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.

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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

Comfort food · Italian · Patio · Restaurants

Tavernetta

L won another award! I told him we need to celebrate this special occasion and I knew just the restaurant he could take me to. For this post, let’s listen to “Applause” by Lady Gaga.

My fellow wine enthusiast frequents Tavernetta.  As Bottlenick and I share similar taste in wine, I was keen check it out.

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Tavernetta is situated in a bungalow style house, similar to the home I grew up in. We sat in a cozy room at the back of the house. Our section overlooks the backyard. L liked the unpretentious vibe and friendly service.

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Bottlenick mentioned the house wine was good value ($8.00, 5 ounce). L and I agree – the wine was easy drinking with a tart finish. I wish other restaurants would follow Tavernetta’s example and sell something pleasant and easy on the wallet.

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Our first dish was the Calamari v. 4 ($13). The squid was cooked well. Each ringlet was silky and tender. Pro tip – to balance the spicy heat, make sure to mix the calamari with the sweet summer squash and yam puree on the bottom of the plate. The pesto sauce and tomatoes added a zing to the flavour profile.

I asked our server what wines he would recommend with our food. He suggested Baudana Dragon (2017, $11) or the Luigi Maffini Keleos (2016, $14). I requested a glass of each. L was in for one hell of a night. He ordered a pint of Commonwealth beer ($10).

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My favourite dish of the evening was Tavernetta Meatballs ($13). I was surprised because I don’t even like meatballs as the texture is often tough and bland. Tavernetta’s meatballs were steaming hot in the center. The meat was succulent and juicy. The tomato sauce was tangy.  I would order this dish again.

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I’m not a salad person but I can get behind the Cavolo ($13). The burrata cheese was creamy and fresh, like whipped cream. L thought the combination of crisp romaine, kale and tangy tomato vin worked well together. I loved the richness of the parmesan crisps.

The Baudana Dragon wine was light and went well with the salad and spicy notes in the calamari. The Luigi Maffini Keleos was richer and paired better with the heavier pasta. If I had to pick only one wine, I would go for the Dragon.

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Our last dish was the Farroto ($11). I’m glad the dish was a smaller portion, as the cheesy sauce was rich. We both thought we could taste mushroom in the sauce. Each grain was firm and chewy. I enjoyed the addition of the sweet peas, as it gave the pasta a fresh pop.

I’m eager to return. I’m not familiar with Italian wines and I think Tavernetta is just the place to start sipping.  Thanks Bottlenick for the stellar recommendation. Tavernetta gets two fat thumbs up and it makes it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

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

Comfort food · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Phu Quy – AYCE Vietnamese Wraps

My colleagues asked me what I was doing for the weekend. I informed them L and I were going to Phu Quy. They all chuckled and said they loved the name of the restaurant. Phu Quy is the name of an island in Vietnam, not a swear word. Mai told me to check out this place out for all-you-can-eat beef and shrimp wraps. As she’s incredibly particular with her Vietnamese food, I had to try it.

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There wasn’t any music playing during our visit. The silence in the room took me by surprise. I considered not playing a video for this post to replicate the experience but I prefer my blog with music. For this post, let’s listen to “Wrap Her Up” by Elton John.

We ordered the all-you-can-eat beef and shrimp wraps ($26.99 per person). We received a heaping platter of raw beef and shrimp, rice paper wraps, butter, vermicelli noodles, iceberg lettuce, sprouts, basil, mint, cucumber and pickled daikon and carrots. I noticed the portions of everything we received was generous.

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The vermicelli was chopped up, so you can easily pick up and distribute it evenly around. The noodles were separate and loose and not clumped together like other restaurants that serve DYO wraps.

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The shrimp and beef were not seasoned or marinated, so you have to be liberal with the dipping sauces and tray of condiments. Dipping sauces include pineapple, peanut hoison, and fish sauce. However, I recommend also making use of the hoison and hot sauce to liven up the protein. I noticed the sauces weren’t sweet like I’m use to Pho Hoang Viet, Golden Bell (Richmond) and K-Viet.

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This picture above doesn’t show accurately how much beef and shrimp we received. It was piled high and too much for us to eat. Usually at Vietnamese restaurants, I find I don’t get enough of the mint and basil. I didn’t find that problem at Phu Quy. One of the best parts of this meal were the vegetables. The pickled daikon and carrots were sweet, tart and crunchy. The mint and basil were fragrant and fresh.

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In our first attempt of cooking, we didn’t realize the grill was too hot. The owner came out to replace the grill because he said the burned remnants of food made the grill unusable. I’d like to note that we didn’t set the temperature, our server did.

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There was a bowl that’s strategically placed by the grill to capture the drippings from the grill. I didn’t realize this and when L told me not to move it, I retorted that I didn’t like it when he tells me what to do in an Asian restaurant.  He didn’t say anything until 10 minutes later, when the water leaked onto our table. Oh god, I don’t deserve such a nice man.

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The shrimp was small and you have to remove the tails yourself.  Since it’s all-you-can-eat, it’s not a big deal. The shrimp wraps were light and needed extra help from the condiment tray.

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If you want just all-you-can eat beef, the price lowers to $23.95. Beef, shrimp, squid and fish cost $27.95. per person. I think the prices Phu Quy charges is well worth it. If I bought these ingredients myself, it would be around the same amount. Also, making this at home would be time-consuming and messy to clean up afterwards.

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The beef was lean and thinly sliced. I preferred cooking the beef until it caramelized on the grill. The hoison sauce in the squeeze tube bottle paired best with the meat.

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When I wrapped the beef filling with the rice paper wrap, the roll dripped with the sauces. I used the lettuce to wrap around the rice paper. I’d alternate between using the lettuce and rice roll to wrap my food, and in some cases both vessels.

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The family that operates Phu Quy are kind and genuine. The female owner came out and asked if we wanted another platter of beef and shrimp. No way we said, as we were too full. L forced himself to finish the remaining meat because he didn’t want to waste it.  I asked our server if customers eat more than one plate. He responded that usually the guys would eat two plates to themselves. Once, two guys came in and ate three plates. They told the owners they would stop at three plates because they were a family business, but they could eat more.  I told our server that I felt bad leaving all the fresh vegetables. He smiled and said not to worry about it.

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I’d recommend Phu Quy for their wraps if you want something healthier and different from what your accustomed to at Vietnamese restaurants.  The food wasn’t as sweet, greasy or as saucy as Korean or Japanese BBQ restaurants. I noticed all the customers dining here spoke Vietnamese and they were eating traditional Vietnamese dishes, like steamed clay pots with steamed rice. I’d like to return to try their 7-courses of beef ($49.99 for two). As we left, we saw a table being set up for a group of ten. I can see how this restaurant would be ideal for families or group of friends. Grilling your own wraps was  a communal and social experience.

Phu Quy Vietnamese Family Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Comfort food · Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Cuty Restaurant

Mai informed me that she doesn’t dine at many Vietnamese restaurants because almost all are too westernized for her taste. One place she does frequent is Cuty Restaurant. She told me not to get anything but the grilled wrap combo. For this post, let’s listen to Harry Nilsson – “Gotta Get Up.”

For a lack of a better adjective, Cuty is cute. You can see the effort the owner put into the decor, like the professional photographs and hanging bicycle planter basket. The tables were spotless. The washroom was clean and warm, despite the -27 weather. A pet peeve of mine are Asian restaurants that purposely keep the room cold to save money on heat. This happens a lot in Vancouver and Richmond.

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L and I ordered  the grilled platter – Banh Hoi Chao Tom Nem Nuong Bo La Lot ($19) and despite Mai’s advice, I ordered Pho Sate Bo Hoac Ga ($11.99). I looked around and noticed all the non-Asian customers ordered pho or bun. The customers speaking Vietnamese ordered the grilled combo platter. I texted Mai to tell her what I observed.

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Our server brought out a container of rice paper wrappers that also serve as a dipping vessel. The wrapper would curl in my hand from the heat of my hands. You insert the rice paper into the hot water and rotate it until it is soft.

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Our platter contained three types of protein – Banh Ho Chao Tom (grilled shrimp paste), Banh Ho Nem Nuong (grilled pork meatball) and Bo La Lot (grilled minced beef). This portion would suffice for two small appetites or be a very filling meal for one.

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You pick your protein and then fill the wrap with a mixture of lettuce, basil, mint, carrot, cucumber and vermicelli sprinkled with nuts and green onion.  The dipping sauce – nuoc cham –  was salty and sour with only a touch of sweetness. Fishier than most Vietnamese restaurants, as my hands smelled strongly for hours afterwards. Mai said there is also hoisin and satay sauce, but I think you need to ask for them.

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Of the three fillings, we enjoyed the shrimp paste the most as it was tasty and sweet. The shrimp flavour wasn’t very shrimpy.

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The pork meatball reminded me a bit of a hotdog because of its bouncy texture. The minced beef was more delicately flavoured and I found the betel leaves were soft and pliable. Bo la lot reminds me a Mediterranean dish – dolmades.

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The pho ($12) was tasty –  tangy and spicy with tender slices of beef. The broth wasn’t as hot as I would have liked. After I dumped in all the sprouts, the temperature cooled down.

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Next time, I wouldn’t mind trying the Banh Hoi Gia Truyen Cuty Quan  ($31) – a traditional platter of spring rolls, imperial rolls (taro, pork, and onion), tiger prawn rolls and pork sausage rolls. Or I’d order the grilled shrimp platter and then add the tiger prawn rolls or the imperial rolls.

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I’m a fan of Cuty restaurant so much, it makes it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary. I’d recommend the grill roll and wrap combo. Thanks Mai for the inside tip.

Cuty Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
17th Ave · Beer · Comfort food · Happy Hour · Restaurants

Alumni Sandwiches

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chain Restaurants · Comfort food · Restaurants

Leopold’s Tavern – Bowness

Veggie Girl turned 32! For her birthday, she wanted to have drinks at Leopold’s Tavern in Bowness. She picked this pub because it’s blocks away from her house and she had a hankering for a mushroom poutine. Veggie Girl said as a vegetarian, it’s difficult to find a good poutine and Leopold’s version is particularly pleasing to her palate.

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I dig the music here. That night we listened to Arkells, Franz Ferdinand and The Strumbellas. For this post, let’s listen to Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. L told me about this new dancing robotic dog. Pretty cool.

Pints of craft beer set you back $8 bucks. Uncle Ben thought that was pricey. I think eight dollars is the norm in Calgary and I’m grateful it wasn’t Bud. I had a pint of Tokyo Drift and then an hour later, I had a strong craving for wine. Leopold’s serves up Barefoot ($10). I was torn. In the end, my craving won. When I complained to Veggie Girl about Leopold’s wine selection, she said Beringer is available, but it’s not on the menu. More of the same.

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Veggie Girl’s friend Scope showed us his new breathalyzer from Costco. After two drinks in two hours, I was impaired. Good thing I wasn’t driving.

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In the third and final hour, I ordered an Erdinger, which was my preferred drink of the night. Unfortunately, after two sips, I was tipsy so I gave my beer to Uncle Ben. Waste not, want not. Besides, we’re family.

L ordered a Smoked Meat Sandwich ($16.50) and upgraded the regular fries to yam. The Montreal smoked meat was stacked high. Each thinly slice of meat was juicy and flavorful. The sandwich was an easy 5 out of 5. I can’t remember eating a tastier smoked meat sandwich. The yam fries were overcooked and over salted. The crisper fries tasted bitter.

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Uncle Ben ordered a BLT ($15.50) with fries. The bacon is thick cut and stacked high. His fries were too salty as well. Uncle Ben said it was his third time ordering a BLT at Leopold’s since it opened. He would give the BLT two thumbs up, but his other hand was preoccupied holding the plate.

I ordered a mushroom burger with mushroom poutine ($16.50 +$4.00 upgrade). I thought I ordered a vegetarian burger so I was surprised to bite into a beef patty. The burger was loaded with warm mushrooms and melted Swiss cheese, lettuce, pickles and red onion. Yummy. Reminded me of A&W mozza burger, but in a comfort food way. The mushroom poutine is made with vegetarian and gluten-free gravy. My fries were not overly salted like L’s and Uncle Ben’s. The side poutine was heavy on the gravy. The cheese curds were chunky and still cool. One of the better poutines in Calgary.

Turned and Dave shared a Pulled Pork Poutine ($17.50). They enjoyed every bite. Leopold’s is pretty generous with portions. Just look at all that meat and cheese. Dave ordered Veggie Girl a shot – a Muff Diver. Veggie Girl has a small mouth so it was hard for her to find the shot glass in all that whipped cream.

L and I arrived at 6:05 p.m. and we left by 9:00 p.m. The rest of the gang stayed until closing, at 2:00 a.m. I have a feeling that my in-laws are quite fond of Leopold’s Tavern. Hitting the Sauce gives up a big fat thumb up for the tasty comfort food, friendly service and warm vibes.

Leopold's Tavern 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

Cheap Eats · Comfort food · Japanese · Restaurants · Tokyo

Tokyo – Harajuku Gyoza Ro

TJ had evening plans that didn’t include me. Oh boy. Hitting the Sauce was single for the night. Lucky for me, Cascara was up for a food adventure. She received a recommendation from Good Son to check out Harajuku Gyoza Ro. For this post, let’s listen to Happy End by Kaze Wo Atsumete.

Gyoza Ro is a small bar, jam-packed with tourists. Expect to wait on average about 20 minutes. Part of the issue is that customers sit and linger inside. We went in for a leisurely meal and when we left, most customers that were there before us remained there.

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We each ordered a Lemon Sour for only 450 Yen. That’s a wicked price in Tokyo! You’d think such a cheap drink would be weak. Nope. I still got a glow on.

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We ordered the original and garlic and leek gyoza. You get a set of six for only 290 Yen. The skin was thin, the bottom was nice and crispy. We ordered the dumplings pan-fried and some boiled. Both versions were tasty.

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The cooks serve the dumplings fresh off the frying pan. There’s an assortment of sauces to spice things up. For three bucks a plate, I have no complaints.

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Even better than the gyozas were the cucumbers with special miso sauce (250 Yen). The miso was sweet and almost peanut buttery. The cucumbers were so fresh, it tasted like they were plucked from the garden that day. I’m use to good produce. I purchase all my vegetables from Broxburn Farm. Cascara and I ordered another plate of cucumbers because it was that good.

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The boiled sprouts with special meat sauce (250 Yen) were meh. I would skip it. There was no flavour and it tasted like watery boiled meat with sprouts.

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I would go again. I plan to take L if he can tolerate waiting in line for so long. Thanks Cascara and Good Son for the recommendation.

Cheap Eats · Comfort food · Curry · Japanese · Restaurants · Tokyo

Tokyo – Ikebukuro Cheap Eats

It’s interesting traveling with other people. You get to learn their quirks. For example, TJ does not like to hunt for a good restaurant. Sometimes, she won’t eat for 24 hours. I asked her how she can go without food for so long. TJ responded I could do it too. You just go without. When she’s finally ready to have a meal, she wants her food immediately. Her criteria in Japan: 1) fast 2) convenient 3) cheap and 4) big portions. I’ve tried to bring her snacks to quell her appetite so I can search for a better restaurant, but I was unsuccessful. I’ve found a few places that meet her criteria. For this post, let’s listen to The Hanging Tree from the Hunger Games soundtrack.

TJ approved of Kareno Lo. I found this katsu curry shop, which was less than five minutes from our hotel. You buy your ticket from a vending machine. The descriptions are in Japanese, so make sure to bring your Google translate app with you. There’s only about 12 seats at the counter. It’s the sort of place you’d go by yourself to chow down and then get the hell out.

Once you get your ticket, hand it to a cook who will fry up your cutlet. The portions here are hearty. For about 900 Yen, you get a generous cutlet, rice and curry. The katsu at Karen Lo is superior to what you can get in Calgary. I’ve had better katsu in Kyoto, but I paid at least double that amount. The difference between Karen Lo and other higher end joints? You get a fluffier batter, different breed designations, variety of cuts, endless bowls of perfect rice, miso soup, pickles, salad, condiments and tea.

TJ tried to find Kareno Lo again without me but she couldn’t find it. I thought that was hilarious. This is a woman who can find any business, cultural site, university or village in Japan. Tj uses real maps, not Google map. She even looks up multiple maps for one location, because each version shows varying degrees of detail. I’ve got my own special powers. I’m a savant when it comes to eating out. I can remember every single restaurant I’ve even been to, everything on the menu, where the restaurant is located,  and what was ever written about the restaurant’s food. Sadly, no one gives out awards for this rare talent. I’d give the katsu 3.5/5.

The third place I found that TJ enjoys is Ginza Kagari Echika Ikebukuro. This noodle shop is located next to my favourite sushi joint by Exit C6 at Ikebukuro Station. There’s usually not a long line-up. I’m particularly fond of the cold soba noodles with the sardine dipping sauce. The cold, grilled vegetables and meats were refreshing and the perfect accompaniment to the noodles. Bowls of soba cost 1000 Yen and up. I’d give the sardine noodles 4 out of 5.

I’ve tried the famous chicken soba soup with truffle mayo. The broth was very fragrant and rich, almost like butter.

I found Iwamotokyu at the end of our trip. Iwamotokyu is not nearly as good as the tendon chain – Tempura Tenya – but it’s open 24 hours. The soba is quite nice, far better than the rice, which was too wet. The noodles were firm, toothsome and almost nutty in flavour. The tempura itself was average. I’d skip the fish and meat and go for shrimp or veggies instead. For about the same price as a meal at the local 7/11, Iwamotokyu does the trick of filling up our bellies. Solid 3 our of 5.

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There you have it. There are loads of cheap eats in Tokyo. Not so much in Kyoto. To be continued.