Cheap Eats · Kyoto · Pizza · Restaurants

Kyoto – Colors and Kaya

Our first night in Kyoto! I wanted to visit L’s old stomping grounds. We hopped on a train and headed to Otsu, a sleepy little town just a few stops away from Kyoto Station. For this post, let’s listen to Journey – Don’t stop believin’ (Small Town Girl).

As we walked around, L pointed out everything that was either brand new or a place he use to frequent. He wanted to check out Colors – a hole in the wall bar on the main street. When L lived here, he use to hang out at Colors with his other foreigner buddy.

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He warned me not to use the washrooms, as it was a traditional one, a squat. There are a lot traditional washrooms in Japan. I have yet to use one. I’m just not there yet. Inside, a customer was smoking, but L was willing to tolerate this occasion because it was his idea.

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We were charged 400 Yen for some candies and wasabi potato chips. L said it’s common for a bar to drop off bar snacks for a small surcharge. L’s sleeve of beer was 600 Yen and my orange vodka was 800 Yen. My drink barely had any booze in it.

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L said customers often stay for hours and the ongoing conversation with the owner is part of the experience. Early in the morning, as in 6 or 7 a.m., L would see customers stagger out.

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L chatted with the owner and found out he just bought the bar. Another customer practiced his English with L and asked us if we were married.

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We only stayed for one drink. You could tell the owner and customer were surprised that we left so quickly. I informed L that I was taking him out for pizza and wine at Kaya Bar in Kyoto Station.

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I remember Kaya Bar being a lot better last year. I’m not sure if the quality went down or if my standards went up. I suspect it’s the latter. You can tell the employees are tired of tourists. This place attracts them in droves. Foreigners were excited to come in and order something familiar like pizza and pasta at inexpensive prices.

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The drinks are dirt cheap. 300 Yen for house red or white wine. 500 Yen for a small sleeve of beer. Pizzas start at 600 Yen. The pizza is fine for the price. The house wine was so bad, at one point I almost gagged. I just stopped drinking because I found it so unpleasant. I found it difficult to get a good quality glass of wine at a price I was use to paying for in Canada, which is about $16 a glass. The selection of wine is also not impressive at the department stores in Japan.

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The anchovy cabbage was vile. The texture of the cabbage was limp and soggy. The sauce just didn’t jive with my taste buds. The pizzas are thin and have a good ratio of cheese to dough. This place was a hit with our group. There’s nothing wrong with Kaya. Just avoid the house wine and you’ll do fine.

Cheap Eats · Comfort food · Japanese · Restaurants · Tokyo

Tokyo – Harajuku Gyoza Ro

TJ had evening plans that didn’t include me. Oh boy. Hitting the Sauce was single for the night. Lucky for me, Cascara was up for a food adventure. She received a recommendation from Good Son to check out Harajuku Gyoza Ro. For this post, let’s listen to Happy End by Kaze Wo Atsumete.

Gyoza Ro is a small bar, jam-packed with tourists. Expect to wait on average about 20 minutes. Part of the issue is that customers sit and linger inside. We went in for a leisurely meal and when we left, most customers that were there before us remained there.

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We each ordered a Lemon Sour for only 450 Yen. That’s a wicked price in Tokyo! You’d think such a cheap drink would be weak. Nope. I still got a glow on.

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We ordered the original and garlic and leek gyoza. You get a set of six for only 290 Yen. The skin was thin, the bottom was nice and crispy. We ordered the dumplings pan-fried and some boiled. Both versions were tasty.

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The cooks serve the dumplings fresh off the frying pan. There’s an assortment of sauces to spice things up. For three bucks a plate, I have no complaints.

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Even better than the gyozas were the cucumbers with special miso sauce (250 Yen). The miso was sweet and almost peanut buttery. The cucumbers were so fresh, it tasted like they were plucked from the garden that day. I’m use to good produce. I purchase all my vegetables from Broxburn Farm. Cascara and I ordered another plate of cucumbers because it was that good.

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The boiled sprouts with special meat sauce (250 Yen) were meh. I would skip it. There was no flavour and it tasted like watery boiled meat with sprouts.

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I would go again. I plan to take L if he can tolerate waiting in line for so long. Thanks Cascara and Good Son for the recommendation.

Cheap Eats · Comfort food · Curry · Japanese · Restaurants · Tokyo

Tokyo – Ikebukuro Cheap Eats

It’s interesting traveling with other people. You get to learn their quirks. For example, TJ does not like to hunt for a good restaurant. Sometimes, she won’t eat for 24 hours. I asked her how she can go without food for so long. TJ responded I could do it too. You just go without. When she’s finally ready to have a meal, she wants her food immediately. Her criteria in Japan: 1) fast 2) convenient 3) cheap and 4) big portions. I’ve tried to bring her snacks to quell her appetite so I can search for a better restaurant, but I was unsuccessful. I’ve found a few places that meet her criteria. For this post, let’s listen to The Hanging Tree from the Hunger Games soundtrack.

TJ approved of Kareno Lo. I found this katsu curry shop, which was less than five minutes from our hotel. You buy your ticket from a vending machine. The descriptions are in Japanese, so make sure to bring your Google translate app with you. There’s only about 12 seats at the counter. It’s the sort of place you’d go by yourself to chow down and then get the hell out.

Once you get your ticket, hand it to a cook who will fry up your cutlet. The portions here are hearty. For about 900 Yen, you get a generous cutlet, rice and curry. The katsu at Karen Lo is superior to what you can get in Calgary. I’ve had better katsu in Kyoto, but I paid at least double that amount. The difference between Karen Lo and other higher end joints? You get a fluffier batter, different breed designations, variety of cuts, endless bowls of perfect rice, miso soup, pickles, salad, condiments and tea.

TJ tried to find Kareno Lo again without me but she couldn’t find it. I thought that was hilarious. This is a woman who can find any business, cultural site, university or village in Japan. Tj uses real maps, not Google map. She even looks up multiple maps for one location, because each version shows varying degrees of detail. I’ve got my own special powers. I’m a savant when it comes to eating out. I can remember every single restaurant I’ve even been to, everything on the menu, where the restaurant is located,  and what was ever written about the restaurant’s food. Sadly, no one gives out awards for this rare talent. I’d give the katsu 3.5/5.

The third place I found that TJ enjoys is Ginza Kagari Echika Ikebukuro. This noodle shop is located next to my favourite sushi joint by Exit C6 at Ikebukuro Station. There’s usually not a long line-up. I’m particularly fond of the cold soba noodles with the sardine dipping sauce. The cold, grilled vegetables and meats were refreshing and the perfect accompaniment to the noodles. Bowls of soba cost 1000 Yen and up. I’d give the sardine noodles 4 out of 5.

I’ve tried the famous chicken soba soup with truffle mayo. The broth was very fragrant and rich, almost like butter.

I found Iwamotokyu at the end of our trip. Iwamotokyu is not nearly as good as the tendon chain – Tempura Tenya – but it’s open 24 hours. The soba is quite nice, far better than the rice, which was too wet. The noodles were firm, toothsome and almost nutty in flavour. The tempura itself was average. I’d skip the fish and meat and go for shrimp or veggies instead. For about the same price as a meal at the local 7/11, Iwamotokyu does the trick of filling up our bellies. Solid 3 our of 5.

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There you have it. There are loads of cheap eats in Tokyo. Not so much in Kyoto. To be continued.

 

 

 

 

Cheap Eats · Comfort food · Deli · Restaurants · Tokyo

Tokyo – Ootoya Ikebukuro

Before L and I leave for dinner, we would usually have a drink in our room. When L first came to Japan a decade and a half ago, there was only Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo. The beer scene has really taken off and craft beer in Japan is booming.

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Now when we visit an upscale grocery store, there’s a half-dozen options. Each can is between 300 to 500 Yen, depending on the brewery. I prefer Alberta’s craft beer because of its greater complexity. I find Japanese beers one-dimensional.

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Ootoya was a restaurant I found on Yelp that L and I both would not bother returning. It had all the makings of a good restaurant. The interior is pleasant and clean. Service was prompt. Prices were excellent and the presentation of the food was nice. The only thing missing was taste. For this blog posting, I’m going to play some music you’d probably hear at a restaurant in Tokyo.

It’s cheaper to eat at this pleasant canteen than a combo meal at McDonalds in Calgary. Most dishes were around 1000 Yen. We picked a chicken dish and breaded pork in curry with an egg. Both entrees came with rice and vegetable side dishes.

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See how good this chicken looks? Well, there wasn’t much flavour. On the plus side, no flavour usually means it’s not drenched in sugary or buttery sauces. The portions are generous, more geared to Westerners. We were both too full after eating our meal.

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L ordered breaded pork cutlet in curry. The batter was soggy and all the vegetables were overcooked. It’s pretty rare we try a restaurant in Japan and wouldn’t return. The only other place is a noodle house right by west side of Ikebukuro station exit – Tachi Kui Soba Kimidzuka. L hates this place. Whenever we walk by, which is at least twice a day, I make a joke about eating here.

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This stand room only shop sells udon and soba for cheap. Despite its prime location, it’s only busy around lunch time. Most of the customers are business men in a rush to get in and out.

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In 2017, I wanted to try it. We saw another person order zaru soba (cold buckwheat noodles). I know we are supposed to order by number but the zaru soba wasn’t on the menu. L said excuse me in Japanese and pointed to what a customer was eating. The man in charge in the kitchen shouted at L to order by number. I said “Zaru soba” and then showed two fingers. I wanted to add tempura at the last moment and that infuriated the man even more. He slammed the food down on the counter and gave L a dirty look. He didn’t gave L his change back either. There’s no tipping in Japan, so this was a big affront.

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L said it’s a huge insult for a local to not give you your change back. It wasn’t busy inside either. It takes a lot to get L mad, but oh boy, when he does get riled up, watch out. I told L that it was clear that the man wasn’t living the high life and to let it go.

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How was the food? I’ve had better instant noodles in Japan. Having said that, some of the instant noodles in Japan are better than the ramen I’ve had in restaurants in Calgary. L didn’t eat his food. I thought it was a bit tasteless, the service and the soba. If anyone tells you that you can’t get a bad meal in Japan, just send them to Tachi Kui Soba Kimidzuka and tell them to special order something ;-).

Beer · Cheap Eats · Japanese · Restaurants · Tokyo

Tokyo – Torikiozuku

In the evenings, most of our group would leave Ikebukuro for the busier spots, such as Shibuya (entertainment district that appeals to the youngsters), Shinjuku (the busiest train station with the largest red light district) and Harajuku (know for street fashion, but I didn’t see anything but tourists).  L and I preferred hanging around Ikebukuro, where it was easier to walk around, weaving in and out the quaint little nooks in the city. I much rather get to know a neighbourhood really well rather than seeing a little of a lot.

IKE Night

Going out to drink in Tokyo is more difficult and expensive compared to Calgary. Most bars fit ten people or so, so it’s not easy to get a seat for two during prime time. Smoking is allowed, so L will throw a fit and make me leave if our table is next to smokers. There’s usually a seating fee, even for the hole-in-the-wall bars. Tiny sleeves of average beers cost 800 Yen. Below average wines start at 1000 Yen.  I’m not into drinking sub par drinks at a premium, which is why I chose to drink before I went out in the evenings.

Sake

TJ likes to describes herself as a thorough researcher, which is why she needed to buy every single sparkling sake she could find. Last year, she was really into plum wine, which I find much too sweet. Due to her deep love for knowledge, I’ve sampled 15 different sparkling sakes.

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Single servings (100-300 ml) of sparkling sakes purchased from grocery stores/liquor stores range from 600 to 1, 500 Yen. The bottles of sake (750ml) I enjoyed ranged from 5000 to 6000 Yen. That’s dirt cheap compared to what I pay in Calgary.

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I prefer “cloudy sparkling sake” over sparkling sake. Regular sparkling sake is sweet and in many cases, reminds me a delicious, one-dimensional soda. Cloudy sparkling sake is usually higher in alcohol percentage (15%) and taste more like regular sake. My favourite sparkling sakes are Chokaisan and Sparkling 39. One of the better sakes I tried is Dassai 39. I wanted to bring home a sake that was recommended to me (6000 Yen), but I was afraid it might break in my luggage and I didn’t know if it was worth the risk. I plan to buy a bottle to try at the beginning of the trip to ensure it is luggage worthy.

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If you want to eat and drink at an izakaya (Japanese pub), it can get pricey. The exception being places like Torikizoku, a chain restaurant known for selling all its dishes and alcoholic beverages for a mere 300 Yen (plus taxes). L doesn’t like this place too much, but we’ll come after we get rejected by better izakayas that only cater to locals.

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We found out about Torikiozuku in the spring of 2017. Two members of our group found it by befriending a local on the street. They told us not to tell the rest of the group to prevent Torikiozuku from getting too busy. I kept my promise and only showed members of our group the one in Kyoto. I still got in trouble.

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I’ve found the food inconsistent – sometimes it’s quite tasty and other times I find it lacklustre. I have a soft spot for this place because it was the first izakaya I went to and the staff are nice and accommodating to foreigners. For the price, I don’t care if some dishes aren’t that great.

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You order from an iPad. There is an option for English too. The cabbage is all-you-can-eat. The cabbage is just roughly chopped up and tossed with soy sauce. To me, it tastes a bit like plastic. The ramen and rice bowls are below average. The best thing to get here are the skewers.

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L and I accidentally ordered liver. So gross – the texture was gritty and taste was like clotted iron. Generally, I preferred the yakitori with sauce rather than just salt and pepper. The karrage is okay, though quite dry. The deep-fried chicken knees were my favourite, crunchy, munchy little nubs. The meat patty skewers with cheese were also good.

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There’s a low quality beer in a big mug and a slighter better beer in a sleeve, both the same price. L said the bigger sized beer taste like piss. I didn’t like any of the alcohol served here. You do pay for what you get. We can eat and drink here for about 20 US. drink.jpg

Seeing as how we’ve mastered Ikebukuro this year, next year I’d concentrate in a neighbouring areas. In Tokyo, we take the Yamanote Line – which loops around central Tokyo. Places we haven’t explored deeply include: Shin-Okubo  (Tokyo’s Korea town), Shinagawa/Gotanda (high concentration of izakayas), Takadanobaba (college neighborhood that’s home to Waseda University) and Yurakucho (restaurants under the tracks of the Yamanote line).

Cheap Eats · Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi · Tokyo

Tokyo Eats – Sushi

Sushi in Tokyo is fantastic. I haven’t done the whole Jiro Dreams of Sushi thing because I don’t want to drop $600 US + for a meal for two that will last only 30 minutes. I’m sure I’d love such an experience, but it’s not within my means. I have long suffered from a problem called champagne taste on a beer budget.  So,  I make do with super sushi finds that costs me a fraction of what I’d pay for in Calgary. For this post, let’s listen to All My Money by Matt Giovanisci.

I introduced our group to a cheap conveyor belt sushi place by our hotel – Tenkazushi Ikebukuro. Plates of sushi start at 125 Yen. L and I will have around five plates each, and our bill is always around 2,000 Yen. On our second night in Tokyo, I accidentally went to the wrong conveyor belt restaurant. Their sushi was 110 Yen and it was not nearly as good as Tenkazushi. The extra 15 Yen is worth it.

outside sushiTenkazushi is foreign friendly and are accommodating even if you speak zero Japanese.  I find the sushi tasty, particularly for the price. Take a look at the amaebi (sweet raw shrimp). I think it cost me about 275 Yen. The sushi rice was good too. L liked this place but he’s never been to Tachigui Midori Echika, my favourite spot.

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Tachigui Midori Echika is located at the C6 exit in Ikeburkuro station. The standup room is tiny and fits 10 people at a time. I’ve waited in line at 10:30 a.m. before it opens to snag a spot. I’ve arrived at 10:50 a.m. and had to wait half an hour. L doesn’t like to wait in line or stand up while he eats, so I haven’t taken him here.

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Tachigui gets busy at lunch because of their 500 Yen meal set. You get a bowl of complimentary miso soup too. This set is a steal. You can get a similar set in their takeout section for 500 Yen, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I found a piece of octopus so chewy and fibrous, I couldn’t eat it. For the takeout sets, it’s best to pick the most expensive ones, which aren’t pricey. For eight pieces of nigiri, I only paid 790 Yen. The quality is much better than your average sushi joint in Calgary.

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Inside the sushi bar, I enjoyed the trio of salmon nigiri. Two are seared, one with a creamy sauce on top. The pieces of salmon are generous. The texture is so smooth and soft. I love the smokey taste of the torched salmon. Just thinking about it makes me drool. This trio cost me 390 Yen.

CHEAP SUSHI

My only issue is I don’t like the new sushi chef. Last year, there was a jolly guy who was very kind to me. I spoke what I could in Japanese and when I struggled, I would make up with it by a sumimasen (excuse me) domo arigatō gozaimasu (thank you) and look apologetic. That chef  gave me a baby scallop on the house when I told him the sushi was oishī (delicious). He recognized me in future visits and was always pleasant.

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This year, I made the mistake of ordering from a man who gave me an English menu. He was actually in charge of bringing people inside and setting them up for the meal. The sushi chef looked pissed and the poor guy I first talked to looked startled, and pointed to the sushi chef. I apologized but it was too late. The damage was done. I’ll call this sushi chef Enraged.

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I ordered the most expensive stuff – uni (300 Yen), uni cone with the most expensive fatty tuna (490 Yen) speckled with ikura (salmon roe), different cuts of toro (200 – 300 Yen) and  everything my heart desired. The other customers enviously looked at my picks as they all got the 500 Yen set and cheaper pieces.

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I saw all the other customers calling out their sushi requests. Enraged would nod and make them their dish, no problem. These customers weren’t polite and didn’t say thank you or anything. However, I had to wait until we made eye contact and then he would nod his head to me and say something in Japanese before I could order. No one else had to do this. It could have been because he needed to be free in order to take my order, as I pointed or spoke in poorly pronunicated Japanese.

Below is a tuna set for 990 Yen. I wouldn’t order this again. The seared tuna was average. I only liked three of the five pieces. I’m better off ordering a la carte.

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I didn’t clue in until the second time that I had to catch his eye and not to call like the other customers. When I didn’t stare at him until he noticed, Enraged would hiss at me and give the meanest look and say something in Japanese. I don’t know what he said but if I had to guess, it would be “Wait! Not your turn.” The other customers and the junior sushi chef would look at me intently for my reaction.

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I was really pissed off by his attitude. I was about to give him a foul look in return. I paused, took a bite of my sushi cone, then decided to shut my mouth. The combination of uni, fish roe and tuna belly was amazing. Everything – the texture, the taste, was exquisive. Enraged being a jerk didn’t detract from the food at all. I had a choice. Either swallow my pride and eat like a queen and pay like a pauper or be rude back and not be able to eat here again.

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At the end of each meal, I said in Japanese, “thank you” and “delicious”. Enraged would beam at me with such pure joy, I realized that I can put up with his attitude. Plus, obviously I did something to offend him even though I tried my hardest to be polite. Story of my life in Japan.

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In Japan, the locals treat me like a local. I even had Japanese speaking guys come up to me to ask for directions. When locals would speak to me in Japanese, I didn’t know what to say back. If I get too anxious, my mind goes blank. I freeze up and forget the phrases L taught me – Nihon-go wa wakari mason (I don’t understand Japanese) or wakari mason (I don’t understand).  When I didn’t respond properly, locals would give me the cold shoulder. It was so frustrating. At least when I offend someone in North America, I know I did it on purpose.

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Highlight: Sushi in Tokyo is superb even if you are on a budget.

Lowlight: Passing for a local sucks if you can’t speak the language.

Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Song Viet

Asian Persuasion wanted pho for lunch. I let her pick the restaurant. Her boyfriend is Vietnamese and she lives close to International Ave, meaning she knows good pho.  She said the best place in Chinatown for sate beef is Song Viet.

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I don’t get as long of a lunch break as Asian Persuasion, so I told her I would meet her at the restaurant after she arrived with her friend Sonia and What’s Up Hamsup. Office Dad decided last minute to tag along. I told him I was going to text Asian Persuasion so we would have enough seats. He insisted that I only say I needed an extra seat for my purse and not to let them know he was coming. Sigh. After trying to reason with someone who refuses to listen, I sent Asian Persuasion a text asking for an extra seat for my purse.

When we arrived, Asian Persuasion was sitting at a table for four. She read the text but didn’t move to a bigger table because she could easily pull an extra chair for my purse, which she said is not so big it needs its own seat. I guess I’m no Theresa Woo-Paw. Kids, if you don’t remember this reference, read here for the story on Woo-Paw and how her purse got its own seat in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.

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I’m pretty sure Office Dad did this because he wanted to make a grand, dramatic entrance. I bet he pictured walking into a room where two young females would squeal with surprised delight at the unexpected sight of him. Instead, they just good-naturedly dragged their tea cups and pot over to larger table across the room.

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We all ordered #64 – Hu Tieu Mi Sate Bo – which is spicy beef sate ($11). Song Viet is generous with the basil and sprouts. All the condiments – like the vegetables and lime were fresh and clean. The bowl wasn’t large but there was plenty of beef and noodles to fill you up. I have a big appetite and I was full. What makes this bowl special? The noodles are fresh and not dried. Song Viet buys their noodles daily. The sate is pea-nutty and spicy, but not so hot it makes you cough and sputter.

I visited a week later to try the regular pho and the shrimp salad rolls. I would stick to the sate beef pho. The rolls were premade and hard, without any herbs, with a plain hoison sauce. The regular pho was flavourless and the broth wasn’t hot enough. The second visit was a lot less impressive than my first visit.

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Service is quick and the owners are nice. However, not all the dishes here are good. I’d stick to the sate beef pho.

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

Cheap Eats · Chinatown · Comfort food · Vietnamese

Trung Nguyen – Vietnamese Subs

I love the subs and the owners at the  Thi Thi (Chinatown location), but I also really like Trung Nguyen. The line-up is also shorter than Thi Thi and the service is just as nice. I usually get the Assorted Sub ($5.50) but the Sate Chicken ($7.50) is also an excellent choice.

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The baggette is soft with a crusty exterior. The ratio of meat and veggie to bread is perfect. The assorted sub comes with cold cut meat, mayo, pickled carrots, onions, jalapeño peppers, and cilantro. I’ve added extra vegetables before but it just throws off that balance of bread vegetables and meat.

The sate chicken is good, with its spicy peanuty sauce. However, there’s just something classic and comforting about the assorted sub. Whichever filling you pick, you can’t go wrong. The prices are great and the flavour unmatched. I noticed a duck sub ($7.00) which I’m interested in trying if I can manage to pry myself away front my beloved assorted sub.

The female owner told me to call ahead of time and she’ll come out to hand me the sub, so that I won’t get a parking ticket. Apparently, Calgary Parking is lurking out often enough that it’s not worth the risk of parking illegally. I don’t drive but I appreciate the gesture.

Trung Nguyen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Cheap Eats · Sandwiches · Vancouver/Richmond

Richmond – Bob’s Submarine Sandwiches

Beep Beep picked me up at YVR for our girls’ trip to Seattle. We wanted to get a bite to eat before the drive over to the border. I saw on Yelp that Sakana Sushi was a popular bet, so off we went.

Beep Beep parked her car and we walked to Sakana, which is a few doors past Bob’s Submarine Sandwiches. I’ve read about this sandwich joint but I never tried it. Sitting by the front window, I saw two guys with huge smiles on their faces, just about to dig into their footlong sandwiches. Screw Sakana… Beep Beep and I were going to eat subs.

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I walked up to the guys and asked them what they were eating. They told me they got a large Teriyaki and Deluxe hot subs. Each half sub is cut into two pieces, so each of their subs looked like four sandwiches. Based on the expression on their face, I wanted to try Bob’s submarines.

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Inside the shop, it’s like a time warp. The decor and set-up reminds me of a 80’s style diner, a dingier version of the coffee shop in Seinfeld. There’s a steady line-up of customers and tables filled with dirty plates. There’s one chef at the front grilling the meats for the sandwich, a young man at the cashier and a woman popping in and out of the kitchen.

I noticed an empty heater for fried chicken. There was grease and crumbs littering the bottom of the case. When we left, it was refilled with freshly fried chicken. Maybe next time…

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We shared two small hot submarines, the Super Sub ($5.90) and the Teriyaki Chicken ($5.90) and a side of fries with gravy ($2.50). The Super Sub was the best of the two sandwiches. Packed with double layers of melted mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, salami, capicollo and steak, this is one of the meatiest subs I’ve ever consumed. The toasted seasame bun looked puny compared to all the meats, grilled onions, shredded lettuce and tomatoes.

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The Chicken Teriyaki sub came with big, meaty pieces of chicken. I could see the teriyaki sauce but I couldn’t taste it. Flavour-wise, both subs could use more seasoning, like salt and pepper and maybe some mustard or mayo. I found the chicken a bit bland.

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The subs were hot off the grill and messy to eat. Oddly enough, the fries tasted better when cold. Filling, super cheap and retro cool, I think this is a neat place to check out. If you’re a germophobe, I would skip this place for something more sterile, like Subway.

Bob's Submarine Sandwiches Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Cheap Eats · Chinatown

Chong Fat – Best Eats in Chinatown

Chong Fat is one of my favourite Chinese restaurants. The hours are odd. The restaurant closes early for dinner and isn’t open on Tuesdays. The room itself is utilitarian. However,  none of that matters to me. It’s the food and service I love. The dishes are simple and well-cooked. The food isn’t sloppily cooked like so many other Chinese restaurants in Calgary.

Most customers order the hearty noodle soups, like the meatball, brisket or seafood balls. The homemade fish cakes have a nice bounce and a nice sweet, clean taste. I often see customers chowing down on plates of chow mein and duck. Lately, there’s one dish that has caught my fancy but it isn’t on the menu.

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What is this mystery dish? Eggplant, tofu and peppers are stuffed with shrimp paste. Doesn’t sound exciting but it is amazing. The eggplant is silky smooth. The peppers are crunchy and spicy. The exterior of the tofu is crispy and the interior is soft and light. The savoury oyster sauce has that wok hei smell and taste that I love.

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You can order this dish with rice or soup noodles. I prefer rice, so all that sauce gets soaked up. A whole plate of the stuffed vegetables and tofu with rice will fill you up.

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A warning if you drop by during the lunch rush. If you’re only one or two people, you might have to share a communal table. The last time we sat at a shared table, Office Dad chatted with a group of four. When I got up to leave I said jokingly,”Thanks for the meal. That was very generous of you. Next time it’s our treat.” Everyone at the table knew I wasn’t serious with the exception of one guy. He looked alarmed and said firmly, “No, I’m not treating.” I walked up to the front and I made a big production of pointing to his table while I paid for our meal. The guy stood up and shouted, “No. You pay for yourself!”. Hahahahaha. Sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Chong Fat is located in Far East Shopping Centre. You’ll know you’re in the right place if you smell the Chinese herb store. There’s a reason why this shopping centre is commonly referred to as the ‘stinky mall’.

If you want to try the dish I described above, just show the server the picture on my blog. I always find the service to be welcoming and kind, despite my limited Cantonese. Cash only.

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Chong Fat Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato