Dessert · Patio · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

River Cafe – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Karplop and I were texting each other after work. She was craving pate and beef tartare and I wanted to go out and celebrate nothing in particular. The only restaurant open on a Tuesday night serving up pate and tartare was River Cafe. For this post, let’s listen to “Fancy Shoes” by The Walters.

As the weather was nice, we sat on the patio and enjoyed the view of the trees along the lagoon, set against the city skyline. Our server – Leah B – is at the top of her game. Everything she said or did seemed so effortlessly professional and personable. Exceptional service makes the difference between between a nice meal and a truly enjoyable dining experience.

Karplop and I toasted each other with a glass of Blue Mountain Brut ($14). I thought this sparkling wine was mellow and dry, with very soft bubbles.

We shared four Leslie Hardy oysters ($14). The oyster flesh was cool and smooth, with a little crunch at the end. I didn’t find the saltiness overwhelming like other east coast oysters. Karplop enjoyed the homemade hot sauce and I preferred the mignonette.

Leah recommended a glass of Sangiovese ($11) to pair with our appetizers. I approve of her suggestion – my wine was smooth and dry. I would order this wine again.

The Borderland Bison Tartare ($21) is swoon worthy. Karplop oohed and aahed over the vibrant colours of the flowers. What made this tartare stand out was the summery flavour of the compressed cucumber and bright, creamy mustard. The tartare came with three different types of crackers, each with its own unique texture. Standout dish!

Photo Credit: Karplop

I’ve tried the Chicken Liver Parfait ($19) a few months ago and I noticed this time, the brioche was drier in texture, which I preferred because it stands up to the rich, buttery pate. The pate looked like it was whipped, piled high on the brioche. Karplop enjoyed the combination of the fruit paired with the pate.

I was full but I didn’t want to deny Karplop her dessert. We shared the Peach Pavlova ($12). My favourite element of the dessert was the sorbet, which was sweet and creamy.

If there are anymore sunny days remaining, I recommend checking out River Cafe’s patio. There’s nothing better than sitting back and enjoying the last of the autumn colours in Prince’s Island Park. Hitting the Sauce gives River Cafe two fat thumbs up.

Cheap Eats · Happy Hour · Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi

Ke Charcoal Grill- COVID-19 dine-in edition

I’ve been hearing good things about Ke Charcoal Grill, a restaurant specializing in yakitori. I convinced L to go, though I warned him that he needs to lower his expectations. L’s eaten his fair share of yakitori in Tokyo, so I knew he had preconceived notions on what it should taste like. Ke Charcoal is popular for its cheap and tasty food. For this post, let’s listen to “Joyride” by Roxette.

When we arrived, the hostess took our temperature. As with most restaurants, there is sanitizer at the entrance. For our safety, all our cutlery and sauces were individually packed. I liked how the tables were spaciously set apart. I also noticed that the staff were attentive and friendly, despite appearing understaffed.

L ordered a glass of Asahi ($6) and I stuck with tap water. I took a sip of his beer and found it flat. I heard from a reliable person with industry knowledge – Jude – that Ke Charcoal’s sake is inexpensive. I’ll have to try some on my next visit.

The Chicken Karaage ($8) is a winner. The chicken leg meat was juicy and the batter was nice and brittle. I would order this again.

To go with our skewers, I ordered two heaping bowls of rice ($5). The rice was fluffy and the fragrance reminded me more of Chinese rice than Japanese.

We started off with two skewers of Hatsu with teriyaki sauce ($4.60). I normally love chicken heart but these skewers were served cold and the texture was rubbery instead of tender.

Next up were two skewers of Mo Mo with teriyaki sauce ($4.80). The chicken thighs were tasty and served hot. The teriyaki sauce tasted heavy and sweet.

The cheese on the Yuki ($5.20) was sticky and stuck to the roof of my mouth. I preferred the plain chicken thighs without the cheese but that’s just a personal preference.

One of our favourite skewers was Negima ($4.80). So simple but so good. The green onion was deeply caramelized and it paired beautifully with the chicken thighs.

The Dunagimo ($2.40) arrived hot. I’ve never tried chicken gizzard before. The gizzard was addictingly chewy yet crunchy, and the flavour was surprisingly subtle. I would order this again.

My favourite skewer was Kawa (w/ sea salt $2.30). The chicken skin was super crispy. When I took a bite, the skin would flake apart and then melt in my mouth. I love eating chicken skin with rice, as the plainness of the steamed rice accents the texture and richness of the skin.

I didn’t know what to expect when I ordered Okra ($2.10). The okra was cooked perfectly – there was still a resistance when I bit into it. I loved the crunchy, juicy texture and I could taste the smoky flavour of the grill.

The Asparagus Maki ($4.80) skewers were yummy. The bacon was crispy on the edges but still soft on the inside, coating the asparagus with the flavour of hot pork fat. The texture of the grilled asparagus reminded me of green beans.

We tried both the Tsukkune with teriyaki sauce ($5.20) and with cheese ($5.20). These chicken meatballs were filling, but I found the temperature cool. I think if it was served fresh off the grill, I would have enjoyed it.

I thought that more than half the skewers we tried were awesome, particularly for the price. We ordered way too much food and the bill was half of what we would pay at Shokunin. However, you can’t expect the quality of Shokunin at Ke Charcoal’s prices. Ke Charcoal is an affordable, easy introduction to yakitori. The food reminded me a bit of Torikizoku – a popular and dirt cheap yakitori izakaya chain in Japan. I think the food at Ke Charcoal is far better than Torikizoku.

I told Jude that L wasn’t as impressed as I was with yakitori. She said that the food at Ke Charcoal is great when it’s hot. Sometimes when the yakitori is colder than she would like, she’ll inform the servers and they bring over a new set. I never even thought about complaining. Jude suggested the next time I go, I should ask the servers to ensure the skewers are hot.

Jude recommends the oyster special on Wednesdays, unagi, chicken meatball with shisho, scallop, miso sablefish, beef tongue with daikon and ponzu. She told me to request salt on the yakitori and togarashi on the side for L, so he can get that essence of Japanese yakitori he craves.

I was so excited after talking to Jude that I wanted to go to Ke Charcoal the next day. I told L that I would even pick up the tab. He looked at me sourly and responded, “Look, I know why you want me to go again. You want me to have a different experience. But I won’t. It’s not Japan.”

Wow L! Talk about being inflexible. In the circle of compromise, you aren’t meeting me halfway. I’m not going to pressure him again because I think I am too controlling over where and what we eat. Plus, I know Karplop will go with me. I’ll post an update on my second visit to Ke Charcoal shortly, because this is one izakaya I’ll be frequenting. Hitting Sauce gives Ke Charcoal two fat thumbs up.

Beer · Burgers · Happy Hour · Patio · Pizza · Restaurants · Seafood

Roof Top Bar @ Simmons – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Lovegastrogirl and I met up for girls’ night. Finding a restaurant for her is tricky. Based on her Instagram photos, the emerging themes are: a) spectacular view b) photogenic cocktails c) pretty plates of food. I picked the Roof Top Bar at Simmons for the view and because I wanted to try Connie and John’s pizza. For this post, let’s listen to “7 rings” by Ariana Grande.

Getting to the Roof Top Bar was a trial. I walked from my house, which is 7 km away. I’ve walked much further before without any issue, but this time I wore shoes without stockings. By the time I reached Chinatown, my ankles and the arch of my foot were raw and bloody. I limped into Chuen May and cried out, “Theresa, I’m not here for dim sum. I’m bleeding. Could I buy some band-aids from you?”

Theresa told me I was silly for offering to pay her. She and her sisters brought out a first aid kit and offered me five different types of band-aids, a disinfectant wipe and Polysporin. She even offered me extra ones to take with me. I thanked her profusely and told her I’d be back for my dim sum refill. Patched up, I was ready to go and made it just in time for my reservation.

Lovegastrogirl started off with a cocktail and I ordered a glass of white wine. She likes to snack and try a lot of dishes. I am not listing all the prices because Lovegastrogirl treated me out and some of the dishes she ordered were not on the website menu.

I am a fan of the nachos. The chips arrived blistering hot. Lovegastrogirl noted that the cheese was layered throughout the nachos and just not on the top. I liked the unique dipping sauce of dill and the hot heat from the hot peppers.

For my second beverage, I tried Connie and John’s pilsner ($10). I thought this was a sweet and easy to drinking beer. I knew I would like this beer since it’s from my favourite brewery – The Dandy Brewing Company.

Lovegastrogirl was craving oysters. The fresh oysters we received were thin and salty. If I had to guess, I would say these were an east coast variety. The oysters were accompanied with lime slices and hot sauce.

Lovegastrogirl likes her spuds and wanted to try the Greek Spiced Roasted Potato Wedges ($9). She enjoyed how the fries were poofy on the inside and crisp on the outside. Again, we got more of that lovely creamy dill sauce.

My favourite snack of the night was the featured Meaty Pizza By the Slice ($6.95). I loved the thick, melty layer of cheese. The crust was thin, crunchy and flavourful. Lovegastrogirl thought extra cheese was added to our slice because of the lacy cheese bubbles over the edges.

The view up here is something else and not something you can find easily in Calgary. Lovegastrogirl thought the vibe was very Vancouver. I would return for the view and the pizza in a heartbeat.

Thanks Lovegastrogirl for treating me out. I have a couple of ideas of where I can take you on our next date. There will be a clear view of me, and I promise the food, cocktails and ambience will deliver.

 

Happy Hour · Restaurants · Seafood

A1 Bodega Cafe – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Karplop is my new #1 pandemic buddy. I love that she’s up for anything and most importantly, she only takes one photo of her food. Serious foodies spend so much time setting up the perfect shot that by the time they finish working, the food is cold. I just wanna eat my food as it was intended, hot and fresh. For this post, let’s listen to “Temperature” by Sean Paul.

We arrived at A1 Bodega Cafe in time for aperitivo hour. If you buy an alcoholic beverage, you get a complimentary tapa. Karplop and I started off with a Strawberry Pomegranate Negroni (2oz, $12).

The cocktail was strong and boozy. I enjoyed the strong scent of citrus. Karplop noticed A1 Cafe uses the big ice cubes for their cocktails, which results in a less watery beverage.

For our first round of tapas, we picked the Mortadella and Mussels Escabeche. When our server learned that Karplop and I were going to share the tapas, she mentioned the appetizers were bite size and thus too small to share. When she left, Karplop looked me dead in the eye and said flatly, “We are Asian. We can share anything.”

Karplop cut our little tapas in half. The mortadella was my favourite – the meat was served warm, topped with pea and pistachio pesto. I thought I could detect some pate. I want to try the full-size mortadella appetizer the next time I visit.

The mussels in the Mussels Escabeche were served cold. The smoked pimentos tasted both sweet and sour.

We shared an entree size of Mussels ($22). When I ordered this dish, I didn’t realize the mussels would already be de-shelled. The tomato sauce was creamy and spicy, with a noticeable amount of heat. Karplop liked the addition of fennel, which she thought cut nicely into the sauce. The focaccia bread was warm and crusty, the ideal vessel for scooping up that heavy tomato sauce.

We ran out of focaccia bread and Karplop didn’t want to waste the sauce, so we ordered the Portuguese Sweet Rolls ($4). The bread itself was sweet, while the top was warm, buttery and salty. I found the insides of the rolls too cold.

We asked for a recommendation for a wine that would pair with our pasta dish. Our server recommended the Volcans Pinot Noir ($11). For our complimentary tapas, we tried the Pide Chips and Confit Tomato.

The chip came with hummus and zaatar. The Pan Con Tomate was clean and simple, though the bread quickly became soggy. The next tapas I want to try is the deviled egg and smoked olives.

My favourite dish of the night was the Paccheri ($18). I enjoyed chewing on the thick noodles alongside the oily, meaty flavours from the Bolognese sauce. I also liked the heavy-handed layering of parmesan, so plentiful there was cheese stuck to every noodle. I enjoyed this pasta so much, I picked up two bags from their market to make at home.

I’m keen to return to try the flatbread, the mortadella, and of course, the paccheri pasta. I know L will like this place too. I checked out their draft beer list and spied Cabin Brewing Co, Eighty-Eight Brewing, Ol’ Beautiful, Zero Issue Brewing and Blindman Brewery.

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – COVID-19 dine-in edition #2

On Saturday, L and I met up with Grohl and Flower Child for dinner. Grohl wanted Chinese food but Flower Child insisted we have sushi. I was relieved. Grohl lived in China for a period and ever since, he’s been trying to relive his culinary experiences. He doesn’t listen to my recommendations and orders what he remembers from his travels, then complains the food is terrible and not at all like it was in China. I told L we had to pick a restaurant that Grohl couldn’t find fault with. My reputation was at stake. We decided on Sukiyaki House because we knew head chef Koji Kobayshi and sous chef Yuki Koyama’s culinary creativity would impress our friends.  For this post, let’s listen to “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis.

This post won’t list the prices as Grohl and Flower Child treated us out. As well, I won’t describe the assorted tempura, agadashi tofu and nigiri we ate as I’ve written about it extensively in past posts.

tempura

When I saw FoodKarma Instagram posts on Koji’s summer creation – the Irodori Hiyashi Udon – I knew I had to try it. This bowl of sea treasures cost around $17, which is fantastic value. Our bowl was filled with generously sized pieces of hamachi, snow crab, scallop, ebi, ikura, shitake, tamago, and shredded seaweed.

udon

The chilled udon noodles were thin and chewy. The cold dashi soy broth was refreshing and light enough that it didn’t mask or take away from the natural sweetness of the seafood. I made use of the side of yuzukosho, which added a spicy kick. This cold seafood udon special is available only for a few more weeks, so come quick before it is too late.

special

Koji created a stunning plate of tuna and hamachi tataki. I thought the sweet onion ponzu sauce went well with the denser, stronger flavour of hamachi as well as the lighter, softer pieces of tuna. The garnishes of daikon, micro greens and edible flowers tasted as pretty as it looked.

hot roll

Grohl requested a spicy roll. I asked our server Justin if there was a roll so hot it would burn Grohl’s ass. Justin laughed at my grossness and said Yuki could create something off the menu – the Spicy Aka Oshizushi. The roll was hot but in a restrained way that really worked with the flavor of the red tuna. The topping of micro greens, green onions and crispy shallots added a freshness and crunch factor with each bite.

L said he could taste gochujang spice in the sauce. Justin informed us that there were two other Japanese spices added for extra heat. Grohl raved about how good this roll was and just like that, my reputation was restored. Thanks Yuki.

Sushi

Grohl ordered a piece of the house made smoked wild eel. Apparently, wild eel has a smokier flavour profile and more texture than regular eel. Justin mentioned the chefs reduce the unagi sauce from the soy cure the eel is boiled in.

Grohl and I ate a piece of Hokkaido sea urchin (uni). He closed his eyes as he ate and exclaimed that the uni tasted like a blast of the ocean. I enjoyed the clean sea flavour and the cool, creamy texture. Justin mentioned Hokkaido uni is much sweeter compared to other sea urchin in Japan and the rest of the world.

We all tried a piece of chu toro. Justin informed us that Koji and Yuki use the fattier cuts of bluefin tuna. This one was a winner! I thought the white and pink hue was particularly pretty and the tuna richly flavoured with a soft, almost buttery texture.

dessert

For dessert, we shared the flourless chocolate soufflé with house made green tea ice cream. The souffle was warm and coated my tongue with the taste of dark, rich chocolate. I really liked that the flavour of the matsu kaze tea matcha was so intense.

empur

Thank you Grohl and Flower Child for an epic meal. Hopefully you will have time for us to take you out before you leave. I know a great Korean restaurant for ass burning ‘fire chicken’.

Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

River Cafe – COVID-19 dine-in edition

With COVID-19 hampering our summer plans, L and I are making an effort to visit the more picturesque restaurants in Calgary. I’ve been wanting to return to River Cafe ever since we celebrated Ottawa and Soup’s wedding in 2019. For this post, let’s listen to “She’s Got the Look” by Roxette.

We didn’t manage to score a patio table but in the end, it worked out for the best. It was a cool night and the breeze would have prematurely chilled our entrees. Instead, we sat by the window and were afforded a view of the patio and passersby roaming around Prince’s Island Park.

champagne

I chose a glass of champagne (Gardet Brut, $19) to pair with our fresh oysters while L stuck to a pint of Establishment Brewing Company beer ($9). Whenever we share a plate of oysters, L ensures I get the largest ones. He knows the way to my heart.

Oysters

We ordered four west coast oysters ($19). One variety was Sun Seeker and the other (I think) was Kusshi. The Kusshi was soft, fat and creamy. The Sun Seeker had a lighter flesh with a texture that reminded me of watermelon. The oysters were served at a temperature slightly below room temperature.

Oyster 2

L would have preferred a mignonette over the pickled Salt Spring Island ginger but I disagree. With these oysters, I wouldn’t want anything to cover up those clean ocean flavours.

Oyster 3
We shared the Chicken Liver Parfait ($19). Our toasted brioche was generously spread with a mousse-like pate. The nectarine, cherries and Saskatoon berries were served at the optimal stage of ripeness.

pate

The nectarine was sweet and juicy, but the skin still had some resistance. The meaty softness of the cherry melded with richness of the pate. The ice wine gastrique was unique – I found it tart and sweet.

toast

I paired my Beef Tenderloin ($52) with a glass of Bordeaux (2015 Chateau Patache d’aux Medoc, $14). The beef was well-seasoned, soft and almost buttery in texture. I was surprised there was so much flavour in this cut of meat, as I normally find tenderloin bland.

Tenderloin 1

The emerald broccolini stalks were cooked so that it still retained a crunch. I could taste a smokiness on the charred florets. I loved the combination of the crispy onions and the decadently creamy Popular Bluff pureed potatoes.

Tenderloin 2

This beef was more satisfying than the steaks I’ve tried at Caesar’s Steakhouse. Though the steak appeared smaller in size than what you get at a traditional steakhouse, the portion we received was filling. We were so stuffed, we declined dessert.

dessert

Thanks L for an incredible meal. I’m keen to come again, perhaps in the afternoon for oysters and wine. I love this restaurant so much, River Cafe makes it on my list of Best Restaurants in YYC. 

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

Chinese · Restaurants · Seafood

Sun’s BBQ – COVID-19 dine-in edition

L’s friend Grohl is visiting from Texas. His wife informed us that their ten year old daughter Hepburn wants to be a food critic. After they finished their 14 day self isolation, L and I took Hepburn out for dinner. For this post, let’s listen to “Exhile” by Taylor Swift and Bon Iver.

Hepburn’s favourite cuisine is Chinese and she wanted to dine in. With Hepburn in our care, I wanted to pick the safest place. I know Sun’s BBQ was professionally disinfected before reopening. All employees wear gloves and face masks and guests have their body temperature measured and hands sanitized before entering the restaurant.

SUn's

I stuck with hot tea while Hepburn drank a can of Sprite ($3) and L sipped on his Tsing Tao beer ($6.50). Prior to our visit, I consulted with Miss Foodie and Ms. Biz. Miss Foodie recommended any of the hot plates or casseroles. Ms. Biz approved of the deep-fried chicken knees and vegetable stir fry.

Hepburn looked at the menu and pointed to the deep-fried chicken knees. When I told her what it was, she and L vetoed the dish, despite my assurance that deep-fried knees are delicious. Hepburn wanted crab and L wanted anything but the chicken knees, a casserole or a hot plate.

great pic crab

The Stir Fried Crab with Ginger and Onion ($54) was superior to the crab I tried at Kam Han. The crab tasted like it was fresh and not previously frozen. At Kam Han, the texture of crab meat was like canned crab and the meat stuck to the shells.

crab 2

Our crab arrived so hot, my hands burned from the heat of the shells. The crab meat was flaky and sweet.  I even ate the crab fat inside the body’s cavity. When the soft innards are fried, it has a creamy richness similar to deep-fried oysters. I would order the crab again.

crab leg

The Scallop and Tobiko Fried Rice ($16.99) was light in flavour. I was hoping for more wok hei in the rice. Hepburn enjoyed this dish, though I thought it was only average.

rice

I ordered Thai Style Grilled Chicken ($18.99) because I’ve seen it featured on Taste of Asia’s Instagram account. Hepburn didn’t care for it and L said it was okay. This is a dish I could cook at home, though I would have seasoned the chicken more and ensured the skin was crispy and not served soft.

chicken

I’m pleased with Sun’s BBQ safety standards but if I go for dinner again, I’d heed Miss Foodie’s advice and order a hot plate or casserole. From what I sampled,  Sun’s BBQ is best for lunch when they offer their BBQ meats on rice or noodles. Perhaps this experience will serve as a cautionary tale as to what happens when you fail to follow the cardinal rule of Chinese restaurants – order what is recommended by trusted sources. Miss Foodie and Ms Biz, I’ll never disregard your advice again.

Sun Chiu Kee BBQ Restaurant 新釗記 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Burgers · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Charbar – COVID dine-in edition

Aga visited me last Wednesday from Lethbridge. She told me that she’s been unlucky when it comes to dining out in her new city, particularly for Vietnamese or Chinese cuisine. I felt sorry for her and let her pick the restaurant for our dinner date. As this beautiful bout of summer weather always makes me feel frisky, let’s listen to “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley.

Aga picked Charbar in East Village. We were lucky to get a patio table, with a view of Bow River. Since COVID-19, the menu is more limited but it still has the old favourites, like the Charbar burger, steaks, and seafood.

char outside

We both started off with a glass of Sacrifice Rosé ($11). We enjoyed our rosé – it was dry with a tartness that reminded me of raspberries.

wine

I contacted Miss Foodie the night before to ask for her recommendations. She suggested the cabbage salad, the burger, and the ceviche. The night after I ate at Charbar, I had a dream about Miss Foodie, a person I’ve never met.

menu

In my dream, Miss Foodie and I were living in a student residence and she just came back from a dinner. She put her leftover prawns in a pot on the stove but she had to leave after taking an urgent phone call. I didn’t bother to reheat the food and just ate it out of the pot.

I asked my friend Karplop if she thought I was weird for dreaming about eating Miss Foodie’s leftovers. Karplop laughed and said no, I was normal and I probably had that dream because Miss Foodie has been posting about BC spotted prawns on her Instagram account.

ceviche

Aga and I shared the Eggplant Milanese Chips ($14), Charred Napa Cabbage Salad ($18), Tableside Ceviche ($19), and the Double Stacked Gaucho Burger ($19). Aga was initially hesitant to try ceviche because she has never tried marinaded raw seafood but she figured she would put on a brave face since she was with me. Thankfully, she was a fan.

chip

Each piece of shrimp, mussel, clam, and baby squid was squeaky clean. The lime marinade was zesty and refreshing. I liked the addition of the toasted popcorn – it provided a fluffy crunch followed by a nice chew. My favourite piece of seafood was the squid – it was glossy white, with a satiny texture and tender to the tooth. The ceviche tasted even fresher than I’ve experienced in coastal cities, such as Cabo San Lucas.

chip

Our server recommended ordering the eggplant chips to go with ceviche. The chips went well with seafood as it provided a crunchy, salty vessel to the seafood.

salad

I’m not a salad person, but there are four restaurants in Calgary that make one worth eating – Pure Modern Asian Kitchen & Bar, Una Pizza + Wine, Cotto Italian Comfort Food, and Charbar. The charred cabbage tasted like the yakitori I ate in Japan. The avocado was creamy with a texture similar to chilled butter. Aga raved about the freshness of the mint and the bright citrus dressing. My favourite element of the salad is the lentils – it tasted like fresh peas but with the watery texture of raw bean sprouts.

close up burger

I’ve said repeatedly that Charbar makes one of the best burgers in the city. The double patties are well-seasoned and juicy. I didn’t find the burger as saucy as previous visits but I think I prefer it this way so I could taste more of flavour of the beef. Aga liked the avocado topping in the burger. I’m partial to the beef fat fries – the interior was soft and mealy and the exterior shell was ultra crunchy.

half burger

I chatted with out server and asked him if he thought their customers adhere to the new safety precautions. He said staff keep a close eye on everything – from sanitation standards they had in place before COVID-19 to ensuring customers follow procedures when entering the restaurant. He mentioned that Shoppers Drug Mart offers free testing, so after his shift ends on Sunday, he gets tested and finds out the result before his first shift starts on Wednesday.

fries

Dining out has its risks, much like grocery shopping, working, and any social outing. Since the pandemic, I’ve been making an effort to pick restaurants that are upfront, fully transparent and put in precautionary measures to better protect everyone’s health and safety. Personally, I felt safe eating at Charbar. Hitting the Sauce gives Charbar two fat thumbs up.

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

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – COVID-19 dine-in edition

To celebrate my good news, I told L that I was taking him out for dinner at Sukiyaki House. Judith, Justin and Chef Koji Kobayashi must have also been in a celebratory mood because they spoiled us rotten with complimentary bougie treats. For this post, let’s listen to “Wanna Be A Baller” by Lil’ Troy.

Judith treated us to a taste of Masumi, a sparkling sake that is fermented using an ancestral method. The sake tasted like a mellow champagne. When I sipped on this liquid gold, my entire scalp tingled.

sparkling

Judith also poured us a glass of an exclusive bottle of sake. Jikon is a sought after brand in Japan – there are only 30 stores that carry this sake. She informed us that Kiyashō brewery was going down the drain until his son decided to take sake into a different direction. He wanted to make a better product, so he focused on a smaller batches of sake, paying more attention to koji and rice quality.

sake glass

Judith added that omachi is one of the oldest rice strains with no cross breeding. This type of rice is extremely hard to grow due to its tall height, which can get damaged easily in the wind. Omachi rice grain is also difficult to brew due to its fat round shape. Brewers prefer to work with a flat grain. The extra effort is worth it because omachi rice creates sakes that are layered, earthy, diversified, and herbal.

sake

As we were enjoying our sake tasting, Chef Koji Kobayashi sent over a stunning plate of red snapper sashimi. His food is art because it appeals to our sight, smell and taste. Sorry Koji, my poor attempt at photography doesn’t do your work justice.

sashimi

The fish was so buttery soft it melted on my tongue. With each bite, I’d take a piece of snapper, swirl it in the ponzu sauce and then top it off with the micro greens and a flower. I thought I could taste sesame in the little crunchy bits sprinkled on the top.

bite

We ordered the Assorted Tempura ($20) and a pint of the Asahi Draft ($7). Our tempura arrived steaming hot. This is the first time since Japan that I’ve been impressed by the taste and texture of tempura.

beer

Judith instructed us to add the grated ginger and daikon into our tempura sauce. The batter was pale blonde, ultra light and crisp. The tempura tasted clean, not the least bit oily or greasy. Double damn – this was some fine ass tempura.

Tempura

My favourite pieces of tempura were the kinoko (enoki mushroom) and black tiger shrimp. I enjoyed the process of pulling the delicate enoki legs apart and then dipping it into the sauce.

mushroom

The shrimp was cooked until it was a pretty pink hue. The shrimp meat was delicately crunchy and sweet. Next time, I want to special order just the shrimp and enoki mushrooms. The heart wants what it wants, or else it does not care (Emily Dickinson, 1862).

platter

We ordered a selection of our favourite pieces of nigiri. Aka Maguro ($4.20); Hotategai ($4.20); Amaebi ($4), Ebi ($3); Kani ($3.70); Maguro ($3); Shake Atlantic ($3); and Sockeye ($3.50). Always having the same sushi chefs at the helm means that we can expect the same consistency when we dine at Sukiyaki House. Yet again, the sushi rice was perfectly cooked and seasoned. This is important to me, as personally, I think the rice is just as important as the fish.

ebi

I preferred the firmer texture and richer flavour of the sockeye salmon over Atlantic salmon. Compared to the sockeye, the Atlantic tasted milder and fattier. The cooked shrimp was excellent, with its trademark crunchy texture and sweet flavour. Unlike other Japanese restaurants, the ebi at Sukiyaki House actually has flavour.

shrimp

The regular maguro (tuna) was smooth and tasty, but the fatty, satiny Aka Maguro (bluefin fatty tuna) was mind blowing. Spend the extra dollar and get the blue fin tuna! Best buck you’ll ever spend. L enjoyed it so much he wanted to get a second piece.

scallop

I love the way the sushi chef prepares the hotategai. The scallop is sliced so that all the silky crevices glide all over your tongue. Sensational! I don’t know any other sushi restaurant that does this.

second order

L’s colleague Dallas recently told him that he dined out at a fancy Japanese influenced restaurant.  One of the dishes was a $12 slice of raw fish. Dallas said he wished the server told him why this piece of fish was so special to warrant the price tag, because as someone who doesn’t know much about sushi, he wanted to know what he was eating. L wants to bring Dallas and his wife to Sukiyaki House to get an understanding of the high standard used in excellent Japanese cuisine. At Sukiyaki House, not only do you get Koji – who is trained in Japanese fine dining and Yuki – a sushi artist, but you also get educated by servers whose knowledge of saki and food enhances the experience by giving you a deeper appreciation of the food and drink you are consuming.

Sukiyaki House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Happy Hour · Restaurants · Seafood

Rodney’s Oyster House – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Out of an abundance of caution, L and I decided that this summer, we will not be visiting my family in British Columbia. So for our first dine-in restaurant experience since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, I picked Rodney’s Oyster House. For this post, let’s listen to “The Kids Aren’t Alright” by The Offspring.

I prefer Rodney’s in Calgary over the Yaletown and Gastown locations in Vancouver. The Calgary location has better ambience and service. Also, the shuckers at the Calgary location are more experienced. I’ve yet to eat an oyster with shell remnants.

Ambience

We noticed management implemented several safety measures. All the employees wore masks. The front door and washroom doors were propped open, enabling touchless entry. At each table, there was hand sanitizer and an option to download the menu onto your phone. The restaurant is spacious, so there was plenty of room in between tables.

sanitizer

From Thursday to Saturday, between 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., Rodney’s offers a wicked happy hour. On the day we visited, the shucker’s choice for Six Oysters and a Drink ($15) was Savage Blonde Oysters (PEI). We also ordered Beach Angels ($3.35, BC) and Marina Top Drawer ($3.35, BC).

Menu

I found all the ingredients at Rodney’s incredibly fresh, from the parsley and onions in the calamari to all the seafood we sampled. Right before we received our oysters, I saw an employee grating the horseradish.

East Coast

L and I liked that all the oysters were served cold. I don’t like eating raw oysters at room temperature, which seems to be the norm in Cabo. The Savage Blond oysters were salty, with a crunch that reminded me of celery.

The Beach Angels were creamy and robust in flavour. The Marina Top Drawer were sweet and briny but not as meaty as the Beach Angels. I would order the Beach Angels again.

Best wcoast

New on the menu are the Pan Fried Oysters ($12). The oysters were thin and flat, with a pleasant deep sea-like flavour.  The panko crust tasted like it was pan-fried in butter.

Fried Oysters

I enjoyed the delicate, crispy batter on the Rhode Island Calamari ($11). The squid was tender and silky. L preferred the tangy White Boy Ranch sauce over the tartar sauce that came with the fried oysters.

calamari

The best dish we tried was the Atlantic Haddock Tacos ($12). I’ve eaten a lot of fish tacos in my life, and Rodney’s is hands down the best. The haddock was generous in size, flaky and sweet. The batter was ultra light and the crispy shards melted on my tongue. The fish didn’t taste oily or greasy.

Tacos

I loved the composition of the taco. Instead of putting the toppings on the top, the chili lime and chipotle slaw was on the bottom.  This helped to retain the integrity of the batter and the heat from the fish. The contrast between the chilled coleslaw and hot fish was tantalizing. I liked how the flour tortilla was thin yet proportionally large enough to wrap around the sizeable piece of fish.

taco close up

Dining out takes a noticeable chunk of our budget but eating at Rodney’s reminds me why for us it’s worth it. After taking into consideration the effort to buy oysters and then having to clean, shuck and dress it, the savings isn’t worth it.

Food

When we dine out, I get to choose a little bit of this and some of that. I don’t know about you, but at my house, there isn’t a wide selection of dishes that I can eat at a moment’s notice. I also don’t own a deep fryer. I’m a decent home cook, but I can’t cook seafood nearly as perfectly as Rodney’s chefs. Of course, there’s the obvious. We don’t need to cook or clean up after our meal, which takes away from the experience.

close up fried oyster

The restaurant was full, but considering the food, service and ambience, there should be a lineup to get inside. We enjoyed our tacos so much I wanted to return the following week. However, that will have to wait. I have a date with L at Sukiyaki House and after that, I want to support Black-owned restaurants in Calgary. I was also given a generous gift certificate to Beirut Street Food, my favourite place for Lebanese food, that I want to share with L’s parents.

plate oysters

I’ll miss traveling for the foreseeable future, but Rodney’s makes travel restrictions tolerable. For seafood, you can’t go wrong here. Rodney’s Oyster House gets two fat thumbs up and it makes it on my list of best restaurants in #YYC.

Rodney's Oyster House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato