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 (blue fin 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 grocery 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 eight 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.

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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 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. – creating a scrumptious bite that illuminated the fish’s 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We also ordered one of the specials of the night –  Sawara ($6). When I put this piece of Spanish mackerel in my mouth, my head exploded with the realization that I don’t have to go to Japan in order to eat excellent sushi.

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L enjoyed the Special Scallop ($3.80) even though he doesn’t care for scallops or mayonnaise. Despite the thick and almost buttery dressing, I could still taste the freshness of the scallop. The pop of saltiness from the flying fish roe added to this insanely decadent bite.

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L ordered a Prawn Dynamite ($11). What a rookie move! I didn’t want L to order a dynamite roll but sometimes you gotta let your man order his food.  Don’t get me wrong – the dynamite roll was made well, but there’s so many better things you can get. For example, my Shake Skin Roll ($12). Now this is a roll worth ordering.

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The semi raw salmon was scorched on the top. The salmon skin was crunchy and smoky. I enjoyed the sauce which added a touch of sweetness. L doesn’t like salmon skin but he admitted that he now understands the appeal of BC rolls.

After our meal, L spoke to Justin to book my milestone birthday at Sukiyaki House. I normally shy away from extravagant meals but at Sukiyaki House, I see the value in such an experience.

dishes

The sushi was so excellent, I couldn’t stop raving about our meal. I haven’t been this excited in a long time. When we went to bed, I told L that if I died that night, I would die happy. I was serious. If you love sushi, you must check out this restaurant out. Hitting the Sauce thinks Sukiyaki House is the best sushi restaurant in Calgary.

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

Beer · Restaurants

Cabin Brewing Company

L is keen to check out all the newest breweries. So on Sunday afternoon, we went for an afternoon taster at Cabin Brewing Company. For this post, let’s listen to “You don’t know how it feels” by Tom Petty.

We both ordered our own beer flights ($12). L prefers hoppy or dark beers while I picked the lighter options.

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The Retrospectrum Pale Ale (5.2%) was nicely balanced and light. This is an easy drinking ale that even my non beer drinking girlfriends would enjoy. Try not to focus on the nasty band-aid on my thumb.

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I enjoyed the Four Alive Fruited Sour (5.4%). I found this beer simple – sour and tart.

I was surprised to like the Super Duper Saturation Imperial NEPA (8%) as much as I did. The bubbles were tiny and there was a ton of flavour. This beer was neither bitter, hoppy or sweet.

I don’t normally like cider, but Cabin’s Bloom Crisp Apple Cider (6.6%) was different. The flavour was crisp and not too sweet. I thought this cider was excellent. The cider was my favourite pick of the flight.

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I also tried the Belgian Dubbel (7.8%), a collaboration between Cabin Brewery and Banded Peak. I found this beer sweet, nutty and heavy.

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I was feeling tipsy after our flight, so we ordered some food. The Cheese Pretzel with Marinara Sauce ($5) was served piping hot. The pretzel itself was soft, the topping of cheese was crispy. On a cold wintery day, this carby snack warmed me up.

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I was pleased with the Cheese Board ($12). For the price, we were given three generous chunks of cheese: Chevalier Triple Cream Brie (St. Hyacinthe, QC), Mainland two-year aged cheddar (New Zealand), and Cave-aged Gruyere Switzerland). L mentioned if we ordered this at the now defunct Janice Beaton, we would have been charged sixty bucks. The cheese board was tasty and such good value. I’d order this again.

On a cold Sunday afternoon, Cabin Brewery was packed with families. I can see why. Cabin is kid-friendly, offering the little ones plenty of games and even their own kiddy charcuterie. For only four bucks, children can snack on goldfish crackers, pizza pepperoni, fruit and a juice box.

Cabin Brewering Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Raw Bar – Happy Hour

Québécois and I have been friends ever since she and her husband moved next door to us in 2014.  On Friday night, she treated me to dinner at Raw Bar. I haven’t been to Raw Bar since Duncan Ly was the executive chef. For this post, let’s listen to “Date Night” by Father John Misty.

On Fridays, almost all the wines are half price. What a steal! I can’t think of any other restaurant in Calgary that offers half price wine on Friday. Select appetizers are half price until 6:00 p.m. and dollar oysters are served until 7:00 p.m.

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Our first bottle of the night was Sirius Bordeaux Blanc 2017 ($49, HH $24.50). When we first took a sip, we thought the wine was acidic. But after the wine had a chance to breathe, the flavour was more tropical and light. I enjoyed this bottle.

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We started with a round of oysters (HH $1.00). The oysters were small and briny. I ate one oyster that tasted bitter, so I spat it out. I didn’t get sick, so no hard feelings.

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Our server recommended the Fried Caulilini ($10, HH $5). Caulilini is a variety of cauliflower. The batter was doughy in some pieces.

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The Grilled Shishito peppers ($12, HH $6) were crunchy. I enjoyed the curry aioli and the crispy bits of puffed rice. Québécois took a bite of a pepper and announced it was too spicy. When I bragged that I can handle my spice, she dared me to eat her pepper. I popped the shishito in my mouth and immediately my face flushed red. When Québécois saw me chug my glass of water, she regretted telling me to eat it. I said no worries, as spicy food speeds up my metabolism.

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Québécois ordered a second bottle of wine – Michel Gassier Viognier France, 2018 ($46, HH $23). I really liked this bottle – the wine was dry with a floral aroma. I would order this bottle again.

fave wine

Even though I just returned from Cabo, I wanted to try the Ahi Tuna Tacos ($16, HH $8). The tuna was tasty but oversauced. I had to pour some of the liquid out of the hard taro root shell before eating it. I thought I could taste kimchi in the sauce, even thought the menu described the sauce as a chili glaze.

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My favourite dish was not on the happy hour menu –  Korean Beef Tartare ($16). The flavours of the chilled beef and sweetness from the Korean pear were spot on. I found the tartare refreshing and nicely seasoned. The rice chips were so addictingly delicious, Québécois asked for another serving for me. The chips remind me of a fresher, tastier version of shrimp crackers you get with roast chicken at a Chinese banquet dinner.

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Québécois needed a sweet to finish the night. She ordered Homemade Bon Bons ($3.50). The chocolate was dark and the filling tasted like coconut.

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Québécois wanted to end the night with a glass of bubbles. She insisted on getting another bottle because it was about the same price as ordering two flutes. She picked Famiglia Zonin ($45, HH $22.50), a fizzy and easy to drink prosecco. By this time, we could barely finish our prosecco. Québécois asked our server to cork our bottle.

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If you haven’t been to Raw Bar, I’d recommend checking it out on a Friday night. Thank you Québécois for treating me to a merry night out with great wine and tasty bites. My treat next time.

Raw Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurants

The Eden – French Bistro

Jaime is back in town! For her visit, I planned a dinner at a vegetarian-friendly restaurant – The Eden – as well as a visit to the Calgary Zoo to check out the ZOOLIGHTS. For this post, let’s listen to “Ride A White Horse” by Goldfrapp.

Eden offers a very merry happy hour: $5 house wine, $5 draft beer, 1/2 price small plates and $2.50 oysters. On weekdays, happy hour starts from 4-6:00 pm and 9:00 pm to close. Happy hour starts at 2:00 pm on weekends.

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I tried a glass of the house red ($8, HH $5, Gamay) and white ($8, HH $5, Muscadet). Jaime sipped on a pleasantly unsweet rose wine ($8, HH $5). Both glasses of wine were nice. To start, we shared an order of Mixed Wild Mushrooms ($16, HH $8).

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The mushroom appy is a winner. The crunchiness of the crostini was a rich contrast to the silky shiitake mushrooms, bathed in a light parmesan cream sauce. The portion of mushrooms was so generous we piled our crostini high and still had ample shrooms leftover.

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I enjoyed my bountiful serving of Mussels and Frites ($26). I was pleasantly surprised how large the mussels are, considering our land-locked location. Each mussel was large, plump and soft, with a distinctively briny flavour.

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The description on the menu described the sauce as spicy, but I didn’t detect any heat. Perhaps after my last meal at Kam Han, my delicate taste buds have been permanently scarred. The combination of the thick tomato sauce with the chunks of juicy chorizo was tasty. I’d recommend dunking the fries into the sauce, so that it absorbs the fatty goodness of the sausage and the tang from the tomatoes.

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Jaime ordered a Veggie Burger with a salad ($19). The vegan patty is from Know Meat and made from green lentils, brown rice, yellow split peas and sweet potatoes. The patty’s exterior was crunchy while the interior was soft and creamy. I could detect some curry spice and ginger.

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The patty is topped with avocado, lettuce, tomato, pickled peppers, vegan ranch sauce, in a vegan bun. The texture and flavour of the Know Meat patty is superior to A&W’s Beyond Burger. The Know Meat burger is tastier and I prefer the composition of the patty.

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Jaime found her salad too peppery, but I liked it so much I demolished her bowl. I particularly enjoyed the herb vinaigrette because of the creamy, pungent flavour of Dijon mustard.

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I’d like to return to try Eden’s grilled pork loin with house made ricotta gnocchi and another serving of the mushroom toast. Please note that my pictures do not do the food justice. The lighting was dark and my photography skills are the result of a lack of talent and laziness. Go check it out for yourself – the bistro is quaint, service is warm, and the food is delicious.

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

Cheap Eats · Chinese · Restaurants · Steakhouse

Kam Han Szechuan House – Crab Hot Pot

Ever since Mai told me about Kam Han Szechuan House, I’ve been craving spicy crab hot pot. So for my sixth wedding anniversary, I told L and One Chubby Hamster that we were going out for Chinese style crab. For this post, let’s listen to “A Teenager in Love” by Dion and The Belmonts.

We ordered two extra spicy crabs ($45.99) with two orders of yam noodles ($3.99), wood ear mushrooms ($6.99), lotus root ($7.99), and Pan-Fried Pork Buns ($11.99). I ordered tea and L and One Chubby Hamster stuck to water. This is the first anniversary that I didn’t partake in a glass of bubbles.

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The pot arrived with burners underneath, which kept our food boiling hot during the entire meal. We received plastic gloves, one crab cracker, and a bucket to throw our shells in.

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The crab is battered, deep-fried and tossed in sauce. The best bite is the first one because that’s where most meat is with the least amount of work. You get a mouthful of deep-fried crab, coated in hot chili oil. The meat inside the shell is scantier.

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One Chubby Hamster said the noodles were a good consistency – stretchy and soft. I love the squishy texture of the wood ear mushrooms, and how it crunched with the yam noodles. L enjoyed the delightfully crisp texture and mild flavour of the lotus root.

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The vegetables and noodles took on the full flavour of the chili oil. The chili oil was fragrant and stung of fiery Sichuan peppercorns. I’d describe the sauce as violently spicy but insanely delicious with notes of garlic, shallots, peanuts and chilies.

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The portion of crab with all the fixings is enough for four adults. While there isn’t much meat inside the crab legs or claws, it’s to be expected at this price.

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One Chubby Hamster and L squirmed in their seat, occasionally tilting their head back in pain from the heat. I have a high tolerance for spice and even I was feeling it. My face felt hot and my mouth tingled from the oil.

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I wouldn’t order the pan-fried pork buns again. The buns were crunchy on the outside and greasy. The bun itself was sweet and the pork mixture was bland and somewhat sparse compared to the proportion of the bun.

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Dining at Kam Han is a messy affair. The oil seeped through our plastic gloves. L said this restaurant would not be a good first date place. I agree, and that’s why I picked this restaurant for our sixth year anniversary.

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Thanks L for dinner and One Chubby Hamster for your delightful company. I’d return, but I would order mild spice instead and the dumplings instead of the pan-fried pork buns. Hitting the Sauce gives Kam Han one fat thumb up.

Kam Han Szechuan House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Hy’s Steakhouse – Lunch

For Cruising’s birthday lunch, I wanted to take her to Caesar’s Steak House. However, due to her busy work schedule, Hy’s Steakhouse was the more convenient choice. For this post, let’s listen to “I Want to Take You Higher” by Sly and The Family Stone.

As I had to work after lunch, I couldn’t order a glass of wine. Instead, I stared enviously at the carefree couple next to me who were two martinis into their lunch. Cruising wanted hot water but Ms. Biz and I told her to forgo cultural stereotypes for this lunch. Cruising and I ordered an Earl Grey tea ($4.99) and Ms. Biz requested a club soda with lemon ($3.50).

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To start, we shared an order of the Cheese Bread ($10.95). One order contains two slices, each cut into three pieces. As the cheese bread is so decadent, I felt like two pieces was almost too much for me.

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The bread was crunchy on the edges and soft in the middle. The layer of warm creamy cheese had a deliciously mild tang to it. I’d order this again.

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Cruising and Ms. Biz ordered the Sliced Calf Liver with Bacon and Onions ($23.99). I’ve never tried calf liver. Ms. Biz instructed me to eat the meat with the onion and bacon. The liver was crisp on the outside and velvety tender. The flavour was intense but there was no bitterness or gameness to it.

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I ordered the New York Steak Sandwich ($29.99). I upgraded my side to a double stuffed potato ($8.99). My steak was cooked as requested – medium rare. My steak was too salty and a tad tough. The double stuffed potato was light and fluffy with crispy edges, garnished with bacon bits, green onions and sour cream. So tasty and worth the extra charge.

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The lunch portions at Hy’s are so filling, both Ms. Biz and I took more than half our food home. L heated up my steak for his dinner. He said the steak was delicious but salty and  the potato was awesome.

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Service was professional and attentive. The staff worked efficiently to ensure customers receive their food in a timely matter. I’d recommend coming to Hy’s for their well priced lunch.

Hy's Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Beer · Pubs · Restaurants · Vancouver/Richmond

Richmond – Fuggles and Warlock

Due to unforeseen circumstances, my parents cancelled our second dim sum adventure. Since it was L’s birthday weekend, I let him pick another spot for lunch. He requested pints at Fuggles and Warlock. For this post, let’s listen to “Babooshka” by Kate Bush.

On a chilly Saturday afternoon, I can think of nothing better than pulling up a bar stool and killing time at Fuggles and Warlock. The brewery is small and cozy, filled with awards, trophies and quirky memorabilia.

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The food is simple but ideal for the cold weather. The small menu offers pretzels, meat pies, pizza, piping hot samosas and warm sandwiches. The portions are snack sized. I noticed there’s a curry food truck parked outside the store.

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L ordered a flight ($8) while I ordered my usual – Strawberry Wit ($6). The consistency of the wit reminds me of a cross between an A&W root beer float and a strawberry milkshake. Fuggles and Warlock nailed the flavour – it actually taste like fresh strawberries.

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L took a liking to the Destiny IPA. I’d describe this IPA as mildly hoppy, with pleasant citrus notes. I don’t normally like IPAs, but I could crush the Destiny IPA.

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L was also a fan of the Pixel, a Czech pilsner. He thought the pilsner was crisp and light. I thought this beer was refreshing but it was a tad hoppy for my taste.

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L mentioned the Destiny IPA and Pixel pilsner were the more traditional than the other beers we sampled. I preferred the more eccentric beers. Fuggles and Warlock makes alcoholic beverage I’d imagine a grown up Harry Potter would appreciate.

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I was a fan of the Gin and Lime, which tasted more like a cocktail than a beer. The taste of the lime and gin was prominent. Fuggles and Warklock uses infused Unruly Gin from Wayward Distillation House.

I was surprised that I liked the Kiwami Plum Sour even more than Strawberry Wit. Fuggles and Warlock used fresh plums to make this sour. This beer reminded me of a simple wine. I could picture my favourite Japanese restaurant in Calgary – Shokunin – featuring this beverage.

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L and I shared the Ham Sandwich and Pickle ($9). The bread was light and crispy. The generous amount of cheese made each bite full of gooey goodness.

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The pickle tasted homemade because it lacked that chemical taste of grocery pickles. The pickle wasn’t crunchy or sour. When I bit into the pickle, the juice squirted out onto my sandwich.

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L thought the Tourterie Pie ($9) tasted like a sausage roll. Tasty, but I preferred the steak pie I tried at my previous visit. I guess ten years in Calgary will make you an Albertan.

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Stopping by for a pint at Fuggles and Warlock is an annual tradition for us.  I’m sure the next time we visit, the brewmasters will pull out some wizardy and have a new, oddly wonderful beer for us to try. Hitting the Sauce gives Fuggles and Warlock two magical thumbs up.

Fuggles and Warlock Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi · Vancouver/Richmond

Richmond – Sushi Hachi – L’s birthday dinner

I booked L’s birthday dinner at Sushi Hachi Japanese Restaurant. Run by a husband and wife team, Sushi Hachi is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Reservations are required, as the small restaurant is perpetually booked.

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I invited N and Beep Beep to L’s dinner. N asked if she could bring her new gentleman friend A-OK. When I spoke to the owner to request an extra seat, I confided to the owner that I was excited to dine at his restaurant. He sounded pleased, but cautiously mentioned that he only serves sushi and sashimi. There is no teriyaki or tempura on the menu. I told him that was fine with me, as I’ve been to Japan before and I’m aware of the difference between real sushi and the North American version. He sounded worried and humbly stated that he didn’t want to get my my hopes up, as his sushi is not as good as what you can get in Japan. For this post, let’s listen to “Saw You in a Dream” by The Japanese House.

When we were seated, L commented that he knew Sushi Hachi was a good restaurant based on the tantalizing smells wafting from the kitchen and sushi bar. Unfortunately, the description of the food we ate won’t be as detailed as I would have preferred. Beep Beep and I were too busy sizing up A-OK. I usually hate the guys N dates, but A-OK was a refreshing break from the norm.

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A-OK and I shared a bottle of cold sake – Hakutsuru Nigori ($17). The flavour was floral, lush and milky in texture. L, Beep Beep and N refrained from drinking alcohol. Beep Beep was driving. L wanted a good sleep. N just came back from her second ayahuasca trip in Peru. Her shaman said she could eat seafood again, but not alcohol, meat or soy sauce. I asked A-OK if the next time, he could slip the shaman an extra twenty bucks so N could eat meat again.

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The Miso Soup ($2) was subtly different from the norm. I read in other reviews that the female owner makes her fish miso in small batches. Each bowl contained a collarbone.

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I ordered four Chef’s Special ($120) – a selection of ten pieces of nigiri and tuna maki. We were given a description of each fish, but I didn’t have time to write any of the names of the fish down.

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The balance of vinegar and sugar in the rice was perfect. The temperature of the rice was neither cool or warm. I noticed the rice was a bit softer than I’m used to. L and I liked the proportion of fish to rice.

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My favourite piece was the bright white glossy piece – it was both crunchy and creamy. The simplicity of garnishes on the nigiri still let the freshness of the seafood shine through.

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The scallops were tender and sweet. My favourite version was the chopped scallop. There’s just something so winning about the combination of delicate scallops and the rich egg flavor of velvety Kewpie mayonnaise.

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I enjoyed crunching into the raw prawn ($3.50). Cold, sweet and with a texture that was both gooey and crunchy. The uni ($4.00) was the most buttery and briniest I’ve ever had. I’d order this again.  L ordered an extra piece of his favourite sushi –  tako ($2.50).

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L noted he’s never tried so many pieces of white fish, each with its own unique flavour. All the seafood tasted pure and clean. 

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A-OK and N ordered a plate of Toro ($18) and Sockeye Salmon ($14). No comment as we didn’t try any of it.

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A-OK also ordered the Grilled Squid ($10.50).  The squid was tender and the juices were reminiscent of charcoal. This dish was simple and delicious.

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N ordered a Tempura Roll ($6) because she was still hungry. She took one piece and announced she was full.  I ate a couple of pieces.  The roll was crunchy and warm from the tempura, made even tastier with a generous slathering of mayonnaise.

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N mentioned that while she can eat fish, she only wants to eat white fish. She felt that the fish with a pink tinge was closer to meat. I disagreed but didn’t feel the urge to argue with her. I’m not a hot shot shaman.

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My favourite part of the night was when L thanked the sushi chef. In Japan, locals go crazy over my husband’s enunciation while I am generally frowned upon for breaking protocol. After L broke out his perfect Japanese, the  chef’s expression didn’t change and he simply nodded to L.  When I went to thank the sushi chef in English, he beamed and bestowed me with a big grin. Take that L.

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Sushi Hachi is a gem. Now that L and I are no longer going on our annual trip to Japan, we can look forward to dining at Sushi Hachi. I’m eager to try more of the adventurous seafood on their sushi menu. Hitting the Sauce gives Sushi Hachi two fat thumbs up.

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

Chinese · Dim Sum · Restaurants · Vancouver/Richmond

Richmond- Shi-Art’s Dim Sum Theatrics

To celebrate L’s birthday, I took him to Vancouver. My parents picked us up at the airport. When we exited her car, I mentioned to Boss Lady that she drives like Mario in Mario Kart. She rolled her eyes and retorted, “I know where I’m going. People just need to get out of my way.” For this post, let’s listen to “Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne.

I wanted to eat at Chef’s Tony or Continental Seafood Restaurant but Boss Lady vetoed my suggestions. She wanted Shi-Art Chinese Cuisine because there is plenty of parking. I informed Boss Lady that if we ordered before 11:00 a.m., we would receive 20% off our bill. She looked unimpressed and said she didn’t care about the discount.

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One of the best dishes we tried was the Mushroom and Scallop Congee ($12.99). The scallops were plump and soft. The mushrooms were mild in flavour and silky in texture.

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The congee was simple and delicious, cooked to a thick smooth consistency, lightly seasoned with salt.  I added white pepper because it gives the soup a prominent peppery zip.

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My least favourite dish was the Steamed Shrimp Roll ($7.99). There was plenty of large shrimp in the roll, but the shrimp lacked a crunch to it. The noodles, even with the soy sauce, were bland.

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I requested Beef Tendon Rice Rolls ($21.99). The beef was soft but parts of it were dry or fatty. L disagreed and said the beef was delicious.  I enjoyed the rice rolls, which were seared on the edges with a noticeable charred wok hei aroma. The tendon was so gelatinous I didn’t have to chew. I prefer tendon with more of a chew to it.

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My mother mentioned several times that the beef tendon wasn’t as good as the other variation she normally orders at Shi-Art, the Braised Beef Brisket and Beef Tendon in Noodles ($21.99). She wrinkled her nose and added that she’s glad she tried this version as I requested it, but her dish was better.

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Our favourite dish was the Pan Fried Pumpkin with Spicy Salt ($12.99). Ludwig and Boss Lady mentioned this dish isn’t served at many Chinese restaurants. The pumpkin was lightly battered and crisp. Boss Lady enjoyed nibbling on the spicy seasoning of shrimp, fried garlic, green onions and hot peppers. I’d order this again.

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The House Steamed Shrimp Dumplings ($7.39) were tasty. The wrapper was dry and not overly steamed. The shrimp itself was large and plump. Far better than what I can get in Calgary.

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We all enjoyed the Preserved and Dried Meat on Chinese Donut Rice Rolls ($7.99). I liked the crunchiness of the deep-fried donut against the softness of the rice wrapper.

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L and Ludwig raved about the Seafood E-Fu Noodle ($18.99). The noodles were piping hot and lightly sauced. The fish, prawns, scallops and squid were nicely cooked. I’d order this again.

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Doug, who appeared to be the day time manager, was chatting up a storm with a customer sitting across from us. My mother interrupted his conversation to ask for some more tea. He didn’t like that one bit and he waved her away with his hand. He took a few steps away, reluctantly turned around and grabbed our tea pot. I saw him dawdle at the tea section and walked slowly back to our table. My father sat up erectly and politely thanked the Doug for the tea. I opened the lid to make sure there was no sign of tampering, like spit.

My mother was pissed. She said the manager is always rude to her and why is he always talking instead of working? I was surprised when ten minutes later, Boss Lady interrupted his conversation again to ask for the bill. Why didn’t she wave someone else over? Doug completely ignored her. Lucky for us, another server got us our bill. L jumped in and snatched the bill before my mother could pay. Our server was impressed. She said it’s rare that young men display such excellent manners. My parents both beamed with pride and chatted with our friendly server for a bit. Boss Lady asked L to ensure we received the 20% discount. With the discount, our bill was around $80.

L and I thought Shi-Art used a lot of MSG because we were both incredibly thirsty after eating there. L enjoyed the food. For the most part, the dishes were fresh, hot and tasty.  I wouldn’t return. I want a dim sum experience without the theatrics. Perhaps the next visit, Boss Lady will permit me to pick the restaurant.

Shi-Art Chinese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Beer · Burgers · Pubs · Restaurants

Newcastle Pub

Whenever L and I have a big decision to make, we discuss it over a pint at Newcastle Pub. We started this tradition when we bought our first home. Personally, I think it’s just an excuse to drink. We both know what we want to do before we even slide into a booth. For this post, let’s listen to “Just What I Needed” by The Cars.

The last time we visited, L ordered the Truffle Parmesan Fries ($9.5). Double damn! This shit was unreal. The large portion of fries were steaming hot and extra crispy. The potato chips were cut wide with a soft silky interior. L and I thought the taste of the truffle oil worked well with the tartness of the balsamic aioli. The smell of the fresh parsley helped tone down the heady scent of the truffle and parmesan.

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On our most recent visit, our server recommended we try the Smoked Meat Burger ($12.95). For only three bucks, we upgraded to the truffle parmesan chips. This burger was so delicious, I want to add another expletive but as my father reads my posts, I’ll refrain.

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The beef brisket was piled high, tangy from the BBQ sauce and fragrant from the smoker.  The fried onion strings added a pleasing crunch that contrasted with the soft, saucy meat. This burger is not from your average pub.

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Jay, the manager at Newcastle, come over to see if we were happy with our meal. I told him that I couldn’t remember the last time I enjoyed a burger this much. Jay informed me that he was an executive chef for 30 years, and his cooks do things a little differently than other folks. For example, prime rib is used for the brisket and they smoke it themselves.

Check out Newcastle’s feature burgers. It’s obvious a lot of thought is put into the features. Hitting the Sauce is so infatuated, she’s putting her local pub on her list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

Newcastle Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi

Shokunin – New Winter Menu

L received good news and to celebrate, he told me to pick a restaurant. By the time L finished his sentence, I had already booked a table at Shokunin. For this post, let’s listen to “Love Like This” by Faith Evans.

Aside from the new winter menu, I noticed the seating between the tables is more spacious than before. And to keep up with the fast pace of the restaurant, there’s an army of cheerful, happy looking staff. From what I could see and experience, customers are well taken care of throughout the evening.

To start off our meal, L ordered a beer – the Okami Kasu (6 oz, $7). I ordered two glasses of red – Orofino Gamay ($15) and Dom Charbonniere ($11) because I wanted to compare the two wines side by side. The latter was sweet and easy to drink, with a fuller body. The Orofino was lighter and tart with a more pleasing bouquet.

L’s is obsessed with the Japanese Potato Salad ($8). Since I’ve been a customer, I have tried about three different versions. Past potato salads were served colder and with a chunkier texture. Another version used more red pickled onions with a balance of creamed and solid pieces of potato. This time, all the potatoes were whipped and creamy. We could taste a strong tang of horseradish. With the addition of half an egg, this version was creative, just like Shokunin.

The Foie Gras Don ($25) is my favourite dish of the 2019 menu. The moment this bowl hit our table, we could smell the roasted nori. The rice was perfectly perfumed with vinegar and each grain was tender but dense. For L, the highlight was the teriyaki sauce and rice. The sauce wasn’t sweet but true to the traditional teriyaki flavour you get from a homemade sauce.

For me, the foie gras stole the show. Each piece was warm, delicate and so buttery it melted on my tongue. The flavour was so explosively rich and fresh, it reminded me of a raw westcoast oyster. This dish was so distractedly decadent, I neglected my two glasses of wines. The side of tempura mint was lovely, as it combined the refreshing taste of mint with the salty thin crunch of the batter. I’d order this dish again.

 

L requested we order the Chicken Karaage ($14). Our chicken arrived blistering hot. I burnt my tongue because I didn’t wait for the karaage to cool down. I was surprised the meat was so juicy.

This karaage tasted different from past versions. I’m think the chicken is now skinless. All the crevices in each morsel was covered in a fine, crunchy batter. It was almost like the meat was scored and dusted with the seasoning mix. In any case, the karaage was scrumptious.

The Duck Udon ($19) is my favourite bowl of noodles in city. I find udon more satisfying to eat than ramen. I like the slippery smooth texture and the chewiness of the fat noodles. The slivers of spring onions were crunchy with the strong, sweet flavour of fresh green onions. The earthiness of the meaty mushroom slices and the creamy egg rounded out this bowl of treasures.

 

In my past visit, the duck slices were thicker, rare in the middle and satiny in texture. Now the meat is thinly sliced and it looks like it was torched or seared. The result is a more delicate texture that blends in with the vegetables.

L remarked that I was smiling as I ate. I told him I was happy and I felt like the Ramen Master on Tampopo. I was elated to eat something that I couldn’t make at home.

L informed me he’s never watched Tampopo. What? The greatest movie of all time? I stared at L like the grocery merchant gaped at the crazy old lady (see video below for illustration). If you haven’t seen this epic movie, go do it. Watch it here.

Hitting the Sauce gives Shokunin’s new winter menu two fat thumbs up. The foie gras don is a work of art and I hope it is a permanent fixture on the menu. Below is a review of my review from my father. As always, he is correct.

“An enthusiastic review characterized by your usual erudite style and entertaining humour. But to neglect or almost neglect your glass of wine. Now that is the ultimate compliment and should not be conferred lightly!”

Ludvig van Louie

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

 

 

Cheap Eats · Chinatown · Chinese · Dim Sum · Restaurants

U & Me – Dim Sum Special

I’m planning a trip to Vegas and I wanted advice from Ms. Biz. She knows her restaurants and she travels to Vegas six times a year. She also dines at some of the best restaurants in the world. I was hoping for her toned-down list, as I’m no baller. For this post, let’s listen to “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton.

I wanted to eat at Chong Fat but the restaurant was closed. Lucky Place was too busy so Ms. Biz suggested U & Me for the dim sum set lunch. For only $42 bucks, we could pick two “A” dishes and five “B” dim sum items.

For our first “A” dish, we picked gai lan, which is similar to broccoli but firmer and sweeter. Ms. Biz gleefully noted that the greens were good looking and not over boiled. I never heard anyone call a vegetable attractive, but yeah, I’ll eat that. The smell of the garlic was intoxicating. The greens were hot temperature wise but still crisp.

Our second “A” dish was the XO Fried Turnip Cake. The turnip was lightly grilled, the exterior browned and crispy. Each piece was steaming hot and pillowy soft. The grilled red peppers and green onions were tossed in a spicy seasoning. The portion was generous.

I don’t normally eat Steamed Beef Beat Balls because there is cilantro in it. However, I indulged because there wasn’t an obvious abundance of the green herb. Ms. Biz said the balls were not over steamed and she liked the texture, which was bouncy and spongy. The flavour of the beef was mild. I would order this again.

The Baked BBQ Pork Buns tasted like it was right out of the oven. The pastry was warm and sweet. The pork filling was very warm. This was my least favourite dish because I didn’t like the sweetness of the pastry and filling.

One of the best dishes was the Shrimp in Rice Roll. The ample amount of shrimp was crunchy. The rice roll was slippery and soft. The light soy sauce was mildly salty, just enough to compliment the shrimp and noodle combination.

My mother would approve of the Meat and Peanut Dumplings. The wrapper wasn’t over steamed. I like the simplicity of the flavours and the clean pop of the boiled peanuts.

The Deep Fried Turnip Cake is a must order. It’s decadent and savoury, with a thousand layers of pastry. We only ate half a cake, because it’s that rich. I think the fried turnip cake is U & Me’s signature dim sum dish.

Ms. Biz gave me her list of go-to restaurants to try in Vegas: Joel Robuchon, Raku, Magul Korean BBQ, Monta Ramen, Bouchan, Wynn Buffet, and KJ Kitchen. I’m knocking off Joel Robuchon because there’s no way I’m paying that much to gain weight. I will hit Raku, Magul Korean BBQ, Monta Ramen and Ping Pang Pong for some late night eats and dim sum.

I kept the bill by my tea cup so I could pay after our meal. However, Cruising is sneaky and went up to the cashier to pay while Ms. Biz held me back. On the walk back to work, Ms. Biz told me Cruising’s birthday is coming up. I told them I was taking them to Caesar’s Steakhouse for lunch. This time, I was paying and there’s no fighting me. Ms. Biz said she would split it with me. I told her no way in hell would I let her. This Chinese etiquette thing is getting ridiculous and I’m no mooch.

I came back to the office and regaled my boss with my description of the food and prices at U & Me. He wants to know the details, so here it is. Every single blessed day, U and Me offers this set lunch from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 pm. If you dine before 11:00 a.m, there are rice and congee deals for only $2.99. There you have it – Calgary’s best dim sum deal.

U & Me Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Caesar’s Steakhouse

To celebrate Bobbino and Loving Disapproval’s 50th wedding anniversary, the kids took them out to Caesar’s Steakhouse. For this post, I’m going to play “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” by The Shirelles.

The restaurant is an indulgent time warp to a 70’s version of the Roman Empire. The chandeliers sparkle against the glass mirrors and gold drapes. The shiny red leather seats match the bright, bold carpets. My favourite fixture in the restaurant is the chef, who with over 25 years of experience, masters his art over a fiery grill. Mad props to this dude, he is Calgary’s finest steak wizard.

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Our maître d’ Joel knows his wine. If you are lucky enough to get him as your host, tell him what you are comfortable spending and he won’t steer you wrong. He helped me select two of three bottles ($110-120), all from Napa Valley. My favourite bottle was the Ridge 2016 Geyserville, as it paired best with the steaks and I enjoyed the ruby finish. Joel also picked out a Spanish wine by the glass which I enjoyed.

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We all ordered the ‘Emperor’s Feast’. The feast includes caramelized onion soup with house-made beef broth and a Parmesan crouton, a mixed green salad, cheese toast and garlic bread, and a twice baked stuffed potato.

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I heard much about the famous cheese bread. The heavy dusting of cheese was dry and salty.  L complained it reminded him of Kraft Parmesan.  It was complimentary bread so I didn’t care. I told him to choose the garlic bread next time.

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The caramelized onion soup had a touch of sweetness to the broth. Uncle Ben enjoyed his soup more than I did.

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If you order an entree, you can upgrade to a traditional Caesar salad for $9.00 per person. I watched as Joel whipped up the dressing from scratch. Holy moly, what an awesome salad. The lettuce was cold and crunchy. The sauce was garlicky and cheesy, with the brightness of fresh lemon juice and a hint of anchovy. The homemade croutons were light and added a crumbly texture. I would order this again.

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I asked Joel which cut of steak was his favourite. He asked me what I cared about in a steak. I said taste. He said in that case, go for the rib-eye. I ordered the 14 ounce rib-eye ($58) so I could share my steak with L and Uncle Ben. I asked for my steak to be cooked to a medium rare, even though my boss told me to order it medium rare, but closer to rare.

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Though my steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare, the meat was still hot. Joel mentioned that their beef never hits the freezer and the meat is climatized near the grill so it doesn’t bleed on the plate. I can honestly say this was the best steak I’ve consumed in my life.

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The flavour of the beef was rich, and the texture was ultra tender. Using a knife was optional. We learned from Joel that all the beef is cut in house from specially selected Sterling Silver and Prime Alberta Beef and cut to order. The top tiered beef is aged a minimum of 35 days.

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Turned and Loving Disapproval both ordered the 14 ounce rib-eye ($44). I overheard everyone said their meat was cooked to their specification. I gave about half of my steak to Uncle Ben, L and Dave. L doesn’t normally like rib-eye but he thought my steak was even better than his 14 ounce New York steak ($64). I thought all the steaks I tried were excellent. You can’t go wrong with any cut.

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I enjoyed L’s New York steak. The meat was firmer and more lean than the rib-eye, but the flavour was more beefy. L loved the char on the outside and said it was damn near perfection. I think there is something superior about  a steak charred on an open grill.

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Dave ordered the 20 ounce T-Bone steak ($64) rare. He gave me a bite and I thought his steak was yummy. He packed some of his T-bone home and gave a piece to his mother and dog. His mother told me it was still juicy when she tried it. His dog Sam apparently rolled his eyes to the back of his head in pleasure.

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Uncle Ben loves a nice rack, so he ordered the Rack of Lamb ($50). The herb roasted spring lamb was tender and lean, with a mild flavour. This is one of the best lambs I’ve tried.

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I called ahead of time and asked if the chef could make something special for Veggie Girl. I was informed that the restaurant offers a vegetarian appetizer and main, but there is no unique creation. I asked if the server could lie and tell her that it was made specifically for her. I got a giggle on the telephone, but when it came down to it, Veggie wasn’t lied to by Joel. Luckily, said she enjoyed every element of her meat free entree.

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For dessert, Bob and Loving Disapproval ordered the Cherry Jubilee. Joel also brought over a complimentary panna cotta. I was in a meatcoma at this point and I was too lazy to take a picture.

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Joel informed us that Caesar’s has worked with the same supplier for over four decades and as a result, they receive Alberta’s finest beef. I concur. Along with the master chef, the end product is beyond reproach. The smell, temperature, texture, and taste of the steaks is superb.

Price-wise, it is expensive but worth it. Expect to pay about $150 a person. We sat and enjoyed our meals over a three hour period. We were not rushed out and the GM even took the time to take numerous family photos by the entrance. If my father’s health permits, I’d love to bring my family to Caesar’s Steakhouse for an authentic Calgary experience.

Caesar's Steak House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Beer · Patio · Restaurants

Two House Brewery

Numbers and Caviar invited us out to check out a new brewery by their place – Two House Brewing Company. When we entered, I felt like I wasn’t in Calgary. The brewery has a friendly, industrial vibe. The movie Heathers was projected on the wall. The music was rocking, playing tunes from bands like Blondie, The Japanese House, Assenger, Siouxsie and the Banshees.  For this post, let’s listen to, “The Passenger”.

On a Friday at 8:00 p.m., there wasn’t a single table available. Note that seats are somewhat communal. You’ll likely be sharing a table with strangers. No sweat because the clientele was welcoming and in my age bracket. We sat with a group of expats and I bonded with a customer over her Cowichan sweater.

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We ordered a flight of all five seasonal beers ($11): Prvni Pilsner, Rec Room Brown, Hoptimist, Fool’s Gold, and El Hefe. I thought the prices were good value, particularly considering Two House is located in Sunalta, an inner-city community. It was actually cheaper for me to drink here than at my own house.

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The Prvni Pilsner (4.5%) was light and offered a nice aftertaste. L said it was an easy drinking beer. Whenever someone tells me a wine is ‘easy drinking’, I always want to ask for them to recommend a difficult drinking wine. The Rec Room Brown (5.5%) tasted like coffee, with nutty notes. The brown ale reminded me of Granville Island’s Christmas lager. Both L and I liked this beer, but because it was sweet we couldn’t drink a lot of it.

I enjoyed the Hoptimist (6.5%) – I found it  tasty, crisp and not overly hoppy. A very crushable beer, perfect for sipping on Two Houses’ dog-friendly patio. Bring your kids too, as the brewery is kid-friendly until 7:00 p.m. L liked the Fool’s Gold (5%). He found this beer crisp and bright. I found the carbonation a little flat.  L disagreed, as this one was one of his favourite picks of the night. The clear winner for me was the El Hef (4.5%), a spicy bubbly beer. I ended up getting two more pints of the El Hef.

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Numbers knows the owner, as he recently started working at Two House Brewing. She gave us complimentary Urban-Grub potato chips and blue cheese dip ($5). Numbers said all the food is homemade and made with top ingredients. I liked the thickness of the crunchy chips and the flavour of the potato. These were real artisanal chips and it beats Miss Vickie’s any day. The dip was cold and creamy with intense notes of blue cheese.

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The company was excellent and the venue a lot of fun. We enjoyed ourselves so much, we stayed until closing. L noticed the brewery is located right by the Sunalta LRT station. How convenient for us! I look forward to my next visit.

Two House Brewery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurants · Sandwiches · Vietnamese

Thi Thi – Chinatown Institution

Divine Offering met me in Chinatown for lunch. She has an obsession with sandwiches and was craving a banh mi from Thi Thi. We arrived at 12:00 p.m. and waited in line for 23 minutes. Sometimes the line doesn’t move because a customer orders five or ten subs for their friends. Personally, I think Thi Thi should ban this unfair practice and enforce stricter rules when ordering.

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Even though I haven’t eaten at Thi Thi for three years, the owner’s son still recognizes me. He asked me why I haven’t been coming around. I told him it was because I bring my lunch to work. What I didn’t tell him was that when I was a frequent customer, I put on too much weight. The owner interjected and suggested that I should walk more. He observed that the Japanese are so slim because they walk everywhere and don’t drive. He pointed to my sub and asked me if he should make it slimmer. I wanted to say, “Hell no! Leave my banh mi alone! It’s been three lonely years!” Instead, I pursed my lips and indignantly shook my head. For this post, let’s listen to “Let it beby The Beatles.

I ordered the Thi Thi special ($7) – cold cut meat combo with a sprinkling of sate beef. I asked for pate and no mayonnaise. The owner toasts the sub with all the meats before topping it up with vegetables.  I asked for all the toppings but no cilantro. I always request two chili peppers. The owner cuts it up fresh for each order.  In every couple of bites, you get a spicy mouthful.

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The sandwich is the size of Subway foot long. The bread is warm and crusty. The secret to Thi Thi’s deliciousness is the pate mayonnaise – the sauce is both light in texture but rich in flavour. I love how the pate oozes through the air pockets in the bread.

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The vegetables are fresh and crunchy. The cucumber is cut into long thin ribbons. The carrots are pickled and add a contrasting tartness to the savoury flavours of the meats. I like how the bread and meats are warm but the vegetables are cool.

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I tried to munch as slowly as possible because Divine Offering is a leisurely eater. She says it usually takes her half an hour to eat a sandwich, and that’s fast for her. When she realized I had to get back to the office, she started cramming the last quarter of her sub into her mouth. She looked uncomfortable but even when she was scarfing down her food, she was still really slow. At one point I thought she was going to choke. I should have told her to take her time, but I remembered how my colleague once jokingly referred to me as Cratchit. Thanks Divine Offering for making sure I got back to work on time.

Note: Cash only.

Thi Thi Vietnamese Submarine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Comfort food · Italian · Patio · Restaurants

Tavernetta

L won another award! I told him we need to celebrate this special occasion and I knew just the restaurant he could take me to. For this post, let’s listen to “Applause” by Lady Gaga.

My fellow wine enthusiast frequents Tavernetta.  As Bottlenick and I share similar taste in wine, I was keen check it out.

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Tavernetta is situated in a bungalow style house, similar to the home I grew up in. We sat in a cozy room at the back of the house. Our section overlooks the backyard. L liked the unpretentious vibe and friendly service.

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Bottlenick mentioned the house wine was good value ($8.00, 5 ounce). L and I agree – the wine was easy drinking with a tart finish. I wish other restaurants would follow Tavernetta’s example and sell something pleasant and easy on the wallet.

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Our first dish was the Calamari v. 4 ($13). The squid was cooked well. Each ringlet was silky and tender. Pro tip – to balance the spicy heat, make sure to mix the calamari with the sweet summer squash and yam puree on the bottom of the plate. The pesto sauce and tomatoes added a zing to the flavour profile.

I asked our server what wines he would recommend with our food. He suggested Baudana Dragon (2017, $11) or the Luigi Maffini Keleos (2016, $14). I requested a glass of each. L was in for one hell of a night. He ordered a pint of Commonwealth beer ($10).

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My favourite dish of the evening was Tavernetta Meatballs ($13). I was surprised because I don’t even like meatballs as the texture is often tough and bland. Tavernetta’s meatballs were steaming hot in the center. The meat was succulent and juicy. The tomato sauce was tangy.  I would order this dish again.

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I’m not a salad person but I can get behind the Cavolo ($13). The burrata cheese was creamy and fresh, like whipped cream. L thought the combination of crisp romaine, kale and tangy tomato vin worked well together. I loved the richness of the parmesan crisps.

The Baudana Dragon wine was light and went well with the salad and spicy notes in the calamari. The Luigi Maffini Keleos was richer and paired better with the heavier pasta. If I had to pick only one wine, I would go for the Dragon.

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Our last dish was the Farroto ($11). I’m glad the dish was a smaller portion, as the cheesy sauce was rich. We both thought we could taste mushroom in the sauce. Each grain was firm and chewy. I enjoyed the addition of the sweet peas, as it gave the pasta a fresh pop.

I’m eager to return. I’m not familiar with Italian wines and I think Tavernetta is just the place to start sipping.  Thanks Bottlenick for the stellar recommendation. Tavernetta gets two fat thumbs up and it makes it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

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

Italian · Patio · Pizza · Restaurants

Annabelle’s Kitchen

On Friday, L received good news. To celebrate, we went out for dinner. I couldn’t get reservations to my top picks: Shokunin, Bar Von Der Fels or Carino. L suggested three restaurants. None of his options offered a wine list that appealed to me. I countered with Tavernetta, but L didn’t want to drive that far. I scrolled through Instagram and saw a photo from Annabelle’s Kitchen, a modern Italian restaurant in Marda Loop.

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L was indifferent but I was insistent. I stressed that Annabelle’s Kitchen is only five minutes away, and we could go to Village Ice Cream for dessert. For this post, let’s listen to “Compromise” by Molly Kate Kestner.

Annabelle’s Kitchen doesn’t take reservations. Another group that was initially behind me ran up ahead and got the last table. It wasn’t cold, so we opted to sit outside on the patio.

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Our server Taylor provided solid wine pairing recommendations for our meal. She recommended a white wine – ($10, Brigaldar, il Soave, Veneto Italy) to go with the Ravioli ($16). The wine was light and lively on the tongue. I preferred the wine with the pasta, rather than just own its own.

You could taste the individual ingredients in the pasta – the lemon, the smooth mildness of the ricotta and the subtle pop from the garden peas and basil pesto. I thought this dish tasted almost healthy – there wasn’t an over abundance of salt, olive oil, butter or cream.

For our Sausage Pizza ($20), Taylor recommended a red wine (Mati Barbera, Piedmont, Italy $11). L ordered a Sour Cherry from Banded Peak ($8.50).

The Italian sausage had a nice chew to it. L liked the creaminess of the goat cheese. I enjoyed the heat from the pepper flakes and chili oil. The crust was perfectly baked and it reminded me of Azzurri Pizzeria.  Crunchy on the bottom but not burnt.

For dessert, L wanted a salted caramel waffle cone from Village Ice Cream. I didn’t want any but L insisted I try some of his ice cream. He kept offering me tastes and I nibbled away until he complained that I ate half his cone. Here’s a pro tip for you. If you don’t want me to eat your ice cream, don’t ask me to.

We will be back – to Annabelle’s Kitchen for pizza and Village for ice cream. If you haven’t been to either businesses, I recommend checking them out.

Annabelle's Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fast Food · Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Steamworks & The Cambie

L and I were suppose to meet up with N for dinner. Around 3:00 p.m., we walked over to Gastown to kill time. Since this post is going old school, let’s listen to “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus. L informed me that no one likes this song and it is hated by many.

We walked by The Lamplighter. I’ve only been here once before, when I brought L home to meet my family in 2010. He met my SFU buddy J. L, Moody and Cuz were so rowdy, they began purposely breaking glasses. I left early with Beep Beep, and after that night, J never hung out with me again. I asked L what he and his friends did to J. He said nothing and J seemed like he was having a good time.

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Since it was raining, we ducked into Steamworks.  There’s always fruit flies hanging around and the food isn’t good enough for me to eat, but there’s always seats and the location is convenient.

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I had one beer – Sanctuary – a collaboration between Blasted Church + Steamworks ($10, 500 ml, 7.5%). Blasted Church makes some decent BC white wines. The Gewürztraminer saison was light and peppery with citrus notes. It was so strong I felt intoxicated.

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I asked L if he wanted to walk the area I surveyed for my research project in 2008. He politely but firmly declined, and suggested instead we go for a drink in a nicer area. I mentioned the nearby watering hole, The Cambie, was closing for good this November.

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I’ve only hung out here a couple of times, at the request of work or school friends. The Cambie attracts a diverse, laid-back crowd. I was happy to see the conditions of the washrooms have improved. I recalled a poutine ($10) that I enjoyed 10 years ago and I wanted to try it again.

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The poutine was tasty, but there were fewer cheese curds than I remembered. The gravy was dark and salty. The fries were crispy and mealy. I’d order this again, but The Cambie won’t be open when I return.

At 6:00 p.m., N responded to my text, saying she would be ready around 7:00 p.m. However, that lone beer I drank from Steamworks made me dizzy, and not in a good way. My face was still red and I felt queasy. I told N that I would get something to eat to see if my condition would improve.

L and I popped into Kita no Donburi. I liked that all the dishes had the calories listed on the menu. I noticed most customers were eating tonkatsu curry (1,500 calories). The restaurant was busy, most likely due to the location and cheap prices.

L ordered Tendon ($9.95, 786 calories). His dish came with organic veggies, salad, two prawns, a purple yam, sweet potato, tofu crumbles, and kaki-age (mixed vegetables). He wasn’t impressed. He complained the tempura sauce was too small, and in Japan, tendon is served the sauce already poured over the tempura. I thought his dish was tastier than mine.

I ordered Chirashi ($12.50, 722 calories) even though I would have preferred the tendon. Dr. Quinn, my family doctor, has been after me to eat more fish. My bowl came with salmon, tuna, wild salmon, ebi, hokkigai, tamago, saba, ikura, spring mix lettuce and avocado. None of the ingredients tasted fresh or flavourful. Everyone thinks the food in Vancouver is so great. It can be amazing, but there’s a lot of mediocre restaurants here too. This was one of them.

I still wasn’t feeling well, so I cancelled plans with N. L and I took the train back to Richmond and I called my mother to pick us up. L asked me if I thought it was weird that my parents still drive me around. “I can rent a car when we visit so your parents don’t have to do that. We are adults.” This is the third time L has brought this subject up to me. I didn’t respond until we were in my mother’s car because I wanted Boss Lady to give him a definitive answer. She did, and that was the end of that.

Kita No Donburi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

French · Restaurants · Seafood · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Cafe Salade De Fruits

L and I finished shopping in South Granville. Before spending the afternoon at Granville Island, I suggested we have lunch at one of my old haunts – Café Salade De Fruits. I’ve been dining here since it first opened, back in the early 2000s. For this post, let’s listen to Les Champs Elysees by Chantal Chamberland.

Located inside a French school, the atmosphere is cozy and quaint. The music is soothing yet energetic. The French speaking staff are professional and warm.  The day I visited, I recognized one of the original chefs and owners – Antoine Bonard – in the kitchen.

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We sat on the patio. I wanted a light lunch, so we shared a regular order of Moules Frites ($19). I ordered a glass of La Vielille Ferme ($10.50) while L predictably ordered a sleeve of beer ($10).

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The fries were cut thin and short, with a crackling of salty goodness. I encouraged L to fork his fries and let it saturate in the broth. Friggin delicious. The fries remained crispy despite its creamy bath.

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The temperature of the broth was steaming hot and remained so throughout our meal. The broth was rich and fragrant with what I thought could be wine, cream, butter, shallots and lemon.

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The baguette was just as excellent as the mussels and broth. The crust was crisp yet chewy. The bread tasted clean, with soft, springy tissues.  I loved how beautifully the bread soaked up all the flavours in the broth. Our server saw that we finished all our bread and without any prompting, dropped off another serving.

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Despite how hot the broth was, each mussel remained soft and sweet until the very end. It’s hard to find a restaurant that can cook mussels properly. Too often, I find mussels are like rubbery bullets. You won’t find that here. This isn’t Salade de Fruits first rodeo.

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The regular order was like a magical never ending pot of mussels. We were stuffed. L raved our seafood lunch at Cafe Salade de Fruits. I’m pleased that some things don’t change. I hope this cafe is around as long as I keep coming.

Cafe Salade de Fruits Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Happy Hour · Restaurants · Seafood · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Fanny Bay & Oyster Bar

L asked me what I wanted to do on our free afternoon. Walk along the seawall! As we strolled over to English Bay, he complained that I walk too fast and said that I was going to blow out my hip. You don’t have to worry about me L, I have strong child bearing hips.

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When we arrived at our destination, he wanted to rest on the bench. L mentioned he felt like oysters and if we left now, we could make it in time for happy hour. I could tell Old Man L was tired, so I sat and admired the water for a moment more before we turned around and headed over to Fanny Bay Oyster Bar & Shellfish Market . For this post, let’s listen to “Sweet About Me by Gabriella Cilmi.

Happy hour is daily from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Select wines are $7, house beer is $5, and featured oysters are $1.50 or $2.25. The west coast oyster was the Sun Seeker (Floating Bag – 18 months old, Okeover, BC) and the east coast oyster was Totten Virginia (Beach Grown – 3 years old, Totten Inlet, WA).

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I wish I got the name of our server – a young man that spun our plate of oysters around in a circle and said it reminded him of the Game of Thrones introduction. His energy and attentive service, paired with the sublimely fresh oysters, made this visit exceptional.

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I tried a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc (Open Estates, Okanagan) and for $7 it was fine. However, I preferred the sparkling Pinot Grigio ($10, Most Wanted, Hungary) as it was simple, light and refreshing.

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Each oyster was perfectly shucked – there was no grit or shell in it. When you pulled the oyster out of the shell, it made the sound a cork makes when you pull it out of a wine bottle. 

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L and I prefer west coast oysters, but we enjoyed the Totten Virginia ($2.25). The oyster tasted a bit like celery. Compared to the Summit Seeker, the east coast oyster was cleaner with a crunchier texture.

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The Sun Seeker ($1.50) was firm and sweet, with a salty finish. The center of the oyster was cool on my tongue. These were chubby, creamy oysters. I was ecstatic.