Happy Hour · Patio · Restaurants · Wings

Bottlescrew Bill’s – Bingo

On Wednesday, I met up with some people for half-price wings and bingo at Bottlescrew Bill’s. Whoever created the playlist that night has excellent taste – I enjoyed listening to the nostalgic tunes. So for this post, let’s listen to “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC.

I started with a pint of Banded Peak Mount Crushmore Pilsner ($7.62). A, B, and C ordered the daily special – Boiling Oar Kolsh ($5). D is really into her beers, so she took longer than everyone else to select a beverage. Finally, she settled on Strawberry Ice Cream Pale Ale from Spectrum Beer Company. She left me some in the can to try. I thought it was yummy, the fun flavour reminded me of the beer at Fuggles and Warlock

D was hemming and hawing over whether to order wings. At first, I thought she was a vegetarian, so I told her Bottlescrew Bill’s makes Cauliflower Wings ($8.47) too. However, it turns out she’s just ethical. C encouraged her to ask the server her pressing question. Are the wings free-range? It was her lucky night! Indeed, not only were the wings free-range, but it was also half price!

I’m trying to eat healthier, but I indulged in Salt and Pepper Wings ($8.47) when I heard the chickens grew up well-loved. The crunchy coating on the wings reminded me of Shake and Bake. The meat was plump, white and unbruised. I told D I’d eaten a lot of unethical wings in my day, and I could taste the happy lives these chickens lived.

I tried one of D’s hot wings. I loved the tangy smell of the vinegar. The spice level was mild and not too hot. I preferred the flavour of the hot sauce over the salt and pepper seasoning.

The hostess has excellent hearing and would mock the audience for being a poor sport. B and D are competitive, so they took on three cards each play. I went with one card and neglected the game halfway through to enjoy my wings.

I would come again – bingo, half-price free-range wings, cheap beer and Thunderstruck – could the night be any more perfect? Based on the group’s feedback, I’m going to propose our next event be held at Ducky’s, Rodney’s Oyster House, or the Tea House Comedy

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – L’s birthday dinner

On Friday, we celebrated L’s birthday at Sukiyaki House. On that particular night, because the restaurant was short-staffed, I couldn’t request omakase (a special menu curated by the chef). L said that was fine with him, as everything off the regular menu is exceptional. For this post, let’s listen to “Waltz for Roxy” by The French Note.

To start the festivities, we ordered a bottle of Mizubasho Junmai Daiginjo ($55). Judith has superb taste – her sakes never disappoint. L marvelled at the smoothness and pureness of the rice wine. He said, unlike other sakes, this one was so easy to drink, almost like soda pop. This sake tasted so pretty; I could imagine fairies sipping it.  

Head chef Koji Kobayashi sent over a stunning gift for L’s birthday – seabass and snow crab sushi. L and I just sat there a moment in silence – admiring the food art. I didn’t notice there was an absence of rice until L mentioned it to me. The silky texture of the fish on fish was sublime. The creamy sauce tasted like roasted sesame seeds with a touch of sweetness. I loved the sea burst pop of the salmon roe and the crunchier snap crackle of the tobiko. I was smiling the entire time I ate. I never experienced this flavour and texture combination before. This dish was incredible – the best thing I’ve eaten in 2021. I thought the seabass sushi illustrated Koji’s wide range of creative talent. After sampling Chef Koji’s specialty dishes in the past few years, I can say he has multiple platinum hits and not a one-hit-wonder.

Our next dish was another beauty – Kanpachi Tataki ($24). I think this was the first time I tried Amberjack. I found the texture of the fish unique – the flesh was substantial and buttery with a clean flavour profile. L appreciated the subtle smoky sear, which he thought added to the experience.

The Tekka Roll (tuna maki roll, $5) was outstanding. The tuna was rich and creamy, which contrasted with the crispness of the toasted nori. I don’t understand how with only three ingredients, a dish can taste so good.  No picture was taken, as I had incorrectly assumed it would taste just like a regular old tuna maki roll.

I don’t know anyone else in the city that can do a better Shrimp Tempura ($12) than Sukiyaki House. The batter was light and flaky, and the shrimp was sweet and crunchy. My favourite part is the tempura sauce because I think the daikon and the grated ginger adds warmth and depth to the flavour profile.

If you like wings, you need to try the Chicken Karaage ($12). This is fried chicken perfection. The meat is so silky and tender, that chunks of meat easily split apart with a mere poke of a pair of chopsticks. The squeeze of lemon was perfect for helping cut into the fattiness of the crispy chicken skin. When I mentioned to L that the karaage was cheaper than wings at a pub, he noted that Sukiyaki House’s version also had no gristle or that purple bone marrow bruising you find in hot wings.

We ordered a round of nigiri: Amaebi (sweet spot prawn, fried shrimp head, $4); Ebi (steamed prawn, $3); Hotataegai (Hokkaido scallop, $4.20); Tako (steamed octopus, $3); Shake (Atlantic salmon, $3) and Toro (albacore tuna belly, $4.50). L mentioned all the crevices made eating the scallop an elevated experience.

I enjoy having sake at Sukiyaki House, but for some reason, whenever I eat sushi, I crave a dry white wine. I was happy with the sauvignon blanc ($11) Judith picked out for me as I found it a well-balanced, easy-drinking wine.

For dessert, the birthday boy ordered Matcha Shiratama ensai ($9). I noticed all the fruit was at the perfect stage of ripeness. L loves Sukiyaki House’s homemade red bean. When he was eating his dessert, he looked like a kid enjoying his special treat. I think L was Japanese in his past life. Myself, I think I was Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web. L can tell when I’m impressed with a meal because I always announce that if I died that night, I would die happy. I’m glad I woke up the next day because now I get to do it all over again. We are looking forward to Sukiyaki House’s future omakase nights. Thanks, Koji for making dinner a special event for L.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Restaurants

Ami Tea and Sub – Date night 10 of 19

After my appointment at Good Salon, I was famished. I debated getting a Vietnamese sub next door from Ami Tea and Sub or fried chicken across the street from the Blue Store. It was a tough decision, but in the end, banh mi won. For this post, let’s listen to “Sweet Dreams” by Beyoncé.

I ordered a Warm Kitchen Pate Sausage ($8). I noticed the owner put a lot of care into making my sandwich. The sub was jam-packed with generous amounts of pate and simmered pork meat slices. The carrots were minced so it lacked that crunch I crave. The texture of the cucumber was soft.

The bread is light and crusty. I didn’t find the baguette dry, but there were a million little crumbs on the table after I finished eating. The flavour of the pate and sausage was delicate and fresh. I thought my sub was heavy on the sauce – the soy and mayonnaise intermingled and dripped down all over my napkin. I noticed the mayonnaise was painfully sweet – so much that I wished I omitted it.

How does Ami Sub compare to the banh mi heavy hitters in Calgary? Taste-wise, this sub was similar to My My Sub‘s homestyle cold cut. Ami’s sub is even more filling than My Tho BBQ’s cold cut and nearly matches To Me in quantity. I have a hearty appetite, and after demolishing this sub, I was uncomfortably full for hours. The flavour combination of the pate, vegetables and sausage was subtle – there isn’t that rustic pungency that you get at Saigon Deli or flavour bomb that you get at Thi Thi. I also prefer my pate with a richness to it, like Xich Lo, Obanhmi or Banh Mi Nhu Y.

I’ve reached a milestone today! As Ami Sub was date #10/19, I’ve only got nine more to go to complete my goal! For banh mi date #11, I want to check out Paper Lantern or Rau Bistro.

Cheap Eats · Pubs · Restaurants

Ship and Anchor

On Saturday, Zeta-Jones celebrated her 40th birthday party at the Ship and Anchor. I know Zeta-Jones through her partner Fougui, whom I’ve been friends with for eight years. For this post, let’s listen to “Baby, Baby” by Amy Grant.

Fougui ordered two massive platters of nachos ($22, + $3 guacamole) for the table to share. Damn – this was a good plate of nachos! Each chip was fresh, light and thin. One of my pet peeves is stale nachos. I liked how there was an even distribution of cheese, diced tomatoes, pickled jalapeños and green onions throughout the platter.

With the exception of Zeta-Jones and Fougui, I didn’t know anyone else at the table. But, lucky for me, Claudia befriended me, and throughout the night, she took the time to translate the group’s conversation. I noticed Claudia was drinking red wine (La Bite Merlot, $9), so I asked if she liked the wine. She said there was only one wine by the glass, but it was good, especially for the price. Claudia and I got along so well that night that I invited her to be a No Man’s Dinner member, and she asked me to attend her birthday party next week. We also have plans to try the charred liver at Yemini Village.

Claudia ordered the Two-Piece Fish ($15) with Yam Fries (+$3). She said wasn’t expecting much, so she was pleasantly surprised by the fish and chips. She noted the velvety texture of the fillet reminded her of the fresh fish in Mexico City. She liked that fries and fish were crispy because she thinks there’s nothing worse than soggy fish. She mentioned she ordered two pieces of fish because she expected the portion to be small. Instead, she said the fish was plump and large and could only eat one piece. I thought it was interesting the batter was so pale, but perhaps that’s just because of the lighting.

Her friend Daphne said she enjoyed her fish but found the regular fries too dry. Claudia didn’t like the tartar sauce, but Daphne enjoyed it so much, she ate her friend’s portion. Daphne noted that she could taste the vinegar in the tartar sauce, which she said paired well with the fish.


I wasn’t hungry yet, but that didn’t stop me from rudely staring across the table at the plate of Chicken Wings ($15) and Humboldt Calamari ($9). When I come back, I would order both the wings and calamari.


Though I didn’t eat, with Claudia’s riveting descriptions, I felt like I did. This experience renewed my interest in the Ship and Anchor. I’ll have to bring L for a date night so I can try some of the deep-fried delights. I also hear the lamb shank is particularly good. To be continued.

17th Ave · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Hawthorn Dining Room

My sister-in-law turned 40! We spent the afternoon at RnR Wellness Spa and the evening at the Hawthorn Dining Room. For this post, let’s listen to “It’s My Party” by Lesley Gore.

To start the night, Turned ordered a round of bubbly (Maschio Prossecco, $54). As we looked through the menu, I mentioned that I heard the Scallops ($39) were particularly good. I consider myself an anti-influencer, so I was surprised when most of my dining companions ordered scallops, just based on my comment.

For wine, I let the birthday girl pick. Turned chose the Sea Sun ($80) because she loves pinot noir. Personally, I was not too fond of this wine because of the oaky notes. But, that’s okay because it wasn’t my birthday.

The moment I saw my entree, I knew it was a winner. Each plump scallop was caramelized, the flesh was sweet, soft and springy. I enjoyed the other flavourful components of the dish – the tart artichokes, roasted tomatoes, fresh spring peas, chorizo and salty capers. The person sitting across from me is originally from Newfoundland, and she approved of the scallops. I thought the scallops at Hawthorn were even better than the version I tried at Cassis Bistro, the difference being the former uses meatier scallops. I would order this again.

After dinner, we took a limo around 17th Ave. I watched, fascinated as Turned’s friends sang in unison to song after song. Though I missed out on prom in high school, I lived the experience decades later. Except instead of taking Polaroid pictures, everyone was taking a selfie.

When we arrived at our destination – Sub Rosa – one of the guests was denied access because the bouncer said she was intoxicated. When someone questioned his judgment, he explained that the guest in question was slurring her words, and she could not even pull her ID out of her purse. He said that clearly, she was already over-served. The bouncer said I was acceptable and welcome to come inside. My mother would be so proud.

I suggested heading over to Cactus Club because it was only two blocks away. Marta wanted to go to the Ship and Anchor, but no one wanted to walk that far, and since it was Halloween, we likely would not get in. Turned suggested Murrietta’s, as it was across the street and there was a dance floor.

No one was denied entry at Murrietta’s Bar & Grill, but there was still drama. Our party was supposed to be seated in the dining room. However, on the way to the dining room, most of our group disappeared to the lounge side. I was informed by the staff that our group could not enter the lounge as there was a private party.

When I finally found the birthday girl and her crew, a member of our circle was already dancing with a happy-looking man. I told our group that we either had to leave Murrietta’s or sit in the dining room. They decided to leave the premises. Once outside, there was another debate about going to the Ship and Anchor or another venue. When I realized I was the most responsible person in the gang, I decided to leave and get a Vietnamese sub. I didn’t want to be accountable for their shenanigans. You can imagine how heartbroken I was to find out my sandwich shop was closed for the night. At least I didn’t get denied entry. That would have been tragic.

Bars/Lounges · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Major Tom – Girls’ Night

For our girls’ night out, Québécois, Kournikova and I went to Major Tom. It took me months to get this reservation. Currently, the restaurant is booked solid up to 2022, though I read on Wanda Baker‘s Instagram account that Major Tom keep 25% of tables open for walk-in. For this post, let’s listen to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper.

Arriving at the restaurant is in itself an experience. First, you enter the Scotia Centre building and walk over to the elevators in the back corner of the building. You show your vaccine passport and ID at the security station, then you are directed to a specific elevator. Once you arrive on the 40th floor, you check in with a team of hosts at the reception area and finally, someone escorts you to your table in a room with a panoramic view of downtown Calgary.

The vibe of the restaurant is lively and the energy is unlike anything you can find in Calgary. Throughout dinner, I felt like I was on vacation in a bigger city. If you walk around the restaurant, you can admire the spectacular views from different vantage points of the downtown core.

We each started with a cocktail. Major Tom knows how to deliver their alcoholic beverages. I was over the moon with my Vodka Martini ($17). The martini glass arrived on a gold coaster, accompanied by a bottle of Kettle One/Dolin Dry Vermouth and a plated garnish of olives. Each sip of my martini was so cold and pure tasting, I could barely detect the alcohol. The blue cheese in the olive was light and melted in my mouth. I noticed that when Québécois ordered a bottle of Muga Reserva ($65), our server decanted the wine. Most restaurants I go to won’t decant the wine unless the bottle is over $85.

We shared two orders of the Crispy Hen Egg ($6). This little sucker was delicious. The fried shell added a nice crunch, which contrasted to the creamy, warm yolk. Texture, style and with exploding flavour, this appetizer has it all. I would order this again.

I always get what Miss Foodie raves about on her Instagram account, so I chose the Tomato and Brioche Salad ($14) and Steak Frites ($34). Warning – my photos are worse than usual. I was so giddy to be out with my friends, I didn’t put in the effort to take a decent photo.

The tomatoes in the salad were ripe and juicy. The dressing of shallot, basil and lime was refreshing and subtle. The brioche was crunchy and for some reason, reminded me of the boxed croutons my mother used to buy when we were kids.

The steak arrived a beautiful ruby red. The meat was warm and soft. The fries were extra crunchy. Of the three entrees I tried, I preferred Kournikova’s Slow-Roasted Duck ($41). The duck breast was tender and flavourful.

Québécois ordered the Shells ($25) because she enjoys anything with burrata in it. The seasoning in the lemon roasted broccoli pesto was delicate and light. She couldn’t finish her pasta so I ended up eating about a third of her dish.

When we arrived on a Saturday evening, the restaurant was buzzing. Despite being obviously slammed with customers, the service was enthusiastic and attentive. I plan to return and often, more so for the cocktails and appetizers. I highly recommend you check out this gem. Hitting the Sauce gives Major Tom two phat thumbs up.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Thai Thien – Date 7 of 19

I met up with Reeves at Cactus Club. Before I left my house to meet her, I looked up restaurants that would be open after our girls’ night. I spotted Thai Thien (formerly Thai Tai Sub) on 811 1 ST SW. I figured it was the perfect opportunity to have banh mi date night #7 out of 19. For this post, let’s listen to “You Were Meant For Me” by Jewel.

Cactus Club has half price wine on Tuesday and Wednesday. We drank some wine and Reeves ordered calamari. I nibbled on some of the hot peppers, but I was saving my appetite for the main course – a banh mi. I read the Google and Yelp reviews of Thai Thien beforehand so I didn’t have the highest expectation. I incorrectly assumed that a place like Thai Thien, one that caters to the downtown work crowd and tourists, wouldn’t have pate in their assorted sub ($4.99). I was happy to find out I was wrong.

I requested a white baguette as I read in the reviews that the brown version is too doughy. I found the interior of the bread soft and light. The cucumber was quartered and each piece was noticeably crisp and fresh. The carrots are pickled and crunchy. The sliced onions gave off a pleasing pungency. I counted two layers of cold cuts. Next time I would request extra meat to balance out the heavy ratio of cucumber. I appreciate the generous layers of pate, mayonnaise and butter, which I think is Thai Thien’s strong suit.

How does this cold cut compare to the other banh mi heavy hitters? Size-wise, the sub is similar to Trung Nguyen and Kim Anh. The flavour of Thai Thien’s pate tasted like Freybe’s pork pate, which gave the sub a westernized twist. I much prefer Xích Lô, Banh Mi Nhu Y, and My Tho BBQ’s pate. Thai Thien gives the least amount of meat but considering the rock bottom prices and the high rent location, I’m fine with paying a little extra to get some more meat. In terms of taste, Saigon Deli, Banh Mi Nhu Y, Xích Lô, Trung Nguyen, and Thi Thi offer a more traditional sub, which I prefer. Price-wise, this sub is an awesome deal, especially considering Thai Thien convenient hours and prime location in the downtown core.

The next week, I tried the Charbroiled Pork Sub ($6.25). Damn, this one is even better than the cold cut. The meat was seared on the outside and juicy on the inside. The ratio of meat to vegetable was perfect. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy. Every single bite contained that delicious balance of savoury, sweet and spicy.

For an inner city sub, you can’t get a better deal. I was stuffed and blissfully happy for only six bucks. Hitting the Sauce gives That Thien two phat thumbs up. Thai Thien is open from Monday to Saturday, from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Chinatown · Chinese · Dim Sum · Restaurants

Silver Dragon – Dim Sum

My friends have their favourite restaurant for dim sum, such as Central Grand, U & Me, Chinese Cultural Centre, Forbidden City, T Pot, and Silver Dragon. I like to frequent all the above but for different reasons. In the past month, I’ve dined at Silver Dragon twice for dim sum. For this post, let’s listen to “Paradise City” by Guns N’ Roses.

There are two things that make Silver Dragon stand out from their competitors. First, the service is professional, organized and attentive.  On each of my visits, the restaurant was well-staffed. You never have to wait long for help. I also like how you don’t even have to ask for things like water, hot sauce, tea refills, or a fork.

This level of service is important to me if I’m hosting a lunch because it makes the whole experience much more pleasant. There’s even a semi private room you can access if you need a quieter space.

Silver Dragon is also the only restaurant I know of that still uses trolley carts. In my past visits, all the food was served steaming hot, despite the fact the food is circulated around the room. The selection of dim sum was also impressive considering I went on a Monday and a Tuesday afternoon.

Pro tip – the servers come around often with food, so don’t order everything at once. If you plan to sit and linger, order strategically. Dim sum doesn’t taste good when it’s cold.

I was able to get all my usual dishes and a couple new ones: Shrimp Dumpling ($7.50); Chicken Feet ($6.95); Bean Curd Meat Roll in Oyster Sauce ($6.95); Pan Fried Pork and Vegetable Dumplings ($6.95); Pan Fried Shrimp and Corn Balls ($7.50); Crispy Spring Rolls ($6.95); Beef in Rice Crepe ($6.95); Spareribs in Black Bean Sauce ($6.95); Pan Fried Parsnip Cake ($6.50); Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf ($7.95); and Baked Egg Tarts ($6.95).

The shrimp dumpling is average in size and tasty. The shrimp mixture offered a good clean crunch and the sticky white wrapper isn’t too dry or moist.

I tried chicken feet for the second time in my life. I nibbled on the skin but couldn’t get myself to suck on the bone. I think I would like chicken feet more if it was fried and crispy like a hot wing.

The bean curd meat roll is packed with meat and shrimp. I liked how the sauce saturates the delicate layers of bean curd. I would get this again.

I enjoyed the pork and vegetable dumplings. The filling inside the dumplings is fat and juicy. The pork mixture is so flavourful, you don’t need to use the accompanying sauce.

I am a fan of the shrimp and corn balls. The balls are sweet from the corn niblets and filled with crispy, shrimpy goodness. I didn’t take a picture because at this point, I was in full on eat mode.

I was surprised I liked the spring rolls so much. I find most dim sum restaurants make an average spring roll. These rolls are extra crunchy, filled with a saucy meat and vegetable mixture. I would order this again.

The beef rice crepe is another winner. Most dim sum restaurants put in cilantro in beef rice crepes, so I was happy to see Silver Dragon omits that herb. The rice crepe is soft and slippery. The hot beef filling is generous and creamy.

I noticed the black bean spareribs came in nice meaty chunks, which made it easier to eat. My pet peeve are spareribs that are more fat than meat.

The parsnip cake is one of the better ones in the city. The texture is soft, fluffy and smooth. I hate it when other restaurants under cook parsnip so the texture is hard and it falls apart.

The sticky rice is different from the norm. Normally when I get sticky rice, I get two portions, filled with Chinese sausage, mushrooms, ground pork, and chicken. Silver Dragon’s version comes in one large lotus leaf, and the meat and rice is more integrated. Also, the chicken is drier and shredded.

The prices at Silver Dragon are a little more than its competitors, but when you factor in how laborious it is to do the cart system and the extra staff on hand, price is moot. I also prefer the spacious, calm environment over how hectic it can get at Forbidden City. Hitting the Sauce gives the dim sum and service two phat thumbs up.

Carribean · Comfort food · Happy Hour · Patio · Restaurants

Simply Irie – No Man’s Dinner

No Man’s Dinner is back in action! Loaf2go, T, Hangryinyyc, Sofresh and I met at Simply Irie for our bi-monthly supper club. Loaftogo and I picked Simply Irie because we wanted to support the owner after her restaurant was hit by five break-in in just two months. Also, the food is soul satisfying. For this post, let’s listen to “Spirits” by The Strumbellas.

I wanted to try the Jerk Wings ($15.95) but I learned from our server that I needed to preorder, as the wings takes 45 minutes to prepare. Instead, I ordered a large Chicken Soup ($12.95) and a large Jerk Shrimp ($29.95). Loaf2go chose the Jerk Tofu Medley ($22.95), and her spouse T picked the Ackee & Saltfish  ($24.95). He was intrigued after I told him this is the only dish Ashdoesfood eats when she dines at Simply Irie. Hangryinyyc and Sofresh shared Doubles ($7.95), a Spicy Beef Patty ($4.95), and a large Oxtail Stew ($29.95).

The chicken soup is a winner. My go-to for chicken pho soup is Pure Kitchen and Bar, but Simply Irie gives Chef Lam some friendly competition. The broth is thick and hearty. I enjoyed the generous chunks of tender chicken and the soft pieces of pumpkin, yam, and potatoes. The dumpling is simple and toothsome – a boiled dough that takes on the full flavour of the broth. The corn on the cob is sweet and crunchy. Loaf2go thought she could taste cloves in the broth. I found this soup nurturing and wholesome.

Dianathefoodie told me to try the jerk shrimp. She has excellent taste. The shrimp is sweet and meaty, unlike the flavourless frozen shrimp I buy at Safeway and Costco. The texture is soft and succulent, similar to BC spotted prawns. The red, orange, green and yellow bell peppers were firm and juicy, sautéed in a spicy jerk sauce.

Hangryinyyc helped me set up the picture by adding her ginger beer to the background.

I tried a piece of Loaf2go’s jerk tofu. She said she was impressed that the tofu was properly fried and seasoned. Simply Irie doesn’t skimp on the sides. I’m not normally a coleslaw fan, but this version is fresh, crunchy, and creamy. The rice and beans taste mellow and earthy. I noticed the water served to us was infused with lemon. I appreciate these little details because I think it shows the chef is thinking about the whole experience of eating a meal.

Since L wasn’t at the dinner, I asked Loaf2go to take the pictures for me. She refused and told me she’d rather teach me. She said it was all about angles and showed me that I wasn’t tilting the camera to capture the best shot. I’d rather she just take the damn photo, but I think she comes from the school of “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

I took a bite of Hangryinyyc’s oxtail and it was even better than I remembered from my last visit. The meat fell off the bone, and each bite offered that perfect gelatinous texture. I found the sauce sweet and buttery. I tried T’s saltfish and it was tasty and unlike anything I’ve tried before. The saltiness of the fish was balanced by the mild flavour of the ackee.

T offered me two of his rum balls as no one else at the table likes the taste of alcohol. Holy moly – this is good stuff! The chocolate rum ball was warm and gooey, similar to chocolate lava cake. The vanilla rum ball was served cold, which I thought made the flavour of the rum and vanilla stand out. Out of the two, the vanilla dessert was my favourite.

On Monday evening, the restaurant was packed with a large party and it was kept bustling with a constant stream of takeout orders. Kudos to the chef who managed to pump out so many dishes, without sacrificing the quality. The temperature and freshness of all the dishes I tried was spot on. For the next No Man’s Dinner, we might check out a Chinese restaurant that offers offal and westernized Chinese food. Hangryyyc said it is just the two ends of the spectrum and none of the dishes in between! I’m game, we just need to find the right spot. If you have any suggestions, shoot me an email.

Chinese · Restaurants · Seafood

Emerald Garden Restaurant

I had to cancel our trip to Vancouver due to L’s work schedule. I was disappointed as my family had planned a feast at Ludwig’s favourite restaurant – Fisherman’s Terrace. My brother Narc sent photos of my father’s 79th birthday dinner – Peking duck carved at the table, fresh lobster in green onion and ginger sauce, duck lettuce wraps, fried stuffed taro, almond chicken, pea tips, fresh whole fish, deep-fried pumpkin, e-fu noodles, beef chow fun, green beans, and a bunch of other dishes I didn’t recognize. As I gazed at the photos, a small moan escaped from my mouth. For a moment, I missed my former life as a glutton. My younger brother Jacuzzi would always say to me whenever we got out of hand that it tastes good to be a pig. I concur.

Since I was missing the action back home, I told L we had to try out Emerald Garden for the more traditional Chinese dishes. I didn’t want ginger beef, salt and pepper squid, or chicken balls. He was game, even though he prefers westernized Chinese food. For this post, let’s listen to “If” by Janet Jackson.

When we arrived at Emerald Garden, we were surprised to see the constant stream of customers dining in, as well as the takeout orders flying out of the kitchen. Based on my friend Fung Ling’s recommendation, I ordered: Fried Stuffed Treasures ($19.95, 煎釀三寶 Eggplant, Green Peppers and Crispy Tofu Stuffed with Shrimp); Beef Tendon Casserole ($17.95, 牛筋腩煲 Beef Shank, Tendon and Tofu); Cod Fillets ($24.99, Fried Cod with Tofu and Chinese Mushrooms); Dried Scallop and Egg White Fried Rice ($14.95 瑤柱蛋白炒飯 Tobiko, Green Onions, Egg Whites and Dried Scallops); and Fried Dumplings ($13.95).

The scallops and fluffy egg whites in the fried rice tasted subtle and fresh, which accentuated the pops of flavour from the tobiko, green onions and crunchy onion garnish. The portion of fried rice is generous. I found Emerald Garden’s seafood fried rice better than Sun’s BBQ version.

I was looking forward to the beef tendon and I wasn’t disappointed. Each piece of tendon was soft and chewy. The beef shank was tender and tasty, marbled with a thin layer of fat. The daikon was juicy and delicate in flavour. I could tell the gravy in the casserole was fattening because the flavour was so rich and smooth.

The highlight of the night was the fish casserole. The pot arrived bubbling and sizzling, filled with battered fish fillets, fried tofu puffs, Chinese mushrooms and tofu skin. The cod tasted fresh and the texture of the fillet was thick and fluffy. I would order this again, though next time, I want to try the fish steamed or pan fried.

The shrimp stuffed eggplant, peppers and tofu came with a special sauce. We found the shrimp filling a little dry. However, I enjoyed the silky texture of the eggplant and the soft innards of the fried tofu.

The dumplings are deep fried and chewy. The wrapper on the dumplings was thick, puffy and gummy. Proportionally, the wrapping was about double the filling. For the dipping sauce, I added soy sauce, chili oil and vinegar.

The portions are generous and the prices are affordable. Our feast cost $100 and there was more than enough food for four people. I noticed later on in the evening and the next day, I didn’t feel dehydrated, which I think indicates Emerald Palace isn’t heavy handed when it comes to the salt and seasoning of the dishes.

I noticed the clientele at Emerald Palace are split into three camps. I saw customers who spoke fluent Cantonese order the more traditional dishes for a banquet style dinner. There is also an obviously loyal clientele of English-speaking customers who ordered the more westernized dishes, like salt and pepper squid and hot and sour soup. Then there’s me – someone who has the Chinese vocabulary of a two-year old.

Part of the charm of Emerald Garden is watching how all the customers interact with the staff. There was a young teenage employee who spoke fluent Cantonese and English. He was clearly working hard answering the phone, taking orders, bringing dishes out, serving drinks, and packing up food. An older man got up to leave and as he passed the reception area, he bellowed to the kid, “Bye Brian!” Another table of two women questioned what vegetable was in a certain dish. There was some confusion and back and forth with the customers and the server. The customer said, “Hey, I don’t mean to be a bitch. I’m just curious, so don’t worry about it.” The server confirmed with the chef and it turned out the vegetable was indeed zucchini. A Chinese speaking customer looked like another regular. He seemed right at home, cutting directly through the staff only section to his table. No one even blinked an eye.

The atmosphere reminds me of the past Chinese banquets I’ve attended. The background noise consists of a blended murmur of a screaming baby, laughter, and the happy clink of dishes. L wants to return to Emerald Garden try the westernized dishes, like the sizzling beef and sweet and sour pork. I’m fine with that as long as I can order the chef’s specials and signature dishes. I have my eye on the deep-fried egg yolk bitter melon and shredded chicken with jellyfish. Hitting the Sauce gives Emerald Garden two fat thumbs up.