Cheap Eats · Chinatown

Lucky Place

Ms Biz and I met up for lunch at Lucky Place in Chinatown. I love going out with Ms Biz. Her extensive knowledge of Chinese cuisine and history is amazing. Every foodie needs a friend like Ms Biz. For this post, let’s listen to “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” by Cake.

Ms Biz brought her own jasmine tea to the restaurant. She buys all her tea from a tea distributor in Richmond, BC. She gifted me a premium jar of Jasmine tea to enjoy at home.

Ms Biz asked me if I wanted my usual – beef shank and tendon on double fried chow mein, shrimp dumpling with wood ear mushrooms, pork and preserved egg congee, and Thai style fried rice noodles. I asked her if we could try something different, so I could write about something new. She ordered Green Beans with Fried Rice Cakes in XO Sauce ($12.95) and a special order of Squid, Fermented Shrimp Paste & Chinese Greens ($16.95).

There are three things you need to know about Lucky Place. First, if you can’t speak Cantonese, it’s better to come to the restaurant and point at the English menu. Second, you have to be patient. Usually it is just the owners doing everything, from taking orders, serving, clearing dishes and cooking. Third, the food is about substance, not style. You don’t get off on the appearance but the taste of the food. The wok hei (breath of fire) is on point, and this is the sole reason you should visit Lucky Place.

The squid is scored, resulting in a bouncy but not chewy texture. The shrimp paste gives off umami, similar to the effect anchovy provides in proper Caesar salad. We noticed lots of fresh ginger in the sauce, which Ms Biz says help to tame the salty pungency in the shrimp paste. The stems of the choy sum was juicy and sweet.

When the rice cake dish arrived, the steam was still rising from the plate. The rice cakes were warm and chewy, soft and glutinous. We enjoyed the flavour off the deep caramelization on the rice cakes and the charred flavour on the beans. The beans were sweet and crunchy, sprinkled with ground pork. Ms Biz says when she comes to Lucky Place, she will always order the stir fry so she can enjoy the flavour of the wok. I agree. No one can cook vegetables better than a wok hei master.

For our next lunch, Ms Biz wants to check out South Block Barbecue and Brewing. I said yes, but I had to hide my disappointment. Whenever I see her, I always want to go to a Chinese restaurant because she seems to knows every owner and server in the community, and therefore can special order dishes I can’t get otherwise. However, for her, I’m willing to branch out and try something new.

17th Ave · Burgers

Clive Burger

I haven’t seen Loaf2go and T since No Man’s Lover’s Feast at Moon Korean BBQ in February 2020. That was the last event we held before the pandemic. Last Friday, we met up at Clive Burger on 17th Ave to catch up and to discuss the next No Man’s Dinner. For this post, let’s listen to “I Do It For The Money” by Charlie Major.

Loaf2go and T both ordered the Double Burger ($11.99, +$1.00 cheddar cheese) and I ordered the Single Burger ($8.99, +$1.00 cheddar cheese) and a Poutine ($11.50). Loaf2go and T wanted milkshakes, but unfortunately, the machines weren’t working that day.

For my burger, I added Clive sauce, ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. I didn’t find my burger saucy at all, but I appreciated tasting the rich flavour of the beef patty and the freshness of the chilled vegetables. The lettuce was so crisp and green, it looked like it came out of my garden. The brioche bun was golden brown, puffy, soft and large enough it melded against the generous volume of vegetables.

Photo credit: Loaf2go

When I saw the juices dripping out of Loaf2go and L’s burger, I immediately had buyer’s remorse. I should have ordered a double patty because there is so much bun and vegetables, it could have used more meat to balance out the proportions.

Photo credit: Loaf2go

The poutine is big enough for three people to share. I love the soft, warm globs of cheese in the poutine. However, the gravy was so salty, my whole face would pucker up each time I took a bite. I don’t think the gravy is normally so salty. Jennntle informed me when she ordered the poutine last year, the gravy was delicious. Loaf2go recommends the regular fries with the Clive sauce.

Photo credit: Loaf2go

I’m looking forward to the next No Man’s Dinner. Loaf2go suggested that I can pick the venue and she’ll do the usual enforcing club rules and social media posting. With so much responsibility on my shoulders, I can’t loaf around. Got any suggestions?

Seafood · Vegetarian

Yemeni Village Restaurant

I haven’t seen Jennntle since Yelp Elite stopped hosting parties. Say what you want about Yelp, but back in the day, that company could throw down a party like no other. Cactus Club, Charbar, Telus Spark, and Modern Jelly were some of the most fun, entertaining and well-organized events I’ve been to in Calgary. Last week, Jennntle and I met to reminisce at Yemeni Village, a newish Middle Eastern restaurant in the downtown core. For this post, let’s listen to “What About Your Friends” by TLC.

I saw Miss Foodie’s post on Yemeni Village, so I asked for her recommendations. She suggested the Yemeni Bread ($3.80), Lime Drink ($4.75), Moofa Fish ($28.50) and the Charred AAA Beef ($15). Our server informed us that the restaurant was out of the charred AAA Beef. Jennntle wanted to get Beef Kabsah ($24.99) but I informed her that Miss Foodie never recommended the other beef dish and maybe it was for a reason. After not heeding Miss Foodie’s advice in the past, I’m reluctant to deviate from her teachings. Instead, I requested the Chicken Mandi ($19.90) and Salta ($15) because Dianathefoodie recommended those dishes.

Photo credit: Olivefoodyyc

The Moofa fish is butterflied, grilled in a clay oven, and topped with red onions and a lemon wedge. The menu describes the fish as “sea golden”, whatever that means. The fish itself is flat, and the flesh is moist, flaky and delicate. The spices were so subtle that Jennntle said the strongest flavour came from the fresh lemon juice. I found this dish fresh and light. I would order this again.

The salta arrived in a hot lava stone pot. The mix of potatoes, carrots, zucchini, onion and tomato were firm to start and then boiled away until it became more of a soupy stew. The sauce is salty and pungent, and the spices remind me of an Indian vegetable curry.

Photo credit: Olivefoodyyc

Both the fish and salta come with freshly made Yemeni bread. Oh my goodness. This bread is something special. The size of each piece is as big as a frying pan. The bread is baked in a tandoor (clay oven). The high temperature produces an ultra-light bread. I love the slightly stretchy, thin and chewy texture and the beautifully charred blisters. Besides the taste, the best thing is the crackling sound the bread makes as we tore off pieces to eat with the fish and salta.

Jennntle said the bread reminded her of the crispy layers in a Chinese green onion pancake. While the flavouring is different, the stretchy texture of Yemeni bread made me think of Azzurri, Savino and Rocket Pizza. I think it’s because of the technique involved to produce a magical bread like this. This bread is so good that no one, unless they have health restrictions (e.g. Celiac), should live without trying this.

Photo credit: Olivefoodyyc

The chicken Mandi is pressured cooked, which creates a tender, succulent meat. Jennntle took a spoon and when she pressed it against the chicken, the meat literally fell off the bones. The long grains of the basmati rice was soft and fluffy, fragrant with spices that reminded me of oranges and cloves.

The restaurant was packed on a Tuesday night. The phone was ringing off the hook, customers were lining up at the door, and dishes were flying out of the kitchen. I appreciate that despite the chaos, the staff was still genuinely interested in how we found the food. Hitting the Sauce gives Yemeni Village two phat thumbs up.

Chinatown · Chinese

Han’s Restaurant – Some like it hot

I still remember the fiasco at South Silk Road like it was yesterday. Grohl ordered all the wrong dishes and then went on to complain about that meal for years. I wasn’t going to let that happen again. I took Miss Foodie’s advice and ordered food from Han’s Restaurant. In light of Stampede, let’s listen to “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” by Loretta Lynn.

I ordered the Kung Pao Chicken ($14.50), Spicy Wontons ($11.50), Deep Fried Chicken with Dry Red Peppers ($14.50), Spicy Fish Hot Pot ($16.50), Fried Green Beans with Minced Pork ($13.95) and three bowls of Steamed Rice ($2). I make my own Szechuan food at home and after eating at Han’s Restaurant, I realize my food is a poor imitation of what it is supposed to be. The food at Han’s is expertly infused with intensely spicy, bold flavours.

The long green beans are blistered and wrinkly. The sauce on the beans is lip-smackingly good. The beans inside the pod had a bite and chew to it. The minced pork, onions, green peppers and chilies are tasty as hell. Flavour-wise, this is my favourite dish of the night.

The wontons are long and rectangular. The interior is soft, the wrapper silky, soaked in what tasted like a sweet, garlicky soy sauce. Grohl is a big fan of the wontons. I didn’t find the wontons spicy.

The deep fried chicken was perfect – crispy, spicy and salty. In terms of heat, the deep-fried chicken is the hottest dish we tried. The chili peppers were so spicy it burned my mouth. Even Grohl stopped eating the chili peppers and instead, focused his attention on just eating the chicken. I found out later from Miss Foodie that you are not supposed to eat the chilies, as it is only put in the dish to give it flavour.

The Kung Pao chicken is sticky and sweet. It is refreshing to have a dish at Han’s that wasn’t full on heat. I noticed the onions were still crunchy. Of the lot, this is the most western-friendly dish.

I enjoyed the fish hot pot. The fish was soft and meaty, contrasting with the thin, crunchy bean sprouts. The sauce smelled fragrant and made my mouth tingle with pleasure. Miss Foodie said this style of fish hotpot is more Taiwanese Szechuan, and that this recipe was passed down from the previous owners. She informed me that the owners have a classic Szechuan version that uses an oil-based chili broth.

The best part of the meal? There was consensus at our table that Han’s kicks some serious ass. Grohl thought all the dishes were delicious. Even L enjoyed the food and he’s not a spicy person. Miss Foodie, you did it again. Thank you for your pro tip on where to eat Szechuan food in Calgary.

Italian · Pizza

Rocket Pie – Crust me, this is a good one

Grohl is in town. He has a much higher standard than I do when it comes to food. I told L we had to take him to places that we know are awesome, otherwise we will have to listen to him dramatically complain how his current city is so much better than Calgary’s restaurant scene. L suggested we take him to Rocket Pie in Canmore. In light of Stampede, let’s listen to “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash.

We were hungry after our hike, so we selected three pizzas – the Margherita ($18), Formaggi ($25 + $5 prosciutto) and the Mortadella ($24). For beverages, we ordered pints of Misty Mountain Hops ($8.50) and Dat Juice ($8.50).

Grohl said that if you want to know if a pizza place is any good, you should try the margherita pizza. Well, if a margherita is the litmus test of a stellar pizza, Rocket Pizza passes with flying colours. What I liked about this pizza is how the three ingredients stood out. The fior de latte is soft and stretchy with just the right amount of saltiness. The smell of the torn basil leaves is strong and fragrant. The crushed tomato sauce is bright and tangy. Simplicity at its best.

The formaggi pizza with prosciutto is a killer combination of sweet and salty. The saltiness of the prosciutto accentuated the sweetness of the honey and sharpness of the gorgonzola cheese. L said the addition of the prosciutto is worth more than five dollars.

The mortadella pizza is the most unique pizza I’ve tried in a while. L and Grohl noticed the scent of lemon zest. I thought the candied pistachios paired well with the mortadella because the sweet nuttiness popped against the cool fatty slices of meat. The layers of mortadella also helped to balanced out the fluffier, heavier sections of the crust.

The crust at Rocket Pie is something special. There’s this pleasing tastiness to it that makes you want to munch slowly to savour the flavour. I thought it was interesting that texture of the pizza crust varied by each pie, perhaps due to the toppings.

The formaggi pizza provided the crispiest crunch. The dough is thinner and the honey was almost caramelized right into the cheeses. I noticed the crust on the margherita is more blistered than the other pies. I love the papery texture on the spots of blackened dough. Compared to the other two pies, the crust in the mortadella pizza is the thickest and fluffiest.

Miss Foodie recommended Rocket Pizza to me and I’m going to use her other recommendations for our meals with Grohl. She’s been a long-time fan of Han’s in Chinatown. Grohl loves spicy Chinese food, and if Miss Foodie approves, I know Grohl will be enjoy the food too. I should start tipping Miss Foodie for her restaurant recommendations because her picks are pure gold.

Mexican · Patio · Restaurants · Seafood

Fonda Fora

On Thursday, Bottlenick, L and I checked out Fonda Fora, a new contemporary Mexican restaurant inside The Westley Hotel. L and I were uncharacteristically late because I confused the Westley Hotel with the Westin Hotel. To celebrate the beginning of Stampede, let’s listen to Johnny Cash “Heart of Gold.”

For our first bottle, Bottlenick selected a rosé – Chateau Gassier Sables (Provence France, $45). I thought this was a nice rosé – light and dry.

We ordered the Salsa Tasting ($9), Guacamole & Tostadas ($15), Empanadas ($8), Tiradito de Huachinango ($17), Pescado Zarandeado ($37) and extra tortillas ($4).

Get the salsa tasting! Not only was it fun to try all the different salsas, but you can use the condiments with your other food. My favourite was the orange variation – it was rich and velvety like cream. I also liked the salsa with chili peppers and oil.

The guacamole was cold, creamy and delicious. The tostadas were enjoyable to eat because each chip was so thick and crunchy, and it tasted like it was freshly made.

The empanada was yummy. The crispy shell was filled with corn, chili peppers, tomatoes and onion, topped with some cool, smooth white cheese. The sauce was so delectable, we would use the tortillas to mop up the leftovers.

L and Bottlenick both noticed the red snapper had a strong fishy flavour to it, but in a good way. The onions tasted like fennel to me. This dish reminded me of a mix between sashimi and ceviche. I enjoyed the heat and spice in the orange sauce.

For our second bottle of wine, we picked the De Monde Cabernet Franc Fruiuli Grave Italy ($54). Oh baby, this wine reminds me of the cabernet franc I pick up at Tinhorn Creek and Burrowing Owl in BC. One major plus Fonda Fora offers is the wine list. I enjoyed the two bottles we tried and each was around the fifty-dollar range. The wines went well with the food and each bottle was something different than I could find at my local liquor store. My father recently sent me an article on restaurants and the markup on wines. I’ve got no issue paying for wine, as a restaurant has to make money, otherwise they would go out of business. By all means, markup the wines! But offer me something I can’t find at the Real Canadian Liquorstore. Fonda Fora does this in spades.

I was impressed with the mussels tostada. My gosh – the texture of each mussel was sublime – soft and fat – with a cool silkiness on the tongue. The white sauce was decadent. Bottlenick commented on the smoky flavour from the vinaigrette. L thought the pumpkin salsa was incredible. I would return just to each this dish again, because it was that good.

Our last dish was a whole grilled fish. The fish was moist and flaked apart easily. I liked that I could taste the natural, light juices of the fish. It’s easy to hide freshness when fish is battered or covered in heavy sauce. We also received a pretty bowl of herbs to eat with the fish. The fresh tortillas were thick and smelled like corn. I read Fonda Fora uses heirloom corn imported from small farmers in Mexico.

I shouldn’t have, but since I was feeling celebratory, I got carried away and ordered a pint of Cabin Morning Sun Saison (6%, $8.50). This beer was delicious – spicy and bubbly, but it wasn’t worth the hangover I received the next day. I can’t rock and roll like I used to. Those days are numbered. Post COVID, I’m going to be a moderate eater and drinker of delicious things.

I’ll return to Fonda Fora. The food is creative, fresh and different from the norm. Hitting the Sauce gives Fonda Fora two fat thumbs up.

Banh Mi · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Pure Kitchen Bar – Date three & four of 19

For date three of the 19 L owes me, I wanted a banh mi from Pure Kitchen Bar. Pure’s banh mi is pricier than other places, but each sub comes with fries, salad or soup.  When L learned of the price difference, he argued this date should count as two because each sub was double the cost. I sensed immediately that he was full of piss and vinegar and ready to parley.  I only fight when I know I’ll win, so I agreed with him and enjoyed the look of disappointment on his face. In light of Stampede, let’s listen to “Jolene” by Dolly Parton.

I ordered the Grilled Lemongrass Sub ($16) with fries and the Grilled Beef Sate Sub ($16) with a salad. When we returned home, I noticed the beef sub was squished. I tried to fluff it up for the picture but it was beyond repair.

Pure is heavy-handed with the sriracha aioli and sauces, which makes for a very drippy sub. Even before I unwrapped the beef sub, I could see the sate oil leaking out onto the wrapper. Despite the abundance of sauces, the bread was still crispy. The vegetables are different from the norm. The cilantro and cucumber is minced up, similar to a salsa. L doesn’t normally like cucumber but he didn’t mind Pure’s version because the skin was removed. I was pleased to see the carrots and daikon were pickled.

Both subs were so awesome, we didn’t like one more than the other. I did find the beef sate spicier and sweeter than the chicken. The creamy cheese in the chicken sub was more noticeable than in the beef sub. I could tell the meats were grilled. L raved about the charred flavour from the slices of chicken and beef.

L is a fan of the parmesan garlic fries. The seasoning is lemony with a hint of sugar. He said the sweetness in the seasoning reminds him of Wow Chicken’s bulgogi fries, but better because Pure’s version is more subtle. L noted that even the ketchup was different and tastes like a homemade sweet chili sauce.

I enjoyed the salad – an Asian-style slaw with shredded lettuce, daikon and carrots. I found the salad light and refreshing, a nice contrast to the richness of the sauces in the subs.

To date, this is L’s favourite Vietnamese sub because of the smoky flavour of the meats and the creative flavour profile of the toppings and sauce. I can’t compare Pure Kitchen Bar to the other banh mi shops because Pure’s subs are a different beast. Pure puts in a lot of thought and care into every ingredient. I will say that once you factor in the salad or fries, Pure’s subs are close to the price of Kim Anh, Thi Thi, and Trung Nguyen. Quantity wise, Pure’s sub and side combo are more filling than any other banh mi spot, except To Me.

Pro tip – if you call to place your order, you get 10% off your bill. Four banh mi dates down and 15 more to go! Next up? I’m leaning to Paper Lantern.

Fast Food · Korean

Yum Yum BBQ – Southwood Corner

I invited Lovegastrogirl over for dinner. She agreed on the condition that she would pick up food. We did the whole Chinese etiquette hospitality battle until she ferociously threatened not to come. I meekly backed down and thanked her. I want Lovegastrogirl to meet my mom one day. She’d meet her match.  For this post, and in honour of Stampede, let’s listen to “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” by Johnny Cash.

Fried chicken is my kryptonite. Lovegastrogirl brought over Yum Yum BBQ from Southwood Corner, her favourite location. I asked her not to bring so much food because the last time she did a fried chicken drop off, I spent the next day hovering over my sink, munching on cold chicken. She laughed and said that was smart move, as the crumbs would go directly into the sink and not my floor.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

Lovegastrogirl has a listening problem. She brought over enough food for four hungry people. She ordered L’s favourite chicken – the Shallot Bone-In (12 pieces, $27.99), Beef Japchae ($14.99), BBQ Beef Poutine ($14.49), and Pickled Radish ($1). I reheated the chicken and poutine in the oven and microwaved the noodles. I asked Lovegastrogirl to take a picture for my blog. She floofed up the shallots and stood on a chair to angle her shots while I looked on with amazement at the effort she puts in.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

The chicken was succulent and gleaming white. After rebaking the chicken, the teriyaki glaze created a brittle, sweet tasting shell. Some of the shallots were wilted from the reheating, which I prefer because the greens reminded me more of watercress. I like that the batter on Yum Yum chicken isn’t as oily as Popeyes or Wow Chicken.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

Despite being saturated with melted cheese and dark, salty gravy, the fries held up. The barbecued beef was sliced thin and tasty. The ridges in the crinkle fries helps to load up on the toppings.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

The sweet potato noodles were sticky and spicy. The noodles stuck together with the vegetables and beef bulgogi, so with each bite, you get a little bit of everything in one mouthful. In both the poutine and japchae, the flavour of the beef stood out.

I insisted Lovegastrogirl take the leftover chicken to Pomp. I did take out one drumstick to eat for later. Some habits are hard to break. Thank you Lovegastrogirl for a delicious dinner. Next time I’ll have you over for dinner and I’ll order fried chicken from Jin Bar or Gorilla Whale.

Bars/Lounges · Happy Hour · Patio

King Eddy – Wubbalubbadubdub!

On Friday, L and I stopped by the King Eddy for Stampede happy hour with Matt Masters. It felt so good to listen to live music again! If it wasn’t for the masks and the social distancing practices exhibited by the staff and clientele, I could have sworn I was back in Nashville.

From now until the end of Stampede, I’m spinning country music on my blog. For this post, let’s listen to “Change the Locks” by Lucinda Williams.

We ordered some drinks to enjoy while we watched the performance. I ordered a glass of Domaine Houchart rosé (5 oz, $11) and L chose a pint of Village Roadie ($7.25 HH). For food, we shared the Spicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Fries (half a bird, $32).

The batter on the skin was extra crunchy and slipped easily off the meat. The spices in the chicken are unique – I found the seasoning a little sweet, spicy and salty. I got a whiff of paprika or chili, which hit me in the back of the throat. The chicken itself was so tender and smooth, I could easily peel away the layers of white meat right off the bone.

We both agreed that the chef nailed every single item on this dish. These are some of the better fries in the city. The shell was golden brown and oily, so that the exterior shattered when I bit into it. The interior of the fry was still soft and mealy. The cabbage and carrot slaw was fresh tasting and vibrant. I was relieved as my pet peeve is eating slaw that tastes like it’s about to expire. This happens to me more often than not.

The gravy even tasted homemade. There was none of the artificial flavour you get from the powder mixes. Like the spices in the chicken, the gravy was well-seasoned, creamy and most importantly, served boiling hot. Since gravy is pretty much fat and flour, I think it has to be warm enough to only leave a thin coat over the fries when you dip the fries into the gravy.

King Eddy fried chicken is better than Hattie B’s in Nashville, and it has pretty much ruined Popeyes or any other fast-food joint for me. If you want to do some safe Stampeding this summer, drop by the King Eddy from July 9-17th. Check the website for hours of operation and the live music schedule.

Beer · French · Restaurants

The Dandy Brewing Company – Hot diggity dog

I wish more pubs were like Dandy Brewing Company. This brewery is light years ahead of other establishments in terms of food, beer and wine. Good thing I don’t live nearby because this place would be a frequent spot for me. For this post, let’s listen to “Blow at High Dough” by The Tragically Hip.

We sat inside because it was so hot. While the breeze was constant, we were still feeling the heat. To cool down, L tried the Bright and Happy Days Lager (5.7%, 14 oz, $6.50). This lager reminded him of Banded Peak’s Plainsbreaker, but with more complexity. I thought the lager tasted fresh, and I noticed a sweet aftertaste.

I was jonesing for wine, so I ordered a glass of Chateau Teyssier Pezat Bordeaux Blanc 2018 (5 oz, $10). I found this wine a little tart, refreshing, and well-priced.

L second beer was the Bunbury Pineapple Wheat Ale (4.5 %, 14 oz, $7). He found this ale ideal for such a scorching day because it light and crushable.

Despite the heat, I ordered a glass of the Stephane Aviron Cote de Brouilly 2015 (5 oz, $10). Our server wanted to chill the wine first because the heat made all the bottles of red wine too warm to serve. While I waited, he recommended I try the Wild Sour Ale 7% ($2.50, 5 oz) because the flavour profile was similar to a sauvignon. The sour certainly smelled similar to a white wine. I enjoyed this beer so much that I brought home a four-pack.

Since we were getting snackish, we decided to try the hot dogs ($8.50). L picked the beef hot dog with daikon slaw and crispy shallots while I opted for the chili cheese dog. I was shocked to see the amount of care that goes into each hot dog. Hats off to the female chef in the kitchen – she nailed this dish in terms of temperature and execution.

This hot dog is a fatty, juicy flavour bomb. The daikon garnish was piled high. L loved the crunch of the shallots and freshness of the daikon salad. My god – these hot dogs are a work of art. A masterpiece of deliciousness.

I demolished my chili dog – a steaming, saucy mess of melted cheddar cheese and spicy chili. If you like Von Der Fel’s famous house-made buns, you’ll love Dandy’s version. The potato bun is prepared daily. Soft and fluffy, the bread is the perfect vessel to sop up the chili sauce and sausage drippings. This hot dog is so good that if I came down with gout the next day, it would be worth it.

For dessert, I tried the red wine. I found it yummy and jammy. I would order this again. After tasting these two wines, I wonder why other pubs can’t follow Dandy’s lead and provide customers with interesting wines at this price point.

If you haven’t been to Dandy Brewing Company before, you are missing out. In every single of my past visits, the food, beverages and service has proven to be consistently excellent. Dandy makes it one my list of best breweries in Calgary.

Seafood · Special Occasion

Von Der Fels – The Last Supper

After July 31, Von Der Fels will be no more. Lovegastrogirl and I had to dine one last time before chef Douglas King‪ and owner Will Trow move on to greener pastures to The Ranchmen’s Club. For this post, let’s listen to “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer.

I’m going to miss Von Der Fels for the wines. This is the only place in the city where I’m impressed with the wines by the glass. I’m normally a red wine drinker but due to the heat, I wanted to try a glass of white. Our server recommend Miser Riesling 2020 ($16). This one was lovely – I enjoyed how the wine sparkled on my tongue. However, my favourite wine of the night was De Collette 2019 ($18). There was just something soft and mellow about it that made me want to keep on sipping.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

The only reservation I was able to score was at 8:45 p.m. I couldn’t wait that long to eat and as a result, I was full when I arrived. However, we had to order food because you can’t come here and not eat. The food is just too good to pass up.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

Our first dish was the Crispy Pork Belly with Lettuce Wraps ($43). The fragrance of the smoky sweetness of the pork was intoxicating. The crunchy fat on the pork belly reminds of me of Peking duck, but with a more complex flavour profile. I liked how the pickled cucumbers and fresh mint help to cut into the richness of the pork belly and sauces.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

The second dish we tried was the Miso Sablefish with Tempura Shrimp ($49). Holy mackerel, this dish is a visual stunner. I felt like my eyes were eating as well. There was so much fried goodness in this plate that I felt giddy just looking at it. I could literally feel my inner fat kid transfer out of my body to hug this dish.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

Each layer of the artichoke was silky soft, drenched in a light citrusy matsutake beurre blanc sauce. The shrimp was delightful – the batter was as light as tempura. My favourite part of the dish was the miso sablefish. The fish was so tender and flaky, with an incredible buttery texture. I would order this again but I can’t unless I become a member of The Ranchmen’s Club.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

As a parting gift, Lovegastrogirl brought a bottle of champagne for the staff to enjoy. When her hubby Gpomp dropped us off at the restaurant, he asked me now that Von Der Fels is no longer assessable by the general public, what other restaurant could offer a similar experience? There’s only a handful of restaurants I have frequented in Calgary, so based on my limited exposure, and in terms of food, consistency, wine, service and value, I would say Sukiyaki House and Klein & Harris.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

I have to talk to L about getting a membership at The Ranchmen’s Club. There’s a stellar negotiation course at the Haskayne School of Business that I’m considering taking to help me with my persuasion skills. Perhaps the mere threat of going back to school will encourage L to explore the new happenings occurring at The Ranchmen’s Club now that Douglas and Will have taken over the culinary reins.

Photo credit: Von Der Fels

I’ll always remember Von Der Fels as the spot to bring friends and family. This was a restaurant that you could depend on to consistently deliver, visit after visit. I wish the owner and chef the very best in their new roles and future at The Ranchmen’s Club.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Obanhmi- Date two of 19

L wanted to knock off number two of the 19 banh mi dates he promised me. Since I was already in Inglewood getting a dermal infusion, I suggested he order our dinner from Obanhmi in Dover.  I specifically asked L for the classic assorted sub ($5.50) and not the deluxe assorted ($7.50) sub. The deluxe version has pork belly and that would put my Noom app in a tizzy. For this post, let’s listen to “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers.

When L picked me up, he asked me if I knew banh mi means bread in English. I said no, I just assumed banh mi was a Vietnamese sandwich. I asked him how he knew and he said there are informative signs posted all over the shop. He smugly added that while I asked for an assorted sub, it was actually called a cold cut. I bit back the urge to tell him no one likes a know-it-all but then I realized it actually turned me on that he knew more about Vietnamese subs than me.

L relished his Beef Sate ($7.50) sub. He thought the beef was flavourful, and not in the generic peanutty way. He noted the beef wasn’t evenly distributed, so one side of the sub had lots of beef and the other side had barely any. We both liked how the carrots, daikon, and onions were pickled. Each vegetable was crunchy and wet, tart and sweet at the same time.

My cold cut contained four layers of assorted meats. The baguette was delightful – the interior was light and fluffy and the outside crackled when I bite into it. The pate was subtle and buttery. I liked how the cucumber was sliced into thin, crisp ribbons. This is a saucy sub – the juices from the pickled vegetables mingled with the mayonnaise and pate.

How does Obanhmi compare to all the other banh mi joints? Obanhmi gives more meat than Trung Nguyen and Thi Thi, but not as much as Saigon Deli. However, Obanhmi is more generous than Saigon Deli with the butter, pate and vegetables. Size wise, Obahmi subs are bigger than Kim Anh and Trung Nguyen but not as stuffed as To Me Sub or My Thou BBQ. Personally, I thought the pickled vegetables and crusty baguette give Obanhmi a slight edge over some of their competitors.

Note: L said I was going to drop the subs taking this picture. I didn’t, but I took this picture over the counter in case the subs fell out of my hand.

I’d rank this banh mi up there with all the other heavy hitters – Saigon Deli, Banh Mi Nhu Y, Trung Nguyen, My Thou, and Thi Thi. Pro tip – sign up for the point system. Accumulate ten points and you get a free sub. Hitting the Sauce gives Obanhmi two phat thumbs up.

17th Ave · Bars/Lounges · Vegetarian

Lulu Bar

Aga came to visit me. Since she lives in Lethbridge now, I told her to pick the restaurant. She wanted to check out Lulu Bar, a popular chef-driven restaurant on 17th Ave. I noticed the restaurant was full of tables with young, pretty ladies. Pro tip – if you are single and on the Happn app, you might want to start dining at Lulu Bar. You’re welcome. For this post, let’s listen to “Where Them Girls At” by David Guetta.

The staff at Lulu Bar are friendly and inviting. Our server Jason helped me pick the right wine to cool down in the sweltering heat – Castelo de Medina (Verdejo, Rueda, Spain $55). This was just what I wanted – the wine was light, soft and aromatic. I was impressed Jason and another staff member knew so much about the menu. With the lifting of restrictions, I heard restaurants had to scramble to find staff to work again. There was no outward sign of any stumbling blocks for Lulu Bar.

We didn’t have much of an appetite because it was so hot, so we shared two salads. My nemesis Noom suggests that when I go to a restaurant, I should request the salad dressing on the side. I felt that to do so would be an insult to the chef and Aga because it would prevent us from eating the food as it was intended. I’m glad I didn’t alter the dishes because the salads blew me away.

The Sichuan Noodle Salad ($14) was shockingly delicious. I say that because there was cilantro in the salad but it was still incredible. The noodles were toothsome and lightly sauced in a chili sesame dressing. The bean sprouts were so fresh tasting, I thought they must have been plucked that day. Aga loved the crunch and tartness from the pickled beans, cucumber, onions and cauliflower. The chili in the sauce was pleasantly mouth numbing. This is one of the best salads I’ve ever eaten. That is the ultimate compliment because I am not a salad person.

All the foodies on Instagram have been posting pictures of their fresh spotted prawns, so when I saw the BC Spot Prawn Salad ($24) on the menu, I had to try it. Another winner. The prawns were sweet and meaty. The sesame yogurt ginger dressing was buttery and rich. Aga enjoyed the mint because she thought it added some freshness and helped to balance the salt in the dressing.

If Lulu Bar can make salads taste so good, I wonder what they can do to meat. I’m going to bring L so we can try more of the dishes, like the wood grilled branzino and coal roasted halibut, and of course, more salads. Hitting the Sauce gives Lulu Bar to phat thumbs up.

Beer

Canmore Brewing Company

Before dinner, L and I wanted to stop by a place for a drink. I wanted to get a cocktail at the Fairmont Banff Springs but then I remembered this trip was for L and not for indulging my whims. Instead, I suggested Canmore Brewing Company for a flight of beer ($10). For this post, let’s listen to “Ramble On” by Led Zepplin.

I’m not normally a cider fan, but the Outsider Cider (7%) was just right – not too sweet or tart. My neighbour would like this one as it is gluten-free and vegan.

The Ramble On Saison (6.2%) was tasty, with a refreshing herbal note that reminded me a little of rosehips. I kept trying to guess what was in the saison until L looked it up and told me it was hibiscus.

I really enjoyed the Jam Session – a blackberry and cherry sour (4.8%). Like the cider, this sour wasn’t too tart but nicely balanced. I thought the flavour was similar to a rosé wine. 

The Sulphur Mountain Session Ale (4%) was clean and bright. For some reason, sipping this ale reminded me of the smell of fresh basil and tomato plants.

L’s favourite beer was the NE IPA (6%). I found the IPA easy to drink and juicy. L liked how the taste would disappear on his tongue, which he says is perfect for a summer beer. L could taste a little of the rye, which the IPA is made of.

What I liked about all the beers was each one tasted fresh, and the bubbles were small. We were impressed with our flights – each one was unique and tasty. I enjoyed our beers so much, I picked up three packs for us to enjoy at home. If we lived in Canmore, this would be a regular spot for us. If you are in the hood, I recommend checking out Canmore Brewing Company.

Italian · Patio · Pizza

Rocket Pie – Neapolitan Pizza in Canmore

Since the pandemic started, L has been working around the clock. Lately, he’s been looking more weary than usual. I wasn’t sure if his tiredness was work-related or because I’ve been extra cranky since I started Noom. Either way, I told him to pack an overnight bag because we were going to Canmore for the night. There’s nothing like a little mountain air to brighten one’s mood. For this post, let’s listen to “Slow Ride” by Foghat.

I’m not familiar with the food scene in Canmore. I’ve only eaten at Crazyweed, The Trough, Iron Goat and 514 Poutine. Since this was L’s getaway, I wanted to take him out for one of his favourite foods – pizza. I asked Miss Foodie and Lovegastrogirl where they would go. Both recommended Rocket Pie, a restaurant known for their Neapolitan style pizza, baked in a state-of-the-art stone fired oven.

Rocket Pie is located in a plaza-style shopping area. The restaurant itself is spacious and modern. L admired the textured wood wall while I appreciated the genuinely warm welcome from the staff. To start, L ordered a can of Misty Mountain Hops (Canmore Brewery, $8.50). I asked our server Tara about the wine list. She recommended the house wine (Remole Toscana, $10, 8oz) because it goes with everything. I’ve been on the hunt for an inexpensive red, and I think I found my unicorn. This is a solid wine – something I’d happily sip around my house. Look at this big pour! I knew immediately that Rocket Pie and I were going to be lifelong friends.

L complains that I never order enough food when we dine out, which is true. I purposely under order because I find I overeat if there’s extra food in front of me. This time I made sure L would have enough to eat. I ordered two pizzas and one calzone: Formaggi ($25), Diavola ($23), and the Fennel Sausage ($24). All pizzas come with complimentary chili oil.  After tasting the oil, I immediately thought of Foodkarma as she’s the undisputed queen of chili oil. I think even she would be impressed with Rocket Pie’s version. The oil is moderately spicy and nutty. I could really taste the richness that comes from a proper toasting of the chili flakes. The chef needs to bottle this liquid gold and start selling it. He would make fat coin.

The Diavola pizza is the most recommended pizza on Google reviews. I thought the ingredients sounded simple, but the flavour profile was anything but basic.  L said the Diavola was an excellent combination of quality cheeses, spicy sopressata and fresh tomato sauce. The salami was on point – each piece was so flavoursome. I loved how the pickled onions and chili flakes added a pleasant crunch and pop of heat.

L’s favourite pizza is the Formaggi. L loved the sweet, salty, and savoury notes from the blend of mozzarella, fontina, gorgonzola, pecorino ramno, parmigiana Reggiano and local honey. The crust is so lovely – crispy, thin and airy. The dough is light enough to let the blend of cheeses and honey shine, but substantive enough to carry the strong flavours. Chef and co-owner David Carruthers recommends adding prosciutto ($5) to the Formaggi. I’ll do that next time.

The Fennel Sausage Calzone is my favourite. This is the first time I tried a calzone that I enjoyed. Too often, calzones remind me of pizza pockets. The crust was different from the two pizzas we tried. The dough puffs up like a pastry and the crust was almost buttery in texture. The calzone was filled with mozzarella, ricotta cheese, fresh spinach, and house made fennel and sausage. The sausage tasted clean and bright – the meat wasn’t oily or heavy. I love the charring on the dough – the crust was blistered enough to give off a smoky flavour. The calzone is big enough for two people. Freaking fantastic and worth the calories.

What sets Rocket Pie from all the other pizzerias is the crust. David has created a master dough. This dough is perfection. This is the most delicious crust I have ever eaten. You need to try this pizza to taste what I’m saying. Some flavours can’t be described in words.

At the end of the night, we were stuffed as the inside of the calzone and blissfully happy. We took home half a calzone and a whole pizza, with two complimentary plastic containers of the chili oil. I also bought a bottle of the Remole Toscana ($20) to eat with our leftovers. We baked our pizzas the next day, and the food and wine were still awesome. This was further confirmation that the mountain air and time away didn’t unduly influence our taste buds.

Both L and I are planning our next stay in Canmore, and you can bet we will return and try some of the other pizzas. The food is worth the scenic hour-long drive from Calgary. There are options for vegetarians, and I read online that there is even a gluten-free pizza. I spied a highchair by the washroom, so this is a kid-friendly restaurant. Hitting the Sauce gives Rocket Pie two fat thumbs up.

Japanese · Seafood · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Welcome back dinner

On June 10th, Alberta entered its Stage 2 reopening. No surprise here, to celebrate the lifting of government restrictions L and I dined at Sukiyaki House. For this post, let’s listen to “Dancing In The Streets” by Martha and The Vandellas.

This is my first dining out experience since I’ve started using Noom – a health and fitness app. I’ve never lasted more than six hours on any diet, but I figured it was time for me to become healthier. After surviving two days, I assessed Noom to be a Debbie downer. There are no fun foods that I can eat without breaking my daily calorie count. As Foodiegyal7 informed me, Noom is not a site for foodies. L timidly observed that I’m noticeably more irritable since I’ve been on Noom. Poor L.


Our server Judith has the best taste in sake. When we asked for a suggestion, she recommended Fukucho Hattanso 50 Junmai Daiginjo ($46, 10 ounce). The sake smelled fragrant. The flavour was light and clean, with a honeyed sweetness. If fairies existed, this would be their drink.

For our first dish, we ordered BC Spotted Prawns (market price). Head chef Koji Kobayashi hit a home run on this creation. The spotted prawns sat in a gorgeous tomato yuzu shisho sauce. The raw shrimp was soft and creamy. The sea lime green sauce was refined and balanced, with bright, summery notes. L said the hint of lime in the sauce reminded him of Mexico. I could eat this dish all day long. The fried shrimp heads were scrumptious. I could tell the difference between the BC prawns and the regular ones. The BC prawns are sweeter and the meat has a lighter flavour.

We ordered Sawagani Crabs ($2.50 each). I’ve seen these crabs before in the food markets in Tokyo and Kyoto. The shell was thin and crunchy, similar to the outside layer of a candied apple. When I bit into the crab, the flesh was warm and juicy, with no fishy aftertaste.


Every time we visit Sukiyaki House, we order the Tako Carpaccio ($16). The octopus was thinly sliced and crunchy. I loved the balanced flavours in the yuzu sauce and the added layers of texture and flavour from the topping of arugula, kewpie mayo and potato strings.

L ordered Kani (Snow Crab $3.7), Tako ($3), and Atlantic Salmon Nigiri ($3). He said the salmon melted in his mouth. The snow crab was sweet. L mentioned the sushi rice was a cut above other Japanese restaurants in Calgary. He liked how the amount of wasabi in each piece of nigiri was subtle and not overwhelming like other restaurants.

I ordered the Irodori Hiyashi Udon ($24). This is a great summer dish. The udon noodles were thin and chewy. The tamago (egg omelette) was sweet, with a soft firm texture. I thought the yuzu dashi broth perfectly highlighted the flavours of the hotategai (hokkaido scallop), hamachi (snapper), ebi (steamed shrimp) and Ikura (salmon roe).


We enjoyed being back so much that we didn’t want to leave after we finished dinner. Instead of dessert, I asked for the driest white wine and L ordered an Asahi, so we could sit and soak up the exuberant vibes. You could feel the excitement to be back from the customers. Better times are coming. I’m hoping Calgarians get their vaccine so we can get on with Stage 3.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

To Me Sub – Date one of 19

L and I made a deal. He thinks the chandelier in our powder room is gaudy. I see no reason to replace it but his constant complaining finally got to me. I negotiated 19 banh mi dates in exchange for a replacement. Initially I wanted 20 dates, but L kept trying to get the number down. I told him that he wanted the chandelier switched out more than I wanted the subs, and if he was a smart man, which I know he is, he would pay my price. For this post, let’s listen to “Price Tag” by Jessie J and B.o.B.

I should have placed conditions in our contract because it turned out our banh mi dates include “fusion” subs. I didn’t realize L wanted a say in where we ate. I just assumed I would be picking each venue. For banh mi date #1, L wanted to try To Me Sub – a popular drive-in spot on Macleod Trail.

I’ve read that To Me gets so busy with customers, drivers block the traffic on Macleod Trail. Pro tip – if you don’t want to get honked, pull around and wait in line via the parking lot so you aren’t disrupting the traffic flow.

We were lucky. There was only one car ahead of us, so we waited less than five minutes. I ordered Shrimp Salad Rolls ($5), Mango Bubble Tea ($5), Satay Beef Sub ($6), and a Coconut Chicken Sub ($6).

The mango bubble tea was about the size of a large slurpee. The frozen mango puree was sweet and syrupy. To Me sells one of the cheapest bubble teas in town.

The salad rolls are worth ordering again. Each salad roll contained three pieces of shrimp, crunchy julienned lettuce and vermicelli. The wrapper itself was soft and it tasted better than the salad rolls I make at home. I liked the dipping sauce – smooth, tangy and a touch sweet.

Size wise, these subs were as big as My Tho BBQ. When we got home, the bread was warm and soft from the heat of the filling. L appreciated the generous amount of cilantro in his sub. The beef was tender, sliced thin and piled high. The flavours in the beef sate were more subtle than Thi Thi or Trung Nguyen. L wished the vegetables were pickled, but for the price and portion, he’s not complaining. The portion was so large, L and I could only eat half our subs.

The chicken in my sub reminded me of a Thai yellow curry. The heat was mild and the flavours were subdued. I thought I could taste some cheese in the sauce. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy. The ingredients in the subs are so approachable that even people who typically shy away from traditional Vietnamese food would enjoy the food at To Me.

One down and 18 more to go! For our next banh mi adventure, L wants me to retry his favourite spots – Bake Chef and Thi Thi. I want to check out; Ami Tea; Bambu; Bánh Mì Phương Mai; Banh Mi SUB Asian Fusion; Five Spice; La Cay (temporarily closed); Lily Submarines; Lotus Deli; Nan’s Noodle House; Paper Lantern; Pho Chu; Pho Dau Bao; Pure Modern Asian Kitchen; Secret Cafe Vietnamese Sub; and Thai Thien Sub. If you know of any spots that I haven’t tried or listed, send me a note.

Italian · Pizza · Restaurants

Savino Pizzeria

Lovegastrogirl takes her pizza so seriously, she coordinates her pie with a matching outfit. Lately, she’s been posting nonstop about Savino Pizzeria. When I finished my work for the day, I decided I wanted to try this pizzeria.

I ran upstairs to tell L that we had to pick up a pizza for dinner. He asked me where the restaurant was located. I said it was in an alley somewhere in Glenbrook. He looked startled and I could tell he had more questions but as he was in the middle of work, he didn’t have time. I blurted out the place was legit and Lovegastrogirl eats there every week. He nodded and pointed to his credit card. For this post, let’s listen to “She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals.

Savino Pizzeria is located in Glenbrook, in a food truck parked in a backyard. Their food is inspired by the pizzas in Naples, Italy. Three things you need to know. Each pizza is a personal size, so order at least one per person. The pizza is the opposite of what many North Americans have come to love in Greek-style pizza. Savino is all about using top quality ingredients and producing the freshest pizza you can find in Calgary.

The first time I tried Neapolitan pizza was in Cannes, France. I was twenty years old, with my girlfriend and a young New Zealand couple. When we only ordered a large pizza and a bottle of wine to share, the waiter made a face, and then took away our tablecloth and linens (mine was on my lap) and tossed us some paper napkins. Our friends were so pissed that to show their displeasure, they upturned the empty wine bottle and wedged it in the middle of the table. Luckily, there was no such snobbery or unnecessary confrontation at Savino, just delicious, fire-baked pizza.

I ordered Lovegastrogirl’s favourite pizzas – the Prosciutto and Arugula ($17) and the Quatro Formaggi with Prosciutto ($21). Pro tip – these pies arrive uncut – so you need a pair of scissors to do the deed yourself.

The first thing I noticed about the prosciutto and arugula pizza was the bright flavour of the tomato sauce. The grape tomatoes tasted so sweet, I thought this had to come from a garden. The arugula was plentiful and so fresh, I wondered where Savino buys their produce.

The quatro formaggi with prosciutto is a cheese lover’s dream. The blend of bocconcini, Parmigiano Reggiano, manchego, and gorgonzola was of pure decadence. The sweetness of the honey accentuated the richness of the cheeses. The homemade chili oil is worth its weight in gold. The oil is spicy enough to make you sputter, but it also had a flavourful kick to it. I use a lot of different chili oils and I’m telling you that Savino’s is the best I’ve tried.

Savino’s crust is thin, and the toppings are light, but I can tell the ingredients are of the best quality. L is a fan of the crust – it was chewy and airy. He was sure the dough was made with 00 flour. I liked the taste of the char on the blistered crust.

Of the two pizzas, our favourite was the four cheese pizza with prosciutto. I have what you call a hearty appetite. Hours later I was hungry again, so we did a dirty and ordered a snack from Popeyes. I need to start keeping salads in my fridge and not make bad late night eating choices.

If you go in knowing what Neapolitan pizza all is about, you’ll love this place. I certainly enjoyed it and look forward to ordering the pizzas again, as well as a bottle of that fabulous chili oil. Hitting the Sauce gives Savino Pizzeria two phat thumbs up.

Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi

Takumi Sushi

I can’t believe it rained all weekend. I felt like I was back in Vancouver. L sensed I was getting squirrelly. He told me to pick a place for lunch and mentioned that a long drive wasn’t an issue for him. I was about to suggest something on my to-eat list when he wondered if I felt like sushi. I said yeah, I could do sushi but Sukiyaki House wasn’t open. L wanted to try Takumi Sushi to compare it to Nami Sushi. We used to eat at Nami Sushi but noticed that in the last two visits, there was inconsistency with the quality. We found out recently that the owner of Takumi sold Nami two years ago. For this post, let’s listen to “The Rain” by Missy Elliott.

I ordered the Lunch Special ($13.50), which allows you to pick three rolls from a select list. I chose the Salmon Maki, Dynamite Roll, and Salmon, Tuna, and Ebi sushi. I also ordered Hokkigai (Surf Clam, $2.05); Tako Nigiri (Octopus, $2.55); Hotate (Raw Scallop $2.85); Salmon Nigiri ($2.05); Spicy Salmon Roll ($6.95) and a Chopped Scallop Roll ($7.25). Takumi gives 10% off all pick up orders.

I’m a fan of Takumi’s nigiri sushi. The ratio of rice to fish was spot on. The surf clam was tender and chewy. The shape of the clam over the rice reminded me of a top hat, covering both sides of the rice ball. I would order this again.

The scallops were big in size and smooth in texture. The scallop tasted fresh, with no fishy aftertaste. I enjoyed the pop of tobiko, which was sprinkled on the top of the scallop. The rice itself was firm and sticky, fragrant with the scent of vinegar.

The salmon sushi tasted creamy and cool. There was nothing wrong with the salmon sushi and I felt like we got what we paid for.

There are two types of nigiri that I wouldn’t recommend – the tuna and ebi sushi. The ebi sushi from the lunch special was razor thin and fishy tasting. I noticed the ebi sushi was crammed in the box, so that the shrimp was wedged in-between the rolls and tuna sushi. As a result, the rice underneath the shrimp fell apart when I tried to lift it up. The tuna sushi didn’t have any flavour. L said next time, he would go for a fattier cut. I agree – spend a little more and get something tastier.

The maki rolls are better than your average sushi restaurant in Calgary. I noticed that the filling to rice was about 4:1. A pet peeve of mine are Japanese restaurants that give you a disproportionate amount of sushi rice. In the salmon maki roll, you can see how much bigger the proportion of salmon is to the rice.

In the spicy salmon roll, the bits of tempura were still crunchy. If you are a spice wimp, don’t worry. The heat in this roll was incredibly mild, and I detected a little sweetness in the sauce. I would order this roll again.

The chopped scallop roll was banger. Again, there was a generous amount of silky smooth chopped scallops to rice. The richness of the Kewpie mayo added to the luxurious pop of the bright orange tobiko. I liked that there was very little cucumber to scallop, so that the flavour and texture focused on the creamy scallops.

All the rolls were tried were great except for the dynamite roll, which was still fine. The shrimp tempura was crispy and tasted fresh, but proportion of avocado to the tempura shrimp was off. In a dynamite roll, the shrimp should be the dominant flavour, not the avocado. This is the only roll I wouldn’t order again. I would pass on the lunch special, though it’s cheap. I personally would rather spend a couple more bucks and get the sushi that I would enjoy.

Takumi is a solid spot for fresh, inexpensive sushi. Lunch for two of was just over $40. I can’t think of any place that competes with Takumi in this price range. Hitting the Sauce gives Takumi two phat thumbs up.

Restaurants

Zion Soul Food – Suya Beef

Note: Since I wrote this post, the prices for Zion’s catering dishes have gone up due to rising cost of meat.

This May long weekend I was planning on checking out Jin Bar or Park by Sidewalk Citizen. However, I stumbled upon Zion Soul Food’s Instagram story showcasing surya beef. L and I are crazy for Zion’s Caribbean and African food, so I placed an order for Saturday. For this post, let’s listen to “Hey Sister, Soul Sister” by Patti Labelle.

I ordered a Beef Surya ($45). The platter generously feeds a party of four. Delivery for my area is $10. Payment is through e-deposit the day of the delivery, via Zionsoulfood@gmail.com.

The platter was heavy, packed with seasoned slices of beef brisket, a mountain of plantain, four pieces of corn on the cob, and four slices of avocado. I could tell by looking at the platter that a lot of care was put into each item. The beef was covered in spices and even the avocado was sprinkled with seasoning.

There was a nice bark on the beef. The best pieces were the ones with the fat still on it. The spices were incredible. L detected some heat though I did not. I found out that the chef makes his own spices from scratch. The beef wasn’t tough or soft – it was tender with a chew to it. foodiegyal7 informed me that in African cuisine, beef is cooked so that it still has some pull to it.

Plantain is my new favourite food. This time around, the texture of the plantain felt firmer, with sweet and savoury notes. I don’t know how the chef prepares plantain to make it taste so good, but I’m guessing the fruit is either pan-fried or deep-fried to give it that caramelized taste.

Photo credit: 4jki

The corn is deliciously salty and buttery. Each kernel is juicy and sweet. L noticed how well the uncooked vegetables went with the beef and plantain. I agree – the rawness of the red onions, green peppers and avocado was a good complement to the complexity of the spices in the beef.

This is wholesome, comforting food that is cooked for the belly and the soul. I like that there isn’t a reliance on sugar, cream and oil. Part of the fun for L is the newness of the flavours and the excitement of not knowing what you are tasting. Next time we order, we want to try the chicken stew, baked tilapia, and oxtail stew.

Photo credit: 4jki

This weekend, 4jki also ordered from Zion. She picked the large Chicken Stew ($35) and the large Beef Suya ($45). 4jki was amazed with the flavour profile in the beef suya. She said it was unlike anything she’s ever had, as she couldn’t put her finger on the spices. 4jki’s mother found the spices interesting.

Photo credit: 4jki

The next time I order, I want to try the chicken stew. 4jki mentioned that the chicken stew doesn’t have the spices you get in the suya, but the chicken is absolutely amazing and saucy. When I asked foodiegyal7 if she tried the chicken stew, she mentioned that African stew isn’t like the creamy type you expect when you hear the word “stew”.

I would order from Zion weekly but I want to write about some of the other restaurants in town. On my to-eat list, Pathway Burgers & Momos (recommended by anjuleem), Park by Sidewalk Citizen (recommended by Bottlenick), Jin Bar (recommended by the King of KFC), Kinjo Westhills (recommended by loaf2go, zoomhahaa, and margaretjulia), and Emerald Garden (new owners, recommended by Fung1ling).

Cheap Eats · Mediteranean · Restaurants · Sandwiches

Jerusalem Shawarma – Macleod Trail SE location

L enjoys a donair as much as I love a banh mi. Since we were already out running errands, we decided to pick up dinner at his favourite spot in the city – Jerusalem Shawarma. For this post, let’s listen to “Tudo Bom” by Static and Ben El with J Balvin.

Jerusalem Shawarma has several locations throughout the city, but not all are equal. For example, there’s a Jerusalem Shawarma closer to our house, but the freshness and quality are not on par with our favourite location on Mcleod Trail SE.

The price and option for sizes has changed since our last visit. Before, you could choose from a regular or large shawarma. Now there is only one size. L and I both ordered a beef donair ($11.99). Look how big this donair is! Eat one of these and you’ll be full for the day.

I prefer Jerusalem’s flatbread over Ali Baba‘s wrap. The flatbread Jerusalem uses is thin and soft like a tissue. The wrap is grilled, which makes the bread crispy and chewy. The beef was tender and generously stacked. I’m glad we asked the staff to go easy on the sauces as the garlic sauce is potent stuff.

I enjoyed the sourness of the pickles and the tartness of the turnips. However, I would skip the tomatoes. The tomatoes were cut into large slices and the juices dripped down and made the end of the wrap soggy. I also noticed some of the lettuce was limp, perhaps because of our 15 minute drive back home.

Since I’m always fantasizing about all the parties I’m going to host when this pandemic is finally behind us, I noticed that Jerusalem offers catering. I’m wary of using any restaurant for catering after what happened to me years ago at an unnamed restaurant.

L’s 15 relatives came over for Christmas and at his insistence, I ordered takeout so I wouldn’t have to cook. When L went to go pick up food, they said they weren’t aware of any such order. Minutes later, I received a phone call from the owner at his second location outside the city, asking me where I was. When he realized he had the two locations mixed up as I called and placed my order at the Calgary location, he hung up on me. I called a Chinese restaurant in our neighbourhood. I’m guessing the restaurant was overwhelmed with orders as it was Christmas Day because the food was awful. I was horrified to serve our guests such a lackluster meal. Ever since that day, I’ve prepared my own food for parties.

One place I do feel confident enough to order from is Zion Soul Food. The owner and chef – Randy Agyei – is a one-man show and he does everything himself, which ensures the food is cooked properly. I placed a small catering order for L and I this weekend. I’m looking forward to trying Randy’s famous beef surya, which is prepared in a brisket style.

Chinatown · Chinese · Restaurants

Regency Palace – Peking duck three-course special

Lately, all my takeout adventures have been inspired by people I follow on Instagram. Last week, Lovegastrogirl posted about Regency Palace’s three-course Peking duck special. After her glowing review of all three courses, a series of people I know followed suit and ordered takeout from Regency Palace. For this post, let’s listen to “Informer” by Snow.

So what’s the deal? For a limited time, Regency Palace is offering duck with crepes, duck and tofu soup or hot and sour or duck congee, and duck fried rice or duck chow mein for $32.99. This is so cheap! Normally, the duck crepes alone cost $32.99 or more, depending on where you go.

Lovegastrogirl heard about the duck special from @eattinwithmui.  A short time after Lovegastrogirl posted her meal, Justayycfoodie ordered the duck special. I wasn’t surprised – Justayycfoodie is a Peking duck aficionado.

I was debating on whether or not I should jump on the bandwagon when my friend 4jki sent me a message that she ordered the special too. She said it was one of the better Peking ducks she’s tried, and the portion was so huge she had leftovers for days. Her mother, who is super picky about food quality, enjoyed the duck as well. 4jki mentioned the staff at Regency were surprised she knew about the special as it was only promoted in a Chinese newspaper. I told L to start the car.

I picked up my food at 2 p.m., but we didn’t eat our food until 6:00 p.m. Regency does a thorough job packing the food. The crepes were wrapped in plastic so they wouldn’t dry out. The pieces of glossy brown roast duck sat on deep fried shrimp chips, which provided a better base to retain the crispness of the duck skin. I didn’t do the best job broiling my duck in the oven. I couldn’t achieve that crackly skin you get at the restaurant, but the duck was still tender and juicy. Each slice contained a balanced proportion of meat to skin. Wowzers! Peking duck makes life worth living.

The duck fried rice was packed to the brim of the container. My pet peeve is overcooked rice – so I was happy to see each grain was fluffy yet firm. I liked the tiny bits of egg and green beans in the rice.

For my soup option, I choose the duck broth soup with tofu. Each container contained meaty chunks of duck, cabbage and soft tofu. I found the simple, nourishing flavours in the broth comforting. The soup reminded me of the Chinese broth Calgary Court serves with their set meals.

I’m not sure how much longer Regency will be offering the Peking duck special. If you want to try it, give them a call. I found the staff helpful on the phone and in person, and I don’t speak Cantonese.

I heard there’s a Peking duck war in Calgary. Another place to check out is Central Grand Restaurant. Fung1ling informed me that Central Grand is offering a whole Peking duck with crepes, noodles or rice, dessert and soup for $39.99 (cash only). If you ask nicely, they may even give you the duck carcass so you can make duck congee at home. The promotional price is available only from Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

MyMy Sub – Banh Mi

I’ve been decluttering my house and selling random items on Varage. As of Tuesday, I made a whopping $15. To celebrate my windfall, I informed L that I was buying lunch.

Eatswithminnie has been posting about MyMy Sub, a newish Vietnamese takeout place by SAIT. When she told me that My My’s cold cut is better than Saigon Deli, I had to see it for myself. For this post, let’s listen to “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye.

I took Minnieeats’ advice and called to place my order. Pro tip – there’s plenty of reserved parking at the back of MyMy Sub. I ordered a Cold Cut Sub ($8) for myself and L a Charbroiled Pork Vermicelli ($12). I could tell from the weight of the bag that the portions were big.

I was so excited to try my sub that I cursed every single car ahead of us that made a left turn. Finally, when we got home, I frantically tore the wrapping paper off my cold cut sub. Lo and behold – this was a real beauty.

The bread is excellent – glossy and crusty on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. The assorted meats were mild in flavour and cut into thick slabs. The texture of the meat was spongy and reminded me of the shrimp balls I eat in Chinese hotpot.

The only vegetables that are pickled are the carrots. The onions and cucumbers were sliced into coarse chunks. I noticed MyMy puts green peppers in their subs, which is unusual. The pate was nice – not overly metallic yet pungent enough to taste it in every second bite. I enjoyed the sauciness of the mayonnaise.


L enjoyed his dish. The charbroiled pork in L’s meal was salty, with a texture similar to the grilled pork meatball at Cuty Restaurant. The noodles were rounder and thicker than the standard vermicelli noodles. The portion was so generous L could only eat half his serving. I noticed there was an absence of bean sprouts. The spring rolls didn’t travel well. By time we ate, the spring rolls were soft. The nuac cham (dipping sauce) tasted strongly of fish sauce and vinegar.

In the bread department, MyMy’s baguette is one of the best in the city and comparable to Trung Nyguen. Size wise, the baguette is bigger than Kim Anh and Trung Nyguen Compared to Saigon Deli, MyMy is more expensive, though price is moot because the latter adds more vegetables, meat and pate into their subs. MyMy’s sub has more meat than Trung Nyguen, Thi Thi and Kim Anh’s cold cut sub. Flavour and texture wise, I do prefer Saigon Deli’s assorted meats over MyMy, Trung Nyguen and Kim Anh. For pate, MyMy ranks higher than Kim Anh and Saigon Deli but lower than My Tho BBQ, Trung Nyguen, and Thi Thi. For vegetables, I prefer the sweet pickled carrots at Trung Nyguen, Thi Thi, and Kim Anh than MyMy. I also favour the daintiness of the cucumber slices from Thi Thi and Trung Nyguen over MyMy’s quartered pieces.

MyMy food taste more homemade than the other banh mi stores, as the flavours are simple and wholesome. It’s always nice to try something new and if you like assorted subs, I would give this place a go. Another reason to check them out is their more unique dishes.

One interesting item on the menu that I haven’t seen before is the Mixed Rice Paper ($8.50), a popular dish in Vietnam. For vegetarians looking for a good sub – try the veggie version. Wtigley said the bean curd makes for a particularly good vegetarian sub or salad roll. Either way, if you are looking for something different, you won’t be disappointed.

Photo credit: Will Tigley

French

Eden Bistro – Friday Takeout

Eden Bistro is offering themed takeout options on Friday. I was taken with the latest offering – Parisian street food. For this post, let’s listen to “Sous le Ciel de Paris” by Pomplamoose, featuring Ross Garren.

I ordered L the Jambon Beurre ($18) and for myself, the Country Terrine ($18). For wine pairings, there was an option for a red, rosé or a white from Loire Valley. I picked the Cabernet Franc ($25).

I didn’t end up drinking the wine I purchased from Eden because I still had half a bottle of red from the previous night. Unlike my father, if my wine is older than two days, I’ll put it in the fridge to use for cooking. When my father drank alcohol, he would nurse the same bottle of wine over the course of a month. He wouldn’t refrigerate it either. I was curious so one day I tried a glass of my father’s wine. Let’s say just I know why it took a month to drink the whole bottle. Not even a spoonful of sugar would make that medicine go down.

Our baguette came with a generous side of fresh pickles and homemade potato chips. These pickles were something special! Cut into long, floppy segments, the flesh was juicy while the skin retained its crispness. The pickles were sour and tart, with a summery melon-like flavour.

I took a bite out of L’s baguette. It wasn’t until halfway through his meal that L realized it was butter, and not cheese like he initially thought. I was impressed with the thick slice of silky butter. The ham was thinly shaved but heaped high. I enjoyed the saltiness of the ham because it accentuated the quality of the butter and bread.

The slab of country terrine was generously sized and rich in flavour. Each bite of the terrine offered a different flavour and texture than the next. I like how the creaminess of the mayonnaise, terrine and whole grain mustard melded against the crusty, chewy baguette. The purple micro greens were gorgeous and added a little peppery zip to each mouthful.

Eden Bistro created a fantastic evening retreat with its whimsical Parisian theme. The food took me back to my first trip to Paris, twenty years ago. With the new government restrictions in place, L and I will be looking for new takeout adventures. If you know of any fun takeout themes, give me a holler.

Carribean

Zion Soul Food – Caribbean and African Soul Food

Zion Soul Food is a catering business that specializes in authentic Caribbean and African soul food. For 15 years, the owner, chef and founder of Zion Soul Food – Randy Agyei – cooked in Toronto. Last year, he decided to leave the “Centre of the Universe” because he wanted to bring good food to Calgary. For this post, let’s play “Soul Man” by Sam and Dave.

I first heard about Zion from foodiegyal7. She’s posted about this place on her Instagram account a number of times. Foodiegyal is really picky about her Caribbean food, so if she raves about the food, it must be good.

If that wasn’t enough to make me try the food, Dianathefoodie recommended Zion Soul Food. Diana joked she was going to lose her Nigerian citizenship if anyone found that she said Zion’s Ghanaian jollof tastes better than most of the Nigerian jollof she’s tried in her life. After both Foodiegyal17 and Diana’s ringing endorsement, I had to taste it for myself.

I sent a direct message on Zion’s Instagram and asked Randy what was on the menu for Friday. The feature was Ginger Jollof Rice and Suya Chicken ($20). Delivery for my neighbourhood was $10. If you live in the NE or the downtown core, delivery is only $5. Delivery for lunch is offered Thursday to Sunday. If you order from the catering menu, delivery is free with a minimum purchase of $100. Pro tip – both foodiegyal7 and 4jki recommend ordering from the catering menu versus the lunch special because you get more protein versus carbs. For payment, just e-transfer the amount to Zionsoulfood@gmail.com the day of.

Holy Batman. This food is unreal – it’s a game changer for our taste buds. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on all this flavour. Both L and I had a hard time describing what we tasted, just because everything was so unique to us.

I found the chicken incredibly moist and tender. The spices in the dry rub were so mouthwatering, it made my eyes pop with surprise. Foodiegyal17 is right. Zions food is high quality and deeply flavourful. Everyone needs to try Suya chicken.

The plantain looked like it was caramelized, the texture was gelatinous. To L, the plantain tasted a little like fried cornbread. I thought the plantain was an awesome balance of slightly sweet and savoury notes. I would order this again.

The jollof rice was chewy and fragrant, with a smoky flavour. The kwahu shito sauce was so unique – spicy, salty, with distinctive notes of fish and shrimp flavouring. I’d put that kwahu shito on everything.

I wasn’t sure if there was a proper process to eating the side of avocado. So in between bites of rice and chicken, I’d take a scoop of avocado, or a bite of raw onion and bell pepper. The corn was a winner – sweet and covered in a juicy, buttery sauce.

I’m eager to try some other Caribbean restaurants – such as Bellyfull (formerly Caribbean Choice), Krazy Jerk, and Food n Vibes. For a comprehensive list for all black-owned restaurants in Alberta, check out ashdoesfood’s Instagram account. Hitting the Sauce gives Zion Soul Food two fat thumbs up.

Cheap Eats · Mediteranean · Restaurants · Sandwiches

Ali Baba Kabob House

I wanted to give L a break from my banh mi obsession, so we stopped by Ali Baba Kabob House to pick up dinner. Ali Baba is one block away from L’s second favourite shawarma restaurant – Shawarma Knight. For this post, let’s listen to “My Type” by Saweetie.

If you look at the Google or Yelp reviews, you’ll notice that some customers who love Ali Baba like to diss Shawarma Knight. I was curious to see what the difference was between the two neighbouring businesses and the reasoning behind the animosity.

I ordered a Beef Donair (Regular, $8.99) and L a Chicken Shawarma (Large, $10.99). It’s a two-person team at Ali Baba. One person shaves the meat and then sears it on a grill and the other assembles the food. I noticed the meat is sliced thinner than Shawarma Knight and cooked on the grill for a longer time. The meat is put on top of a pita, which is placed on top of a bigger piece of flatbread.

Normally I prefer beef over chicken, but when I took a bite of L’s shawarma, I was pro chicken. The chicken was so flavourful and moist, and I could really taste the seasoning and spices. L noticed the sesame flavouring in the tahini was prominent.

My beef donair was tasty, the meat was smoky and nicely spiced. The pickles were so good – they were extra sour and tart. I liked the heat from the banana peppers and turnips, and the crunch from the cabbage and cucumbers. The vegetables were all finely minced and evenly distributed throughout the wrap.

Ali Baba sprinkles on the vegetables and lightly sauces their shawarma whereas Shawarma Knight is more generous with everything – the meats, vegetables and sauces. I think Ali Baba’s seasoning is excellent, as is the execution of the slicing and searing of the meat.

Which shawarma place is better? I think each have their own style, and what you end up liking is due to your personal preference. L favours Shawarma Knight and I appreciate the non-pedestrian seasoning in Ali Baba’s chicken shawarma. Pro tip – if you are a current Shawarma Knight fan and want to try Ali Baba, note that the portions are substantially smaller at Ali Baba. So if you have a big appetite, size up.

Burgers · Patio · Restaurants · Sandwiches

Sammie Cafe

I remembering hearing about Sammie Cafe when it first opened, shortly after the pandemic began. However, it wasn’t until I saw Dianathefoodie’s Instagram reel that I really took notice. The moment that sealed the deal for me was watching Diana’s mother balking at the price of her burger, yet begrudgingly crowning Sammie’s chicken sandwich the best she’s had in her life. For this post, let’s listen to “The Best” by Tina Turner.

L and I ordered what Diana’s mother recommended – Sammie’s Fried Chicken ($13) and a side order of the Sweet Potato Fritters ($7). When we returned home to eat, the food was still hot and fresh. 

The chicken burger was excellent. The toasted brioche bun was soft and squishy. The chicken cutlet was juicy and it tasted like it was marinated. The exterior was lightly battered and crispy. L liked that there wasn’t an over abundance of breading. He doesn’t like Wow Chicken because he finds the chicken too greasy and all batter. I love a big crunchy batter, but I can appreciate the subtle and balanced flavours in Sammie’s burger.

Photo credit: L

I found the Seoul sauce and lemon dijon mayo light and tangy. L normally picks out pickles from his burgers, but even he was a fan of the achara pickled cucumbers. This made me sad because normally I get to eat his discarded pickles. Pro tip – grab a napkin because this is a messy burger. As we ate, the sauces and coleslaw would drip and drop onto our plates.

We both enjoyed the sweet potato fritters. Shaped like a Tim Horton’s Timbit, each ball was crispy on the outside, slightly sweet and soft in the center. I didn’t find the fritter greasy or heavy. The scallion aioli was addicting- I loved the pungency and notes of what I thought was garlic.

Photo credit: L

For a great chicken sandwich, Sammie and Alumni rank as our favourite spots. Judging from our quick peek inside, Sammie would be a great place to dine-in once it’s safe to do so. For now, we will stick to takeout and perhaps lunch on their spacious patio.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Chinatown · Vietnamese

Trung Nguyen – Banh Mi

I found out Banh Mi Girl’s aunt owns Trung Nguyen in Chinatown. I used to eat here all the time, but for some reason (Thi Thi), I had forgotten about it. On Sunday, L and I were picking up frozen dim sum from Chuen May, so I stopped by next door to pick up some banh mi. Since I’m feeling celebratory, let’s listen to “Party Up” by DMX.

Trung Nguyen is cash only. Trung Nguyen is on DoorDash and Skip the Dishes, but if you can, come by to pick it up. Better yet, call ahead of time so you don’t have to wait around.

Trung Nguyen offers non-traditional subs, such as the Buffalo Chicken ($8), Curry Chicken ($8), Pork Riblet ($9) and Ginger Beef ($9). L ordered the Beef Sate ($9) and I stuck with my usual – the Cold Cut Combo ($6.50).

When I unwrapped my sub, I immediately noticed the bread was different from other banh mi shops. Trung Nguyen’s bread actually tastes like a French baguette. The exterior of the baguette has a dark gloss to it and crackles when you bite into it. Out of all the banh mi shops, Trung Nguyen is my favourite for the bread.

The sate beef is a light brown colour. L noted the peanut flavour was prominent. He thought his sub was really good. When I took a bite of his sub, the flavour of cilantro overwhelmed my tastebuds.

I like the proportions in my cold cut. All the ingredients blended in to create the perfect explosion of flavour. There was no dominant ingredient that stood out. For me, pate in a banh mi a must. I’m a fan of Trung Nguyen’s pate – it was saucy with enough earthiness to satiate my tastebuds.

The vegetables are perfect. The cucumbers were so fresh. I loved the tang of the pickled carrots. The rawness of the onions and jalapeño peppers gave the sub texture and a pungent bite.

Size wise, Trung Nguyen subs are smaller than Thi Thi, Saigon Deli, Banh Mi Y and especially My Tho BBQ. However, the perfectly balanced flavours and proportions makes up for what it lacks in size. The portion is ideal for a light lunch or a heavy snack.

The female owner is a real sweetheart. When I asked if they still sold their duck banh mi, she gave me her business card and told me to call her beforehand. She makes the duck herself, but it takes considerable prep time for her to prepare. I’ve tried the duck banh mi before – it is delicious and worth requesting.

If you are a die-hard Thi Thi fan like me, you can get around being disloyal. It’s not cheating if you visit Trung Nguyen on a Sunday because Thi Thi is only open Monday to Saturday. If you haven’t been, check them out.

Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Foreign Concept

My new Instagram friend – 4jki – is even more passionate about Vietnamese food than I am. Two of her favourite restaurants are Foreign Concept and Pure Modern Asian Kitchen. After seeing her numerous posts of takeout from Foreign Concept, I got “influenced”. For this post, let’s listen to “Where Is My Mind” by Pixies.

I ordered Bun Bo Hue (Beef & Pork Noodle Soup, $20), which came with two imperial rolls and an order of Banh Cuon (Vietnamese Steamed Crepes, $15). On the way back to our house, L stopped off to buy some Churros Bites ($9) from a food truck.

4jki loves Foreign Concept’s pork and shrimp imperial rolls so much, she eats them cold the next day for lunch. Each roll was still crispy, accompanied with big pieces of lettuce leaf, pickled vegetables, and fresh basil and mint.

I’m a fan of the Bun Bo Hue. I found the flavours in the broth fragrant and light. The white noodles were slippery and bouncy. The slices of beef were thick and tender to the tooth. I enjoyed the simple, clean flavours that stemmed from the raw onions and basil. The portion is big enough for two to share as an appetizer. Below is a picture of slightly more than the half portion. L is a light eater and I always take advantage of that fact.

I was surprised the beef balls were so juicy and springy. I found out that Foreign Concept blends pork and air into the meat mixture, which gives the beef balls its lighter texture. The bun bo hue is something special, I would order this again.

The Banh Cuon is a must order. The rice rolls were soft, filled with a savoury mixture of pork, shrimp, and wood ear mushrooms. The rolls are garnished with pork floss, Thai basil, bean sprouts and pickled carrots. I love the contrast between the crunchy sour vegetables, the sweetness from the sauce, and squishiness of the rice rolls. The Vietnamese sausage was yummy – the texture was nice and firm. This was my favourite dish of the three I tried.

I was really impressed with the subtle yet lively flavours in the bun bo hue and rice rolls. Foodkarma noted that Chef Duncan Ly’s food is well-balanced and the flavours are not in your face because of his fine dining background and culinary training.

I’m looking forward to ordering from Foreign Concept again. I’m excited I can get my banh cuon fix so close to home. Keep on eye on their Instagram page for new upcoming features.

Cheap Eats · Japanese · Restaurants

Koji Katsu

On Friday, I told L to pick the restaurant for our takeout. Usually when I ask him, I don’t mean it. I just want to see where he would eat if I did let him decide. L was craving food from Koji Katsu. For this post, let’s listen to “Drunk” by Elle King and Miranda Lambert.

Based on my last experience, I ordered Ebi Katsu ($17). My platter contained five deep-fried jumbo prawns. L ordered the Koji Special Mixed Katsu ($18), which has two prawns, tenderloin and two pieces of deep-fried cheese with pork. Each order comes with rice, miso soup, pickles, lemon, two sauces, mustard, and a cabbage salad.

Photo credit: L

Koji makes one of the best ebi katsu in town. The prawns were long and fat, juicy and crunchy. L was surprised Koji didn’t charge more for this dish. I wish Koji could do what he does to the price of prawns for wine. I’d save fat coin.

Photo credit: L

I tried L’s deep-fried mozzarella cheese and pork tenderloin. Despite the 11-minute ride back home, the mozzarella was still creamy and warm. The thin slice of pork added another subtle layer of flavour. This dish is best shared, just because of the pure decadence.

Photo credit: L

The pork was tender and meaty. The tenderloin was cooked perfectly. I could still taste the natural juices of the meat. The breading on the katsu seemed different from my past visit. The batter was softer but still crispy, and the crumbly texture reminded me of breading at Katsuten.

I love nibbling on the side dishes between bites of the katsu. The sourness of the pickles help to cut into the fattiness of the dishes. The miso soup was tasty, loaded with seaweed and strands of enoki mushroom. The large cabbage salad was refreshing. I particularly liked the way the cabbage was julienned; the cool, delicate texture was pleasant to bite into it.

Photo credit: L

L and I couldn’t finish our food. Even after I ate some of his food, there was a mozzarella stick and half his rice leftover. I left behind an ebi and just under a quarter of my rice. When I reheated our food the next day, it was still delicious.  

This third round of restrictions is really hard on restaurants. If you can, support local businesses. L and I will be eating out more often this month, in what I hope is our final lockdown. If I could name this month, it would be Eat, Pray and Love (your local restaurants).

Patio · Pizza · Restaurants

Rooftop Bar Simmons

I got my shot! To celebrate, I picked one of the safest patios I know – Rooftop Bar Simmons. I like the restaurant’s reputation for transparency during COVID-19, and their safety protocols in place to protect customers. For this post, let’s listen to “Shots” by LMFAO, featuring Lil Jon.

The rooftop itself is large. I noticed that the tables were spaciously distanced. I brought my own blanket to keep cozy, but at six o’clock, it was still plenty warm.

Charcut and Charbar do an excellent job hiring staff. Our server Mark was fun and interesting. After I picked a bottle of wine ($70, Miguel Torres, La Causa País, Itata Valley, Chile, 2016), he poured me a little to swirl, smell and taste. I wasn’t feeling it. I told Mark that I didn’t want to sample the wine because I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.  He said I was overthinking it and the whole purpose of trying the wine is to smell if the wine is off. That’s it, easy peasy. 

Photo credit: Karplop

I was so enamoured by the view of Bow River and the sun warming up my face, that I didn’t pay much attention to the wine. I found the wine easy drinking and non-offensive. With the good vibes and excellent service, I was already in the mood to celebrate. And everything tastes better with a view.

Photo credit: Karplop

When Karplop arrived, I let her pick the pizza. She ordered the Fun Guy ($29), a New York style 16” inch round pizza. Thank goodness she took some pictures. As L has observed, I’m not known for my photography. I actually hate taking pictures, and it shows. 

Photo credit: Karplop

The crust was airy and light, and it held up to the heavy three cheese layer and pile of mushrooms. The mushrooms were plentiful and sliced thin. I liked the crisp texture of the mushrooms and the buttery flavour. Karplop enjoyed the saltiness of the pizza and the use of truffle oil. This was a super delicious pizza. 

For a view, nice wine, excellent service and a quality pizza, you can’t go wrong here. I’d like to return with L, so he could see for himself the awesomeness that is the Rooftop Bar Simmons. If you know of any other rooftop gems, give me a shout.

17th Ave · Curry · Restaurants

Simply Irie Cafe – Caribbean Cuisine

I’ve only tried Caribbean cuisine in Toronto. Toronto is such a great city for eating out, just due to the sheer number of restaurants and variety of cuisines. In Calgary, I’m unfamiliar with the Caribbean food scene, so I rely on the expertise of @Dianathefoodie and @foodiegyal7. For this post, let’s listen to “S&M” by Rihanna.

Dianethefoodie recommended Simply Irie Cafe for the oxtail stew and spicy shrimp. She said as a first-timer, I had to try the oxtail because it is the gateway for Caribbean food. She also mentioned that the beef patty is delicious but the goat patty is even better. She didn’t find a big difference in taste between the two patties and the beef version was a dollar cheaper. Pro tip – if you order online, first time customers receive a 10 percent discount.

Photo credit: @dianethefoodie

I ordered a Spicy Beef Patty ($5.25), a Goat Patty ($6.25), Jerk Chicken (16.95) and Oxtail Stew ($23.95). I had a minor issue with ordering, and for my troubles, the owner gave me a complimentary Ackee & Saltfish patty ($7.95). Completely unnecessary but I’m glad she did, because it is one of the best things I’ve eaten in 2021. I don’t think I would have tried ackee and saltfish unless someone recommended it to me.

When I left the restaurant, I noticed the heaviness of the bag. There was enough food for three people. When I got into our car, L commented on how good the food smelled.

The pastry in the patties is phenomenal. The patties look thin but when you bite into it, you can taste a million light, crisp layers. Each patty was still warm. The beef patty was the most mild in flavour whereas the goat had a noticeably stronger flavour and aroma. I loved the subtle saltiness of the fish. Out of the three, my favourite was the saltfish, followed by the goat and then the beef.

Our food was still piping hot. L liked how much meat was on the chicken. Judging from the size, Simply Irie uses big birds. The sauce was lovely, though I couldn’t pick out the seasoning and spices. Simply Irie version taste nothing like the jerk chicken I make at home. I’m a big fan of the peas and rice. I expected green peas but it turns out, “peas” is a Caribbean term to describe kidney beans or black eyed peas. The beans infused the rice with a homey earthiness.

Photo Credit: L

This was my first time trying oxtail stew. Stems of thyme were entangled among the glistening pieces of oxtail and potatoes. My container was filled with meaty chunks of tender meat. To me, oxtail taste like a hybrid between a beef rib and tendon. I liked nibbling around the bone to get to the gelatinous bits. The gravy was saucy, a little sweet, with a buttery aftertaste.

Photo credit: L

I thought the prices were very reasonable given the portions, quality, and location. I actually think the entrees at Simply Irie offer more value than some of their neighbouring restaurants on 17th Ave. When life gets back to normal, I would love to dine inside or out on their patio.

Give this restaurant a try. I’m already planning on order takeout again. I want to get the Spicy Shrimp ($23.95), Jerk Chicken Wings ($15.95), Chicken Soup ($9.99), and of course, more Jamaican patties. Hitting the Sauce gives Simply Irie two thumbs up.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Deli · Restaurants · Vietnamese

My Tho BBQ – Banh Mi

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

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

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

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

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

The sate beef reminded me a little of roast beef. I’ve never had a beef sate with the meat sliced so thin. The beef wasn’t heavily coated in a sauce, but it was still really tasty. L liked the addition of peanuts, which were dry and sweet. The portion of homemade butter mayonnaise was generous. If you don’t like mayonnaise, make sure to tell the staff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sukiyaki House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheap Eats · Pizza · Restaurants

Red Swan Pizza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17th Ave · French · Seafood

Pigeonhole

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: K-Pop

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

Photo credit: K-Pop

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

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

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

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

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

Kim Anh Vietnamese Submarines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Deli · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Banh Mi Nhu Y – Assorted Sub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheap Eats · Fast Food · Restaurants

Shawarma Knight – Beef Donair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Deli · Vegetarian

Saigon Deli – Assorted Meat Sub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eat Crow Snack Bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Pizza · Restaurants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chinese · Restaurants

Toi Shan – Chinese takeout

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

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

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

Photo credit: Iatehere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bakery · Dessert · French · Restaurants

Le Picquenic and Peasant Cheese – Valentine’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chinese · Fusion

Respect the Technique – Lunar New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newcastle Pub – Wing Night

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

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

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

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

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

I have to admit, hot wings ($3.50, $1.50 for a side of ranch) taste much better than the salt and pepper. The hot sauce had a nice heat to it and a pleasant vinegary tang. On this day, the wings were extra meaty.


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

Mexican · Restaurants

Con Mi Tacos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Curry · Japanese · Restaurants · Tonkatsu

Katsuten – Tonkatsu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheap Eats · Mediteranean · Sandwiches

Shawarma Palace – Beef Donair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17th Ave · Burgers · Sandwiches

Alumni Sandwiches – Hot Chicken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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