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 complimented 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.

Bars/Lounges · Happy Hour · Seafood · Special Occasion

Klein/Harris – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Lovegastrogirl knows how to make an entrance. I knew before I looked up that she arrived at Klein/Harris. I could hear her heels lightly clicking on the wooden floors. With her flowing trench coat, oversized floppy hat and face mask, she looked like a modern day Carmen Sandiego. For no particular reason, she even brought flowers for me! L is right. I can’t top Lovegastrogirl’s flair for hospitality. I think she even beats my mother in that department. For this post, let’s listen to “Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison.

I could have picked a new restaurant to try but I had a feeling Lovegastrogirl would love Klein/Harris. I thought she would appreciate the craftsmanship of the cocktails as well as the impressive cooking techniques deployed in the food. I could also count on the food and service as being excellent because the owners – Chef James Waters and Christina Mah –  can be found in their restaurant every single day. 

We started with the feature cocktail – a Classic Negroni ($10) crowned with pineapple foam. Christina informed us that our server Kaitlyn is in charge of their cocktail menu. As Christina herself is known as one of Calgary’s best mixologists, I knew we would be in good hands with Kaitlyn.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

We received an amuse bouche of pickled beet, crab apple purée, and crispy leeks. This bite was sweet, crunchy and tart. This was a nice introduction our meal.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

We started off with the Diver Scallops ($20). The three scallops were beautifully seared and silky smooth inside. There was plenty of smoky crispy bits of farmer’s bacon nestled with the braised peppers, Savoy cabbage and apple nosh. The broth was so good – it was sweet and salty. 

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

For my second beverage, Kaitlyn poured two wines for me to try. I picked one of her favourite wines – D’Angelo Miscela Tempranillo (9 ounce, $14.5). When she asked me if I would like a 5 or 9 ounce glass, I inquired if there was an option for a 20 ounce. I got a laugh from Kaitlyn and Lovegastrogirl but no definitive answer.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

One of the best things I have eaten this year is the Candied Pork Belly ($15). I could taste the smokey flavour of the grill on the sweet bread. Combined with the softness of the egg, the flavour and texture reminded me of French toast. The pork was tender and there was enough to go around for each bite of toast. The addition of the sautéed onions really made this dish. I would order the candied pork belly again. 

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

We shared the Friday Toast and Roast ($25) – sous vide pork shoulder with Swiss chard, quinoa, roasted acorn squash, apple and beet puree and mustard pork jus. The portion of meat was very generous – I counted four seared chunks.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

The flavour of the pork shoulder was very different from our pork belly appetizer. The pork was also soft but the sauce was tart and vibrant. I enjoyed the texture of the zucchini – it reminded me of a sweet potato. If this dish was a regular item on the menu, I would order it again.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

For dessert, we shared the Crusted Boursin Cheese ($21). I enjoyed the process of cutting into the pastry and smearing the cheese on top of the toast, then layering the house preserves and warm tomatoes. I know Chef Waters can work magic with meats and seafood, but he also does the same to something as simple as onions and tomatoes. The intensity of the flavour of the tomatoes made this dish pop, just like the onions in the candied pork belly appetizer.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

Lovegastrogirl seem to dig her Tanqueray Martini ($12) so I requested one too. I’m not normally a fan of cocktails but at Klein/Harris, it is a different story. Kaitlyn made me her favourite drink – the D’Angelo ($14.50, 7 ounce). The lemon peel provided a pleasant floral fragrance. The combination of the salty olive with the vodka and gin blend is something dreams are made out of. 

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

Lovegastrogirl was so impressed with the food, she wants to return with her fiancé Pomp. I know she loves a view, so I suggest she bring their in-laws and reserve the table by the window. That way, she can get her coveted cityscape of Stephen Avenue. She’s a sucker for a view.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

Christina informed me that Klein/Harris is opening a lounge located in the basement of the restaurant. I’m keen to go, as I’ll use any excuse to drop by for a martini. I wonder if Kaitlyn will make me a 14 ounce D’Angelo. If she laughs again, thinking it is a joke, I’ll quote Walt Disney’s unidentified and most likely unappreciated employee – “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

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 prefer because it stands up to the thick, 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.

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

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 · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – COVID-19 takeout edition

Hot diggity damn! Sukiyaki House reopened for pick up and delivery! When I saw FoodKarma’s post on her recent pandemic meal, I knew I had to order the exact same thing. That way, I could bum off her husband’s photos. For this post, let’s listen to “Mad World” by Gary Jules.

I ordered a bucket of Japanese beer ($30), which included an Asahi bucket, six beers, and two glasses. L was thrilled and said he was going to keep the glasses for our bar he’s designing for our house.

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 5.18.58 PM
Photo credit: @realbuntcake

The Hitachino Nest White Ale from Kiuchi Brewery was light with a pleasant banana-like flavour to it. This is everything I want in a beer – easy drinking and refreshing.

kitachno Nest Kiuchi Brewery

Despite the 15 minute ride back home, the skin on the chicken karaage ($12) was still crunchy. The meat was juicy and it tasted like it was marinated beforehand. The lemon aioli added a brightness to this dish. The karaage is cheaper than a plate of wings at a pub, and triple the amount of meat and crispy skin goodness. I would order this again.

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 5.14.23 PM
Photo credit: @therealbuntcake

The chirashi for two ($50) is value packed and brimmed full of precious edible jewels. Our meal set included two miso soups and two containers of potato salad. This is hands down the best chirashi I’ve tried in Calgary.

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 5.13.56 PM
Photo credit @therealbuntcake

The chirashi was studded with so many colourful treasures. Soft slices of yellow tamago, shredded tofu, orange pearls of fish roe, sweet, brown mushrooms, a plum-like condiment, and green asparagus tips that were so fresh, it tasted like spring.

chirashi

The rice itself was flawless. Each grain was firm with a bit of a chew to it. The balance of vinegar to sugar was spot on. Whoever made the rice nailed it. I can’t remember the last time I had sushi rice that was this stellar.

mix

I enjoyed all the seafood but there were a few pieces that stood out. The fresh crab was sweet and juicy. The scallops were buttery in texture and delicate. The ahi tuna was soft and firm, with a fresh, fatty flavour. The ebi was delightfully crunchy and sweet.

akeout

When I was eating at home, I could picture myself sitting at the restaurant. I felt normal again. I went to bed with a huge smile plastered on my face and I had one of the best sleeps since COVID-19 hit Alberta. Hitting the Sauce gives Sukiyaki House’s new takeout menu two fat thumbs up. Thanks for giving me a taste of normalcy again. Arigato!

Sukiyaki House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Italian · Restaurants · Special Occasion

Cotto Italian – COVID-19 edition

L and I are eating out more frequently to support our favourite restaurants during the COVID pandemic. On Sunday, we ordered a three-course takeout meal from Cotto Italian Comfort Food . For $29 a person, we were given a large Caesar salad, two slices of Parmesan garlic toast, a big pan of porcini truffle mushroom risotto with grana cheese, and two pots of tiramisu.

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When I saw that Cotto was making risotto, I instantly thought of a scene from Big Night, when an American woman orders seafood risotto and fails to understand the tradition and craftmanship behind the dish. Upset that the risotto doesn’t look as how she expected, her husband suggests she order a side of spaghetti and meatballs. For this post, let’s listen to “Oh Marie” by Louis Prima.

Cotto is offering 30% off all their wines. I asked Fiona, the owner and wife of Chef Giuseppe, for a wine that would pair with the food. She recommended 2016 Giuseppe Campagnola Ripasso della Valpolicella Classico Superiore ($42). I found the wine smooth and silky. L thought it was well-balanced and an easy to drink wine. I agree, it was hard to cut myself off after my second glass.

wine

L doesn’t normally like Caesar salads but he’s a fan of Cotto’s version. He liked that there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of garlic. I loved the tartness of the sun-dried tomatoes and the feathery crumbs of grana cheese. The salad dressing was refreshing and helped cut into the richness of the risotto.

two dishes

The garlic bread was decadent, generously layered with butter, parmigiano cheese and garlic. The bread was crusty on the outside and the crumb – the inner part of bread –  was soft and delicate.

pan risoto

I wasn’t expecting such a large portion of risotto. We had enough for lunch the next day. When I lifted the risotto from the pan, I could see the fine strands of cheese stretching out like a cobweb. The grain was cooked to an al dente, deeply infused with the flavour of porcini mushrooms and truffle.

plate

The smell and taste of the truffle wasn’t overpowering. The porcini mushrooms were silky smooth but there was still a nice toothsome crunch to it. The best part of the risotto  was the contrast between the rich, earthy cheesiness and the greens.  The taste of the spring onions and the pea shoots made my tongue tingle with pleasure. This was the first risotto I’ve tried and would order again.

risotto plate

Along with risotto, this was the best tiramisu I’ve consumed. The soft layers of Kahlua espresso lady fingers and mascarpone cream were light and sweet. My favourite part of the dessert was the smell of the cocoa power and amaretto. It reminded me of a frozen dessert I would have as a child, only occasionally, because it was an expensive treat.

tiramisu

On our drive to Kensington, I was shocked to see the number of businesses that are permanently shut down. I feel like there’s a war going on, but instead of guns and the military, it’s an invisible virus wiping out livelihoods in Calgary.

support

Do you want to help the restaurant industry in Calgary? If you have the financial means,  YYCTAKEOUT is asking Calgarians to show their support by joining #YYCTakeoutTuesday and ordering a pick-up meal. If you can’t afford to eat out, consider retweeting or sharing an Instagram story from @yyctakeoutspecials.

Cotto Italian Comfort Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Birthday Dinner

My last meal at Sukiyaki House was so memorable, I returned a week later to celebrate my milestone birthday. That day, L and I were literally counting down the hours before our dinner. For this post, let’s listen to “Number 1” by Goldfrapp.

Justin called L to confirm our reservations. He also wanted to check with him that the ingredients and price range of the two dishes that head chef Koji Kobayashi wanted to create for our meal was suitable. That’s some next level customer service. We were impressed with Justin’s consideration of our taste and budget.

sake 2

L and I toasted to my old age with a flute of Kozaemom Junmai Ginjo Omachi ($12). I thought this sake was fragrant with a viscosity similar to a riesling.  I also tried Kuheiji ($15), which in comparison to the other sake was more delicate. If pretty had a flavour, it would be Kuheiji. I’m a fan of both sakes.

glass

Koji made two special off the menu dishes for us. The first to arrive was Koji’s signature dish – Duck Breast with Braised Daikon, Foie Gras Mousse and Matcha Potato Brûlée ($24). Personally, I think Justin should have charged much more for this dish. The portion was huge, and the flavours were stunning. I could tell a lot of labour, love and talent when into this dish.

duck

The duck is sous vide for five hours, resulting in tender, succulent meat. The edging of duck fat melted beautifully as I chewed. The duck gravy was so mouth-watering that I wanted bread to mop up every last drop. The matcha brûlée was lacy and crisp, a nice contrast to the velvety smooth foie gras. The daikon was so warm and juicy, it made me weak in the knees. I know it’s early in the year, but so far, this is the best dish of 2020.

duck piece

The second dish Koji prepared just for us was Aji Four-Ways ($45), but I think it should be called Aji Five-Ways. L thought this dish showcased Koji’s talent for knowing how to combine different flavours and ingredients together.

platter

Koji used an entire horse mackerel flown in from Japan to create five different experiences. The sashimi showcased the strong flavour of the mackerel –  light and not fatty like tuna or salmon.

tartare

For some reason, I thought the mackerel nigiri was more mellow in comparison to the sashimi. L thought the fresh wasabi and the crispness of the scallions were the perfect pairing for the fish.

fish nirg platter

The mackerel tempura was tossed with matsukaze matcha and rice cracker batter that reminded me of cornmeal. The texture of the fish reminded me of a fish meatloaf nugget. I thought approach created a scrumptious bite that illuminated the oily, dense flesh.

tempura

I found the mackerel tartare light in flavour but heavy in texture. I could taste a hint of  fresh ginger, soy and mirin in the mixture. I love the colourful garnish of flowers and greens on top of the tartare.

fish bone

The deep-fried bones made for a nice crispy snack. At this point, I was getting too full so I only nibbled on the meatier bones. I appreciated that Koji used a type of fish I’m unfamiliar with. The texture and taste of horse mackerel made me think because it wasn’t the usual salmon or tuna I’m accustomed to eating. This dish was a thoughtful creation and got us out of the comfort zone of eating the more common and popular types of Japanese fish.

uni

Justin informed me the Uni Sea Urchin ($15) I ordered has a premium platinum status. Flown in from Hokkaido, the uni was unlike the more common type in British Columbia. I’ve never eaten uni so sweet and creamy, it melted in my mouth. So good, I had a foodgasm.

nigiri platter

The Aki Maguro Chu Toro ($4.20) was nice and fatty. I also liked the fat high content in the Shima Suzuki Striped Seabass ($5). The bass was smooth and firm, with a sweet aftertaste. The Ebi  ($3) at Sukiyaki House is consistently superior than other Japanese restaurants. The steamed prawn was crunchy and flavourful.

crab

The Kani ($3.70) was also a winner. The crab was sweet and juicy. The texture of the crab meat was tender and flaky. I’d order this again.

shrmip head

I happily chomped on my Amaebi ($4). The raw shrimp was perfectly crunchy and cool on my tongue. The fried shrimp head was still warm when I ate it. Oh my goodness – turning forty never tasted so good.

chopped

This part of our meal always gets my heart racing with sweet anticipation – raw scalllops. The Special Scallop ($3.80) was full of buttery goodness, dotted with the crunchy, salty pop of fish roe. The chew of the nori was a good contrast to the creamy scallop mixture.

scallop flower

A highlight of our selection of nigiri was the Hotategai ($4.20). The scallop was sliced in a way that it gave the same sensation of being chopped. The scallop crevices glided over my tongue like silk. When I chewed, the scallop fell apart in my mouth in a textural explosion. Below is a photo of me after eating the hotategai. I have to credit sous chef Yuki Koyama for his sushi masterpiece. Phenomenal. Yuki truly is an artist.

me

For dessert, we shared the Matcha Shiratama Zenzai ($9) and a glass of plum wine – Ume Niwa No Uguisu Tomari Umeshu ($10, 3 ounce). I don’t normally like plum wine, but this wine was delightfully tart and refreshing.

UMI

I knew the moment our dessert hit our table that L would be pleased. After ten years together, I can read him like a book.  If you appreciate the subtlety of Japanese sweets, you will love this dessert. The mochi was soft and smooth. The flower was still warm, and I thought I could taste the essence of mandarin oranges. The grapes gave a nice pop of sourness, a contrast to the natural sweetness of the red bean paste.

dessert

L and I were surprised that we didn’t have a favourite dish of the night. Everything, from the specialty dishes to each piece of nigiri was spectacular. I highly recommend that if you want to try something authentic or non-pedestrian to call ahead of time and arrange something with Justin. My Instagram friend lovegastrogirl is the opposite of me and she is a super baller. I told her to contact Justin so he and Koji can prepare something special for her.

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Sukiyaki House is something special. This is artistry and craftsmanship in culinary motion. With Koji and Yuki at the culinary helm and Justin at the hospitality front, they are an unstoppable trio. Thank you for preparing such a memorable meal for me. You are ichiban (#1) in  my books.

Sukiyaki House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato