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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

Chowmein

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

Small Bowl noo

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
Chinatown · Chinese · Dim Sum · Restaurants

Dim Sum at the Chinese Cultural Centre Cuisine – COVID-19 edition

My friend Karol is busy helping restaurants gain more exposure during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, she worked with YYC Takeout Specials and helped to raise $3,000 for families and children in need.

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Now that spring is finally here, let’s listen to something weather appropriate. For this post, I pick “Violin Sonata No. 5, Op. 24” by composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

When I saw Karol’s dim sum post from the Chinese Cultural Centre Cuisine (CCCC), I started to salivate. Look to the dish at the bottom left. Holler! What huge balls! I asked her if I called, would the staff be able to communicate with me in English? Karol said yes, but if I was worried, I could text my order to the manager. I took her up on the offer. My Chinese pronunciation is terrible as I can’t hit the right tones.

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Unfortunately, the day I called the restaurant was slammed hard. By the time the manager responded, L and I had already left Chinatown. Karol felt terrible and insisted on treating me to dim sum. I told her I would only accept her generous offer if in exchange, she tried some of the frozen dim sum I bought from Chuen May Food Product.

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I was impressed with the takeout dim sum. The Har Gow (steamed shrimp dumplings) was fantastic. The shrimp was plump and had a nice snap to it. When it comes to the har gow “skin”, I am particular. Too often, restaurants serve over steamed har gow, resulting in a damp skin that splits apart when you pick it up with your chopsticks. I like it when the wrapper is a touch dry and has some resistance to it. The wrapper was perfect – firm and slightly sticky.

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The Siu Mai (steamed pork, shrimp and roe dumplings) was enormous. I’ve never seen a meatier sui mai. The wrapper was firm yet silky, and thick enough to stand proportionally against the ginormous meatball.

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Good siu mai has a unique texture and flavour. The pork and shrimp mixture was pleasantly crunchy from the water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. The shrimp and pork mixture was juicy and so flavouful. I’m going to ask Karol if the restaurant will sell me their dim sum frozen, so I can make it at home. Freaking fabulous. This is one of CCCC’s best dishes.

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The Green Peppers Stuffed with Shrimp Paste is a must order.  I counted three to five shrimps per pepper. The shrimp itself was crunchy with a bouncy texture to it.

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The green pepper was still firm, crisp and sweet. I could taste charred smoky flavour in the black bean sauce. Despite the cilantro, it was still a winning dish.

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The Lo Bak Go (pan-fried turnip cake) was thickly sliced and soft. When I bit into the cake, the shreds of the moist pieces of turnip fell apart. The tiny bits of dried shrimp and pork gave a surprisingly amount of umami.

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L said he wasn’t expecting the BBQ Pork Pastry to be so sweet.  I prefer eating this dish cold because the pastry becomes drier and more crumbly and the sweetness becomes less pronounced.

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Dim sum is the ultimate comfort food for me. This feast reminded me of all the weekly get together my mother would organize for our family and friends. Boss Lady is notorious for over ordering at restaurants.  I have to say, she is the ultimate hostess. Generous and hospitable to the point of over the top, Roman-style gluttony.

inside pastry

I can’t wait to have dim sum again. I plan to order the sui mai, har gow, and green peppers with stuffed shrimp paste. I also want to try the lo mai gai (mini sticky rice), steamed shrimp pork and chive dumplings, shrimp rice roll, and the eggplant stuffed with shrimp paste. I’m also going to ask for a side of yellow and red Chinese mustard.

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You know how Zoolander couldn’t turn left on a runway? I can’t plate food for the life of me. Despite my disability, you can still see how delicious the dim sum is at CCCC.  Give it a try. I know I’m going to order again. Hitting the Sauce gives The Chinese Culture Centre Cuisine two fat thumbs up.

The Cultural Centre Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chinatown · Korean · Restaurants

No Man’s Dinner – Moon Korean BBQ

On Thursday, @loaf2go and I hosted our third No Man’s Dinner at Moon Korean BBQ. We named this dinner “Lovers’ Feast” because the event was the night before Valentine’s Day and we wanted to order from the all-you-can-eat menu. For this post, let’s listen to “Love Machine” by The Miracles.

Originally, our reservation was for 12 guests. By noon that day, one member said she was sick. A couple of hours later, another member said something came up. Loaf2go, T, YYCFoodiePak and Mr. YYCFoodie arrived early at Moon Korean BBQ. I arrived two minutes before 6:30 p.m. Pink Baller  arrived exactly on time. True to her name, Pink Baller brought a cake from Wow Bakery.

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Loaf2go, YYCFoodiePak and I were excited to finally meet Pink Baller. We all follow her on Instagram and I’m intrigued with her travel posts. I like to be frugal when I travel, so I enjoy living vicariously through her. In her last trip, I followed her fancy footsteps to top restaurants, helicopter excursions, and a Vegas Knights hockey game.

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By 7:00 p.m., I made the executive decision to order our food, even though Seashell and her guest were absent. We ordered from the basic all-you-can-eat menu ($24.50): fried chili tofu; Korean vegetarian pancake; braised pork side ribs; sweet and sour pork; spicy pork bulgogi; spicy beef bulgogi; pork ribs; spicy pork bulgogi; spicy chicken; kimchi; bean sprouts; sweet potatoes; lettuce; beef udon soup; vegetarian japchae; and cold buckwheat noodles.

Our server told us to order some dishes in smaller quantities as he thought we ordered too much. I’m glad we listened to him because it was a lot of food. Below are pictures I stole from Pink Baller and Loaf2go’s Instagram accounts. All the photos under NoMansDinner are Loaf2go’s photos.

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The fried chili tofu wasn’t that spicy. The exterior was crispy and the tofu on the inside was light with an airy texture. I thought the tofu could have used a little salt.

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The vegetarian pancake was cooked well – each side was nicely crisp. I would have liked it with some seafood or more sauce as I found the flavours muted.

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Pink Baller and I thought the vegetarian japae noodles were delicious. The noodles were soft and pliable with a sweet, salty, savoury seasoning. The medley of onions and greens were cooked so that it still had a bite to it. Loaf2go noted there was too much white pepper in the noodles.

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The Korean BBQ meats were the best thing on the menu. All the meats arrived hot and freshly cooked. Our group’s favourite was the pork ribs. The pork was tender and juicy. I’d order the pork ribs and spicy chicken again.

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The pork side ribs reminded me of pi gwat – a Chinese dim sum dish of steamed pork ribs with black beans sauce. The ribs were meaty and soft. We were given one condiment to use for our BBQ meats – a reddish sauce that reminded me of Chinese mustard. The meats weren’t heavily seasoned. Loaf2go said for Korean food, she is used to more potency and individual flavour notes within a dish as opposed to one sauce.

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YYCFoodiePak enjoyed the cold buckwheat noodles. I found the coldness of the buckwheat noodles jarring. I preferred the beef udon. The broth was flavourful and the beef itself was very tasty. The noodles were hot and slippery.

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I thought the sweet and sour pork was similar to ginger beef. The pork was cut into strips and battered. The sauce was light and syrupy.

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We were so full, we didn’t order a second round. At this time, we began to play the guilt trip game because no one wanted to eat more but we were worried we would get charged for the leftover food.

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Loaf2go took on the beef udon and complained that she was doing all the eating. I rolled my eyes and said I came on hot and heavy in the beginning of the meal and I ate more than anyone. I could see Pink Baller was tactful and she politely picked at the sweet and sour pork and a pork side rib. T finished up the japae noodles and ate more of the BBQ meats. YYCFoodiePak said she was going to order strawberry ice-cream. She’s not a team player. Mr. YYCFoodie ate more meats and reassured us we wouldn’t get charged for the little amount left on the plates. I could tell he’s done the all-you-can-eat before.

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Pink Baller was so sweet to bring a cake to her first No Man’s Dinner. I love combination of the fresh strawberries with whip cream and vanilla sponge cake. Strawberry cake is simplicity at its best. I told Pink Baller she’s invited to my upcoming fried chicken party, an off-the-record No Man’s Dinner event.

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For all-you-can-eat, Moon Korean BBQ doesn’t disappoint. Unlike other similar venues, all the hot food tasted freshly prepared. Stay tuned for the next No Man’s Dinner at Sukiyaki House. However, we are going to have to enforce our house rules. Bring out the Chinese feather duster!

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For those of you who didn’t grow up in a Chinese household, the chicken feather duster is used to discipline children for the slightest infraction. Before my father would use this atrocious device to “clean house” he would solemnly say, “This is going to hurt me more than you.” Based on the expression on his face as he levied the feather duster on our tiny, outstretched hands, he didn’t look like he was suffering.

Moon Korean BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Brunch · Chinatown · Chinese · New York · Patio · Restaurants · Special Occasion

New York – Bar 54, Ellen’s Stardust Diner and Cheong Fun Cart

Beep Beep wanted to have a drink at Bar 54. She mentioned the bar was overpriced and touristy, but she wanted to see the rooftop view of Chrysler Building and of lower Manhattan. We toasted to her birthday with an Aperol Spritzer ($26) and a Rosolio Spritz ($26). The spritzer tasted gross and reminded me of cough medicine. Pro-tip – stick to wine. We much preferred our glass of Rodney Strong Knights Valley ($19) over the cocktails. After midnight, we decided to call it a night.

We were about to enter the subway when a dirty looking man peeped through the gate and started babbling in a high-pitched baby voice: “Nooo? Yesss! Nooo? Yesss!” Before I could stop myself, I responded “Noooo.” Subway Guy looked excited and repeated “Yesss?” I sternly shook my head and said firmly “No!” Since we hadn’t entered through the gate, he assumed we were looking for another train. He said if we went up the stairs and to the left, the other train would be there. I didn’t like his eagerness and the fact he wanted to continue our ‘conversation’ so we pretended to exit. When I heard him take off, we returned to wait for our train. There was another guy there who there who half-heartedly muttered, “Noooo? Yesss!” We ignored him. For this post, let’s listen to Trouble by Pink.

A minute before our train arrived, Subway Guy came back and told his friend he couldn’t find us. I pulled my large black hood over my head. Beep Beep whispered, “Your disguise sucks. You are not fooling anyone.” She was right because Subway Guy spotted me and said something that is so obscene, I will not repeat it. I’ve already said too much. My father reads my blog. Knowing Ludwig, he will tell on me to my mother. I know I’m going to get a flurry of emails from Boss Lady telling me to quit creating drama and getting into trouble. Sorry ma, old habits die hard.

On the way home, Beep Beep really had to pee. She ran ahead and then would stop, crouch down with her knees pressed together and bellow “Nooo?” Then she turned around to face me and coo, “Yesss!” I doubled over with laughter and couldn’t breathe or walk until she stopped mimicking the Subway Guy. Omigod, we are so immature.

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The next morning, Beep Beep woke me up at 6:30 a.m. so we would to make it to Ellen’s Stardust Diner by 7:00 a.m. Ellen’s is known for its singing wait staff. Beep Beep ordered the Smoked Salmon Plate ($20). The cook forgot to put the cream cheese on the bagel. Our server was absent so she ate her bagel without any cream cheese.

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I wasn’t feeling well, so I ordered a ginger ale and a Fresh Fruit Cup ($9). I found the assortment of cantaloupe, honeydew, grapes and pineapple incredibly fresh and sweet. Beep Beep took a bite and said it was normal fruit, I was just hung over. I ordered a latte ($6.50) that tasted like it come out of a vending machine from the 90s. Beep Beep said I should have just drank her latte, because she didn’t like it either.

I enjoyed the confetti that fluttered down from the ceiling. Some of the wait staff differed in charisma, but I enjoyed listening to them sing. A staffer came come out and gave a long story about how hard the staff worked to both sing and bring your food, so donations for their singing classes would be appreciated. The suggested additional tip was $20 bucks.

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Before we left for the airport, we stopped by Union Square Farmer’s Market, Little Italy and Chinatown. Beep Beep wanted us to try the Cheong Fun Cart. After using Google maps, I found it. Beep Beep asked a waiting customer if this was the famous Cheong Fun Cart. I knew the lady Beep Beep asked had no clue. I looked up the cart on Yelp to confirm the pictures of the cart and location. The lady said no, we needed to go to a cart that was ten minutes away. I told Beep Beep this was the right cart and showed her the matching pictures I found.

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Beep Beep freaked out because there was only a small slit through the metal cart where the vendor’s face would pop out to ask you what you wanted. The elderly woman working there was tiny, and it looked like there was enough room for her and her husband. I requested two small cheong funs ($1.50), one with pork and the other with chicken and an egg (50 cents). I added green onions and requested no cilantro.

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Oh my goodness. If you are into the texture and subtle flavours of Chinese dim sum, you’ll love these silky pools of noodles. The noodles are made fresh for you, and it was everything I was craving. Steaming hot, soft with little specks of meat and sauce to give it the right amount of savoury, salty flavour. Next time I’d omit the egg as I found texture of the yolk too dry. I would also add hot sauce. Since Beep Beep and I were sharing, I didn’t add any.

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Cheong Fun Cart was one of our favourite eats in New York. When Beep Beep complained again about the work conditions, I informed her that the woman working in the cart was the owner, so it was her decision. If she wanted to unionize, she could. Besides, after only three days in the Big Apple, I too would want to be enclosed in a metal container to protect me from being spat on, hustled or spoken to in an indecent manner.

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Before we left for the airport, Beep Beep found me a Trader’s Joe store so I could stock up Everything But the Bagel seasoning and Mushroom & Company Multi-Purpose Umami Seasoning Blend . Happy 40th birthday Beep Beep! I had an amazing time with you.

Ellen's Stardust Diner Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Chinatown · Chinese · Restaurants

Ho Won – Lobster and Wine

It’s a small world. It turns out Bottlenick knows the daughter of the chef at Ho Won, aka the flash-fried squid magician. If you don’t recall my fake news blunder on Reddit, you can read it here.

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Bottlenick, L and I decided to visit for dinner when the Magician was working. Pro tip – you can bring your own wine for a small corkage fee. Bottlenick said he would bring a bottle of bubbly. For this post, let’s listen to Amy Winehouse – Fuck Me Pumps.

I asked my friend the Wine Wizard what sort of wine pairs best with fried squid. He recommended something that has great acidity like a Riesling or an Austrian white called Gruner Veltliner. I went to Highlander Liquor store to shop for something that fit that description. An employee recommended Weingut Robert Weil –  Klosterberg Klosterberg ($48).

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I thought I was quite clever to wrap a wet tea towel around my bottle and then to freeze it so that the icy cloth would keep the wine cold. However, when I arrived at the restaurant, my dripping brown bag alarmed the servers. Pro-tip – get a reusable cold bottle sleeve like Bottlenick.

Bottlenick popped open his bottle first. Got to say, I preferred his pick over mine. I thought the dryness of his sparkling wine worked better with the squid than my Riesling, which was a tad sweet and I thought for the price, wasn’t anything special.

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We ordered pea tips, lobster with fried noodles and salt and pepper squid. The first to arrive at our table were the pea tips. Bottlenick was expecting a more dainty dish – not the luscious, vibrant greens that we received. Pea tips taste like a hybrid mix of peas, spinach and gai lan (Chinese broccoli). I love the delicate crunch of the stems. I’m not sure how much the lobster or pea tips cost, because L didn’t take the receipt and couldn’t remember how much they cost. Pea tips normally average around $23 dollars a dish.

The fried squid ($13.99) arrived so blistering hot I could feel the heat steam in my mouth. The squid itself was toothsome and not chewy. The batter was stellar – thin, brittle and broke apart when you bit into it. I usually eat fried squid with plain white rice and hot chili sauce. However, I passed on ordering rice because I thought the noodles would be enough.

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I haven’t had lobster in a long time. Usually, I’ll wait till I visit my family back in Richmond. The lobster was cracked in such a way that made it easy to remove the sweet meat. The lobster dish with noodles is a must order at Ho Won. The noodles retained its crunch despite the white sauce, which tasted like Alfredo without the cheese.

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I prefer the ginger and green onion version as its more fragrant and flavourful. I told Office Dad I never tried the white sauce before and I thought all Cantonese style lobster and crabs were served with the green onion and ginger sauce. He said the white sauce is automatically given to non-Asian customers unless specified. Dammit L and Bottlenick – you got me the wrong sauce.

I remember as a kid, when we went to a Chinese restaurant for a banquet, lobster would be a messier affair. We would use slippery metal lobster crackers to get to the meat. There would be bowls of hot lemon water to wash our fingers afterwards.

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At the end of our meal, we received fortune cookies. Bottlenick viciously crushed his cookie and then left it on the table. I don’t think he likes fortune cookies.

At 7:00 pm on a Saturday night, Ho Won was packed. I noticed the majority of the clientele are Asian, which is a good sign that the food is good. The Magician does indeed have special powers. This visit was far superior to the lunches I’ve enjoyed in the past.  I’d love to return again, particularly when he is working. Hitting the Sauce gives the Magician two fat thumbs up.

Ho Won Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chinatown · Korean · Restaurants

Bon-ga – Chinatown

Ay Caramba took me out for lunch for my birthday. She surprised me in the morning with two beautiful blue bowls along with some coconut, almond and chocolate mix. She also ordered me to take a lieu day on Friday, so I could prepare for Beep Beep’s visit. For my birthday weekend posts, I’m going to play my favourite tunes. First up is Yo-Yo Ma – Bach Cello Suite No.1 Prelude.

I wanted to keep our group small, so I invited Asian Persuasion, Office Dad, and Pak_to_eating. Lam Jam emailed us earlier in the week and wanted to meet for lunch on the same day, so I extended the invitation to him as well. When we left the office, a coworker mentioned that we were a homogeneous bunch and wondered if it was a prerequisite to be Asian to join our lunch. I thought that was funny because whenever other people go for lunch, I’m sure no one would think – “Wow! That group has something in common – they are all Caucasian!”

As with most Korean restaurants, we received complimentary banchan – tiny side dishes that compliment the meal. When we asked for a refill, our server gave us double the amount. I liked the pungent pieces of kimchi, marinated mung bean sprouts, and musaengchae (white radish).

We ordered Gamjatang – a boiling pot of pork bones, potatoes, and cabbage. I asked for only a little spice because Ay Caramba can’t handle the heat. I know this is a popular dish, but I find it too cumbersome and messy to eat the meat still attached to the bones. I wouldn’t order this on my own.

I specifically ordered the Spicy Squid and Pork Sizzling Plate ($32.99) because of Bruce K. He raved about this dish on Yelp. He’s quite the intense foodie, so I wanted to see what the big deal was about.

This dish is a winner. The toothsome slices of soft squid and the tender pieces of pork were delicious. Make sure you eat this dish with rice, as it soaks up all that yummy sauce. I didn’t find this dish spicy at all. I wonder if it was because I told the owner that Aycaramba doesn’t like spice.

Asian Persuasion wanted to order the Pajun – a savoury seafood pancake ($19.99). Considering how thick the pancake was, I surprised the batter was so light and crispy. I’ve had pajun that’s gummy and heavy.

The pancake contained squid, shrimp and greens. I thought it was a tad light on the seafood. Still, very tasty and I would order this dish again.

One of the best dishes was the Japchae ($18.50). The sweet potato noodles were bouncy, sweet and savoury from the sauce. I liked the combination of the crunchy vegetables, beef and assorted mushrooms. Asian Persuasion said it is easy to make japchae, as it’s just a few key ingredients. I have made japchae before but it didn’t taste nearly as good as Bon-ga’s. I think I don’t put enough sesame oil and sugar in my version.

Persuasion wanted to try the Asian Beef Bone Soup ($13.99). The broth was milky white and cloudy. The meat was soft. Office Dad shared a piece with me, as the bowl was pretty small.

The flavour of the broth was mild. I thought this was the weakest dish, it just lacked the vibrancy of all the other dishes. However, a hot soup is nice as it rounds out the meal and warms you up.

I would return again with a group to try the Korean BBQ combos. Just a heads up – Bonga is a small mom and pop operation. During our lunch, the restaurant filled up with other groups. The owner and one server were kept busy. The owner would still checked in on us and whenever we needed anything, there was a buzzer at the table. Thanks Ay Caramba for setting up this lunch date and treating me. Hitting the Sauce gives Bon-ga two fat thumbs.

Bon-Ga Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chain Restaurants · Chinatown · Chinese · Restaurants

Dagu Rice Noodle

Dagu Rice Noodle replaced the old Y2K restaurant in Chinatown. I persuaded Ay Caramba, Office Dad and Asian Persuasion to check it out with me at lunch. For this post, let’s listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under the Bridge.

The restaurant was packed when we showed up, but we were lucky enough to snag a table after waiting for only five minutes. We interacted with several servers, as there wasn’t a dedicated server for a section. I found the staff efficient and helpful.

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Here’s a pro tip. If you see a server delivering a bowl, do them a favour and get the hell out of their way. The bowls brought to the table arrive at 300F. Also, Instagramers be quick taking your photos or video. Customers are instructed to cook their meats immediately, or else it won’t be cooked at the proper temperature.

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Asian Persuasion thought it was funny that the soup spoons were gigantic. I found the spoons difficult to sip from. Instead, I used the spoon to scoop up the bits of goodness and then use my chopsticks to pick up the item.

All soups are made daily from pork bone, with the except of the tomato soup. No MSG is used. Apparently, every night, Dagu uses 100 pounds of pork bones for the broth, which makes it rich with collagen and nutrients.

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I ordered Crossing the Bridge Rice Noodle Soup ($11.49), which came with fresh wuchang rice noodles, and two beef slices. Toppings include a quail egg, fish cake, corn, crab sticks, root vegetables, lettuce, and two odd pieces of meat that looked like salami and ham. I can handle my spice but I got to say, Dagu was the spiciest I’ve ever tried.

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Asian Persuasion and I turned bright red and sweated profusely for an hour. Our mouths were burning. She had the sense to put some of the hot oil in a bowl, which helped to reduce the hot heat.  She asked our server if we could get some hot water or more broth in our bowls, but he shook his head. He said next time to ask for half the spice.

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Of all the toppings, I enjoyed the fish cake the most. The corn was chewy and sweet. The noodles were slippery and soft. I asked for a noodle refill because I couldn’t sip on the broth and I thought it would counteract the spiciness. I wish I didn’t order the extra noodles because I was uncomfortably full for hours after our lunch.

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Office Dad’s Pickled Cabbage Rice Noodle Soup with Fish Slices ($13.99) was the winning dish. I loved the white pepperiness of the broth and the sourness of the pickled cabbage. Office Dad likes the chunky pieces of white fish. Asian Persuasion, Office Dad and I both liked the fish soup the best.

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Ay Caramba ordered the Signature Rice Noodle Soup with Braised Bone-in Beef ($13.99) and added additional beef slices ($2.99). She raved about the broth and thought it was superior to the soup served at One Pot. Ay Caramba was so full from all the meat that she couldn’t finish her noodles or the fish cake.

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Funny coincidence – Foodly_yyc posted this photo on Instagram. Turns out he was at the restaurant the same time. I can see my coworker and the back of my navy blue blazer. I also took a picture and judging from the angle of Foodly_yyc’s photo, I might have captured him as well.

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My office mates are eager to return. Dagu is a welcome addition in Chinatown. Just a warning – if you have dietary restrictions or just particular in general, I would give this place a pass. The language barrier plus the hard coreness of this cuisine is not for everyone. Also, if you have young children, make sure they stay seated and don’t wander around the restaurant.

Dagu Noodle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chinatown · Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi

Point Sushi

Veronica invited me to One Chubby Hamster’s 14th birthday party. She told me she was thinking of having the get together at Briggs Kitchen + Bar. She asked me which restaurant would be appropriate for eight teenagers.

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I suggested Point Sushi, Calgary’s first sushi bullet train. I could picture One Chubby Hamster and her friends taking Instagram videos of the train and food. For this post, let’s listen to Runaway Train by Soul Asylum.

We took over two booths next to the bullet train conveyor belt. I noticed a long table next to us with its own conveyor belt running along the table. The music was an interesting mix. When we arrived, there was pleasant jazz music. Half an hour later, it was pop and at the end of our meal, house music.  After we finished our dinner, Jughead had to take a business call. I could just imagine his employee hearing the music in the background and thinking her boss was at a club.

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Veronica ordered a whole wack of food. The system allows you to order a maximum of four orders at one time. We started off with Chicken Wings ($5), Gyoza ($5), Shrimp Tempura ($4.40), and Shio Ramen ($5.95).

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Jughead and I thought the ramen was tasty. The broth was thick and flavourful. The noodles were firm, which I prefer. The portion was more than decent for the price. I’d order this again.

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The chicken and vegetable gyoza was soft and floppy. The dumplings tasted better than my description. The dipping sauce had a nice punch to it.

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The shrimp tempura was heavily battered, doughy and dense. The ratio of batter to shrimp was 4:1.  I couldn’t taste the shrimp. This is the only thing I wouldn’t order again.

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Veronica wanted to order sushi. L asked for his favourite nigiri- tako ($4.50). Jughead looked curious and quizzed L on the flavour profile of octopus, as he’s never tried it.  L offered Jughead a piece but he declined.

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I suggested that Veronica try the Spicy Crispy Prawns ($4.50), because since the prawns were cooked, Jughead might try it. When prompted to describe what she was eating, Veronica said it was cold, crunchy and tasted like delicousness. Jughead said it was a succulent prawn morsel.

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I ordered a Spider Roll ($6.95). Yum. This was the least sauced of all the rolls that were ordered. I liked tasting the separate flavours of rice, tobiko, avocado and still warm deep-fried crab.

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Veronica ordered two rolls – the Royal Sushi Roll ($8.90) and Ocean Mountain Roll ($6.50). L doesn’t normally like non traditional sushi, but he enjoyed what he ate.  The sauces were a mix of sweet and spicy.

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It wasn’t just One Chubby Hamster and her friends that enjoyed themselves at Point Sushi. L and I were delighted watching our orders come zooming to our table. It’s fun and entertaining experience, particularly if you haven’t been to Japan. I can see this restaurant being a big hit with families. Thanks One Chubby Hamster for inviting us to your birthday. The party was on point.

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

Cheap Eats · Chinatown · Chinese · Comfort food · Restaurants

Ho Won – Ho No!

I started eating at Ho Won since I was hired for my current position, back in November, 2013. I’m a fan of the salt and pepper squid, pork dumplings, ginger beef and pea tips. For this post, let’s listen to Gossip Folks by Missy Elliott.

Office Dad came back from the long weekend and told me Ho Won was shutting down. I was sad to hear this unfortunate news and immediately went to Reddit to voice my despair.

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Reddit is a powerful medium to spread information or in my case, misinformation. As you can see, the “news” spread fast.

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When I read that staff confirmed that the restaurant was not closing, I called Office Dad in a panic. Of course he didn’t pick up or text me back. The next day he came over to my pod, scratched his head and asked me why I posted the info on Reddit. I responded that Ho Won is an institution and customers would miss it and want to go back before it closed. I asked him to stop redirecting the conversation and to answer me. He exercised his right to remain silent.

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I rounded up the troop: Asian Persuasion, Lil Strawberry, Lam Jam, Legal and Aye Caramba. Office Dad couldn’t go. He acted all mysterious but I found out later it was because he wanted to leave early. Deeclan bailed after promising she would go. She said she forgot she had a coffee date with a friend.

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Initially, I ordered a medium bowl of Fish Maw Soup ($10), Chicken Chow Mein ($9.99), Ginger Beef ($12.99) and Salt and Pepper Squid ($13.99). Our server told me that I had to more one more dish. I said “What? But I ordered a total of four dishes.” She looked at me and shook her head. “You got six here. You need to order at least one more dish.” Okay boss! I added the Special Fried Rice ($9.99).

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The fish soup was served nice and hot. The bowl was filled with fish maw, egg whites, and little pieces of crab. Everyone at the table except for me added soy sauce.  This was a real Joy Luck Club moment. You know, the scene when the Rich puts soy sauce all over the Waverly mother’s famous steamed fish dish. Jesus Rich. You’ve got terrible manners. I thought the fish maw soup was great on its own, with just a little white pepper to accent the delicate flavours.

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The squid at Ho Won is legendary. This time around, I noticed the batter wasn’t as light and crispy. I could also taste a little uncooked batter. I’ve eaten squid here at least 15 times, and this was a first. Maybe the chef knew I was the person on Reddit that started the rumour. I’m paranoid.

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Asian Persuasian enjoyed the fried rice. I thought the rice was a tad overcooked, but  it was tasty. There was lots of chopped and whole shrimp, peas and egg whites. We wanted hot sauce to liven up the dish, but we couldn’t get the attention of our server. We gave up after ten minutes. If you haven’t already noticed, the portions are huge.

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The table’s favourite dish was the ginger beef. The platter was piled high with tender, generously sized pieces of beef. Aye Caramba and Legal mentioned that they could actually taste the ginger in it. Too often, ginger beef tastes like candied meat. The batter was light and retained it’s crunch up to the very end. The sweetness of the sauce reminded me of honey.

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The chicken chow mein was also a big portion of food. There was ample sauce to soften the noodles and a generous amount of chicken, sprouts and mushrooms. I would pass on the noodles in the future.

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For five dishes and a 20% tip, we paid $12.00 per person. I’m glad Ho Won is still around and the information I received was just gossip. Looking forward to organizing the next food adventure with my office mates.

Ho Won Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato