Dessert · Patio · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

River Cafe – COVID-19 dine-in edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Karplop

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

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

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

Beer · Burgers · Patio · Pubs · Restaurants

Bitter Sisters Brewery – COVID-19 dine-in edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ke Charcoal Grill- COVID-19 dine-in edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fusion · Italian · Japanese · Restaurants

Carino – COVID-19 dine-in edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Beer · Restaurants

Two House Brewing – COVID-19 dine-in edition

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

Photo credit: Two House Brewing Co.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two House Brewing Co’s safety standards.

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

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Patio · Restaurants

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

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

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

Photo credit: Inner City Brewing Company

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

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

Photo credit: Inner City Brewing Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burgers · Pizza · Restaurants

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Karplop

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

Photo Credit: Karplop

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Karplop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Italian · Pizza · Restaurants

Azzurri Pizzeria – COVID-19 dine-in edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Beer · Burgers · Patio · Restaurants

Annex Ale Project – COVID-19 dine-in edition

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

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

Photo credit: Annex Ales

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Annex Ales

Happy Hour · Restaurants · Seafood

A1 Bodega Cafe – COVID-19 dine-in edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

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

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

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

tempura

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

udon

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

special

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

hot roll

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

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

Sushi

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

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

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

dessert

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

empur

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

Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

River Cafe – COVID-19 dine-in edition

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

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

champagne

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

Oysters

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

Oyster 2

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

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

pate

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

toast

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

Tenderloin 1

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

Tenderloin 2

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

dessert

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

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

Chinese · Restaurants · Seafood

Sun’s BBQ – COVID-19 dine-in edition

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

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

SUn's

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

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

great pic crab

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

crab 2

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

crab leg

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

rice

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

chicken

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

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

Fusion · Restaurants · Vegetarian · Vietnamese

Pure Kitchen & Bar – COVID-19 takeout edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pho

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

salad

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

 

 

Burgers · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Charbar – COVID dine-in edition

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

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

char outside

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

wine

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

menu

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

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

ceviche

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

chip

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

chip

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

salad

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

close up burger

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

half burger

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

fries

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

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

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Chinatown · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Paper Lantern – COVID-19 dine-in edition

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

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

pina
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

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

room
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

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

Break even
Photo credit: Paper Lantern

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

shot
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

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

skewers

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

skewer single
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

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

pork bowl

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

rice bowl better
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

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

Saturn
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

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

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

Calgary Court Restaurant – COVID-19 dine-in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Taste of Asia

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

grapefruit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve actually never tried General Tso Chicken ($10) before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The batter was sweet and sticky. This dish, as well as everything else we ordered, arrived piping hot and immaculately presented.

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

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

 

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

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – COVID-19 dine-in edition

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

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

sparkling

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

sake glass

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

sake

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

sashimi

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

bite

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

beer

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

Tempura

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

mushroom

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

platter

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

ebi

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

shrimp

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

scallop

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

second order

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

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

Lucky Place – COVID-19 dine-in edition

 

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

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

menu 2

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

Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 4.15.43 PM

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

eef

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

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

Chowmein

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

Small Bowl noo

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

fish noods

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

noods two

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

congee

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

menu 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ambience

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

sanitizer

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

Menu

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

East Coast

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

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

Best wcoast

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

Fried Oysters

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

calamari

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

Tacos

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

taco close up

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

Food

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

close up fried oyster

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

plate oysters

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

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

Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi · Vietnamese

Cooking Mama YYC – COVID-19 edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: CookingMamaYYC

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: CookingMamaYYC

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

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

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

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

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

Cheap Eats · Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood

Takumi Sushi – COVID-19 edition

My friend Aga just told me that she’s moving to Lethbridge. Dammit! That’s bad news for me as she’s been my number one pandemic buddy. I keep losing my friends to different cities. For this post, let’s listen to “Real Friends” by Camila Cabello.

Last Thursday, Aga treated me to a sushi feast from Takumi Sushi. We ordered: Miso Soup ($2.25); Tako Nigiri (raw octopus, $2.50); Aburi Salmon Sushi (grilled salmon, $2.95); Aburi Hotate Sushi (grilled scallop, $3.25); Tuna Maki ($4.95); Salmon Maki ($4.95); Dynamite Roll ($6.25); Mango California Roll ($9.95); and a Pink Lady Special Roll ($12.95). As you can tell, I didn’t fuss over plating the food because I wanted to eat right away.

plaatter

My friend Feedmeyyc recommended the aburi sushi. The smoky flavour in the aburi salmon and hotate came on strong. The scallops were a good size and silky smooth. The rice was cooked well but a touch sweet for me.

callo

The spicy heat in the jalapeno on top of the salmon wasn’t overpowering. I thought the rice ratio to salmon was proportional. I could eat each piece of aburi in two clean bites.

salmon heat

Feedmeyyc also recommended the spicy salmon roll. This roll was a winner – the salmon and tempura mixture was sweet, spicy, soft and crunchy. I’d order this roll again.

salmon

The Pink Lady Special Roll ($12.95) has a lot going on. Instead of nori, the roll is wrapped in soy paper, deep fried and drizzled with spicy mayo sauce. The filling consists of red tuna, asparagus, cream cheese, jalapeno, and cucumber. The dominant flavour was the cream cheese, which was heavy and thick.

pink lady

All the ingredients in the dynamite roll tasted fresh. The tempura shrimp was plump and still crunchy, accented by a deliciously unhealthy smear of Japanese mayonnaise, avocado and cucumber.

platter two

I found the sauce on the Mango California Roll sweet. The mango was ripe and smooth. I could see this roll being popular with kids or people into non traditional sushi flavours.

mango

I read online that Takumi is operated by the same owners of Nami Sushi. I haven’t verified this rumour because it’s more fun to speculate than to confirm it as a fact. I noticed a similarity in the names and ingredients of specialty rolls, pricing and end product. Both restaurants serve up affordable maki rolls that are light on sushi rice and heavy on the fillings. Takumi offers a 15% discount if you pick up your order and pay by debit. Nami Sushi gives customers a 10% discount for pick up orders.

rolls

Thanks Aga for treating us. I’m already planning our next feast. Perhaps I’ll order from Nami so we can do comparative analysis to Takumi Sushi.

Takumi Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Japanese · Restaurants

Koji Katsu – COVID-19 edition

L asked me which restaurant I decided on for our Saturday night dinner. I picked Koji Katsu because this business unfortunately opened up when COVID-19 officially shut down our social lives. For this post, I’d like to dedicate a song to L as he’s been my rock throughout this worldwide crisis. If there was an award for best pandemic husband of the year, he would win it.

In Tokyo, one of the most memorable meals I ate was at Hasegawa, a Michelin recommended restaurant. The tonkatsu batter was light and buttery, the pork so decadent it melted on my tongue. I bought the leanest and cheapest set. For this orgasmic experience, my meal was only 1,000 Yen, which is roughly $13 CAD.

Screen Shot 2020-05-17 at 8.24.48 AM

At Hasegawa and other tonkatsu restaurants I visited, I noticed that there are several different grades of pork. There was an emphasis placed on the fattiness and breed of the pork. L was as blown away as I was from tonkatsu at Hasegawa, but he found the richness from the pork fat difficult to digest. He also find oily meats disgusting. Lucky for him, Koji Katsu uses leaner cuts of pork.

Screen Shot 2020-05-17 at 8.25.00 AM

L and I picked up our order. When we drove home, I could feel the heat permeate from the bags. Even though our ride back was only ten minutes, I cursed every single red light that prevented us from eating our food at the optimal temperature. When we finally made it home, I ripped open the containers as fast as I could to preserve the integrity of the batter.

hire

I ordered the Hire Katsu ($15, 220 grams), the Koji Special Mixed Katsu ($16.50) and a side of curry sauce ($3). Our dishes came with sides of kimchi, pickles, cabbage salad and miso soup.  We received a lot of food. If you have a big appetite, you are going to love the generous portions.

cheese

The first dish we tackled was the cheese katsu. I was surprised there was so much mozzarella in each piece. I think this dish would be best ordered at the restaurant because cheese cools down so quickly. The texture of the mozzarella reminded me of squeaky cheese curds. The cheese had began to solidify but the batter still offered a satisfying crunch.

ebi

The jumbo prawn was the star of the show. Man oh man. I’m going to quote Lovegastrogirl, who nailed a description of the mouthfeel of a good piece of shrimp. The prawn itself was long and large, with ‘that nice, plump bursty feel.’ If you are a prawn lover, you must try the Ebi Katsu ($15, five pieces).

platter

The pork used in the Hire Katsu was good quality meat. The tenderloin was lean but still juicy. If you eat a lot of Alberta pork, you’ll know what I mean. The meat was almost fluffy in texture with a clean taste. L prefers Alberta tenderloin to the fatty cuts I enjoyed in Japan.

ire piece

My only minor quibble is that I found that some of my rice was overcooked. L said his rice was fine. I enjoyed the deep spices in the curry and it helped to hide the clumps of rice. I would order the curry again.

sides

The sides and condiments deserve a shout out. I loved the smear of hot mustard and lemon, both of which helped cut into heaviness of the meats. I enjoyed the salty sweetness of the miso soup and the little pieces of puffed tofu, seaweed and enoki mushroom. L liked the sesame dressing for our cabbage, which I found nutty and heady.

coleslaw

L and I are looking forward to our next visit. When the COVID-19 restrictions lift, I can see this little restaurant being popular with the downtown foodie crowd. Hitting the Sauce gives Koji Katsu two fat thumbs up.

Koji Katsu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese · Restaurants

True World Grocery Store – COVID-19 edition

Have you every eaten an excellent bowl of instant ramen? In Japan, I could buy an instant version of an award winning ramen made by Nissin Foods and a Michelin-starred restaurant. Back home in Calgary, I noticed the ramen from T&T Supermarket and E-Mart isn’t nearly as good as the Nakiryu and Nissin ramen I bought at 7-Eleven.

L agrees with me. As a result, we buy our instant ramen at True World Foods, a grocery store that sells authentic groceries from Japan and take away lunches. For this post, let’s listen to “She’s Just My Style” by Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

True World sells a limited amount of freshly made sushi and sashimi. On our most recent visit, the special of the day was a plate of sushi and a bottled beverage for only eleven bucks. We bought the Coho Salmon Sushi ($10.99) and a Mixed Sushi Roll ($10.99).

salmon

The salmon was tender and fat with flavour. The mayonnaise offered a spicy kick, which helped to liven up the cold, thick mound of sushi rice. I found the portion surprisingly filling.

sushi

The mixed maki roll was filled with tuna, salmon, avocado, tobiko and Kiwi mayonnaise. Despite the fact the roll was made beforehand and eaten after a long car ride home, it was still one of the better rolls I’ve tried in Calgary. The tuna and salmon were so flavourful, it was obvious True World uses high quality seafood.

sushi piece

I only buy soba noodles ($7.99) if one of the ingredients is yam. Otherwise, I find the noodles too soft. I couldn’t tell the difference between the soba noodles I bought from True World and E-Mart. Both stores charge roughly the same price.

soba pack

I add a healthy squirt of wasabi to the dipping sauce (soba tsuyu), toss in the noodles, then top my bowl with nori, a sliced farm egg, green onions and cucumber. No matter how hard I try, my version isn’t nearly as tasty as the premade soba I bought from 7/11.

noodles

L and I tried a pack of ACE Cook Wonton Mein ($12.99). L informed me that Chinese  ramen is popular in Japan because ramen originated from China. I didn’t care for the wonton broth, I prefer miso or tonkatsu.

ramen pack

We tried this ramen with the seasoning included, a miso soup package, and the leftover broth from Con Mi Taco. The noodles were good –  thick and toothsome. I’d buy this pack again, but in a different flavour.

nood pull

I found the noodle texture of the ACE Cook Wonton mein superior to the Ace Cook Maru Uma Miso Ramen ($3.99) instant noodle cup.  The miso noodles were light and almost papery in texture. The broth was mild, the dominant flavour came from the sweet kernels of corn.

instant

When I cooked up the Daikoku Big Sauce Yakisoba with Spicy Mayo ($4.99), I added enoki mushrooms and a poached egg. I wouldn’t do this again because the extra ingredients watered down the yakisoba sauce.

Despite being too watery, the flavour of the sauce was still creamy and spicy. The noodles had a good chew to it. I’d buy the yakisoba noodles again.

Make sure you google the instructions on how to prepare the noodles because there is no English translation. Some of the packages include two or three seasoning packages, and in the case of the yakisoba and tempura soba noodles, there’s an order to follow procedure of draining the noodles and layering the seasoning.

When I made the Nissan Tempura Soba Noodles ($5.99), I mistakenly poured the hot water over the tempura cake. I should have added the cake after the noodles were cooked. Despite my error, this was still a killer bowl of noodles.

The broth was legit. The tempura, despite my blunder, had that same distinct flavour I experienced in Japan. The soba noodles were a tad light and lacked that bite I like. However, the flavour of the broth made this worth it. I drank every last drop, and I normally try not to drink the broth because of the fat and sodium.

Whenever L and I visit any Asian grocery store or bakery, he always buys mochi. He stated emphatically that True World sells the best mochi in Calgary. You can find several varieties in the freezer section.

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Here’s my final tip for you. If you show up two hours before the store closes, you get 10% off select sushi and sashimi. I hear from reliable sources that the sashimi in particular is stellar.

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Burgers · Dessert · Fusion · Restaurants · Vegetarian

Donna Mac – COVID-19 edition

Restaurant owners in Calgary and Brooks are dealing with excess food after the Alberta Government delayed Phase 1 of the province’s relaunch strategy. Despite the fact restaurants were already stocked, staffed and ready to go, these businesses can’t open until May 25th. Some owners are requesting reimbursement for the last minute reversal date of the opening date.

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Municipal politicians are encouraging residents to purchase takeout from these restaurants to help use up produce that would otherwise go to waste.  For a list of restaurants that were ready to open, visit Savour Calgary’s list.

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L announced that this long weekend, we were going to eat out at least twice. As I’m always eager to play the role of best supporting wife, I suggested several restaurants I wanted to try. For this post, let’s listen to “I Will Follow Him” by Little Peggy March.

One restaurant that’s been long on my wish list is Donna Mac. I called and requested curbside pickup. Customers can also order delivery available via DoorDash, though keep in mind when a delivery app is used, that company receives a hefty commission from the restaurant.

fries

The Mac Burger ($11) reminded me of L’s go-to spot in the city – Clive Burger. The patties oozed with the juices of the meat. The patty tasted like it was cooked over charcoal.  I enjoyed the thick, sticky layer of American cheese so much I scraped the leftover remnants stuck on the foil wrapper with my fries.

half big mac

I recommend adding the fries to the burger, as it adds a crunchy contrast to the softness of the patties and squishy bun. I preferred the smoked dijon aioli to McDonald’s Big Mac sauce. My favourite part of the burger was the smoky flavour of the beef and heavy handedness of the cheese.

chicken

Despite the ten minute drive home, the batter on the Fried Chicken Sandwich ($11) was still crunchy. I liked the sweet tang and heat of the gochujang mayonnaise sauce. The slightly acidic pickles added a little taste of summer to the sandwich. I could taste and see the quality of the white chicken meat.

half chicken

I thought both burgers were a gourmet take on fast food, but with better ingredients and sauces. I don’t think I can eat at McDonald’s anymore, knowing what I know now.

burger

The fries ($4) were well-seasoned, skinny and crispy. The mouth feel of the potatoes reminded me of McDonald’s fries. Next time I order burgers from Donna Mac, I will request a side of the chicken burger sauce for my fries.

doughnut

For dessert, we ordered the daily made Donut ($5). The doughnut was soft and fluffy, rolled in a thin, crunchy layer of cinnamon and sugar. The lemon curd filling was bright and lemony, smooth and creamy. The next time I go to a party, I’m going to order half a dozen of these babies. I’m not a doughnut person, but Donna Mac’s version is so superb, I predict it’s going to win a future award in Avenue Magazine’s “best of” category.

side doughnut

I’m excited for this weekend. I can knock off a couple more restaurants off my wish list. Have any suggestions? Send me a message.

Donna Mac Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fusion · Japanese · Restaurants

Pop-up takeout @ One18 Empire – COVID-19 edition

There’s nothing quite like Japanese style fried chicken. When I saw an Instagram post of Kaede E Hirooka and Jonathan Chung‘s chicken leg karaage bento box, I knew I had to try it. For this post, let’s listen to “Hard Knock Life” by Jay Z.

To place an order, you have to send a direct message on Instagram to @respectthetechniqueyyc. You can choose from three pickup locations. Once you arrive, text your name, vehicle model and colour to the number provided to you. To adhere to safety regulations, your bag of food will be placed on the top of the car’s hood.

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Photo credit @respectthetechniqueyyc

L and I ordered from One18 Empire Restaurant location at the Calgary Marriott Downtown. We parked on the street directly across from Charcut Roast House. I was expecting a chaotic pickup. Instead, the process was straightforward and the lineup of cars moved quickly.

bento

Having spent a total of nine weeks in Japan, I’ve eaten my fair share of cold bento boxes. Is cold fried chicken better than freshly fried chicken? For me it depends on how important a crunchy batter is to you and if the chicken is properly seasoned. You can make any old chicken tasty if you deep-fry it. But when you eat cold chicken, you can’t hide behind a hot, crunchy batter. When I used to eat at KFC, if the chicken was cold it tasted like a congealed lump of seasoned lard.

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The first thing I noticed when I opened the takeout container was the intoxicating  aroma reminded me of my mother’s homemade fried chicken. The crispy skin tasted like it was glazed with a sweet seasoning. The meat itself was incredibly flavourful. The texture of the chicken was smooth and silky.

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Equally impressive are the sides. The macaroni was slippery, the light cream dressing was rich. The mortadella sausage from VDG added a pleasantly savoury dimension to the pasta salad. The sausage was so delicious, I would buy it.

This is the best coleslaw I’ve tried in Calgary. The combination of the crunchy, tangy vegetables with the Asian infusion of silky Chinese mushrooms and cilantro was genius. I hate cilantro and I still loved this salad.

The white rice was cooked perfectly – sticky but still firm. The cool temperature and simplicity of the rice was refreshing as it helped to cut into the richness of the macaroni salad and chicken.

3

I would order the karaage bento box again. I hope the chefs keep the same sides because the combination is outstanding. Hitting the Sauce gives @respectthetechniqueyyc and his team two fat thumbs up.

ONE18 EMPIRE Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

17th Ave · Bakery · Dessert · French · Mexican · Restaurants

Con Mi Taco, Black Sheep, and Wow Bakery – COVID-19 edition

Right before The City of Calgary declared a State of Local Emergency​, my friend Lovegastrogirl visited me for wine and snacks. Before she left, I sent her home with saffron lime pistachios from Ayoub’s Dried Fruits and Nuts, a bottle of my favourite wine that I discovered at Bar Von Der Fels, and a moisturizer she admired. For this post, let’s listen to “It’s Tricky” by Run DMC.

Lovegastrogirl surprised me last Friday night with a Beef Birria Taco Kit ($38) from Con Mi Taco and pastries. I’ve been wanting to try the birria ever since FoodKarma’s posted her hubby’s photos on Instagram.

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake

Our kit included a 2/3 pound of 18 hour chili braised beef chuck, ten freshly ground hand-pressed corn tortillas, lime wedges, onion garnish, mozzarella cheese, cilantro garnish, salsa morita, vegan jalapeño aioli and birria broth.

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake

The beef chuck was tender and saturated in flavour. We found the beef and broth so rich, that instead of dipping the whole taco into the broth, L and I just drizzled the sauce on the very top. The combination of the broth and sauces created a smoky, spicy profile. I’m really into Con Mi Tacos sauces – it’s more complex and creamy than what I’ve sampled in my trips to Mexico.

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake

I prefer the beef birria taco over al pastor because I like heavier, richer tasting meats. L stated while he enjoyed the birria, his all time favourite is al pastor.

guac

The Guacamole and Chips ($10) was a hit too. The dip was cool and creamy, with just the right amount of salt to make the flavour of the lime and avocado pop. I liked that we received so much dip, we ran out of chips before we finished the guacamole. Usually it’s the other way around because avocados are expensive.

nood pull

I took FoodKarma’s advice and used the leftover broth for Mexican ramen. The broth must be potent because it made a beefy bowl of noodles. Con Mi Tacos should consider selling their broth to customers to use at home. I would buy it.

bleubrrery

Lovegastrogirl also brought us pastries from Black Sheep and Wow Bakery. L and I shared the Blueberry Croissant ($4) and the Pan au Chocolat ($3.75). I was impressed with the flaky crisp shell and the big air bubbles inside the pastry.

half blueberry

The house made blueberry jam is delectable. I’d order this again and I don’t normally order pastries with fruit filling. I would buy this jam if Black Sheep ever bottles it up for sale.

crossiant

The pain au chocolate contained two sticks French Valrhona chocolate. Such a simple combination but when high quality chocolate and pastry is used, it’s a perfect pairing.

half chocolate

Black Sheep offers contactless delivery and pick up at their store. The stop is open every day except for Tuesday, from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

almond

Lovegastrogirl also bought us pastries from Wow Bakery. I knew beforehand that she was a fan of Wow Bakery because she bought a cake for the No Man’s Dinner at Moon Korean BBQ. Wow Bakery is piloting a free delivery system with no tip for orders $25 or more until June 15th.

onion

We tried a French baguette ($2.99), Sweet Almond Bread ($3.80), and an Onion Cheese Bread ($4.50). L crushed the almond bread. The onion cheese bread reminded me of my homemade pizzas. My favourite of the bunch was the French baguette from Black Sheep, which I used to make a sandwich the next day.

sandwich

L said if we were in prison, Lovegastrogirl’s generous gifts would make us her prison bitches. I agree. I’m no one’s bitch. Next Thursday is my turn to treat her. But how am I going to top her?

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Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

I’m not a competitive person, except when it comes to hosting parties. Since I can’t host anymore, I’m going to bring the party to Lovegastrogirl. I’ve been scouring her Instagram profile to get clues on what would appeal to her.

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Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

As you can see from her posts, she’s a complex person. She has an affinity for finer things in life, like views from expensive tourist spots, over ordering at fancy restaurants, and consuming grossly overpriced cocktails. But she also has a soft spot for fast food, Cluck N Cleaver, and dazzling sweaters.

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Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

If you have any suggestions on what to get her, send me a message. I have until Thursday to come up with a plan. Thanks again Lovegastrogirl, you really know how to spoil a friend.

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Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

Wow Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chinatown · Chinese · Dim Sum · Restaurants

Dim Sum at the Chinese Cultural Centre Cuisine – COVID-19 edition

My friend Karol is busy helping restaurants gain more exposure during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, she worked with YYC Takeout Specials and helped to raise $3,000 for families and children in need.

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Now that spring is finally here, let’s listen to something weather appropriate. For this post, I pick “Violin Sonata No. 5, Op. 24” by composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

When I saw Karol’s dim sum post from the Chinese Cultural Centre Cuisine (CCCC), I started to salivate. Look to the dish at the bottom left. Holler! What huge balls! I asked her if I called, would the staff be able to communicate with me in English? Karol said yes, but if I was worried, I could text my order to the manager. I took her up on the offer. My Chinese pronunciation is terrible as I can’t hit the right tones.

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Unfortunately, the day I called the restaurant was slammed hard. By the time the manager responded, L and I had already left Chinatown. Karol felt terrible and insisted on treating me to dim sum. I told her I would only accept her generous offer if in exchange, she tried some of the frozen dim sum I bought from Chuen May Food Product.

dim sum feast

I was impressed with the takeout dim sum. The Har Gow (steamed shrimp dumplings) was fantastic. The shrimp was plump and had a nice snap to it. When it comes to the har gow “skin”, I am particular. Too often, restaurants serve over steamed har gow, resulting in a damp skin that splits apart when you pick it up with your chopsticks. I like it when the wrapper is a touch dry and has some resistance to it. The wrapper was perfect – firm and slightly sticky.

hagow

The Siu Mai (steamed pork, shrimp and roe dumplings) was enormous. I’ve never seen a meatier sui mai. The wrapper was firm yet silky, and thick enough to stand proportionally against the ginormous meatball.

siu mai

Good siu mai has a unique texture and flavour. The pork and shrimp mixture was pleasantly crunchy from the water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. The shrimp and pork mixture was juicy and so flavouful. I’m going to ask Karol if the restaurant will sell me their dim sum frozen, so I can make it at home. Freaking fabulous. This is one of CCCC’s best dishes.

sui mai 2

The Green Peppers Stuffed with Shrimp Paste is a must order.  I counted three to five shrimps per pepper. The shrimp itself was crunchy with a bouncy texture to it.

green pepper 2

The green pepper was still firm, crisp and sweet. I could taste charred smoky flavour in the black bean sauce. Despite the cilantro, it was still a winning dish.

Green pepper

The Lo Bak Go (pan-fried turnip cake) was thickly sliced and soft. When I bit into the cake, the shreds of the moist pieces of turnip fell apart. The tiny bits of dried shrimp and pork gave a surprisingly amount of umami.

turnip

L said he wasn’t expecting the BBQ Pork Pastry to be so sweet.  I prefer eating this dish cold because the pastry becomes drier and more crumbly and the sweetness becomes less pronounced.

pastry

Dim sum is the ultimate comfort food for me. This feast reminded me of all the weekly get together my mother would organize for our family and friends. Boss Lady is notorious for over ordering at restaurants.  I have to say, she is the ultimate hostess. Generous and hospitable to the point of over the top, Roman-style gluttony.

inside pastry

I can’t wait to have dim sum again. I plan to order the sui mai, har gow, and green peppers with stuffed shrimp paste. I also want to try the lo mai gai (mini sticky rice), steamed shrimp pork and chive dumplings, shrimp rice roll, and the eggplant stuffed with shrimp paste. I’m also going to ask for a side of yellow and red Chinese mustard.

plaste

You know how Zoolander couldn’t turn left on a runway? I can’t plate food for the life of me. Despite my disability, you can still see how delicious the dim sum is at CCCC.  Give it a try. I know I’m going to order again. Hitting the Sauce gives The Chinese Culture Centre Cuisine two fat thumbs up.

The Cultural Centre Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fast Food · Fusion · Hawaiian · Restaurants · Seafood

Pacific Poke – COVID-19 edition

On Tuesday, I wanted a break from cooking. I was yearning for something different, like Ethiopian from Yegna Restaurant on International Avenue. However, a little voice inside my head asked me, “Is it wise to travel so far? What would Dr. Hinshaw say?” I pictured Dr. Hinshaw’s kind face and I could hear her soft-spoken voice telling me to order delivery or pick up food from a restaurant closer to home. I guess I’m feeling pretty lonely if I’m having imaginary conversations with my medical hero. For this post, let’s listen to “Still D.R.E.” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.

I was still craving something out of the ordinary, so I called Pacific Poke  for pick up. L and I both ordered a large build your own poke bowl ($16), which included three proteins and four toppings. When I carried the food back into the house, I was surprised by the weight of the bowls. Pacific Poke doesn’t skimp on the portions.

pacific poke

We both chose traditional sushi rice, ahi tuna, wild salmon and crab. L topped his bowl with a double order of seaweed salad, sesame miso hummus, ginger jicama, avocado nori (+$1.50) and masago (+$1.50). I picked a double order of seaweed salad, cucumber kimchi, ginger jicama, and masago (+$1.50).

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Posted without permission from Pacific Poke.

Pacific Poke serves sustainable seafood. The cubed salmon was a bright orange colour, richly flavoured and smooth in texture. The crab was creamy and when I poked at the mixture, it came apart in fluffy strands. The ahi tuna was firm and fresh. L and I were both impressed with the fish. The masago was worth the extra charge – the fish roe provided a salty pop of the sea.

Lieghotn

L and I thought we could detect a spicy heat in the house ponzu sauce. The amount of sauce was just enough to bind all the toppings to the seafood and rice. The white rice was firm, slightly warm, with a pronounced hint of vinegar. We were both surprised the rice was so good, considering Pacific Poke isn’t a traditional Japanese restaurant. I’m curious to see if the brown rice is as well-made as the sushi rice.

poke me

I liked all the toppings I picked. The seaweed was crunchy and tangy. The jicama tasted like a Korean pear and added a sweet, refreshing crunch. I took a bite of L’s avocado nori and hummus. The avocado was smooth and tart, the seasoning reminded me of guacamole. I think the hummus he chose would have paired well with the more non-traditional ingredients, like quinoa, corn salsa, chicken or vegetarian proteins. One issue with making your own bowl is that unless you know what you are doing, some of your choices may not pair as well as Pacific Poke’s chef inspired bowls.

poke mixed

I haven’t tried all the poke restaurants in Calgary, but so far Pacific Poke is my favourite. The quality is superb and the ratio of protein to rice to topping is proportional. When we return, I’d like to try a dish off the chef inspired menu, such as The Main or The Cali. Hitting the Sauce gives Pacific Poke two fat thumbs up.

Pacific Poke Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – COVID-19 takeout edition

Hot diggity damn! Sukiyaki House reopened for pick up and delivery! When I saw FoodKarma’s post on her recent pandemic meal, I knew I had to order the exact same thing. That way, I could bum off her husband’s photos. For this post, let’s listen to “Mad World” by Gary Jules.

I ordered a bucket of Japanese beer ($30), which included an Asahi bucket, six beers, and two glasses. L was thrilled and said he was going to keep the glasses for our bar he’s designing for our house.

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Photo credit: @realbuntcake

The Hitachino Nest White Ale from Kiuchi Brewery was light with a pleasant banana-like flavour to it. This is everything I want in a beer – easy drinking and refreshing.

kitachno Nest Kiuchi Brewery

Despite the 15 minute ride back home, the skin on the chicken karaage ($12) was still crunchy. The meat was juicy and it tasted like it was marinated beforehand. The lemon aioli added a brightness to this dish. The karaage is cheaper than a plate of wings at a pub, and triple the amount of meat and crispy skin goodness. I would order this again.

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake

The chirashi for two ($50) is value packed and brimmed full of precious edible jewels. Our meal set included two miso soups and two containers of potato salad. This is hands down the best chirashi I’ve tried in Calgary.

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Photo credit @therealbuntcake

The chirashi was studded with so many colourful treasures. Soft slices of yellow tamago, shredded tofu, orange pearls of fish roe, sweet, brown mushrooms, a plum-like condiment, and green asparagus tips that were so fresh, it tasted like spring.

chirashi

The rice itself was flawless. Each grain was firm with a bit of a chew to it. The balance of vinegar to sugar was spot on. Whoever made the rice nailed it. I can’t remember the last time I had sushi rice that was this stellar.

mix

I enjoyed all the seafood but there were a few pieces that stood out. The fresh crab was sweet and juicy. The scallops were buttery in texture and delicate. The ahi tuna was soft and firm, with a fresh, fatty flavour. The ebi was delightfully crunchy and sweet.

akeout

When I was eating at home, I could picture myself sitting at the restaurant. I felt normal again. I went to bed with a huge smile plastered on my face and I had one of the best sleeps since COVID-19 hit Alberta. Hitting the Sauce gives Sukiyaki House’s new takeout menu two fat thumbs up. Thanks for giving me a taste of normalcy again. Arigato!

Sukiyaki House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mexican · Restaurants

Shelter’s Taco Pop-up Event – COVID-19 edition

Usually, I only check out a new restaurant if it’s recommended to me by someone I trust, such as FoodKarmaBlog, Loaf2go, missfoodie, and lovegastrogirl. When I saw FoodKarmaBlog’s post on birria (spicy Mexican stew) from chef Daniel Ramon of Alforno, I took notice. Damn, that’s a beautiful stew!

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Photo credit @therealbuntcake

A week later,  I saw on Instagram that Daniel Ramon, Mikko Tamarra, and Andrew Ocasion were putting together a taco pop-up event at Shelter. L’s most favourite food in the world is al pastor, so I booked my order before they sold out. For this post, let’s listen to Big Pun’s “Still Not a Player”.

Our kit ($32) included ten hand pressed tortillas, 300 grams of al pastor, salsa verde, salsa roja, and generous amount of pineapple, cilantro, onions, and limes. When I went to pick my order up, the entire restaurant smelled like a taco stand in Mexico. All I needed was a beer, preferably not Corona, some sunshine, and I would be transported back to happier times.

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Photo credit @therealbuntcake

To make his tortillas, Tamarra brings in his own corn, prepares the corn through a nixtamalization process, grinds it, and then cooks each tortilla himself. That is a hell of a lot of work, but it was absolutely worth the effort. He nailed it. Cupped in my hand, the tortilla felt thick and soft. The tortilla smelled fragrant and tasted like the authentic stuff in our past travels.

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Photo credit @therealbuntcake

The al pastor was excellent. The pork was so juicy and flavourful. I loved the seasoning and the flavourful charred bits. I thought I could detect a little smokiness in the meat. I could taste the labour of love that went into this meal.

taco 3

The two salsas were very different from each other. The vegan jalapeño aioli was spicy with a lingering heat. The salsa morita was richly flavoured, tangy, with a hint of chipotle. L was happy Ramon included pineapple, as he doesn’t like al pastor without it. For me, pineapple doesn’t make it or break it.

taco 2

This taco kit was not only delicious, but it was inexpensive too. We would pay the same price in Cabo.  I heard through the grapevine that there might be a second taco pop-up event, this time featuring birria. I wholeheartedly endorse what this talented taco trio is bringing to Calgarians. We need a taste of Mexico to cheer us up. Hitting the Sauce gives Shelter’s taco pop-up event two fat thumbs up.

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

Italian · Restaurants · Special Occasion

Cotto Italian – COVID-19 edition

L and I are eating out more frequently to support our favourite restaurants during the COVID pandemic. On Sunday, we ordered a three-course takeout meal from Cotto Italian Comfort Food . For $29 a person, we were given a large Caesar salad, two slices of Parmesan garlic toast, a big pan of porcini truffle mushroom risotto with grana cheese, and two pots of tiramisu.

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When I saw that Cotto was making risotto, I instantly thought of a scene from Big Night, when an American woman orders seafood risotto and fails to understand the tradition and craftmanship behind the dish. Upset that the risotto doesn’t look as how she expected, her husband suggests she order a side of spaghetti and meatballs. For this post, let’s listen to “Oh Marie” by Louis Prima.

Cotto is offering 30% off all their wines. I asked Fiona, the owner and wife of Chef Giuseppe, for a wine that would pair with the food. She recommended 2016 Giuseppe Campagnola Ripasso della Valpolicella Classico Superiore ($42). I found the wine smooth and silky. L thought it was well-balanced and an easy to drink wine. I agree, it was hard to cut myself off after my second glass.

wine

L doesn’t normally like Caesar salads but he’s a fan of Cotto’s version. He liked that there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of garlic. I loved the tartness of the sun-dried tomatoes and the feathery crumbs of grana cheese. The salad dressing was refreshing and helped cut into the richness of the risotto.

two dishes

The garlic bread was decadent, generously layered with butter, parmigiano cheese and garlic. The bread was crusty on the outside and the crumb – the inner part of bread –  was soft and delicate.

pan risoto

I wasn’t expecting such a large portion of risotto. We had enough for lunch the next day. When I lifted the risotto from the pan, I could see the fine strands of cheese stretching out like a cobweb. The grain was cooked to an al dente, deeply infused with the flavour of porcini mushrooms and truffle.

plate

The smell and taste of the truffle wasn’t overpowering. The porcini mushrooms were silky smooth but there was still a nice toothsome crunch to it. The best part of the risotto  was the contrast between the rich, earthy cheesiness and the greens.  The taste of the spring onions and the pea shoots made my tongue tingle with pleasure. This was the first risotto I’ve tried and would order again.

risotto plate

Along with risotto, this was the best tiramisu I’ve consumed. The soft layers of Kahlua espresso lady fingers and mascarpone cream were light and sweet. My favourite part of the dessert was the smell of the cocoa power and amaretto. It reminded me of a frozen dessert I would have as a child, only occasionally, because it was an expensive treat.

tiramisu

On our drive to Kensington, I was shocked to see the number of businesses that are permanently shut down. I feel like there’s a war going on, but instead of guns and the military, it’s an invisible virus wiping out livelihoods in Calgary.

support

Do you want to help the restaurant industry in Calgary? If you have the financial means,  YYCTAKEOUT is asking Calgarians to show their support by joining #YYCTakeoutTuesday and ordering a pick-up meal. If you can’t afford to eat out, consider retweeting or sharing an Instagram story from @yyctakeoutspecials.

Cotto Italian Comfort Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Pure Kitchen & Bar – COVID-19 edition

On day 11 of Calgary’s self-quarantine, it hit me so hard how my friends and colleagues were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that I stopped in the middle of work to take a break. I felt overcome with nervousness. L took one look at me and announced that after my walk, we were ordering take-out from Pure Kitchen & Bar. 

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake via Instagram.

This habit of dining out to cure my blues started when I was young. To cheer me up, my father and sister would take me to the newest restaurant. In their honour, let’s listen to their favourite opera, “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

L and I normally do not order a lot of food. I try to eat just enough that I’m comfortably full. However, in this pandemic, I’ve been livin la vida loca. We ordered so much that we had enough for another lunch and dinner.

shrimp one

I had initial concerns that the Salted Duck Yolk Shrimp Tempura ($14) wouldn’t travel well. When we returned home, the batter was still crunchy, but I didn’t mix the ingredients as I should have. Instead of tossing the shrimp in the tobiko mayo, I dipped each morsel into the sauce and then rolled the nori and scallion seasoning over it. The batter is crusty enough that it benefits from a creamy, even coating of mayo.

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake via Instagram.

L doesn’t normally like kimchi but even he was a fan of the Sate Grilled Beef Kimchi Fried Rice ($16). There was a heat to the dish but the spice wasn’t overwhelming. I could taste and smell the smoky wok fragrance in both the rice and beef. I would order this again.

kimchi

L raved about the Caramelized Chili Lemongrass Chicken ($17). I was impressed with the large tender chunks of chicken thigh and the deep flavours of lemongrass, charcoal and ginger.

lemongrass

L said the next time we order takeout from Pure, he wants to try the lemongrass chicken on vermicelli. I think I would prefer the rice, because the grains soaked up an aromatic sauce that reminds me of citrusy wood.

pork 1

The Braised Pork Cheek ($18) showed off the difference between Chef Lam’s cuisine and westernized Vietnamese restaurants. The flavour profile of the pork was satisfying, subtly sweet and sour from the pineapple glaze yet tart from the nuoc cham sauce. The meat itself was so tender it melted on my tongue.

pork

The Grilled Ultimate Feast Vermicelli ($19) was so large, it would suffice for two modest appetites.  I liked that each protein – the chicken, beef, shrimp and pork –  tasted like each individual item was cooked to their specification.  Usually when we order mixed meats on vermicelli at other restaurants, all the proteins blend into one and taste the same.

mixed grill

Pure isn’t the only restaurant changing with these COVID times. To adhere to the government’s regulations, several notable restaurants are turning into a one person show.  For example, the owner and chef of Cotto Italian, Brasserie Kensington, and Foreign Concept are offering a limited menu items for take-out. Working in isolation, each chef is able to minimize contact with the public.

Dr. Hinshaw, the Chief Medical Officer of Health in Alberta stated that customers won’t get sick from food delivery, and if they really want to ensure the food is safe, to take precautions. For example, when you received your order, put the food in your own dishes and wash your hands thoroughly before eating. Click here for further discussion on COVID and food safety.

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If you want to help out restaurants during this time, reach out to your city councillor, MLA and MP . As owners, employers, or customers, write to each level of government to tell them how important the service industry is to our community.  It is vital that we ask the government to help small businesses during and after the pandemic, before it’s too late.

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

Bars/Lounges · Chinese · Restaurants

Comedy Night at The Tea House – COVID-19 edition

I love stand-up comedy. I’m always rewatching Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari and Ally Wong’s Netflix shows. When I learned that The Tea House features Comedy Night every Thursday, I was keen to check it out.

red lantern

Following my coronavirus music playlist, I’m going to pick another song that soothes my nerves. For this post, let’s listen by Violin Concerto No.2 “Allegro” by composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

I arrived earlier than my friend and scored some seats at the bar overlooking the stage. From 6:00 – 7:00 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday, the The Tea House offers $7 wines, and deals on select appetizers.

menu

I wanted to try the Half Roast Duck ($35). Considering how much duck we received, this dish is well-priced. I was surprised to see the portion was big enough for a meal for two. The duck itself was silky and tender. This is higher quality duck than I get at my local Chinese BBQ joint.

duck

The butter lettuce was so perfect looking I felt guilty eating it. I requested extra lettuce, as Chen and I didn’t want to fill up with the steamed rice. The rice itself was properly made – each grain was firm yet sticky.

duck lettuce

The condiments were top-notch. We received fresh basil, ginger-scallion peanut sauce and a lovely seasoning salt. I really liked the salt concoction, as it was subtle and accented the flavour of the duck. I would order this again.

duck again
I planned on returning to try more of the food because I posted this review. However, I thought I’d post this early to spread the word about supporting local businesses through these tough economic times.

wine

If you can afford to, consider buying a gift certificate at your local eatery. I bought a $50 gift certificate for The Teahouse and I received two complimentary tickets for any upcoming comedy night. I plan on picking up a couple more gift certificates at Cotto Italian Kitchen, Sukiyaki House, and Pure Kitchen Asian Kitchen & Bar. Are there any restaurants you would like to support?

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PS – Thanks Chen for the meal, company and photos. Can’t wait for your next visit to Calgary. I’ll take you to one of Hitting the Sauce’s favourite restaurants.

The Teahouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Happy Hour · Italian · Restaurants

Happy hour at Pubblico Italian Kitchen – COVID-19 edition

On Tuesday, it was L and my first date anniversary. I wanted to have drinks at Bar Von Der Fels, but I couldn’t get us a table. I’ve joked before that I’m going to start making multiple reservations at Bar Von Der Fels and sell my spots to other customers. I bet I can make fat coin doing that. I suggested to L we try Pubblico Italian Kitchen. When L heard Pubblico has free parking, he was game.

menu

In light of these chaotic times, I’m going to continue playing music that relaxes me when I’m stressed out. For this post, let’s listen to Violin Sonata No.9 “Kreutzer” by composer Ludwig van Beethoven. My father pointed out this is a very emotional work and only the second movement could be described as relaxing.

As we drove along the street, I could see all the restaurant and shops were empty. Inside Pubblico, we were the only customers. However, by the time we left, three more parties arrived for dinner. I could overhear the other customers nervously joke about coronavirus.

wine

Pubblico offers a wicked happy hour. I’d go as far to say this restaurant offer one of the best deals in Marda Loop, Killarney and Richmond. I ordered a glass of the House White ($5). The white wine was crisp and non-offensive. L requested a pint of the Annex Forward Progress ($8.75).

cheese

I wasn’t in the mood to eat, but L insisted we order at least a couple of plates. I was curious about the “Burrata Bar” as I love fresh cheese. I ordered the 18-month Prosciutto di Parma with MOB honey ($21.50).

bura

The crust was crunchy and chewy. The cheese itself was light and soft. The use of honey was very subtle. I didn’t find the prosciutto overly salty.

sprout

L ordered the Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta ($4.00). We enjoyed the deep char on the outside and the soft centre of the sprout. The sauce was slightly sweet and garlicky. I’d order this again.

red

I ordered a glass of the House Red ($5). I enjoyed the red wine even more than the white. The pours at Pubblico are generous too. I overheard our server Kaitlan mention to another table that the manager is passionate about bringing in wines that are unknown.

pasta

L and I shared the Spaghetti Alla Carbonara ($11). The guanciale (pork cheek) was so frigging tasty. I loved how each piece of pork cheek crackled and popped with flavour. The noodles were firm and slick with a creamy, peppery sauce of egg and pecorino. When I commented on how much I enjoyed the pasta, our server mentioned I would like the specialty pastas even more, as the other pastas are made in-house.

nood pull

I’m keen to return again. I’d like to try some other wines and pastas. With free parking, friendly service and more than decent house wine, there’s a lot to like about Pubblico.

Puublico Italian House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Song Huong – COVID edition

Due to rising coronavirus concerns, the Kokuho rose rice I buy at Superstore was sold out.  L and I decided to make the trek up to True World Foods for Koshihikari Homare rice.

True World

As we were minutes away from Song Huong, one of my favourite Vietnamese restaurants, we stopped by for lunch. Since Albertans are still reeling from a hell of a lot of bad news (e.g. health care and education cuts, stocks and oil prices plummeting) let’s listen to something calming. For this post, I’ll play “Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61:1”  by composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

The last time we visited Song Huong, we shared the restaurant’s specialty dishes – Bon Boe Hue (signature soup), Cha Gio (spring rolls) and Bun Hen (sauteed baby clams with vermicelli). I read on Instagram that Bo Tai Chanh (sliced rare beef with lime sauce) Banh Loc Tom Thit (pork and shrimp tapioca dumplings) are popular dishes.

menu

I ordered a large Bon Boe Hue ($11.25) without the blood pudding. If you’re starving, I’d recommend ordering an extra large bowl. For the garnish, Song Huong provides mixed greens instead of the usual bean sprouts and basil.

menu two

I liked that despite adding a ton of raw vegetables to my bowl, my broth remained steaming warm throughout my meal.  I find that at most Vietnamese restaurants, once you add the sprouts, the soup drops to a tepid temperature.

greens

The clear broth was lively,  fragrant with lemongrass. I could taste tart, sour, and spicy notes. There was a proportional amount of noodles to beef shank, pork meatballs and Vietnamese ham. The white noodles were the round and smooth, hot and slippery.

bon

L ordered his go-to dish – Bun Ba Cha Gio ($11.95). The lemongrass chicken tasted like it was well marinaded before it was grilled. The spring roll is made with rice paper, resulting in a thin, light, crisp wrapper. The vermicelli noodles were bouncy and fluffy.  I thought the combination of the cool, crisp vegetables and hot pieces of chicken and spring rolls makes this dish perfect for winter or summer. L said the portion was generous.

bowl

My new favourite appetizer is the Banh Loc Tom Thit ($8.50). The tapioca dumplings were filled with small pieces of pork and shrimp. Like my soup, the dumplings arrived piping hot.

dumplings

The dumplings were chewy and gelatinous. I like tasting the warm, squishy texture of the tapioca against the saltiness of the Vietnamese ham. The wrapper and meat filling were mild in flavour, which accented the toppings of crispy garlic chips, cilantro, and green onions.

close up one

I forgot to request no cilantro in all the dishes, but that didn’t deter from my enjoyment of the meal. I’m never going to love cilantro, but in these particular dishes, I can tolerate the herb.

best close up

For a filling and highly satisfying meal for two, the bill was only $30.00. When L went to pay for our meal, we chatted with the owner’s son. It turns out he took a class with L. What a small world!

front

If you haven’t checked out Song Huong, you are missing out! For non-westernized Vietnamese cuisine, you can’t go wrong here.  Hitting the Sauce gives this gem two fat thumbs up.

Song Huong Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Indian · Restaurants

Masala Bhavan: Part two

L won an award! I couldn’t pass this opportunity to squeeze a dinner out of him. For this special occasion I permitted him to choose the restaurant. For this post, let’s listen to “He’s So Fine” by The Chiffons.

L picked our neighbourhood gem – Masala Bhavan. Appropriate, as Masala Bhavan also has something to celebrate – winning a spot on Avenue Magazine as best Indian restaurant!

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For beverages, we ordered two bottles of Kingfisher ($6). I thought this beer paired well with the food, as it was light and clean. The beer was perfect to wash away the fragrant spices we consumed in each dish.

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To start, we shared the Chicken Tikka appetizer ($12.95). L liked the presentation of the sizzling, steaming plate of chicken and vegetables. The breast meat is roasted in a clay oven, resulting in juicy, tender pieces of chicken.  The seasoning is delicate and aromatic.

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We enjoyed the Masala Dosai ($10.95). The dosai looks bigger than it is. The crepe was thin and crispy. The filling consisted of lightly spiced creamy potatoes, onions and spices.

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I loved dipping the dosai in the different sauces, chutneys and lentils. I liked the fact that each sauce was so completely different from each other. L compared our dosai to eating chips with dip. The tomato chutney in particular was delicious, with bright flavour that popped out. The curry lentils were savoury and sweet.

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For our main, we shared the Curry Chicken ($14) with two orders of naan ($2.95). The naan was light and airy, though parts of the dough were stretchy with a delightful chew to it.

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I was surprised that the cashew and coconut sauce was not creamy and almost broth like. The spice level was perfect, not overpowering but still vibrant enough to hit the sweet spot without breaking into a sweat. The sizzling chicken and the chicken curry tasted almost healthyish. This is a place I can eat at frequently without as much guilt as my other go to restaurants.

This is our third time dinging at Masala Bhavan. Each visit offers something new and exciting for our taste buds. The flavours are fantastic and the prices offer value.  Hitting the Sauce puts this SW gem on her list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

Masala Bhavan Indian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chinatown · Korean · Restaurants

No Man’s Dinner – Moon Korean BBQ

On Thursday, @loaf2go and I hosted our third No Man’s Dinner at Moon Korean BBQ. We named this dinner “Lovers’ Feast” because the event was the night before Valentine’s Day and we wanted to order from the all-you-can-eat menu. For this post, let’s listen to “Love Machine” by The Miracles.

Originally, our reservation was for 12 guests. By noon that day, one member said she was sick. A couple of hours later, another member said something came up. Loaf2go, T, YYCFoodiePak and Mr. YYCFoodie arrived early at Moon Korean BBQ. I arrived two minutes before 6:30 p.m. Pink Baller  arrived exactly on time. True to her name, Pink Baller brought a cake from Wow Bakery.

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Loaf2go, YYCFoodiePak and I were excited to finally meet Pink Baller. We all follow her on Instagram and I’m intrigued with her travel posts. I like to be frugal when I travel, so I enjoy living vicariously through her. In her last trip, I followed her fancy footsteps to top restaurants, helicopter excursions, and a Vegas Knights hockey game.

sides

By 7:00 p.m., I made the executive decision to order our food, even though Seashell and her guest were absent. We ordered from the basic all-you-can-eat menu ($24.50): fried chili tofu; Korean vegetarian pancake; braised pork side ribs; sweet and sour pork; spicy pork bulgogi; spicy beef bulgogi; pork ribs; spicy pork bulgogi; spicy chicken; kimchi; bean sprouts; sweet potatoes; lettuce; beef udon soup; vegetarian japchae; and cold buckwheat noodles.

Our server told us to order some dishes in smaller quantities as he thought we ordered too much. I’m glad we listened to him because it was a lot of food. Below are pictures I stole from Pink Baller and Loaf2go’s Instagram accounts. All the photos under NoMansDinner are Loaf2go’s photos.

tofu

The fried chili tofu wasn’t that spicy. The exterior was crispy and the tofu on the inside was light with an airy texture. I thought the tofu could have used a little salt.

pancake

The vegetarian pancake was cooked well – each side was nicely crisp. I would have liked it with some seafood or more sauce as I found the flavours muted.

nood pull

Pink Baller and I thought the vegetarian japae noodles were delicious. The noodles were soft and pliable with a sweet, salty, savoury seasoning. The medley of onions and greens were cooked so that it still had a bite to it. Loaf2go noted there was too much white pepper in the noodles.

ribs

The Korean BBQ meats were the best thing on the menu. All the meats arrived hot and freshly cooked. Our group’s favourite was the pork ribs. The pork was tender and juicy. I’d order the pork ribs and spicy chicken again.

pork

The pork side ribs reminded me of pi gwat – a Chinese dim sum dish of steamed pork ribs with black beans sauce. The ribs were meaty and soft. We were given one condiment to use for our BBQ meats – a reddish sauce that reminded me of Chinese mustard. The meats weren’t heavily seasoned. Loaf2go said for Korean food, she is used to more potency and individual flavour notes within a dish as opposed to one sauce.

pork bones

YYCFoodiePak enjoyed the cold buckwheat noodles. I found the coldness of the buckwheat noodles jarring. I preferred the beef udon. The broth was flavourful and the beef itself was very tasty. The noodles were hot and slippery.

tofu bite

I thought the sweet and sour pork was similar to ginger beef. The pork was cut into strips and battered. The sauce was light and syrupy.

sweet and sour

We were so full, we didn’t order a second round. At this time, we began to play the guilt trip game because no one wanted to eat more but we were worried we would get charged for the leftover food.

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Loaf2go took on the beef udon and complained that she was doing all the eating. I rolled my eyes and said I came on hot and heavy in the beginning of the meal and I ate more than anyone. I could see Pink Baller was tactful and she politely picked at the sweet and sour pork and a pork side rib. T finished up the japae noodles and ate more of the BBQ meats. YYCFoodiePak said she was going to order strawberry ice-cream. She’s not a team player. Mr. YYCFoodie ate more meats and reassured us we wouldn’t get charged for the little amount left on the plates. I could tell he’s done the all-you-can-eat before.

ake

Pink Baller was so sweet to bring a cake to her first No Man’s Dinner. I love combination of the fresh strawberries with whip cream and vanilla sponge cake. Strawberry cake is simplicity at its best. I told Pink Baller she’s invited to my upcoming fried chicken party, an off-the-record No Man’s Dinner event.

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For all-you-can-eat, Moon Korean BBQ doesn’t disappoint. Unlike other similar venues, all the hot food tasted freshly prepared. Stay tuned for the next No Man’s Dinner at Sukiyaki House. However, we are going to have to enforce our house rules. Bring out the Chinese feather duster!

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For those of you who didn’t grow up in a Chinese household, the chicken feather duster is used to discipline children for the slightest infraction. Before my father would use this atrocious device to “clean house” he would solemnly say, “This is going to hurt me more than you.” Based on the expression on his face as he levied the feather duster on our tiny, outstretched hands, he didn’t look like he was suffering.

Moon Korean BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Brunch · Fusion · Restaurants

ZCrew Cafe – Brunch with Haskayne 3.0

L drove me to my brunch with Haskayne 3.0. He accidentally dropped me off at the wrong location and I had to hoof it for the last seven blocks. When I got to ZCrew Cafe, Screamy asked me why I didn’t just call L to pick me up again. That idea never even occurred to me. She inquired why L didn’t come with to brunch. I said because he wasn’t invited. Screamy said it should be assumed he’s invited, as he’s my husband. I told her that in the future, she needs to be more specific with me. For this post, let’s listen to Shakira & J. Lo’s Superbowl performance.

Though I was uncharacteristically late, Strong Zero, Queen B, and Shady Bones were even tardier. I guess we aren’t on Japan time anymore! After fielding more questions about L’s absence and whether or not I should call him, we ordered food. Geez – I had no idea L was so popular. Why would they want him when they already have me?

tea

I enjoyed my pot of Jasmine Dragon Pearl Tea ($5.50). The blooming flower inside the clear pot was aesthetically pleasing. The tea was mild and fragrant with a subtle sweetness.

tofu

Screamy enjoyed her Crispy Tofu Bowl ($15). She said the tofu wasn’t crispy but it still tasted good. Her favourite part of the dish was the kimchi as it brought all the ingredients together.

matcha

Shady Bones ordered the Matcha Pancake ($17). She spent a good five minutes debating whether or not to eat the orchid. She shared her dish with Strong Zero.

burger

Strong Zero ordered the Monster Bao-Ger ($19). Man, this dude is precise. He cut his burger and the pancakes into half with surgical precision. Strong Zero said the little potato doughnut tasted like sweet, spicy balls. He offered me a bite of his food and I didn’t think before I spoke and said, “Why, don’t you like it?” He looked taken aback and responded he did like his food, he just wanted to know if I wanted to try it.

fried chicken

Queen B ordered the best looking dish – Korean fried chicken and waffles ($19). You could hear the skin crackle as Queen B cut into the chicken.

poke

My Special Poke Bowl ($17) tasted healthy. The wasabi mayo and teriyaki sauce were minimal, allowing the natural flavours of the vegetables to shine through. The rice was a little hard and I found a fish bone in the salmon. Overall, a tasty bowl.

ZCrew Cafe offers some seriously Instagramable meals. It’s a cool little spot offering brunch with an Asian twist. I can see why it’s such a popular spot with the kids.

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

 

Chain Restaurants · Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Cuty Restaurant – Dalhousie

For my birthday lunch, I wanted to check out Cuty Restaurant’s newest location in Dalhousie. I was craving something fresh and crunchy and Cuty is known for their wrap and roll combo plates. For this post, let’s listen to “Let’s Go” by The Cars.

The last time we visited, we shared the Grilled Combo ($19.50) – a mix of traditional fillings like the grilled minced beef la lop, grilled pork meatballs and shrimp paste. Though I wanted the deep-fried bounty in the Traditional Platter ($31.50), I resisted and ordered something slightly healthier.

platter

We ordered the Grilled Shrimp Paste Platter ($18.50), Imperial Rolls ($8) and the Vietnamese Crispy Pancake ($12). Cuty is generous with the herbs. Our plates contained plenty of basil, mint and lettuce. The texture of the shrimp roll is bouncy and firm and the taste reminded me of ho gow, a Chinese steamed shrimp dumpling.

fried

The shell of the imperial roll was crispy and chewy. Tightly packed with pork, taro root and black fungus, the filling was tastier than a regular spring roll.  I like contrast of the fresh, cool herbs wrapped around crunchy, blistering hot pork roll.

rispy thing again

The Vietnamese Crispy Pancake or bánh xèo is an Asian crepe. The pancake is made with tumeric powder, rice flour and coconut milk. I thought there was egg in the pancake batter, but it’s the tumeric powder that gives the crepe a yellow hue.

frie dlettuce

The crepe was lacy and crisp. The crepe wasn’t overloaded with mung beans and sprouts, there was a balanced amount of chopped up shrimp, pork and squid. I’d recommend going heavy on the basil as it cuts into the sweetness of the coconut milk.

pancake

The crepe harder to eat than the wrap rolls. I found it difficult to wrap the mixture with lettuce because when I went to dip, the filling would fall out into the sauce. L and I noticed our wrapping job wasn’t as good as the other customers. No one else was struggling.

lettuce egg

I ordered too much food. We could have made do with one platter and the imperial rolls, with extra vegetables and noodles. Overall, this restaurant is a nice change from the standard pho and bún chả joints in Calgary. Hitting the Sauce gives Cuty Restaurant two fat thumbs up.

Cuty Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Birthday Dinner

My last meal at Sukiyaki House was so memorable, I returned a week later to celebrate my milestone birthday. That day, L and I were literally counting down the hours before our dinner. For this post, let’s listen to “Number 1” by Goldfrapp.

Justin called L to confirm our reservations. He also wanted to check with him that the ingredients and price range of the two dishes that head chef Koji Kobayashi wanted to create for our meal was suitable. That’s some next level customer service. We were impressed with Justin’s consideration of our taste and budget.

sake 2

L and I toasted to my old age with a flute of Kozaemom Junmai Ginjo Omachi ($12). I thought this sake was fragrant with a viscosity similar to a riesling.  I also tried Kuheiji ($15), which in comparison to the other sake was more delicate. If pretty had a flavour, it would be Kuheiji. I’m a fan of both sakes.

glass

Koji made two special off the menu dishes for us. The first to arrive was Koji’s signature dish – Duck Breast with Braised Daikon, Foie Gras Mousse and Matcha Potato Brûlée ($24). Personally, I think Justin should have charged much more for this dish. The portion was huge, and the flavours were stunning. I could tell a lot of labour, love and talent when into this dish.

duck

The duck is sous vide for five hours, resulting in tender, succulent meat. The edging of duck fat melted beautifully as I chewed. The duck gravy was so mouth-watering that I wanted bread to mop up every last drop. The matcha brûlée was lacy and crisp, a nice contrast to the velvety smooth foie gras. The daikon was so warm and juicy, it made me weak in the knees. I know it’s early in the year, but so far, this is the best dish of 2020.

duck piece

The second dish Koji prepared just for us was Aji Four-Ways ($45), but I think it should be called Aji Five-Ways. L thought this dish showcased Koji’s talent for knowing how to combine different flavours and ingredients together.

platter

Koji used an entire horse mackerel flown in from Japan to create five different experiences. The sashimi showcased the strong flavour of the mackerel –  light and not fatty like tuna or salmon.

tartare

For some reason, I thought the mackerel nigiri was more mellow in comparison to the sashimi. L thought the fresh wasabi and the crispness of the scallions were the perfect pairing for the fish.

fish nirg platter

The mackerel tempura was tossed with matsukaze matcha and rice cracker batter that reminded me of cornmeal. The texture of the fish reminded me of a fish meatloaf nugget. I thought approach created a scrumptious bite that illuminated the oily, dense flesh.

tempura

I found the mackerel tartare light in flavour but heavy in texture. I could taste a hint of  fresh ginger, soy and mirin in the mixture. I love the colourful garnish of flowers and greens on top of the tartare.

fish bone

The deep-fried bones made for a nice crispy snack. At this point, I was getting too full so I only nibbled on the meatier bones. I appreciated that Koji used a type of fish I’m unfamiliar with. The texture and taste of horse mackerel made me think because it wasn’t the usual salmon or tuna I’m accustomed to eating. This dish was a thoughtful creation and got us out of the comfort zone of eating the more common and popular types of Japanese fish.

uni

Justin informed me the Uni Sea Urchin ($15) I ordered has a premium platinum status. Flown in from Hokkaido, the uni was unlike the more common type in British Columbia. I’ve never eaten uni so sweet and creamy, it melted in my mouth. So good, I had a foodgasm.

nigiri platter

The Aki Maguro Chu Toro ($4.20) was nice and fatty. I also liked the fat high content in the Shima Suzuki Striped Seabass ($5). The bass was smooth and firm, with a sweet aftertaste. The Ebi  ($3) at Sukiyaki House is consistently superior than other Japanese restaurants. The steamed prawn was crunchy and flavourful.

crab

The Kani ($3.70) was also a winner. The crab was sweet and juicy. The texture of the crab meat was tender and flaky. I’d order this again.

shrmip head

I happily chomped on my Amaebi ($4). The raw shrimp was perfectly crunchy and cool on my tongue. The fried shrimp head was still warm when I ate it. Oh my goodness – turning forty never tasted so good.

chopped

This part of our meal always gets my heart racing with sweet anticipation – raw scalllops. The Special Scallop ($3.80) was full of buttery goodness, dotted with the crunchy, salty pop of fish roe. The chew of the nori was a good contrast to the creamy scallop mixture.

scallop flower

A highlight of our selection of nigiri was the Hotategai ($4.20). The scallop was sliced in a way that it gave the same sensation of being chopped. The scallop crevices glided over my tongue like silk. When I chewed, the scallop fell apart in my mouth in a textural explosion. Below is a photo of me after eating the hotategai. I have to credit sous chef Yuki Koyama for his sushi masterpiece. Phenomenal. Yuki truly is an artist.

me

For dessert, we shared the Matcha Shiratama Zenzai ($9) and a glass of plum wine – Ume Niwa No Uguisu Tomari Umeshu ($10, 3 ounce). I don’t normally like plum wine, but this wine was delightfully tart and refreshing.

UMI

I knew the moment our dessert hit our table that L would be pleased. After ten years together, I can read him like a book.  If you appreciate the subtlety of Japanese sweets, you will love this dessert. The mochi was soft and smooth. The flower was still warm, and I thought I could taste the essence of mandarin oranges. The grapes gave a nice pop of sourness, a contrast to the natural sweetness of the red bean paste.

dessert

L and I were surprised that we didn’t have a favourite dish of the night. Everything, from the specialty dishes to each piece of nigiri was spectacular. I highly recommend that if you want to try something authentic or non-pedestrian to call ahead of time and arrange something with Justin. My Instagram friend lovegastrogirl is the opposite of me and she is a super baller. I told her to contact Justin so he and Koji can prepare something special for her.

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Sukiyaki House is something special. This is artistry and craftsmanship in culinary motion. With Koji and Yuki at the culinary helm and Justin at the hospitality front, they are an unstoppable trio. Thank you for preparing such a memorable meal for me. You are ichiban (#1) in  my books.

Sukiyaki House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Fusion · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Nights & Weekends – Pop-Up Restaurant and Bar

It’s my birthday week! L picked me up from the airport and told me I had one hour to get ready for our dinner reservation. His colleague M emailed him an article about a pop-up restaurant – Nights & Weekends. What interested L was that co-chefs Bern Glatz and Nick Berenyi collectively worked at Ten Foot Henry, Anju, Mercato, Bar Von Der Fels, and Una Pizza + Wine. He figured since we like all those restaurants, we would enjoy Nights & Weekends. As always, L is correct.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, Nights & Weekends takes over the space at Shiki Menya. The restaurant is dimly lit, with the exception of the glow of the pink neon sign. The tunes are rocking and the vibe is intimate.

kitchen

Initially, I was skeptical when the bartender informed us they only sell four wines – bubbles, rosé, white and red ($12 glass, $48 bottle). After sampling three of the four wines, I realized you don’t need a large selection if each bottle is well chosen. Kudos to Katie, an employee from Vine Arts who selects all the wine for Nights & Weekends.

bubbles

L ordered a pint of Asahi ($7) while I requested a glass of French bubbles ($12). I found the bubbles tight and clean tasting.

eggs

We ordered two servings of the Tamago ($4). The egg was cool and soft. As I slurped the egg back, it felt like I was eating an oyster. I enjoyed the restrained use of black sesame and chili oil. However, L’s portion received all the scallions. Luck of the draw.

egg close upThe Waygu Beef Tartare ($14) is a winner. L appreciated how the focus of dish was the meat rather than competing flavour of secondary ingredients. The beef tasted supremely fresh. I didn’t even want to use the potato chip because it would take away from the flavour of the waygu. As I chewed, I savoured the texture of the beef.  Oh so good.

tartare

The bartender recommended I try the Russine (2017) rosé with the wagyu tartare. He described this wine as a winter rosé. I was reluctant to try it because too often, I find rosé tart, sweet or fake tasting. He didn’t steer me wrong. The wine was heavy for a rosé and a little dry.  I would order this again.

rose

The Poached Tiger Prawn ($10) was the star of the night. This sandwich was off the hook. The kewpie sauce was light and just enough to bind and coat all the ingredients together. The pea shoots helped to cut into the mayo. The tobiko added a pop of the sea.

prawn

The prawns were plentiful and sweet. With each bite, proportionally, there was more shrimp than bun. We liked how the bun was squishy and mushable against the crunchy prawns.

brawn bite

The Handmade Pasta ($18) was unique. What I liked was the firmness and bite of the noodles. The combination of the cheese, guancialle (cured meat), dashi, gachujang (Korean red chili paste), mushrooms and nori reminded me a little of Kraft cheese, but in a good way.

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I drank one more glass of wine because I was having so much fun and I didn’t want to leave. The Maggiorina Vino Rosso (2018) was interesting. The wine hit my tongue hard but then mellowed out.

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In my opinion, this little pop-up restaurant competes with the best restaurants I’ve tried in this city and elsewhere. I love it so much, Nights & Weekends is making it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary. Hitting the Sauce gives Nights & Weekends two fat thumbs up.

Nights and Weekends Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Vegas

Vegas 2020 – Raku Japanese Charcoal Grill

My friend Ms. Biz highly recommended Raku for my birthday dinner. This was my favourite restaurant on our trip. If I could only go to one restaurant in Vegas, Raku would be it for me. For this post, let’s listen to “You Might Think” by The Cars.

I told Beep Beep I didn’t want any alcohol with this dinner because I wanted to focus on the food. I’m becoming my father. Ludwig won’t drink if he’s listening to classical music because he needs his full concentration. For beverages, we ordered Hoji Tea ($2.50).

tofu

To start, we shared the Half Tofu ($4). The consistency of the homemade tofu was like a ultra creamy cheesecake. We were instructed to cut into the tofu and taste it using two types of seasoning.

marcha

The first approach was to dust the green matcha salt over the cold tofu, along with the condiments of bonito flakes, chives and grated ginger. This style accented the fluffy texture and clean taste of the tofu.

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The second version was to add Raku’s specially made soy sauce. I preferred this style because the sauce was unique in flavour and I enjoyed the thick consistency of the sauce paired with the ginger.

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My favourite bite of the night was the Enoki Mushroom Bacon ($3.50). In fact, I loved it so much, we ordered a second one at the end of our meal. Two things stood out for me. Flavour and texture.

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I enjoyed  crunching into this bundle of love. The mushrooms took on all the smoky flavours from charcoal grill. The bacon bound all the mushroom threads together and provided a salty omph.

scallop

The Butter Sauteed Scallop Soy Sauce ($7) was perfectly seared. The exterior of the scallop was hot and crispy. The center of the scallop was cooler in temperature and still silky smooth.

beef

The Kobe Beef Outside Skirt Steak ($8) was served warm. The meat was flavourful and fell apart like a filet of fish. The steak was chewy and juicy.

tendon

The Kobe Beef Tendon ($4) was my second favourite bite of the night. The tendon was soft and sticky. Like the enoki wrapped bacon, the tendon took on the flavour of the charcoal. I’d order this again.

foie gras

The flavour of the Foie Gras ($19) was subtle. For foie gras, I found it was light and clean. I enjoyed this dish but I prefer the heavier, richer, smokier flavours of the tendon and enoki mushroom.

shrimp

For the Crispy Fried Shrimp ($7), I didn’t add any other seasoning or sauce because I preferred the simple, natural taste of the shrimp. I could taste the sweet juice of the whole shrimp.

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This is one restaurant that deserves its hype. I’m already planning another trip to Vegas. I’m eager to return to Raku and based on lovegastrogirl baller recommendations, I want to check out Carbone and the Vegas Golden Knights.

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Thank you Beep Beep for treating me to a food and booze fueled trip! You started my birthday week with a bang. Beep Beep!

 

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

Cheap Eats · Chinese · Restaurants · Vegas

Vegas 2020 – Shang Artisan Noodle House

Strictly Dumpling’s feature of Shang Artisan Noodle inspired me to get off the strip for hand-pulled noodles. I read on Yelp that the line-up begins even before the restaurant opens at 11:00 a.m. When Beep Beep and I arrived at 10:45 a.m., there was only one woman ahead of us. Budger was still in her car when we stepped out of our Uber. Though technically, we were first in line, she trotted up aggressively and cut in front of me. Whatever lady – we are all getting in at the same time.

For this post, let’s listen to “Shake it Up” by The Cars. In fact, for all my birthday posts, I’m only going to be spinning The Cars. Let’s go!

The stools at the counter looked uncomfortable, so we sat at a table facing the kitchen. I asked the noodle artist if I could take a picture of him in action. He didn’t look thrilled with my request. He nodded and I went to work. I was quick and only took three photos and three videos.

Rules

Beep Beep and I ordered Hot Tea ($1.95) and glasses of water. For food, I ordered everything Strictly Dumpling ate in his video – spicy wonton, beef noodle soup and dan dan noodles.

noodle making

I could taste the liberal amount of white pepper sprinkled on the top of the House-made Wonton with Spicy Soy Sauce ($5.99). I can always tell when green onions have been prepped too early – there is no oniony flavor left. Shang’s scallions were fragrant and noticeably pungent.

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I like the wonton’s long ribbon-like tail. Each bite felt dainty in my mouth. I added black vinegar and chili sauce for more zip. Most of the flavour of the wonton came from the sweet soy sauce. The sauce was more sweet than spicy.

won ton

The Shàng Beef Noodle Soup ($9.95) was our favourite dish. This beef noodle soup is the quintessential hangover cure. The broth was nourishing and full of beef goodness. I drank this elixir down to the last drop. Beep Beep felt like the soup was giving her a big warm hug.

silky noodle

Our bowl contained several generous chunks of braised beef brisket. The layer of fat on some of the pieces was a little much, but it was easy enough to remove. The beef itself was tender and richly flavoured.

oup

The knife shaven noodles were chewy and retained its firm texture up to the last slurp. The noodles took on the flavour of the broth too. We were so full from sharing this bowl, we barely made a dent in the dan dan noodles.

nood pull beef soup

Beep Beep found the Dan-Dan Noodle ($8.95) too spicy. I thought the sauce was too mild. I wish I didn’t pick the knife shaved noodles because the taste of minced pork, preserved vegetables and spicy soy sauce didn’t come through to the noodles. Perhaps the knife shaved noodles are too thick for the sauce?

beef

I think if I picked a thinner noodle, the sauce wouldn’t be overpowered by the ratio of noodle to sauce. When I tried the noodles cold a few hours later, the flavour was greatly improved. However, when I microwaved the noodles at midnight, the noodles turn to mush.

dan dan

When I return to Vegas, I would most definitely return for the beef noodle soup. The broth alone was worth getting off the strip. The beef bowl was cheap, filling, delicious and most importantly, the quality was there. I’m not a big fan of Chinese noodle soups, but Shàng beef noodle soup is exceptional.

dan dan nood pul

Service was speedy and attentive. An employee informed me that Shang Artisan is opening up another location! Yay! That’s good news for us noodle lovers. Hitting the Sauce gives Shang Artisan Noodle two fat thumbs up.

Shang Artisan Noodle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Curry · Restaurants · Thai · Vegas

Vegas 2020 – Lotus of Siam

Mai told me about Popslots, a free online gambling game. I figured out pretty quick which casino and game produces the most points. So, for my 40th birthday, I took Beep Beep to Vegas to use up all my freebies. For this post, let’s listen to “Good Times Roll” by The Cars.

My points provided me with a complimentary room (+ $50 resort fee), one room at a 25% discount (+$99 + $50 resort fee) and a $50 credit for the Dueling Pianos in New York New York Hotel and Casino. I picked the Vdara Hotel and Spa but I could have stayed at the Aria, the Bellagio and a handful of other resorts. Vdara is a nonsmoking hotel with no casino. Note that you can only book these rooms Monday to Thursday. That’s fine with me because Vegas is too crazy on the weekends.

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Due to the extreme cold weather, our flights were delayed three times. I nursed a couple of Caesars at the Belgium Beer Cafe and when my plane was delayed a third time, I ordered a calamari and Greek salad combo from OPA!. The guy ahead of me ordered just the calamari and he received a heaping plate. I received mostly salad and a stingy portion of calamari. I was fuming until I realized OPA! was actually doing me a favour in the long run.

caesar

When I met Beep Beep at her terminal, she pulled out confetti from her purse and tossed it high above my head. She crowned my head with a tiara, decorated my neck with beads, and outfitted my dress with a birthday sash. Beep Beep wasn’t quite done. She whipped out a mini bottle of wine and two plastic cups onto a nearby table. She apologized for the poor quality of wine but said that’s all she could get on the plane.

happy

After we toasted to my old age, I ordered an Uber. Uber is cheaper than hailing a taxi. From the airport to the hotel, the trip cost me only $14 dollars. Our trips to Chinatown and Fremont Street averaged around ten dollars.

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Our suite looked like hotel’s website picture. The bathroom was large with a big soaker tub. The room itself was spotless and spacious. The only thing I’ll complain about is the couch was sagging in the middle. I’d stay here again.

drink

We stopped by Vice Versa Lounge for a Gin and Tonic ($16). The drink itself was boozy and full of botanicals like juniper berries, cucumber, and a freshly peeled lemon rind. The complimentary dill popcorn and Asian crackers were fresh and a nice snack to munch on while we sipped our drinks.

wine sweet

For dinner, I made reservations at Lotus of Siam. I wanted to try Lotus because of the reviews by Anthony Bourdain and Munchies Guide to Las Vegas. Make sure you call ahead for a table. At 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, all the tables were reserved.

thai

I ordered one Northern dish – Beef Khoi Soi – as well as the Garlic Prawns ($30). For the khoi soi, I ordered mild heat because Beep Beep doesn’t have a spice tolerance. Our server recommended a riesling ($13) to pair with our dishes, which I found too sweet.

shrimp

We received about eight prawns – each  butterflied and supersized. The batter crackled despite its sticky, sweet garlicky coating. The fried shells tasted like shrimp chips. The prawns and sauce went well with the steamed rice. I found this dish memorable and comparable to Chef Lam Pham’s Salted Duck Egg Yolk Tempura Prawns ($14 Canadian) at his restaurant Pure Kitchen Bar in Calgary. Except Pham uses a different sauce – a mouth-watering combination of tobiko, fresh scallions, kewpie mayo and nori.

beef

For the Khao Soi ($12.95), I chose beef. I read the Fried Duck ($30) was the most popular protein for khao soi, but I thought it would be too fattening. The beef was tender, the sauce sweet and creamy from coconut milk. The noodles were pleasantly al dente and took on the full flavour of the curry.

bill

I know it is tacky to look at the bill when someone else is paying for it, so I doubled down and snapped a picture. Beep Beep gets me – she knows I do it for the blog. I always keep the bill so I can itemize the food.

convo

On Instagram, comments were added about the employee health cost ($2.07)  that was tacked on the bill. I didn’t care because the service was good and I’m aware that servers in the United States make next to nothing, thus relying on tips. One follower noted that in Nevada, minimum wage is $2.13. That is criminal.

drinks

We left to catch the Comedy Cellar ($34) at the Rio Hotel. Beep Beep and I decided to throw away twenty dollars on the slot machines. She told me to put a dollar bill on the machine so a server would come by and get us a drink. I put two bills on my machine and a dollar on her machine. Our server came by and took our drink order. He asked us if we would also like bottled water. Yes, I said, we would. Thank you for reminding us to to hydrate. I put another dollar on Beep Beep’s machine. Our server come by several more times to ask us if we wanted drinks even though we moved around the casino.

panda

At one point, I was up $160 dollars! I should have stopped because before I knew it, I lost it all. I put another twenty bucks into the slots and I saw it disappear within minutes. Why do I do this? House always wins! I know this! Dejected, we got up and dropped by the washroom before our comedy show.

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In the washroom, I told Beep Beep not to wait for me because I wanted to freshen up (i.e. redo my makeup). The two millenials standing next to Beep Beep – FOMO and DBD – loudly exclaim that’s why they love women, because we were all so considerate. They turned to the cleaner to thank her for all her hard work and said without her, the washroom would be dirty. FOMO and DBD droned on and though they were trying to be appreciative, I thought it was condescending.

omedy cellar

The Comedy Cellar put on a hilarious show. FOMO and DBD from the washroom sat at the very front of the stage. They pissed off one comedian for talking, texting, and taking a picture, despite being warned prior to the show. After getting brutally called out for their millenial behaviour, the dynamic duo was escorted out of the club.

I’m glad I told Beep Beep to not get the front row seats. Everyone sitting the front got roasted by the comedians. We enjoyed ourselves so much, I regret not catching another show at Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club. Thanks Beep Beep for drinks, dinner, the comedy show and all your effort into making my first night in Vegas a fun one.

Lotus of Siam Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Beer · Brunch · Patio · Restaurants · Seafood

Dandy Brewing Company

On Friday, I suggested to L we revisit Dandy Brewing Company. Pro tip – Dandy now takes reservations through Opentable. This new change was one reason for our visit. Dandy is one of my favourite spots in the city, but it was always too difficult to snag a table. For this post, let’s listen to “Hollywood Forever Cemetery” by Father John Misty.

I ordered a flight of beer: Dandy Lager (5%, $2.25); Une Vielle Maitresse Grisette (4%, $2.25); La Peu d’Elisa Quebec style saison (7%, $2.75); and Common Crown Collab (7%, $2.50). L asked for a glass of the Dandy Ultra Pils (3%, $6.50).

beer list

Some of my descriptions below may sound odd but then again, taste is subjective. At times, even L was at a loss for my observations. However, we both agreed that all the beers we tried were well balanced.

I enjoyed L’s Crisp Pilsner (3%, $2.50). This beer is fresh, sweet, bitter and reminded me of coleslaw. The Dandy Lager is a touch too sweet for my taste. L and I like the peppery notes in the Une Vielle Maitresse Grisette.

beer

I’m crazy for La Peu d’Elisa Quebec style saison. I found the saison bright and lemony with an almost perfume-like note. I ordered another sleeve because it was that delicious. Look at all that creamy foam!

saison

The Common Crown Collab is a full-bodied wintery beer, most appropriate for our extreme cold weather. L tried the Black Cabin Black IPA (6.5%,$5). When I took a sip, the flavour triggered memories of the 80’s cartoon Gummi Bears and A&W root beer.

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Dandy produces unique beers without tasting artificial or fake. I’m not a beer drinker, but the beers at Dandy are so enjoyable, I actually prefer their beers over wine.

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To prove my point, I ordered a glass of Leiz Eins-Zwei Riesling ($9). The riesling was dry with a bit of zip to it. While I liked what I tasted, I preferred the Quebec saison. Coming from me, that speaks volumes.

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Dandy has an equally strong food game. Whenever I eat here, I always think its similar to Bar Von Der Fels Wine Bar, but there’s less use of cream, butter and all things decadent.

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L raved about the flavours of the Elk Tartare ($18). The crispy shallots added a garlicy, crunchy contrast to the silkness of the minced elk. The use of aioli was subtle while the brightness of the pickles added a refreshing pop. This was my first time trying elk tartare. If I had to compare elk to other meats, I’d say elk is more like lamb than beef.

octopus better

The smoky smell of the Octopus ($21) was appetizing. I appreciate how the chef chose to showcase the octopus by grilling it over charcoal, resulting in a firm but not chewy texture. The tentacles were delightfully crispy. The “smashed potatoes” were like a warm potato salad. I love the addition of the olives, red onion, and what I thought was dill or pickles.

cheese

The Cheese Plate ($17) was stellar. Though smaller and five dollars more than Cabin Brewing Company, the cheese plate was so seductive I overlooked my beer. The cracker was more like a sheet of warm, flaky pastry. I liked all the cheeses – a mix of creamy, dry, and one that tasted a bit like blue cheese. L said what made this plate next level was the cherry marmalade and figs. I’m a purist and I prefer just eating the cheeses with the cracker.

L and I are going to continue with our mission to try all of Calgary’s breweries. To date, L’s favourite Calgary craft beers are the Jack of Diamonds by Blindman Brewing and Mount Crushmore by Banded Peak. For myself, Dandy does for it for me. Hitting the Sauce puts this brewery on her list of best restaurants in the Calgary.

The Dandy Brewing Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Beer · Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Ichiban (#1 in #YYC)

Now that L and I no longer have our annual trip to Japan, we crave sushi all the time. I noticed on Instagram, Sukiyaki House receives constant praise from foodkarmablog, Miss Foodie and Loaf2go. Sukiyaki House is located in the heart of downtown core. Pro tip – after 6:00 p.m., there is complimentary heated parking.

Loaf2go

Sukiyaki House is known in Calgary for Head Chef Koji Kobayashi’s elaborate omakase dinners. Chef Kobayashi was born in Osaka and trained in “kaiseki”, the highest form of Japanese fine dining. Below is a picture I took without permission from their Instagram account.

koji best

Foodkarma recommends the agadashi tofu, tempura and special event dinners. Miss Foodie orders the sukiyaki hot pot and other specialty dishes. I like to focus on the nigiri. For this post, let’s listen to “Lights Out” by Santogold.

L knows the owner’s son – Justin – a graduate from the Haskayne School of Business. I think it is endearing that when we visit, there are other U of C graduates dining there. I’m thinking of organizing a get together with our previous Japan kids at Sukiyaki House, who are also Haskayne alumni.

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Justin impressed me with his knowledge of sake. He treated us to a glass of premium sake – Kozaemom Junmai Ginjo Omachi ($90 bottle, 3 oz glass $12). Wowzers. The sake was flavourful and it smelled incredibly nice. I loved the dryness and the viscosity of the sake. This is hands down my favourite sake. I would order this again.

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We started our meal with a dish off the regular menu – Sawara Tataki ($24). Holy Mackerel! This dish made me appreciate the subtlety of fine dining. The delicate textures of the daikon and chrysanthemum was a nice contrast to the mackerel. The greens and garlic chips added a dainty crunch to each bite.  The sauce was refreshing and perfectly balanced.

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We ordered an assortment of nigiri and maki rolls, as well as a pint of Asahi ($7, 16 ounce). Justin informed us that he imports the beer from Japan. I could tell the difference between Asahi made in Japan and the stuff made elsewhere. In 2019, L and I visited the Asahi factory to learn about their brewing process.  Asahi made in Japan tastes purer and the bubbles are tinier.

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The Aka Maguro (red tuna, $4.20) is a must order. The tuna was firm in texture but rich and fatty. The tuna literally melted in my mouth when I slowly chewed it. L noted that the fish to rice ratio was balanced.

red tuna

Amaebi (raw prawn, $4) is one of my favourite things to order. The prawn was cool on my tongue, sweet and crunchy.  Equally delicious was the accompanying fried shrimp head, dusted with matcha salt.

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The shrimp head was served still warm. The fried shell was covered in a soft, light layer of tempura. The texture and taste of the shrimp head meat reminds me of fried soft shell crab.

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I think Sukiyaki’s Ebi (steamed prawn, $3) is the best in town. The prawn was tasty with a pleasant crunch to it. We both thought the Shake (Atlantic salmon, $3) was creamy with a rich, smooth flavour. The Tamago (egg omelette, $2.40) was sweet with a light, almost foamy texture.

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The Hotategai ($4.20) was large and plump. The freshness of the scallops was exceptionally lovely – silky smooth with a clean flavour profile. L noted the use of wasabi in the sushi was just as it should be – present but not overpowering.