Beer · Restaurants

Two House Brewing – COVID-19 dine-in edition

L and I are big fans of Two House Brewing. Two House has excellent beers, strong COVID-19 safety standards, and a comfortable city patio. It also helps that our friend Numbers is their accountant and it is the only public place his enchanting wife Caviar feels safe enough to visit.

Photo credit: Two House Brewing Co.

L and I arrived early and got the last table inside the brewery. We noticed that almost all the customers were drinking Raspberry Pi Sour, a Berliner-style weisse ($7, 18 oz). You could tell because of the rosy glint emanating from the glass. I enjoyed this sour – it wasn’t overly tart or sweet.

When Caviar arrived, she sauntered over, wrinkled her nose and asked us if we preferred sitting inside instead of outside on the patio. I said we would prefer the patio, but this was the only table available. She cocked her head to the side and confidently informed us that she was going a patio table for us. Damn girl, I like your style.

Once outside, Caviar complained the music wasn’t to her liking. I enjoyed the music because it made me feel like I was in my twenties again. Music is a powerful thing. For this post, let’s listen to “Girlfriend” by NSYNC.

L saw his university friend Porteous sitting in the patio. Porteous came over to say hello. It turns out he has a beer named after him at Two House – the Porty Dorty Dortmunder. Porteous recounted the moment he found out Two House named a beer after him. He said it was the happiest day of his life and he called his mother right away to tell her the good news. Some guys have all the luck.

L and I enjoy all the beers we’ve tried so far (18 oz, $7). My usual go-to beer is the Belgian-style Fave Hef Wit Wheat Beer. I dig the hazy fruity flavour and the soft notes of orange and coriander.

L’s favourite beer is the NE IPA. He loves the citrus notes and hint of grapefruit. I took a sip and I liked it too. I didn’t find the NE bitter like most IPAs.

I found a new drink that I’m a fan of – the Lemon-Squeezy. It’s a low calorie blend of Bridgeland Distillery Limoncello and soda ($10, 18 oz). It’s light, refreshing and not too sweet. Caviar wanted to know if there was higher alcohol content in the 18 oz versus the 12 oz. Caviar and I joked with our server about changing the proportion of limoncello to “sober water”. Our server firmly told us that the ratio could not be altered. I’m glad because after two limoncellos, I was feeling wobbly.

While we were sipping the night away, two groups with dogs were turned away because the patio was full. I noticed a woman who took up a table for four. She drank one beer over a 1.5 hour time span while reading her book. I asked Numbers if customers taking up a prime spot for hours poses a problem for businesses especially since the government has restricted the number of customers. He said with limited space and decreased number of customers, all businesses are struggling to get by. I may have spoken too loudly because the woman got up to leave and shot me a dirty look. Hey lady, don’t get angry at me because you lack self-awareness. Her table was promptly filled by a party of four, plus two adorable dogs.

Two House Brewing Co’s safety standards.

For beverages, service and safety standards, Two House Brewery can’t be beat. If you get to know the right people, a beer might be named after you. One can only dream. Hitting the Sauce gives Two House two fat thumbs up.

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Patio · Restaurants

Inner City Brewing Company – COVID-19 dine-in edition

On Saturday, I told L to pick a new brewery for us to check out. He picked a winner – Inner City Brewing. The beer was so good, I was surprised that I had never heard of this place before. For this post, let’s listen to The Streets, “Could Well be In”.

Inner City’s vibe is very Vancouver.  The brewery looks like a modern warehouse straight out of Yaletown. From the taproom seating area, you can see inner workings of the brewery. I stole some photos from Inner City’s Instagram account because my photos were awful.

Photo credit: Inner City Brewing Company

To create their concept beers, Inner City Brewery takes inspiration from the city. “Our brewing strategy is to produce a wide range of beer styles, true to their origins. In our names and our packaging, we honour the location where the recipe originates and the diversity of the inner core of that location.”

L counted 22 beers on tap. I opted for an Old Fashioned ($12) because he told me Inner City receives good reviews on their cocktails. L ordered a flight of beers ($9). We nibbled on popcorn ($6) while we sipped the night away. I was saving my appetite for a late night banh mi. I wish Thi Thi would partner up with some of these breweries like Clive Burger did with National. Banh mi goes with everything.

Photo credit: Inner City Brewing Company

Our server Jaime makes a wicked old fashioned cocktail. There’s an option to select the ingredients to your liking, but I asked Jaime for his recommendation. I’m a fan of his favourite version- it was sweet, bitter, and perfumed with the strong scent of a lemon peel.

L was impressed with each beer we tried. The Heart of the City – Helles Lager was light and fresh. This is a good option for an afternoon of crushing beers in the backyard.

The Bridgelandia Modern Blonde Ale was similar to Banded Peaks’ Plainsbreaker. I liked how light and smooth this ale was. The Sunnyside XPA – Extra Pale Ale was another easy drinking, smooth beer. I could taste the citrus in it. L thought the Collectively Smashed was similar to Dandy Brewery’s Oyster Stout. Rich, dark and creamy, this beer would be ideal to drink during the Christmas season.

L ordered another flight ($9) and I ordered a second cocktail. He thought the Bridgelandia – Hoppy Blonde Ale was awesome. I don’t normally like hoppy beers, but this one was easy to drink. There was no bitterness to it.

L thought the Rooftop – Modern Lager was reminiscent of American beer. I asked him what that meant. The whole point of describing something is to word it in such a way that someone who’s never tried it would understand. He said a typical American beer taste similar to Budweiser, but this version was superior in flavour.

My favourite beer of the night was the BLX: 2005-10A-2 Weiss Bier. The Weiss was almost saison’ish with a pleasant herbal taste. L enjoyed the Brickworks – Traditional English Dark Mild. He thought this was a mild dark beer that reminded him of a Newcastle brown ale. I thought it was a very drinkable for a non-beer drinker. For a double IPA, the Lights of the City was super smooth and not bitter.

L and I both noted that all eight beers were neither too strong or sweet. I think it’s telling we tried eight out of 22 beers and we liked each one. All the beers were unique and different from each other. For a fun night tasting stellar spirits, you can’t go wrong here. We’ll be back. Hitting the Sauce gives Inner City Brewing two fat thumbs up.

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Chinatown · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Paper Lantern – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Lovegastrogirl and I checked out Paper Lantern, a new underground tropical Vietnamese lounge in Chinatown. On Friday night, Paper Lantern was spinning some nostalgically old R&B tunes. So, for this post, let’s listen to “Try Again” by Aaliyah.

When we sat down, I immediately noticed two things. First, the staff take sanitation seriously. I saw tables being thoroughly cleaned in between parties. As this was Lovegastrogirl’s first time out in a restaurant since COVID-19, Paper Lantern’s safe practices put our minds at ease. Second, the music is played at an optimal level. For what my terrible eyesight lacks, my excellent hearing makes up for in spades. The music was loud enough to get into yet low enough to carry on a private conversation. A pet peeve of mine are restaurants that play music at a power level their speakers are unable to handle, resulting in fuzzy bass.

pina
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

The prices at Paper Lantern are easy on the wallet. Well-made and sizeable snacks range from $7-$12. Cocktails cost from $10-$18, wines from $9-15, and beers from $6.5 – $8. On the evening we visited, pina coladas were on special for $8 and a shot of premium rum sold at cost.

room
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

Lovegastrogirl and I had no problem sucking back our pina coladas. Our chilled glass stayed frosty until the last delicious drop. I liked that my drink wasn’t too sweet and I enjoyed the balance of rum to the flavours of the coconut and pineapple. A coconut flake lodged in my throat and I started self-consciously coughing. I looked around the packed room and thankfully, no one gave me stink eye.

Break even
Photo credit: Paper Lantern

Paper Lantern does a “break-even” special – a shot of premium liquor sold at cost. We tried Flor de Cana ($7.22), a 25-year slow aged 80 proof volcanic ash enriched rum from Nicaragua. I enjoyed the clean burn in my throat as it warmed me up.

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Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

We shared an order of Beef Thịt Lụi Nướng ($8). We received three skewers of soy marinaded beef, topped with grilled and crispy onions and accompanied with a dipping sauce of coconut hoisin. We requested no peanuts due to Lovegastrogirl’s allergy.

skewers

I enjoyed the taste of the charbroil beef and the generous toppings on each skewer. Lovegastrogirl taught me a new trick. Get your friend to shed some light from their phone while you take a photo. Not only do you get a clearer and brighter picture, your flash doesn’t go off and blind other customers. L will be relieved.

skewer single
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

We tried the Thịt Ba Chỉ Ram Mặn ($10) – a stir fry of pork belly, shrimp and pineapple on top of steamed rice. I enjoyed the sweet and tart glaze on the caramelized pork and shrimp. The portion of protein and rice was generous. I would order this again.

pork bowl

I’m planning on bringing my work family in early August to check out more of the menu. Office Dad said he will come if he’s allowed to bring his wife Jay Low.  I like his wife, so I said sure. Office Dad told me that Jay Low used to have a little, but now she has a lot. He said don’t be fooled by the rocks that she got, she’s still Jay Low from the Block.

rice bowl better
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

For our third drink of the night, Lovegastrogirl ordered a Saturn cocktail ($10) and I ordered a glass of Reynolds Branco. This white wine was described as a tropical vacation in a glass.  I found this wine rich, creamy and smooth. I thought this was an unusual wine and I enjoyed the chance to try something different.

Saturn
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

I’m thrilled that Calgary has a unique speakeasy in the heart of Chinatown. This is something the neighbourhood needs – an urban escape with tropical beverages and  yummy Vietnamese bites. Chinatown is changing and I’m loving it. For information about the entrepreneurs behind Paper Lantern, check out food writer Elizabeth Chorney-Booth’s detailed review.

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Burgers · Cheap Eats · Comfort food · Fusion · Happy Hour · Pubs · Restaurants

Eat Crow Snack Bar – COVID-19 dine-in edition

On Monday evening, L and I checked out Eat Crow Snack Bar, a new restaurant that took over Brassiere Kensington. For this post, I’m going to play a piece by conductor Liang Zhang from the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. I know nothing about conductors, but according to my father, Zhang is the bee’s knees.

I ordered a Texas Paloma ($13) and L ordered a Lone Star beer (HH $5, regular $7.50). The dried grapefruit garnish was a pretty, decorative touch. The combination of Texan Paloma, Epsilon Reposado, Ketel One Grapefruit, Rose Vodka and grapefruit was surprisingly balanced and subtle. I was expecting a cocktail that was heavy on the tequila. L took a sip and mentioned that in our next visit, he would partake in a cocktail instead of his usual beer.

grapefruit

The Spicy Chicken Wings ($8.50 w/ ranch dip) is a winner. If you are a wing connoisseur, you need to try these wings. The seasoning is mildly spicy and dry. The batter is thin and crisp, and so light the skin melted on my tongue. The chicken is good quality – plump with unblemished, silky white meat.

Each order comes with three pieces of chicken, and each wing is equivalent to three or four pub wings. I estimated I got about nine regular size wings worth of meat and skin. I would come back to Eat Crow just for the wings because it was that good.

Another must order dish is the Crow Burger ($6). The patty is thick and tender and explodes with juicy flavour. Though small in size, this burger is packed with so much meat, cheese and pickles, it was satiating. The Crow Burger rivals all the heavyweights in Calgary – Charbar, Clive Burger, and Burger 320.

The Magic Fries ($6) is also worth ordering again. Golden brown and perfectly munchy, these fries are delightfully addicting. I love the soft, mealy texture inside the crispy shell. Extra bonus – the portion is large enough to share.

I ordered my second and last cocktail of the night – the Humble Pie (HH $8.50). Made with Highroad Alberta vodka, sparkling wine, raspberry and lemon, this drink reminds me of the Framboise fortified wine from Elephant Island Orchard Wines. Not too sour or sweet, this cocktail is too easy to drink. I couldn’t taste the three ounces of booze, but I could sure feel it.

The Humble Pie cocktail came with a baby lemon tart. The custard is creamy and bright with a citrusy zing. The crust is brittle and buttery. The fresh mint and dehydrated strawberry garnish wasn’t just decorative but added to the flavour profile. I would order this cocktail again just for the lemon tart.

L and I shared the Crow Joe ($6). This is an incredibly messy slider. With every bite, an equivalent amount of the filling would drip down onto the plate. The sauce reminded me a little of Heinz beans.

I’ve actually never tried General Tso Chicken ($10) before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The batter was sweet and sticky. This dish, as well as everything else we ordered, arrived piping hot and immaculately presented.

The Handmade Pirogies ($10, $2 bacon) arrived supersized and fluffy. L enjoyed the sweet caramelized onions and smoky bits of bacon. I’m curious to know what my friend Sirosky would think, as his family makes their own pirogies.

Eat Crow charges prices similar to El Furniture Warehouse, a restaurant that sells all dishes for $5.99 (plus extra for upgrades like bacon, cheese, and sauces). However, the food quality at Eat Crow is significantly higher and vastly tastier than El Furniture Warehouse. I’m keen to return to try some of the vegetarian dishes, as well as those delightful wings and the Crow burger.

 

Eat Crow Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Fusion · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Nights & Weekends – Pop-Up Restaurant and Bar

It’s my birthday week! L picked me up from the airport and told me I had one hour to get ready for our dinner reservation. His colleague M emailed him an article about a pop-up restaurant – Nights & Weekends. What interested L was that co-chefs Bern Glatz and Nick Berenyi collectively worked at Ten Foot Henry, Anju, Mercato, Bar Von Der Fels, and Una Pizza + Wine. He figured since we like all those restaurants, we would enjoy Nights & Weekends. As always, L is correct.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, Nights & Weekends takes over the space at Shiki Menya. The restaurant is dimly lit, with the exception of the glow of the pink neon sign. The tunes are rocking and the vibe is intimate.

kitchen

Initially, I was skeptical when the bartender informed us they only sell four wines – bubbles, rosé, white and red ($12 glass, $48 bottle). After sampling three of the four wines, I realized you don’t need a large selection if each bottle is well chosen. Kudos to Katie, an employee from Vine Arts who selects all the wine for Nights & Weekends.

bubbles

L ordered a pint of Asahi ($7) while I requested a glass of French bubbles ($12). I found the bubbles tight and clean tasting.

eggs

We ordered two servings of the Tamago ($4). The egg was cool and soft. As I slurped the egg back, it felt like I was eating an oyster. I enjoyed the restrained use of black sesame and chili oil. However, L’s portion received all the scallions. Luck of the draw.

egg close upThe Waygu Beef Tartare ($14) is a winner. L appreciated how the focus of dish was the meat rather than competing flavour of secondary ingredients. The beef tasted supremely fresh. I didn’t even want to use the potato chip because it would take away from the flavour of the waygu. As I chewed, I savoured the texture of the beef.  Oh so good.

tartare

The bartender recommended I try the Russine (2017) rosé with the wagyu tartare. He described this wine as a winter rosé. I was reluctant to try it because too often, I find rosé tart, sweet or fake tasting. He didn’t steer me wrong. The wine was heavy for a rosé and a little dry.  I would order this again.

rose

The Poached Tiger Prawn ($10) was the star of the night. This sandwich was off the hook. The kewpie sauce was light and just enough to bind and coat all the ingredients together. The pea shoots helped to cut into the mayo. The tobiko added a pop of the sea.

prawn

The prawns were plentiful and sweet. With each bite, proportionally, there was more shrimp than bun. We liked how the bun was squishy and mushable against the crunchy prawns.

brawn bite

The Handmade Pasta ($18) was unique. What I liked was the firmness and bite of the noodles. The combination of the cheese, guancialle (cured meat), dashi, gachujang (Korean red chili paste), mushrooms and nori reminded me a little of Kraft cheese, but in a good way.

psata

I drank one more glass of wine because I was having so much fun and I didn’t want to leave. The Maggiorina Vino Rosso (2018) was interesting. The wine hit my tongue hard but then mellowed out.

red

In my opinion, this little pop-up restaurant competes with the best restaurants I’ve tried in this city and elsewhere. I love it so much, Nights & Weekends is making it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary. Hitting the Sauce gives Nights & Weekends two fat thumbs up.

Nights and Weekends Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

17th Ave · Bars/Lounges · Fusion · Hawaiian · Restaurants

Lulu Bar

I met Jaime and Invisible Sandi at Frenchie Wine Bar. Invisible Sandi’s husband Boudoir stopped by for a drink. When we finished our wine, we all walked over to Lulu Bar for dinner. For this post, let’s listen to a song Lulu Bar played that totally made my day.

Lulu Bar took over the old Local 510 spot. If you ever frequented the previous establishment, you’ll recognize the bones of the former bar. The space feels open and bright.  With the warm breeze blowing into the room I felt like vacationing somewhere sunny.

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After I ordered wine from our server, I realized how annoying I am. Based on her facial response, I have to tone my specification down. I blame Bar Von Der Fels as they encourage me to be picky until I find a glass I love. I enjoyed the glass of French chardonnay she picked for me. I didn’t find it oaky or buttery.

pop

We ordered a small bowl of Sambal Popcorn ($3.50). The seasoning was so tangy and spicy it made me sneeze. I covered my mouth with my hand but a piece of the popcorn flew out onto my hair. I tried to discreetly pick it off, but the kernel was stuck on pretty good.

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Boudoir ordered the Hot Dog Baos ($9), his favourite dish of the night. He said the hot dog reminded him of a sweet pepperoni bun. Invisible Sandi didn’t say much about the food, maybe because she was too busy amusing everyone with her whimsical quips.

egg

Jaime and I enjoyed our Fried Miso Cured Egg ($4). I liked the heat from the tamarind chili jam. The batter on the egg and crunch of the cucumber relish made this appetizing dish pop.

Boudoir thought his Fried Coconut Squid ($13) was underseasoned. I didn’t taste any heat or salt, just the sweetness of the pineapple sauce. I thought the squid itself was tender and better quality than I’m accustomed to.

peas

Jaime said the Snow Peas and Tendrils ($10) was a dish that her parents would make at home. The pods were crunchy with a satisfying snap. The flavour profile was nice – a hint of sesame, fresh horseradish and the smoky char of the peas. I’d order this again.

sweet .jpg

I usually find yams and sweet potatoes overly sweet. Lulu’s version was a winner. The fresh mint, yuzu cashew cream and salt flakes balanced the sweetness of the Crispy Roasted Sweet Potatoes ($10).

lobster

My favourite dish was the Steamed Lobster Dumplings ($16). These dumplings made me finally understand the phrase ‘Asian sensation’. The lobster filling was luxurious, slippery from its bath of fresh basil, chili, soy sauce and tobiko. I’d order this again and I wouldn’t want to share.veg dump.jpg

Jaime was too full so I ate two of her vegetarian dumplings ($13). Compared to the lobster dumplings, the vegetarian version was squishier and simpler. If you’re a vegetarian, this is probably as good as it’s going to get for you.

dessert.jpg

We shared the Baked Kuna ($11). Jaime enjoyed the macadamia nuts and the warm dark chocolate.  I liked the process of drizzling the chocolate over the cake, even though I know the kitchen staff would have done a better job with the presentation.

Thanks Jaime for treating me out to a fun filled night. I plan to return to Lulu with L. I know he would love the vibe and the lobster dumplings.

Lulu Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

17th Ave · Beer · Comfort food · Happy Hour · Restaurants

Alumni Sandwiches

L called me at work to tell me he won an award. Not only that, he was taking his broad out for dinner! There are two restaurants I’ve been wanting to try – Alumni Sandwiches and Pad Thai Restaurant. I picked the former because it was closer to our house. For this post, let’s listen to an old goodie that I heard playing that night – Lauryn Hill, Doo-Wop (That Thing).

 

Our server was bubbly and brimming with excitement when we ordered. She seemed genuinely thrilled when we ordered her favourite dishes. She recommended the Hot Chicken Sandwich ($12), Mexican Torta ($13), and the Chicken Parmesan sandwich ($13). L and I were already hot chickened out, as we just returned back from Nashville. I wanted to try the Vegetarian Torta but L said he wouldn’t share it with me unless there was meat. We decided on the Mexican Torta, Chicken Parmesan sandwich and a Mac Salad ($3). For the torta, I asked for the cilantro on the side so L could still have that noxious weed.

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I planned on ordering  a cocktail but our server told me about their happy hour special, $5 house wine, Alumni lager and a lemonade cocktail. Their house wine is described as “good red” and the other red available is called “better red”. If you are fussy about your wine, don’t get the house. I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself. Actually, I do. I’m hopeful that I’ll find a wine that I love and that’s cheap. I like to dream big. L was happy with his happy hour drink, the Alumni lager. He remarked it was refreshing and ice-cold. I took a sip – nothing wrong with the house beer. Pleasant and easy to drink.

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The Mexican Torta was heavy with ground chorizo and creamy with the Monterey Jack cheese, refried beans and green goddess sauce. This is a messy sandwich. The saucy mixture would periodically ooze out.

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The coleslaw gave the filling a satisfying crunch and the jalapenos provided a spicy heat. I liked how the ciabatto bread was crispy and light. I liked the temperature of the sandwich. It warmed me up a like a bowl of steaming hot soup.

torta.jpg

The Chicken Parmesan was a lighter sandwich compared to the torta. The breaded chicken was thinly sliced an melded with the provolone cheese and tomato sauce. The bright lemon dressed kale salad made this sandwich pop and gave it a bright zing.

chicken parm

I was a fan of the macaroni salad. The noodles were cold and firm. The macaroni salad tasted like my homemade potato salad. I could taste egg, onion and something tangy.

mac

To end our meal, we shared an Apple Pie ($7). The crust was flaky and warm. The apples were diced into small little cubes and the sauce actually tasted like apples instead of just sugar and cinnamon. The dulce de leche and vanilla bean ice cream tasted homemade.

apple pie

I did end up ordering a cocktail – the Oaxaca Old Fashion ($10). I found this drink smokey and sweet. I should have ordered it in the beginning of my meal, because it didn’t pair well with the apple pie.

I have a greater appreciation of the food scene in Calgary since I’ve returned back from Nashville. In Nashville, the food was good, but it because it was triple fried. You can taste the quality ingredients Alumni uses in all their food. The sandwiches I tried don’t fall into the health food category, but the ingredients tasted real and not processed.

These aren’t the sort of sandwiches you can make at home. I can honestly say I’ve never enjoyed a sandwich more. My brother-in-law Dave is a sandwich connoisseur and previously held title of sandwich artist. He’s been replaced by Alumni. L and I agreed we have to take him here to be wowed. Hitting the Sauc gives Alumni Sandwiches two fat thumbs up.

Alumni Sandwiches Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Sushi

Minami – Yaletown

window

For Beep Beep’s birthday, I picked Minami.  She invited her friends Doris, Emma, Tien, Vanessa and my friend Naomi. Naomi, Beep Beep and I arrived early at 6:55 p.m for our seven o’clock reservation. Doris arrived at 7:35 p.m. Emma came at about 7:40 p.m. because she went to the wrong restaurant. Vanessa was only 25 minutes late. Tien pushed convention and arrived at 9:10 p.m. For this post, let’s listen to Carole King It’s too late.

Naomi ordered Miyazaki #2 cocktail ($15). I ordered Beep Beep a bottle of sparkling nigiri – Yauemon Shu Awa ($56/500 ml). I wasn’t feeling well so I refrained from drinking alcohol. I did take a sip of the sparkling nigiri – it tasted like all the other ones I’ve tried. Slightly sweet, cloudy with a pleasant dry finish. I thought the sake was well priced compared to Calgary. The liquor stores in Vancouver also charge less for sake than the liquor stores in Calgary. I’m guessing this has do to with taxation and the liquor markup in Alberta.

sake.jpg

Beep Beep and I shared the Salmon Oshi ($17), Ebi Oshi ($17), and Saba Oshi ($17). Beep Beep liked the salmon version the best. The flavour of the BC wild sockeye salmon and miku sauce was enhanced by Minami’s flame-seared technique. We both took the jalapeño off because you never know when you get a really hot one. I liked how the salmon oshi had two layers of salmon, unlike the ebi and saba oshi.

naomi.jpg

Initially, I thought I wouldn’t like the ebi oshi because the flavour profile would be more delicate than the salmon. I was pleasantly surprised that the ume sauce was deliciously smokey. The pressed shrimp had a nice bite, the lime zest added a refreshing zing to it.

nice

The house cured mackerel was our least favourite. The fish was fishy and the texture was a bit mushy. I also thought the miso sauce didn’t do much to jazz it up. The sushi rice was the perfect balance of sugar and vinegar, so that I couldn’t taste one over the other. The rice was served at below room temperature.

oshi

Beep Beep and I shared the the Premium Trio Aburi Oshi Sushi ($25). My favourite bite was the hokkaido hotate and botan ebi, topped with mentaiko aioli and amaranth. The raw shrimp was cool and creamy. The scallop was sweet.

sampler

I liked the combination in the albacore tuna and otoro oshi. The garnish of tobiko oroshi ponzu and yuzu zest made this bite pop. The quality of the Japanese wagyu and hickory smoked bacon was excellent. The garnish of wasabi negi relish on the meat reminded me of the combination of horseradish and prime rib.

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The deep-fried shrimp head was cold and flavourless. I think it would have been better if the shrimp was fresh out of the fryer, squirted with  lemon, with a little more salt.

nigiri

Next time I visit I want to try the shittake mushroom nigiri ($2) and eggplant ($2). Naomi thought the nigiri was plain and needed soy or tempura sauce, as neither were provided. You can order vegetarian nigiri either tempura style or regular style.

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Naomi ordered the Nutigreen Farms Crumbled Tofu Salad ($14). It’s a delicious and flavourful salad, filling too. Chock-full of goodies like avocado, crispy tempeh, organic baby greens, pickled daikon and carrot, cucumber, tomatoes, and shaved apple. It’s the type of salad that taste so good you know it’s high in calories.

I like Minami. The food is quite good and the prices are reasonable for the quality. I do prefer Miku over Minami for service, view and overall ambience. Hitting the Sauce gives Minami one fat thumb up.

Minami Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Brunch · Burgers · Chain Restaurants · Dessert · Happy Hour · Restaurants · Seafood

Cactus Club – Yelp Elite Event

I write reviews on Yelp solely to get invited to their ‘elite’ parties. Most recently, I attended a Taste of Cactus Club. Holy smokes – their management team (Elim, Jim, Curtis and Kurt) can throw down. We were so spoiled, I felt like a rock star. For this post, I think Guns N’ Roses ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ would be most appropriate.

 

When I arrived, I was handed a flute of Blue Mountain Brut that was refilled continuously throughout the night. Our two tables were on the patio section. I lucked out and sat with social Yelpers Stephanie M, Jen L, Nadia, Jen 2 and Diane. Bottles of chilled sparkling and mineral water sat in champagne buckets nearby and were used to replenish our water glasses as we feasted the night away.

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Elim gave us an orientation for the night as we opened our goodie bags. We all received a $50 gift Cactus Club certificate, a Cactus bandana, custom-made chocolates flavoured after each of their desserts and a choose your own adventure booklet that we used to for our ‘Taste of Cactus’ event.

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I opened my book to read my first food adventure. “No good story ever started with a salad, and this is going to be a great one. So, tell us, when having a cocktail, do you prefer a sophisticated slush, or is your cocktail refreshing and on the rocks?” Stephanie M influenced my choice by telling me how much she loves gin. I picked option two – a summer sipper on the rocks.

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The “Summer Smash” cocktail consisted of gin, cucumber, Thai basil, lime and soda. This is the sort of drink that goes down way too easy. Light, refreshing and herbal. I was off to a great start! The slush – a Frose- looked really good too – a blend of rose wine, strawberries, elderflower, vodka and lemon. I want to try it next time.

squash

For our appetizer, I was given the option of a tuna tataki or a tuna stack. I wanted something creamy so I chose the tuna stack, which consisted of ocean wise albacore, citrus vinaigrette, nori, sesame, avocado and wonton chips. I requested no cilantro. This was a tasty and healthy way to start off our meal. I made sure to mix the dressing and all the ingredients up well before stacking it on my crunchy wonton chips.

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For our entrees, we were asked if a) is it beer and bar foods all day every day b) If you say you’re a meat and potatoes kind of person c) Do you prefer delicious food that’s fresh and healthy? I asked myself, “Who am I”? I thought of how tight my clothes were becoming and picked c. Thankfully, it was indeed delicious. If all vegetarian food tasted like Cactus Club’s ‘Modern Bowl’, I’d become one.

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The modern bowl was a colourful array of ingredients – tabbouleh, grilled avocado, pineapple salsa, roasted cauliflower and broccoli, tomatoes, cucumber, fancy greens, jasmine rice, and the most magically delicious ingredient – miso carrot ginger sauce. You mix up all the ingredients to get a filling and tasty dish. The pineapple salsa elevated this dish by adding a tropical, sophisticated flavour profile. You can also get salmon or chicken instead of avocado. My bowl was paired a glass of Adobe Reserva Sauvignon Blanc.

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I liked the modern bowl even more than the double-crossed pineapple hoisin short rib dish, which Jen L and Nadine gave me to try. The short rib was slow cooked for five hours, the pineapple ginger glaze and shiitake mushrooms gave it that extra edge over all other short ribs I’ve consumed.

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Cactus Club’s marketing maven – Elim – couldn’t finish her chicken tacos and fries. Even though I was so full, both Jen L and I couldn’t resist finishing of Elim’s sea salted fries. These fries put McDonald’s to shame. This was a perfect balance of crispy exterior and a soft mealy potato texture in the inside.

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My new friends and I turned to the last chapter of our food adventure. “Now for the million dollar decision… dessert. Which movie title best describes you? “Confessions of a Chocoholic” or “Life of Pi(e)?”.

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Turns out it’s a crime to have to choose between desserts, so they treated us to a little taste of both. My favourite of the two was the caramel chocolate mousse. I enjoyed the sweet, warm foam and the crunchy toffee. The key lime pie was good too, tart from their use of 25 key limes in every pie.

I arrived at 4:30 p.m. and I left around 8:00 p.m. I was having such a good time I didn’t even realize how long I was there. I dig the energy and vibe at Cactus. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun. I’m looking forward to using my gift certificate to try their other lifestyle dishes, like the rain coast greens, the ceviche and the modern bowl again because it was that good. Hitting the Sauce gives Cactus Club Cafe two fat thumbs up.

Cactus Club Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Restaurants

Ricardo’s Hideaway – Date night

It was Friday night and I wanted to go out. Despite that night being the start of The Big Taste festival, a nine-day event of restaurant specials, I opted out. Though the reputable restaurants that participate in The Big Taste offer wicked value – a three-course meal for $20.00 and up, I don’t like the crowd and how crazy it gets. Having said that, I do have my eye on Model Milk and Workshop Kitchen and Culture. I’ll be heading to Workshop for lunch this week but I also want to try their dinner menu. Perhaps I can convince my friend Legal to skip lunch and go for dinner after work instead?

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I picked Ricardo’s Hideaway, as I visited previously with my friend Blondie and the food looked fantastic. L bumped into someone he knew from work – Roman. Kudos to Roman for the warm welcome and suggesting a delicious rum – Ron Abuelo (seven-year|Panama|$5.5). I love rum even more than tequila.

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The seven-year rum was smooth and sweet and reminded me of whisky. A nice way to toast to the night. We both opted for beers, as I spotted Banded Peak Chinook Saison and L wanted the Driftwood Fat Tug IPA. The Driftwood was really tasty – bright with notes of grapefruit and not too hoppy. I like that glasses are smaller, so the beer stays colder and fresher for longer.

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For food, we ordered cashews ($5), crab legs ($14) with melted butter, jerk chicken ($16), roti ($5) and rice and beans ($5). I noticed enough vegetarian items on the menu for my buddy Jaime.

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The cashews were warm and reminded me of Christmas. The seasoning had either cinnamon or nutmeg in it.

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The jerk marinaded crab legs were a delight to eat. We were provided with all the proper utensils to crack and pick the meat out. The crab was grilled and blackened, spicy and full of chunks of goodness.

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The highlight of our meal was the jerk chicken, which incidentally is my worst photo of the night. Next time my husband and I are going to order a full portion. The half order contained four succulent pieces of chicken.

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The chicken was garnished with cilantro, which I detest, but even that noxious herb couldn’t hide the fact this was an amazing bird. The skin was crunchy, the sticky sauce was spicy and sweet. The meat was top quality, juicy and white. If you go out for cheap wings, you’ll appreciate this bird. There’s no blueish veins or bruised meat. I’m willing to bet that before this chicken crossed the road to Ricardo, it led a happy life.

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The rice and beans tasted clean, a refreshing contrast to the flavour explosion from the chicken and crab. The beans didn’t have that nasty metallic taste and mushy texture you get from canned beans.

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The roti was fabulous. Flaky, light and buttery, it was the perfect vessel to wrap around the chicken. The roti came with herbed butter.

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I’ve been cutting down on my alcoholic intake, but the pina colada ($10) might undo all my healthy intentions. This drink brought me back to when I was 20 at my first all-inclusive resort in Mexico. Except Ricardo’s version is far superior – sweet from pineapple juice, creamy from coconut milk and boozy from rum. I remember why I avoid pina coladas. It goes down way too easy. And I’m better this little cocktail was packed with at least 450 calories.

L and I enjoyed ourselves immensely. The music was fun and tropical. The crowd wasn’t douchy. The environment was unlike the other bars and pubs along 17th Ave, it felt like I was transported to an island. Ricardo’s Hideaway gets two fat thumbs up from me and makes it as my top pick as Flavour of the Month. Yeah Boyyy!

Ricardo's Hideaway Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato