be close to home. Let’s listen to “Bang Bang” by Nancy Sinatra for this post.

Lately, I’ve been into Waterloo Kitchen and Bar. Usually, when I’m at a pub, I’ll have a pint of beer and avoid the food. I’m pretty surprised with the flavour coming out of this bar. At Waterloo, I focus more on eating than drinking.

On Saturdays, the Waterloo offers three tacos for $12 or five for $16. Each taco is small, so I would order five tacos if you have an appetite. L and I each ate four, and I was still snacky, so I ordered a side of fries ($5).

L’s favourite taco was the beef brisket. The beef was smoky, with a nice chew to it. L thought the BBQ flavour was fantastic.

For me, the fish taco and pulled pork stood out. The generous portion of fish tasted fresh, and the light batter melted in my mouth. L noted the battered fish wasn’t greasy. I loved how the fish was piping hot, contrasting with the cold, creamy house tartar sauce.

This was the first time I had tried pulled pork, and I didn’t find the meat dry. Instead, the pork was so juicy that I had to suck back the juices when I took a bite. The Carolina BBQ sauce was delicious – a little acidic with an edge.

The smoked pull chicken looked like it was all-white meat. Proportionally, there was a generous amount of chicken to the tortilla and cabbage.

Waterloo’s tacos are smaller but packed with more meat compared to Mikey’s. The smokey flavour of the bbq meats at Waterloo is also more pronounced than Mikey’s. I thought the quality of BBQ at Waterloo was even better than some other popular BBQ joints in Calgary. Hitting the Sauce gives Waterloo Kitchen and Bar two phat thumbs up.

Beer · Pizza · Pubs

Richmond Pub

I was texting my brother Jacuzzi about a series of unfortunate events. He must have noticed the melodramatic tone in my messages because he immediately ordered me to go out for dinner. I told L and he agreed with Jacuzzi. As always, they are correct. For this post, let’s listen to “Cherry Bomb” by Joan Jett.

L was in the mood for pizza. I suggested Richmond Pub because their pizza rivals Spiros, Hanni’s and Inglewood Pizza. On the night we went, a 12″ pizza and a 60 oz beer were on special for $30. For drinks, we picked Duke Lager, an easy-drinking American-style beer. For pizza, we went for the gut filling Rocky Balboa.

I also ordered hot wings ($14.50). Unfortunately, there are no pictures of the wings and beer because my photography was worse than usual. If a picture is worth a thousand words, my photos that night would be worth only a sentence fragment.

The menu states Richmond Pub only uses fresh wings. I thought the wings were great – the skin was crispy and the meat was white and plump. The hot sauce was pleasantly tangy and spicy.

The pizza is heavily layered with pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, red onion, and blanketed with a thick layer of gooey cheese. The tomato sauce was bright and zingy. The crust was crunchy and thick enough to stand up to the ratio of meat and cheese.

Thanks, L and Jacuzzi – it turns out all I needed was a night out. Hitting the Sauce gives Richmond Pub’s pizza two phat thumbs up.

Happy Hour · Mexican · Restaurants

Mikey’s on 12th – Live music and tacos

On Sunday afternoon, L and I went to Mikey’s live music event – Sit Back Jam with Tom Philip and Friends. When we walked in, the laidback environment and the music-loving crowd reminded me of King Eddy. For this post, let’s listen to a song I overhead – “Don’t Mess Around with Jim” by Jim Croce.

Service was genuinely friendly, despite how busy the captive audience kept the servers. We sat in the far back of the bar, next to the kitchen. I ordered a Caesar ($6.50), and L got a pint of Mount Crushmore (Banded Peak, $7.99).

I liked my cocktail. The flavour of the Clamato was strong and salty, even after most of my ice melted. I could taste the heat from the spices and the tartness from the pickled bean. I’m picky when it comes to Caesars, and I would order this again. I sensed the bartender gave me a full shot of vodka and undulated at that. Call me paranoid but I get the sense most pubs water down the booze or don’t give you a full shot. Not so at Mikey’s.

For only eleven bucks, you get three tacos. Cheese and guacamole are extra, and unnecessary in my opinion as these babies are jam-packed with flavour. We shared nine tacos: beef brisket, pork pastor, confit pork, Baja fish, panko shrimp, tinga (chicken), and calamari frito.

I enjoyed the stewed meat tacos over the deep-fried fish, shrimp and calamari. In particular, the tinga impressed me. The white chicken meat was tender and flavourful. I loved the addition of the sour cream and warm, chopped tomatoes.

L’s favourite taco was the beef brisket. The beef was saucy. The meat’s saltiness contrasted with the cold, crunchy pickled radish and onions. He liked that each taco was loaded with filling and came with two thin corn tortillas.

The pulled pork was light with a subtle smokiness. The pork pastor tasted like it was grilled. The juicy piece of pineapple was sweet. I thought the kitchen did a great job with the beef, pork and chicken tacos, as each tasted distinctly different from the other.

I noticed all the customers were drinking alcohol, but most weren’t eating. I don’t understand how anyone can come here and not indulge in a street-style taco, especially when enjoying an ice-cold beer. My father always said that music fulfils the soul, so perhaps there’s less of a need to fill the belly.

For dessert, we shared an order of Churros ($5.99). Each churro was warm and fluffy like a doughnut. The texture was cake-like, and it melted in your mouth. The chocolate sauce reminded me of chocolate chip cookies. I would order the churros again.

L and I had a nice time. The musicians were talented and lively, the food was yummy, and the service was warm. I would return and recommend this place to anyone who enjoys live music and cheap tacos. Hitting the Sauce gives Mikey’s two phat thumbs up.

Bars/Lounges · Fusion · Seafood · Special Occasion

Orchard Restaurant

Kournikova, Betty, and Québecois dropped by my house before our dinner at Orchard Restaurant. Betty is the latest addition to our monthly dinner club, referred by her best friend, Kournikova. We started off with champagne and then a bottle of my favourite red wine from Burrowing Owl.

L dropped us off and encouraged us to take our time, as he planned to watch a big match on PPV. I knew that was code for “be quiet when you guys come back home. I paid to watch this fight.” Unfortunately for him, we came home and partied on well past his bedtime. For this post, let’s listen to “Material Girl”.

Orchard is a gorgeous restaurant, resplendent with high ceilings, cascading plants and a variety of chandeliers. In terms of impressive digs, I’d say Orchard and Major Tom lead the pack in Calgary.

We each started off with a cocktail. Kournikova, Betty and I ordered From Shelter with Love ($15). Kournikova mentioned the passion fruit in the cocktail reminded her of the guava mimosas in Hawaii.

Our server told us about a bin end sale of French Sauvignon Blanc ($40). What a steal! I enjoyed this bottle as I found the wine smooth and not tart like I find to be the case for many New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.

Betty informed me that her favourite food is Beef Tartare ($18), so of course, we had to order it. The lighting in the restaurant is dark, so when I mistakenly scooped up all the cranberry mustard, I mentioned the beef tasted oddly sweet. Betty laughed and pointed out what I was eating was beets and not beef.

Kournikova and I both loved the Grilled Humboldt Squid ($16). The squid was toothsome and so expertly cooked; it made me think of Chef James Water version at Klein and Harris. The salad was delicious, bright with citrusy orange notes. I thought each unique ingredient in this dish worked – the salsa verde, green olives, and lemon. I would order this again.

Québecois and I enjoyed the Beet and Burrata ($15). The Italian burrata was fresh and creamy. I liked the sweet, savoury and fragrant combination of the beets, hazelnuts, and orange. Québecois enjoyed the crunchy burst of hazelnuts, and Kournikova mentioned she liked the smoky pesto.

My favourite appetizer was the Eggplant and Maitake ($15). I thought the mix of the soy glaze, mushrooms, and eggplant was insanely delicious. I would order the eggplant again as well.

We wanted to try the Miso Maple Cured Sablefish ($38). However, on this night, Icelandic cod was used instead of sablefish. The fish was soft and covered in a delicate, buttery sauce. Kournikova and Québecois raved about the juicy bok choy.

I was pleasantly surprised with the Ocean Cioppino ($36), as I’m generally not impressed with this dish at other restaurants. The scallops were so fat and sweet, I thought it was just as good or even better than the scallops at Hawthorn Dining Room. The prawns were large with a delectable crunchy texture. The mussels and clams tasted fresh and were perfectly cooked. I also loved the rich flavour of the marinara sauce. I would order the cioppino again.

Kournikova loves a good duck, so we shared the Bougie Duck Breast ($35). The duck meat was flavourful but a little chewy. Everyone was a fan of the Israeli couscous. The sauce and couscous were creamy and silky smooth.

Betty picked out two desserts for us to share – the White Chocolate Tiramisu ($11) and Rocher Chocolate Cake ($11). The chocolate shell was hard and then quickly melted in your mouth. The tiramisu was soft and creamy, with a texture similar to semi-melted ice cream. Wowee – both were so good; I was scraping the sides of the dish to get every last drop.

We all enjoyed our experience at Orchard. The food, service and ambience were top-notch. Hitting the Sauce gives Orchard two phat thumbs up.

French · Restaurants · Special Occasion

Cassis Bistro – Birthday dinner

Turning a year older wasn’t so bad this year due to the unexpected shower of gifts and well wishes from my family, friends and workplace. I started the day on the right foot with my father-in-law at Costco. From there, my day got even more exciting. To set the mood for this birthday post, let’s listen to a song I have stuck in my head, “Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan.

Initially, I wanted to try a new restaurant. However, Vero Bistro had a “wine and dine” event on Wednesday, and I didn’t want to partake. Franca’s has been on my list ever since I read about it in the news. Unfortunately, Franca’s isn’t currently open on weekday evenings. My third choice was omasake at Nupo, but the only seating was at 8:00 p.m. That’s too late for me to go out on a Wednesday night. So I settled for a tried and true favourite – Cassis Bistro.

Lindy is the best server I’ve experienced at Cassis. She provided excellent suggestions to make our meal even better. Also, her warm, welcoming personality added to our dining experience.

I started with a glass of Cellier Chartreux ($13, Lirac, Cotes du Rhone 2018) and L drank a Crisp Pils ($8). I found my wine light, with a minerally aftertaste.

I always enjoy the bread and butter at Cassis. The innards of the baguette were silky and soft, while the crust was crusty and munchy. The butter was rich and mellow and melted on my tongue.

We shared a big plate of Beef Tartare ($29). This main size order comes typically with frites, but we opted for potato chips instead. The beef tartare was fragrant – it smelled bright and refreshing like citrus and dill. The taste, texture and temperature was sublime – flavourful, soft and chewy. I would get this again.

The salad paired well with the tartare. I liked the subtle acidity in the creamy dressing. The spring greens were so fresh and crisp, and almost fluffy in texture. L liked the addition of beets, which added a sweetness that contrasted with the tartare and salad dressing.

To pair with my Duck Confit ($29), I ordered a glass of Chateau Franc ($14, Magnus Bordeaux 2016). I enjoyed the bigger, juicier notes in the Bordeaux over the Cotes du Rhone. I would order this wine again.

The duck at Cassis is outrageously decadent. The chef nailed everything that makes a duck confit so enjoyable. The skin was ultra-crispy, the meat was meltingly tender, and the hot, thin layer of duck fat triggered some serious eye-rolling ecstasy. The duck came with carrots and a generous side of potato gratin. The carrots were so delicious and sweet, I wondered where Cassis buy their produce.

L’s Steak ($44) was sublime. The exterior of each thin slice of steak had this delicious char. The interior was soft and flavoursome. I loved the sharp peppery notes in the gravy and on the extra crunchy frites. Sweet Besus, the food at Cassis is heavenly.

Hitting the Sauce gives her birthday and dinner two phat thumbs up. Thanks to everyone who made this coming of ageing event a spectacular day.

17th Ave · Fusion · Japanese · Sushi

Sushi In – Revisit

Another boring Saturday in what I consider the worst month of the year. January is generally cold, dull, and downright depressing. The only thing keeping my mood up is my latest obsession with Joan Jett. Now, that’s a chick who knows how to rock and roll. Let’s listen to “Do You Wanna Touch Me” for this post.

I told L I was taking him out for dinner at Sushi In, a Japanese restaurant in our neighbourhood. We ate there once when it first opened, but I gathered we went on an off night based on recent reviews on Instagram.

Our sushi and sashimi were the first dishes to come out. L enjoyed the Dynamite Roll ($8). This roll was simple – filled with a small piece of tempura shrimp and a smidge of avocado. He also tried the Salmon ($2.50), Tuna ($2.50) and Tako Nigiri ($3). He said the portion of fish to rice was proportional, and the seafood tasted fresh.

The Salmon Aburi ($12) is worth ordering again. Most places that serve aburi make it overly sweet. At Sushi In, the salmon had that perfect amount of char, just faint enough so that the flame-seared flavour wasn’t overpowering. The squeeze of lemon added an excellent brightness to the fish. The fatty flesh of the salmon was tender and warm.

The Assorted Sashimi ($25) was also a winner. Except for the surf clam, each piece was large and plump. The scallops were large and lightly seared. The hamachi (yellowtail) and salmon belly were rich and buttery. The tuna was creamy and smooth. The surf clam was sliced into segments, the texture was crisp and chewy. Our only qualm was the sashimi was served too cold. After letting the dish sit for about 10 minutes, the temperature was optimal. L and I both agreed the sashimi is worthing ordering again.

I noticed other customers raving about the Best Ever Roll ($9). However, this style of sushi was not for us. The roll was drenched in a sweet, crunchy coating. I could taste the garlic and seasoning that reminded me of spicy bbq potato chips. I know Sushi In is popular with customers for its specialty rolls, bedazzled with sauces and crunchy adornments. However, L and I prefer the traditional dishes, like the sashimi and nigiri.

The Vegetable Tempura ($10) was toothsome. All the vegetables were served still sizzling from the fryer, coated in a crunchy batter. I particularly enjoyed the rich, creamy texture of the pumpkin and avocado. I was also a fan of the zucchini, which melted in my mouth.

L wanted to try the Spicy Chicken Karrage ($10.95). This boneless chicken was spicy, saucy, and a little sweet. I enjoyed it, but I still prefer the crispness and flavour of Sukiyaki House’s chicken karrage.

I’m glad we gave Sushi In another try. We found the sashimi and sushi fresh and affordable. If you are looking for some neighbourhood sushi joint – traditional or fusion, I would recommend checking out Sushi In. Hitting the Sauce gives Sushi In two phat thumbs up.

Chinatown · Chinese · Seafood

Chinese Culture Centre Cuisine – Surf and Turf

Before Fougui left for Mexico, we went out to reminisce about the old days when we used to work together. I also invited Office Dad to our dinner at the Chinese Cultural Centre Cuisine (CCCC) because it wouldn’t be a party without him. For this post, let’s listen to “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett.

I didn’t tell Fougui that Office Dad was coming, because I wanted it to be a surprise. Office Dad wore sunglasses and hid behind a newspaper at an adjacent table. After we sat down, he walked behind Fougui and called him on his phone. I didn’t have the heart to tell Office Dad that we recognized him a mile away and he wasn’t tricking anyone. After we finished feigning an appropriate amount of awe and shock, I ordered Peking duck (three courses, $48) and Steamed Crab on Sticky Rice ($40). Instead of the standard first course of duck soup, I requested noodles.

First to arrive was the Peking duck with crepes. The skin was dry and toasty. When I bite into the crepe, you could hear the crackling snap of the skin. The duck meat was flavourful and not overly fatty. I liked how the crepe was papery thin and steaming hot. CCCC is not skimpy with the portions. I noticed a generous amount of duck, cucumber, green onion and crepes.

The temperature of the ground duck mixture was still blistering when I scooped some into a lettuce cup. I enjoyed the wraps, but I focused more of my appetite on the duck chow mein. I mentioned to Office Dad that the food was so good, I plan to blog about this meal. He nodded in agreement and asked if I would change his name to “Cool Office Dad”.

Most restaurants give you a thick Shanghai noodle dish with the Peking duck course. I was excited to see CCCC uses the thin Cantonese chow mein noodles. This is a simple dish, but so comforting. The wok hei in the sauce was on point. Each bite was a saucy mess of smoking hot gravy, brittle noodles and crunchy bean sprouts.

I saw Lovegastrogirl raving about the steamed crab before on Instagram, so I knew I had to order it. The crab is a winner. The meat was flaky and sweet. The rice was fresh and soft, seasoned from the pops of tobiko, egg and fluffy crab meat.

When we left the restaurant, we each took turns complaining about how full we were. Cool Office Dad let out a big burp to show how satisfied he was with the feast. Not so cool, Daddio! Good thing he still had his mask on.

If you are looking for a place that isn’t teeming with customers, I’d recommend eating at the CCCC. The restaurant was quiet. There were only four parties scattered throughout the spacious room. The service was friendly and attentive. You won’t go wrong ordering the fresh steamed crab and Peking duck.

Restaurants · Vietnamese

Pure Modern Asian Kitchen + Bar – Late-night pho

Our friends came over for a small party for New Year’s Eve. We followed the province’s gathering restrictions (updated December 21) for indoor social gatherings. I kept the number below the maximum limit of 10 people, and the six of us were well over the age of 18. Furthermore, everyone was double vaccinated, boosted up, and tested negative for Covid. For this post, let’s listen to “What Are You Doing Near Year’s Eve” by Ella Fitzgerald. 

We snacked and sipped the night away. Zuber popped open his favourite champagne – Taittinger. Sirski followed suit with Bollinger. I opened up a bottle of wine from Kournikova’s favourite winery – Ex Nihilo

My friends live blocks away from me, so I wanted to give them something hot and nourishing before they walked home in the -21 weather. For our late-night snack, I ordered Pot au Pho (gluten-free, spicy broth $60) from Pure Modern Asian Kitchen and Bar

I brought out my hot pot burner near the end of the night. I boiled water for the noodles on one half of the pot, which I requested uncooked to make it fresh for my guests. I simmered the brisket, beef balls, tendon, and beef ribs on the other half. At the very last moment, I slipped in the raw slices of beef.

My pictures don’t do the food justice, so I’m stealing one from Pure’s Instagram post. Ah, that’s so much better, isn’t it?

The broth was thick, heavy with rich beefy notes. The broth is a meal in itself. I looked up from my bowl to see everyone’s head down, joyfully slurping up this soupy goodness. Zuber raved about the pho and said this was an excellent idea to end the night. 

Kournikova only indulged in a tiny bowl with no noodles. She enjoyed all the meats, basil, and crunchy bean sprouts. Sirski and Québécois avoided my favourite meat – the beef rib. What? That’s the best part! I love the soft meat and the gelatinous bits around the rib. The tendon was soft and melted in my mouth. Québécois loves cilantro, and she knows I hate the herb. She was surprised and appreciative that I didn’t nix the obnoxious herb from my order. I accidentally got some cilantro and gagged a little. What I won’t do for my friends.

Pho au Pho was a hit! I would order pho again in a heartbeat. It’s the perfect ender for the last freezing cold day in 2021. Everyone left warm and content, and ready for 2022.

Brunch · Happy Hour · Seafood · Vancouver/Richmond

Harbour Oyster + Bar – Vancouver

L wanted to go out for oysters for our last meal in Vancouver. I suggested Harbour Oyster + Bar on Commercial Drive because I read favourable reviews about the oysters and service. I really enjoyed their playlist. The music put me in the mood for a boozy seafood lunch. For this post, let’s listen to a song I heard playing – “Super Freak” by Rick James.

Harbour is a popular bar, and it was entirely booked by noon. The space itself isn’t large. There’s enough room for about 12 people at the bar and maybe six tables for around 16 customers.

I noticed Chris – the master shucker – worked hard to keep customers happy. When he wasn’t shucking all the oysters, he would also greet each person who came in the door, pour drinks, take food orders, answer the phone, and chat with us about Alberta’s seafood scene. Chris had only good things to say about Rodney’s Oyster House in Calgary’s Beltline district.

Harbour offers a wicked happy hour, served daily from noon to 5:00 p.m. I tried the Sumac Ridge Sauvignon Blanc and the Sumac Ridge Merlot (HH $6.50). I preferred the red over the white wine. Like Rodney’s in Yaletown, I noticed Harbour fills up the wine right up to the rim. L opted for a beer and chose the Harbour Lager (HH $6). L mentioned his beer was nice and cold.

For our lunch, I ordered the Mussels (HH $13), Lobster Poutine (HH $12) and two dozen Lighthouse Oysters (HH $1.50 each). First up were the mussels. Our order comes with 10 plump mussels and a slice of grilled bread. We opted for the white wine sauce, which I liked because the broth didn’t overwhelm the flavour of the shellfish. Each mussel was soft and sweet. Some of the mussels were the size of an oyster.

The Lighthouse oysters were salty and tasted like the sea. The flesh was crisp with a texture that reminded me of watermelon. Each oyster was large, with an enjoyable meatiness to it.

Our poutine arrived piping hot, with chunks of lobster claw meat visible in every crevice. Each fry was battered and extra crunchy, covered in globs of warm, gooey cheese. The lobster meat was plump and juicy, generously distributed throughout the dish. The buttery white sauce was sweet, with just enough creaminess to bind all the ingredients together but not so overpowering that it masked the lobster’s texture and flavour.

The oysters were excellent, but the highlight of our meal was the lobster poutine. L and I agreed this was one of the most delicious things we’ve eaten all year. I would love to return to try more of the menu. Thanks for the excellent service and food, Harbour Oyster and Bar. See you again when we return in 2022.

Pizza · Vancouver/Richmond

L.A. Chicken and Steveston Pizza

On Boxing Day, L and I had dinner at our family friend’s house. We originally planned to meet up for a double date at Cocoru but decided to meet at her house instead. For this post, let’s listen to “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynrd.

Celia told me she was ordering from Steveston Pizza, a restaurant well-known for its extravagant seafood pizzas. I told her I would bring takeout from L.A. Chicken, the O.G. for fried chicken in Richmond.

When I arrived at L.A. Chicken, there was already a long line-up. The small shop is managed by the owner and his wife. He would ring up an order, run to the kitchen to pack up the food, then hustle back to the register to take the following order. What struck me was how patient, and appreciative each customer was throughout this process. The majority of customers looked like regulars, and each would respectfully nod, thank the owner profusely for being open, and leave a tip in appreciation for his hard work. When it was my turn to order, I could see the visible stress on his face and the whites of his eyes as he glanced at the growing line. He looked like he was having a panic attack.


When I arrived at Celia’s house, I mentioned the owner looked like he was having a meltdown. She laughed and mentioned she’s eaten at L.A. Chicken for years and the owner always looks liike that, even in the middle of the day when the business is quieter. She equated the owner to the Soup Nazi in Seinfield and said he is a maestro when it comes to fried chicken. I disagreed and thought it was his wife who was the unsung hero, as I saw her cooking up all the chicken.

I laid out my 10-piece spread ($34.99) with half spicy, half regular fried chicken, gravy, fries and nuggets ($8.99). I read the spicy chicken has a crunchier batter than the regular chicken. Celia ordered an Earth Pizza ($28), Pepperoni ($20) and a Fiume Pizza ($32).


I only tried the Fiume Pizza because I can’t resist seafood. This pizza was piled high with enormous pieces of crunchy pesto shrimp. The smoked salmon and creamy white sauce were so flavourful and each bite was bursting full of shrimpy goodness.

Fried Chicken


The spicy chicken wasn’t very spicy. The seasoning was subtle, and the batter was extra crunchy. What made this chicken stand out from the other fast food joints was the juiciness and plumpness of the brined chicken. I liked the ratio of the meat to batter too. I find Korean chicken is more batter and sauce than meat. I also found the meat quality at L.A. chicken better than Popeye’s or KFC. L.A. Chicken makes good homestyle fried chicken.


The chicken nuggets were covered in a crunchy, crumbly breading. The meat was springier than McDonald’s nuggets and didn’t deflate or harden as the meat cooled. The fries were average and nothing special.

When I came home I told my mother Celia over-ordered. My mother asked me why Celia ordered so much food. I said I didn’t know. Celia had so much food leftover, she said she would ask her mother over for lunch. The following day, Celia’s mother called my mother and told her that her daughter made her come over to finish up the pizza. Hot gossip travels fast. Thanks, Celia for a lovely night.

Brunch · Sandwiches · Vancouver/Richmond

Havana Restaurant – Vancouver

On Boxing Day, I met up with my cousins at Havana on Commercial Drive. I was planning to show L where my grandfather’s grocery store used to stand, but I realized I couldn’t remember where exactly it was located. Since it was freezing cold, we headed over early to our brunch reservations. For this post, let’s listen to “Peach Fuzz” by Caamp.

The restaurant exudes a funky, chill vibe. I was impressed with the service, which I found warm and professional. I loved our spacious table in the back of the restaurant. For most of our meal, we had the whole section to ourselves.

None of my cousins brought their kids because they wanted the hour to themselves. I was going to order a tea, but I followed suit when I saw my cousins order a double Havana Caesar ($11). These girls know how to do it up.

Man, this was a good Caesar! The Clamato juice was sweet and not watered down like other places. The pineapple-infused tequila was subtle in flavour and not overpowering. I particularly liked the garnish of pickled hot pepper, cured meat, and pineapple. My cousin thought she could taste hickory smoke in the spices along the rim. I would order this drink again.

L tried the Churro Pick Me Up ($11). He thought it was an awesome boozy coffee. I took a sip and enjoyed the sweet blend of espresso, Sailor Jerry’s spiced rum, Kahlua, and cinnamon leche whip.

I wanted to order the mussels as I read so much about them, but I was informed it is only served at dinner. So I ordered my second choice – Avocado Toast ($12.00). I liked the thick-cut grilled organic sourdough. The bread was slightly tangy, with a marvellously fluffy crumb texture. The cherry tomatoes and charred shishito peppers added a nice pop of texture and flavour. I swirled each piece of toasted bread with the smashed creamy avocado, sunflower seeds, and sprouts.

L ordered the Cubano ($16) with triple-cooked house fries. L mentioned the center of his sandwich wasn’t warm enough. The next time we visit, L said he’ll order what our cousins did – the breakfast bowls. Their bowls looked impressive – piled high with brown rice, poached eggs and bacon. I would have taken a picture but we were sitting too far apart, and I didn’t want to get too close.

L and I would like to return to try the dinner items, like the mussels, octopus and tacos. I’m glad my cousin picked Havana for our family reunion. It was the perfect spot to catch up and enjoy a pleasant meal together. Hitting the Sauce gives Havana two phat thumbs up. 

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi · Vancouver/Richmond

Mega Sushi – Richmond

L, Jacuzzi and I went out for sushi. Since it was Christmas Eve, our options were limited. I picked Mega Sushi because our family friend recommended this restaurant. Let’s listen to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Coldplay for this post.

Mega Sushi is located on Chatham Street in Steveston. As we walked over to the restaurant, I saw seagulls swooping and screeching along the pier. I always find their cries comforting, because it reminds me of my walks along Granville Island.

The service was friendly and efficient. I could hear the chefs speaking softly to each other in Korean. It’s not a big restaurant. There are about a handful of tables. However, this restaurant does heaps of takeout – throughout our visit, there must have been at least a dozen orders going out.

L and Jacuzzi told me to pick all the food. I heard the specialty rolls at Mega are popular, but all those rolls are covered in creamy sauces and filled with deep-fried seafood. We wanted sashimi and the simpler rolls. I ordered a Salmon Maki Roll (Atlantic, $3.99), Negitoro Maki Roll (tuna belly and green onion, $4.50), two Chopped Scallop Rolls ($5.50), Deluxe Sashimi ($35.95), two Hokkigai Surf Clam ($2.50) two Tako (octopus, $3.25), Aburi Combo (Atlantic salmon and toro $13.95) and two Miso Soups ($1.50). 

The deluxe sashimi contained 18 pieces. The portions are generous – the sashimi was sliced into thick slabs. Each piece was from two to three bites.

The red tuna would have been perfect it wasn’t so cold. The salmon was fatty and creamy. I preferred the leaner, richer flavour of the sockeye. L was pleased with the octopus, which had a good crunch. 

The surf clam was firm and sweet. Jacuzzi rarely eats out. He mentioned the tuna melted in his mouth. Jacuzzi was enjoying the taste of sashimi so much, he would smile, close his eyes and chew as slowly as possible. Then, in between bites of fish, he would cleanse his palate with ginger to better appreciate each new piece. Damn little brother, I have to take you out more often. 

The salmon and negitoro rolls were nicely done. The seaweed was crisp and dry. Of the two rolls, I preferred the flavour of the tuna belly and green onion over the chunky filling of Atlantic salmon. I thought the sushi rice was nice, but L said it was a little too firm for his preference.

The chopped scallop roll was so good, we ordered a second. I liked the crunchy pop of the tobiko and the rich, eggy flavour of the Kewpie mayo. The scallops were plentiful, cool and silky on my tongue. 

The seared Atlantic salmon and toro were tasty, I could taste the smoky flavour on the top layer of the fish. I’m glad I tried the aburi-style sushi, but I still prefer the more basic sushi.

We all agreed we would go back for the sushi and sashimi. The highlight for me on this visit was the freshness of the seafood we sampled. Hitting the Sauce gives Mega Sushi two fat thumbs up.

Beer · Burgers · Pubs

Waterloo Pub

With Calgary’s cold snap, I haven’t left the house in days. By Thursday, I was running around the house like a squirrel. I didn’t want L to drive far with the icy road conditions, but I wanted to go somewhere different. So I suggested that we check out Waterloo Pub instead of our regular hangout, Newcastle Pub. For this post, let’s listen to “Snowman” by Sia.

We shared the Thursday night special – the BBQ Platter ($19) and Hot Wings ($15). We drank Citizen Brewery – Senor Citizen (HH $5) for beverages. The Mexican lager was dark and sweet. L enjoyed this beer while I would have preferred something milder and bubblier. L was amused with the name because instead of senior citizen, it was “senor” as in the address used for a Spanish-speaking man.

Waterloo makes some tasty BBQ! The meat on the ribs was so soft, chewing wasn’t necessary. The brisket was thickly sliced, firm in texture, and smoky. L’s favourite piece of meat was the brisket, while I enjoyed the ribs the most.


The pulled pork was soft and fluffy – the texture was so light it reminded me of cotton candy floss. I was impressed with the coleslaw – it was so fresh and crunchy, and the dill dressing was downright delicious. L agreed and asked how often I rave about coleslaw. Never!

The beans were not mushy and still had a bite, making me think this batch was homemade. The macaroni and cheese were pretty standard – I thought it could use more seasoning or cheese. L said if he ate the whole platter, he would have been too full.

The highlight of the night for me was the wings. The skin was so crispy and light, it crackled when I bit into it. One order comes with nine wings. Yes, I counted because how can you properly compare establishments without a tally? I take wings so seriously, I need a qualitative and quantitative analysis.

The wings were not as meaty or as unblemished as Bottlescrew Bills, but bigger than Newcastle Pub. The sauce was so spicy, I could feel the heat tingle on my tongue and lips. One thing I loved was an order of wings is accompanied by a whole wack of fries! The fries tasted like McDonald’s but better like it was actually made with an actual potato.

One thing we noticed was the music playing in the background was quiet. We expected the Waterloo to be playing loud and proud rock and roll.

L and I were so pleased with the food quality and service that we want to return to try some other dishes. I’m curious about the calamari, Dumpling Hero potstickers, and mussels and clams. Hitting the Sauce gives Waterloo Pub two phat thumbs up.

17th Ave · Mediteranean

Kreta Souvlaki and Pizza

On Monday evening, L suggested we pick something up for dinner. He requested we try Kreta Souvlaki, a Greek eatery located inside a gas station. I agreed as I recalled my friend Québécois informed me the moussaka at Kreta is particularly good. To get into the Christmas spirit, let’s listen to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” by Dean Martin.

I called ahead and ordered Moussaka ($15.99) and a Chicken Wrap with Fries ($12.99). The employee on the phone told me the order would be ready in 15 minutes. As per usual, L and I were exactly on time.

You pay at the front counter and then meander over to the far right of the store to pick up your order. Based on what I saw, Kreta looks like a friendly, family-owned operation.

My moussaka was pretty darn tasty! I enjoyed the soft layers of eggplant and the creamy pureed potatoes. The potatoes had a custard-like consistency – smooth and rich.

I took a bite of L’s chicken wrap. The pita was soft and pillowy. I found the chicken juicy and lightly seasoned. The fries were thick-cut and reminded me of Red Robin’s. The fries were lukewarm and, as a result, not as crispy as I would have liked. The tzatziki sauce is fantastic – garlicky with a nice bite to it. L said he enjoyed the gyro a little more than the chicken wrap.

I’d come back for the chicken wrap and fries. I’m curious to see if the pizza and calamari are any good. If you’re in the hood and looking for something unique, check out Kreta.

Restaurants · Seafood

Big Fish – Anniversary Dinner

For our eighth wedding anniversary celebration, I took L to Big Fish. I thought since we weren’t going to Mexico for our yearly jaunt of sunshine and tacos, it would be nice to eat some seafood and at least pretend we were away. So for this post, let’s listen to “Crush With Eyeliner” by R.E.M.

Big Fish is different from the norm. The restaurant is comfortable and homey. Our server Michael was well versed with the menu and wine list. I could tell he was no newbie. The customer base appeared to be all regulars, and as L noted, not a douchebag insight. I knew better than to take him to Cactus Club. This ain’t my first rodeo.

To start, L ordered a pint of Last Best IPA ($8), and I sipped on a flute of Pares Cava ($7.50). Next, we shared a dozen west coast oysters ($45). The Kussi oyster was smaller than the Fanny Bay, but the flavour was more intense and sea-like. The Fanny Bay oyster was meaty, mild in flavour, with a crunchy texture that reminded me of cucumber. I was impressed that we could get oysters that tasted this fresh in Calgary.

I read Google reviews of customers raving about the Warm Lobster, Crab & Artichoke Dip ($19), so I had to try it. I couldn’t taste or see the lobster and crab because of the thickness of the cheesy sauce. I could imagine seeing a recipe for this dip in my mother’s Better Homes Cookbook.

Michael picked out a dry white wine (Zestos, $12) to pair with the Mussels ($22). The broth was still steaming when our mussels arrived at our table. People always tell me mussels are so easy to make, but why don’t other restaurants make them like Big Fish? Each fat mussel was sweet and silky smooth.

L enjoyed the rich, fragrant broth of white wine, leek and creamy green curry. We alternated soaking up the sauce with the fresh bread that came with the mussels and the toasted bread that arrived with the artichoke dip. These were by far the best mussels I’ve consumed in Calgary.

The Fish Tacos ($19) were generously stuffed with red snapper, guacamole, lettuce and salsa. I could taste a slight sweetness from the tomato mango salsa and heat from the sriracha lime aioli. I liked how the tortilla was grilled and not dry in texture.

L wanted dessert, so we shared a slice of Pecan Pie ($12). I noticed the pie was heavy with the scorching hot pecans. L was a happy camper. I should encourage him to order dessert more often – he looked like a kid when he ate his pie.

L and I plan to return for the mussels, oysters and other dishes. Big Fish does seafood well, in refreshingly unpretentious digs. Hitting the Sauce gives Big Fish two phat thumbs up.

Mexican · Seafood

Fonda Flora – Girls’ Night

On Saturday, Kournikova, Québécois, and I got together for dinner. We started the night off with bubbles at Kournikova’s house. Québécois brought over champagne to toast to my new job. After finishing the bottle, Kournikova’s doting husband Zuber dropped us off at Fonda Flora.

Both Québécois and I appreciate the non-pedestrian wine list at Fonda Flora. This was Kournikova’s first visit and she was keen to try the food, as she loves Mexican food. For this post, let’s listen to “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates.

We left Québécois in charge of selecting our wine. After watching her study the wine menu, I realized knowledge could be a curse. Kournikova and I happily chatted away as Québécois studiously compare the regions, vintages and casks. I jokingly told Québécois to hurry up because I was losing my buzz. She laughed good-naturedly at my winegryness and selected N.V. Radice Paltrinieri, a bubbly from Italy. The wine was dry yet refreshing, with subtle berry notes. Her hard work paid off – we all enjoyed this bottle.

The best dish of the night was the Scallop Aguachile ($22). The scallop was served sashimi-like – cool, silky and pure tasting. Kournikova raved about the macha verde. I enjoyed the spicy heat, the vibrant flavours and the peppery slices of watermelon radish. The scallops were Kournikova’s favourite dish of the night. I would order this again. Kournikova mentioned that all the appetizers were larger than she expected.

Québécois told us her husband recommended the octopus. Oh baby – the Tacos de Pulpo Endiablado ($17) was fantastic! The grilled octopus was plump and tender – the texture was just incredible. Unfortunately, I found the tortilla itself a tad dry. Not a big deal, as I followed Kournikova suit and skipped the carbs. There’s a reason why she’s in tip-top shape.

Québécois favourite dish was the Ceviche de Camaron con Leche de Tigre ($19). She thought she could taste something peanuty in the dish. The shrimp was raw and cold, bathed in coconut milk, yuzu and salsa matcha. I thought this dish was heavy-handed with salt. Québécois disagreed and said it was perfectly seasoned.

The Costilla de Res en Mole Poblano ($34) came with three chunks of braised beef short rib, turnips, cauliflower and baby carrots. The vegetables were beautifully cooked – so that each retained its unique texture and flavour. The beef wasn’t as tender as I would have preferred.

Kournikova enjoyed the Carnitas de Cerdo ($29) more than the short rib. The confit pork shoulder was warm, tender and marbled with fat. The accompanying salsa and mole help to liven up the flavour of the pork.

We left stuffed, tipsy and pleased with the excellent company. For our next girls’ night, Kournikova suggested Sensei Bar. I need to check out Sensei’s wine list before I commit. If the wine isn’t decent, I will counter with Orchard Restaurant. Thanks for a lovely night, girls – I’m excited about our next outing.

Happy Hour · Patio · Restaurants · Wings

Bottlescrew Bill’s – Bingo

On Wednesday, I met up with some people for half-price wings and bingo at Bottlescrew Bill’s. Whoever created the playlist that night has excellent taste – I enjoyed listening to the nostalgic tunes. So for this post, let’s listen to “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC.

I started with a pint of Banded Peak Mount Crushmore Pilsner ($7.62). A, B, and C ordered the daily special – Boiling Oar Kolsh ($5). D is really into her beers, so she took longer than everyone else to select a beverage. Finally, she settled on Strawberry Ice Cream Pale Ale from Spectrum Beer Company. She left me some in the can to try. I thought it was yummy, the fun flavour reminded me of the beer at Fuggles and Warlock

D was hemming and hawing over whether to order wings. At first, I thought she was a vegetarian, so I told her Bottlescrew Bill’s makes Cauliflower Wings ($8.47) too. However, it turns out she’s just ethical. C encouraged her to ask the server her pressing question. Are the wings free-range? It was her lucky night! Indeed, not only were the wings free-range, but it was also half price!

I’m trying to eat healthier, but I indulged in Salt and Pepper Wings ($8.47) when I heard the chickens grew up well-loved. The crunchy coating on the wings reminded me of Shake and Bake. The meat was plump, white and unbruised. I told D I’d eaten a lot of unethical wings in my day, and I could taste the happy lives these chickens lived.

I tried one of D’s hot wings. I loved the tangy smell of the vinegar. The spice level was mild and not too hot. I preferred the flavour of the hot sauce over the salt and pepper seasoning.

The hostess has excellent hearing and would mock the audience for being a poor sport. B and D are competitive, so they took on three cards each play. I went with one card and neglected the game halfway through to enjoy my wings.

I would come again – bingo, half-price free-range wings, cheap beer and Thunderstruck – could the night be any more perfect? Based on the group’s feedback, I’m going to propose our next event be held at Ducky’s, Rodney’s Oyster House, or the Tea House Comedy

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – L’s birthday dinner

On Friday, we celebrated L’s birthday at Sukiyaki House. On that particular night, because the restaurant was short-staffed, I couldn’t request omakase (a special menu curated by the chef). L said that was fine with him, as everything off the regular menu is exceptional. For this post, let’s listen to “Waltz for Roxy” by The French Note.

To start the festivities, we ordered a bottle of Mizubasho Junmai Daiginjo ($55). Judith has superb taste – her sakes never disappoint. L marvelled at the smoothness and pureness of the rice wine. He said, unlike other sakes, this one was so easy to drink, almost like soda pop. This sake tasted so pretty; I could imagine fairies sipping it.  

Head chef Koji Kobayashi sent over a stunning gift for L’s birthday – seabass and snow crab sushi. L and I just sat there a moment in silence – admiring the food art. I didn’t notice there was an absence of rice until L mentioned it to me. The silky texture of the fish on fish was sublime. The creamy sauce tasted like roasted sesame seeds with a touch of sweetness. I loved the sea burst pop of the salmon roe and the crunchier snap crackle of the tobiko. I was smiling the entire time I ate. I never experienced this flavour and texture combination before. This dish was incredible – the best thing I’ve eaten in 2021. I thought the seabass sushi illustrated Koji’s wide range of creative talent. After sampling Chef Koji’s specialty dishes in the past few years, I can say he has multiple platinum hits and not a one-hit-wonder.

Our next dish was another beauty – Kanpachi Tataki ($24). I think this was the first time I tried Amberjack. I found the texture of the fish unique – the flesh was substantial and buttery with a clean flavour profile. L appreciated the subtle smoky sear, which he thought added to the experience.

The Tekka Roll (tuna maki roll, $5) was outstanding. The tuna was rich and creamy, which contrasted with the crispness of the toasted nori. I don’t understand how with only three ingredients, a dish can taste so good.  No picture was taken, as I had incorrectly assumed it would taste just like a regular old tuna maki roll.

I don’t know anyone else in the city that can do a better Shrimp Tempura ($12) than Sukiyaki House. The batter was light and flaky, and the shrimp was sweet and crunchy. My favourite part is the tempura sauce because I think the daikon and the grated ginger adds warmth and depth to the flavour profile.

If you like wings, you need to try the Chicken Karaage ($12). This is fried chicken perfection. The meat is so silky and tender, that chunks of meat easily split apart with a mere poke of a pair of chopsticks. The squeeze of lemon was perfect for helping cut into the fattiness of the crispy chicken skin. When I mentioned to L that the karaage was cheaper than wings at a pub, he noted that Sukiyaki House’s version also had no gristle or that purple bone marrow bruising you find in hot wings.

We ordered a round of nigiri: Amaebi (sweet spot prawn, fried shrimp head, $4); Ebi (steamed prawn, $3); Hotataegai (Hokkaido scallop, $4.20); Tako (steamed octopus, $3); Shake (Atlantic salmon, $3) and Toro (albacore tuna belly, $4.50). L mentioned all the crevices made eating the scallop an elevated experience.

I enjoy having sake at Sukiyaki House, but for some reason, whenever I eat sushi, I crave a dry white wine. I was happy with the sauvignon blanc ($11) Judith picked out for me as I found it a well-balanced, easy-drinking wine.

For dessert, the birthday boy ordered Matcha Shiratama ensai ($9). I noticed all the fruit was at the perfect stage of ripeness. L loves Sukiyaki House’s homemade red bean. When he was eating his dessert, he looked like a kid enjoying his special treat. I think L was Japanese in his past life. Myself, I think I was Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web. L can tell when I’m impressed with a meal because I always announce that if I died that night, I would die happy. I’m glad I woke up the next day because now I get to do it all over again. We are looking forward to Sukiyaki House’s future omakase nights. Thanks, Koji for making dinner a special event for L.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Restaurants

Ami Tea and Sub – Date night 10 of 19

After my appointment at Good Salon, I was famished. I debated getting a Vietnamese sub next door from Ami Tea and Sub or fried chicken across the street from the Blue Store. It was a tough decision, but in the end, banh mi won. For this post, let’s listen to “Sweet Dreams” by Beyoncé.

I ordered a Warm Kitchen Pate Sausage ($8). I noticed the owner put a lot of care into making my sandwich. The sub was jam-packed with generous amounts of pate and simmered pork meat slices. The carrots were minced so it lacked that crunch I crave. The texture of the cucumber was soft.

The bread is light and crusty. I didn’t find the baguette dry, but there were a million little crumbs on the table after I finished eating. The flavour of the pate and sausage was delicate and fresh. I thought my sub was heavy on the sauce – the soy and mayonnaise intermingled and dripped down all over my napkin. I noticed the mayonnaise was painfully sweet – so much that I wished I omitted it.

How does Ami Sub compare to the banh mi heavy hitters in Calgary? Taste-wise, this sub was similar to My My Sub‘s homestyle cold cut. Ami’s sub is even more filling than My Tho BBQ’s cold cut and nearly matches To Me in quantity. I have a hearty appetite, and after demolishing this sub, I was uncomfortably full for hours. The flavour combination of the pate, vegetables and sausage was subtle – there isn’t that rustic pungency that you get at Saigon Deli or flavour bomb that you get at Thi Thi. I also prefer my pate with a richness to it, like Xich Lo, Obanhmi or Banh Mi Nhu Y.

I’ve reached a milestone today! As Ami Sub was date #10/19, I’ve only got nine more to go to complete my goal! For banh mi date #11, I want to check out Paper Lantern or Rau Bistro.

Cheap Eats · Pubs · Restaurants

Ship and Anchor

On Saturday, Zeta-Jones celebrated her 40th birthday party at the Ship and Anchor. I know Zeta-Jones through her partner Fougui, whom I’ve been friends with for eight years. For this post, let’s listen to “Baby, Baby” by Amy Grant.

Fougui ordered two massive platters of nachos ($22, + $3 guacamole) for the table to share. Damn – this was a good plate of nachos! Each chip was fresh, light and thin. One of my pet peeves is stale nachos. I liked how there was an even distribution of cheese, diced tomatoes, pickled jalapeños and green onions throughout the platter.

With the exception of Zeta-Jones and Fougui, I didn’t know anyone else at the table. But, lucky for me, Claudia befriended me, and throughout the night, she took the time to translate the group’s conversation. I noticed Claudia was drinking red wine (La Bite Merlot, $9), so I asked if she liked the wine. She said there was only one wine by the glass, but it was good, especially for the price. Claudia and I got along so well that night that I invited her to be a No Man’s Dinner member, and she asked me to attend her birthday party next week. We also have plans to try the charred liver at Yemini Village.

Claudia ordered the Two-Piece Fish ($15) with Yam Fries (+$3). She said wasn’t expecting much, so she was pleasantly surprised by the fish and chips. She noted the velvety texture of the fillet reminded her of the fresh fish in Mexico City. She liked that fries and fish were crispy because she thinks there’s nothing worse than soggy fish. She mentioned she ordered two pieces of fish because she expected the portion to be small. Instead, she said the fish was plump and large and could only eat one piece. I thought it was interesting the batter was so pale, but perhaps that’s just because of the lighting.

Her friend Daphne said she enjoyed her fish but found the regular fries too dry. Claudia didn’t like the tartar sauce, but Daphne enjoyed it so much, she ate her friend’s portion. Daphne noted that she could taste the vinegar in the tartar sauce, which she said paired well with the fish.


I wasn’t hungry yet, but that didn’t stop me from rudely staring across the table at the plate of Chicken Wings ($15) and Humboldt Calamari ($9). When I come back, I would order both the wings and calamari.


Though I didn’t eat, with Claudia’s riveting descriptions, I felt like I did. This experience renewed my interest in the Ship and Anchor. I’ll have to bring L for a date night so I can try some of the deep-fried delights. I also hear the lamb shank is particularly good. To be continued.

Bakery · Bars/Lounges · Cheap Eats · Curry · Fast Food · Happy Hour · Italian · Mexican · Patio · Pizza

First Street Market – Pure Street Food, Saffron Street, Moose and Poncho

On Sunday, L and I checked First Street Market. I’ve heard favourable things about all the vendors – particularly the places I’ve never tried such as Actually Pretty Good, La Mano, and Friends with Benedicts. However, on this visit, I came specifically for Pure Street Food and Moose and Poncho, two restaurants I’ve frequented in the past. For this review, let’s listen to “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers.

We grabbed a spot at the First Street Bar, just in time for the tail end of happy hour (4:00-6:00 p.m.). I ordered a glass of the Vinho Verde (HH $5, Regular $7, HH Bottle $25, Regular $35) and L chose the Snake Lake Pilsner (HH $5, Regular $7).

The Portuguese white wine was served ice cold. I found this wine bright with strong tropical notes. Other than First Street Market Bar, I don’t know anywhere else in the city where you can get a drinkable bottle of wine for only $35. Where was this place when I was in school?

At Pure Street Food I ordered the Bun Bo Sate ($12) and a Fire Chicken w/ Melted Cheese Sesame Donut ($6) for L. The broth was thick, rich and beefy. The slices of beef shank, brisket and beef rib were flavourful and tender. The noodles had a nice bounce to them.

I took a bite of the sesame donut. The flavour of the crispy sesame shell was prominent. L thought the fire chicken was delicious and not painfully spicy like he experienced in Korea.

L ordered four tacos ($6 each): Carnitas (confit pork) and Suadero (lime-marinated confit beef). Both the pork and beef tacos were tasty. I found the seasoning and quality of the meats delectable. I also liked how the flavour of the cilantro wasn’t overpowering. I mentioned to L that I wish he ordered some salsas ($3.50 each) to go with the tacos, as Moose and Poncho make some wicked dips. He said he didn’t see that option when he ordered and the staff never mentioned there were additional sauces he could have purchased. L thought the tacos didn’t need any more sauce than the one he was provided.

I was still hungry, so I ordered a Masala Dosa ($13) from Saffron Street. I remembered seeing Miss Foodie rave about this vendor. As always, she is correct. The crepe was light and delicate, fragrant with the smell of coconut. The potato filling was soft and creamy. I enjoyed alternating each crispy bite into the lentil stew, tomato and coconut chutney. I would order this again.


First Street Market reminds me of the food halls in Toronto, but more intimate and modern. I appreciate the concept – chef-driven, high-quality fast food paired with a bar offering inexpensive drinks. I look forward to my next visit! Hitting the Sauce gives First Street Market two phat thumbs up.

Italian · Pizza

Inglewood Pizza

It was G-Mah’s 75th birthday! To celebrate the occasion, L and I hosted a pizza party at our house. So, for this post, let’s listen to “16 Candles” by The Crests.

Lately, we’ve been ordering from Inglewood Pizza (Killarney location). We’ve enjoyed each pizza, except for the donair pizza, which we both found too sweet. For this occasion, we ordered four large pizzas.

Based on our sample survey (n=7), two pizzas stood out. The All-Meat ($27.15) and Greek Souvlaki ($27.15). The All-Meat pizza was layered with five types of meat: pepperoni, ham, beef, salami, and Italian sausage. Though the pizza was loaded with meats, the proportion of meat and cheese to dough was balanced.

The toppings in the Greek Souvlaki pizza are bountiful, topped with fresh tomatoes, red onion, grilled chicken breast with lemon, oregano, garlic and feta. I liked how each ingredient tasted light and fresh.

The other two pizzas we ordered are similar to each other. The only difference between the Villagers Choice ($26.65) and Town Special ($25.90) is the former contains ham on top of pepperoni, mushrooms, and green peppers.

L and my in-laws are die-hard fans of Hanni’s, but they mentioned Inglewood Pizza was just as good or even better. Personally, I prefer Inglewood Pizza’s crust over Hanni’s. Inglewood’s crust is lighter, and it has a more pleasing flavour.

Both Inglewood Pizza and Hanni’s are heavy-handed with the mozzarella. I prefer Inglewood’s creamier, saltier mozzarella. Inglewood Pizza’s tomato sauce is tangy, whereas Hanni’s has a unique sauce, which I find zesty and aromatic. Hanni’s specialty pizzas have even more cheese and toppings than Inglewood, so if you want a gut-busting pizza, go to Hanni’s.

Pro tip – Buy a large or extra large pizza and get the second one for 50% off. With our discount, the Town Special was $12.95 (regular $25.90), and the Villager was $13.33 (regular $26.65). Four large pizzas are enough for 8-10 guests. We had so much pizza leftover, that even after sending five slices home with G-Mah, I froze eight slices for future dinners.

17th Ave · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Hawthorn Dining Room

My sister-in-law turned 40! We spent the afternoon at RnR Wellness Spa and the evening at the Hawthorn Dining Room. For this post, let’s listen to “It’s My Party” by Lesley Gore.

To start the night, Turned ordered a round of bubbly (Maschio Prossecco, $54). As we looked through the menu, I mentioned that I heard the Scallops ($39) were particularly good. I consider myself an anti-influencer, so I was surprised when most of my dining companions ordered scallops, just based on my comment.

For wine, I let the birthday girl pick. Turned chose the Sea Sun ($80) because she loves pinot noir. Personally, I was not too fond of this wine because of the oaky notes. But, that’s okay because it wasn’t my birthday.

The moment I saw my entree, I knew it was a winner. Each plump scallop was caramelized, the flesh was sweet, soft and springy. I enjoyed the other flavourful components of the dish – the tart artichokes, roasted tomatoes, fresh spring peas, chorizo and salty capers. The person sitting across from me is originally from Newfoundland, and she approved of the scallops. I thought the scallops at Hawthorn were even better than the version I tried at Cassis Bistro, the difference being the former uses meatier scallops. I would order this again.

After dinner, we took a limo around 17th Ave. I watched, fascinated as Turned’s friends sang in unison to song after song. Though I missed out on prom in high school, I lived the experience decades later. Except instead of taking Polaroid pictures, everyone was taking a selfie.

When we arrived at our destination – Sub Rosa – one of the guests was denied access because the bouncer said she was intoxicated. When someone questioned his judgment, he explained that the guest in question was slurring her words, and she could not even pull her ID out of her purse. He said that clearly, she was already over-served. The bouncer said I was acceptable and welcome to come inside. My mother would be so proud.

I suggested heading over to Cactus Club because it was only two blocks away. Marta wanted to go to the Ship and Anchor, but no one wanted to walk that far, and since it was Halloween, we likely would not get in. Turned suggested Murrietta’s, as it was across the street and there was a dance floor.

No one was denied entry at Murrietta’s Bar & Grill, but there was still drama. Our party was supposed to be seated in the dining room. However, on the way to the dining room, most of our group disappeared to the lounge side. I was informed by the staff that our group could not enter the lounge as there was a private party.

When I finally found the birthday girl and her crew, a member of our circle was already dancing with a happy-looking man. I told our group that we either had to leave Murrietta’s or sit in the dining room. They decided to leave the premises. Once outside, there was another debate about going to the Ship and Anchor or another venue. When I realized I was the most responsible person in the gang, I decided to leave and get a Vietnamese sub. I didn’t want to be accountable for their shenanigans. You can imagine how heartbroken I was to find out my sandwich shop was closed for the night. At least I didn’t get denied entry. That would have been tragic.

Italian · Special Occasion

D.O.P. – Celebration dinner

Tuesday was a day of celebrations! First, I accepted a new position. Then, my friend Honesty quit her second job. Finally, Jyoti Gondek became Calgary’s new mayor. L took me, Honesty, and Glen Jr to D.O.P to celebrate this series of beautiful events. For this post, let’s listen to “Paperback Writer” by the Beatles.

I’ve been trying to get into D.O.P. for weeks. Even on a Tuesday night, the restaurant was packed, vibrating with energy from the open kitchen and the loud chatter from the customers dining at the bar. Pro tip – if you visit right when D.O.P opens, you’ll likely snag a spot at the bar.

We began with a round of drinks. Glen Jr chose a beer from Inner City ($8), L picked an Annex Italian Pilsner ($8). Honesty ordered a non-alcoholic Negroni ($6), and I sipped on a flute of Lambrusco ($14). I found the pinkish sparkling wine light, clean and minerally. L enjoyed his beer, which he said tasted like Peroni but better.

I heard D.O.P.’s antipasto are excellent, so we ordered two orders of Grilled Bread ($10); White Anchovy ($10); Whipped Ricotta ($9); Meatballs ($21.50); Eggplant ($7); and Green Pickled Tomatoes ($7).  Holy moly – this bread is wondrous stuff. The innards of the bread were light and fluffy. I love how the bread puffs up and the big air pockets within. The outer layers of the bread were crispy, hot and salty. The olive oil was excellent – grassy and smooth. I know the French are known for their bread, but the heavyweight title should go to the Italians in Calgary. D.O.P, Rocket Pie, Savino, Azzurri, and Cotto – these chefs create magic with just flour, water, yeast, olive oil and salt.

Our server instructed us to eat the anchovies with ricotta and bread. What a knock-out pairing! The ricotta was cool and creamy, rich like whipped cream. The anchovies were bursting with umami – salty and pungent.  I appreciated the crunch of the white onions against the oily mixture of fish and bread. This was my favourite bite of the night.

L doesn’t generally like eggplant, but he declared D.O.P’s version excellent. The eggplant was soft, tart and smokey. L thought he could taste balsamic in the eggplant.


L also doesn’t like tomatoes, but he was a fan of the pickled green tomatoes. He liked how the tomatoes were crunchy and tart. There was something in the tomato dressing that sparkled on my tongue.

Honesty loved the flavour of the meatballs. I was impressed with the soft, fluffy texture. The red sauce was delicious. Having made meatballs before, I could tell labour and a lot of love goes into this version. I would order this again and I’m not a fan of meatballs.

The Tajarin ($26) was a saucy, cheesy pasta dish. The thin egg noodles were soft and soaked up the flavour of the garlic and tomato sauce. I could see my father enjoying this dish. This pasta dish reminds me of an elevated version of the pasta at Nick’s Spaghetti House, an Italian restaurant my father would eat at weekly back in the 1960s.

I loved how the Veal Chop Parm ($49) arrived in this impressive, super-sized portion. The exterior was crunchy and sizzling hot. The veal itself was tender, blanketed in a heavy layer of melted provolone cheese. As I gnawed on the bone, I could feel the shards of the batter shatter and land in my hair. I’m not a dainty eater.

I ordered a bottle of Noelia Ricci Sangiovese ($65) to enjoy with our meal. I found this wine easy to drink, smooth and bright on my tongue. I also tried a glass of the house white wine ($9). I was so happy to find such an enjoyable glass of wine for only nine bucks; a tear escaped from the corner of my eye. Thank you D.O.P., you are my unicorn.

For dessert, we shared Gelato ($11), Plums ($11), and Limoncello ($16). The plums tasted like cherries to me. I thought I could detect a bit of licorice in the dessert. The gelato was cold and creamy, with a salty, crunchy garnish.

I’m a big fan of D.O.P. The antipasti, veal chop and wines are impressive. Hitting the Sauce gives D.O.P two phat thumbs up.

French · Seafood · Special Occasion

Cassis Bistro

L and I met up with Glen Jr and Honesty for a double date. Glen Jr was craving French food so he suggested Cassis Bistro. For this post, let’s listen to “Tous Les Garcons Et Les Filles” by Francoise Hardy.

I would normally order the house wine at Cassis because it’s good enough for me. However, since we dining with Glen Jr, we had to step it up.  Glen Jr has a more developed palate for food and wine than I do.  For our first bottle of wine, our server JJ recommended Chateau Francs Magnus Bordeaux ($70). I found this wine full-bodied and smooth. Of the two bottles we sipped on through the night, the Bordeaux was our favourite.

For our appetizers, we shared Le Plateau de Charcuterie ($38). Ham, bread and butter are such simple things, but when it such high quality, it is a treat. The ham tasted so light and clean. Glen Jr noticed that even the butter tasted extra good. Both the duck and pork pate were excellent. The pork pate was more flavourful but the duck pate was silky smooth.

Glen Jr wanted to try the Duck Foie Gras Torchon ($24). The foie gras came with warm gingerbread crisps and a slice of poached pear. Oh my duck. The foie gras melted in my mouth texture. The flavour was explosively rich and buttery. L loved the combination of the gingerbread and foie gras. I would order this again.

For our second bottle of wine, we picked the Chateau Radeaux Monte Calme Bandol ($65). This wine was delicious as well, though very different from the first bottle and sweeter. For our mains, L ordered Steak Frites ($39), Honesty ordered Lamb ($39), Glen Jr and I ordered Sea Scallops ($36). This review will not be as descriptive as my regular posts. I was so overwhelmed with the quality of every single dish that I stopped trying to decipher and describe what I was tasting and just enjoyed my meal. I took my cue from Glen Jr. I noticed he would close his eyes and smile whenever he ate. He knows his food and even better, he knows how to relish each bite and sip.

L’s steak was a visual showstopper. The steak was beautifully arranged, served with a pile of frites, a boat of gravy and a green salad. He said his steak was cooked to perfection. I enjoyed using the crispy pomme frites to mop up every last drop of gravy. I haven’t found anyone in the city that does a better steak frites than Cassis.

Honesty’s lamb was so tender and tasty, it was incredible. Honesty said she thought the lamb must have been slow cooked for hours to achieve that soft texture. I took a bite and noticed there wasn’t a strong gamey flavour that I normally find in lamb. L  and I both thought Honesty ordered the best dish of the night. As always, he is correct.

The exterior of the sea scallops were seared to a golden brown. The interior of each plump scallop was still silky smooth, similar to sashimi. The vegetables looked like it was simply prepared but each bite was delicious. You know you are in good hands when the vegetables can hold up to the main component of the dish.

Glen Jr wanted dessert. We tried one of each – the Chocolate Mousse ($14) and the Creme Brûlée ($14). It takes a lot for me to enjoy dessert, as I’m sensitive to the sweetness of sugar. I find sugar jarringly sweet. I was so delighted with both desserts that I battled with Honesty for the last bite.

I have to give props to our server JJ. Throughout the night, he was working the room and ensuring the guests were happy. His hosting and serving skills remind me of Vij Vikram in Vancouver, a man who I think is top in his game as a host. Vij has this natural charm and warmth, with an ability to put guests in a celebratory mood.

I cannot praise our meal at Cassis enough. This was the best meal I’ve had in 2021. Thank you Glen Jr and Honesty for treating us out to dinner. We plan to take them out to Cassis in late November to try the winter menu. Hitting the Sauce gives Cassis Bistro two phat thumbs up and this French bistro makes it on my list of favourite restaurants.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Bake Chef – Date night 9 out of 19

On Monday, I met L at the University of Calgary to vote for Calgary’s new mayor – Jyoti Gondek. After we voted, we went on date 9 out of 19 at Bake Chef. For this post, let’s listen to “The Times They Are A-Changin” by Bob Dylan.

I wanted to order a cold cut sub because one of my favourite things about a banh mi is the contrast of the warm toasted baguette and the refreshing chill of the vegetables and meat. However, the last time I tried a cold cut at Bake Chef I was not impressed, so I ordered what L recommended. 

L and I both ordered the Beef Sate Sub ($8.10). We went to his office to eat our lunch. I was relieved because I know I would have embarrassed L with my banh mi photo shoot. However, even in the privacy of his office, I could sense L was nervous. His eyes darted around as the crumbs and carrots started to fall on the table. L is sensitive to food smells, so I think he was worried I’d drop the subs on the floor, which would definitely leave an odour behind. Personally, I would love to work in an environment that smelled like my most favourite food in the world. Lucky for him, no sub was injured in the making of this blog post and I left his office stink free. 

The baguette was soft and squishy, significantly lighter than Saigon Deli and Trung Nguyen. The generous amount of beef was hot, saucy and sweet. I enjoyed the gooeyness of the melted white cheese and the texture of the ribbon-like cucumbers. The carrots, red onions and jalapeño provided a crunch that help to balance out the soft texture of the beef. 

How does this sub compare to all the other banh mi heavy hitters? The vegetables were fresh, but the carrots weren’t pickled. Size-wise, this sub is packed with more meat than even My Tho, To Me Sub and MyMy Sub. L prefers the texture and taste of the beef at Bake Chef over Saigon Deli, which he finds too dry. Bake Chef’s sub is also the most filling – I was stuffed for the next five hours. The bread is light and dry, so the sub gets soggy rather quickly. The addition of the lettuce and cheese makes Bake Chef’s sate beef sub the least authentic, but that doesn’t matter to me, as the overall flavour is great. 

If you can, get out for the advanced vote. The ballot process this year is more complicated than previous elections. There are two ballots – a municipal and a provincial ballot. As well, voters will be asked to  vote on adding fluoride to our water, select nominees for the Senate of Canada and vote on referendums about equalization payments and Daylight-Saving Time.

17th Ave · Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Thai Tai – Date night 8 of 19

I met Pedals at National on 17th Ave for half price wine. I picked National because I wanted to get a banh mi at Thai Tai after our night out. I’m always thinking ahead. For this post, let’s listen to “Papa Don’t Preach” by Madonna.

I haven’t eaten at Thai Tai before because I heard the food is westernized. However, I stumbled on a post on Instagram and the cold cut sub looked good enough for me.

I ordered a Cold Cut ($7.99) on toasted white bread with carrots, cucumber, onions, and chili peppers. When my sandwich was ready, I sat outside to eat. When I took the first bite, I grunted in appreciation. The guy sitting across from me that shot me a weird look, like I was ruining his late night meal.

The combination of the warm crusty sub and the coolness of the meat and pickled vegetables was so overwhelmingly delicious, my eyes rolled to the back of my head.  It’s incredible how much joy a banh mi can give me. The ratio of meat to vegetable and bread was spot on. The thick layers of meat are double that of Trung Nguyen and Thi Thi. The pate is so subtle that I didn’t really notice it. However, I found the special sauce of garlic, chili soy sauce and sriracha bright and savoury.

I called an Uber after I ate, but I still craving something. I spoke to an employee and told him my predicament. He said he had some spring rolls I could take from another order. He just made a friend for life. The vegetable spring rolls were awesome. When I arrived home, the shell was crunchy and the filling was still super-hot. I liked that I was given fish sauce, hot sauce and plum sauce.

Colour is really weird because I took this picture in my Uber.

L said when I came upstairs, I ranted for a good twenty minutes about how much I enjoyed my sub and spring rolls before falling into a deep sleep. The two glasses of wine I consumed earlier may have intensified my enthusiasm for Thai Tai. In any case, I plan to return and try the cold cut again, so my next review won’t be influenced by outside factors.

My next stop is Bake Chef at the University of Calgary. L and I are going to the advance vote so we can support mayoral candidate Jyoti Gondek. While I’m there, I’m going to pick up a banh mi for date night nine out of 19.

Bars/Lounges · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Major Tom – Girls’ Night

For our girls’ night out, Québécois, Kournikova and I went to Major Tom. It took me months to get this reservation. Currently, the restaurant is booked solid up to 2022, though I read on Wanda Baker‘s Instagram account that Major Tom keep 25% of tables open for walk-in. For this post, let’s listen to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper.

Arriving at the restaurant is in itself an experience. First, you enter the Scotia Centre building and walk over to the elevators in the back corner of the building. You show your vaccine passport and ID at the security station, then you are directed to a specific elevator. Once you arrive on the 40th floor, you check in with a team of hosts at the reception area and finally, someone escorts you to your table in a room with a panoramic view of downtown Calgary.

The vibe of the restaurant is lively and the energy is unlike anything you can find in Calgary. Throughout dinner, I felt like I was on vacation in a bigger city. If you walk around the restaurant, you can admire the spectacular views from different vantage points of the downtown core.

We each started with a cocktail. Major Tom knows how to deliver their alcoholic beverages. I was over the moon with my Vodka Martini ($17). The martini glass arrived on a gold coaster, accompanied by a bottle of Kettle One/Dolin Dry Vermouth and a plated garnish of olives. Each sip of my martini was so cold and pure tasting, I could barely detect the alcohol. The blue cheese in the olive was light and melted in my mouth. I noticed that when Québécois ordered a bottle of Muga Reserva ($65), our server decanted the wine. Most restaurants I go to won’t decant the wine unless the bottle is over $85.

We shared two orders of the Crispy Hen Egg ($6). This little sucker was delicious. The fried shell added a nice crunch, which contrasted to the creamy, warm yolk. Texture, style and with exploding flavour, this appetizer has it all. I would order this again.

I always get what Miss Foodie raves about on her Instagram account, so I chose the Tomato and Brioche Salad ($14) and Steak Frites ($34). Warning – my photos are worse than usual. I was so giddy to be out with my friends, I didn’t put in the effort to take a decent photo.

The tomatoes in the salad were ripe and juicy. The dressing of shallot, basil and lime was refreshing and subtle. The brioche was crunchy and for some reason, reminded me of the boxed croutons my mother used to buy when we were kids.

The steak arrived a beautiful ruby red. The meat was warm and soft. The fries were extra crunchy. Of the three entrees I tried, I preferred Kournikova’s Slow-Roasted Duck ($41). The duck breast was tender and flavourful.

Québécois ordered the Shells ($25) because she enjoys anything with burrata in it. The seasoning in the lemon roasted broccoli pesto was delicate and light. She couldn’t finish her pasta so I ended up eating about a third of her dish.

When we arrived on a Saturday evening, the restaurant was buzzing. Despite being obviously slammed with customers, the service was enthusiastic and attentive. I plan to return and often, more so for the cocktails and appetizers. I highly recommend you check out this gem. Hitting the Sauce gives Major Tom two phat thumbs up.