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!
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.
Jacuzzi is in town! For his first night in, I took him to Foreign Concept and then to the Comedy Cave. For this post, let’s listen to “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)” by Elton John.
We sat in the back, near the bar section. I peeked through the screen and saw Duncan Ly, the owner and chef of Foreign Concept. Even if he weren’t in the restaurant, we would be in good hands, as I hear he trains his chefs exceptionally well.
We ordered the Fish Sauce Caramel Brussels Sprouts ($15), Pork Belly & Foie Gras Steamed Buns ($32), Lemongrass Glazed Duck Breast ($37), and the Squid Ink Spaghetti ($29). Three entrees and one appetizer were the perfect amount of food for the three of us.
When the tantalizing aroma of the brussels sprouts hit our table, I knew this appetizer would be a winner. The Brussels sprouts were crispy, saturated with the hot juices of fish sauce, caramelized sugar and sausage. The layer upon layer of flavour was fabulous. This dish isn’t something I could make at home. I would order this again.
The squid ink spaghetti arrived next, nestled with chili prawns, clams, and charred octopus. The black noodles were el dente, coated with a subtle Panang curry emulsion, and spicy from the crunchy jalapeño slices. I enjoyed the scent of dill and the sweetness of the peas. The prawns were plump, with a texture that made me think the prawns were fresh and not previously frozen.
Jacuzzi and L raved about the pork belly steam buns. We were impressed with the super thick, tender slabs of pork belly. The soft meat melted in our mouths. Jacuzzi commented that the white buns were pillowy and warm. The pate added umami, while the pickled cabbage added a crunchy acidity to each bite. I enjoyed the noticeable fragrance of the basil leaves.
The yuzu cucumbers were nicely pickled and tasted like Hendricks gin. The Asian pear added some sweetness and softness. L said the Ssamjang aioli gave this dish a nice kick. What I loved is the condiments aren’t just an afterthought. You can tell a lot of preparation ensures every component of the dish is top-notch. L said this was his favourite dish of the night.
Jacuzzi was impressed with the quality of the braised duck leg confit and the breast. He pointed out that the colour of the duck was a perfect hue, and it wasn’t greasy or overcooked like the Peking duck in Vancouver. I noticed the crepes were thin, smooth, and light. Jacuzzi noted the wrappers held the ingredients together and didn’t have the gummy texture of the wraps in his hometown. We topped our duck with zingy strands of cucumber, scallions, pickled carrot and papaya. Jacuzzi doesn’t generally like duck, but even he said this was the night’s best dish.
The food was so yummy, L and I wondered why we don’t eat here more often. After last night’s experience, Foreign Concept will be on our regular roster.
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.
Jacuzzi disagreed with my suggestions for our last meal in Vegas. I planned to go to another Strictly Dumpling recommended restaurant or the Oyster Bar at Palace Station. Instead, he wanted to go to Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant – Hell’s Kitchen. I reminded him there is a dress code at Hell’s Kitchen, and he refused to bring a shirt, tie, or jacket on this trip. He countered with Gordon Ramsey’s Pub and Grill and stated his other sister Me Shell had gifted him some money to celebrate in any way he wanted. Fine with me. As I learned through his past commentary, Jacuzzi is not an Offspring fan. So for this post, let’s listen to something that’s more his style – “More Than A Feeling” by Boston.
We both wanted to try the beef Wellington. Jacuzzi ordered the lunch set ($65.99), which included a salad or soup, a petite version of the beef Wellington, and a sticky toffee pudding. I requested the regular size of beef Wellington ($69.99) and a glass of Gordon Ramsey’s Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Cruz, $22). Our server recommended this wine as it was specially designed to pair with the steak.
Jacuzzi informed me that beef Wellington is challenging to make, as the temperature is critical and there’s no room for error. Worst yet, you can’t tell if the meat is served at its desired medium-rare until you cut it into the pastry when it is too late. I had no idea Jacuzzi was so into beef. He really should visit me in Calgary.
Our server was attentive and brought me a plate if I wanted to try Jacuzzi’s Caesar salad. I did take a bite and enjoyed the liberal amount of powdered and shaved parmesan cheese. Jacuzzi mentioned that Caesar salads are his favourite, and this was a nice portion of food for a starter.
I could tell it was the chef and not a server that brought out our beef Wellington because of his confidence and the swagger in his walk. When he presented our plates, he made direct eye contact, and I could see he was proud of his dish. I would be too, if I could whip up a Wellington like this for the mass crowds in Vegas. That’s some serious talent.
My knife crackled into the thin, golden brown pastry, cutting into soft, ruby-red meat. Jacuzzi declared the steak was cooked to a perfect medium-rare. He commented on the smooth, buttery texture of the beef. Despite the red colouring, the steak itself was nice and warm. I enjoyed the taste of the big flakes of sea salt, as I thought it brought out the flavour of the beef. The mushrooms on the bottom of the pastry gave this dish a unique, earthiness flavour profile. Jacuzzi reminded me to use the red wine demi-glaze with each bite.
The sides were delicious in an understated way. The mashed Yukon gold potatoes were whipped into silky submission. We both loved how the carrots, asparagus and potatoes weren’t drenched in butter or salt so that we could appreciate the natural sweetness and freshness of the vegetables. We both ate as slowly as possible to delay the inevitable, the end of our meal. Jacuzzi and I kept smiling at each other as we ate.
What shocked me about Gordon Ramsey’s Pub was the dessert. Fuck me! The sticky toffee pudding is so mind-blowingly good that it is swear-word worthy. The English toffee pudding tasted like Christmas. The caramel sauce was overwhelmingly delicious – drenching every warm, moist crumb. The vanilla ice cream was cold and satiny, melting into the hot caramel bomb of a cake. This dessert was so good I wanted to cry out in pleasure. The portion was so large that it would have been enough for a meal. I would come back here in a heartbeat. Eating here was the way to end a trip on a high note. Thanks, Me Shell, for taking us out for lunch in Vegas. Hitting the Sauce gives Gordon Ramsey’s chef two phat thumbs up.
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.
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.
Turning a year older wasn’t so bad this year due to the unexpected shower of gifts and well wishes from my family, friends and workplace. I started the day on the right foot with my father-in-law at Costco. From there, my day got even more exciting. To set the mood for this birthday post, let’s listen to a song I have stuck in my head, “Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan.
Initially, I wanted to try a new restaurant. However, Vero Bistro had a “wine and dine” event on Wednesday, and I didn’t want to partake. Franca’s has been on my list ever since I read about it in the news. Unfortunately, Franca’s isn’t currently open on weekday evenings. My third choice was omasake at Nupo, but the only seating was at 8:00 p.m. That’s too late for me to go out on a Wednesday night. So I settled for a tried and true favourite – Cassis Bistro.
Lindy is the best server I’ve experienced at Cassis. She provided excellent suggestions to make our meal even better. Also, her warm, welcoming personality added to our dining experience.
I started with a glass of Cellier Chartreux ($13, Lirac, Cotes du Rhone 2018) and L drank a Crisp Pils ($8). I found my wine light, with a minerally aftertaste.
I always enjoy the bread and butter at Cassis. The innards of the baguette were silky and soft, while the crust was crusty and munchy. The butter was rich and mellow and melted on my tongue.
We shared a big plate of Beef Tartare ($29). This main size order comes typically with frites, but we opted for potato chips instead. The beef tartare was fragrant – it smelled bright and refreshing like citrus and dill. The taste, texture and temperature was sublime – flavourful, soft and chewy. I would get this again.
The salad paired well with the tartare. I liked the subtle acidity in the creamy dressing. The spring greens were so fresh and crisp, and almost fluffy in texture. L liked the addition of beets, which added a sweetness that contrasted with the tartare and salad dressing.
To pair with my Duck Confit ($29), I ordered a glass of Chateau Franc ($14, Magnus Bordeaux 2016). I enjoyed the bigger, juicier notes in the Bordeaux over the Cotes du Rhone. I would order this wine again.
The duck at Cassis is outrageously decadent. The chef nailed everything that makes a duck confit so enjoyable. The skin was ultra-crispy, the meat was meltingly tender, and the hot, thin layer of duck fat triggered some serious eye-rolling ecstasy. The duck came with carrots and a generous side of potato gratin. The carrots were so delicious and sweet, I wondered where Cassis buy their produce.
L’s Steak ($44) was sublime. The exterior of each thin slice of steak had this delicious char. The interior was soft and flavoursome. I loved the sharp peppery notes in the gravy and on the extra crunchy frites. Sweet Besus, the food at Cassis is heavenly.
Hitting the Sauce gives her birthday and dinner two phat thumbs up. Thanks to everyone who made this coming of ageing event a spectacular day.
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.
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.