Curry · Japanese · Restaurants · Tonkatsu

Katsuten – Tonkatsu

By Friday, I was getting extra squirrelly. I texted my brother Jacuzzi to ask him how he was dealing with B.C.’s pandemic restrictions. He said he loved staying in and he was happy playing video games with his wife.

L was already a step ahead of Jacuzzi. This ain’t his first rodeo. L suggested we order dinner from Katsuten, as it was conveniently located by our neighbourhood liquor store. For this post, let’s listen to “Ex’s and Oh’s” By Elle King.

Back in the day, Katsuten and Redheads Cafe were the only restaurants in Calgary that specialized in tonkatsu. Months after Katsuten opened, it was hard to get a table. With the pandemic and our cold snap, it was unusually quiet when L picked up our order.

I ordered the Tenderloin Katsuten ($16.50) and L picked the Loin Katsu with Curry ($15.99). Both entrees come with rice, salad and miso soup. I thought the portions were heartier than I remembered from past visits. Takeout from Katsuten travels well – everything was still hot and fresh.

Katsuten’s batter is different from Redheads, Koji Katsu and Shimizu Kitchen. Katsuten’s panko is made from white bread crumbs from Glamorgan Bakery, and the result is a fluffier, airier batter. Despite the fact our tonkatsu was deep-fried, it wasn’t greasy or heavy.

I tried a piece of L’s loin to compare to my tenderloin. My katsu is darker in colour and softer in texture. I was surprised that I actually preferred L’s loin, which is a thicker, leaner cut. The loin had this clean flavour profile that contrasted well with the richness of the batter. I noticed the curry wasn’t chunky like Redhead Cafe’s version, but runnier and more like a soup.

The shredded cabbage is refreshing. The yuzu dressing is tart and fragrant, with bright lemony notes. I also really liked the katsu sauce – much more subtle than the bottled stuff you can buy.

I’m pleased Calgarians have a variety of katsu restaurants, because each place has their unique take on tonkatsu. I would recommend all of them, each for something different. I love Koji’s supersized ebi katsu, Redheads Cafe’s chicken karrage curry, Shimizu’s ramen and tonkatsu combos, and Katsuten’s extra fluffy loin katsu. I’m sure right now, they could all use your business.

Indian · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Rangoli

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I met my friend Jaime at Rangoli for lunch. I’ve eaten at Rangoli a few times before and I found the food consistently delicious. I particularly enjoy the vegetarian dishes, which I think are tastier than the meat options.

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Jaime ordered a chai tea and I ordered a Jongleur beer from Strange Fellows Brewery ($7). I liked the spice and orange notes, which paired well with the curries we ordered.

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Jaime and I shared two dishes: Portobello Mushroom and Red Pepper Curry on Paneer ($17) and the Grilled Eggplant with Basmati risotto ($18).

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The paneer on the eggplant was subtle. I really liked the char taste of the grilled eggplant. The creamy coconut curry sauce was delicious. The toasted pumpkin seeds gave the dish a little crunch.

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Of the two dishes, the Portobello Curry was my favourite. The beet salad had a nice tartness to it and I loved the crunchy texture. The red peppers were sweet. The sauce creamy and spicy and went so well with the silky, meaty mushrooms.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy about our lunch was the service. Our server was curt to us from the beginning of the meal right up to the end. Though we were there for less than an hour, he made it clear that he wanted to turn the table, despite the fact I had beer left in my glass. I’m a fast eater and drinker too. Normally I wouldn’t make a big deal about this but isn’t this Vij’s restaurant? He is the king of hospitality. I would expect this service from a cash only, no frills Chinese restaurant, not a restaurant from Vij. In any case, the food is delicious. Hitting the Sauce gives the food at Rangoli two fat thumbs up.

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

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Comfort food · Curry · Happy Hour · Japanese

Redheads Japa Cafe

My husband and I are going to Japan! While he’s been several times, it will be my first visit. To celebrate, we went over to Redheads Japa Cafe for a late dinner.

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At Redheads, I can usually count on hearing Jack Jackson’s song, Better Together. I remember when I worked at my neighbourhood coffee house.  I would put Jackson’s playlist on repeat during my six hour shift. Customers would always complain that they were sick of hearing the same artist but I didn’t care enough to do anything about it.

One of the owners of Redheads who is also the chef came out to say hello. He recommended the special, Hamburg Curry ($10.99) and told me he would incorporate some mushrooms in the gravy. L ordered his usual, Japa Katsu Curry ($10.99) and the Beef Tataki ($8.00).

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The presentation of the curry has changed. Now, the curry is separated in a gravy boat. The beef curry is served piping hot, thick and with a texture similar to pulled pork. The curry is heavy and super flavourful with a subtle heat to it. L’s pork katsu was practically still sizzling from the fryer, the batter thin and crunchy. The portions at Redheads are spot on, generous with the amount of curry and a smaller portion of rice.

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My hamburg brought out my inner fei po. The patty itself was well-seasoned and packed with the rich taste of Alberta beef. The exterior was super crunchy and remained so despite the bath of the shitake mushroom gravy. How good was this dish? I promptly ignored my beer and focused on shoving this delicious food into my mouth. As always, the rice was perfect. The egg on top was poached beautifully, the yolk soft and sticky.

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I asked L if hamburg tasted this good in Japan. He thinks Redheads makes the best one he tried, possibly because of the use of Alberta beef. He says there is something in the taste of Redheads and Shokunin food that reminds him of Japan.

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The beef tataki was good. Generous slices of chilled ruby red steak. The sauce was a sweet soy ginger blend. The crunchy garlic chips and salad were a nice addition to the dish.

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Redheads Japa Cafe is one of my favourite places to eat. Japanese curry is out of this world good and so underrated in Calgary. The prices make it an affordable place to eat on a regular occasion and service is always good. It’s a great place to grab a quick meal and enjoy it in a quiet atmosphere.

 

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Redheads Japa Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

17th Ave · Curry · Thai

Khao San Thai Kitchen

Ms. Biz has taken me out for so many lunches that I can’t keep track. She speaks highly of Khao San Thai Kitchen so I told her I’d take her and Cruizing out for lunch. Of course Office Dad came too as we needed our office chaperone.

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Khao San Thai Kitchen is tastefully decorated. The colour scheme has lots of dark colours and rich decorative flourishes. Ms. Biz informed me that one of the owners, Sam, has a background in the hotel industry. His hospitality experience is evident in the professional service we received to the heavy silverware, teacups with saucers to the linen napkins.

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When we ordered, Office Dad asked if they could blend the green and red curries together. Aya Office Dad! The gentleman, who I think was the other owner, looked surprised at the request and said that no one has ever asked him that question but if that’s what he wants, he could do it. I protested and told Office Dad to not be a weirdo and just order like a normal person, off the menu. Office Dad laughed good-naturedly, and picked a curry with no modifications.

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We ordered four cups of jasmine tea ($8) and two bowls of the tofu ($5) and chicken ($6) Kha San Creamy Tom Yam soup. The soup was unbelievable. My taste buds were alive, awoken by the spicy, tart, salty and sour notes of the soup. I could taste the lime, lemongrass and the deep heat of the chilli. The soup was silky smooth. The tofu was still crispy, tasting like it was briefly deep-fried before being added to the soup.

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Surprisingly, one of my favourite dishes was the Chicken Cashew Nuts ($13.00). I find at Chinese restaurants, chicken and cashews taste one dimensional. Not at Khao San. The sauce was sweet and sticky, so good we ensured each drop was used mopped up in the rice. The chicken was battered and juicy. The cashews were roasted. The bell peppers and onions still retained a nice crunch.

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The Pork Green Curry ($13.00) was delightful. The pork slices were tender. I liked the lightness of the green curry and the use of zucchini and fresh Thai basil leaves.

The Beef Red Curry ($13.00) was also good. The beef was nicely sliced but could have been a bit more tender. The squash was soft and sweet while the bell peppers were crunchy. I appreciate that Khao San uses a variation of vegetables for all the dishes, so you aren’t eating the same ones in each dish. Sometimes I find at Asian restaurants use the same vegetables in all the dishes.

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I enjoyed the Pad Thai Koong ($15.00). There were plenty of prawns and a generous smattering of eggs, bean sprouts, roasted peanuts and tofu. Most importantly, the taste of tamarind was evident. No ketchup used here. While the pad thai was very good, I preferred the cashew chicken and the pork green curry even more.

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Finally, we ordered two servings of coconut ice cream ($12.00). The ice-cream was hard (that’s what she said), which we all preferred. I hate it when ice cream melts too quickly. Rich and creamy, the coconut flavour was strong and it tasted like it was homemade. Office Dad loved the addition of the peanuts, palm sprouts and a jelly-like topping. I like my ice cream plain. The portion was generous.
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Unlike Tuk Tuk, I found the food at Khao San vibrant and screaming with flavour. I didn’t even need the tray of spices, as it tasted great as served. None of the dishes were spicy, but the soup had a strong heat to it. Yes, the prices are a little higher than other Thai restaurants, but it’s worth it. I agree with Ms. Biz that it’s better to pay extra than to eat subpar food.

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This is the best Thai food I’ve ever eaten, but mind you, the only other places I have for comparison are in Vancouver and Calgary. I plan to take my husband here for date night to try the braised short ribs in massaman curry ($23), chicken cashew dish and of course, that soup. Ms. Biz says she and her husband come for dinner and order soup, an appetizer, two main dishes, cocktails and leave for under $100. That’s a great price for all that expertly prepared food and profesional service.

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If you haven’t checked out Kha San Thai Kitchen yet, I would highly recommend it. This 17th Avenue gem is making it on Hitting the Sauce’s list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

 

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Khao San Thai Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato