Pizza

Actually Pretty Good – Pizza

On Monday, L had a long day. I didn’t want to cook when I came home, so I told him I was taking him out for dinner. We wanted some place close, so I suggested Actually Pretty Good in Bankview. For this post, let’s listen to “Manic Monday” by The Bangles.

On the day we visited, all pizzas were on special for $15. The restaurant was packed, so we purchased tall cans of Cabin Brewing Company Supersaturation NEPA ($7), Eighty-Eight Brewing Co. Tiffany Rosé Saison ($7) and chilled out on the bench outside. We landed a patio seat in about ten minutes. Personally, I think restaurants with a queue should encourage drinking around their vicinity, as it takes the bite out of waiting.

Outside the restaurant, the music was more of a whisper. Even though we were in the parking lot, the makeshift patio worked. I noticed the hanging flower baskets emitted a sweet fragrance. L pointed out the lights strung up in the trees. The owners created a nice space.


We ordered two pizzas, the Full Nelson ($25, Monday $15) and the Capricciosa ($24, Monday $15). The first pizza to come out was the Full Nelson. The dough was light and crisp, with a clean taste. The crust was puffy with crispy air pockets. The pizza was creamy from the four kinds of cheeses and white sauce and salty from the minced-up prosciutto. The honey added a pleasing touch of sweetness.

The Capricciosa was the heavier of the two pies. This pizza was loaded with fior di latte and juicy from the artichokes, green olives, and cubed chili smoked ham. The sundried tomatoes added a tart brightness to the whole flavour profile.

There’s a lot to like about Actually Pretty Good. The beers are reasonably priced, the staff are friendly and hardworking, and the pizza is a wicked deal on Mondays. We had four pieces left over, and when reheated in our air fryer two days later, it was just as good as when we ate it fresh out of the oven. Hitting the Sauce gives Actually Pretty Good two phat thumbs up.

Japanese · Seafood · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Belated Valentine’s Dinner

There are so many new restaurants, recommended by chefs and influencers who really know their food, that I haven’t been to before — for example, Pat & Betty (@janohansen), Rau Bistro (@thehungrygnome), Golden Sands (@miss_foodie, @foodkarmablog), and The Curryer (@miss_foodie). I should try more places out because, truthfully, I think I have the most repetitive blog. If I find a restaurant I love, I’ll write about it post after post. The problem is, I don’t particularly like trying new places. Let’s listen to “Over and Over” by Nelly for this review.

I told L I wanted to go to Sukiyaki House for our belated Valentine’s dinner. I like coming here because I know what I am getting. When I visit on Wednesday, I know that Sukiyaki House receives its fresh fish straight from Japan. When the restaurant is slammed with orders, I know we are in good hands because Koji Kobayashi, the head chef, is so efficient; he’s equivalent to three chefs. I know that extra staff get called in when it gets unexpectedly busy. I also know that the team monitors the food quality. Once just before I finished eating a dish, Justin came over and asked if I liked it. I said yes. He said he was checking in with me because I was looking at the food carefully and eating much slower than usual, so he wanted to make sure there was nothing wrong with the food. How’s that for customer service? I’m not the only one that sees what a gem this place is, as Avenue Magazine just rated Sukiyaki House one of the 10 best restaurants in Calgary.

I was craving something fattening and delicious, so we ordered Chicken Kaarage ($13). I paired this dish with a glass of French Sauvignon Blanc ($11) and, later, a crisp Asahi draft beer ($7). The squeeze of lemon cuts nicely into the crunchy crevices, adding brightness to the succulent chunks of chicken. The flavour of the julienned green onion was prominent.

Holy maki, Chef Kobayashi stuns again with another unique creation! The tuna tartare was paired with dainty pieces of nori that were battered and crunchy like a thin potato chip. The tuna was creamy with tiny crunchy bits, similar to watermelon. The scent of cucumber perfumed each bite. L raved about the subtle spice in the tartare that crept until you felt its heat. I noticed L was smiling as he ate.

We did our usual round of nigiri: Amaebi (Raw Shrimp, $4), Ebi (Steamed Shrimp, $3), Hamachi (Pacific Yellowtail, $4.20), Hotategai (Scallop, $ 4.20), Maguro (Tuna, $3), Shake (Atlantic Salmon, $3), Tako (Octopus, $3), Toro (Tuna Belly, $4.50) and an Aka Tekka Roll (Red Tuna, $6.50).

L wondered how they could get the steamed shrimp to taste so good. The shrimp is always so crunchy with explosively shrimpy flavour. The salmon and tuna were creamy, soft and cool on the tongue. We noticed that all the fish was served at the optimal temperature, neither cold nor warm. The flavour of bluefin tuna made my whole body tingle. I felt like the toro was richer and thicker in texture than the Maguro tuna. The Hamachi was meaty and tender, with a pleasant texture and flavour. The raw scallops were fat and clean tasting, with a silky, gorgeous mouthfeel. The scallops were so good I chewed as slowly as possible to enjoy the sensation and flavour. L loved that the nori (seaweed) in the maki roll still had teeth to it – like it was just toasted and had that dryness that snaps apart when you break into it.

I announced to L if I died that night, I would die happy. He agreed and said if this were our last meal, it would be an excellent way to leave the world. It’s always a good litmus test of a restaurant if you happily contemplate the end of your life after eating such a meal. I asked L how is it possible that one restaurant might give you so much pleasure? L responded that Sukiyaki House has a dream team – Anna, Judith, Justin, and Koji.

Even though I love coming to Sukiyaki House, I know I have to venture out. So I’m going to take a deep dive into the top ten list. I am usually skeptical of recommendations outside of my circle of friends, but I recognize several incredible restaurants on the list, which indicates this is a list worth investigating.

Seafood · Special Occasion

Von Der Fels – The Last Supper

After July 31, Von Der Fels will be no more. Lovegastrogirl and I had to dine one last time before chef Douglas King‪ and owner Will Trow move on to greener pastures to The Ranchmen’s Club. For this post, let’s listen to “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer.

I’m going to miss Von Der Fels for the wines. This is the only place in the city where I’m impressed with the wines by the glass. I’m normally a red wine drinker but due to the heat, I wanted to try a glass of white. Our server recommend Miser Riesling 2020 ($16). This one was lovely – I enjoyed how the wine sparkled on my tongue. However, my favourite wine of the night was De Collette 2019 ($18). There was just something soft and mellow about it that made me want to keep on sipping.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

The only reservation I was able to score was at 8:45 p.m. I couldn’t wait that long to eat and as a result, I was full when I arrived. However, we had to order food because you can’t come here and not eat. The food is just too good to pass up.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

Our first dish was the Crispy Pork Belly with Lettuce Wraps ($43). The fragrance of the smoky sweetness of the pork was intoxicating. The crunchy fat on the pork belly reminds of me of Peking duck, but with a more complex flavour profile. I liked how the pickled cucumbers and fresh mint help to cut into the richness of the pork belly and sauces.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

The second dish we tried was the Miso Sablefish with Tempura Shrimp ($49). Holy mackerel, this dish is a visual stunner. I felt like my eyes were eating as well. There was so much fried goodness in this plate that I felt giddy just looking at it. I could literally feel my inner fat kid transfer out of my body to hug this dish.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

Each layer of the artichoke was silky soft, drenched in a light citrusy matsutake beurre blanc sauce. The shrimp was delightful – the batter was as light as tempura. My favourite part of the dish was the miso sablefish. The fish was so tender and flaky, with an incredible buttery texture. I would order this again but I can’t unless I become a member of The Ranchmen’s Club.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

As a parting gift, Lovegastrogirl brought a bottle of champagne for the staff to enjoy. When her hubby Gpomp dropped us off at the restaurant, he asked me now that Von Der Fels is no longer assessable by the general public, what other restaurant could offer a similar experience? There’s only a handful of restaurants I have frequented in Calgary, so based on my limited exposure, and in terms of food, consistency, wine, service and value, I would say Sukiyaki House and Klein & Harris.

Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

I have to talk to L about getting a membership at The Ranchmen’s Club. There’s a stellar negotiation course at the Haskayne School of Business that I’m considering taking to help me with my persuasion skills. Perhaps the mere threat of going back to school will encourage L to explore the new happenings occurring at The Ranchmen’s Club now that Douglas and Will have taken over the culinary reins.

Photo credit: Von Der Fels

I’ll always remember Von Der Fels as the spot to bring friends and family. This was a restaurant that you could depend on to consistently deliver, visit after visit. I wish the owner and chef the very best in their new roles and future at The Ranchmen’s Club.

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.

bento

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

17th Ave · Bakery · Dessert · French · Mexican · Restaurants

Con Mi Taco, Black Sheep, and Wow Bakery – COVID-19 edition

Right before The City of Calgary declared a State of Local Emergency​, my friend Lovegastrogirl visited me for wine and snacks. Before she left, I sent her home with saffron lime pistachios from Ayoub’s Dried Fruits and Nuts, a bottle of my favourite wine that I discovered at Bar Von Der Fels, and a moisturizer she admired. For this post, let’s listen to “It’s Tricky” by Run DMC.

Lovegastrogirl surprised me last Friday night with a Beef Birria Taco Kit ($38) from Con Mi Taco and pastries. I’ve been wanting to try the birria ever since FoodKarma’s posted her hubby’s photos on Instagram.

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake

Our kit included a 2/3 pound of 18 hour chili braised beef chuck, ten freshly ground hand-pressed corn tortillas, lime wedges, onion garnish, mozzarella cheese, cilantro garnish, salsa morita, vegan jalapeño aioli and birria broth.

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake

The beef chuck was tender and saturated in flavour. We found the beef and broth so rich, that instead of dipping the whole taco into the broth, L and I just drizzled the sauce on the very top. The combination of the broth and sauces created a smoky, spicy profile. I’m really into Con Mi Tacos sauces – it’s more complex and creamy than what I’ve sampled in my trips to Mexico.

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake

I prefer the beef birria taco over al pastor because I like heavier, richer tasting meats. L stated while he enjoyed the birria, his all time favourite is al pastor.

guac

The Guacamole and Chips ($10) was a hit too. The dip was cool and creamy, with just the right amount of salt to make the flavour of the lime and avocado pop. I liked that we received so much dip, we ran out of chips before we finished the guacamole. Usually it’s the other way around because avocados are expensive.

nood pull

I took FoodKarma’s advice and used the leftover broth for Mexican ramen. The broth must be potent because it made a beefy bowl of noodles. Con Mi Tacos should consider selling their broth to customers to use at home. I would buy it.

bleubrrery

Lovegastrogirl also brought us pastries from Black Sheep and Wow Bakery. L and I shared the Blueberry Croissant ($4) and the Pan au Chocolat ($3.75). I was impressed with the flaky crisp shell and the big air bubbles inside the pastry.

half blueberry

The house made blueberry jam is delectable. I’d order this again and I don’t normally order pastries with fruit filling. I would buy this jam if Black Sheep ever bottles it up for sale.

crossiant

The pain au chocolate contained two sticks French Valrhona chocolate. Such a simple combination but when high quality chocolate and pastry is used, it’s a perfect pairing.

half chocolate

Black Sheep offers contactless delivery and pick up at their store. The stop is open every day except for Tuesday, from 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

almond

Lovegastrogirl also bought us pastries from Wow Bakery. I knew beforehand that she was a fan of Wow Bakery because she bought a cake for the No Man’s Dinner at Moon Korean BBQ. Wow Bakery is piloting a free delivery system with no tip for orders $25 or more until June 15th.

onion

We tried a French baguette ($2.99), Sweet Almond Bread ($3.80), and an Onion Cheese Bread ($4.50). L crushed the almond bread. The onion cheese bread reminded me of my homemade pizzas. My favourite of the bunch was the French baguette from Black Sheep, which I used to make a sandwich the next day.

sandwich

L said if we were in prison, Lovegastrogirl’s generous gifts would make us her prison bitches. I agree. I’m no one’s bitch. Next Thursday is my turn to treat her. But how am I going to top her?

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Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

I’m not a competitive person, except when it comes to hosting parties. Since I can’t host anymore, I’m going to bring the party to Lovegastrogirl. I’ve been scouring her Instagram profile to get clues on what would appeal to her.

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Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

As you can see from her posts, she’s a complex person. She has an affinity for finer things in life, like views from expensive tourist spots, over ordering at fancy restaurants, and consuming grossly overpriced cocktails. But she also has a soft spot for fast food, Cluck N Cleaver, and dazzling sweaters.

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Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

If you have any suggestions on what to get her, send me a message. I have until Thursday to come up with a plan. Thanks again Lovegastrogirl, you really know how to spoil a friend.

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Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

Wow Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chinatown · Chinese · Dim Sum · Restaurants

Dim Sum at the Chinese Cultural Centre Cuisine – COVID-19 edition

My friend Karol is busy helping restaurants gain more exposure during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, she worked with YYC Takeout Specials and helped to raise $3,000 for families and children in need.

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Now that spring is finally here, let’s listen to something weather appropriate. For this post, I pick “Violin Sonata No. 5, Op. 24” by composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

When I saw Karol’s dim sum post from the Chinese Cultural Centre Cuisine (CCCC), I started to salivate. Look to the dish at the bottom left. Holler! What huge balls! I asked her if I called, would the staff be able to communicate with me in English? Karol said yes, but if I was worried, I could text my order to the manager. I took her up on the offer. My Chinese pronunciation is terrible as I can’t hit the right tones.

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Unfortunately, the day I called the restaurant was slammed hard. By the time the manager responded, L and I had already left Chinatown. Karol felt terrible and insisted on treating me to dim sum. I told her I would only accept her generous offer if in exchange, she tried some of the frozen dim sum I bought from Chuen May Food Product.

dim sum feast

I was impressed with the takeout dim sum. The Har Gow (steamed shrimp dumplings) was fantastic. The shrimp was plump and had a nice snap to it. When it comes to the har gow “skin”, I am particular. Too often, restaurants serve over steamed har gow, resulting in a damp skin that splits apart when you pick it up with your chopsticks. I like it when the wrapper is a touch dry and has some resistance to it. The wrapper was perfect – firm and slightly sticky.

hagow

The Siu Mai (steamed pork, shrimp and roe dumplings) was enormous. I’ve never seen a meatier sui mai. The wrapper was firm yet silky, and thick enough to stand proportionally against the ginormous meatball.

siu mai

Good siu mai has a unique texture and flavour. The pork and shrimp mixture was pleasantly crunchy from the water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. The shrimp and pork mixture was juicy and so flavouful. I’m going to ask Karol if the restaurant will sell me their dim sum frozen, so I can make it at home. Freaking fabulous. This is one of CCCC’s best dishes.

sui mai 2

The Green Peppers Stuffed with Shrimp Paste is a must order.  I counted three to five shrimps per pepper. The shrimp itself was crunchy with a bouncy texture to it.

green pepper 2

The green pepper was still firm, crisp and sweet. I could taste charred smoky flavour in the black bean sauce. Despite the cilantro, it was still a winning dish.

Green pepper

The Lo Bak Go (pan-fried turnip cake) was thickly sliced and soft. When I bit into the cake, the shreds of the moist pieces of turnip fell apart. The tiny bits of dried shrimp and pork gave a surprisingly amount of umami.

turnip

L said he wasn’t expecting the BBQ Pork Pastry to be so sweet.  I prefer eating this dish cold because the pastry becomes drier and more crumbly and the sweetness becomes less pronounced.

pastry

Dim sum is the ultimate comfort food for me. This feast reminded me of all the weekly get together my mother would organize for our family and friends. Boss Lady is notorious for over ordering at restaurants.  I have to say, she is the ultimate hostess. Generous and hospitable to the point of over the top, Roman-style gluttony.

inside pastry

I can’t wait to have dim sum again. I plan to order the sui mai, har gow, and green peppers with stuffed shrimp paste. I also want to try the lo mai gai (mini sticky rice), steamed shrimp pork and chive dumplings, shrimp rice roll, and the eggplant stuffed with shrimp paste. I’m also going to ask for a side of yellow and red Chinese mustard.

plaste

You know how Zoolander couldn’t turn left on a runway? I can’t plate food for the life of me. Despite my disability, you can still see how delicious the dim sum is at CCCC.  Give it a try. I know I’m going to order again. Hitting the Sauce gives The Chinese Culture Centre Cuisine two fat thumbs up.

The Cultural Centre Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mexican · Restaurants

Shelter’s Taco Pop-up Event – COVID-19 edition

Usually, I only check out a new restaurant if it’s recommended to me by someone I trust, such as FoodKarmaBlog, Loaf2go, missfoodie, and lovegastrogirl. When I saw FoodKarmaBlog’s post on birria (spicy Mexican stew) from chef Daniel Ramon of Alforno, I took notice. Damn, that’s a beautiful stew!

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Photo credit @therealbuntcake

A week later,  I saw on Instagram that Daniel Ramon, Mikko Tamarra, and Andrew Ocasion were putting together a taco pop-up event at Shelter. L’s most favourite food in the world is al pastor, so I booked my order before they sold out. For this post, let’s listen to Big Pun’s “Still Not a Player”.

Our kit ($32) included ten hand pressed tortillas, 300 grams of al pastor, salsa verde, salsa roja, and generous amount of pineapple, cilantro, onions, and limes. When I went to pick my order up, the entire restaurant smelled like a taco stand in Mexico. All I needed was a beer, preferably not Corona, some sunshine, and I would be transported back to happier times.

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Photo credit @therealbuntcake

To make his tortillas, Tamarra brings in his own corn, prepares the corn through a nixtamalization process, grinds it, and then cooks each tortilla himself. That is a hell of a lot of work, but it was absolutely worth the effort. He nailed it. Cupped in my hand, the tortilla felt thick and soft. The tortilla smelled fragrant and tasted like the authentic stuff in our past travels.

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Photo credit @therealbuntcake

The al pastor was excellent. The pork was so juicy and flavourful. I loved the seasoning and the flavourful charred bits. I thought I could detect a little smokiness in the meat. I could taste the labour of love that went into this meal.

taco 3

The two salsas were very different from each other. The vegan jalapeño aioli was spicy with a lingering heat. The salsa morita was richly flavoured, tangy, with a hint of chipotle. L was happy Ramon included pineapple, as he doesn’t like al pastor without it. For me, pineapple doesn’t make it or break it.

taco 2

This taco kit was not only delicious, but it was inexpensive too. We would pay the same price in Cabo.  I heard through the grapevine that there might be a second taco pop-up event, this time featuring birria. I wholeheartedly endorse what this talented taco trio is bringing to Calgarians. We need a taste of Mexico to cheer us up. Hitting the Sauce gives Shelter’s taco pop-up event two fat thumbs up.

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

Italian · Restaurants · Special Occasion

Cotto Italian – COVID-19 edition

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

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

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

wine

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

two dishes

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

pan risoto

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

plate

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

risotto plate

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

tiramisu

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

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

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

Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Pure Kitchen & Bar – COVID-19 edition

On day 11 of Calgary’s self-quarantine, it hit me so hard how my friends and colleagues were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that I stopped in the middle of work to take a break. I felt overcome with nervousness. L took one look at me and announced that after my walk, we were ordering take-out from Pure Kitchen & Bar. 

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake via Instagram.

This habit of dining out to cure my blues started when I was young. To cheer me up, my father and sister would take me to the newest restaurant. In their honour, let’s listen to their favourite opera, “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

L and I normally do not order a lot of food. I try to eat just enough that I’m comfortably full. However, in this pandemic, I’ve been livin la vida loca. We ordered so much that we had enough for another lunch and dinner.

shrimp one

I had initial concerns that the Salted Duck Yolk Shrimp Tempura ($14) wouldn’t travel well. When we returned home, the batter was still crunchy, but I didn’t mix the ingredients as I should have. Instead of tossing the shrimp in the tobiko mayo, I dipped each morsel into the sauce and then rolled the nori and scallion seasoning over it. The batter is crusty enough that it benefits from a creamy, even coating of mayo.

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake via Instagram.

L doesn’t normally like kimchi but even he was a fan of the Sate Grilled Beef Kimchi Fried Rice ($16). There was a heat to the dish but the spice wasn’t overwhelming. I could taste and smell the smoky wok fragrance in both the rice and beef. I would order this again.

kimchi

L raved about the Caramelized Chili Lemongrass Chicken ($17). I was impressed with the large tender chunks of chicken thigh and the deep flavours of lemongrass, charcoal and ginger.

lemongrass

L said the next time we order takeout from Pure, he wants to try the lemongrass chicken on vermicelli. I think I would prefer the rice, because the grains soaked up an aromatic sauce that reminds me of citrusy wood.

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The Braised Pork Cheek ($18) showed off the difference between Chef Lam’s cuisine and westernized Vietnamese restaurants. The flavour profile of the pork was satisfying, subtly sweet and sour from the pineapple glaze yet tart from the nuoc cham sauce. The meat itself was so tender it melted on my tongue.

pork

The Grilled Ultimate Feast Vermicelli ($19) was so large, it would suffice for two modest appetites.  I liked that each protein – the chicken, beef, shrimp and pork –  tasted like each individual item was cooked to their specification.  Usually when we order mixed meats on vermicelli at other restaurants, all the proteins blend into one and taste the same.

mixed grill

Pure isn’t the only restaurant changing with these COVID times. To adhere to the government’s regulations, several notable restaurants are turning into a one person show.  For example, the owner and chef of Cotto Italian, Brasserie Kensington, and Foreign Concept are offering a limited menu items for take-out. Working in isolation, each chef is able to minimize contact with the public.

Dr. Hinshaw, the Chief Medical Officer of Health in Alberta stated that customers won’t get sick from food delivery, and if they really want to ensure the food is safe, to take precautions. For example, when you received your order, put the food in your own dishes and wash your hands thoroughly before eating. Click here for further discussion on COVID and food safety.

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If you want to help out restaurants during this time, reach out to your city councillor, MLA and MP . As owners, employers, or customers, write to each level of government to tell them how important the service industry is to our community.  It is vital that we ask the government to help small businesses during and after the pandemic, before it’s too late.

Pure Contemporary Vietnamese Kitchen + Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Song Huong – COVID edition

Due to rising coronavirus concerns, the Kokuho rose rice I buy at Superstore was sold out.  L and I decided to make the trek up to True World Foods for Koshihikari Homare rice.

True World

As we were minutes away from Song Huong, one of my favourite Vietnamese restaurants, we stopped by for lunch. Since Albertans are still reeling from a hell of a lot of bad news (e.g. health care and education cuts, stocks and oil prices plummeting) let’s listen to something calming. For this post, I’ll play “Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61:1”  by composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

The last time we visited Song Huong, we shared the restaurant’s specialty dishes – Bon Boe Hue (signature soup), Cha Gio (spring rolls) and Bun Hen (sauteed baby clams with vermicelli). I read on Instagram that Bo Tai Chanh (sliced rare beef with lime sauce) Banh Loc Tom Thit (pork and shrimp tapioca dumplings) are popular dishes.

menu

I ordered a large Bon Boe Hue ($11.25) without the blood pudding. If you’re starving, I’d recommend ordering an extra large bowl. For the garnish, Song Huong provides mixed greens instead of the usual bean sprouts and basil.

menu two

I liked that despite adding a ton of raw vegetables to my bowl, my broth remained steaming warm throughout my meal.  I find that at most Vietnamese restaurants, once you add the sprouts, the soup drops to a tepid temperature.

greens

The clear broth was lively,  fragrant with lemongrass. I could taste tart, sour, and spicy notes. There was a proportional amount of noodles to beef shank, pork meatballs and Vietnamese ham. The white noodles were the round and smooth, hot and slippery.

bon

L ordered his go-to dish – Bun Ba Cha Gio ($11.95). The lemongrass chicken tasted like it was well marinaded before it was grilled. The spring roll is made with rice paper, resulting in a thin, light, crisp wrapper. The vermicelli noodles were bouncy and fluffy.  I thought the combination of the cool, crisp vegetables and hot pieces of chicken and spring rolls makes this dish perfect for winter or summer. L said the portion was generous.

bowl

My new favourite appetizer is the Banh Loc Tom Thit ($8.50). The tapioca dumplings were filled with small pieces of pork and shrimp. Like my soup, the dumplings arrived piping hot.

dumplings

The dumplings were chewy and gelatinous. I like tasting the warm, squishy texture of the tapioca against the saltiness of the Vietnamese ham. The wrapper and meat filling were mild in flavour, which accented the toppings of crispy garlic chips, cilantro, and green onions.

close up one

I forgot to request no cilantro in all the dishes, but that didn’t deter from my enjoyment of the meal. I’m never going to love cilantro, but in these particular dishes, I can tolerate the herb.

best close up

For a filling and highly satisfying meal for two, the bill was only $30.00. When L went to pay for our meal, we chatted with the owner’s son. It turns out he took a class with L. What a small world!

front

If you haven’t checked out Song Huong, you are missing out! For non-westernized Vietnamese cuisine, you can’t go wrong here.  Hitting the Sauce gives this gem two fat thumbs up.

Song Huong Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato