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.

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.

Seafood · Vegetarian

Yemeni Village Restaurant

I haven’t seen Jennntle since Yelp Elite stopped hosting parties. Say what you want about Yelp, but back in the day, that company could throw down a party like no other. Cactus Club, Charbar, Telus Spark, and Modern Jelly were some of the most fun, entertaining and well-organized events I’ve been to in Calgary. Last week, Jennntle and I met to reminisce at Yemeni Village, a newish Middle Eastern restaurant in the downtown core. For this post, let’s listen to “What About Your Friends” by TLC.

I saw Miss Foodie’s post on Yemeni Village, so I asked for her recommendations. She suggested the Yemeni Bread ($3.80), Lime Drink ($4.75), Moofa Fish ($28.50) and the Charred AAA Beef ($15). Our server informed us that the restaurant was out of the charred AAA Beef. Jennntle wanted to get Beef Kabsah ($24.99) but I informed her that Miss Foodie never recommended the other beef dish and maybe it was for a reason. After not heeding Miss Foodie’s advice in the past, I’m reluctant to deviate from her teachings. Instead, I requested the Chicken Mandi ($19.90) and Salta ($15) because Dianathefoodie recommended those dishes.

Photo credit: Olivefoodyyc

The Moofa fish is butterflied, grilled in a clay oven, and topped with red onions and a lemon wedge. The menu describes the fish as “sea golden”, whatever that means. The fish itself is flat, and the flesh is moist, flaky and delicate. The spices were so subtle that Jennntle said the strongest flavour came from the fresh lemon juice. I found this dish fresh and light. I would order this again.

The salta arrived in a hot lava stone pot. The mix of potatoes, carrots, zucchini, onion and tomato were firm to start and then boiled away until it became more of a soupy stew. The sauce is salty and pungent, and the spices remind me of an Indian vegetable curry.

Photo credit: Olivefoodyyc

Both the fish and salta come with freshly made Yemeni bread. Oh my goodness. This bread is something special. The size of each piece is as big as a frying pan. The bread is baked in a tandoor (clay oven). The high temperature produces an ultra-light bread. I love the slightly stretchy, thin and chewy texture and the beautifully charred blisters. Besides the taste, the best thing is the crackling sound the bread makes as we tore off pieces to eat with the fish and salta.

Jennntle said the bread reminded her of the crispy layers in a Chinese green onion pancake. While the flavouring is different, the stretchy texture of Yemeni bread made me think of Azzurri, Savino and Rocket Pizza. I think it’s because of the technique involved to produce a magical bread like this. This bread is so good that no one, unless they have health restrictions (e.g. Celiac), should live without trying this.

Photo credit: Olivefoodyyc

The chicken Mandi is pressured cooked, which creates a tender, succulent meat. Jennntle took a spoon and when she pressed it against the chicken, the meat literally fell off the bones. The long grains of the basmati rice was soft and fluffy, fragrant with spices that reminded me of oranges and cloves.

The restaurant was packed on a Tuesday night. The phone was ringing off the hook, customers were lining up at the door, and dishes were flying out of the kitchen. I appreciate that despite the chaos, the staff was still genuinely interested in how we found the food. Hitting the Sauce gives Yemeni Village two phat thumbs up.

Mexican · Patio · Restaurants · Seafood

Fonda Fora

On Thursday, Bottlenick, L and I checked out Fonda Fora, a new contemporary Mexican restaurant inside The Westley Hotel. L and I were uncharacteristically late because I confused the Westley Hotel with the Westin Hotel. To celebrate the beginning of Stampede, let’s listen to Johnny Cash “Heart of Gold.”

For our first bottle, Bottlenick selected a rosé – Chateau Gassier Sables (Provence France, $45). I thought this was a nice rosé – light and dry.

We ordered the Salsa Tasting ($9), Guacamole & Tostadas ($15), Empanadas ($8), Tiradito de Huachinango ($17), Pescado Zarandeado ($37) and extra tortillas ($4).

Get the salsa tasting! Not only was it fun to try all the different salsas, but you can use the condiments with your other food. My favourite was the orange variation – it was rich and velvety like cream. I also liked the salsa with chili peppers and oil.

The guacamole was cold, creamy and delicious. The tostadas were enjoyable to eat because each chip was so thick and crunchy, and it tasted like it was freshly made.

The empanada was yummy. The crispy shell was filled with corn, chili peppers, tomatoes and onion, topped with some cool, smooth white cheese. The sauce was so delectable, we would use the tortillas to mop up the leftovers.

L and Bottlenick both noticed the red snapper had a strong fishy flavour to it, but in a good way. The onions tasted like fennel to me. This dish reminded me of a mix between sashimi and ceviche. I enjoyed the heat and spice in the orange sauce.

For our second bottle of wine, we picked the De Monde Cabernet Franc Fruiuli Grave Italy ($54). Oh baby, this wine reminds me of the cabernet franc I pick up at Tinhorn Creek and Burrowing Owl in BC. One major plus Fonda Fora offers is the wine list. I enjoyed the two bottles we tried and each was around the fifty-dollar range. The wines went well with the food and each bottle was something different than I could find at my local liquor store. My father recently sent me an article on restaurants and the markup on wines. I’ve got no issue paying for wine, as a restaurant has to make money, otherwise they would go out of business. By all means, markup the wines! But offer me something I can’t find at the Real Canadian Liquorstore. Fonda Fora does this in spades.

I was impressed with the mussels tostada. My gosh – the texture of each mussel was sublime – soft and fat – with a cool silkiness on the tongue. The white sauce was decadent. Bottlenick commented on the smoky flavour from the vinaigrette. L thought the pumpkin salsa was incredible. I would return just to each this dish again, because it was that good.

Our last dish was a whole grilled fish. The fish was moist and flaked apart easily. I liked that I could taste the natural, light juices of the fish. It’s easy to hide freshness when fish is battered or covered in heavy sauce. We also received a pretty bowl of herbs to eat with the fish. The fresh tortillas were thick and smelled like corn. I read Fonda Fora uses heirloom corn imported from small farmers in Mexico.

I shouldn’t have, but since I was feeling celebratory, I got carried away and ordered a pint of Cabin Morning Sun Saison (6%, $8.50). This beer was delicious – spicy and bubbly, but it wasn’t worth the hangover I received the next day. I can’t rock and roll like I used to. Those days are numbered. Post COVID, I’m going to be a moderate eater and drinker of delicious things.

I’ll return to Fonda Fora. The food is creative, fresh and different from the norm. Hitting the Sauce gives Fonda Fora two fat thumbs up.

Seafood · Special Occasion

Von Der Fels – The Last Supper

After July 31, Von Der Fels will be no more. Lovegastrogirl and I had to dine one last time before chef Douglas King‪ and owner Will Trow move on to greener pastures to The Ranchmen’s Club. For this post, let’s listen to “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer.

I’m going to miss Von Der Fels for the wines. This is the only place in the city where I’m impressed with the wines by the glass. I’m normally a red wine drinker but due to the heat, I wanted to try a glass of white. Our server recommend Miser Riesling 2020 ($16). This one was lovely – I enjoyed how the wine sparkled on my tongue. However, my favourite wine of the night was De Collette 2019 ($18). There was just something soft and mellow about it that made me want to keep on sipping.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

The only reservation I was able to score was at 8:45 p.m. I couldn’t wait that long to eat and as a result, I was full when I arrived. However, we had to order food because you can’t come here and not eat. The food is just too good to pass up.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

Our first dish was the Crispy Pork Belly with Lettuce Wraps ($43). The fragrance of the smoky sweetness of the pork was intoxicating. The crunchy fat on the pork belly reminds of me of Peking duck, but with a more complex flavour profile. I liked how the pickled cucumbers and fresh mint help to cut into the richness of the pork belly and sauces.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

The second dish we tried was the Miso Sablefish with Tempura Shrimp ($49). Holy mackerel, this dish is a visual stunner. I felt like my eyes were eating as well. There was so much fried goodness in this plate that I felt giddy just looking at it. I could literally feel my inner fat kid transfer out of my body to hug this dish.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

Each layer of the artichoke was silky soft, drenched in a light citrusy matsutake beurre blanc sauce. The shrimp was delightful – the batter was as light as tempura. My favourite part of the dish was the miso sablefish. The fish was so tender and flaky, with an incredible buttery texture. I would order this again but I can’t unless I become a member of The Ranchmen’s Club.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

As a parting gift, Lovegastrogirl brought a bottle of champagne for the staff to enjoy. When her hubby Gpomp dropped us off at the restaurant, he asked me now that Von Der Fels is no longer assessable by the general public, what other restaurant could offer a similar experience? There’s only a handful of restaurants I have frequented in Calgary, so based on my limited exposure, and in terms of food, consistency, wine, service and value, I would say Sukiyaki House and Klein & Harris.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

I have to talk to L about getting a membership at The Ranchmen’s Club. There’s a stellar negotiation course at the Haskayne School of Business that I’m considering taking to help me with my persuasion skills. Perhaps the mere threat of going back to school will encourage L to explore the new happenings occurring at The Ranchmen’s Club now that Douglas and Will have taken over the culinary reins.

Photo credit: Von Der Fels

I’ll always remember Von Der Fels as the spot to bring friends and family. This was a restaurant that you could depend on to consistently deliver, visit after visit. I wish the owner and chef the very best in their new roles and future at The Ranchmen’s Club.

Japanese · Seafood · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Welcome back dinner

On June 10th, Alberta entered its Stage 2 reopening. No surprise here, to celebrate the lifting of government restrictions L and I dined at Sukiyaki House. For this post, let’s listen to “Dancing In The Streets” by Martha and The Vandellas.

This is my first dining out experience since I’ve started using Noom – a health and fitness app. I’ve never lasted more than six hours on any diet, but I figured it was time for me to become healthier. After surviving two days, I assessed Noom to be a Debbie downer. There are no fun foods that I can eat without breaking my daily calorie count. As Foodiegyal7 informed me, Noom is not a site for foodies. L timidly observed that I’m noticeably more irritable since I’ve been on Noom. Poor L.


Our server Judith has the best taste in sake. When we asked for a suggestion, she recommended Fukucho Hattanso 50 Junmai Daiginjo ($46, 10 ounce). The sake smelled fragrant. The flavour was light and clean, with a honeyed sweetness. If fairies existed, this would be their drink.

For our first dish, we ordered BC Spotted Prawns (market price). Head chef Koji Kobayashi hit a home run on this creation. The spotted prawns sat in a gorgeous tomato yuzu shisho sauce. The raw shrimp was soft and creamy. The sea lime green sauce was refined and balanced, with bright, summery notes. L said the hint of lime in the sauce reminded him of Mexico. I could eat this dish all day long. The fried shrimp heads were scrumptious. I could tell the difference between the BC prawns and the regular ones. The BC prawns are sweeter and the meat has a lighter flavour.

We ordered Sawagani Crabs ($2.50 each). I’ve seen these crabs before in the food markets in Tokyo and Kyoto. The shell was thin and crunchy, similar to the outside layer of a candied apple. When I bit into the crab, the flesh was warm and juicy, with no fishy aftertaste.


Every time we visit Sukiyaki House, we order the Tako Carpaccio ($16). The octopus was thinly sliced and crunchy. I loved the balanced flavours in the yuzu sauce and the added layers of texture and flavour from the topping of arugula, kewpie mayo and potato strings.

L ordered Kani (Snow Crab $3.7), Tako ($3), and Atlantic Salmon Nigiri ($3). He said the salmon melted in his mouth. The snow crab was sweet. L mentioned the sushi rice was a cut above other Japanese restaurants in Calgary. He liked how the amount of wasabi in each piece of nigiri was subtle and not overwhelming like other restaurants.

I ordered the Irodori Hiyashi Udon ($24). This is a great summer dish. The udon noodles were thin and chewy. The tamago (egg omelette) was sweet, with a soft firm texture. I thought the yuzu dashi broth perfectly highlighted the flavours of the hotategai (hokkaido scallop), hamachi (snapper), ebi (steamed shrimp) and Ikura (salmon roe).


We enjoyed being back so much that we didn’t want to leave after we finished dinner. Instead of dessert, I asked for the driest white wine and L ordered an Asahi, so we could sit and soak up the exuberant vibes. You could feel the excitement to be back from the customers. Better times are coming. I’m hoping Calgarians get their vaccine so we can get on with Stage 3.

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House

Monday sucked balls. I told my man I was taking him out for dinner. Since we were both in a bad mood, I didn’t want to risk trying a new place. And for L, there is only one restaurant beyond reproach – and that is Sukiyaki House. For this post, let’s listen to “Buddy Holly” by Weezer.

We ordered a glass of Sohomare Tokubetsu Junmai Kimoto ($14, 3 ounce), which turned out to be L’s new all-time favourite sake. I found the Kimoto smooth, with a sweetness that blooms on the tongue. The flavour was pure and clean, without the booziness I find in some sakes.

L could smell mushroom and then after we finished our sake, honey. He wanted to buy a bottle for the house, but I don’t want something that delicious in our home. Summer is coming, and I can do without the temptation.

Our first appetizer to arrive was the Tako Carpaccio ($16). Double damn, this is a fabulous dish. The octopus was crisp and crunchy. The citrus dressing, mayonnaise, and crunchy seasoning went well with the greens and octopus.

Chef Yuki Koyama sent out a special dish for us to try – Hachibiki Carpaccio. The flesh was a reddish hue, with a firm, fatty texture. I had no idea that a slice of raw fish could have so much flavour. This fish is downright decadent. L loved the yuzu miso sauce, which he said reminded him a little of gomae, a Japanese spinach salad.

The Grilled Ika ($14) was cooked perfectly – each piece of squid was tender. I thought the ginger sauce made this dish the ultimate comfort food. L said the dish smelled a little like yakitori.

I wanted to try the Volcano Roll ($11) and L ordered a Tekka Roll ($5). The moment the plate hit our table; the smell of roasted nori wafted up. I enjoyed the warmth of the crisp sheet of nori against the cool, creamy tuna filling. The white sauce paired well with the squid in the Volcano roll, the combination reminded me of tzatziki and calamari.

Our selection of nigiri was excellent. I also noticed how much larger the seafood was in the nigiri compared to other Japanese restaurants in Calgary, such as Nami and Takumi.

The Aka Maguro ($4.20) was so good, it induced an exclamation of pure joy from L. The toro was soft and buttery, the flavour was rich and smooth.

I’ve always enjoyed the Amaebi ($4) at Sukiyaki House, but on this occasion, it was extra fabulous. The head was almost the size of a chicken drumstick. The deep-fried shrimp head was covered in a fluffy batter, and the meat inside the shell was hot. The flavour reminded me a bit of fried crab innards, another delicacy L won’t try. I swear, I could eat a plate of these. Had I known the fried shrimp heads would come out like this, I would have ordered two more.

Look at the inside – it was filled with shrimpy goodness! I’m glad I was sitting because surely, I would have swooned.

L does eat amaebi, which he enjoyed. The shrimp was served cool, the flesh was crunchy and sweet.

We loved the Hotategai ($4.20). The scallop was extra thick and wide. So effing good. The rice in all the nigiri was on point. I thought each piece of sushi had the perfect amount of wasabi – just enough to give each piece a touch of heat.

L was still hungry, so for dessert, we ordered Chicken Karaage ($12). These were gorgeous, crispy nuggets of meat. You can never go wrong ordering the karaage at Sukiyaki House. Personally, I would have liked more salt on the chicken, but I’m a salt fiend. The portion was generous. After eating this, how can I go back to paying $15 for a plate of hot wings at a pub?

The restaurant is at half capacity due to COVID safety regulations, but every socially distanced table was taken. I could hear the phone ringing off the hook, and see all the deliveries going out the door. Despite this, our food and service was excellent. There was one server we noticed in particular, because she exhibited polite mannerisms that reminded us of the culture in Japan, such as bowing and folding the receipt in half.

Thanks Sukiyaki House, your team succeeded in turning our bad day around. Hitting the Sauce is grateful this gem exists in Calgary. We don’t have to drive far to get a taste of Japan.

17th Ave · French · Seafood

Pigeonhole

I met up with my friend K-Pop. She lives alone, and since I’m one of her non-household contacts, she asked me to check out Pigeonhole with her. K-Pop was eager to try Pigeonhole because their menu offers her two most favourite dishes – beef tartare and foie gras. For this post, let’s listen to “In The Air” by Allah Las.

After consulting with our server, I ordered a gaymay/pinot blend (Pierre Goigoux, Chanturgue, France $66). He suggested this particular bottle because I wanted something dry, light and soft. K-Pop enjoyed this red as much as I did. She liked how the wine didn’t overpower any of the dishes we ordered.

Since I picked the wine, K-Pop ordered all the food. She chose the Atlantic Scallop Crudo ($15), Wagyu Beef Tartare ($16), Foie Gras Mousse ($17), Smoked Ham Croquettes ($10) and Honey Glazed Brioche ($8). I noticed each plate was gorgeously plated.

The scallop crudo was so fantastic, I would order this again. The scallops were silky smooth, the flavour was so clean and pure. I loved the combination of crunchy almonds, spicy chili-citrus oil, fresh basil and slivered celery. Each bite was bright and lovely, and with a lingering heat. This dish made me think of Chef Koji Kobayan because he’s known for his stunning carpaccio and tataki creations at Sukiyaki House. I’m sure Chef Koji would appreciate Pigeonhole’s version as well.

Photo credit: K-Pop

K-Pop is a beef tartare fanatic. She liked that it wasn’t salty, which allowed her to appreciate the flavours of the fried shallots and buttery smooth wagyu beef. She liked the use of traditional ingredients, such as the gherkins. I enjoyed the sharpness from the green peppercorns.

Photo credit: K-Pop

K-Pop is also a fan of foie gras. What she loved about Pigeonhole’s version was that she couldn’t taste the liver. The mousse was cool, light and creamy. The tiny bits of pink lady apples added a touch of sweetness. There was so much foie gras, K-Pop ordered extra lembas bread, a honey glazed brioche with whipped honey butter.

The croquettes were a winner. The creamy, cheese sauce was so addicting, I scraped every bit off the plate. The croquette reminded me a super crunchy tater tot, but a million times better. I loved the freshness the basil added to this dish. I would order this again too.

I was also impressed with the attentive service we received. Throughout our evening, we had different servers checking in with our wine, waters and food. It seemed like the staff were working together to provide the best experience for their guests.

Sometimes I get so stuck in my routine that I forget what it is like to eat something that is beyond my cooking skills. I’m glad K-Pop picked Pigeonhole for our dinner date. The dishes here are a gastronomical delight. If you haven’t been yet, this is a spot you need to check out. Hitting the Sauce gives Pigeonhole two thumbs up.

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – Birthday Omakase

For L’s birthday, I took him to Sukiyaki House for “omakase”. In Japanese, omakase translates to “I’ll leave it up to you”, meaning you entrust the menu up to the creativity of the chef. I got to say, Chef Koji Kobayashi knocked this dinner out of the park. For this post, let’s play “I Feel Fine” by the Beatles.

L and I toasted to his birthday with a glass of Kamoshibito Kuheiji Human Junmai Daiginjo, 2011 (3 oz, $15). Judith informed us that Sukiyaki House was the first restaurant in Calgary to bring in this particular bottle.

Judith is a sake nerd. Known as the white Burgundy of sakes, she described this sake as “bougie”, with lots of umami and sweetness. As we took our first sip, she pointed out the notes of bruised apple and pear. I thought this sake was light and not overly sweet.

We started off our meal with a plate of Hamachi with Daikon and Ponzu. L liked the seasoning as he thought it complemented the light, sweet flavour of the fish. If you notice my pictures have improved, it’s because L took all the photos below.

