Brunch · Fusion · poke · Restaurants

ZCrew Cafe – Brunch with Haskayne 3.0

L drove me to my brunch with Haskayne 3.0. He accidentally dropped me off at the wrong location and I had to hoof it for the last seven blocks. When I got to ZCrew Cafe, Screamy asked me why I didn’t just call L to pick me up again. That idea never even occurred to me. She inquired why L didn’t come with to brunch. I said because he wasn’t invited. Screamy said it should be assumed he’s invited, as he’s my husband. I told her that in the future, she needs to be more specific with me. For this post, let’s listen to Shakira & J. Lo’s Superbowl performance.

Though I was uncharacteristically late, Strong Zero, Queen B, and Shady Bones were even tardier. I guess we aren’t on Japan time anymore! After fielding more questions about L’s absence and whether or not I should call him, we ordered food. Geez – I had no idea L was so popular. Why would they want him when they already have me?

tea

I enjoyed my pot of Jasmine Dragon Pearl Tea ($5.50). The blooming flower inside the clear pot was aesthetically pleasing. The tea was mild and fragrant with a subtle sweetness.

tofu

Screamy enjoyed her Crispy Tofu Bowl ($15). She said the tofu wasn’t crispy but it still tasted good. Her favourite part of the dish was the kimchi as it brought all the ingredients together.

matcha

Shady Bones ordered the Matcha Pancake ($17). She spent a good five minutes debating whether or not to eat the orchid. She shared her dish with Strong Zero.

burger

Strong Zero ordered the Monster Bao-Ger ($19). Man, this dude is precise. He cut his burger and the pancakes into half with surgical precision. Strong Zero said the little potato doughnut tasted like sweet, spicy balls. He offered me a bite of his food and I didn’t think before I spoke and said, “Why, don’t you like it?” He looked taken aback and responded he did like his food, he just wanted to know if I wanted to try it.

fried chicken

Queen B ordered the best looking dish – Korean fried chicken and waffles ($19). You could hear the skin crackle as Queen B cut into the chicken.

poke

My Special Poke Bowl ($17) tasted healthy. The wasabi mayo and teriyaki sauce were minimal, allowing the natural flavours of the vegetables to shine through. The rice was a little hard and I found a fish bone in the salmon. Overall, a tasty bowl.

ZCrew Cafe offers some seriously Instagramable meals. It’s a cool little spot offering brunch with an Asian twist. I can see why it’s such a popular spot with the kids.

ZCREW Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Cuty Restaurant – Dalhousie

For my birthday lunch, I wanted to check out Cuty Restaurant’s newest location in Dalhousie. I was craving something fresh and crunchy and Cuty is known for their wrap and roll combo plates. For this post, let’s listen to “Let’s Go” by The Cars.

The last time we visited, we shared the Grilled Combo ($19.50) – a mix of traditional fillings like the grilled minced beef la lop, grilled pork meatballs and shrimp paste. Though I wanted the deep-fried bounty in the Traditional Platter ($31.50), I resisted and ordered something slightly healthier.

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We ordered the Grilled Shrimp Paste Platter ($18.50), Imperial Rolls ($8) and the Vietnamese Crispy Pancake ($12). Cuty is generous with the herbs. Our plates contained plenty of basil, mint and lettuce. The texture of the shrimp roll is bouncy and firm and the taste reminded me of ho gow, a Chinese steamed shrimp dumpling.

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The shell of the imperial roll was crispy and chewy. Tightly packed with pork, taro root and black fungus, the filling was tastier than a regular spring roll.  I like contrast of the fresh, cool herbs wrapped around crunchy, blistering hot pork roll.

rispy thing again

The Vietnamese Crispy Pancake or bánh xèo is an Asian crepe. The pancake is made with tumeric powder, rice flour and coconut milk. I thought there was egg in the pancake batter, but it’s the tumeric powder that gives the crepe a yellow hue.

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The crepe was lacy and crisp. The crepe wasn’t overloaded with mung beans and sprouts, there was a balanced amount of chopped up shrimp, pork and squid. I’d recommend going heavy on the basil as it cuts into the sweetness of the coconut milk.

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The crepe harder to eat than the wrap rolls. I found it difficult to wrap the mixture with lettuce because when I went to dip, the filling would fall out into the sauce. L and I noticed our wrapping job wasn’t as good as the other customers. No one else was struggling.

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I ordered too much food. We could have made do with one platter and the imperial rolls, with extra vegetables and noodles. Overall, this restaurant is a nice change from the standard pho and bún chả joints in Calgary. Hitting the Sauce gives Cuty Restaurant two fat thumbs up.

Cuty Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Fusion · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Nights & Weekends – Pop-Up Restaurant and Bar

It’s my birthday week! L picked me up from the airport and told me I had one hour to get ready for our dinner reservation. His colleague M emailed him an article about a pop-up restaurant – Nights & Weekends. What interested L was that co-chefs Bern Glatz and Nick Berenyi collectively worked at Ten Foot Henry, Anju, Mercato, Bar Von Der Fels, and Una Pizza + Wine. He figured since we like all those restaurants, we would enjoy Nights & Weekends. As always, L is correct.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, Nights & Weekends takes over the space at Shiki Menya. The restaurant is dimly lit, with the exception of the glow of the pink neon sign. The tunes are rocking and the vibe is intimate.

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Initially, I was skeptical when the bartender informed us they only sell four wines – bubbles, rosé, white and red ($12 glass, $48 bottle). After sampling three of the four wines, I realized you don’t need a large selection if each bottle is well chosen. Kudos to Katie, an employee from Vine Arts who selects all the wine for Nights & Weekends.

bubbles

L ordered a pint of Asahi ($7) while I requested a glass of French bubbles ($12). I found the bubbles tight and clean tasting.

eggs

We ordered two servings of the Tamago ($4). The egg was cool and soft. As I slurped the egg back, it felt like I was eating an oyster. I enjoyed the restrained use of black sesame and chili oil. However, L’s portion received all the scallions. Luck of the draw.

egg close upThe Waygu Beef Tartare ($14) is a winner. L appreciated how the focus of dish was the meat rather than competing flavour of secondary ingredients. The beef tasted supremely fresh. I didn’t even want to use the potato chip because it would take away from the flavour of the waygu. As I chewed, I savoured the texture of the beef.  Oh so good.

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The bartender recommended I try the Russine (2017) rosé with the wagyu tartare. He described this wine as a winter rosé. I was reluctant to try it because too often, I find rosé tart, sweet or fake tasting. He didn’t steer me wrong. The wine was heavy for a rosé and a little dry.  I would order this again.

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The Poached Tiger Prawn ($10) was the star of the night. This sandwich was off the hook. The kewpie sauce was light and just enough to bind and coat all the ingredients together. The pea shoots helped to cut into the mayo. The tobiko added a pop of the sea.

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The prawns were plentiful and sweet. With each bite, proportionally, there was more shrimp than bun. We liked how the bun was squishy and mushable against the crunchy prawns.

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The Handmade Pasta ($18) was unique. What I liked was the firmness and bite of the noodles. The combination of the cheese, guancialle (cured meat), dashi, gachujang (Korean red chili paste), mushrooms and nori reminded me a little of Kraft cheese, but in a good way.

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I drank one more glass of wine because I was having so much fun and I didn’t want to leave. The Maggiorina Vino Rosso (2018) was interesting. The wine hit my tongue hard but then mellowed out.

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In my opinion, this little pop-up restaurant competes with the best restaurants I’ve tried in this city and elsewhere. I love it so much, Nights & Weekends is making it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary. Hitting the Sauce gives Nights & Weekends two fat thumbs up.

Nights and Weekends Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Fusion · Happy Hour · Restaurants

Raw Bar – Happy Hour

Québécois and I have been friends ever since she and her husband moved next door to us in 2014.  On Friday night, she treated me to dinner at Raw Bar. I haven’t been to Raw Bar since Duncan Ly was the executive chef. For this post, let’s listen to “Date Night” by Father John Misty.

On Fridays, almost all the wines are half price. What a steal! I can’t think of any other restaurant in Calgary that offers half price wine on Friday. Select appetizers are half price until 6:00 p.m. and dollar oysters are served until 7:00 p.m.

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Our first bottle of the night was Sirius Bordeaux Blanc 2017 ($49, HH $24.50). When we first took a sip, we thought the wine was acidic. But after the wine had a chance to breathe, the flavour was more tropical and light. I enjoyed this bottle.

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We started with a round of oysters (HH $1.00). The oysters were small and briny. I ate one oyster that tasted bitter, so I spat it out. I didn’t get sick, so no hard feelings.

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Our server recommended the Fried Caulilini ($10, HH $5). Caulilini is a variety of cauliflower. The batter was doughy in some pieces.

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The Grilled Shishito peppers ($12, HH $6) were crunchy. I enjoyed the curry aioli and the crispy bits of puffed rice. Québécois took a bite of a pepper and announced it was too spicy. When I bragged that I can handle my spice, she dared me to eat her pepper. I popped the shishito in my mouth and immediately my face flushed red. When Québécois saw me chug my glass of water, she regretted telling me to eat it. I said no worries, as spicy food speeds up my metabolism.

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Québécois ordered a second bottle of wine – Michel Gassier Viognier France, 2018 ($46, HH $23). I really liked this bottle – the wine was dry with a floral aroma. I would order this bottle again.

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Even though I just returned from Cabo, I wanted to try the Ahi Tuna Tacos ($16, HH $8). The tuna was tasty but oversauced. I had to pour some of the liquid out of the hard taro root shell before eating it. I thought I could taste kimchi in the sauce, even thought the menu described the sauce as a chili glaze.

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My favourite dish was not on the happy hour menu –  Korean Beef Tartare ($16). The flavours of the chilled beef and sweetness from the Korean pear were spot on. I found the tartare refreshing and nicely seasoned. The rice chips were so addictingly delicious, Québécois asked for another serving for me. The chips remind me of a fresher, tastier version of shrimp crackers you get with roast chicken at a Chinese banquet dinner.

tartare

Québécois needed a sweet to finish the night. She ordered Homemade Bon Bons ($3.50). The chocolate was dark and the filling tasted like coconut.

bon bon

Québécois wanted to end the night with a glass of bubbles. She insisted on getting another bottle because it was about the same price as ordering two flutes. She picked Famiglia Zonin ($45, HH $22.50), a fizzy and easy to drink prosecco. By this time, we could barely finish our prosecco. Québécois asked our server to cork our bottle.

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If you haven’t been to Raw Bar, I’d recommend checking it out on a Friday night. Thank you Québécois for treating me to a merry night out with great wine and tasty bites. My treat next time.

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

Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Pure Kitchen and Bar

I organized a dinner for L’s 15 colleagues. I worked on the menu with the owner and chef at Pure Kitchen and Bar – Lam Pham. For only $45 a person, he created a spectacular feast for us. For this post, let us listen to “Pure Comedy by Father John Misty.

To start our meal, Pham sent out a complimentary amuse bouche – Roasted Duck Crostini. I loved the combination of the rich, warm chicken pate with the sweet orange jam and watercress salad. This crostini had it all – crunchy, soft, sweet and savoury.

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The Tenderloin Tataki was an appropriate introduction to Pham’s cuisine. The beef was thinly sliced and cool on the tongue. The sauce was lively – a spicy blend of tamarind nuoc cham and chili oil. The ruby red beef was layered with bean sprouts, herbs, crispy shallots and peanuts. Refreshing and light, I liked the contrast of the crunchy sprouts against the tenderness of the beef.

beef tataki

Each couple shared a Char Siu Sesame Donut. The sous vide pork shoulder was soft and sweet from the sauce. The donut was stuffed with cucumber, cilantro and pickled carrots. I could taste some lingering spice from the sriracha aioli.

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The fruit from the Papaya and Mango Sate Grilled Shrimp Salad had a gentle, mellow sweetness. Our group liked the addition of the crunchy taro chips. Normally I find bean sprouts don’t taste like anything. These bean sprouts must have just been plucked, because the flavour profile was clean and watery.

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L’s favourite dish was the Roasted Duck Spring Rolls with Crepes. The roll itself was piping hot, filled with creamy duck meat and orange jam. I thought the spring rolls would taste more like a traditional Chinese Peking duck crepe, but with the addition of the watercress and sour green apple, it was more lively. L said it was a wrap of awesomeness.

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The Salted Duck Yolk Crusted Shrimp Tempura was the highlight of my meal. The shrimp was large and sweet, encased in a crunchy batter with a creamy sauce of 5 Spice chili, tobiko mayo and nori. Even though I was full, I ate three pieces. Pham’s version reminded me of ebi mayo, but supersized, more decadent and intensely flavoured.

shrimp

My second favourite dish was the Claypot Lemongrass Tofu. The tofu was still crunchy, despite the thick pool of lemony, caramelized gravy.

tofu

I’ve tried the Seafood Fried Rice several times before, and as always, the fried rice did not disappoint. I liked the generous ratio of shrimp, crab, egg and tobiko to rice.

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I heard a lot about the Pan Seared Master Chicken. I liked the master stock jus and the mushrooms.

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The Gai Lan was excellent. I don’t know where Lam buys his produce from, because I can’t get gai lan this fresh. The greens were sweet and perfectly cooked – tender but there was still a bite to it. The ginger scallion jus, garlic chips and sate oil elevated the greens and then some.

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By this time, I was too full to enjoy the Wok Tossed Shaken Beef. I did ravish the watercress salad. So good, I would request to order the watercress as a side in the future.

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For dessert, we ate Crispy Banana & Yam Spring Rolls. The soft filling was warm and sweet. Our server told us to swirl the spring roll around the coconut taro sauce. Yummy, though I was too full to finish my dessert.

Pham knocked it out of the park. The food exceeded L’s expectations, and we have eaten at Pure several times before. This feast reminded me of the Chinese banquets and weekly multi-course dinners my mother use to organize. I’ve been trying to eat smaller portions, but surrounded by so much tantalizing food, my inner fat kid came out and I would not stop eating. I could see from across the table that the other shared platters were still piled high with food, but the plates near me shone clean. In 2019, Pure was voted by Avenue Magazine as best Vietnamese restaurant in Calgary. I can see why. Hitting the Sauce gives Pure Contemporary Vietnamese two fat thumbs up.

Pure Contemporary Vietnamese Kitchen + Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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

Lulu Bar

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

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

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

pop

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

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

egg

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

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

peas

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

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

lobster

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

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

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

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

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

Curry · Fusion · Indian · Restaurants

Masala Bhavan

On Saturday night, L suggested that we go out for Indian food. I make Indian food at home, so I never see the need to go out for it. However, as L rarely requests to dine anywhere, I obliged. Due to the wintry roads, I told him to find a restaurant near us. He picked Masala Bhavan. For this post, let’s listen to “Jai Ho”.

When we arrived at 6:00 p.m., the restaurant was less than a quarter full.  Within half an hour, the room filled up with customers and Skip the Dishes drivers.

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We ordered two Rani beers (Minhas Brewery, $5.50), Cauliflower 65 ($7.95), Tikka Masala ($14.95), Biryani Chicken ($14.95), and Butter Naan ($2.75). My pen pal Bruce K recommended that I tell the chef I like full flavours in order to get the best of what he or she has to offer.

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Our appetizer was yummy. The thin, crispy batter on the cauliflower had a medium spice to it. Though it was deep-fried, the cauliflower wasn’t greasy.

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Cauliflower 65 reminded me Leopold’s Tavern’s cauliflower hot wings, but better because of the deeper flavour profile. The mint sauce added a pop of flavour and cooled down the heat. A squirt of lemon juice gave the deep-fried cauliflower a zing to it.

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Our server said the chef didn’t hold back with the spices in the tikka masala. The boneless chicken was enveloped in a thick, spicy infused tomato sauce. The chicken was so hot, I could feel myself start to perspire.

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The biryani came with raita, a yogurt based  sauce, as well as a side of eggplant curry. When our server lifted the lid, we could smell a waft of cinnamon and nutmeg. The fluffy rice was fragrant, studded with onions and spices. There were three pieces of bone-in chicken. The meat was juicy and moist. This was a noticeable heat to this dish as well.

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The eggplant was soft and smokey. The tomato and onion sauce was tart and tangy from the tamarind. The eggplant was a nice change from the heat of the tikka chicken and the aromatic biryani. I’d order this again.

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The raita was refreshing and light. The dip tasted like it was yogurt based with cucumber and something else that was  crunchy.

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The naan was good, but there were some parts of it that were a bit too thick and doughy for my taste. Side note – my buddy Veronica gets irritated when people call naan – “naan bread”. She says it’s the same as saying, “Pass the bread bread.” She also says not to say “chai tea” because chai means tea.

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The portions were generous. L and I were so full, we ended up taking more than half of the biryani home. With three beers, one appetizer, two mains and a twenty percent tip, the bill came up to $70. That’s a wicked deal for all that deliciousness we consumed.

Before checking out Masala Bhavan, I thought I did a decent job cooking Indian food. After eating here, I realize my food isn’t nearly good as I thought it was. I was planning on preparing Indian food for an upcoming dinner party, but I think I’ll stick to what I know – Chinese hot pot.

Masala Bhavan Indian 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
Fusion · Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi

Shokunin Izakaya – The Final Table

For our five-year wedding anniversary, L took me out to celebrate at Shokunin. The owner and chef – Darren MacLean – recently competed on the Netflix show – The Final Table.

Shokunin has changed since Darren was on the show. Without reservations, it’s now difficult to score a table. When L and I got there on an early Monday evening, his restaurant was packed. For this post, let’s listen to Jidenna, “Chief Don’t Run”.

Darren switched to fatty yellow chickens for his yakitori. He informed me that yellow chickens are ridiculously expensive but he feels it is worth the extra cost. Whole chickens are butchered daily. New to the menu are: wing flap, skin on thigh, skin on breast, sweetbread, knee and rib. The price ranges from $3-5 dollars a skewer.

chicken
Taken from Shokunin’s Instagram account @shokuninyyc without permission.

The difference between the fatty yellow chicken and the previous chickens used is noticeable. I thought the taste of the charcoal was more prominent. The chicken was silkier and tastier. I also prefer the addition of skin on the meat because it adds a contrasting texture and the skin soaks up the charcoal smoke.

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We ordered the Alberta Bison Tataki ($19). I’m not normally a fan of tataki but this version was a pleasing combination of insanely delicious flavours and textures – the bright sauce, the succulent meat, and the tang of the pickled onions. The portion was pretty generous too. This is a must order dish.

The Roasted Duck Breast Udon ($19) is my current favourite bowl of noodles in the city. I’ve never had duck so flavourful and satiny. The meat was served rare and cut thin. I ate as slowly as possible in order to savour the tender morsels. The noodles were fat and chewy. The egg had a rich, intense flavour. The broth was delicate with a touch of sweetness.

L and I ordered the Grilled Rice Ball ($5, + $2.50 egg) after we saw another customer order it. The eggs were so good it made me want to come by Saturday morning and ask to purchase a dozen. I’ll also take two fatty yellow chickens while I’m at it.

I buy great produce but the eggs here are next level. Just because I’m on an egg roll, take a look at the yolk from my bowl of udon.

I always find a new sake at Shokunin and then I’ll hunt it down for my parties from their supplier – Richmond Hills Wines. There’s a new warm sake I’m crazy about – Aizuhomare Premium Dry Honjozo.  I loved the hint of melon and the general mellowness. For a 5 ounce, it’s only $10! Dreams do come true! The only issue is L saw that Shokunin monitors the temperature of the sake. If I run out and buy this one, I’ll probably screw up the temperature and it won’t taste as good at home.

L was a fan of the draft beer – OkamiKasu – ($10) a collaboration between Ol’ Beautiful and Shokunin. Clean and refreshing, I much prefer Ol’ Beautiful’s version than the previous collaboration between Big Rock and Shokunin, the latter being a bit sweet.

I don’t want to spoil the show for those who haven’t watched The Final Table. I’ll just say that Darren put Alberta on the map as a food destination and did Calgary proud. I’ve said this before but I feel the need to repeat myself. If you are looking for big portions at a cheap price, don’t come to Shokunin. This place is not for you and that’s fine. Not everyone gets what the restaurant is about.

Taken from Shokunin’s website without permission.

I met my family doctor – Dr. Quinn – at the now closed Il Sogno. Her husband is a chef and when she does eat out, she frequents fine dining establishments – five-star restaurants, Michelin star, etc. As she’s use to a high standard at home, she has to seek out places that offer a more exceptional experience when she dines out. I told her to check out Shokunin. Dr. Quinn went and said the sushi was the best she has ever tried. I think she would prefer Darren’s special dining events because it would be quieter. She doesn’t like how loud a restaurant can get when it is busy. She can also experience what Darren likes doing best –  Michelin Star collaborations and his Omakase Sushi Experience.

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

Fusion · Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi

Big Catch – 2.0

I had a long week. To improve my mood, L suggested I pick a restaurant for dinner.  I remembered Big Catch expanded from its small kiosk inside Market on Macleod into a full service restaurant in the Save-On-Foods shopping plaza (#130-8835 Macleod Tr. SW).

For this post, let’s listen to Antonio Vivaldi – The Four Seasons (recomposed by Max Richter). I think this segment suits Big Catch’s food. Also, I find the emotional range of the violin electrifying.

L admired the woodwork across the walls. He wants to create something similar in our new house. When L complimented the interior design, one of the owners – Non  – informed us the interior was designed by Tomo Nakahara.

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L and I started off with Agedashi Tofu ($6.95) with kalamansi mushroom sauce. L liked how the daikon and sauce remained on the tofu. I enjoyed the crispy, chewy outer layer of the tofu. The brown topping was tasty, made from four types of mushrooms, sake and low sodium soy sauce.

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Non recommended the evening’s special appetizer – Chicken Nanban ($8.75). I noticed the chicken wasn’t heavily battered or super crunchy. As a result, I could better taste the marinade. L raved about the dipping sauce, which he thought was refreshing and light, similar to tzatziki sauce.

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Non was excited when he talked about the specialty rolls – all of which are Big Catch’s original creation. He recommended the Autumn Haze ($15.95) and the Iron Goddess ($15.95).

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The presentation was so alluring, I was drawn into the plate. I marveled at the colours painted and dotted along the rim of the bowl. The placement of the garnishes and  flowers on the sushi was stunning. We didn’t even realize that the paint on the bowl was edible until half way through our meal.

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Each piece of sushi was bite-sized. I noticed there was no reliance on mayonnaise in any of the rolls. Non confirmed there was only one roll that had mayonnaise – the Passion Sunrise.

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L wanted to try the nigiri to see how it compared to their specialty rolls. We ordered a Dynamite Roll ($6.50), two pieces of Atlantic Salmon Nigiri ($2.25), two pieces of Albacore Tuna Nigiri ($2.25) and one piece of Bluefin Toro Nigiri ($4.50).

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The Albacore Tuna was soft and delicious. The taste of the tuna really shone through and just melted in my mouth. I thought the Bluefin Toro had a stronger, fishier taste. I was almost sorry to eat each piece, as it took away from the beauty on the plate.

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I saw several customers dropping in to pick up platters to go. If you check out their takeout menu, you’ll see that there are specially priced combos and platters. I also noticed Big Catch is vegetarian friendly and even has a new vegan roll coming soon.

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Don’t expect to get the volume you would get at an all-you-can-eat sushi joint. Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing. But at Big Catch, the prices are more than reasonable. Our feast come up to $70 and we were both full.

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Big Catch is a place for those who appreciate visually gorgeous food in unpretentious digs. L and I can’t wait to return to sample more of the menu. If you are a fan of art and sushi, you need to check out Big Catch. For the full experience, dine in. If you want to eat from the comfort of your house, their takeout is fabulous and well-priced.

Big Catch Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato