French · Seafood · Special Occasion

Pat & Betty

For our monthly girls’ night, I picked Pat & Betty. We started the party at my house with a bottle of sparkling cider I picked up at Vine Arts. Kournikova enjoyed the dry, unfiltered bubbles so much that she snapped a picture. For this post, let’s listen to “Bread and Butter” by The Newbeats.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we were pleasantly surprised to receive the best table in the house. Usually, I get the worst table when I visit a new restaurant. Our spacious booth looked out onto the restaurant on the second floor. Québécoise liked how the top of the booth was arm’s length so that she could hang her arm around it.

Kournikova and I asked Québécoise to pick the wine, as she knows what we like best. Québécoise recognized several wines from her favourite French regions at prices far less than she would expect to pay. I felt so giddy that I wanted to call my father up and tell him there is heaven on earth. It’s called Pat and Betty.

The first bottle we tried was the Clos Bellane Cotes Du Rhone Valreas (Rhone Valley, $67). We sipped away while snacking on the Roasted Eggplant Dip ($9.50). These are some of the best potato chips I’ve eaten – thick, crunchy, and with enough salt to bring out the full flavour in the potato. The eggplant was cool and light, with a consistency like whipped cream. The fried capers added a tart saltiness to the dip. Kournikova mentioned the chips went well with the wine.

My favourite wine of the night was the Domaine Tremblay Petit Chablis (Burgundy, $59). I noticed that this wine was lighter and had less acidity than the first white wine. Québécoise, you did your magic again.

Betty mentioned the Country Beef Tartare ($25) was even better than the other versions we’ve tried in Calgary. The beef tartare was saucy and silky. This tartare was unique in that the addition of the devilled egg aioli and sunflower sprouts added some Southern comfort. I loved warm, soft buttered toast. To me, it smelled like old-fashioned goodness.

Betty and Québécoise enjoy a good pasta, so I recommended the Crab and Shrimp Tagliatelle ($26). Oh, baby, this dish was rich and spicy. Betty noted you could tell the pasta was homemade. I thought the prawns were perfectly cooked, soft with no snap. Québécoise liked the addition of the fennel and dill.

Kournikova picked the Chilled Baked Beets ($15.50). The beets and ricotta were cool, light and refreshing. I could taste orange in the salad dressing. I loved the addition of dill, mint and pistachio but wished our dish came with more mint, as it went so well with the salad. Betty thought this dish was a good palate cleanser after the crab and shrimp tagliatelle.

I requested the Broccoli Puttanesca ($17). Man, oh man, this is a winner! The spicy tomato ragu and lemon aioli offered a nice acidity that contrasted with the broccoli’s smokiness and the umami from the anchovy and parmesan. In addition, the garlic bread crumbs added a delicious crunch to it.

I thought of L when I tried the Angus Beef Striploin ($44). The meat was so tender and buttery smooth. The chimichurri sauce was salty and accentuated the juices from the steak. He would love this dish. I was impressed that the sides weren’t just a side thought, so fabulous I had to pause and think, which bite do I want next? The steak or crispy duck fat potatoes or the butter roasted radishes? The correct answer is all three. I would order the steak again.

The dish I was most excited to eat was the Pork Belly and Scallops ($42) with caviar ($19). Kournikova mentioned the scallops were perfectly cooked. I could taste a slight sweetness from the Quebec maple. The moment I bit into the pork belly, I immediately worried I would come down with gout the next day. The pork fat was so hot, rich, and melted in my mouth. The exterior was seared to a dark caramel brown and crispy. The caviar was soft and so subtly flavoured, that I couldn’t detect the flavour. Kournikova mentioned this dish would be too rich for one person. With that bad attitude, no wonder she’s so thin. Québécoise tapped out, so I ate her portion.

We shared the Carrot Cake ($10.50). This is no ordinary carrot cake. The cake itself was fresh and moist, intensely flavoured with spices, sweet from caramel and crunchy from the candied pecans. The cream cheese was a little sour and sweet from what tasted like confectionary sugar.

I enjoyed our feast at Pat and Betty so much that I wanted to return for our next month’s dinner. Québécoise said we could come back, but after we try a new restaurant. I wanted to protest but then I remembered about my potential case of gout, so I agreed to book our next outing at Ten Foot Henry, as requested by Kournivoka.

Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Ranchmen’s Club

Wonderland and Double 07 invited us to The Ranchmen’s Club for dinner. Since I first met Wonderland, she has consistently praised the executive chef, sommelier and staff at Ranchmen’s, so I was curious and excited to go. For this post, let’s listen to the James Bond theme song.

We met in the lobby and then moved into the Samson Lounge for a cocktail. When I sat down by the fireplace, the first thing I noticed was the deer mount. The room itself has a heritage vibe, like the Lougheed House, located across the street. Wonderland told me she often drops by the lounge to play bridge or to read a book.

Double 07 ordered a round of French Cowboys. I found this cocktail delightfully tart and refreshing. I loved how the bubbles fizzled on my tongue. Before I knew it, Double 07 told us it was time to go for dinner in the Mary Dover room, and we could bring our cocktails inside. Before finishing his sentence, I had already gulped my drink down. L has been trying to break that bad habit of mine since we met. Good luck with that, L.

I wasn’t expecting to dine in a private room, making the dining experience more intimate. We started with small cubes of cheddar cheese and French bread. The bread innards were silky, and the crust was chewy and flaky. Wonderland received gluten-free bread, as the staff are familiar with her dietary restrictions. Wonderland mentioned the cheddar was either two or three years old. L liked the intense, nutty flavour. I enjoyed the cheese, but I would have been content with the bread and butter because the bread was that good.

Double 07 picked out fantastic champagne. Wowee! The bubbles were tiny, with a soft, mellow flavour. I thought this champagne was really something special.

I ordered what the maître d’ recommended – the Caesar Salad, AAA Tenderloin Steak, and the Crab Hasselback Potatoes.

L and Double 07 picked Foie Gras and the Roast Duck Breast, and Wonderland ordered Oysters and the Rack of Lamb.

The lettuce in my salad was crisp and cold, with none of the bitterness I usually find in romaine leaves. I enjoyed the saltiness and softness of the whole sardines and the balanced flavour of the dressing. I thought Ranchmen’s makes a better Caesar than Caesar’s Steakhouse, which was previously my gold standard.

The red wine Double 07 picked out was phenomenal. The smell was so beautiful. I could sniff this wine all night long. The wine was smoky, smooth, with no sweetness to it. I was glad I was sitting down, or I would have been swooning from sheer ecstasy.

The knife crackling through the salty, charbroiled steak sent shivers down my spine. The texture of the meat was so luxuriously tender that I almost wept from the sheer bliss. I’m not exaggerating. I was quiet the entire time I ate, just marvelling at the pairing of the wine with the beef and the sweetness of the tomatoes and the crunch of the pickled onions. I grow my tomatoes, and even when I pick them at the optimal ripeness, they don’t taste this good.


I requested the bearnaise sauce as Wonderland recommended, but I didn’t have to choose, as I received the peppercorn Armagnac and the bearnaise sauce for my steak. The peppercorn and bearnaise added this rich, hot layer of flavour that coated the beef. The Hasselback potatoes were buttery and soft, topped with generous amounts of sweet, flaky crab.

Double 07 picked a 13-year-old dessert wine. The fragrance of the wine was earthy, like a garden in the morning. I’ve never smelled anything like this.

L picked the Spiced Meringue for dessert. The chef split L’s portion in half so I could sample it. I tasted a little clove in the spices. I thought the sour cherry granite nicely balanced the sweetness of the walnut nougatine. I loved the crumbly bits that melted in my mouth. My favourite component of the dessert was the rich smoothness of the birch creameaux.

This meal was something I could never prepare at home. I wouldn’t even know where to get these ingredients, let alone find the wines. What was different about this meal was that I didn’t get tunnel vision like I usually do. There wasn’t one dish that overshadowed another item. Every component worked well together, so I enjoyed the entire progression of the meal.

When I thanked our generous hosts for such an extravagant meal, I mentioned I didn’t know what to do when they came to our place for the next get-together. Wonderland genuinely stated that this was not a competition. I said that was good because there was no way I could ever top the chef’s talent or the sommelier’s skill. I’ll have to think of something special for when Wonderland and Double 07 come over for dinner. Perhaps I’ll have to enlist some professional help.

I ate my breakfast and mid-morning snack the next day. I usually enjoy my chicken and green onion congee and local boiled eggs with cracked pepper and salt. However, the morning after such as epic feast, I have to say my food did not taste as good as it usually does. Hopefully, my tastebuds will revert to their old self, or I will have to do some real soul searching. Thank you, Double 07 and Wonderland, for the excellent company and hospitality.

Japanese · Seafood · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Belated Valentine’s Dinner

There are so many new restaurants, recommended by chefs and influencers who really know their food, that I haven’t been to before — for example, Pat & Betty (@janohansen), Rau Bistro (@thehungrygnome), Golden Sands (@miss_foodie, @foodkarmablog), and The Curryer (@miss_foodie). I should try more places out because, truthfully, I think I have the most repetitive blog. If I find a restaurant I love, I’ll write about it post after post. The problem is, I don’t particularly like trying new places. Let’s listen to “Over and Over” by Nelly for this review.

I told L I wanted to go to Sukiyaki House for our belated Valentine’s dinner. I like coming here because I know what I am getting. When I visit on Wednesday, I know that Sukiyaki House receives its fresh fish straight from Japan. When the restaurant is slammed with orders, I know we are in good hands because Koji Kobayashi, the head chef, is so efficient; he’s equivalent to three chefs. I know that extra staff get called in when it gets unexpectedly busy. I also know that the team monitors the food quality. Once just before I finished eating a dish, Justin came over and asked if I liked it. I said yes. He said he was checking in with me because I was looking at the food carefully and eating much slower than usual, so he wanted to make sure there was nothing wrong with the food. How’s that for customer service? I’m not the only one that sees what a gem this place is, as Avenue Magazine just rated Sukiyaki House one of the 10 best restaurants in Calgary.

I was craving something fattening and delicious, so we ordered Chicken Kaarage ($13). I paired this dish with a glass of French Sauvignon Blanc ($11) and, later, a crisp Asahi draft beer ($7). The squeeze of lemon cuts nicely into the crunchy crevices, adding brightness to the succulent chunks of chicken. The flavour of the julienned green onion was prominent.

Holy maki, Chef Kobayashi stuns again with another unique creation! The tuna tartare was paired with dainty pieces of nori that were battered and crunchy like a thin potato chip. The tuna was creamy with tiny crunchy bits, similar to watermelon. The scent of cucumber perfumed each bite. L raved about the subtle spice in the tartare that crept until you felt its heat. I noticed L was smiling as he ate.

We did our usual round of nigiri: Amaebi (Raw Shrimp, $4), Ebi (Steamed Shrimp, $3), Hamachi (Pacific Yellowtail, $4.20), Hotategai (Scallop, $ 4.20), Maguro (Tuna, $3), Shake (Atlantic Salmon, $3), Tako (Octopus, $3), Toro (Tuna Belly, $4.50) and an Aka Tekka Roll (Red Tuna, $6.50).

L wondered how they could get the steamed shrimp to taste so good. The shrimp is always so crunchy with explosively shrimpy flavour. The salmon and tuna were creamy, soft and cool on the tongue. We noticed that all the fish was served at the optimal temperature, neither cold nor warm. The flavour of bluefin tuna made my whole body tingle. I felt like the toro was richer and thicker in texture than the Maguro tuna. The Hamachi was meaty and tender, with a pleasant texture and flavour. The raw scallops were fat and clean tasting, with a silky, gorgeous mouthfeel. The scallops were so good I chewed as slowly as possible to enjoy the sensation and flavour. L loved that the nori (seaweed) in the maki roll still had teeth to it – like it was just toasted and had that dryness that snaps apart when you break into it.

I announced to L if I died that night, I would die happy. He agreed and said if this were our last meal, it would be an excellent way to leave the world. It’s always a good litmus test of a restaurant if you happily contemplate the end of your life after eating such a meal. I asked L how is it possible that one restaurant might give you so much pleasure? L responded that Sukiyaki House has a dream team – Anna, Judith, Justin, and Koji.

Even though I love coming to Sukiyaki House, I know I have to venture out. So I’m going to take a deep dive into the top ten list. I am usually skeptical of recommendations outside of my circle of friends, but I recognize several incredible restaurants on the list, which indicates this is a list worth investigating.

Bars/Lounges · Fusion · Seafood · Special Occasion

Orchard Restaurant

Kournikova, Betty, and Québecois dropped by my house before our dinner at Orchard Restaurant. Betty is the latest addition to our monthly dinner club, referred by her best friend, Kournikova. We started off with champagne and then a bottle of my favourite red wine from Burrowing Owl.

L dropped us off and encouraged us to take our time, as he planned to watch a big match on PPV. I knew that was code for “be quiet when you guys come back home. I paid to watch this fight.” Unfortunately for him, we came home and partied on well past his bedtime. For this post, let’s listen to “Material Girl”.

Orchard is a gorgeous restaurant, resplendent with high ceilings, cascading plants and a variety of chandeliers. In terms of impressive digs, I’d say Orchard and Major Tom lead the pack in Calgary.

We each started off with a cocktail. Kournikova, Betty and I ordered From Shelter with Love ($15). Kournikova mentioned the passion fruit in the cocktail reminded her of the guava mimosas in Hawaii.

Our server told us about a bin end sale of French Sauvignon Blanc ($40). What a steal! I enjoyed this bottle as I found the wine smooth and not tart like I find to be the case for many New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.

Betty informed me that her favourite food is Beef Tartare ($18), so of course, we had to order it. The lighting in the restaurant is dark, so when I mistakenly scooped up all the cranberry mustard, I mentioned the beef tasted oddly sweet. Betty laughed and pointed out what I was eating was beets and not beef.

Kournikova and I both loved the Grilled Humboldt Squid ($16). The squid was toothsome and so expertly cooked; it made me think of Chef James Water version at Klein and Harris. The salad was delicious, bright with citrusy orange notes. I thought each unique ingredient in this dish worked – the salsa verde, green olives, and lemon. I would order this again.

Québecois and I enjoyed the Beet and Burrata ($15). The Italian burrata was fresh and creamy. I liked the sweet, savoury and fragrant combination of the beets, hazelnuts, and orange. Québecois enjoyed the crunchy burst of hazelnuts, and Kournikova mentioned she liked the smoky pesto.

My favourite appetizer was the Eggplant and Maitake ($15). I thought the mix of the soy glaze, mushrooms, and eggplant was insanely delicious. I would order the eggplant again as well.

We wanted to try the Miso Maple Cured Sablefish ($38). However, on this night, Icelandic cod was used instead of sablefish. The fish was soft and covered in a delicate, buttery sauce. Kournikova and Québecois raved about the juicy bok choy.

I was pleasantly surprised with the Ocean Cioppino ($36), as I’m generally not impressed with this dish at other restaurants. The scallops were so fat and sweet, I thought it was just as good or even better than the scallops at Hawthorn Dining Room. The prawns were large with a delectable crunchy texture. The mussels and clams tasted fresh and were perfectly cooked. I also loved the rich flavour of the marinara sauce. I would order the cioppino again.

Kournikova loves a good duck, so we shared the Bougie Duck Breast ($35). The duck meat was flavourful but a little chewy. Everyone was a fan of the Israeli couscous. The sauce and couscous were creamy and silky smooth.

Betty picked out two desserts for us to share – the White Chocolate Tiramisu ($11) and Rocher Chocolate Cake ($11). The chocolate shell was hard and then quickly melted in your mouth. The tiramisu was soft and creamy, with a texture similar to semi-melted ice cream. Wowee – both were so good; I was scraping the sides of the dish to get every last drop.

We all enjoyed our experience at Orchard. The food, service and ambience were top-notch. Hitting the Sauce gives Orchard two phat thumbs up.

Chinatown · Chinese · Seafood

Chinese Culture Centre Cuisine – Surf and Turf

Before Fougui left for Mexico, we went out to reminisce about the old days when we used to work together. I also invited Office Dad to our dinner at the Chinese Cultural Centre Cuisine (CCCC) because it wouldn’t be a party without him. For this post, let’s listen to “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett.

I didn’t tell Fougui that Office Dad was coming, because I wanted it to be a surprise. Office Dad wore sunglasses and hid behind a newspaper at an adjacent table. After we sat down, he walked behind Fougui and called him on his phone. I didn’t have the heart to tell Office Dad that we recognized him a mile away and he wasn’t tricking anyone. After we finished feigning an appropriate amount of awe and shock, I ordered Peking duck (three courses, $48) and Steamed Crab on Sticky Rice ($40). Instead of the standard first course of duck soup, I requested noodles.

First to arrive was the Peking duck with crepes. The skin was dry and toasty. When I bite into the crepe, you could hear the crackling snap of the skin. The duck meat was flavourful and not overly fatty. I liked how the crepe was papery thin and steaming hot. CCCC is not skimpy with the portions. I noticed a generous amount of duck, cucumber, green onion and crepes.

The temperature of the ground duck mixture was still blistering when I scooped some into a lettuce cup. I enjoyed the wraps, but I focused more of my appetite on the duck chow mein. I mentioned to Office Dad that the food was so good, I plan to blog about this meal. He nodded in agreement and asked if I would change his name to “Cool Office Dad”.

Most restaurants give you a thick Shanghai noodle dish with the Peking duck course. I was excited to see CCCC uses the thin Cantonese chow mein noodles. This is a simple dish, but so comforting. The wok hei in the sauce was on point. Each bite was a saucy mess of smoking hot gravy, brittle noodles and crunchy bean sprouts.

I saw Lovegastrogirl raving about the steamed crab before on Instagram, so I knew I had to order it. The crab is a winner. The meat was flaky and sweet. The rice was fresh and soft, seasoned from the pops of tobiko, egg and fluffy crab meat.

When we left the restaurant, we each took turns complaining about how full we were. Cool Office Dad let out a big burp to show how satisfied he was with the feast. Not so cool, Daddio! Good thing he still had his mask on.

If you are looking for a place that isn’t teeming with customers, I’d recommend eating at the CCCC. The restaurant was quiet. There were only four parties scattered throughout the spacious room. The service was friendly and attentive. You won’t go wrong ordering the fresh steamed crab and Peking duck.

Brunch · Happy Hour · Seafood · Vancouver/Richmond

Harbour Oyster + Bar – Vancouver

L wanted to go out for oysters for our last meal in Vancouver. I suggested Harbour Oyster + Bar on Commercial Drive because I read favourable reviews about the oysters and service. I really enjoyed their playlist. The music put me in the mood for a boozy seafood lunch. For this post, let’s listen to a song I heard playing – “Super Freak” by Rick James.

Harbour is a popular bar, and it was entirely booked by noon. The space itself isn’t large. There’s enough room for about 12 people at the bar and maybe six tables for around 16 customers.

I noticed Chris – the master shucker – worked hard to keep customers happy. When he wasn’t shucking all the oysters, he would also greet each person who came in the door, pour drinks, take food orders, answer the phone, and chat with us about Alberta’s seafood scene. Chris had only good things to say about Rodney’s Oyster House in Calgary’s Beltline district.

Harbour offers a wicked happy hour, served daily from noon to 5:00 p.m. I tried the Sumac Ridge Sauvignon Blanc and the Sumac Ridge Merlot (HH $6.50). I preferred the red over the white wine. Like Rodney’s in Yaletown, I noticed Harbour fills up the wine right up to the rim. L opted for a beer and chose the Harbour Lager (HH $6). L mentioned his beer was nice and cold.

For our lunch, I ordered the Mussels (HH $13), Lobster Poutine (HH $12) and two dozen Lighthouse Oysters (HH $1.50 each). First up were the mussels. Our order comes with 10 plump mussels and a slice of grilled bread. We opted for the white wine sauce, which I liked because the broth didn’t overwhelm the flavour of the shellfish. Each mussel was soft and sweet. Some of the mussels were the size of an oyster.

The Lighthouse oysters were salty and tasted like the sea. The flesh was crisp with a texture that reminded me of watermelon. Each oyster was large, with an enjoyable meatiness to it.

Our poutine arrived piping hot, with chunks of lobster claw meat visible in every crevice. Each fry was battered and extra crunchy, covered in globs of warm, gooey cheese. The lobster meat was plump and juicy, generously distributed throughout the dish. The buttery white sauce was sweet, with just enough creaminess to bind all the ingredients together but not so overpowering that it masked the lobster’s texture and flavour.

The oysters were excellent, but the highlight of our meal was the lobster poutine. L and I agreed this was one of the most delicious things we’ve eaten all year. I would love to return to try more of the menu. Thanks for the excellent service and food, Harbour Oyster and Bar. See you again when we return in 2022.

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi · Vancouver/Richmond

Mega Sushi – Richmond

L, Jacuzzi and I went out for sushi. Since it was Christmas Eve, our options were limited. I picked Mega Sushi because our family friend recommended this restaurant. Let’s listen to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Coldplay for this post.

Mega Sushi is located on Chatham Street in Steveston. As we walked over to the restaurant, I saw seagulls swooping and screeching along the pier. I always find their cries comforting, because it reminds me of my walks along Granville Island.

The service was friendly and efficient. I could hear the chefs speaking softly to each other in Korean. It’s not a big restaurant. There are about a handful of tables. However, this restaurant does heaps of takeout – throughout our visit, there must have been at least a dozen orders going out.

L and Jacuzzi told me to pick all the food. I heard the specialty rolls at Mega are popular, but all those rolls are covered in creamy sauces and filled with deep-fried seafood. We wanted sashimi and the simpler rolls. I ordered a Salmon Maki Roll (Atlantic, $3.99), Negitoro Maki Roll (tuna belly and green onion, $4.50), two Chopped Scallop Rolls ($5.50), Deluxe Sashimi ($35.95), two Hokkigai Surf Clam ($2.50) two Tako (octopus, $3.25), Aburi Combo (Atlantic salmon and toro $13.95) and two Miso Soups ($1.50). 

The deluxe sashimi contained 18 pieces. The portions are generous – the sashimi was sliced into thick slabs. Each piece was from two to three bites.

The red tuna would have been perfect it wasn’t so cold. The salmon was fatty and creamy. I preferred the leaner, richer flavour of the sockeye. L was pleased with the octopus, which had a good crunch. 

The surf clam was firm and sweet. Jacuzzi rarely eats out. He mentioned the tuna melted in his mouth. Jacuzzi was enjoying the taste of sashimi so much, he would smile, close his eyes and chew as slowly as possible. Then, in between bites of fish, he would cleanse his palate with ginger to better appreciate each new piece. Damn little brother, I have to take you out more often. 

The salmon and negitoro rolls were nicely done. The seaweed was crisp and dry. Of the two rolls, I preferred the flavour of the tuna belly and green onion over the chunky filling of Atlantic salmon. I thought the sushi rice was nice, but L said it was a little too firm for his preference.

The chopped scallop roll was so good, we ordered a second. I liked the crunchy pop of the tobiko and the rich, eggy flavour of the Kewpie mayo. The scallops were plentiful, cool and silky on my tongue. 

The seared Atlantic salmon and toro were tasty, I could taste the smoky flavour on the top layer of the fish. I’m glad I tried the aburi-style sushi, but I still prefer the more basic sushi.

We all agreed we would go back for the sushi and sashimi. The highlight for me on this visit was the freshness of the seafood we sampled. Hitting the Sauce gives Mega Sushi two fat thumbs up.

Restaurants · Seafood

Big Fish – Anniversary Dinner

For our eighth wedding anniversary celebration, I took L to Big Fish. I thought since we weren’t going to Mexico for our yearly jaunt of sunshine and tacos, it would be nice to eat some seafood and at least pretend we were away. So for this post, let’s listen to “Crush With Eyeliner” by R.E.M.

Big Fish is different from the norm. The restaurant is comfortable and homey. Our server Michael was well versed with the menu and wine list. I could tell he was no newbie. The customer base appeared to be all regulars, and as L noted, not a douchebag insight. I knew better than to take him to Cactus Club. This ain’t my first rodeo.

To start, L ordered a pint of Last Best IPA ($8), and I sipped on a flute of Pares Cava ($7.50). Next, we shared a dozen west coast oysters ($45). The Kussi oyster was smaller than the Fanny Bay, but the flavour was more intense and sea-like. The Fanny Bay oyster was meaty, mild in flavour, with a crunchy texture that reminded me of cucumber. I was impressed that we could get oysters that tasted this fresh in Calgary.

I read Google reviews of customers raving about the Warm Lobster, Crab & Artichoke Dip ($19), so I had to try it. I couldn’t taste or see the lobster and crab because of the thickness of the cheesy sauce. I could imagine seeing a recipe for this dip in my mother’s Better Homes Cookbook.

Michael picked out a dry white wine (Zestos, $12) to pair with the Mussels ($22). The broth was still steaming when our mussels arrived at our table. People always tell me mussels are so easy to make, but why don’t other restaurants make them like Big Fish? Each fat mussel was sweet and silky smooth.

L enjoyed the rich, fragrant broth of white wine, leek and creamy green curry. We alternated soaking up the sauce with the fresh bread that came with the mussels and the toasted bread that arrived with the artichoke dip. These were by far the best mussels I’ve consumed in Calgary.

The Fish Tacos ($19) were generously stuffed with red snapper, guacamole, lettuce and salsa. I could taste a slight sweetness from the tomato mango salsa and heat from the sriracha lime aioli. I liked how the tortilla was grilled and not dry in texture.

L wanted dessert, so we shared a slice of Pecan Pie ($12). I noticed the pie was heavy with the scorching hot pecans. L was a happy camper. I should encourage him to order dessert more often – he looked like a kid when he ate his pie.

L and I plan to return for the mussels, oysters and other dishes. Big Fish does seafood well, in refreshingly unpretentious digs. Hitting the Sauce gives Big Fish two phat thumbs up.

Mexican · Seafood

Fonda Flora – Girls’ Night

On Saturday, Kournikova, Québécois, and I got together for dinner. We started the night off with bubbles at Kournikova’s house. Québécois brought over champagne to toast to my new job. After finishing the bottle, Kournikova’s doting husband Zuber dropped us off at Fonda Flora.

Both Québécois and I appreciate the non-pedestrian wine list at Fonda Flora. This was Kournikova’s first visit and she was keen to try the food, as she loves Mexican food. For this post, let’s listen to “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates.

We left Québécois in charge of selecting our wine. After watching her study the wine menu, I realized knowledge could be a curse. Kournikova and I happily chatted away as Québécois studiously compare the regions, vintages and casks. I jokingly told Québécois to hurry up because I was losing my buzz. She laughed good-naturedly at my winegryness and selected N.V. Radice Paltrinieri, a bubbly from Italy. The wine was dry yet refreshing, with subtle berry notes. Her hard work paid off – we all enjoyed this bottle.

The best dish of the night was the Scallop Aguachile ($22). The scallop was served sashimi-like – cool, silky and pure tasting. Kournikova raved about the macha verde. I enjoyed the spicy heat, the vibrant flavours and the peppery slices of watermelon radish. The scallops were Kournikova’s favourite dish of the night. I would order this again. Kournikova mentioned that all the appetizers were larger than she expected.

Québécois told us her husband recommended the octopus. Oh baby – the Tacos de Pulpo Endiablado ($17) was fantastic! The grilled octopus was plump and tender – the texture was just incredible. Unfortunately, I found the tortilla itself a tad dry. Not a big deal, as I followed Kournikova suit and skipped the carbs. There’s a reason why she’s in tip-top shape.

Québécois favourite dish was the Ceviche de Camaron con Leche de Tigre ($19). She thought she could taste something peanuty in the dish. The shrimp was raw and cold, bathed in coconut milk, yuzu and salsa matcha. I thought this dish was heavy-handed with salt. Québécois disagreed and said it was perfectly seasoned.

The Costilla de Res en Mole Poblano ($34) came with three chunks of braised beef short rib, turnips, cauliflower and baby carrots. The vegetables were beautifully cooked – so that each retained its unique texture and flavour. The beef wasn’t as tender as I would have preferred.

Kournikova enjoyed the Carnitas de Cerdo ($29) more than the short rib. The confit pork shoulder was warm, tender and marbled with fat. The accompanying salsa and mole help to liven up the flavour of the pork.

We left stuffed, tipsy and pleased with the excellent company. For our next girls’ night, Kournikova suggested Sensei Bar. I need to check out Sensei’s wine list before I commit. If the wine isn’t decent, I will counter with Orchard Restaurant. Thanks for a lovely night, girls – I’m excited about our next outing.

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.