Our second dish was the Duck Tempura with Shiso and Mozzarella. The ume jam was tart and plummy, which cut into the richness of the duck. I thought the garnish of nori and green onion was a nice pop of flavour against the warm, velvety cheese filling.

One of L’s favourite dishes of the night was the Rice Cracker with Deep Fried Salmon, Potato Salad and Yam Crisp. Shwing! The crunch of the batter against the soft creaminess of the potato salad was killer. The salmon itself was flavourful, made even richer with Koji’s special homemade teriyaki sauce. Koji’s sauce has this intensity that makes you stand up and notice.

At this point in our meal, I wanted to try another sake while L stuck to a pint of Asahi.  I ventured off and tried a glass of Yamagata Masamune Kimono Akaiwa Machi 1898 (30z, $11).

Judith informed us this sake is made from hamachi rice from the Akalwa region. The brewer uses a traditional method of sake brewing. Rather than having the lactic acid introduced in the fermentation process to cultivate yeast, the sake is allowed to naturally develop lactic acid on its own. This makes for a fuller, complex and richer sake. I enjoyed the melon flavour and the dry, light finish.

Our fourth course was the Matsutake Soup with Crab. The soup arrived boiling hot. The broth was clear and clean, which allowed the subtle flavours of the crab and mushrooms to shine. The wild BC pine mushrooms were thinly sliced, with a fragrance similar to sake. Drinking this soup felt so nourishing – simple but refine.

Next up, Judith showcased A4 Wagyu Nigiri. She torched it and then shaved a ton of black truffles. Real truffles taste so different from the truffle salt I buy. The flavour is gentle and earthy. The texture of the truffles was feathery and light. Seared, the wagyu gave off a mouthwatering smoky flavour. I loved the crunch of the salt. I thought this was an elegant bite.

Our sixth course was the Maple Smoked Anago. L doesn’t normally eat eel, but he loved Koji’s version. The seared aburi was soft, warm and deliciously smoky.

My favourite course was the Lemon Dengaku. Double shwing! Dengaku is similar to a cheesy seafood motoyaki but a billion times better. Half a lemon was filled with mussels, crab, scallops, asparagus, enoki, and matsutake mushrooms, then baked with a creamy, sweet miso sauce.

The flavour and freshness of the the seafood wowed me. The sauce had the perfect amount of saltiness in it. The lemon wasn’t overpowering – just enough to perfume each bite.

Koji created a beautiful platter of nigiri for us. This was an advanced sushi tasting. Each nigiri pairing was an adventure.

The bluefin chu toro was topped with sturgeon caviar. I liked how the salty pop of caviar mingled in with the fatty creaminess of the toro. The “Mother and Child” sockeye with ikura and chrysanthemum petals was another winning salty, creamy combination. The hamachi (yellowtail) was juicy. I found the lime zest with the kanpachi subtle. The cuttlefish had a pleasant crunchy texture. The bluefin tuna in the negitori with shredded kombu was soft and buttery.

Dessert was devastatingly charming. Not only was this the cutest creation, but the mochi had the nicest chew to it. As always, the fruit at Sukiyaki House was served at the optimal ripeness, just like in Japan.

Photo credit – Sukiyaki House

Koji, you truly are an artist. This was the best meal L and I have ever experienced. We are so lucky to have you in Calgary. L and I have an upcoming wedding anniversary to celebrate in December. We can only order takeout because we are staying with in-laws. We might just have to hit up Sukiyaki House for their new premium bento takeout box of spicy prawns, beef tataki, miso sablefish, a hosomaki, and a mini chirashi. Whatever takeout we end up picking up, we’ll make sure to support one of our favourite restaurants.

Fusion · Seafood · Special Occasion

Von Der Fels – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Quebecoise’s parents are in town, which meant she and her husband Sirski could get away for a double date. Both haven’t been to Von Der Fels, which in my opinion is the place to get mind-blowing food, with zero pretension. For this post, let’s listen to “Strawberry Letter 23” by Shuggie Otis.

Québécoise and I ordered a glass of bubbles to start – Aubusieres Vouvray France Chenin Blanc (5 oz, $16). L and Sirski chose a Kinabik pilsner from Sylvan Lake ($8). I enjoyed my bubbles – it was dry and smooth. I thought it was better than the bottle of champagne we had just consumed at our place. Québécoise disagreed and said nothing is better than champagne.

The restaurant is small to begin with, but with COVID-19 restrictions and the implementation of large plastic dividers between tables, there are even fewer tables available. We were lucky to snag the best seat in the house – the round table by the front window, complete with a view of the Calgary Tower.

Quebecoise and Sirski know more about wine than I do, so I deferred to them. Quebecoise asked for a white wine that wasn’t oaky. When she noticed our server also spoke French, she switched to her native tongue. He recommend a textured white wine- La Collière, Côtes-du-Rhône (2017, $60). Quebecoise was happy and exclaimed the wine was “bon”. She found the wine aromatic, bright and not acidic – a good choice because it wouldn’t overpower the food.

I knew Quebecoise would enjoy the Smoked Castlevetrano Olives ($8). These little olives are incredibly juicy with a subtle smoky aftertaste. My buddy Jaime goes crazy over these olives, so much she wanted to get an extra order to bring home in Kamloops.

The Korean Fried Oyster ($4) tasted of the sea. The plump oyster morsel was soft and creamy as a poached egg. The batter was light and delicate. The crunch of the cucumber garnish was refreshing.

Each couple shared a Green Tomato and Mortadella Tempura Sandwich ($8). I could hear the crunch of the thinly battered tomato as I bit into it. The tomato itself was firm, smeared with a sauce that reminded me of Thousand Island dressing.

The Pizza Fritta with black truffles and potatoes ($15) was lighter in flavour than I anticipated because I’m used to the pungent black truffle salt from Silk Road Spice Merchant. I enjoyed the contrast between the crackling of the batter to the softness of the slice of potato. I thought the simple sprinkling of salt was the perfect condiment for the combination of ingredients.

The seafood in the Scallop and Shrimp Crudo ($29) was so fresh. L thought the combination of the toasted pine nuts and the softness of the artichokes paired well with the silky scallops and sweet shrimp. I liked how the the artichokes weren’t acidic as I prefer a clean flavour over a strong herby marinade. We all wondered where Von Der Fels buys their seafood. I can’t remember when I tasted shrimp with such a soft delicate texture and clean flavours. This was L’s favourite dish.

One of my favourite dishes was the Wild Squid Haskap Berry Aguacile ($20). The batter was brittle and light, similar to the crispy skin on Sukiyaki House’s agadashi tofu. The non-fried squid was soft and tender, and again, with that pureness you can only get with super fresh seafood. The fresh basil and the brightness of the berry sauce was unique and made me think of Scandinavian cuisine.

My other favourite dish was the Charcoal Grilled Pork Toro Lettuce and Herb Wraps ($36). This dish reminded me of Peking duck wraps. I loved the combination of the sizzling, fatty meat with the fresh basil and lettuce. I actually prefer pork toro over Peking duck because of the intense smoky flavour of the pork.

At the end of the night, Quebecoise and I wanted one more drink. She asked for a cocktail that was fruity, herby and not sweet. What we received was pure heaven. If you want to get sauced, this is the drink for you. I asked our server what was in this magical elixir of life. The only information I could squeeze out of him was there was some champagne and strawberries in it. Quebecoise said she could tell it was really boozy. I could tell I was in love. If I could name this drink, I would call it the Cinderella because after consuming just one of these drinks, I can see why she lost her shoe after the ball. I’m glad L took me home immediately after, because I would have surely turned into a pumpkin.

Please Von Der Fels, put this drink on your regular menu. This cocktail is a masterpiece. The Cinderella cocktail ties with Klein/Harris’ D’Angelo martini for best cocktail in the city. Hitting the Sauce gives Von Der Fels two extra chubby thumbs up.