Chinese · Restaurants

Toi Shan – Chinese takeout

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

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

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

Photo credit: Iatehere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bakery · Dessert · French · Restaurants

Le Picquenic and Peasant Cheese – Valentine’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chinese · Fusion

Respect the Technique – Lunar New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newcastle Pub – Wing Night

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mexican · Restaurants

Con Mi Tacos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Curry · Japanese · Restaurants · Tonkatsu

Katsuten – Tonkatsu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheap Eats · Mediteranean · Sandwiches

Shawarma Palace – Beef Donair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17th Ave · Burgers · Sandwiches

Alumni Sandwiches – Hot Chicken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comfort food · Pizza

Hanni’s Pizza – S.M.O.G

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japanese · Sushi

Sushi In

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

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

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

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

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

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