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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

17th Ave · Bars/Lounges · Fusion · Hawaiian · Restaurants

Lulu Bar

I met Jaime and Invisible Sandi at Frenchie Wine Bar. Invisible Sandi’s husband Boudoir stopped by for a drink. When we finished our wine, we all walked over to Lulu Bar for dinner. For this post, let’s listen to a song Lulu Bar played that totally made my day.

Lulu Bar took over the old Local 510 spot. If you ever frequented the previous establishment, you’ll recognize the bones of the former bar. The space feels open and bright.  With the warm breeze blowing into the room I felt like vacationing somewhere sunny.

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After I ordered wine from our server, I realized how annoying I am. Based on her facial response, I have to tone my specification down. I blame Bar Von Der Fels as they encourage me to be picky until I find a glass I love. I enjoyed the glass of French chardonnay she picked for me. I didn’t find it oaky or buttery.

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We ordered a small bowl of Sambal Popcorn ($3.50). The seasoning was so tangy and spicy it made me sneeze. I covered my mouth with my hand but a piece of the popcorn flew out onto my hair. I tried to discreetly pick it off, but the kernel was stuck on pretty good.

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Boudoir ordered the Hot Dog Baos ($9), his favourite dish of the night. He said the hot dog reminded him of a sweet pepperoni bun. Invisible Sandi didn’t say much about the food, maybe because she was too busy amusing everyone with her whimsical quips.

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Jaime and I enjoyed our Fried Miso Cured Egg ($4). I liked the heat from the tamarind chili jam. The batter on the egg and crunch of the cucumber relish made this appetizing dish pop.

Boudoir thought his Fried Coconut Squid ($13) was underseasoned. I didn’t taste any heat or salt, just the sweetness of the pineapple sauce. I thought the squid itself was tender and better quality than I’m accustomed to.

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Jaime said the Snow Peas and Tendrils ($10) was a dish that her parents would make at home. The pods were crunchy with a satisfying snap. The flavour profile was nice – a hint of sesame, fresh horseradish and the smoky char of the peas. I’d order this again.

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I usually find yams and sweet potatoes overly sweet. Lulu’s version was a winner. The fresh mint, yuzu cashew cream and salt flakes balanced the sweetness of the Crispy Roasted Sweet Potatoes ($10).

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My favourite dish was the Steamed Lobster Dumplings ($16). These dumplings made me finally understand the phrase ‘Asian sensation’. The lobster filling was luxurious, slippery from its bath of fresh basil, chili, soy sauce and tobiko. I’d order this again and I wouldn’t want to share.veg dump.jpg

Jaime was too full so I ate two of her vegetarian dumplings ($13). Compared to the lobster dumplings, the vegetarian version was squishier and simpler. If you’re a vegetarian, this is probably as good as it’s going to get for you.

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We shared the Baked Kuna ($11). Jaime enjoyed the macadamia nuts and the warm dark chocolate.  I liked the process of drizzling the chocolate over the cake, even though I know the kitchen staff would have done a better job with the presentation.

Thanks Jaime for treating me out to a fun filled night. I plan to return to Lulu with L. I know he would love the vibe and the lobster dumplings.

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

17th Ave · Beer · Comfort food · Happy Hour · Restaurants

Alumni Sandwiches

L called me at work to tell me he won an award. Not only that, he was taking his broad out for dinner! There are two restaurants I’ve been wanting to try – Alumni Sandwiches and Pad Thai Restaurant. I picked the former because it was closer to our house. For this post, let’s listen to an old goodie that I heard playing that night – Lauryn Hill, Doo-Wop (That Thing).

 

Our server was bubbly and brimming with excitement when we ordered. She seemed genuinely thrilled when we ordered her favourite dishes. She recommended the Hot Chicken Sandwich ($12), Mexican Torta ($13), and the Chicken Parmesan sandwich ($13). L and I were already hot chickened out, as we just returned back from Nashville. I wanted to try the Vegetarian Torta but L said he wouldn’t share it with me unless there was meat. We decided on the Mexican Torta, Chicken Parmesan sandwich and a Mac Salad ($3). For the torta, I asked for the cilantro on the side so L could still have that noxious weed.

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I planned on ordering  a cocktail but our server told me about their happy hour special, $5 house wine, Alumni lager and a lemonade cocktail. Their house wine is described as “good red” and the other red available is called “better red”. If you are fussy about your wine, don’t get the house. I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself. Actually, I do. I’m hopeful that I’ll find a wine that I love and that’s cheap. I like to dream big. L was happy with his happy hour drink, the Alumni lager. He remarked it was refreshing and ice-cold. I took a sip – nothing wrong with the house beer. Pleasant and easy to drink.

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The Mexican Torta was heavy with ground chorizo and creamy with the Monterey Jack cheese, refried beans and green goddess sauce. This is a messy sandwich. The saucy mixture would periodically ooze out.

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The coleslaw gave the filling a satisfying crunch and the jalapenos provided a spicy heat. I liked how the ciabatto bread was crispy and light. I liked the temperature of the sandwich. It warmed me up a like a bowl of steaming hot soup.

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The Chicken Parmesan was a lighter sandwich compared to the torta. The breaded chicken was thinly sliced an melded with the provolone cheese and tomato sauce. The bright lemon dressed kale salad made this sandwich pop and gave it a bright zing.

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I was a fan of the macaroni salad. The noodles were cold and firm. The macaroni salad tasted like my homemade potato salad. I could taste egg, onion and something tangy.

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To end our meal, we shared an Apple Pie ($7). The crust was flaky and warm. The apples were diced into small little cubes and the sauce actually tasted like apples instead of just sugar and cinnamon. The dulce de leche and vanilla bean ice cream tasted homemade.

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I did end up ordering a cocktail – the Oaxaca Old Fashion ($10). I found this drink smokey and sweet. I should have ordered it in the beginning of my meal, because it didn’t pair well with the apple pie.

I have a greater appreciation of the food scene in Calgary since I’ve returned back from Nashville. In Nashville, the food was good, but it because it was triple fried. You can taste the quality ingredients Alumni uses in all their food. The sandwiches I tried don’t fall into the health food category, but the ingredients tasted real and not processed.

These aren’t the sort of sandwiches you can make at home. I can honestly say I’ve never enjoyed a sandwich more. My brother-in-law Dave is a sandwich connoisseur and previously held title of sandwich artist. He’s been replaced by Alumni. L and I agreed we have to take him here to be wowed. Hitting the Sauc gives Alumni Sandwiches two fat thumbs up.

Alumni Sandwiches Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

17th Ave · Beer · Happy Hour · Patio · Restaurants · Seafood

Las Canarias Spanish Paella and Tapas Bar

I’ve been meaning to try Las Canarias ever since I saw Gwendolyn Richard’s Instagram post (March 15, 2017). I knew it would take 40 minutes for the paella to cook, so I called the restaurant 20 minutes before we arrived to get the dish started. For this post, let’s listen to Siempre Me Quedara by Bebe.

Las Carnarias has a patio that’s conducive to my memories of eating in Barcelona and Madrid with Beep Beep. Sharing pitchers of sangria under the hot blue sky followed by small dishes of calamari, paella and garlic shrimp. I ordered a glass of sangria ($12) and L ordered a pint of lager ($7). His beer came in a tall frosted glass. My drink came in a huge goblet. The sangria was floral and fruity. If you don’t like sweet drinks, stick to the wine or beer.

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To start, we shared the Calamari ($15). The ringlets were large and tender. The exterior texture was dry and crumbly. Unlike some restaurants, this calamari wasn’t all batter. I quite liked flavour of the lemon aioli. I would order this dish again.

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We ordered the Mixta Paella ($36) – which contained seafood, chicken and beef. The paella arrived in a big, black cast iron pan filled with langostinos, clams, mussels and shrimp. I couldn’t detect the beef or chicken but I could really taste the shellfish and fish flecked throughout the rice. Other options for paella include: daily fish special; black rice with calamari and langostinos; chicken and chorizo; rabbit, chicken, fish and seafood; and a spinach, mushroom and chickpea version.

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I was impressed that none of the seafood was overcooked. The rice was firm and flavourful. I particuarly liked the tangy bits of tomatoes on the baked top layer of the rice. The mussels were plump and bursting with juice. I enjoyed the process of breaking into the long shell of the langostinos to get to the meat.

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J-Thug asked me how Las Carnarias compared to Ox and Angela. I get the sense he’s quite fond of the latter restaurant. Las Carnarias isn’t fancy but it’s not trying to be. The dishes here taste like they were made from a traditional recipe that has remained unchanged over the years. I thought the food was different and refreshing from the norm in Calgary. Don’t get me wrong. I like fusion restaurants and trendy ingredients, but sometimes I just want old world cuisine.

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I recommend you check out Las Carnarias for their daily specials. Happy hour is from Monday to Friday (3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.). Local craft beer is $5.50, highballs are $4.00 and all food menu items are 15% off. On Sunday, all paella and sangria is 20% off. On Monday and Tuesday, bottles of wine are half off. Steamed mussels are $10.00 and coconut shrimp is $8.00. On Wednesday, beer is on special and the calamari is only $11.00. On Thursday, you can get a three-course dinner and sangria for two people for $70.00.

Las Canarias Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

17th Ave · Beer · Happy Hour · Pubs · Restaurants

Home and Away

Last night I saw a post on Instagram of these incredible looking wings. On Tuesdays, Home and Away offers half price wings and $4.00 beers from Calgary. L didn’t have any fight in him when he came home and nodded in agreement when I suggested we go out.

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For this post, let’s listen to Beastie Boys You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party. You’ll see why shortly.

We both ordered glasses of Banded Peak’s Plainsbreaker. This is a wicked deal for $4.00. At Banded Peak’s brewery, we pay $10.00 for a big can. I find the Plainsbreaker fresh, crisp, and not too hoppy or bitter.

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The feature wing of the night was Sushi Roll (hh $7, regular $14.50). The wings themselves tasted like good quality chicken – ample amounts of tender white meat. The wings were crispy and sweet from the ginger soy glaze. I smeared my wings with the avocado puree and topped it with a piece of cold fried sushi rice, cucumber and nori. L said the combination of ingredients tasted odd together because of the sweetness of the chicken and the avocado. I thought it was interesting and enjoyed it for what it was – something novel and fun.

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About this time, a couple next to us started to fight. Apparently the female told the male it was rude when he pointed to the TV screen. He took offence to this and told her off. He then brought us into the conversation. “Look, I’m pointing at him and he doesn’t care. It’s not a big deal.” L did care. It was uncomfortable and awkward to be pointed at while they fought. The volume and angry tone in his voice started to give me a headache. Before he took off he sarcastically wished her a happy birthday. What a gent! Five minutes later he came back and started to loudly argue with her again. I told L we were moving tables.

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We ordered a second beer and shared a Cubano with fries ($16.50). What a disappointment. The sandwich lacked a crunchy exterior and a warm gooey middle. The bread was cold and doughy, similar to but not as good as the cheese breadsticks I use to get in elementary school. The sandwich was supposed to include country ham, braised pork, aioli, mustard, cheese curds and home pickles. I saw home pickles and tasted an extremely salty pulled pork. I didn’t taste any cheese curds, ham or aioli. The meat and the bread itself was a really small portion. We did get a generous amount of fries.

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I liked our server Melissa – she was informative and competent. I recommend Home and Away for wings and beer on Tuesdays. The restaurant is a big space so it is ideal for large groups.

Home & Away, Calgary Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

17th Ave · Bars/Lounges · Beer · Patio · Restaurants · Special Occasion

Pigeonhole – La Vien en rose

On Friday evening, L and dropped by Pigeonhole for some wine and cheese. I wasn’t aware that Pigeonhole offers 50% off all bottles of rosé from Monday to Friday, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm till close. I asked L if he would share a bottle with me. He said that rosé was too feminine for him but he would do it for me.

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I asked our server if she could recommend a wine that wasn’t sweet or dry. She picked two bottles for me to try – Raventos La Rosa 2015 (Pinot Noir/Garnacha/Xarel-lo, Penedes, Spain, $64) and Broc Cellars Love Rose 2016 (Valdiguie/Zinfandel, North Coast, California, $70). The La Rosa was an easy sipping, mild-mannered rosé. I preferred the Love Rose as I found it more interesting.

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I like Pigeonhole’s playlist. I wish I had asked our server who was the artist. The closest thing I could compare it to is Sophie Milman but without any lyrics. L and I sat by the patio, which meant we were afforded the street view and breeze, but sat in the comfort of the inside chairs. Let’s listen to La Vie En Rose so you can better imagine my dining experience.

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We picked three cheeses – one hard, one blue and one soft ($25). Oh my! The brie was creamy and mild, best with the apple butter, as the honey overpowered the cheese. The apple butter was more apple than butter, the texture was like pudding.

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The honey was incredible. I think we liked it more than the cheeses. The honey paired best with the blue and hard cheese. I didn’t think I would like the papadum, but it turned out to be the perfect vessel for the cheeses and home-made preserves because it lent a blank slate.

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We ordered two plates – Springs Peas with Foie Gras ($15) and Fava Beans ($11). The spring peas tasted like an early crop – it was light and fresh. The grapefruit wasn’t overpowering and binded all the ingredients together. The compressed foie gras had a clean taste and melted on your tongue. The pistachios lent a savoury crunch.

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I’m glad we ordered the fava beans as the sourdough bread helped to soaked up all that alcohol. L liked the addition of strawberries and said it was a nice summer dish.

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I’ve been to Pigeonhole three times and each time I’ve been impressed with the food and service. I’m keen to try the caviar and champagne soon. For date night, I can’t think of a better place to set the stage for romance. Pigeonhole makes it on Hitting the Sauce’s list of favourite places to eat in Calgary.

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

17th Ave · Beer · Happy Hour · Patio · Pizza · Restaurants

Sunday Funday at Cibo

Cibo has an awesome happy hour and daily specials. On Sundays, Cibo features half off pizzas all day long, as well as four dollar draft beers. The patio is also one of the nicest on 17th Ave.

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We ordered Philips Citricity Grapefruit IPA ($4), a mushroom pizza (hh $10, regular $20) and the prosciutto pizza (hh $11, regular $22). I found the chili oil for our pizza too mild – it tasted like regular olive oil.

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I could detect button and oyster mushrooms on our vegetarian pizza. The roasted garlic and truffle oil was delicate. The cream sauce was mild tasting as well. The fried rosemary added a nice crunchy texture and pleasant aromatic flavour.

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I enjoyed the pronounced flavours from our meat pizza. The prosciutto was salty, but the arugula added some freshness to the pizza. I liked the sweetness that the fig jam added. The crust on both pizzas were chewy with airy.

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I have to give our server Alekdandra kudos. She was excellent – competent, attentive and sincere. I really appreciated her suggestions and ability to make her customers feel comfortable. Great service makes such a difference, and at happy hour to boot!

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

17th Ave · Bakery · Cheap Eats · Restaurants

A Taste of Beirut Bakery

On Sunday, L and I were running errands all day. We wanted to grab something quick for lunch and we heard that new managers have taken over Green Cilantro. We both had a craving for a Vietnamese sub, but unfortunately, Green Cilantro isn’t open on Sundays.

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I haven’t had a good shawarma in ages, so we checked out A Taste of Beirut. While I was deciding what to order, an employee gave me a chicken fatayer to sample. This little meat pocket of heaven was delicious. It’s like a meat pie crossed with a pizza bundle.

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I ordered a regular chicken ($8) and a beef ($8) wrap. The condiments were the standard variety of lettuce, pickled beets, raw chopped onions, juicy tomatoes, pickles and hot peppers. Two different sauces were squirted on both wraps.

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The chicken and beef wrap contained ample meat. I preferred the chicken which was moist and juicy. The pita is grilled, which made a satisfying chomping sound when I munched away.

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The beef was nuked in the microwave. I could detect cinnamon in the seasoning. Normally I like beef more than chicken, but I found the beef dry. L liked the beef more than the chicken.

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We were full after eating a regular size wrap. If you live in the hood, give A Taste of Beirut a chance. Personally, I like this place more Little Lebanon, a popular shawarma spot across the street.  I would return again for the chicken wrap and the chicken fatayers.

A Taste of Beirut Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

17th Ave · Curry · Thai

Khao San Thai Kitchen

Ms. Biz has taken me out for so many lunches that I can’t keep track. She speaks highly of Khao San Thai Kitchen so I told her I’d take her and Cruizing out for lunch. Of course Office Dad came too as we needed our office chaperone.

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Khao San Thai Kitchen is tastefully decorated. The colour scheme has lots of dark colours and rich decorative flourishes. Ms. Biz informed me that one of the owners, Sam, has a background in the hotel industry. His hospitality experience is evident in the professional service we received to the heavy silverware, teacups with saucers to the linen napkins.

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When we ordered, Office Dad asked if they could blend the green and red curries together. Aya Office Dad! The gentleman, who I think was the other owner, looked surprised at the request and said that no one has ever asked him that question but if that’s what he wants, he could do it. I protested and told Office Dad to not be a weirdo and just order like a normal person, off the menu. Office Dad laughed good-naturedly, and picked a curry with no modifications.

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We ordered four cups of jasmine tea ($8) and two bowls of the tofu ($5) and chicken ($6) Kha San Creamy Tom Yam soup. The soup was unbelievable. My taste buds were alive, awoken by the spicy, tart, salty and sour notes of the soup. I could taste the lime, lemongrass and the deep heat of the chilli. The soup was silky smooth. The tofu was still crispy, tasting like it was briefly deep-fried before being added to the soup.

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Surprisingly, one of my favourite dishes was the Chicken Cashew Nuts ($13.00). I find at Chinese restaurants, chicken and cashews taste one dimensional. Not at Khao San. The sauce was sweet and sticky, so good we ensured each drop was used mopped up in the rice. The chicken was battered and juicy. The cashews were roasted. The bell peppers and onions still retained a nice crunch.

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The Pork Green Curry ($13.00) was delightful. The pork slices were tender. I liked the lightness of the green curry and the use of zucchini and fresh Thai basil leaves.

The Beef Red Curry ($13.00) was also good. The beef was nicely sliced but could have been a bit more tender. The squash was soft and sweet while the bell peppers were crunchy. I appreciate that Khao San uses a variation of vegetables for all the dishes, so you aren’t eating the same ones in each dish. Sometimes I find at Asian restaurants use the same vegetables in all the dishes.

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I enjoyed the Pad Thai Koong ($15.00). There were plenty of prawns and a generous smattering of eggs, bean sprouts, roasted peanuts and tofu. Most importantly, the taste of tamarind was evident. No ketchup used here. While the pad thai was very good, I preferred the cashew chicken and the pork green curry even more.

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Finally, we ordered two servings of coconut ice cream ($12.00). The ice-cream was hard (that’s what she said), which we all preferred. I hate it when ice cream melts too quickly. Rich and creamy, the coconut flavour was strong and it tasted like it was homemade. Office Dad loved the addition of the peanuts, palm sprouts and a jelly-like topping. I like my ice cream plain. The portion was generous.
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Unlike Tuk Tuk, I found the food at Khao San vibrant and screaming with flavour. I didn’t even need the tray of spices, as it tasted great as served. None of the dishes were spicy, but the soup had a strong heat to it. Yes, the prices are a little higher than other Thai restaurants, but it’s worth it. I agree with Ms. Biz that it’s better to pay extra than to eat subpar food.

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This is the best Thai food I’ve ever eaten, but mind you, the only other places I have for comparison are in Vancouver and Calgary. I plan to take my husband here for date night to try the braised short ribs in massaman curry ($23), chicken cashew dish and of course, that soup. Ms. Biz says she and her husband come for dinner and order soup, an appetizer, two main dishes, cocktails and leave for under $100. That’s a great price for all that expertly prepared food and profesional service.

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If you haven’t checked out Kha San Thai Kitchen yet, I would highly recommend it. This 17th Avenue gem is making it on Hitting the Sauce’s list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

 

View my food journey on Zomato!

Khao San Thai Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

17th Ave · Beer · Japanese

Ke Charcoal Grill and Sushi

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On Tuesday, L thought it was too hot to cook. That’s good news for me, as I’m the one who does most of the cooking at home. L can only cook five dishes: BBQ ribs, chicken, pork loin, sausages and steak.

L told me to pick the restaurant. I read a lot of positive reviews about Ke Charcoal Grill and Sushi on Zomato and Yelp, so I figured it was a safe enough bet. Plus, the prices looked reasonable. With this economic recession, I feel really guilty going out to eat.

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The interior is so much nicer than the exterior of the building. Ke Charcoal did a nice job remodelling the place. At 8:00 p.m., the lower floor was packed with customers. Music was vibrant but not too loud. The smells coming off the grills were tantalizing.

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We started off with a pint of Sapporo ($5.00) and complimentary edamame. I forgot how good beer and edamame go together. Our server was so cute, she brought these over saying, “Have some snacky snacky!”

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I like the open kitchen and the good vibes coming from the cooks and servers. Despite how busy it was, the chefs and servers exuded a happy to be here vibe.

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L saw the chefs using a contraption to make these the Wild Salmon Oshi Sushi ($6). L liked the simplicity of the sushi. The miso sauce was light and highlighted the salmon, rather than overpower it like so many other fusion Japanese restaurants. I didn’t really taste the sear of the sushi, but perhaps that’s just me.

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L ordered Tuna Nigiri ($3.50), which was pretty good, though the rice could have used a touch more seasoning. Again, this is a personal preference. L liked that Ke Charcoal didn’t put wasabi on the rice. I thought all the sushi was well-priced for the quality.

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My favourite was the Spicy Salmon Oshi Sushi, with chopped salmon and spicy mayo. The salmon was firm but nicely marbled. I didn’t think the jalapeño did much for either sushi, so I just removed it. To each their own.

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The best dish of the night was the Black Miso Cod ($10). The fish was sweet, almost candied. So flavourful, I didn’t need to use the mayo.

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The Chicken Karaage  ($7) had a nice crunchy batter, but there wasn’t much meat. The karagge was mostly batter. I would have preferred plain mayo instead of spicy, but again, that’s just my personal taste.

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I ordered Kaki Fry ($8.00), one of my favourite things to eat. The oysters tasted fresh and were perfectly cooked. The coating was thin and crunchy, reminding me of the batter of deep-fried scallops in Japanese restaurants. The dish was suppose to come with spicy mayo sauce, but instead, it came with a heavier brown sauce. I prefer the lighter batter and ponzu sauce that Zipang uses in their version.

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L wanted to try some meat skewers, as everyone else was ordering it.  Just over $2.00 a  stick, these were a tasty snack. My favourite was the pork belly, which was hot in temperature and fatty. L thought the  chicken yakatori was average, lacking in a distinctive charcoal taste that you find at Shokunin.

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I really liked our server. She dropped off a box of Pocky and the bill. She said, “Pocky for you, and the bill for him.” Smart woman.

Overall, the food was tasty and well-priced. Without tax and tip, all those dishes and with two beers, our bill was $62.00. I enjoyed the selection of varied dishes and would happily return to try all the other dishes. This place is popular for a reason. If you haven’t already, come by and check it out.

Ke Charcoal Grill and Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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