Pizza

Una Pizzeria

Since L’s been away, Bex.oxo has helped me with pet sitting, as my dog gets extra anxious when his dad is gone. On Tuesday, I received a text from her that my little boy had an unfortunate incident involving my new white couch. I told Bex.oxo not to worry about the crime scene, as I would deal with it when I returned. She didn’t listen to me and took care of the problem. I immediately called my mother-in-law, who was only too happy to take Brut to her house until L was back home. Let’s hear ” Wipe Out” by the Surfaris for this post. 

On Thursday, I told Bex.oxo that I was taking her out for dinner. We decided on Una Pizzeria in West Springs, as we both like the food, and I could make online reservations. If I’m going out for dinner, I’ll generally avoid any restaurant unless I can get a reservation. 

I asked Bex.oxo if she had any food restrictions. She told me to order whatever, and she would pick out any ingredient doesn’t like. I love how low maintenance she is. We ordered a glass of wine (Francis Coppola, $15, house sauvignon blanc, $9), Kale Caesar ($20), Gnocchi Bianca ($23), Veggie Pizza ($18), and Roasted Cauliflower ($16). 

Our server did an excellent job spacing out all the dishes. I enjoyed the leisurely pace as it allowed us to take our time to enjoy all the different dishes at their optimal temperature.

The first dish we tried was the roasted cauliflower. I never eat cauliflower at home because it tastes like rubber to me. To make cauliflower taste this good, you have to have a strong sauce game. Una nailed it. We enjoyed the combination of rich, hot buttery brown sauce, the cool tahini crème fraîche, sweet dates, and fresh herbs. Bex.oxo noted that the addition of fresh dill and the sweetness of dates gave this dish the perfect balance of lightness and decadence.  

I’m a fan of Una’s organic local kale salad. The kale tasted like it was massaged with olive oil and lemon. My favourite part of this salad is the fine dusting of crunchy panko, sharp shards of pecorino romano and the still warm, salty, crumbly bacon. 

Oh my Cod, the gnocchi bianca was worth the calories. Each gnocchi was hot and super soft, dosed in a thick garlic cream and grana padano. I loved the complex flavour from the house-made bacon, as it added another layer of umami. I would get this again.

Currently, the pizza I liked best at Una is the veggie. Bex.oxo thought the feta went well with the roasted red peppers, sundried tomato puree, and honey. What she appreciates about the pizza at Una is the care put into all the ingredients. Like the finely slivered crunchy onions, the quality of the cheeses, and the sweetness of the peppers. I enjoyed the hot, stringy cheese and the puffy crust with the crisp edges and the crunchy bottom. The only thing that would enhance this pizza would be a side of garlicky aioli, which I didn’t see on the menu. Bex.oxo told me her favourite pizza is the Tiki, which I’ll have to try when we return.

As we were eating, I noticed an accumulation of mushrooms piling on her plate. Bex.oxo says she doesn’t like shrooms, and it’s a texture thing. I’m glad I didn’t order the mushroom pizza. I like the cremini mushrooms at Una, as they have a firm, meaty texture with a robust, earthy flavour.

I made Bex.oxo order dessert. She was so full that she could only have a taste. Our server came back with a lid. How adorable is that? I’m a big fan of Una, there’s more than just pizza, and I found all our dishes enjoyable. Hitting the Sauce gives Una two phat thumbs up.

Chinatown · Vietnamese

Pho City

Sunday was freaking chilly! After I finished running my errands, I felt like eating something hot and satiating. I remembered Foodkarmablog’s post on the pho dac biet at Pho City. Even though it was well past lunch, this spot was still busy. For this post, let’s listen to “Waiting” by Nora Jones.

The restaurant is modern and ideally set up for the downtown office lunch rush. Near the front of the room is a long communal table for solo diners. Service is fast and friendly. Within ten seconds, I was promptly greeted and given a menu and a glass of water.

Based on Foodkarma’s recommendation, I ordered a regular-sized Pho City Special Noodle ($14.50). Ah – now this is a good bowl of pho. Pho City nailed the temperature and the flavour of the broth. The soup was so hot that even after dumping all the chilled bean sprouts and basil into the bowl, the broth was still warm enough to cook the vegetables. The soup itself tasted slightly sweet and nurturing.

The noodles were bouncy and al dente. I loved how the chewy pieces of tripe would get tangled into the noodles. I took longer than usual to eat, and the noodles got a little too soft for me at the very end of the meal. So next time, I’ll eat more of the noodles first and then save the meats and vegetables till the end.

The generous amount of noodles was proportional to the amount of sliced beef, tendon, brisket, tripe and beef balls. What I loved about this bowl was that every single ingredient tasted fresh. I enjoyed each meat’s individual texture and flavour, though I found the meatball a little salty.

I felt cozy and warm after finishing my meal. Pho must have some medicinal powers on my eyesight. The trees and sky looked more animated in colour when I left the restaurant. Hitting the Sauce gives Pho City two phat thumbs up.

Chinese · Dim Sum · Restaurants

Golden Sands – Dim Sum Heaven

On Sunday morning, Beep Beep and I went shopping at Calgary Farmers’ Market. We picked up a cappuccino and chai latte from Analog and walked around the market. After I finished showing her around my favourite vendors, she told me there was a shop she wanted to check out. I was curious where she wanted to go, as she didn’t say a peep when I gave her my tour. Let’s listen to “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye for this post.

“Where is this place?” I asked. She spun around and said, “Right here.” I looked around and noticed several displays of crystals. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that this is where she was most interested in shopping. I must have stood around for half an hour while she cradled different rocks in her palm, feeling their energy. I overheard her talking to the staff about a green crystal that grew within another crystal. I felt like L, but without his patience. While waiting for her to pick a suitable rock, I called Golden Sands and made a reservation for 11:30 a.m. 

Getting a table here during peak hours is stressful. There was a long line-up when we arrived at the restaurant. The host was surrounded by customers, who were constantly badgering him for a table. I bugged him several times because I was worried we would be overlooked due to my inability to speak Cantonese or Mandarin. The host was polite and professional, and I have to say, adept at calming the angry. This was a tough crowd. Beep Beep could sense my anxiety rising with each passing minute. I started to wish she brought in her healing crystal. She passed me a menu to distract me. When I apologized to her for waiting at a crowded entrance, she said not to worry, and she knew the food would be good because it was so busy. I’m telling you, getting into a club in Vegas is easier than eating at Golden Sands. I even considered slipping the host a twenty-dollar bill, but I figured the other customers would eat me alive. Half an hour later, when the host gave us a table, I was so happy I wanted to hug him. I imagine that social display of affection during COVID would have gotten me kicked out of the restaurant. 

We ordered the Steamed Scallop w/ Black Truffle ($8.88), Deep-Fried Minced Pork Dumplings ($6.50), Pan Fried Turnip Cake ($6.50), Special Seafood Rice Crepe ($7.50), and Lemongrass Pork Chop ($9.88). I tried to order the Crystal Noodles with Beef Brisket & Tendon and Salty Fish with Scallop, Tofu and Eggplant Hot Pot. However, the kitchen was out of beef brisket, and the hot pot was only available at dinner. 

The wait was worth it. The steamed scallop dumpling arrived piping hot. The shrimp was large and crunchy. The scallop was silky smooth and sweet. The truffle wasn’t overpowering. Beep Beep mentioned that she’s never seen this dish in Vancouver. I told her the chef is from Vancouver, which is why Golden Sands is better than what we expect in Calgary. I hate to say this but Vancouver/Richmond has a much higher standard when it comes to Chinese cuisine.

The best dish was the seafood rice crepe. The rice crepe was similar to a wrapperless shrimp spring roll. The shrimp center was filled with a large cylinder of toothsome, bouncy shrimp. The noodle itself was glossy and silky, hot and gooey. Beep Beep mentioned she thought the seafood rice roll was unique and tasted fresh.  I would order this again.

The lemongrass pork chop was covered in a salty, pungent orange sauce. The batter was soft, puffy and sticky. I found the meat fatty and chewy. I liked the addition of the onions and seaweed-like garnish.

The turnip cake was lightly fried. The cake itself was soft and fluffy, and the texture was smooth. I would have preferred if the radish cake was served at a warmer temperature. No biggie, as I still enjoyed it.

Beep Beep enjoyed the minced pork dumplings. The pork filling was saucy and hot. She liked that the dumplings were shaped and coloured like a carrot. I found the dough sweet, and still sizzling from the fryer.

Service at Golden Sands is excellent and far better than what I experience in Vancouver or Richmond. I found everyone friendly and helpful, despite how busy it was. I plan to go back for dinner to try the other dishes Miss Foodie recommended. Hitting the Sauce gives Golden Sands two fat thumbs up.

Indian · Restaurants

The Curryer

For dinner on Saturday, I wanted to take Beep Beep somewhere I’d never been before. I remembered Miss Foodie recommended The Curryer, a Pakistani restaurant in the Beltline. As she is my number one go-to for restaurant picks, I knew we wouldn’t be steered wrong. For this post, let’s listen to “You Drive Me Wild” by The Runaways.

You have to order and pay for your food at the front counter before sitting down. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember which drink Miss Foodie recommended, so I just ordered what the owner suggested – the Anar Twist ($5.95). For food, I choose the Aloo Mutter Samosa ($2.50), Chicken Samosa ($3), Beef Korma ($15.95), Chicken Biryani ($15.95), and Kachumber Salad ($3.95).

Our drinks were fizzy and sweet, filled with pomegranate seeds and a jelly-like lychee slush. Since I’m sensitive to sugar, I would ask for half the amount of syrup the next time I visit.

Of the two samosas we tried, I preferred the aloo mutter, as I found the filling delightfully soft and savoury. I noticed the wrapper on the aloo mutter was crunchier and poofier than the chicken samosa.

The beef korma was excellent. The texture of the beef was tender and velvety, similar to Chinese-style brisket. The creamy sauce had a deep, smooth depth to it. I warned Beep Beep to avoid the drizzle of hot oil in the curry, as she’s sensitive to spicy foods. I would get the korma again.

The naan was fantastic! I loved the big blistered air pockets. The only other place in the city with flatbread this good is Yemeni Village. The Curryer’s bread is flaky and almost papery compared to Yemini’s softer, chewier bread.

The naan is so good that I would skip the rice and double up on the bread. There’s nothing better than fresh, crisp naan and a stellar curry.

The chicken biryani tasted like the chef just made it. The plump chicken pieces were slow-roasted, which made the meat pop easily off the bone. The long grains of the basmati was fluffy, aromatic, and liberally spiced. The owner recommended mixing the cucumber salad into the biryani, as it added a crunchy, refreshing element to the dish. I enjoyed the combination of the creaminess from the mint chutney and yogurt raita with the chicken and rice.

The Curryer is located only two blocks from my office. I enjoyed the food so much that on Monday, I told everyone I saw to check out The Curryer. When I told The Voice about the generous portions, he mentioned the prices sound more reasonable than what he paid at Saffron at First Street Market with his counterpart, Sophia. After I showed GC my pictures and described the naan and beef korma, he said he would check it out, even though he’s avoiding carbs. In my meeting with V, I told her she needs to try The Curryer. She asked me if that was the place GC’s been talking about. I said yes, but he hasn’t been there yet. I know L will be excited, as we haven’t been happy with the consistency of the food at our usual haunts. Hitting the Sauce gives The Curryer two enthusiastic phat thumbs up.

Restaurants

Park by Sidewalk Citizen

Beep Beep came to visit me on the weekend. Not much has changed since we were teenagers, except now Beep Beep obsesses over which private school she wants her kid in and all I talk about are fonts. Let’s listen to “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen for this post.

We went to Major Tom for a cocktail on Friday evening, then Ubered over to Park by Sidewalk Citizen. I’ve wanted to check this restaurant out ever since Bottlenick recommended the food and wine. Avenue Calgary voted Park as one of the ten best restaurants in Calgary 2022.

The restaurant itself is gorgeous, reminding me of an art gallery. Our table was by the door, which got a little drafty at times. We tried two red wines that night. My favourite was a German pinot noir (Dr. Die $14). I thought this wine was quite bold, which surprised me as I find most pinots weak in flavour and body. I know that Park gets some of its wines from JUICEimports, a wine importer that I think was associated with the old Von Der Fels.

The Charbroiled Lamb Skewer ($5) was nicely seasoned and juicy. However, I would have liked the skewer more if it was hotter.

Next, we both enjoyed the Hummous ($10). The hummus was thick and creamy, with a unique flavour. The marinated mushrooms were cold and chewy, with a texture that reminded me of eggplant. I would order this again. 

The Baked Feta ($15) arrived with the cheese blistered and smokey. I liked the pita that came with the feta over the pita that accompanied the hummus, as the latter arrived warm and crisp.

We weren’t hungry, but we wanted to try the Beef Bavette ($31). The beef was sliced into warm, juicy pieces. I thought this beef was perfectly seasoned. 

The breakfast at Park looks particularly good to me – I noticed shakshuka and a cured salmon plate on the menu. L’s not a brunch person, but perhaps I can convince my friend @bex.oxo to come with me. 

Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Ranchmen’s Club

Wonderland and Double 07 invited us to The Ranchmen’s Club for dinner. Since I first met Wonderland, she has consistently praised the executive chef, sommelier and staff at Ranchmen’s, so I was curious and excited to go. For this post, let’s listen to the James Bond theme song.

We met in the lobby and then moved into the Samson Lounge for a cocktail. When I sat down by the fireplace, the first thing I noticed was the deer mount. The room itself has a heritage vibe, like the Lougheed House, located across the street. Wonderland told me she often drops by the lounge to play bridge or to read a book.

Double 07 ordered a round of French Cowboys. I found this cocktail delightfully tart and refreshing. I loved how the bubbles fizzled on my tongue. Before I knew it, Double 07 told us it was time to go for dinner in the Mary Dover room, and we could bring our cocktails inside. Before finishing his sentence, I had already gulped my drink down. L has been trying to break that bad habit of mine since we met. Good luck with that, L.

I wasn’t expecting to dine in a private room, making the dining experience more intimate. We started with small cubes of cheddar cheese and French bread. The bread innards were silky, and the crust was chewy and flaky. Wonderland received gluten-free bread, as the staff are familiar with her dietary restrictions. Wonderland mentioned the cheddar was either two or three years old. L liked the intense, nutty flavour. I enjoyed the cheese, but I would have been content with the bread and butter because the bread was that good.

Double 07 picked out fantastic champagne. Wowee! The bubbles were tiny, with a soft, mellow flavour. I thought this champagne was really something special.

I ordered what the maître d’ recommended – the Caesar Salad, AAA Tenderloin Steak, and the Crab Hasselback Potatoes.

L and Double 07 picked Foie Gras and the Roast Duck Breast, and Wonderland ordered Oysters and the Rack of Lamb.

The lettuce in my salad was crisp and cold, with none of the bitterness I usually find in romaine leaves. I enjoyed the saltiness and softness of the whole sardines and the balanced flavour of the dressing. I thought Ranchmen’s makes a better Caesar than Caesar’s Steakhouse, which was previously my gold standard.

The red wine Double 07 picked out was phenomenal. The smell was so beautiful. I could sniff this wine all night long. The wine was smoky, smooth, with no sweetness to it. I was glad I was sitting down, or I would have been swooning from sheer ecstasy.

The knife crackling through the salty, charbroiled steak sent shivers down my spine. The texture of the meat was so luxuriously tender that I almost wept from the sheer bliss. I’m not exaggerating. I was quiet the entire time I ate, just marvelling at the pairing of the wine with the beef and the sweetness of the tomatoes and the crunch of the pickled onions. I grow my tomatoes, and even when I pick them at the optimal ripeness, they don’t taste this good.


I requested the bearnaise sauce as Wonderland recommended, but I didn’t have to choose, as I received the peppercorn Armagnac and the bearnaise sauce for my steak. The peppercorn and bearnaise added this rich, hot layer of flavour that coated the beef. The Hasselback potatoes were buttery and soft, topped with generous amounts of sweet, flaky crab.

Double 07 picked a 13-year-old dessert wine. The fragrance of the wine was earthy, like a garden in the morning. I’ve never smelled anything like this.

L picked the Spiced Meringue for dessert. The chef split L’s portion in half so I could sample it. I tasted a little clove in the spices. I thought the sour cherry granite nicely balanced the sweetness of the walnut nougatine. I loved the crumbly bits that melted in my mouth. My favourite component of the dessert was the rich smoothness of the birch creameaux.

This meal was something I could never prepare at home. I wouldn’t even know where to get these ingredients, let alone find the wines. What was different about this meal was that I didn’t get tunnel vision like I usually do. There wasn’t one dish that overshadowed another item. Every component worked well together, so I enjoyed the entire progression of the meal.

When I thanked our generous hosts for such an extravagant meal, I mentioned I didn’t know what to do when they came to our place for the next get-together. Wonderland genuinely stated that this was not a competition. I said that was good because there was no way I could ever top the chef’s talent or the sommelier’s skill. I’ll have to think of something special for when Wonderland and Double 07 come over for dinner. Perhaps I’ll have to enlist some professional help.

I ate my breakfast and mid-morning snack the next day. I usually enjoy my chicken and green onion congee and local boiled eggs with cracked pepper and salt. However, the morning after such as epic feast, I have to say my food did not taste as good as it usually does. Hopefully, my tastebuds will revert to their old self, or I will have to do some real soul searching. Thank you, Double 07 and Wonderland, for the excellent company and hospitality.

French

Cassis Bistro – Girls’ Night

Kournikova, Betty, and I met at Québecois’ house before our dinner at Cassis Bistro. Québecois popped some bubbles, and we also tried a new white wine Kournikova brought over. We picked this French bistro for our monthly dinner because Betty has a penchant for beef tartare, and Cassis makes the best in town. We also live within walking distance of the restaurant, so we didn’t have to turn any of our husbands into chauffeurs. For this post, let’s listen to “Poisson Rouge” by Saint Privat. 

I asked Québecois to pick the wine. She selected the Graves Peyrat Bordeaux ($70). She mentioned she loved the smell of the wine. I enjoyed the soft, mellow notes. I’m a fan, and I would order this wine again.

When our appetizers arrived, I asked Betty to help me take the photos. Kournikova thought the tartare was better than Orchard. Betty felt the potato chips paired best with the tartare – she loved the delicious saltiness of the chips.

Our server gave us a glass of dessert wine to pair with the foie gras. I would never have guessed a sweet wine would be such a perfect match. I thought the wine amplified the flavour of the foie gras. Kournikova said that’s what she likes with a proper wine pairing – you get so much more out of the experience. Québecois appreciated the combination of the pear with the foie gras because she said it cuts into the fat. I loved the way the foie gras melts in your mouth. 

I ordered Steak Frites, but I was over the moon with Québecois mussels. Holy smokes – what a beautiful bounty! The moment I tried a mussel, all the other food on the table ceased to exist. 

Each mussel was so fat and bursting with the flavour of the sea. The texture reminded me of a poached egg – hot, silky and soft. At the end of our meal, I noticed that each mussel was still at the optimal consistency, despite having sat in the steaming broth.  

If I knew the mussels were like this, I would have ordered my own bowl. But, in the end, I didn’t need to as Québecois couldn’t finish her dinner. I must have eaten about half her meal. She is a most generous and wonderful friend. 

During dinner, all I could talk about was the mussels. Kournikova said she could tell I enjoyed the mussels because I talked about them for so long. I realized I was repeating myself for about half an hour. I looked up and saw the glazed expression of Betty, who was politely listening to me rant. I realized two things. First, I’m a boring person. Second, I need to give more credit to L, as he is a very patient man. 

We were full, but we still ordered dessert. The Marquise ($14) consisted of three or four different layers and textures of chocolate. I liked how in each bite, I could taste a variety of chocolate that was fluffy, creamy, crunchy or fudgy. The port was spicy, with warm notes. 

The service was lovely, and the food was excellent. And those mussels – sweet Bejesus- are so impressive that I would order it as my last meal if I were on death row. Thank you, Cassis and Québecois, for a sublime meal. 

Fusion · Vietnamese

Pure Street Food – Part Two

On Sunday, Bex.oxo invited me to National Geographic Live. Before the presentation, we planned to dine at Maven, but the 1.5-hour wait deterred us. So instead, I suggested First Street Hall & Bar, as I knew Bex.oxo would find something she liked. Let’s listen to “Delicate” by Taylor Swift for this post.

We stopped by for a coffee at Alforno. As we sipped our cappuccinos, I showed Bex.oxo around the market. She noticed all the vendors are notable restauranteurs in Calgary’s food scene. I had the best intention of checking out Actually Pretty Good and La Mano, but I remembered seeing Foodkarma’s post on the dry noodles at Pure Street Food. I’m a sucker for a good recommendation, so I ordered the Hu Tieu Mi Kho Noodles ($15) and Spicy Bo Kho Brisket Sesame Donut ($6).

What blew me away was the sesame donut. The shell was thin, light and crackled when I bit into it. The brisket was so tender; I barely had to chew. The crowning glory in this donut was the layers of fresh basil, chilled cucumber and crunchy carrots. I noticed as the donut chilled, the flavours became even more pronounced. For me, this was like a banh mi but intensified. We both didn’t use the dip. We felt the donut was flavourful enough and didn’t need anything else. 

The Hu Ties Mi consisted of wok-tossed egg noodles, char sui, ground pork, spring greens, slices of fish cake, and a side of rib bone soup. The portions are so generous. I made Bex.oxo eat some of my lunch. I was instructed to sip the soup independently rather than mixing it into the bowl. I loved the broth’s flavour, which was so vibrant and lively. The big piece of rib meat was soft and meaty. I would order the soup again.

The sauce on the noodles had a robust spicy kick to it. The noodles were chewy, soft and sticky. There was so much char sui, ground pork, and noodles, the portion was big enough for two meals. 

The spring roll was killer – thick and densely packed with a savoury filling. I thought this was one of the better Vietnamese spring rolls in town. You can tell there was no scrimping of ingredients or love. 

I’ll have to come back and try another vendor other than Pure Street Food. Old habits die hard. But if I died that afternoon, I would have passed away happily. The sesame beef donut was one of the best things I’ve eaten in 2022.

Banh Mi · Cheap Eats · Vietnamese

Banh Mi Date #11 – Secret Vietnamese Cafe

I’ve wanted to try Secret Vietnamese Cafe ever since I watched Jeff’s Channel on Youtube. Now that I work in the Beltline, I have the perfect opportunity to further my goal of eating at 19 different banh mi shops. Eleven down and eight more to go! Let’s listen to “Nothing’s Going To Stop Us Now” by Starship.

Secret Cafe has a cozy coffee house vibe, unlike the more utilitarian banh mi shops in Calgary. I noticed several extensive menus posted on the walls when I walked in, showcasing pictures of sandwiches, pho, noodles, curries, appetizers, and Vietnamese subs. When I told the female owner I wanted a banh mi, she recommended the Special Combo Sub ($8.99). She asked me if I wanted my sub spicy. I responded in the affirmative. Pro tip – unless you can handle the heat, don’t ask for spice. My tongue was on fire for hours. 

The cafe was busy with regulars who knew the owners. Two customers ordered the lemongrass pork vermicelli when I was there, and another person ordered pho. Several people came in to pick up their order. 

I asked for no cilantro but still got it anyway. No biggie, as it was easy to remove. I enjoyed the crushed peanuts and the rich flavour of coconut milk in the beef. I also liked how the whole sub was warm – from the toasted bread, melted cheddar cheese to the hot, tender pieces of pork, chicken and beef. The thick slices of carrots tasted lightly pickled. The cucumber and onions were thinner in width. 

How does Secret Vietnamese Cafe compare to the other banh mi heavy hitters in Calgary? The vegetables come in coarser chunks. I prefer the delicate crunchy layers that Thi Thi has mastered with cucumber ribbons, razor-thin onions and julienned carrots. I like the freshness of Secret Cafe’s meats, which I found better quality than To Me Subs. I prefer the lightness and crumb of Banh Mi Nhu Y and Trung Nguyen subs over the heavier bread at Secret Cafe. Price-wise, I thought Secret Vietnamese Cafe offered better value than Kim Anh Sub but had less of a flavour bomb.

I noticed the owners like to banter with each other while they work. If you know of or have grandparents who emigrated from China, you’ll know what I mean. I don’t get homesick anymore, but if I needed a dose of old-school love, I’d come here to soak up the memories.  

Restaurants · Vietnamese

Rau Bistro

One of my favourite cuisines is Vietnamese food. Pre-COVID, I would host make-your-own salad rolls and hotpot-style dinners for my friends. However, after dining out at Rau Bistro, I realized my homestyle version sucks in comparison in terms of variety, quality and technique. For this post, let’s listen to “Hit That” by The Offspring.

L and I ordered the Wrap Two Combo ($20) and one Seven-Course Beef Set ($35). Next time, I would pick the beef set and not the Wrap Two, as the items in the wrap combo are also in the beef set. Instead, I will order the Shrimp and Yam Beignets ($12), Bun Man ($15), and Bun Bo Hue ($15), which I hear from trustworthy sources are stellar choices.

The beef congee was homey and oh so delicious. At Rau, the soup is more broth-like and not the thick and fluffy style you find at Chinese restaurants. I appreciated how the soup was served boiling hot, which allowed the flavours of the oils and meats to pop. I enjoyed the vibrancy of the herbs and the interesting texture of the various meats, like the tripe and chewy bits of what I thought were white fungus and tendon. I would order this again.

The cold, wet papaya salad with beef jerky was a wild explosion of sour and tart notes. The dressing on the strands of bean sprouts, papaya and carrots were refreshing. The lime-marinated medium-rare beef salad offered lively bites from the crunchy slices of onion, balanced by the mellowness of the chopped tomatoes. I also enjoyed snacking on the shrimp crackers, which were light, crispy and melted in my mouth.

I’m a fan of the steamed giant meatball, which was like a more subtle, juicier version of a Chinese dim sum dish, sui mai. The meat was soaked in a peanutty sauce, soft and warm, cupped in a dumpling wrap. This was so tasty, that I ate most of it, as L preferred the skewers.

All the meats in the wrap combo and beef set are winners. The grilled la la beef and satay beef each tasted different, garnished with sauteed green onions or garlic. The meat cooked in the fondue was lovely, soft and tender. I found the shrimp paste plumper and fresher than Rau’s competitors.

I appreciated the generous amount of basil, mint, pineapple, lettuce, cucumber and pickled carrots in both dishes. Unfortunately, our wraps have no pictures because L and I haven’t mastered our wrapping technique. I had to throw away two rice wrappers because I didn’t soak the crepe long enough in the warm water, resulting in a sticky, congealed mess.

There’s so much thought and care that goes into every dish. I noticed even the sauces were prepared in such a way to offer a completely different flavour profile. For example, the spicy tamarind sauce was topped with peanuts and chillis. The fish sauce was light, sprinkled with heady garlic notes and sweet pieces of carrots. I found the anchovy sauce intense with pungent, savoury, salty notes.

Rau is different from the norm – there isn’t anything generic about the flavours here. L noted that even though the portions were so generous, he didn’t feel gross or overstuffed. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend visiting Rau Bistro. This is a restaurant worth hitting up. Hitting the Sauce gives this gem two phat thumbs up.