Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – COVID-19 dine-in edition #2

On Saturday, L and I met up with Grohl and Flower Child for dinner. Grohl wanted Chinese food but Flower Child insisted we have sushi. I was relieved. Grohl lived in China for a period and ever since, he’s been trying to relive his culinary experiences. He doesn’t listen to my recommendations and orders what he remembers from his travels, then complains the food is terrible and not at all like it was in China. I told L we had to pick a restaurant that Grohl couldn’t find fault with. My reputation was at stake. We decided on Sukiyaki House because we knew head chef Koji Kobayshi and sous chef Yuki Koyama’s culinary creativity would impress our friends.  For this post, let’s listen to “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis.

This post won’t list the prices as Grohl and Flower Child treated us out. As well, I won’t describe the assorted tempura, agadashi tofu and nigiri we ate as I’ve written about it extensively in past posts.

tempura

When I saw FoodKarma Instagram posts on Koji’s summer creation – the Irodori Hiyashi Udon – I knew I had to try it. This bowl of sea treasures cost around $17, which is fantastic value. Our bowl was filled with generously sized pieces of hamachi, snow crab, scallop, ebi, ikura, shitake, tamago, and shredded seaweed.

udon

The chilled udon noodles were thin and chewy. The cold dashi soy broth was refreshing and light enough that it didn’t mask or take away from the natural sweetness of the seafood. I made use of the side of yuzukosho, which added a spicy kick. This cold seafood udon special is available only for a few more weeks, so come quick before it is too late.

special

Koji created a stunning plate of tuna and hamachi tataki. I thought the sweet onion ponzu sauce went well with the denser, stronger flavour of hamachi as well as the lighter, softer pieces of tuna. The garnishes of daikon, micro greens and edible flowers tasted as pretty as it looked.

hot roll

Grohl requested a spicy roll. I asked our server Justin if there was a roll so hot it would burn Grohl’s ass. Justin laughed at my grossness and said Yuki could create something off the menu – the Spicy Aka Oshizushi. The roll was hot but in a restrained way that really worked with the flavor of the red tuna. The topping of micro greens, green onions and crispy shallots added a freshness and crunch factor with each bite.

L said he could taste gochujang spice in the sauce. Justin informed us that there were two other Japanese spices added for extra heat. Grohl raved about how good this roll was and just like that, my reputation was restored. Thanks Yuki.

Sushi

Grohl ordered a piece of the house made smoked wild eel. Apparently, wild eel has a smokier flavour profile and more texture than regular eel. Justin mentioned the chefs reduce the unagi sauce from the soy cure the eel is boiled in.

Grohl and I ate a piece of Hokkaido sea urchin (uni). He closed his eyes as he ate and exclaimed that the uni tasted like a blast of the ocean. I enjoyed the clean sea flavour and the cool, creamy texture. Justin mentioned Hokkaido uni is much sweeter compared to other sea urchin in Japan and the rest of the world.

We all tried a piece of chu toro. Justin informed us that Koji and Yuki use the fattier cuts of bluefin tuna. This one was a winner! I thought the white and pink hue was particularly pretty and the tuna richly flavoured with a soft, almost buttery texture.

dessert

For dessert, we shared the flourless chocolate soufflé with house made green tea ice cream. The souffle was warm and coated my tongue with the taste of dark, rich chocolate. I really liked that the flavour of the matsu kaze tea matcha was so intense.

empur

Thank you Grohl and Flower Child for an epic meal. Hopefully you will have time for us to take you out before you leave. I know a great Korean restaurant for ass burning ‘fire chicken’.

Fusion · Restaurants · Vegetarian · Vietnamese

Pure Kitchen & Bar – COVID-19 takeout edition

L and I dropped by Uncle Ben’s house for dinner. Since Veggie Girl is having pregnancy cravings for bún (vermicelli bowl), we ordered Vietnamese takeout.  I picked Pure Kitchen and Bar because their vegetarian dishes offer a more varied selection than its competitors. For this post, let’s listen to “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige.

My photos are particularly bad as I didn’t feel like even putting in my usual half-ass effort. Pandemics make me unmotivated for self-improvement. Hopefully Pure Kitchen and Bar doesn’t mind me using some of their Instagram photos.

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Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I’m a big fan of the Papaya, Mango & Shrimp Salad ($13).  I thought there was a lot of shrimp in this dish, particularly for the price. The fresh basil was aromatic and plentiful. The shredded papaya and mango was pleasingly chewy. The chilli lime sauce was really spicy. I liked all the crunchy elements in the salad –  peanuts, fried taro and crispy onions. I couldn’t finish this salad in one sitting and the next day, it tasted just as good.

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Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

L and I shared the Salted Duck Yolk Shrimp Tempura ($15). This dish illustrates how Chef Lam has mastered the art of takeout. I want to know how the shrimp remained so crunchy almost forty minutes after picking up our order. The dipping sauce of nori and tobiko mayo stood up beautifully against the crusty battered shrimp. He needs to charge more for this dish.

Veg

I ordered Veggie Girl the Vegetarian Vermicelli ($15).  She raved about the texture of the fried tofu and noted that other Vietnamese restaurants often skimp out when it comes to the vegetarian dishes. Veggie Girl mentioned the vegetarian spring roll tasted similar to a Chinese style egg roll.

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Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I ordered Uncle Ben the Lemongrass Ultimeat Feast Vermicelli ($17) because he doesn’t often get the chance to eat meat. The ultimeat feast includes chicken, beef, shrimp and a pork spring roll. Uncle Ben mentioned the shrimp was large and not like the peanut sized ones that other Vietnamese restaurants use. He said that all the meats were generous in size and not overcooked. When Veggie Girl mentioned she was digging her spring roll, Uncle Ben chimed in that he enjoyed his spring roll as well. When I pressed him to describe the flavour he said, “It tastes like a good spring roll”. Uncle Ben, for the love of my blog, you got to work with me.

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Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I ordered L the Caramelized Chilli Lemongrass Chicken ($17) but I substituted vermicelli noodles for the rice. When I handed L his food, he asked me what I got him. I reminded him that in March, he wanted to try the lemongrass chicken but with noodles instead of rice. I tried a bite and I can confirm that I prefer the original rice version. The rice soaks up the rich flavour of the lemongrass better than the noodles.

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Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I ordered the Crispy Chicken Noodle Soup ($17) to eat the next day. The broth contained strong notes of garlic and something sweet. I opted for the spicy broth version and by the end of my breakfast, my whole face was perspiring. Yes, this is definitely a pho to eat at home alone, and in the dark. The portion was so generous I was able to make the soup last for two meals.

pho

With the rising number of COVID cases in Calgary, L and I are being extra careful where we dine. Currently, Pure is only accepting takeout or delivery orders. If you are ordering pickup, you have to call the restaurant once you get there and an employee will bring out your order to the door. I’ve ordered twice now from Pure Kitchen and I’m satisfied with their safety precautions.

salad

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

 

 

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – COVID-19 dine-in edition

To celebrate my good news, I told L that I was taking him out for dinner at Sukiyaki House. Judith, Justin and Chef Koji Kobayashi must have also been in a celebratory mood because they spoiled us rotten with complimentary bougie treats. For this post, let’s listen to “Wanna Be A Baller” by Lil’ Troy.

Judith treated us to a taste of Masumi, a sparkling sake that is fermented using an ancestral method. The sake tasted like a mellow champagne. When I sipped on this liquid gold, my entire scalp tingled.

sparkling

Judith also poured us a glass of an exclusive bottle of sake. Jikon is a sought after brand in Japan – there are only 30 stores that carry this sake. She informed us that Kiyashō brewery was going down the drain until his son decided to take sake into a different direction. He wanted to make a better product, so he focused on a smaller batches of sake, paying more attention to koji and rice quality.

sake glass

Judith added that omachi is one of the oldest rice strains with no cross breeding. This type of rice is extremely hard to grow due to its tall height, which can get damaged easily in the wind. Omachi rice grain is also difficult to brew due to its fat round shape. Brewers prefer to work with a flat grain. The extra effort is worth it because omachi rice creates sakes that are layered, earthy, diversified, and herbal.

sake

As we were enjoying our sake tasting, Chef Koji Kobayashi sent over a stunning plate of red snapper sashimi. His food is art because it appeals to our sight, smell and taste. Sorry Koji, my poor attempt at photography doesn’t do your work justice.

sashimi

The fish was so buttery soft it melted on my tongue. With each bite, I’d take a piece of snapper, swirl it in the ponzu sauce and then top it off with the micro greens and a flower. I thought I could taste sesame in the little crunchy bits sprinkled on the top.

bite

We ordered the Assorted Tempura ($20) and a pint of the Asahi Draft ($7). Our tempura arrived steaming hot. This is the first time since Japan that I’ve been impressed by the taste and texture of tempura.

beer

Judith instructed us to add the grated ginger and daikon into our tempura sauce. The batter was pale blonde, ultra light and crisp. The tempura tasted clean, not the least bit oily or greasy. Double damn – this was some fine ass tempura.

Tempura

My favourite pieces of tempura were the kinoko (enoki mushroom) and black tiger shrimp. I enjoyed the process of pulling the delicate enoki legs apart and then dipping it into the sauce.

mushroom

The shrimp was cooked until it was a pretty pink hue. The shrimp meat was delicately crunchy and sweet. Next time, I want to special order just the shrimp and enoki mushrooms. The heart wants what it wants, or else it does not care (Emily Dickinson, 1862).

platter

We ordered a selection of our favourite pieces of nigiri. Aka Maguro ($4.20); Hotategai ($4.20); Amaebi ($4), Ebi ($3); Kani ($3.70); Maguro ($3); Shake Atlantic ($3); and Sockeye ($3.50). Always having the same sushi chefs at the helm means that we can expect the same consistency when we dine at Sukiyaki House. Yet again, the sushi rice was perfectly cooked and seasoned. This is important to me, as personally, I think the rice is just as important as the fish.

ebi

I preferred the firmer texture and richer flavour of the sockeye salmon over Atlantic salmon. Compared to the sockeye, the Atlantic tasted milder and fattier. The cooked shrimp was excellent, with its trademark crunchy texture and sweet flavour. Unlike other Japanese restaurants, the ebi at Sukiyaki House actually has flavour.

shrimp

The regular maguro (tuna) was smooth and tasty, but the fatty, satiny Aka Maguro (bluefin fatty tuna) was mind blowing. Spend the extra dollar and get the blue fin tuna! Best buck you’ll ever spend. L enjoyed it so much he wanted to get a second piece.

scallop

I love the way the sushi chef prepares the hotategai. The scallop is sliced so that all the silky crevices glide all over your tongue. Sensational! I don’t know any other sushi restaurant that does this.

second order

L’s colleague Dallas recently told him that he dined out at a fancy Japanese influenced restaurant.  One of the dishes was a $12 slice of raw fish. Dallas said he wished the server told him why this piece of fish was so special to warrant the price tag, because as someone who doesn’t know much about sushi, he wanted to know what he was eating. L wants to bring Dallas and his wife to Sukiyaki House to get an understanding of the high standard used in excellent Japanese cuisine. At Sukiyaki House, not only do you get Koji – who is trained in Japanese fine dining and Yuki – a sushi artist, but you also get educated by servers whose knowledge of saki and food enhances the experience by giving you a deeper appreciation of the food and drink you are consuming.

Sukiyaki House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Cheap Eats · Japanese · Restaurants

Koji Katsu – COVID-19 edition

L asked me which restaurant I decided on for our Saturday night dinner. I picked Koji Katsu because this business unfortunately opened up when COVID-19 officially shut down our social lives. For this post, I’d like to dedicate a song to L as he’s been my rock throughout this worldwide crisis. If there was an award for best pandemic husband of the year, he would win it.

In Tokyo, one of the most memorable meals I ate was at Hasegawa, a Michelin recommended restaurant. The tonkatsu batter was light and buttery, the pork so decadent it melted on my tongue. I bought the leanest and cheapest set. For this orgasmic experience, my meal was only 1,000 Yen, which is roughly $13 CAD.

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At Hasegawa and other tonkatsu restaurants I visited, I noticed that there are several different grades of pork. There was an emphasis placed on the fattiness and breed of the pork. L was as blown away as I was from tonkatsu at Hasegawa, but he found the richness from the pork fat difficult to digest. He also find oily meats disgusting. Lucky for him, Koji Katsu uses leaner cuts of pork.

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L and I picked up our order. When we drove home, I could feel the heat permeate from the bags. Even though our ride back was only ten minutes, I cursed every single red light that prevented us from eating our food at the optimal temperature. When we finally made it home, I ripped open the containers as fast as I could to preserve the integrity of the batter.

hire

I ordered the Hire Katsu ($15, 220 grams), the Koji Special Mixed Katsu ($16.50) and a side of curry sauce ($3). Our dishes came with sides of kimchi, pickles, cabbage salad and miso soup.  We received a lot of food. If you have a big appetite, you are going to love the generous portions.

cheese

The first dish we tackled was the cheese katsu. I was surprised there was so much mozzarella in each piece. I think this dish would be best ordered at the restaurant because cheese cools down so quickly. The texture of the mozzarella reminded me of squeaky cheese curds. The cheese had began to solidify but the batter still offered a satisfying crunch.

ebi

The jumbo prawn was the star of the show. Man oh man. I’m going to quote Lovegastrogirl, who nailed a description of the mouthfeel of a good piece of shrimp. The prawn itself was long and large, with ‘that nice, plump bursty feel.’ If you are a prawn lover, you must try the Ebi Katsu ($15, five pieces).

platter

The pork used in the Hire Katsu was good quality meat. The tenderloin was lean but still juicy. If you eat a lot of Alberta pork, you’ll know what I mean. The meat was almost fluffy in texture with a clean taste. L prefers Alberta tenderloin to the fatty cuts I enjoyed in Japan.

ire piece

My only minor quibble is that I found that some of my rice was overcooked. L said his rice was fine. I enjoyed the deep spices in the curry and it helped to hide the clumps of rice. I would order the curry again.

sides

The sides and condiments deserve a shout out. I loved the smear of hot mustard and lemon, both of which helped cut into heaviness of the meats. I enjoyed the salty sweetness of the miso soup and the little pieces of puffed tofu, seaweed and enoki mushroom. L liked the sesame dressing for our cabbage, which I found nutty and heady.

coleslaw

L and I are looking forward to our next visit. When the COVID-19 restrictions lift, I can see this little restaurant being popular with the downtown foodie crowd. Hitting the Sauce gives Koji Katsu two fat thumbs up.

Koji Katsu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fusion · Japanese · Restaurants

Pop-up takeout @ One18 Empire – COVID-19 edition

There’s nothing quite like Japanese style fried chicken. When I saw an Instagram post of Kaede E Hirooka and Jonathan Chung‘s chicken leg karaage bento box, I knew I had to try it. For this post, let’s listen to “Hard Knock Life” by Jay Z.

To place an order, you have to send a direct message on Instagram to @respectthetechniqueyyc. You can choose from three pickup locations. Once you arrive, text your name, vehicle model and colour to the number provided to you. To adhere to safety regulations, your bag of food will be placed on the top of the car’s hood.

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Photo credit @respectthetechniqueyyc

L and I ordered from One18 Empire Restaurant location at the Calgary Marriott Downtown. We parked on the street directly across from Charcut Roast House. I was expecting a chaotic pickup. Instead, the process was straightforward and the lineup of cars moved quickly.

bento

Having spent a total of nine weeks in Japan, I’ve eaten my fair share of cold bento boxes. Is cold fried chicken better than freshly fried chicken? For me it depends on how important a crunchy batter is to you and if the chicken is properly seasoned. You can make any old chicken tasty if you deep-fry it. But when you eat cold chicken, you can’t hide behind a hot, crunchy batter. When I used to eat at KFC, if the chicken was cold it tasted like a congealed lump of seasoned lard.

phot1

The first thing I noticed when I opened the takeout container was the intoxicating  aroma reminded me of my mother’s homemade fried chicken. The crispy skin tasted like it was glazed with a sweet seasoning. The meat itself was incredibly flavourful. The texture of the chicken was smooth and silky.

phot2

Equally impressive are the sides. The macaroni was slippery, the light cream dressing was rich. The mortadella sausage from VDG added a pleasantly savoury dimension to the pasta salad. The sausage was so delicious, I would buy it.

This is the best coleslaw I’ve tried in Calgary. The combination of the crunchy, tangy vegetables with the Asian infusion of silky Chinese mushrooms and cilantro was genius. I hate cilantro and I still loved this salad.

The white rice was cooked perfectly – sticky but still firm. The cool temperature and simplicity of the rice was refreshing as it helped to cut into the richness of the macaroni salad and chicken.

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I would order the karaage bento box again. I hope the chefs keep the same sides because the combination is outstanding. Hitting the Sauce gives @respectthetechniqueyyc and his team two fat thumbs up.

ONE18 EMPIRE Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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.

mix

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

Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Pure Kitchen & Bar – COVID-19 edition

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

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake via Instagram.

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

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

shrimp one

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

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake via Instagram.

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

kimchi

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

lemongrass

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

pork 1

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

pork

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

mixed grill

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

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

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

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

Japanese · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Birthday Dinner

My last meal at Sukiyaki House was so memorable, I returned a week later to celebrate my milestone birthday. That day, L and I were literally counting down the hours before our dinner. For this post, let’s listen to “Number 1” by Goldfrapp.

Justin called L to confirm our reservations. He also wanted to check with him that the ingredients and price range of the two dishes that head chef Koji Kobayashi wanted to create for our meal was suitable. That’s some next level customer service. We were impressed with Justin’s consideration of our taste and budget.

sake 2

L and I toasted to my old age with a flute of Kozaemom Junmai Ginjo Omachi ($12). I thought this sake was fragrant with a viscosity similar to a riesling.  I also tried Kuheiji ($15), which in comparison to the other sake was more delicate. If pretty had a flavour, it would be Kuheiji. I’m a fan of both sakes.

glass

Koji made two special off the menu dishes for us. The first to arrive was Koji’s signature dish – Duck Breast with Braised Daikon, Foie Gras Mousse and Matcha Potato Brûlée ($24). Personally, I think Justin should have charged much more for this dish. The portion was huge, and the flavours were stunning. I could tell a lot of labour, love and talent when into this dish.

duck

The duck is sous vide for five hours, resulting in tender, succulent meat. The edging of duck fat melted beautifully as I chewed. The duck gravy was so mouth-watering that I wanted bread to mop up every last drop. The matcha brûlée was lacy and crisp, a nice contrast to the velvety smooth foie gras. The daikon was so warm and juicy, it made me weak in the knees. I know it’s early in the year, but so far, this is the best dish of 2020.

duck piece

The second dish Koji prepared just for us was Aji Four-Ways ($45), but I think it should be called Aji Five-Ways. L thought this dish showcased Koji’s talent for knowing how to combine different flavours and ingredients together.

platter

Koji used an entire horse mackerel flown in from Japan to create five different experiences. The sashimi showcased the strong flavour of the mackerel –  light and not fatty like tuna or salmon.

tartare

For some reason, I thought the mackerel nigiri was more mellow in comparison to the sashimi. L thought the fresh wasabi and the crispness of the scallions were the perfect pairing for the fish.

fish nirg platter

The mackerel tempura was tossed with matsukaze matcha and rice cracker batter that reminded me of cornmeal. The texture of the fish reminded me of a fish meatloaf nugget. I thought approach created a scrumptious bite that illuminated the oily, dense flesh.

tempura

I found the mackerel tartare light in flavour but heavy in texture. I could taste a hint of  fresh ginger, soy and mirin in the mixture. I love the colourful garnish of flowers and greens on top of the tartare.

fish bone

The deep-fried bones made for a nice crispy snack. At this point, I was getting too full so I only nibbled on the meatier bones. I appreciated that Koji used a type of fish I’m unfamiliar with. The texture and taste of horse mackerel made me think because it wasn’t the usual salmon or tuna I’m accustomed to eating. This dish was a thoughtful creation and got us out of the comfort zone of eating the more common and popular types of Japanese fish.

uni

Justin informed me the Uni Sea Urchin ($15) I ordered has a premium platinum status. Flown in from Hokkaido, the uni was unlike the more common type in British Columbia. I’ve never eaten uni so sweet and creamy, it melted in my mouth. So good, I had a foodgasm.

nigiri platter

The Aki Maguro Chu Toro ($4.20) was nice and fatty. I also liked the fat high content in the Shima Suzuki Striped Seabass ($5). The bass was smooth and firm, with a sweet aftertaste. The Ebi  ($3) at Sukiyaki House is consistently superior than other Japanese restaurants. The steamed prawn was crunchy and flavourful.

crab

The Kani ($3.70) was also a winner. The crab was sweet and juicy. The texture of the crab meat was tender and flaky. I’d order this again.

shrmip head

I happily chomped on my Amaebi ($4). The raw shrimp was perfectly crunchy and cool on my tongue. The fried shrimp head was still warm when I ate it. Oh my goodness – turning forty never tasted so good.

chopped

This part of our meal always gets my heart racing with sweet anticipation – raw scalllops. The Special Scallop ($3.80) was full of buttery goodness, dotted with the crunchy, salty pop of fish roe. The chew of the nori was a good contrast to the creamy scallop mixture.

scallop flower

A highlight of our selection of nigiri was the Hotategai ($4.20). The scallop was sliced in a way that it gave the same sensation of being chopped. The scallop crevices glided over my tongue like silk. When I chewed, the scallop fell apart in my mouth in a textural explosion. Below is a photo of me after eating the hotategai. I have to credit sous chef Yuki Koyama for his sushi masterpiece. Phenomenal. Yuki truly is an artist.

me

For dessert, we shared the Matcha Shiratama Zenzai ($9) and a glass of plum wine – Ume Niwa No Uguisu Tomari Umeshu ($10, 3 ounce). I don’t normally like plum wine, but this wine was delightfully tart and refreshing.

UMI

I knew the moment our dessert hit our table that L would be pleased. After ten years together, I can read him like a book.  If you appreciate the subtlety of Japanese sweets, you will love this dessert. The mochi was soft and smooth. The flower was still warm, and I thought I could taste the essence of mandarin oranges. The grapes gave a nice pop of sourness, a contrast to the natural sweetness of the red bean paste.

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L and I were surprised that we didn’t have a favourite dish of the night. Everything, from the specialty dishes to each piece of nigiri was spectacular. I highly recommend that if you want to try something authentic or non-pedestrian to call ahead of time and arrange something with Justin. My Instagram friend lovegastrogirl is the opposite of me and she is a super baller. I told her to contact Justin so he and Koji can prepare something special for her.

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Sukiyaki House is something special. This is artistry and craftsmanship in culinary motion. With Koji and Yuki at the culinary helm and Justin at the hospitality front, they are an unstoppable trio. Thank you for preparing such a memorable meal for me. You are ichiban (#1) in  my books.

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

Beer · Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Ichiban (#1 in #YYC)

Now that L and I no longer have our annual trip to Japan, we crave sushi all the time. I noticed on Instagram, Sukiyaki House receives constant praise from foodkarmablog, Miss Foodie and Loaf2go. Sukiyaki House is located in the heart of downtown core. Pro tip – after 6:00 p.m., there is complimentary heated parking.

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Sukiyaki House is known in Calgary for Head Chef Koji Kobayashi’s elaborate omakase dinners. Chef Kobayashi was born in Osaka and trained in “kaiseki”, the highest form of Japanese fine dining. Below is a picture I took without permission from their Instagram account.

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Foodkarma recommends the agadashi tofu, tempura and special event dinners. Miss Foodie orders the sukiyaki hot pot and other specialty dishes. I like to focus on the nigiri. For this post, let’s listen to “Lights Out” by Santogold.

L knows the owner’s son – Justin – a graduate from the Haskayne School of Business. I think it is endearing that when we visit, there are other U of C graduates dining there. I’m thinking of organizing a get together with our previous Japan kids at Sukiyaki House, who are also Haskayne alumni.

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Justin impressed me with his knowledge of sake. He treated us to a glass of premium sake – Kozaemom Junmai Ginjo Omachi ($90 bottle, 3 oz glass $12). Wowzers. The sake was flavourful and it smelled incredibly nice. I loved the dryness and the viscosity of the sake. This is hands down my favourite sake. I would order this again.

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We started our meal with a dish off the regular menu – Sawara Tataki ($24). Holy Mackerel! This dish made me appreciate the subtlety of fine dining. The delicate textures of the daikon and chrysanthemum was a nice contrast to the mackerel. The greens and garlic chips added a dainty crunch to each bite.  The sauce was refreshing and perfectly balanced.

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We ordered an assortment of nigiri and maki rolls, as well as a pint of Asahi ($7, 16 ounce). Justin informed us that he imports the beer from Japan. I could tell the difference between Asahi made in Japan and the stuff made elsewhere. In 2019, L and I visited the Asahi factory to learn about their brewing process.  Asahi made in Japan tastes purer and the bubbles are tinier.

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The Aka Maguro (red tuna, $4.20) is a must order. The tuna was firm in texture but rich and fatty. The tuna literally melted in my mouth when I slowly chewed it. L noted that the fish to rice ratio was balanced.

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Amaebi (raw prawn, $4) is one of my favourite things to order. The prawn was cool on my tongue, sweet and crunchy.  Equally delicious was the accompanying fried shrimp head, dusted with matcha salt.

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The shrimp head was served still warm. The fried shell was covered in a soft, light layer of tempura. The texture and taste of the shrimp head meat reminds me of fried soft shell crab.

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I think Sukiyaki’s Ebi (steamed prawn, $3) is the best in town. The prawn was tasty with a pleasant crunch to it. We both thought the Shake (Atlantic salmon, $3) was creamy with a rich, smooth flavour. The Tamago (egg omelette, $2.40) was sweet with a light, almost foamy texture.

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The Hotategai ($4.20) was large and plump. The freshness of the scallops was exceptionally lovely – silky smooth with a clean flavour profile. L noted the use of wasabi in the sushi was just as it should be – present but not overpowering.

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We also ordered one of the specials of the night –  Sawara ($6). When I put this piece of Spanish mackerel in my mouth, my head exploded with the realization that I don’t have to go to Japan in order to eat excellent sushi.

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L enjoyed the Special Scallop ($3.80) even though he doesn’t care for scallops or mayonnaise. Despite the thick and almost buttery dressing, I could still taste the freshness of the scallop. The pop of saltiness from the flying fish roe added to this insanely decadent bite.

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L ordered a Prawn Dynamite ($11). What a rookie move! I didn’t want L to order a dynamite roll but sometimes you gotta let your man order his food.  Don’t get me wrong – the dynamite roll was made well, but there’s so many better things you can get. For example, my Shake Skin Roll ($12). Now this is a roll worth ordering.

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The semi raw salmon was scorched on the top. The salmon skin was crunchy and smoky. I enjoyed the sauce which added a touch of sweetness. L doesn’t like salmon skin but he admitted that he now understands the appeal of BC rolls.

After our meal, L spoke to Justin to book my milestone birthday at Sukiyaki House. I normally shy away from extravagant meals but at Sukiyaki House, I see the value in such an experience.

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The sushi was so excellent, I couldn’t stop raving about our meal. I haven’t been this excited in a long time. When we went to bed, I told L that if I died that night, I would die happy. I was serious. If you love sushi, you must check out this restaurant out. Hitting the Sauce thinks Sukiyaki House is the best sushi restaurant in Calgary.

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

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Fusion · Happy Hour · Restaurants

Raw Bar – Happy Hour

Québécois and I have been friends ever since she and her husband moved next door to us in 2014.  On Friday night, she treated me to dinner at Raw Bar. I haven’t been to Raw Bar since Duncan Ly was the executive chef. For this post, let’s listen to “Date Night” by Father John Misty.

On Fridays, almost all the wines are half price. What a steal! I can’t think of any other restaurant in Calgary that offers half price wine on Friday. Select appetizers are half price until 6:00 p.m. and dollar oysters are served until 7:00 p.m.

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Our first bottle of the night was Sirius Bordeaux Blanc 2017 ($49, HH $24.50). When we first took a sip, we thought the wine was acidic. But after the wine had a chance to breathe, the flavour was more tropical and light. I enjoyed this bottle.

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We started with a round of oysters (HH $1.00). The oysters were small and briny. I ate one oyster that tasted bitter, so I spat it out. I didn’t get sick, so no hard feelings.

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Our server recommended the Fried Caulilini ($10, HH $5). Caulilini is a variety of cauliflower. The batter was doughy in some pieces.

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The Grilled Shishito peppers ($12, HH $6) were crunchy. I enjoyed the curry aioli and the crispy bits of puffed rice. Québécois took a bite of a pepper and announced it was too spicy. When I bragged that I can handle my spice, she dared me to eat her pepper. I popped the shishito in my mouth and immediately my face flushed red. When Québécois saw me chug my glass of water, she regretted telling me to eat it. I said no worries, as spicy food speeds up my metabolism.

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Québécois ordered a second bottle of wine – Michel Gassier Viognier France, 2018 ($46, HH $23). I really liked this bottle – the wine was dry with a floral aroma. I would order this bottle again.

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Even though I just returned from Cabo, I wanted to try the Ahi Tuna Tacos ($16, HH $8). The tuna was tasty but oversauced. I had to pour some of the liquid out of the hard taro root shell before eating it. I thought I could taste kimchi in the sauce, even thought the menu described the sauce as a chili glaze.

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My favourite dish was not on the happy hour menu –  Korean Beef Tartare ($16). The flavours of the chilled beef and sweetness from the Korean pear were spot on. I found the tartare refreshing and nicely seasoned. The rice chips were so addictingly delicious, Québécois asked for another serving for me. The chips remind me of a fresher, tastier version of shrimp crackers you get with roast chicken at a Chinese banquet dinner.

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Québécois needed a sweet to finish the night. She ordered Homemade Bon Bons ($3.50). The chocolate was dark and the filling tasted like coconut.

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Québécois wanted to end the night with a glass of bubbles. She insisted on getting another bottle because it was about the same price as ordering two flutes. She picked Famiglia Zonin ($45, HH $22.50), a fizzy and easy to drink prosecco. By this time, we could barely finish our prosecco. Québécois asked our server to cork our bottle.

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If you haven’t been to Raw Bar, I’d recommend checking it out on a Friday night. Thank you Québécois for treating me to a merry night out with great wine and tasty bites. My treat next time.

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