Indian · Restaurants

Masala Bhavan: Part two

L won an award! I couldn’t pass this opportunity to squeeze a dinner out of him. For this special occasion I permitted him to choose the restaurant. For this post, let’s listen to “He’s So Fine” by The Chiffons.

L picked our neighbourhood gem – Masala Bhavan. Appropriate, as Masala Bhavan also has something to celebrate – winning a spot on Avenue Magazine as best Indian restaurant!

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For beverages, we ordered two bottles of Kingfisher ($6). I thought this beer paired well with the food, as it was light and clean. The beer was perfect to wash away the fragrant spices we consumed in each dish.

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To start, we shared the Chicken Tikka appetizer ($12.95). L liked the presentation of the sizzling, steaming plate of chicken and vegetables. The breast meat is roasted in a clay oven, resulting in juicy, tender pieces of chicken.  The seasoning is delicate and aromatic.

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We enjoyed the Masala Dosai ($10.95). The dosai looks bigger than it is. The crepe was thin and crispy. The filling consisted of lightly spiced creamy potatoes, onions and spices.

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I loved dipping the dosai in the different sauces, chutneys and lentils. I liked the fact that each sauce was so completely different from each other. L compared our dosai to eating chips with dip. The tomato chutney in particular was delicious, with bright flavour that popped out. The curry lentils were savoury and sweet.

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For our main, we shared the Curry Chicken ($14) with two orders of naan ($2.95). The naan was light and airy, though parts of the dough were stretchy with a delightful chew to it.

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I was surprised that the cashew and coconut sauce was not creamy and almost broth like. The spice level was perfect, not overpowering but still vibrant enough to hit the sweet spot without breaking into a sweat. The sizzling chicken and the chicken curry tasted almost healthyish. This is a place I can eat at frequently without as much guilt as my other go to restaurants.

This is our third time dinging at Masala Bhavan. Each visit offers something new and exciting for our taste buds. The flavours are fantastic and the prices offer value.  Hitting the Sauce puts this SW gem on her list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

Masala Bhavan Indian Restaurant 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
Bars/Lounges · Indian · Restaurants

Calcutta Cricket Club

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L texted me at work to inform me that he won an award. Awesome, a reason to go out and celebrate! I’ve been meaning to try Calcutta Cricket Club ever since I learned that food writer Gwendolyn Richards frequents this restaurant. We arrived on Monday at 5:46 p.m. Only the bar and a couple of high tables were available. We chose to sit at the bar.

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The restaurant is bright and airy. The air perfumed with curry. The décor is not what you would typically find in Calgary. This ain’t a cookie cutter chain restaurant. I like the cheetah at the bar and retro colours. I felt like I was on vacation. For this post, let’s listen to Edge of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks.

Our bartender Eric was quick to point out we could still order off the happy hour menu. Appetizers are half off between 5:00 p.m. – 6: 00 p.m. daily. For happy hour beverages, there’s a feature cocktail ($8), wine (HH$8, reg $10) and draft beer (HH $5, reg $8). L started with a Unicorn Philips beer and I drank a glass of red wine.

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Based on Eric and Gwendolyn’s recommendations, we ordered the Chips and Curry (HH $5, reg $10), Chilli Chicken (HH $7.50, reg $13), Paneer and Honey (HH $4, reg $8), and a Kati Roll – Tandoori Spiced Chicken ($8) with an egg ($1.50).

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The chips were thick and long, the shell was crispy and held up to its delicious bath of fenugreek-cream curry. Best chips I’ve ever had. I couldn’t get enough of that curry. The combination was fantastic.

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The chilli chicken was fried and spicy, wet from a sweet chili sauce. The chicken had a pop of heat and the flavour reminded me of an Indian version of Chinese style ginger beef. Very nice.

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The kati roll made for a nice nibble. I could taste the tandoori in the chicken. The onions were still crunchy, which added a contrasting texture to the flaky hot bread. The green chilies were hot. The addition of the egg made the roll thicker and gave it more of a bite. I didn’t find the use of cilantro in the food overpowering like I normally do.

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The paneer and honey was clean and subtle compared to the other two dishes. I liked the taste of salt, honey and sprinkle of pistachios. Simple but delicious.

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Eric recommended the Crushable Gin & Tonic ($12), a mixture of British gin, mango, lemon and chili. I was pleased to see the bartenders make sure to completely fill the shot glass. I watched as Eric train a new staffer.  Eric told her to use rice in a container and practice feeling the rice slid up and over.  I was surprised when L said he didn’t mind sitting at the bar because he found it interesting to learn about Eric’s bartending techniques. L usually would rather wait for a table than sit at the bar, as he isn’t social after work.

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I read the negative reviews on Yelp and Zomato regarding Calcutta Cricket Club. I think some people may not get what Calcutta Cricket Club is all about. It’s not a place to visit to get stuffed for cheap. It’s not a spot to bring the whole family. It’s a restaurant I imagine expats in India would frequent. A spot to leisurely sip on quality cocktails and nibble on Indian food with a British twist. I dig Calcutta so much, I’m going to make this a regular stop for date night.

Calcutta Cricket Club Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fusion · Indian · Pizza · Restaurants

A Perfect Pizza

L came home from work raving about a pizza joint near the Saddledome called A Perfect Pizza. One of his top students – R – brought four large pizzas to class. L told me that R’s parents pride themselves on serving up fresh and inexpensive pizzas. This place gets very busy after a Flames game. People leaving the Saddledome drop by for a pizza by the slice or order take-out. There’s also parking if you’re picking up a pizza.

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On our way to pick up the pizza, L asked me to order him a pizza. I asked him what type of pizza he wanted. He said he wanted a special pizza. I asked him for details such as “Mushrooms? Pepperoni? Green peppers?” He made a face and repeated he wanted a special pizza. I called and I could tell the person who picked up the phone was busy with another customer. I asked for a special pizza. The man replied that they had a lot of specials, as in two pizzas for a set amount or a large pizza with wings and a bottle of pop. This went on for a bit until I could feel my face turning red with frustration and I felt like my head was going to explode. I requested a large deluxe pizza or anything that came close to that description.

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The pizza took about ten minutes. The owner kindly gave me a flyer so that I was aware of the specials. I declined his offer and told him I already had a flyer. He asked me then why didn’t I know about the different specials. I explained that the flyer was at home and my husband asked me to call while we were in the car and all he said was he wanted a special pizza but offered no other details.

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The following week, we ordered again. This time we tried hot wings ($8.99) and a large butter chicken pizza ($18.99). The wings were good, not the typical generic Frank’s hot sauce type you get on cheap wing night. The sauce was spicy with more complex notes. The wings themselves weren’t fried, but tender and meaty.

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The butter chicken pizza was delicious. I really enjoyed the slightly sweet, creamy tomato sauce and chunks of chicken. I want to try the tandoori chicken with paneer pizza next.

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I can see why L likes this pizza. It’s a good, honest pizza. There’s no glamorization of the toppings or a history behind the flour. You can’t order truffles or any gourmet ingredients. The crust isn’t cracker thin or deep dish. The amount of toppings was proportional to the medium size crust. The price is great and ideal if you are feeding a large family or crowd.

A Perfect Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Indian · Vegetarian

Veg-In YYC

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A fellow staffer in my department recommended Veg-In YYC, a relatively new vegetarian take-out place near our office. The unit is small with a handful of spots for singles or pairs of two to eat. For a new place, the cafe sure has caught on with the locals. Whenever I walk by, there are two to three people waiting for their food.

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I asked for a recommendation, but the male employee working at the till couldn’t offer any suggestions and just shrugged his shoulders. After hemming and hawing, I picked the lunch special, a pakora naaco with rice and vegetables ($10.00).

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It took about ten minutes for the staff to assemble my order. You can tell everything is prepared and cooked with care. I was pleasantly surprised with the flavours of the vegetables, curry and potatoes. I don’t know how healthy the dish was, as quite a bit of it was deep-fried.

I plan to go back to try a burrito or something that isn’t fried. Most dishes are around the ten-dollar mark. For the quality and flavour, I’d say the food is worth it. If you haven’t already, check it out.

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Veg-In YYC Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Indian · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Rangoli

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I met my friend Jaime at Rangoli for lunch. I’ve eaten at Rangoli a few times before and I found the food consistently delicious. I particularly enjoy the vegetarian dishes, which I think are tastier than the meat options.

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Jaime ordered a chai tea and I ordered a Jongleur beer from Strange Fellows Brewery ($7). I liked the spice and orange notes, which paired well with the curries we ordered.

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Jaime and I shared two dishes: Portobello Mushroom and Red Pepper Curry on Paneer ($17) and the Grilled Eggplant with Basmati risotto ($18).

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The paneer on the eggplant was subtle. I really liked the char taste of the grilled eggplant. The creamy coconut curry sauce was delicious. The toasted pumpkin seeds gave the dish a little crunch.

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Of the two dishes, the Portobello Curry was my favourite. The beet salad had a nice tartness to it and I loved the crunchy texture. The red peppers were sweet. The sauce creamy and spicy and went so well with the silky, meaty mushrooms.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy about our lunch was the service. Our server was curt to us from the beginning of the meal right up to the end. Though we were there for less than an hour, he made it clear that he wanted to turn the table, despite the fact I had beer left in my glass. I’m a fast eater and drinker too. Normally I wouldn’t make a big deal about this but isn’t this Vij’s restaurant? He is the king of hospitality. I would expect this service from a cash only, no frills Chinese restaurant, not a restaurant from Vij. In any case, the food is delicious. Hitting the Sauce gives the food at Rangoli two fat thumbs up.

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

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Comfort food · Curry · Fusion · Indian

The Himalayan – Going away dinner

Beep Beep had to head back to Vancouver. For her last supper in Cowtown, I wanted something close to my house, and something hot and filling to warm us from the cold weather. The Himalayan fit the bill.

Based on our server’s recommendation, we ordered the Kathmadnu Vegetables ($14) Himalayan Eggplant ($14.50), Mango Fruity Shrimp ($16.50), and the Butter Chicken ($16.50). Our server said two dishes would do, but I wanted to take the leftovers for my husband, who was again, working late.

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I’m surprised to say I enjoyed the vegetarian dishes the most. Did you hear that Jaime? In particular, I was impressed with the kathmadnu vegetables, a mix of chickpeas, cauliflower and potatoes in a tomato and onion based sauce. The vegetables were still firm and retained its own texture.

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I love eggplant, and Himalayan’s version – grilled stir fried eggplant with onions, tomatoes, and green peppers was delicious. The soy sauce and Neapli spices was a nice alternative to the Chinese version I often eat. I liked the crunchiness of the onions and peppers as well.

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I wanted to try the Mango Fruity Shrimp because John Gilchrist recommended it. I found the creamy mango tomato sauce too sweet for my taste. The shrimp was cooked well – still crunchy and a decent size.

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I tried a little of the butter chicken. The chicken tasted like it was cubed chicken breasts. The sauce was creamy with a hint of ginger and tomato. I couldn’t order the dishes with more spice, as both Beep Beep and L can’t take the heat.

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With the sides of rice, fresh naan and complimentary papadum, Beep Beep and I were blissfully stuffed and L had enough for dinner as well. He raved about the butter chicken when he came home.

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I always like the service and the food at the Himalayan. Servers are attentive and kind, always around to make sure our waters were topped up and we were comfortable. I should eat here more often than I do, but I’ll blame the difficulty of getting a last minute reservation at the Himalayan.

One more week and I’m back in Vancouver visiting family and friends. I got my eye on Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca and Acorn and my usual, Miku, Guu and Kingyo. I don’t normally blog in my hometown because I like to catch up with my friends rather than take notes, but I think I’ll make the exception for Cioppino’s, Jaime’s favourite restaurant.

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The Himalayan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato,

Fusion · Indian · Vancouver/Richmond

Vij’s

L and I met my buddy N and her new man friend, M, at Vij’s. L has never been to Vij’s before but he has heard me rave about the food and service often enough. My sister use to take me there when I was a student at SFU. I remember the first time I dined at Vij’s. I felt out of place until the owner introduced himself to us. He seem genuinely interested in our experience and made us giggle like school girls over his jokes. Now that’s a host.

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We sat outside in the patio for about an hour and a half, drinking wine and snacking on complimentary hor d’oeuvres. My favourite appy was a vegetable pakora that tasted a lot like KFC chicken. I must have eaten at least five of those delicious fritters. By the time we sat down to eat, I was full.

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L and I both ordered Wine Marinated Lamb Popsicles ($30), which come with endless rice and naan. I was the only one who dug into the carbs. N only nibbled on her vegetarian dish, her boyfriend was on the Paleo diet, and L only ate the lamb, ignoring the potatoes and spinach.

I love the taste of the lamb popsicles. I received five chops, each grilled with that heavenly charbroil taste. I though each chop had the perfect amount of fat, that type that squishes onto your tongue like hot juice. The yellow fenugreek sauce was rich and creamy. I made good use of the naan and rice to soak up the flavours of the dish.

Too bad Calgary doesn’t have a place like Vij’s. We could use a restaurant that turns hospitality into an art. Oh well, just more reason for us to visit my old hometown more often.

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