Cheap Eats · Deli · Restaurants · Vietnamese

My Tho BBQ – Banh Mi

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

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

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

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

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

The sate beef reminded me a little of roast beef. I’ve never had a beef sate with the meat sliced so thin. The beef wasn’t heavily coated in a sauce, but it was still really tasty. L liked the addition of peanuts, which were dry and sweet. I found the homemade butter mayonnaise spread light and tangy.

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

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

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

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

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

Taken without permission from My Tho BBQ.
Chain Restaurants · Cheap Eats · Pizza · Restaurants

Red Swan Pizza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kim Anh Vietnamese Submarines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheap Eats · Deli · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Banh Mi Nhu Y – Assorted Sub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheap Eats · Fast Food · Restaurants

Shawarma Knight – Beef Donair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheap Eats · Deli · Vegetarian

Saigon Deli – Assorted Meat Sub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eat Crow Snack Bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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.

Cheap Eats · Curry · Japanese

Shimizu Kitchen – Dine-in COVID-19 edition

After a long day at work, L told me he was craving tonkatsu. He wanted to try Shimizu Kitchen, which is located near our house. I’ve been reading good things about Shimizu’s ramen, so I was in. For this post, let’s listen to “A Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles.

I recommend making reservations, as the restaurant only has a handful seats. By the time we left, every table was full. Shimizu was also busy with takeout orders. I was informed by our server that on the weekends, there is often a line-up outside the door.

The room is cozy, decorated with homemade signs and pictures of food. The overarching branches of the pink cherry blossom tree cover most of the ceiling. I saw an automated ramen contraption by the door, which is a common display outside restaurants in Tokyo.

L and I both ordered a bottle of Asahi ($6). L ordered the Tonkatsu Curry ($13.99) and I requested the Shimizu Miso Ramen ($12.99).

The deep-fried pork cutlets arrived still sizzling from the fryer. L had to wait a few minutes for the tonkatsu to cool before he could eat it. The pork itself was juicy, with a thin, crunchy batter. The spices in the curry was subtle and not as strongly flavoured as Redhead’s version. I thought the portion was generous for the price.

The broth in my ramen was so rich and heavy, with a nice smoky flavour. The broth was boiling hot, just the way I like it. When I pulled the noodles up with my chopsticks, I could see the broth coating each noodle.

The egg was cooked just right. The creamy yolk had the consistency of the centre of a Cadbury chocolate egg. The thick piece of pork was seared, salty and tender. The noodles were chewy and plentiful. Even the vegetables were stellar. The cabbage and sprouts tasted fresh and were crunchy and sweet. L thought my ramen was fantastic, particularly the complexity of the broth.

We received complementary ice cream for dessert. Despite feeling too full, I couldn’t resist polishing off the entire serving. Some people may find vanilla ice cream boring but I like the simple, milky sweetness.

I was chatting on Instagram with someone who knows the owners at Shimizu. She told me that the owners told her their little wooden spoons have grown legs and disappeared. Now they are trying to replace them but can’t because COVID-19 has changed their ability to buy supplies from Japan. For the love of small businesses, if you know of anyone that has taken these spoons, encourage them to bring it back. Wrap up the spoons and slip them in the mail slot in the morning or late evening. Maybe we can ask Crackmacs to retweet? This is what I would tweet out to Crackmacs, along with a picture of the missing spoons:

RT: MISSING RAMEN SPOONS IN GLENDALE! Help the owners of @shimizukitchen1 find their missing ramen spoons. These beloved spoons have miraculously grown legs and ran away. If you see any of these spoons in your kitchen, please return to Shimizu Kitchen, no questions asked. #yyc #yyceats @crackmacs

I’ll be back. The ramen is delightful and I’m interested to try the other noodle dishes. Our server told me he’s been obsessed with the owner’s newest offering – it was either tsukemen or mazemen. I couldn’t hear him properly through the mask, and he was busy so I didn’t want to ask him to repeat himself. Hitting the Sauce gives Shimizu Kitchen two fat thumbs up.

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

Ke Charcoal Grill- COVID-19 dine-in edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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