Japanese · Sushi

Sushi In

L and his colleagues ordered sushi for their Zoom work dinner. L picked Sushi In – a newish Japanese restaurant in our hood – for his takeout. For this post, let’s listen to “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles.

I saw on Google that Sushi Inn has only favourable reviews. That took me by surprise because no matter how good a restaurant is, there will always be awful customers. Sometimes I’ll read a review on Yelp and think to myself that I hope I never have interact with such a wretched human being.

L ordered two of Salmon Nigiri ($2.5), Tuna ($2.5), Tako ($3), Hokky Gai ($2.5), and one Ebi ($2.5) and Red Tuna ($3.5). The ratio of fish to rice was more than double. The rice itself was a little hard and colder than he would have preferred.

I ordered the Chirashi ($24). I noticed the amount of seafood in my bowl was generous. I counted three pieces of salmon, tuna, and sockeye salmon. I also received chopped scallop and two pieces of tamago. The tuna had a strong flavour to it.

The sushi reminds me a little of Red Ember in that you get more fish than rice. The prices at Sushi Inn are more than the nearby E-Mart but the quality is better. At E-Mart, the only prepared food I enjoy is the kimbap and fish cakes.

If I order again, I would try the cooked dishes like the chicken nanban and katsudon. When I went to pick up our food, I immediately noticed the appetizing smell of tempura hung heavily in the air.

Fast Food · Fusion · Hawaiian · poke · Restaurants · Seafood

Pacific Poke – COVID-19 edition

On Tuesday, I wanted a break from cooking. I was yearning for something different, like Ethiopian from Yegna Restaurant on International Avenue. However, a little voice inside my head asked me, “Is it wise to travel so far? What would Dr. Hinshaw say?” I pictured Dr. Hinshaw’s kind face and I could hear her soft-spoken voice telling me to order delivery or pick up food from a restaurant closer to home. I guess I’m feeling pretty lonely if I’m having imaginary conversations with my medical hero. For this post, let’s listen to “Still D.R.E.” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.

I was still craving something out of the ordinary, so I called Pacific Poke  for pick up. L and I both ordered a large build your own poke bowl ($16), which included three proteins and four toppings. When I carried the food back into the house, I was surprised by the weight of the bowls. Pacific Poke doesn’t skimp on the portions.

pacific poke

We both chose traditional sushi rice, ahi tuna, wild salmon and crab. L topped his bowl with a double order of seaweed salad, sesame miso hummus, ginger jicama, avocado nori (+$1.50) and masago (+$1.50). I picked a double order of seaweed salad, cucumber kimchi, ginger jicama, and masago (+$1.50).

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Posted without permission from Pacific Poke.

Pacific Poke serves sustainable seafood. The cubed salmon was a bright orange colour, richly flavoured and smooth in texture. The crab was creamy and when I poked at the mixture, it came apart in fluffy strands. The ahi tuna was firm and fresh. L and I were both impressed with the fish. The masago was worth the extra charge – the fish roe provided a salty pop of the sea.

Lieghotn

L and I thought we could detect a spicy heat in the house ponzu sauce. The amount of sauce was just enough to bind all the toppings to the seafood and rice. The white rice was firm, slightly warm, with a pronounced hint of vinegar. We were both surprised the rice was so good, considering Pacific Poke isn’t a traditional Japanese restaurant. I’m curious to see if the brown rice is as well-made as the sushi rice.

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I liked all the toppings I picked. The seaweed was crunchy and tangy. The jicama tasted like a Korean pear and added a sweet, refreshing crunch. I took a bite of L’s avocado nori and hummus. The avocado was smooth and tart, the seasoning reminded me of guacamole. I think the hummus he chose would have paired well with the more non-traditional ingredients, like quinoa, corn salsa, chicken or vegetarian proteins. One issue with making your own bowl is that unless you know what you are doing, some of your choices may not pair as well as Pacific Poke’s chef inspired bowls.

poke mixed

I haven’t tried all the poke restaurants in Calgary, but so far Pacific Poke is my favourite. The quality is superb and the ratio of protein to rice to topping is proportional. When we return, I’d like to try a dish off the chef inspired menu, such as The Main or The Cali. Hitting the Sauce gives Pacific Poke two fat thumbs up.

Pacific Poke Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – COVID-19 takeout edition

Hot diggity damn! Sukiyaki House reopened for pick up and delivery! When I saw FoodKarma’s post on her recent pandemic meal, I knew I had to order the exact same thing. That way, I could bum off her husband’s photos. For this post, let’s listen to “Mad World” by Gary Jules.

I ordered a bucket of Japanese beer ($30), which included an Asahi bucket, six beers, and two glasses. L was thrilled and said he was going to keep the glasses for our bar he’s designing for our house.

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Photo credit: @realbuntcake

The Hitachino Nest White Ale from Kiuchi Brewery was light with a pleasant banana-like flavour to it. This is everything I want in a beer – easy drinking and refreshing.

kitachno Nest Kiuchi Brewery

Despite the 15 minute ride back home, the skin on the chicken karaage ($12) was still crunchy. The meat was juicy and it tasted like it was marinated beforehand. The lemon aioli added a brightness to this dish. The karaage is cheaper than a plate of wings at a pub, and triple the amount of meat and crispy skin goodness. I would order this again.

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake

The chirashi for two ($50) is value packed and brimmed full of precious edible jewels. Our meal set included two miso soups and two containers of potato salad. This is hands down the best chirashi I’ve tried in Calgary.

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Photo credit @therealbuntcake

The chirashi was studded with so many colourful treasures. Soft slices of yellow tamago, shredded tofu, orange pearls of fish roe, sweet, brown mushrooms, a plum-like condiment, and green asparagus tips that were so fresh, it tasted like spring.

chirashi

The rice itself was flawless. Each grain was firm with a bit of a chew to it. The balance of vinegar to sugar was spot on. Whoever made the rice nailed it. I can’t remember the last time I had sushi rice that was this stellar.

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I enjoyed all the seafood but there were a few pieces that stood out. The fresh crab was sweet and juicy. The scallops were buttery in texture and delicate. The ahi tuna was soft and firm, with a fresh, fatty flavour. The ebi was delightfully crunchy and sweet.

akeout

When I was eating at home, I could picture myself sitting at the restaurant. I felt normal again. I went to bed with a huge smile plastered on my face and I had one of the best sleeps since COVID-19 hit Alberta. Hitting the Sauce gives Sukiyaki House’s new takeout menu two fat thumbs up. Thanks for giving me a taste of normalcy again. Arigato!

Sukiyaki House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fast Food · Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Steamworks & The Cambie

L and I were suppose to meet up with N for dinner. Around 3:00 p.m., we walked over to Gastown to kill time. Since this post is going old school, let’s listen to “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus. L informed me that no one likes this song and it is hated by many.

We walked by The Lamplighter. I’ve only been here once before, when I brought L home to meet my family in 2010. He met my SFU buddy J. L, Moody and Cuz were so rowdy, they began purposely breaking glasses. I left early with Beep Beep, and after that night, J never hung out with me again. I asked L what he and his friends did to J. He said nothing and J seemed like he was having a good time.

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Since it was raining, we ducked into Steamworks.  There’s always fruit flies hanging around and the food isn’t good enough for me to eat, but there’s always seats and the location is convenient.

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I had one beer – Sanctuary – a collaboration between Blasted Church + Steamworks ($10, 500 ml, 7.5%). Blasted Church makes some decent BC white wines. The Gewürztraminer saison was light and peppery with citrus notes. It was so strong I felt intoxicated.

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I asked L if he wanted to walk the area I surveyed for my research project in 2008. He politely but firmly declined, and suggested instead we go for a drink in a nicer area. I mentioned the nearby watering hole, The Cambie, was closing for good this November.

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I’ve only hung out here a couple of times, at the request of work or school friends. The Cambie attracts a diverse, laid-back crowd. I was happy to see the conditions of the washrooms have improved. I recalled a poutine ($10) that I enjoyed 10 years ago and I wanted to try it again.

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The poutine was tasty, but there were fewer cheese curds than I remembered. The gravy was dark and salty. The fries were crispy and mealy. I’d order this again, but The Cambie won’t be open when I return.

At 6:00 p.m., N responded to my text, saying she would be ready around 7:00 p.m. However, that lone beer I drank from Steamworks made me dizzy, and not in a good way. My face was still red and I felt queasy. I told N that I would get something to eat to see if my condition would improve.

L and I popped into Kita no Donburi. I liked that all the dishes had the calories listed on the menu. I noticed most customers were eating tonkatsu curry (1,500 calories). The restaurant was busy, most likely due to the location and cheap prices.

L ordered Tendon ($9.95, 786 calories). His dish came with organic veggies, salad, two prawns, a purple yam, sweet potato, tofu crumbles, and kaki-age (mixed vegetables). He wasn’t impressed. He complained the tempura sauce was too small, and in Japan, tendon is served the sauce already poured over the tempura. I thought his dish was tastier than mine.

I ordered Chirashi ($12.50, 722 calories) even though I would have preferred the tendon. Dr. Quinn, my family doctor, has been after me to eat more fish. My bowl came with salmon, tuna, wild salmon, ebi, hokkigai, tamago, saba, ikura, spring mix lettuce and avocado. None of the ingredients tasted fresh or flavourful. Everyone thinks the food in Vancouver is so great. It can be amazing, but there’s a lot of mediocre restaurants here too. This was one of them.

I still wasn’t feeling well, so I cancelled plans with N. L and I took the train back to Richmond and I called my mother to pick us up. L asked me if I thought it was weird that my parents still drive me around. “I can rent a car when we visit so your parents don’t have to do that. We are adults.” This is the third time L has brought this subject up to me. I didn’t respond until we were in my mother’s car because I wanted Boss Lady to give him a definitive answer. She did, and that was the end of that.

Kita No Donburi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi

Red Ember – Return of Christina

My all time favourite server is Christina from Red Ember. L and I have been coming to Red Ember since 2012. Throughout the years, Christina has been in and out, as she’s gone back to school, had other jobs and lived overseas. I saw on Facebook that she’s returned. After going out for a drink, L and I made our way to Red Ember for a late dinner. In honour of Christina, let’s listen to Return of the Mack by Mark Morrison.

Even though it was past 8:00 p.m., the restaurant was packed. I also saw numerous takeout orders being picked up. If you pay cash, you get 10% off the bill. For takeout orders over $100, you get 15% if you pay cash. Good to know for my future parties. Christina warmly welcomed us back and asked the sushi chef and owner Calvin to make us a special amuse-bouche. A very lovely treat to start our meal.

appy

Usually, there’s Calvin and sometimes, another sushi chef working with him. I’m not 100% sure if there is another cook for the hot stuff, like tempura, teriyaki and udon. This evening, Christina was the only server. I’m pretty sure they were short-staffed, because Calvin would disappear and then suddenly the hot food would come out. Red Ember is a smaller restaurant operation, so when it gets busy, the food may take a bit longer.

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L and I shared an order of large assorted tempura ($10.99) and a large Asahi ($7.99). We received four pieces of shrimp and six vegetables. The batter is thick and crunchy. L liked how the tempura wasn’t overly greasy. I wonder if Red Ember will ever consider making tendon (tempura covered in sauce over rice). I think if they did, it would be a hit.

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L always order the chirashi ($18.99). The rice was fragrant with vinegar. Christina asked Calvin to give me two amaebi (raw spot prawns) as she knows this is my favourite sushi. When eaten raw, the prawn is sweet, creamy and crunchy.

shrimp head

L can’t look at me eating the shrimp head without making a face. A little judgy L.  I think the part that grosses him out the most is seeing the attenas poke out of my mouth as I munch away. He has no idea what he’s missing out on. The best part is when the remaining head is deep-fried as it taste like soft-shelled crab.sushi.jpg

L and I also shared some rolls. Dynamite Roll ($4.95), Negitoro Roll ($4.25), Chopped Scallop Roll ($5.99), Tako ($2.50) and Amaebi ($2.75). This turned out to be way too much food for us. The rolls were large and packed with filling. The seafood tasted fresh.

Office Dad and Asian Persuasion prefer Red Ember over Zipang and Roku because former offers more generous portions of sushi and sashimi. Both are also are a big fan of Red Ember’s lunch bento boxes. I like Zipang’s tuna and salmon slightly  more than Red Ember. However, Red Ember’s amaebi and scallop consistently taste fresher than Zipang and Roku.

Calgarians are lucky to have an affordable sushi joint, conveniently located in the inner city. L and I feasted away and our bill only came up to $60.  Hitting the Sauce gives Red Ember two fat thumbs up.

Pro tip. There isn’t any street parking immediately outside, but there is a parkade on the second floor, right next to the restaurant. My friend What’s Up Hamsup never pays for parking because he says if he gets a ticket, he just won’t pay it. L was feeling lucky and didn’t pay for parking either, despite my protests that it was only $2.00. Park and don’t pay at your own risk.
Continue reading “Red Ember – Return of Christina”

Japanese · Kyoto · Restaurants · Seafood

Kyoto – Random Izakaya

L was on his anti-Yelp mood so I decided to kick it back old school. We wandered around until we found a busy izakaya packed with locals. For this post, let’s listen to something that harkens back to an era when tourists used physical maps and pay phones. L, this one is for you – Grandpa, tell me about the good old days by The Judds.

I’d be able to find this restaurant again. The exterior was yellow and the restaurant itself was quite small. This restaurant was about a 10 minute walk from our hotel, Sakura Inn.

inside

When our server found out that we didn’t speak Japanese, she brought over an English menu. We sat down and ordered a bowl of chirashi (800 Yen), potato salad (500 Yen), ahi tuna (700 Yen) and a potato croquettes (300 Yen). The best of the bunch was the chirashi. We should have ordered what we saw everyone eating – sashimi and a heaping plate of karrage.

chirashi

The fish was very fresh. One piece of fish still had the silvery skin on, which is a bit of a turn off for me. It was actually one of the best pieces. The rich egg yolk made the rice creamy and mellow. I would order this again.

potato salad

The potato salad was below average. This has to be one of the worst versions I’ve ever tried. Bland, no texture, no flavor. If I served this up at home, I’d be embarrassed. But that would never happen, because I make a killer potato salad.

tuna

The ahi tuna was battered. I enjoyed the wasabi relish but I wouldn’t order this dish again. It just wasn’t as good as the chirashi or the potato croquettes. Too much batter for the amount of fish.

cutlet

The croquettes were very tasty. The interior was soft and creamy and filled with chunks of vegetables. For the price, worth it. I’d return for the chirashi, sashimi and to try the karrage.

Beer · Japanese · Seafood

Seattle – Late Night at Tsukushinbo

Beep Beep and I arrived at the WorldMark Seattle at the Camlin. Beep Beep’s step-mother has a time share there and she gave us the penthouse for the weekend. We valeted Beep Beep’s car and hopped inside to check-in. That’s when the timeshare salesman pounced on us. After half an hour of hearing him talk nonstop about coupons and an Amex gift card for $150 if we attend a meeting (but don’t tell anyone because I’m just giving YOU a special deal), we finally got away to eat dinner. I picked Tsukushinbo based on the numerous and positive reviews on Yelp.

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The front of the restaurant is nondescript. Blink and you’ll miss it. The restaurant was busy and our server was attentive but she looked exhausted. From what I could see, she was the main server for the entire restaurant.

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The miso soup was thick, cloudy, rich and salty. There was lots of seaweed and slivers of green onions.

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We received a complimentary dish of edamame. These lightly salted, slightly warm pods weren’t the cheap frozen ones you get at T&T. The boiled soy beans were sweet. You know when the free stuff taste this good, the food is going to be fantastic.

beans

Beep Beep is pregnant and she can’t eat raw fish, oysters, and soft cheeses. She also won’t drink any booze, not even a sip. However, since she was craving sushi, I ordered her an ebi onigiri ($5). For her main, she wanted cold noodles ($12.99). I opted for the chirashi ($25).

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Not the prettiest onigiri I’ve seen, but it is one of the most delicious I’ve tried. The tempura crumbs were crunchy and light, and that soy soaked sauce over the perfect rice was mouth-watering. I didn’t try her cold noodles, but she said it was refreshing and yummy. Our server told us that her dish were one of the most popular items at the restaurant.

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My bowl of chirashi was worth every American dollar. The rice had a strong vinegar taste. The presentation and the cut of the fish wasn’t best, but the freshness was incredible. Each piece of fish tasted better than I can get in Vancouver. The eel and snapper, normally my least favourite, were the best. In the past, I found eel has an almost dirt like taste. At Tsukushinbo, you can taste the charcoal essence, the crispy skin and the sweet glaze. I thought the snapper had great texture.  This chirashi was without a doubt one of the best versions I’ve tried.

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I was starving when I got to Tsukushinbo but when I left I was uncomfortably full. We both would have loved to just return here night after night, but we wanted to see what else the city had to offer. Hitting the Sauce gives Tsukushinbo two fat thumbs up.

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

View my food journey on Zomato!

View my food journey on Zomato!

Japanese · Seafood

Red Ember – Lunch

I’ve been on a Red Ember rampage. This time around, I convinced my office family to join me for lunch. There is a long list of lunch specials, around the $15.00 mark. Be warned – the portions are large.

Asian Persuasion enjoyed the strong green tea,  which only cost a dollar per person. Our server constantly refilled our big teapot throughout lunch.

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At my recommendation, Office Dad ordered the chirashi ($16.99). We received the usual pieces of salmon, tuna, snapper, scallop, octopus, clam and the highlight – seared salmon belly. Office Dad enjoyed the thick slices of fish. He prefers the tuna and salmon at Zipang over Red Ember. However, Office Dad said that without a doubt, Red Ember wins in the value department. While I also favour Zipang’s white tuna and salmon, their scallop is sometimes fishy, unlike Red Ember, which come large, luscious and sweet. Plus, the prices at Red Ember are wallet-friendly. I tried to trade a piece of my salmon for Office Dad’s scallop, but he declined my offer. Dammit. The scallop was the size of a big old fat west coast oyster. The salmon belly was superb.

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Asian Persuasion ordered the tempura and sashimi combo ($15.50). She thought the sushi rice and tempura were particularly good. Though she enjoyed everything, she couldn’t finish everything on plate. Office Dad ate her surf clam and a piece of What’s Up Hamsup’s dynamite roll.

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What’s Up Hamsup ordered the teriyaki chicken and sushi combo. He really liked the salad dressing. He saved the salmon nigiri sushi for last because he says he wants it to be the last thing he tastes. I totally know what he means, that’s why I save the skin off my fried chicken to eat at the very end. The dynamite roll was well-made. The shrimp tempura was freshly made, the layer of rice well-formed.

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When What’s Up Hamsup heard that I prefer my sashimi cool rather than at room temperature. He said that in Japan, because the sashimi is so fresh, it’s served at room temperature as it allows the flavours to come through. Serving raw fish at cooler temperature masks less than fresh fish. Point taken, but here in landlocked Calgary, I don’t mind tricks to make raw fish taste better. I don’t know how “fresh” one can get it here, as I heard fish is frozen and then shipped to Cowtown (not sure if this is true or not). I guess when I go to Japan, I’ll see for myself.

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We returned to work full and giddy. In one of the elevators, and in front of other employees, Office Dad exclaimed he was going to fart. We badgered him and then entered the final set of stairs to our office. Office Dad opened the door and turned to me and said, “You know I was joking right? I wasn’t really going to fart.” When I walked through the door, right behind Office Dad,  I smelled sulphur. I covered my mouth and pushed my way back out the door, shouting “Gross! (Insert Office Dad’s real name _____) farted! Disgusting!” The odour was so strong, the rest of the family stumbled out into the hallway. Office Dad’s face turned bright red and he said,”It wasn’t me. It’s rank in there but it wasn’t me.” Sure Office Dad, sure.

View my food journey on Zomato!

Red Ember Japanese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Happy Hour · Japanese

Date Night – Trolley 5 & Red Ember

On Saturday I coaxed L out to try Trolley 5 Restaurant and Brewery. All along 17th Ave, even the most popular restaurants sat empty. However, when we walked up to Trolley 5, the patio was jumpin’. Have you ever heard Destiny’s Child’s song Jumpin’, Jumpin? That’s what the energy was like, though with Alberta adjustments.

Ladies leave yo man at home
Trolley 5 is full of hipsters and
They pockets groan (it’s recession time in Alberta)
And all you fellas leave yo girl
With her friends
Cause its happy hour and the brewery is
Jumpin, jumpin

The restaurant was well-staffed. The employees were young and appeared happy to be there. Service from the hostess, bussers, bartenders and our server Georgia C were all friendly and customer-oriented. The uniforms were anti-Earls/Joey/Cactus Club. Staffers wore comfortable shoes, black jeans and tee-shirts.

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Overhead, we witnessed a “trolley” of beer bottles track through the restaurant’s ceiling. I noticed the bottles were empty, so I’m not sure if the bottles are just for show or serve a purpose in their beer-making process. In any case, the marketing for this place is appealing.

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Since it was happy hour, house beers, wines and highballs cost only $4.00. L ordered a 12 ounce glass of First Crush White IPA  (6.2%), which was described on the menu as a white IPA with citrus and hops. 

I ordered the Zephyr Hefeweizen (5%). Too bad it’s only a seasonal beer, because it’s one of my all time favourite beers. A light wheat beer, it wasn’t sweet and it had a pleasant non pedestrian tang.

Though the food at Red Trolley looked tasty (especially the Korean lettuce wraps), both L and I were craving Red Ember. When we arrived, we saw that both Christina and Calvin were working. Though early on a Saturday night, the majority of the tables were reserved. The place seemed popular with parents with kids and couples on a date.

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Calvin made us a special amuse-bouche of raw salmon, creamy avocado, tobiko, underneath a sweet and spicy mango sauce. The bright red flying fish roe gave it a nice salty crunch.

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We ordered an appetizer of tempura ($4.99). The batter was light and crisp. The shrimp was large and sweet. I liked how the dipping sauce was served warm. If you like tempura, do try Red Ember’s version.

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Our chirashi ($16.99) was personalized based on past visits. I received the deep-fried shrimp head and amaebi (sweet raw shrimp) while L received a huge scallop. He traded his scallop for my raw shrimp. The scallop was silky smooth and without a trace of fishiness. L said the amaebi was stellar in terms of taste and freshness.

chirashi leighotn

All the seafood was served at an ideal temperature, which was cool on the tongue. The salmon, tuna, snapper, clam and octopus were perfect in texture and flavour. The hamachi belly stood out, as each piece had beautiful cuts with a rich, smokey taste. The rice was well-seasoned with vinegar. L and I ate every single grain of rice. With Wa’s no longer in the picture, Red Ember makes it on Hitting the Sauce’s list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

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For the month of July, Red Ember is having a Stampede special. If you pay in cash, you get 10% off your entire bill! Yahoo! Now that’s incentive to dine at Red Ember. I plan to take my office family here for lunch.

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Trolley Five Restaurant and Brewery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato