Pizza · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

The Barbella Bar (and later, Major Tom)

On Friday, I met up with Lovegastrogirl for dinner. I noticed The Barbella Bar does an excellent job staffing the front of the house. The hostess greeted me warmly while her counterpart, a blond, high-energy employee, charmingly escorted me to our table. His friendly banter and fun-loving vibe made me feel like I walked into a scene at Sur in Vanderpump Rules. For this post, let’s listen to “Shampain” by Marina and the Diamonds.

Our table was on the second floor. Lovegastrogirl faced the balcony while I sat across a cabinet full of wine glasses. Pro tip – if you are looking for a vibrant, bustling night scene, ask to be seated downstairs.

I started off with a Martini Isabella ($17), and Lovegastrogirl ordered an English Garden cocktail ($15). My cocktail contained specks of ice, and the olives (which I requested in place of capers) were frozen solid. I found the blend of vodka and vermouth jarringly fierce, unlike Major Tom’s criminally smooth martinis.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

On Instagram, I saw that Miss Foodie recommended cauliflower, artichokes, and crispy chicken, so I wanted to try them all. We started with the Oysters on the Half Shell ($21), Warm Cauliflower ($14), and Crispy Artichokes ($8). After we finished our appetizers, I planned to order the Chicken Puttanesca ($26).

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

Our server informed us the oysters were from New Brunswick. Perfectly shucked, the flesh was cold and crunchy, with a sweet aftertaste. The passion fruit mignonette tasted floral with tropical notes. I would order the oysters again.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

The artichokes were soft and creamy, with a brittle brown batter. The rosemary aioli was herby and added a comforting sage-like fragrance to the batter.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

I enjoyed the mint and buttery pine nuts in the cauliflower dish. The capers and raisins added some sweetness and salt. Lovegastrogirl found this dish a tad salty.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

For our next drink, I suggested she order what Miss Foodie recommended – the Ground Control cocktail ($16). We contemplated ordering the Chicken Puttanesca, but Lovegastrogirl received a notification of an opening at Major Tom. I was jiving for another experience, so I settled the tab, and we walked down a flight of stairs to visit the washroom before our next venue.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

As I reached the basement, I asked Lovegastrogirl if she wanted a piece of gum. I bumped into the employee who seated us, and he asked me who I was talking to as I was alone. I turned around and realized that my friend had stopped at the top of the stairs to take a photo. Wowzers, that Isabella martini was strong!

Perhaps it’s the restaurant’s lighting or the stunning view of the city, but Major Tom has it going on. I can see why Lovegastrogirl and her husband frequently visit this restaurant. It’s a sensory experience – the panorama cityscape, the upbeat playlist and the overall energy from the servers and customers.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

Our server, a chipper German native, complimented my choice in beverage – a Cosmopolitan Martini ($16). Lovegastrogirl was put out that her choice in beverages didn’t receive the same accolades. My cocktail was expertly made – the sour and sweet notes were well-balanced. Even though we were full from our meal, Lovegastrogirl ordered Major Tots ($8), a dish she says is grossly underrated by the general public. As always, she is correct. This appetizer should win an award.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

I loved smooth, smoky surgeon mousse, the tart crunch of the pickled onions, and the warm, oversized crispy tater tot. Lovegastrogirl ordered two more tots for her husband, Pomp, who had come to get us from our night of feasting. Thanks Lovegastrogirl for another fun night and the after party at Major Tom! I’m looking forward to our continued festivities in mid-January, along with my friend Beep Beep.

French · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Bridgette Bar

Lovegastrogirl invited me to dine out at Bridgette Bar. Based on our history, she purposely picked a night that she didn’t have to work the next day. For this post, let’s listen to “Big Energy” by Latto, Mariah Carey and DJ Khaled.

Lovegastrogirl ordered Burrata Cheese ($22), Rigatoni ($19), Brussels Sprouts ($14), and Garlic Bread ($8). She ordered a cocktail while our server recommended a Pinot Blanc for me (Domaine Neumeyer Tulipe, $14).

The first two dishes to arrive were garlic bread and rigatoni. The bread was crunchy on the outside and airy on the inside, heavily blanketed with snowy white cheese. The salty flavour of the bread reminded me of a Chinese fried doughnut. The garlic bread had a strong cheese pull game – deliciously stringy.

Lovegastro loves a good rigatoni – her favourite is Carbone’s spicy version. She raved about how good this dish was, despite or because of its simplicity. The noodles had a nice bounce and chew. The mushroom sauce was speckled with truffles, rich and tangy.

My favourite dish was the burrata. Holy smokes! The white flesh of the cheese was so fresh tasting, cool and soft. However, what made this dish stand out was the zucchini mint relish. The clash of the fresh herbs and nuttiness from the sesame seeds was sensational against the sweet, milky flavour of the cheese.

The beige chestnut form was generously dolloped on top of the brussels sprouts. The sprouts were sweet from the honey. I couldn’t taste the truffle or thyme, but at this point of the evening, my taste buds were still stupor from the sensational burrata dish.

On a late Tuesday night, the restaurant was packed. I’m not surprised, as the food and service at Bridgette are consistently excellent. When I returned from the washroom, my napkin was refolded, and a fresh glass for my second glass of Pinot Blanc. I can’t remember the last time this happened to me. Actually, I do, it was at Ten Foot Henry.


Lovegastrogirl insisted on treating me out. I told her I would only accept if she agreed I would take her out the next time. Thank you, Lovegastrogirl, for dinner and your kindred company. I’ll be seeing you at Pat & Betty in January!

Japanese · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – Birthday dinner

I didn’t even have to ask L where he wanted to celebrate his birthday. Instead, I just requested a day that he wasn’t working late. For this post, let’s listen to “Business Time” by Flight of the Conchords. 

Though we have eaten at Sukiyaki House countless times, this Friday was the first time we sat by the front window, which affords a city view of the lit up office buildings and skyline. I like this table, as it feels more secluded and date-like. 

Judith recommended the feature carpaccio made with Hachibiki (Pacific Bonnetmouth), flown in from Japan. Whenever she makes a suggestion, it always blows our mind, so of course, we ordered the Hachibiki Carpaccio ($24). 

Chef Koji Kobayashi slayed the presentation – the multi-coloured roes, ruby-pink fish, yellow petals, and purple and green greens sparkled in the light. What a beauty! Judith suggested a creamy sake to pair with the carpaccio. The mouthfeel of the sake was so sensual, with soft fruit and floral notes. 

Hachibiki is a gentle-tasting fish, delicate and sweet. The roe was hard and crunchy, with a sea-like flavour. L loved the spicy heat in the ponzu sauce. He mentioned Chef Kobayashi’s dishes are very Japanese, but he puts his creative stamp on them. It amazes me how much talent and skill he displays consistently, time and time again.

We were lucky that night and the owner, Anna, made our tempura. The batter was so light, and the shrimp was so sweet and toothsome. The ultra-fragile batter, ginger, matcha salt and tentsuyu (dipping sauce) make Sukiyaki House’s version a standout. 

I’m addicted to the California Roll ($13), which tastes nothing like the cheaper versions you can find in the city. Instead, the crab is sweet and meaty, the nori is freshly roasted, and the sesame seeds are noticeably toasted. 

We ate the usual suspects – big fat scallops, hot and juicy deep-fried shrimp heads and crunchy cuts of octopus. Sweet Bejesus, what a feast!

The birthday boy didn’t want dessert. He only wanted a quiet night with no late partying. I was happy to oblige for this one weekend. Happy birthday, L! 

Happy Hour · Seafood · Special Occasion

Pigeonhole – Happy Hour

After sampling so many delightful wines at Bricks Wine Co, I asked Erik where Turned and I could go to continue our afternoon of merriment. I specifically requested recommendations for restaurants that serve wines from Juice Imports.

He recommended Business and Pleasure, Frenchies, Ten Foot Henry and Pat and Betty. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants he recommended weren’t open that afternoon. Then I remembered Erik posted about Pigeonhole on Instagram. For this post, let’s listen to “Leggy Blonde” by Flight of the Conchords.

I was too lazy to cross-check Pigeonhole’s wine list with Juice Imports’ website, so I wasn’t sure what was what. I was also reluctant to quiz our server about which wines were from Juice Imports because I didn’t want to be “that” customer. So instead, I looked for wines from regions I know Juice Import showcases. I recognized Jura in France, so I picked Arbois ’18 ($72).

Maybe I was just pooped out from the afternoon of tasting wild, natural wines because I didn’t have any feelings toward the bottle I selected. Turned, and I thought the wine was nice, but no imagery or fanciful descriptions poured out of our mouths.

We did have a lot to talk about the food. Turned was starving, so we ordered the Skinny Fries ($8), Wagyu Beef Tartare ($20), Charred Cabbage ($17), Ricotta Dumplings ($25), and Roasted Caramel Apple ($13).

The fries arrived blisteringly hot. The fries were long and skinny, crisp and salty. The garlic aioli was so rich that I only dabbed a bit on each fry and then started eating the fries naked.

Turned enjoyed the Waygu beef tartare and appreciated that it wasn’t covered in the typical creamy, garlicky sauce. I also preferred tasting the full natural flavour of the meat, dill and capers. I also liked the generous side of warm buttery bread instead of the potato chips that most other restaurants serve.

My favourite dish was the ricotta dumplings. Holy smokes – what little morsels of joy! The mixture of the egg yolk, dijon, tomato leaf pesto, shallots and dill pickle was bright and lively. The dumplings were soft and fluffy. I got tingles when I ate this. I would order this again.

Turned favourite dish was the charred cabbage. She raved about the crispy charred bits and the soft underbelly of green cabbage. The jalapeño cream was so decadent I could feel my waist expanding with each bite.

The dessert is worth ordering again. The poached apple was so soft we only needed to press our spoons to cut through the warm flesh. I loved the crunch bits of oatmeal – this was so wholesome but gourmet at the same time.

Our last treat was our bill. We found out that on Saturday and Sunday, from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm, all customers receive a staff discount of 25%. The food and excellent service at Pigeonhole deserve high praise. Hitting the Sauce gives Pigeonhole two phat thumbs up.

Greece · Seafood

Naxos – Day two

For breakfast, L suggested we find a cafe randomly, just like people did before the Internet. I felt uneasy about this decision, but I was a good sport and agreed to go old-school. For this post, let’s listen to “Denial.”

We ordered a latte (2.70), a cheese, and a meat pie (3.90). Unfortunately, the latte was too hot, and as a result, the milk tasted off. I worked at Starbucks in my younger days, so I knew the milk was oversteamed. There was too much foam, so it was more of a cappuccino than a latte. 

L’s cheese pastry was tasteless and, for the portion, overpriced. On the other hand, my meat pie was tasty. The filling reminded me of the fried glutinous rice dumplings (ham sui gok) I ordered at dim sum. I would order this again.

L booked a car for two days. First, we checked out historical points of interest, such as the Temple Demeter and a few defunct churches.

For lunch, we planned to drive to a beach in an area known for its seafood. L navigated through the tight, steep one-lane roads that wind along the mountain. I felt a little like I was in a James Bond movie. He was excited to drive, and while the views were breathtaking, seeing all the roadside memorial sites spooked me.

We chose a busy beachside spot and ordered an octopus salad (15), grilled calamari (11), and tzatziki (5).

Our server proudly proclaimed that the squid was the best in Naxos. I loved it! The calamari was silky and smooth, with a nice bouncy texture. I would order this again.

L enjoys octopus more than I do, and he was crazy about the sweet, tender chunks in the salad. Everything was simple but so good. I thought this was one of the best meals we had eaten. 

After lunch, we drove to several villages and other landmarks. We returned to our hotel and stepped out for a Kitron cocktail in Old Town. Afterwards, we did one of my favourite things to do in Naxos: wander around Kastro Castle. Not only did the thick marble walls offer shade from the hot sun, but it was so delightful to get lost in the nooks and alleys of the fortress. At night it offered a different experience, as the castle’s passages became lit with restaurants buzzing with activity. 

For dinner, I wanted something light. We checked out To Soulvlaki, for pork gyros (€3.50) and a mega pint of white wine (€3.30). After eating so many gyros, they all start to taste the same. I did notice the meat was seared, and the portion was more generous than their competition next door, Ya Souvlaki. We left full and eager to start the day again on this glorious island.

Greece · Restaurants · Seafood

Naxos – Day one

Early in the morning, L and I booked a taxi to take us to the ferry to Naxos. When we arrived, a restaurant owner hustled us over to his patio and invited us to stay while we waited for the ferry. Right away, I knew we should continue walking and check out the other cafes. However, he struck up a conversation with L about when our ferry would arrive. His winning sales pitch that we could see our ferry come and only be obligated to purchase a coffee. For this post, let’s listen to Maria Farantouri ‘s “To the Little Wind.”

Our americanos (€5) tasted like instant Nabob coffee. When we gagged down our drinks, L purchased two large cans of Mythos beer (€6) for our ferry ride. I thanked L and noted that we probably could have bought the beers for cheaper at another store. He agreed so good-naturedly that I felt guilty. I really need to stop hen-pecking him over nickels.

We arrived in Naxos and stopped by Ya Souvlaki for gyros on the way to our hotel. We sat by the pier and devoured our pork gyros (€3.50) in minutes. We always eat the fries first because if you eat don’t, the flavour of the meat gets muted by the potatoes.

Usually, I’m full after a gyro, but since we skipped breakfast, I was still hungry. I ordered a lamb skewer (€3.50), and L ordered a chicken skewer (€2.50). Our server told us it would take a while, as the skewers are made fresh. Our skewers came with fries and pita bread. What a wicked price!

The lamb was killer – so juicy and almost grassy in flavour. L said he could taste the flavour of the charcoal in his chicken skewer. When we finished, L left to pay. I knew they were happy with their tip because our server came over with complimentary booze. L didn’t want to drink a shot at noon, so I happily took one for the team.

After we checked into our hotel, we toured around Old Town. We walked over to the Portara, the marble gate of an unfinished temple of Apollo. I had seen pictures of the gate before visiting. I wished I didn’t, as while the marble ruin was unique, it didn’t look nearly as impressive as the online pictures. Instagram filters ruin real life. I guess this is what people feel like on dating apps. 

For our first night, I booked a table at Scirocco, located in the town centre. I relished the over-the-top polite service. I noticed the older British guests were known customers and were given the royal VIP treatment by all the staff. 

I ordered a glass of bubbles that was pretty average (€7). I sipped a white wine with our dinner, which reminded me of citrus (€ 6). When I noticed guests drinking rosé wine (€7), I ordered one for dessert, though it seemed to cause our server some concern. I’m pretty sure the issue is the rosé is typically ordered by the bottle, not by the glass, but an exception was made for me. This was a real Goldilocks moment. The rosé wasn’t too sweet or generic, and it tasted a little like strawberries. I would order this again.

L and I shared an order of Sagankaki (€ 10) and the mixed seafood platter (€30). The fried cheese was crispy and topped with honey and black sesame seeds. The flavour of the toasted sesame and the mild, nutty flavour of the cheese reminded me of a dim sum dish – rice-wrapped Chinese doughnut. I would order this again.

Of the seafood medley, I enjoyed the salmon the most. The creamy lemon sauce paired beautifully with the fatty layers of the salmon. The shrimp was sweet and juicy. I also enjoyed the calamari, as the texture was smooth and firm. The marinated octopus was thick, meaty and succulent. I could tell all the seafood was fresh and not previously frozen because the consistency was unlike what I’m accustomed to in Calgary. 

The service at Sciroco was an easy 10/10, the food was 8/10, and the wine was a 6/10, though the rosé was a 9/10. The dessert was so bad it is not even worthy of a tactfully worded description because it was so piss poor. In any case, Naxos is a hit. 

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.