Before our wine-tasting event at Bricks Wine Co, Sunflower generously treated me to brunch. She initially suggested Deane House, but I remembered Lina’s Italian Market opened a new location in Inglewood, which I wanted to check out. For this post, let’s listen to “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus.
We wandered over to the kitchen side of the store and learned there is a cafeteria-like area where you can pick what you want to eat and a cafe section. Sunflower commented on the pretty green wallpaper and the cozy and quaint-looking booths. I’d typically order a coffee at an Italian cafe, but I was jonesing to celebrate and opted for a glass of white wine ($13) instead. Sunflower ordered a Bellini ($15). We shared the Deluxe Mushroom Calzone ($16) and the Potato Apple Smoked Caciocavallo Frico ($18).
Our server picked a lovely white wine for me – it wasn’t the rough table wine that some markets serve. I would order the wine again, however, it was Sunflower’s bellini that kicked some serious ass. The flavour was so freaking delicious, floral and refreshing. This drink was so superb; it made Milestone / Cactus Club bellini taste like a 7/11 slushy.
Evenly browned throughout and freshly baked, the calzone’s crust was light and thin. The filling consisted of bocconcini and what looked like Beech mushrooms. The ragu was bold and intensely tomatoey, with a hint of rosemary.
Sunflower’s dish was so good! The potato pancake was lacey and delicate, with a toasty crunch. Sunflower thought the smoked cheese tasted similar to bacon. I loved the onions’ deep flavour and the creaminess of the orange-yellow yolk.
Lina’s has warm vibes. The staff are friendly and happy to chat about their products. Someone stopped by our table to offer us a sample of Italian beer you can only buy at Lina’s. Our server showed us the white peach puree they use and sell in the store.
After we ate, Sunflower and I marvelled at the imported goods and selection of cheeses. She bought some dried mushrooms, and I picked up some bread, fresh basil, dill and mint leaves. We also bought four bottles of the white peach puree to make bellinis at home. Lina’s is a welcome addition to Inglewood and will be a frequent stop for me.
I accepted a position in a cool, entirely new (to me) industry! To mark this happy event, L and I went out to celebrate. I wanted to go somewhere fun and boisterous to unleash my glee with gay abandon. I immediately thought of OMO Teppan & Kitchen. For this post, let’s listen to “Worth It” by Fifth Harmony.
OMO specializes in teppanyaki, a cooking style involving a chef who cooks your food on the grill, along with some entertaining displays of fire and knife skills. In Calgary, there are three teppanyaki restaurants, Japanese Village, OMO Teppan and Kitchen and Tobe Teppanyaki Lounge. Japanese Village is the oldest, with a reputation for curt servers and being rushed to finish your meal. Tobe is the newest, located in Deerfoot City. OMO has been around for about five years and has over a thousand glowing Google reviews raving about the fun entertainment.
As we walked in, the most delicious smells wrapped around us. I was surprised that at 5:30 pm, the restaurant was already full of families. Robots zoomed in the background, bringing chefs meats and vegetables. Periodically, a recording of a birthday song would pop up in the background noise. While we sat and waited for our table, we watched a chef delight small kids with tricks and shouts of “party, party!”.
Our server Ari asked our table if we were celebrating a special occasion. I mentioned I accepted a new job. Another person was celebrating a birthday. The other four were a family, and even though they didn’t say so, it looked like they were meeting the daughter’s boyfriend for the first time.
We ordered a Sake Bomb ($9), Asahi ($9), Wagyu Gyoza 5 pcs ($10), Japanese Wagyu Sushi (2 pcs, $25), Brant Lake Wagyu Sushi (2 pcs, $12), New York Steak 6oz ($40) and Rib Eye 10 oz ($58). All the teppanyaki meals include a shrimp appetizer, soup, salad, grilled vegetables, rice and ice cream.
The Wagyu gyoza is worth ordering again. Be careful, as these dumplings are messy. Hot juices would squirt onto the table when I bit into the plump gyoza. The beef tasted rich and intensely flavoured. L noted the liberal amount of spicy chili oil in the meat filling.
The Brandt Lake wagyu nigiri was leaner and had a cleaner flavour profile than Japanese wagyu. Of the two, I prefer Japanese wagyu for its tender, silky texture and deeper flavour. Next time, I would opt for OMO’s number one-selling sushi, the Flying Dragon Roll ($23).
When Chef Kenny arrived at our table, I knew we were in for a treat. First, his sharp eyes cooly assessed our table, taking everything in. Next, he carefully stretched out his muscular, tattooed arms and kindly greeted everyone, customers and staff. Then, he started the show.
Chef Kenny exhibited impressive juggling skills with sharp objects and fire. He fired broccoli pieces into our mouths, flinging each piece with his spatula like a missile. Birthday Boy and his spouse caught it. What a power couple. Even though Chef Kenny had a great aim, both L and I missed; somehow, the broccoli bounced off my mouth. I told L we needed to practice our food-catching skills at home.
Watching Chef Kenny cook the rest of our food was a delight. Birthday Boy was so excited when Chef Kenny generously squirted his beef with a sauce he shouted in encouragement, “Yeahhhh! Yeahhhh!” Wow, he sure likes his sauce! The Father ordered fried rice, and it was neat to see Chef Kenny crack an egg and then toss it back and forth through the air like a hacky sack.
Chef Kenny nailed our food. The vegetables were hot and crunchy from the grill and well seasoned with fresh pepper. L doesn’t like mushrooms, and he even ate them. Part of the magical flavour of the food is the amount of garlic butter Chef Kenny used. He caught my expression when he put a huge chunk of butter on my steak; he reassured me and joked, “Don’t worry – it’s good cholesterol.”
My ribeye was rich and buttery in texture, a perfect medium rare. The New York is less moist and rich than ribeye, but it has a beefier flavour and more of a chew to it. I enjoyed the “magic sauce” side, which tasted like a yummy blend of sesame oil, soy, mustard and mayonnaise. I would get the ribeye and NY steak again, though I might try the filet mignon on my next visit.
Birthday Boy at our table got cake and a song. Ari asked me if I wanted a cake and apologetically informed me that they didn’t have a song to sing for a new job. Instead, Ari offered to take our picture to remember the night.
Throughout the evening, I observed all the staff working as a team to ensure customers were happy and entertained, particularly the children. We also had a genuinely good time and enjoyed the food. Hitting the Sauce gives OMO, Chef Kenny and Ari two phat thumbs up.
On Valentine’s Day, I wanted Vietnamese food to reel in Banh Mi Date #13. L was game. He just requested to avoid any place that would be chaotic. For this post, let’s listen to “Real Love Baby” by Father John Misty.
I picked Pho 99 based on MJ Leung’s review on Calgary Food – Food YYC. The restaurant was previously Ricky’s, so it has an old-school family chain vibe. It was quiet and peaceful on a Tuesday at 11:30 am, just as L desired. By noon, it was busier, with customers dining in and placing orders to go.
We requested two Saigon beers ($7.50), Deep-Fried Pork Spring Rolls ($8.25), Self-Wrap Rolls ($19.25), and a Grilled Lemongrass and Sate Beef Submarine ($9.95). After we ordered, I spotted the number four at our table, which is bad luck in Chinese culture. Whoops. Good thing I’m not superstitious.
The water and rice wrappers for our platter came out before our appetizer. I noticed the water was only lukewarm, so when our wrap and roll platter arrived 15 minutes later, I asked if we could get the water replaced with hot water. If the water isn’t warm enough, I find the wrapper gummy and challenging to wrap.
The pork spring rolls were hot, crunchy, and slender, resembling Romeo Y Julieta mini cigars. I could see minced carrots and noodles in the creamy filling. The nuoc cham (dipping sauce) wasn’t overly sweet, and the smell and taste of fish sauce were subtle.
You can pick various combinations for the wrap and roll platter. We chose the special prawns, lemongrass chicken, and sate beef. Our plate contained a heaping pile of glistening vegetables: romaine lettuce, basil, carrots, onions, and cucumbers. The vermicelli was laced with crushed peanuts and cooked green onions. The noodles were noticeably springy, with a jiggly mouthfeel. If you like Cuty’s wrap and roll combo, you’ll love Pho 99’s version.
The shrimp was large and toothsome. The chicken was well-marinaded and generously proportioned. Of the three proteins, the clear winner was the sate beef. Oh my goodness – the wok hei flavour in the meat was so overwhelmingly delicious. The sauce wasn’t too sweet, and the meat was perfectly tender. I would get the beef wrap and roll platter again.
Historically, L and I disagree about who makes the best banh mi in Calgary. It seems fitting that we finally agreed on February 14, 2023, that Pho 99 makes our favourite beef sate sub. Lightly toasted, the bread is soft enough that your teeth sink in without scraping the skin on the roof of your mouth. L liked there wasn’t an abundance of mayonnaise or sweet sauces. Instead, the beauty of this sub was how damn good the beef taste – generously layered, charred and smoky from the wok.
Size-wise, Pho 99’s sub is bigger than Kim Anh and Trung Nguyen. The bread is softer than Soc Trang but on par with the freshness of MyMy Sub. By far, the texture and flavour of Pho 99’s beef is superior to Saigon Deli and To Me Sub . However, I prefer Banh Mi Nhu Y yellow mayonnaise, which adds a velvety texture. Thi Thi still wins in the vegetable department, serving up the best pickled carrots, onions, chilies and cucumber ribbons.
I mentioned to our server how much I enjoyed the beef sate wrap and banh mi. He stated that Pho 99 is known for its stir fry and that William from Vietnam Daily gave them a high rating. Based on the wok hei of the beef, I’m sure the stir fry is excellent. L and I are looking forward to returning and trying other beef dishes. Hitting the Sauce gives Pho 99 two phat thumbs up, and makes it on my list of Best Restaurants in YYC.
I discovered a new gem in my neighbourhood. Erina is a Balkan bakery specializing in eastern European treats, such as Burek ($6), Albanian Bread ($4.50), and my absolute favourite – Pitalka ($1.50). For this post, let’s listen to “Other Side of Town” by Sam Doores and Alynda Segarra.
Burek is a baked phyllo pastry with either spinach, potato, meat or cheese. I’ve tried the meat and cheese version. Of the two, I prefer the latter, as it reminds me of a grilled cheese sandwich. The thin tissues of the dough are chewy, while the crisp nut-brown exterior crackles when you bite into the pastry. L mentioned the cheese burek evoked memories of the breakfast pastries we ate in Greece. I prefer the end pieces because I enjoy the delightfully fragile crunchiness.
The size of a small plate, one single pitalka is large enough for two large sandwiches or four mini snacks. I love the sensation of cutting into the bread and seeing the voluminous air bubbles inside. The texture is soft yet chewy, as there’s a resistance when you try to tear a piece off. The smell reminds me of pizza crust baked in an authentic Italian fire oven. Bread like this is a wondrous miracle.
To date, I’ve tried Erina’s sourdough, baguette and Albanian bread. Of the three, I prefer the Albanian loaf, as the tissue is soft yet toothsome. The sourdough and baguette are good, but I like bread with a supple and yielding texture. On my next visit, I plan to try the potato bread.
Erina also sells desserts, ćevapi (minced sausage), bread sticks, cheese bread, and Nutella buns. You can buy the burek and ćevapi frozen to bake at home. Check them out, and you won’t be disappointed. Hitting the Sauce gives Erina two phat thumbs up.
Bex.oxo is becoming a regular at Juice Import’s events! We recently attended the Milan Nestarec wine tasting ($25) at Bricks Wine Co, another sold-out event. For this post, let’s listen to “Fly Me to the Moon” by The Macarons Project.
I noticed that our fervent host, Juicee Import co-owner Erik Mercier, has a formula for each class. He likes to begin by delving into the background of each winemaker’s ethos, the sustainability of their farms, and winemaking philosophy. In the case of Milan Nestarec, a winemaker in the Czech Republic, he also spun an intriguing history lesson.
Milan Nestarec hails from Moravia, the Czech Republic’s most southern wine region. In the post-communism era in Moravia, the government restricted winemakers to only selling wine and grapes in bulk to the state-run cooperative winery. As one can only expect when the focus is on quantity, there was no incentive to produce top-quality wines. Instead, chemical farming became the norm, and thousands of years of the country’s winemaking tradition and history were almost lost.
That’s where 30-year-old Milan comes into play. When he was growing up, wine was something to consume after dinner rather than with the meal because the quality of wine was so poor. Milan didn’t want the wine culture to die, so he began producing some of the most compelling wines in the Czech Republic. He’s succeeded. Internationally, he has reached fame in New York, London, and Tokyo. Erik noted that sommeliers regularly battle for his limited-production wines.
I’m always amazed at natural wines’ vivid colours, which shine through the glass like liquid gemstones. Our first tasting was Danger 380 ($47.75), a sparkling wine. Erik retold the story of when Milan first made sparkling wine, a total of 5,000 bottles. Unfortunately, too much sugar resulted in each bottle exploding in his basement. The experience delayed his second trial for five years. Now, his sparkling wine is the sought-after in his line-up. I found Danger 380 light and refreshing, reminiscent of grapefruit, but also with a unique flavour. Aptly named, this wine is dangerous. Bex.oxo called this the perfect jubilation bubbly. I agreed and bought two bottles for the upcoming celebrations.
The second tasting, 2020 Forks and Knives White ($44.95) offered a ton of flavour. I found this wine pleasant, with a tang that tickled the back of my throat. Milan uses only the aromatic grape varieties in the Forks and Knives White: Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, and Neuburger. Erik commented on the wine’s beautiful acidity and earthy, broth-like quality.
Bex.oxo and I enjoyed the aromatic notes in the rosé – 2021 Ruz ($36.95). The colour was similar to strawberry juice. This wine, and the following two bottles, contain a litre, making it a mini-magnum. I knew my friends Kournikova and Fougui would love this wine, so I bought two bottles. I asked Erik what food would pair with the Ruz. A Juice Imports regular, Coke, piped up and said it would pair with Tuesday. Everyone laughed but me, as I have a friend named Tuesday, and for a second, I thought he knew her too. Erik recommended pairing salmon poke or watermelon and feta salad.
The flavour of the 2021 Okr ($40.95) stood out. And what an interesting fragrance! I smelled lycee. Bex.oxo didn’t take to this wine, so she gave me her glass to finish. Erik described this wine as wild, with savoury notes like curry leaves. I bought a bottle for Sunflower as she’s into orange wines and funky flavours.
We tried a red wine next, a 2021 Nach ($36.95). Erik informed us that Nach is the Czech word for “purple,” representing this youthful wine’s colour. Erik described Nach as bright, juicy and fresh. Milan wanted to create something low-key and easy to drink to share with his neighbours. I could taste pepper. Bex.oxo gave me her glass to drink, so I double-fisted my tasting again.
Bex.oxo and I enjoyed the 2020 Forks and Knives Red ($45.95). Erik exclaimed there is tons of structure in the wine. When he sipped, he envisioned jazz music and tall white candles burning. I wanted to buy a bottle, but at this point, I had already surpassed my budget, so I had to tap out.
The last bottle, ATYP #1 ($51.95), is made from a blend of all Milan’s varieties: red and white co-fermentation of Blaufränkisch, Portugieser, Sankt Laurent, Muscat, Grüner Veltliner, as well as others. ATYP #1 is a hard-to-find wine, as only 166 cases were produced.
The fragrance was so pretty, Bex.oxo whispered she wanted to make a candle out of the scent and burn it all night. I thought this was a wild, silky wine. When I asked Erik to describe the flavour and aroma, he laughed and said it smelled like grapes or jam. He could taste dark fruit, such as Saskatoon berries, but with a light body.
Something terrible happened to me after the tasting. The next day when I sipped on a glass of wine, I almost spat it out. Compared to what I tasted the day before, my usual house wine tasted like vinegar. Financially, I miss the days when I could enjoy a glass of Apothic.
I usually buy a dozen ($18) of the chicken, beef and vegetarian samosas and request extra packets of mint chutney. I always buy extra samosas and then do a drop-off for my friends because something this delicious deserves to be shared with kindred spirits.
What sets Nooren Samosa apart from its competitors is the pastry shell, the tastiness of the filling, and the mint chutney. I love taking that first bite into the brittle, crunchy exterior, so thick and decadent it tastes similar to a thin pie crust.
I also like how each type of samosa tastes distinctly different. The beef samosa is a flavour bomb of soft, marinated onions and fragrantly spiced ground meat. The vegetarian version is more toothsome, with wholesome chunks of potatoes, peas, and sweet corn. The chicken is also a winner. The meat is shredded and fluffy, so it soaks up all the flavour of the chutney in each bite.
The green chutney is so damn good, Nooren Samosas should sell bottles of it. The mint is lively and tangy, refreshing and cooling against the spices. I heard from a friend that the owner adds cilantro in the sauce, but I couldn’t detect it.
Pro-tip, if you are ordering for a party, get it delivered right before your guests arrive. Nooren cooks each order straight before it is delivered, which ensures the samosa arrives crunchy and toasty warm. Also, make sure to tip the driver, as he’s making the trip all the way from Erin Woods.
Bobbino and Uncle Ben were kind enough to help me pick up my new Ottoman coffee table. After they dropped off the table, I asked if I could take them out for some pints and pizza at Newcastle Pub. As I know this song is on one of Newcastle’s playlists, let’s listen to “One Headlight” by the Wallflowers.
Bobbino and Uncle Ben didn’t want a full meal, so I ordered some snacks. We started with a round of beers (Banded Peak Summit Seeker, $7.95), a pound of Salt & Pepper Wings ($17), and a Deluxe Pizza ($22).
The wings were better than usual. I can say this with authority, as in the past month, I’ve hit up almost every Wing Wednesday. I liked that the chicken skin was ultra-light and crispy, with a good ratio of meat to bone. I ate most of the celery and carrots, but I left one of each behind when Bobbino mentioned that he, too, likes the crudites that come with the wings. Bobbino mentioned the wings weren’t overcooked, which is his pet peeve.
I used to prefer Richmond Pub for its pizza, but now that Newcastle has upped its game, it’s a tie. I found out from our server that the owners of Newcastle also manage Richmond Pub, Merchants, and Porch. She mentioned Newcastle has recently changed some of its recipes. In the case of the pizza, it was for the better.
The pizza came out piping hot. When I pulled out a slice, the bocconcini and mozzarella oozed onto the pie plate like molten lava. The dough is homemade, thick and crusty, substantial enough to hold up to layer upon layer of pepperoni, salami, mushrooms and green peppers. I loved how the dough tasted clean and wasn’t greasy.
The pizza is tall, stacked and large enough for three people. Uncle Ben described this style of pizza as reminiscent of a 70’s traditional steakhouse. He smirked and said it was better than Una Pizza. I’m curious to know what else Newcastle has changed on their menu. To be continued.
Emba invited me to Hy’s for happy hour. I haven’t been here in ages. I used to organize work events at Hy’s, and I still remember how the GM, Barbara Steen, was always on top of everything, providing an exceptional experience for us. For this post, let’s listen to “My Baby Just Cares About Me” by Nina Simone.
Emba texted that she could only find a table at the bar. When I walked in, the lounge was packed. I wandered to the bar area and noticed that everyone was over fifty, with either short grey or white hair. My eyesight is, at best, poor in the dark, but I knew Emba wasn’t sitting at the bar. It turned out she did manage to get a table, and I didn’t see her when I walked in. Pro-tip – note that the lounge can get loud because the live music is in close proximity to the cluster of tables.
Service at Hy’s has always been good, but it was excellent this evening. I ordered a glass of the featured white wine ($9). I found my beverage light and refreshing, with fruit stone notes that reminded me of BC wines. To date, Hy’s is the only place where I enjoy the house wine.
Emba asked me if I wanted any food. I responded that I shouldn’t, as I’ve been frequenting wing Wednesday so often I’m starting to resemble Sponge Bob. Emba suggested we share a dozen fresh oysters ($30) and Blue and Black Ahi ($25.50), as both are low-calorie.
The ahi tuna is a must-order! When I bit into a piece, I tasted this deliciously salty char, contrasting with the ruby-red center. Dabbed with wasabi and dipped in soy sauce, my teeth cut through the fish like butter. So far, this is one of the best bites I’ve consumed in 2023.
The oysters tasted fresh, but some were so tiny. I got a kick out of the mini hot sauce bottle, which suited the size of the oysters. I blame the oyster grower who put these suckers on such a strict diet. On the plus side, since the oysters were so thin, it meant fewer calories. Our order came with cocktail sauce, a lemon wedge, a mignonette, and freshly grated, feathery horseradish.
Emba insisted on treating me, so I was firm we set another date so I could return the hospitality. We can return to Hy’s, or perhaps check out another hot spot on Stephen Ave. Thanks Emba, for a fun night out.
The plan on Friday was to host Beep Beep, Sunflower and Lovegastrogirl for dinner, then head to The Trop for the live music. However, as the evening crept on, our plans changed. Beep Beep rescheduled her flight due to childcare issues, and later, Lovegastrogirl declined due to work commitments. However, Sunflower was still up for some entertainment. For this post, let’s play “The Bad Touch” by Bloodhound Gang.
L had zero desire to come with us to The Trop, but he dropped us off and wished us fun. I was delighted to discover that we got the best table in the house – the large booth with a prime view of the dance floor. My friend Kournikova told me it is nearly impossible to get that table, even if you RSVP (which we did).
Despite having already eaten dinner, Sunflower insisted on treating me to snacks and Vizzy Seltzers ($6). The Tempura Green Beans ($11) and Potstickers ($13.75) were surprisingly good. The Trop is known for its live music, friendly staff, and Golden Girls clientele. Now I can add vegetarian appetizers to that list.
The green beans were plump and sweet, and the batter was so light it melted in my mouth. The spicy aioli gave these beans some spicy heat. I would get this again.
I was shocked that the potstickers were so good because 1) The Trop is not an Asian restaurant, and 2) the dumplings were vegetarian. Most veggie versions I’ve tried are bland, with no discernible flavour or texture. However, the Trop’s potstickers were clearly homemade. Fragrant with sesame oil, the combination of meaty mushrooms and water chestnuts made for good noshing.
The band playing on Friday was Red Mile High. Before they played their first song, each musician completed a mic check. I wasn’t paying attention until I heard a band member shout, “Syphiliiiissssss!” I asked Sunflower if I heard correctly, and she snickered and nodded. Then, the crowd below us began repeating the guitarist’s warning, creating an uneasy buzz around the room. I looked around and wondered if the musician was giving a public health announcement on behalf of Alberta Health. I took comfort in knowing that Sunflower and I would only have indigestion when we returned home.
The next day, Beep Beep arrived in Calgary. We shopped at a farmer’s market and, after, stopped by Major Tom for golden hour (3:00 – 5:00 pm). We ordered Cosmopolitan martinis ($16), Major Tots ($8), Oysters on the Half Shell ($21), and the MT Cheeseburger ($28).
I was curious about the cheeseburger because several food writers in Calgary have raved about it. Eating this burger was a sensual experience. The edges of the benchmark-aged patty were charbroiled and crusty, while the ruby-red middle remained warm and succulent.
Beep Beep said there were just enough condiments to compliment the beef, such as the crunchy burst of brine from the pickles and bite from the raw white onions. I enjoyed the stickiness of the layer of melted American cheese.
On our way home, I ordered banh mi from Soc Trang Vietnamese Submarines on Centre Street. As you may recall, I have an ongoing bet with L to have 19 banh mi dates, which makes Soc Trang date number 12. I called ahead to request two Beef Sate ($8.50), Sate Beef and Chicken ($8.50), Assorted Cold Cut ($7.75), Sate Chicken ($8.50), three Shrimp Salad Rolls ($6.50) and Pork and Shrimp Salad Rolls ($6.50). I asked for the vegetable toppings on the side and untoasted baguettes to prep the banh mis’ fresh at home.
L and Sirkski preferred the shrimp over the pork and shrimp salad rolls. However, I liked the addition of the pork, as the rough, dry texture gave some oomph to the roll. Soc Trang makes their salad rolls with fresh mint leaves instead of the standard iceberg lettuce. Even their hoisin dipping sauce was extra special, including strands of carrots, hot sauce, and peanuts.
I sampled the beef, chicken and assorted subs. I’m usually a cold-cut fan, but I prefer the beef and chicken subs. I relished the sauciness of the sate sauce, which mingled with the heavy layer of yellow mayonnaise. These are hefty subs. The chicken was plump and tender, and it tasted like it poached. Unlike Kim Anh’s grounded lemongrass beef sub, Soc Trang’s beef uses thickly sliced pieces and is generously layered.
Soc Trang’s pate has a rougher texture and more pungent flavour than Thi Thi, and reminded me of Saigon Deli’s cold cut. However, unlike Thai Tai’s homogenous cold cut, Soc Trang gives layers of various cold cuts that taste distinctively different. All the vegetable toppings tasted fresh. The carrots were pickled and slightly sweet. The quartered cucumbers were crunchy and refreshing. The other toppings include raw white onions, jalapenos, and cilantro.
After we ate, we headed to Aussie Rules ($13) for duelling pianos, which start at 8:00 pm and end at midnight. The hostess informed us we could dance on our chairs but not on tables.
Sirkski and L observed the drinks were cheap. For example, a Schooner (32 oz) of Wildrose beer is $15, $26 for a jug, and $7 for a pint. The highballs are more expensive – for a double vodka and soda, it’s $17 and $20 for three ounces.
We had a blast at Aussie Rules. The musicians are talented, and the crowd is even more entertaining. Forget The Trop and Merchants, Aussie Rules is the best place for people-watching. Thanks to all my friends and family for making my birthday one of the best ones to date.
For my birthday dinner, I wanted Italian food. My first pick was Franca’s, but it is closed on Thursday evenings. My second choice was Luca Restaurant, as I’ve heard only positive things about the food and service since it opened. Let’s listen to “Piano Man” by Billy Joel for this post.
We sat inside the main dining room, which offered a hallway view of the interior of the Oliver building. What stood out for me was the sheer size of the vast glass chandeliers and the starchiness of the freshly hand-pressed white table linens. At 7:30 pm, the restaurant was still bustling with the energy of chefs and bartenders from the open kitchen and bar. I felt like I was dining at a swanky, international hotel.
L started with a sleeve of 88 Brewing Co. ($7), and I selected a glass of white wine ($13, Longheri, Pinot Grigio, Veneto DOC, Italy). Before ordering, I DMed Miss Foodie on Instagram to ask her recommendations at Luca. She suggested the Veal Chop “Saltimbocca” ($55) and the Bombolini for dessert ($12). I also ordered the Gnocchi Raviolo ($20), Calamari ($18), and Fettuccine ($27).
Pro-tip – order your own appetizer and main. These dishes aren’t meant for sharing. We didn’t care about formality and just switched plates mid-way. Of the two appetizers, the ravioli was my favourite.
The warm, yellow egg yolk flowed over the whipped ricotta stuffing and crisp bacon when I cut into the ravioli, pooling into the green sauce. The texture of the ravioli was smooth and springy. Absolutely delicious! I would order this again.
The calamari arrived stacked like logs, bundled neatly by a green onion ribbon. There was a noticeable amount of spice and heat from the smoked paprika. The squid had a bit of a chew to it.
The fettuccine was incredible! The noodles were thick and chewy. The wild mushrooms were crunchy, charred and heavily salted. The chomp-chomp sound of the earthly morsels was just as satisfying as licking up the truffle pesto and porcini cream sauce from the noodles.
The veal chop was thick and served sizzling hot. I found the veal chop tender and a tad fatty. Like the pasta, the meat and prosciutto was salty. However, the intense smoky flavour from the grilled chilli broccolini was delicious and more than made up for the heavy-handed seasoning.
We were offered a tour of the cocktail lounge after our dinner, but I was too tired to continue the festivities. Sadly, I’m no longer a spring chicken. Thank you, L, for taking me for a fresh and novel dining experience.