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.

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

Calgary Court Restaurant – COVID-19 dine-in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Taste of Asia

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

grapefruit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Cheap Eats · Chinatown · Chinese · Restaurants

Lucky Place – COVID-19 dine-in edition

 

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

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

menu 2

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

Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 4.15.43 PM

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

eef

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

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

Chowmein

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

Small Bowl noo

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

fish noods

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

noods two

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

congee

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

menu 3

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

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

Lucky Place Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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

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

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.

tea

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

won ton

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

silky noodle

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

oup

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

nood pull beef soup

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

beef

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

dan dan

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

dan dan nood pul

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

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

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

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