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.

17th Ave · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Hawthorn Dining Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italian · Special Occasion

D.O.P. – Celebration dinner

Tuesday was a day of celebrations! First, I accepted a new position. Then, my friend Honesty quit her second job. Finally, Jyoti Gondek became Calgary’s new mayor. L took me, Honesty, and Glen Jr to D.O.P to celebrate this series of beautiful events. For this post, let’s listen to “Paperback Writer” by the Beatles.

I’ve been trying to get into D.O.P. for weeks. Even on a Tuesday night, the restaurant was packed, vibrating with energy from the open kitchen and the loud chatter from the customers dining at the bar. Pro tip – if you visit right when D.O.P opens, you’ll likely snag a spot at the bar.

We began with a round of drinks. Glen Jr chose a beer from Inner City ($8), L picked an Annex Italian Pilsner ($8). Honesty ordered a non-alcoholic Negroni ($6), and I sipped on a flute of Lambrusco ($14). I found the pinkish sparkling wine light, clean and minerally. L enjoyed his beer, which he said tasted like Peroni but better.

I heard D.O.P.’s antipasto are excellent, so we ordered two orders of Grilled Bread ($10); White Anchovy ($10); Whipped Ricotta ($9); Meatballs ($21.50); Eggplant ($7); and Green Pickled Tomatoes ($7).  Holy moly – this bread is wondrous stuff. The innards of the bread were light and fluffy. I love how the bread puffs up and the big air pockets within. The outer layers of the bread were crispy, hot and salty. The olive oil was excellent – grassy and smooth. I know the French are known for their bread, but the heavyweight title should go to the Italians in Calgary. D.O.P, Rocket Pie, Savino, Azzurri, and Cotto – these chefs create magic with just flour, water, yeast, olive oil and salt.

Our server instructed us to eat the anchovies with ricotta and bread. What a knock-out pairing! The ricotta was cool and creamy, rich like whipped cream. The anchovies were bursting with umami – salty and pungent.  I appreciated the crunch of the white onions against the oily mixture of fish and bread. This was my favourite bite of the night.

L doesn’t generally like eggplant, but he declared D.O.P’s version excellent. The eggplant was soft, tart and smokey. L thought he could taste balsamic in the eggplant.


L also doesn’t like tomatoes, but he was a fan of the pickled green tomatoes. He liked how the tomatoes were crunchy and tart. There was something in the tomato dressing that sparkled on my tongue.

Honesty loved the flavour of the meatballs. I was impressed with the soft, fluffy texture. The red sauce was delicious. Having made meatballs before, I could tell labour and a lot of love goes into this version. I would order this again and I’m not a fan of meatballs.

The Tajarin ($26) was a saucy, cheesy pasta dish. The thin egg noodles were soft and soaked up the flavour of the garlic and tomato sauce. I could see my father enjoying this dish. This pasta dish reminds me of an elevated version of the pasta at Nick’s Spaghetti House, an Italian restaurant my father would eat at weekly back in the 1960s.

I loved how the Veal Chop Parm ($49) arrived in this impressive, super-sized portion. The exterior was crunchy and sizzling hot. The veal itself was tender, blanketed in a heavy layer of melted provolone cheese. As I gnawed on the bone, I could feel the shards of the batter shatter and land in my hair. I’m not a dainty eater.

I ordered a bottle of Noelia Ricci Sangiovese ($65) to enjoy with our meal. I found this wine easy to drink, smooth and bright on my tongue. I also tried a glass of the house white wine ($9). I was so happy to find such an enjoyable glass of wine for only nine bucks; a tear escaped from the corner of my eye. Thank you D.O.P., you are my unicorn.

For dessert, we shared Gelato ($11), Plums ($11), and Limoncello ($16). The plums tasted like cherries to me. I thought I could detect a bit of licorice in the dessert. The gelato was cold and creamy, with a salty, crunchy garnish.

I’m a big fan of D.O.P. The antipasti, veal chop and wines are impressive. Hitting the Sauce gives D.O.P two phat thumbs up.

French · Seafood · Special Occasion

Cassis Bistro

L and I met up with Glen Jr and Honesty for a double date. Glen Jr was craving French food so he suggested Cassis Bistro. For this post, let’s listen to “Tous Les Garcons Et Les Filles” by Francoise Hardy.

I would normally order the house wine at Cassis because it’s good enough for me. However, since we dining with Glen Jr, we had to step it up.  Glen Jr has a more developed palate for food and wine than I do.  For our first bottle of wine, our server JJ recommended Chateau Francs Magnus Bordeaux ($70). I found this wine full-bodied and smooth. Of the two bottles we sipped on through the night, the Bordeaux was our favourite.

For our appetizers, we shared Le Plateau de Charcuterie ($38). Ham, bread and butter are such simple things, but when it such high quality, it is a treat. The ham tasted so light and clean. Glen Jr noticed that even the butter tasted extra good. Both the duck and pork pate were excellent. The pork pate was more flavourful but the duck pate was silky smooth.

Glen Jr wanted to try the Duck Foie Gras Torchon ($24). The foie gras came with warm gingerbread crisps and a slice of poached pear. Oh my duck. The foie gras melted in my mouth texture. The flavour was explosively rich and buttery. L loved the combination of the gingerbread and foie gras. I would order this again.

For our second bottle of wine, we picked the Chateau Radeaux Monte Calme Bandol ($65). This wine was delicious as well, though very different from the first bottle and sweeter. For our mains, L ordered Steak Frites ($39), Honesty ordered Lamb ($39), Glen Jr and I ordered Sea Scallops ($36). This review will not be as descriptive as my regular posts. I was so overwhelmed with the quality of every single dish that I stopped trying to decipher and describe what I was tasting and just enjoyed my meal. I took my cue from Glen Jr. I noticed he would close his eyes and smile whenever he ate. He knows his food and even better, he knows how to relish each bite and sip.

L’s steak was a visual showstopper. The steak was beautifully arranged, served with a pile of frites, a boat of gravy and a green salad. He said his steak was cooked to perfection. I enjoyed using the crispy pomme frites to mop up every last drop of gravy. I haven’t found anyone in the city that does a better steak frites than Cassis.

Honesty’s lamb was so tender and tasty, it was incredible. Honesty said she thought the lamb must have been slow cooked for hours to achieve that soft texture. I took a bite and noticed there wasn’t a strong gamey flavour that I normally find in lamb. L  and I both thought Honesty ordered the best dish of the night. As always, he is correct.

The exterior of the sea scallops were seared to a golden brown. The interior of each plump scallop was still silky smooth, similar to sashimi. The vegetables looked like it was simply prepared but each bite was delicious. You know you are in good hands when the vegetables can hold up to the main component of the dish.

Glen Jr wanted dessert. We tried one of each – the Chocolate Mousse ($14) and the Creme Brûlée ($14). It takes a lot for me to enjoy dessert, as I’m sensitive to the sweetness of sugar. I find sugar jarringly sweet. I was so delighted with both desserts that I battled with Honesty for the last bite.

I have to give props to our server JJ. Throughout the night, he was working the room and ensuring the guests were happy. His hosting and serving skills remind me of Vij Vikram in Vancouver, a man who I think is top in his game as a host. Vij has this natural charm and warmth, with an ability to put guests in a celebratory mood.

I cannot praise our meal at Cassis enough. This was the best meal I’ve had in 2021. Thank you Glen Jr and Honesty for treating us out to dinner. We plan to take them out to Cassis in late November to try the winter menu. Hitting the Sauce gives Cassis Bistro two phat thumbs up and this French bistro makes it on my list of favourite restaurants.

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

Major Tom – Girls’ Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seafood · Special Occasion

Von Der Fels – The Last Supper

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

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

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

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

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

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

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

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

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

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

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

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

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

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

Photo credit: Von Der Fels

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

Japanese · Seafood · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Welcome back dinner

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – Birthday Omakase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit – Sukiyaki House

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

Fusion · Seafood · Special Occasion

Von Der Fels – COVID-19 dine-in edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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