Fusion · Japanese · Restaurants

Pop-up takeout @ One18 Empire – COVID-19 edition

There’s nothing quite like Japanese style fried chicken. When I saw an Instagram post of Kaede E Hirooka and Jonathan Chung‘s chicken leg karaage bento box, I knew I had to try it. For this post, let’s listen to “Hard Knock Life” by Jay Z.

To place an order, you have to send a direct message on Instagram to @respectthetechniqueyyc. You can choose from three pickup locations. Once you arrive, text your name, vehicle model and colour to the number provided to you. To adhere to safety regulations, your bag of food will be placed on the top of the car’s hood.

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Photo credit @respectthetechniqueyyc

L and I ordered from One18 Empire Restaurant location at the Calgary Marriott Downtown. We parked on the street directly across from Charcut Roast House. I was expecting a chaotic pickup. Instead, the process was straightforward and the lineup of cars moved quickly.

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Having spent a total of nine weeks in Japan, I’ve eaten my fair share of cold bento boxes. Is cold fried chicken better than freshly fried chicken? For me it depends on how important a crunchy batter is to you and if the chicken is properly seasoned. You can make any old chicken tasty if you deep-fry it. But when you eat cold chicken, you can’t hide behind a hot, crunchy batter. When I used to eat at KFC, if the chicken was cold it tasted like a congealed lump of seasoned lard.

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The first thing I noticed when I opened the takeout container was the intoxicating  aroma reminded me of my mother’s homemade fried chicken. The crispy skin tasted like it was glazed with a sweet seasoning. The meat itself was incredibly flavourful. The texture of the chicken was smooth and silky.

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Equally impressive are the sides. The macaroni was slippery, the light cream dressing was rich. The mortadella sausage from VDG added a pleasantly savoury dimension to the pasta salad. The sausage was so delicious, I would buy it.

This is the best coleslaw I’ve tried in Calgary. The combination of the crunchy, tangy vegetables with the Asian infusion of silky Chinese mushrooms and cilantro was genius. I hate cilantro and I still loved this salad.

The white rice was cooked perfectly – sticky but still firm. The cool temperature and simplicity of the rice was refreshing as it helped to cut into the richness of the macaroni salad and chicken.

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I would order the karaage bento box again. I hope the chefs keep the same sides because the combination is outstanding. Hitting the Sauce gives @respectthetechniqueyyc and his team two fat thumbs up.

ONE18 EMPIRE Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese · Sushi

Sushi Bistro Anzu – Birthday Lunch

For my birthday lunch, my office family took me to Sushi Bistro Anzu. I picked Anzu because neither Asian Persuasion, What’s up Hamsup and Office Dad have been before. Also, the bento boxes offer wicked variety and value. Office Dad threw a hissy fit in the car when I told him the reasons I picked the restaurant. He retorted that he doesn’t like bento boxes. I told him when it’s his birthday, he can decide where to go. He sulked in the backseat and would intermittently start an argument with the other members of the office family.

When we arrived at Sushi Anzu, we ordered green tea ($1.50) and gyoza ($6.00) to start. The gyoza here is tasty. It tasted homemade with its silky, extra big wrapper and juicy, flavourful pork filling.

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We all order slightly different versions of the same bento box ($13.99). Office Dad and I picked mackerel, tempura and sashimi as our main proteins. Our combos also came with a hot, flavourful bowl of miso, rice, a salad and a side dish of root vegetables and tofu. The tempura was oily and not as light or fresh as Red Ember‘s version.

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This was my first time eating grilled mackerel. I ate the skin too. The flesh is heavier and has a more pronounced flavour than cod, salmon and tuna.

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The cuts of sashimi were small but fresh. I thought each piece of fish was cut well and when you bite into it, it would cleanly tear away from your teeth.

Office Dad enjoyed his food and exclaimed how much he likes bento boxes because of the variety and generous portions. I pounced on him in a millisecond. “I told you that I picked this restaurant because you guys like bento boxes.” He nodded in agreement and responded, “I know. I don’t know what got into me earlier. I think I was just hungry.” Damn Office Dad, I’ll be keeping a Snickers in my purse for when you get hangry again.

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What’s Up Hamsup picked the pan-fried sliced beef with Anzu’s special yakiniku sauce, breaded deep-fried tenderloin pork cutlet and nigiri.  He really liked the sauce  and the onions in the sliced beef dish. I took a bite and it was tasty and tasted homemade.

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Asian Persuasion picked the same thing but chose sashimi instead of sushi. She wasn’t a fan of the katsu sauce.  She also thought the salad was plain. I agreed, the dressing on the lettuce was almost nonexistent.

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Office Dad insisted the four of us share dessert. He wanted to order mango ice-cream but Asian Persuasion and I both told him we would rather have sesame ice-cream. Since it was my birthday, he consented. Man, I love the taste of sesame, it’s so nutty and rich.

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Service was great and the food was excellent value. Asian Persuasion, What’s Up Hamsup and Office Dad still think Red Ember has the best bento box in the city. Red Ember is awesome and I always enjoy the food and service. However, Sushi Bistro Anzu is a nice alternative if you want to try traditional Japanese dishes. Both Red Ember and Sushi Bistro Anzu get two thumbs up from me.


Sushi Bistro Anzu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese

Daruma

Asian Persuasion, Sun, What’s Up Hamsup and I made plans to check out Shokunin for ramen. I made reservations the day prior for lunch. What’s Up Hamsup dropped us off right at the front of the restaurant and then drove off to look for parking. However, when we walked up to the door, we saw that Shokunin was closed to prepare for a function that night.

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Asian Persuasion called What’s Up Hamsup to tell him that we had to find an alternative restaurant. He parked his SUV at the end of the street. The three of us ran to his car. Asian Persuasion said that this was likely the first and only time What’s Up Hamsup would have women running to him rather than sprinting away. I told him what Asian Persuasion said and he responded, “That was the most pathetic attempt of ‘running’ I have ever seen. You chicks need to learn how to run.” What’s Up Hamsup does pretty well with the ladies, so jokes about his prowess don’t bug him.

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We drove around and around because What’s Up Hamsup was craving ramen. He had eaten at Shokunin the weekend before and said thought it was the best traditional ramen in Calgary. I mentioned Redheads, but instead, What’s Up Hamsup drove over to Shiki Menya. The line-up was too long and at this point, I was feeling the time crunch. We already wasted 30 minutes driving to Shokunin and then to Shiki Menya. In a hurry to get back to work, I suggested Daruma which is a couple of minutes away from Shiki Menya.

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Asian Persuasion and I ordered the miso ramen ($9.50). Sun and What’s Up Hamsup ordered bento boxes ($11.50). The egg in the ramen wasn’t warm. It was pre-cooked and then added to the broth. The noodles were cooked al dente. The broth was tastier the more you drank it. I liked the addition of the sweet corn niblets.

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Sun and What’s Up Hamsup didn’t have much too much to say about the bento boxes. They were both full and didn’t eat all the food. I did notice was that the other customers at the restaurant complimented the chef on the way out.

The next food adventure? I want to take the office family to Pure Contemporary Vietnamese. We have a Stampede event coming up that includes a buffet lunch. I plan to skip the buffet and then head over to Pure for happy hour eats.

View my food journey on Zomato!

Daruma Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato