Our friends came over for a small party for New Year’s Eve. We followed the province’s gathering restrictions (updated December 21) for indoor social gatherings. I kept the number below the maximum limit of 10 people, and the six of us were well over the age of 18. Furthermore, everyone was double vaccinated, boosted up, and tested negative for Covid. For this post, let’s listen to “What Are You Doing Near Year’s Eve” by Ella Fitzgerald.
We snacked and sipped the night away. Zuber popped open his favourite champagne – Taittinger. Sirski followed suit with Bollinger. I opened up a bottle of wine from Kournikova’s favourite winery – Ex Nihilo.
My friends live blocks away from me, so I wanted to give them something hot and nourishing before they walked home in the -21 weather. For our late-night snack, I ordered Pot au Pho (gluten-free, spicy broth $60) from Pure Modern Asian Kitchen and Bar.
I brought out my hot pot burner near the end of the night. I boiled water for the noodles on one half of the pot, which I requested uncooked to make it fresh for my guests. I simmered the brisket, beef balls, tendon, and beef ribs on the other half. At the very last moment, I slipped in the raw slices of beef.
My pictures don’t do the food justice, so I’m stealing one from Pure’s Instagram post. Ah, that’s so much better, isn’t it?
The broth was thick, heavy with rich beefy notes. The broth is a meal in itself. I looked up from my bowl to see everyone’s head down, joyfully slurping up this soupy goodness. Zuber raved about the pho and said this was an excellent idea to end the night.
Kournikova only indulged in a tiny bowl with no noodles. She enjoyed all the meats, basil, and crunchy bean sprouts. Sirski and Québécois avoided my favourite meat – the beef rib. What? That’s the best part! I love the soft meat and the gelatinous bits around the rib. The tendon was soft and melted in my mouth. Québécois loves cilantro, and she knows I hate the herb. She was surprised and appreciative that I didn’t nix the obnoxious herb from my order. I accidentally got some cilantro and gagged a little. What I won’t do for my friends.
Pho au Pho was a hit! I would order pho again in a heartbeat. It’s the perfect ender for the last freezing cold day in 2021. Everyone left warm and content, and ready for 2022.
For our girls’ night out, Québécois, Kournikova and I went to Major Tom. It took me months to get this reservation. Currently, the restaurant is booked solid up to 2022, though I read on Wanda Baker‘s Instagram account that Major Tom keep 25% of tables open for walk-in. For this post, let’s listen to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper.
Arriving at the restaurant is in itself an experience. First, you enter the Scotia Centre building and walk over to the elevators in the back corner of the building. You show your vaccine passport and ID at the security station, then you are directed to a specific elevator. Once you arrive on the 40th floor, you check in with a team of hosts at the reception area and finally, someone escorts you to your table in a room with a panoramic view of downtown Calgary.
The vibe of the restaurant is lively and the energy is unlike anything you can find in Calgary. Throughout dinner, I felt like I was on vacation in a bigger city. If you walk around the restaurant, you can admire the spectacular views from different vantage points of the downtown core.
We each started with a cocktail. Major Tom knows how to deliver their alcoholic beverages. I was over the moon with my Vodka Martini ($17). The martini glass arrived on a gold coaster, accompanied by a bottle of Kettle One/Dolin Dry Vermouth and a plated garnish of olives. Each sip of my martini was so cold and pure tasting, I could barely detect the alcohol. The blue cheese in the olive was light and melted in my mouth. I noticed that when Québécois ordered a bottle of Muga Reserva ($65), our server decanted the wine. Most restaurants I go to won’t decant the wine unless the bottle is over $85.
We shared two orders of the Crispy Hen Egg ($6). This little sucker was delicious. The fried shell added a nice crunch, which contrasted to the creamy, warm yolk. Texture, style and with exploding flavour, this appetizer has it all. I would order this again.
I always get what Miss Foodie raves about on her Instagram account, so I chose the Tomato and Brioche Salad ($14) and Steak Frites ($34). Warning – my photos are worse than usual. I was so giddy to be out with my friends, I didn’t put in the effort to take a decent photo.
The tomatoes in the salad were ripe and juicy. The dressing of shallot, basil and lime was refreshing and subtle. The brioche was crunchy and for some reason, reminded me of the boxed croutons my mother used to buy when we were kids.
The steak arrived a beautiful ruby red. The meat was warm and soft. The fries were extra crunchy. Of the three entrees I tried, I preferred Kournikova’s Slow-Roasted Duck ($41). The duck breast was tender and flavourful.
Québécois ordered the Shells ($25) because she enjoys anything with burrata in it. The seasoning in the lemon roasted broccoli pesto was delicate and light. She couldn’t finish her pasta so I ended up eating about a third of her dish.
When we arrived on a Saturday evening, the restaurant was buzzing. Despite being obviously slammed with customers, the service was enthusiastic and attentive. I plan to return and often, more so for the cocktails and appetizers. I highly recommend you check out this gem. Hitting the Sauce gives Major Tom two phat thumbs up.
I met up with Reeves at Cactus Club. Before I left my house to meet her, I looked up restaurants that would be open after our girls’ night. I spotted Thai Thien (formerly Thai Tai Sub) on 811 1 ST SW. I figured it was the perfect opportunity to have banh mi date night #7 out of 19. For this post, let’s listen to “You Were Meant For Me” by Jewel.
Cactus Club has half price wine on Tuesday and Wednesday. We drank some wine and Reeves ordered calamari. I nibbled on some of the hot peppers, but I was saving my appetite for the main course – a banh mi. I read the Google and Yelp reviews of Thai Thien beforehand so I didn’t have the highest expectation. I incorrectly assumed that a place like Thai Thien, one that caters to the downtown work crowd and tourists, wouldn’t have pate in their assorted sub ($4.99). I was happy to find out I was wrong.
I requested a white baguette as I read in the reviews that the brown version is too doughy. I found the interior of the bread soft and light. The cucumber was quartered and each piece was noticeably crisp and fresh. The carrots are pickled and crunchy. The sliced onions gave off a pleasing pungency. I counted two layers of cold cuts. Next time I would request extra meat to balance out the heavy ratio of cucumber. I appreciate the generous layers of pate, mayonnaise and butter, which I think is Thai Thien’s strong suit.
How does this cold cut compare to the other banh mi heavy hitters? Size-wise, the sub is similar to Trung Nguyen and Kim Anh. The flavour of Thai Thien’s pate tasted like Freybe’s pork pate, which gave the sub a westernized twist. I much prefer Xích Lô, Banh Mi Nhu Y, and My Tho BBQ’s pate. Thai Thien gives the least amount of meat but considering the rock bottom prices and the high rent location, I’m fine with paying a little extra to get some more meat. In terms of taste, Saigon Deli, Banh Mi Nhu Y, Xích Lô, Trung Nguyen, and Thi Thi offer a more traditional sub, which I prefer. Price-wise, this sub is an awesome deal, especially considering Thai Thien convenient hours and prime location in the downtown core.
The next week, I tried the Charbroiled Pork Sub ($6.25). Damn, this one is even better than the cold cut. The meat was seared on the outside and juicy on the inside. The ratio of meat to vegetable was perfect. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy. Every single bite contained that delicious balance of savoury, sweet and spicy.
For an inner city sub, you can’t get a better deal. I was stuffed and blissfully happy for only six bucks. Hitting the Sauce gives That Thien two phat thumbs up. Thai Thien is open from Monday to Saturday, from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
I haven’t seen Jennntle since Yelp Elite stopped hosting parties. Say what you want about Yelp, but back in the day, that company could throw down a party like no other. Cactus Club, Charbar, Telus Spark, and Modern Jelly were some of the most fun, entertaining and well-organized events I’ve been to in Calgary. Last week, Jennntle and I met to reminisce at Yemeni Village, a newish Middle Eastern restaurant in the downtown core. For this post, let’s listen to “What About Your Friends” by TLC.
I saw Miss Foodie’s post on Yemeni Village, so I asked for her recommendations. She suggested the Yemeni Bread ($3.80), Lime Drink ($4.75), Moofa Fish ($28.50) and the Charred AAA Beef ($15). Our server informed us that the restaurant was out of the charred AAA Beef. Jennntle wanted to get Beef Kabsah ($24.99) but I informed her that Miss Foodie never recommended the other beef dish and maybe it was for a reason. After not heeding Miss Foodie’s advice in the past, I’m reluctant to deviate from her teachings. Instead, I requested the Chicken Mandi ($19.90) and Salta ($15) because Dianathefoodie recommended those dishes.
The Moofa fish is butterflied, grilled in a clay oven, and topped with red onions and a lemon wedge. The menu describes the fish as “sea golden”, whatever that means. The fish itself is flat, and the flesh is moist, flaky and delicate. The spices were so subtle that Jennntle said the strongest flavour came from the fresh lemon juice. I found this dish fresh and light. I would order this again.
The salta arrived in a hot lava stone pot. The mix of potatoes, carrots, zucchini, onion and tomato were firm to start and then boiled away until it became more of a soupy stew. The sauce is salty and pungent, and the spices remind me of an Indian vegetable curry.
Both the fish and salta come with freshly made Yemeni bread. Oh my goodness. This bread is something special. The size of each piece is as big as a frying pan. The bread is baked in a tandoor (clay oven). The high temperature produces an ultra-light bread. I love the slightly stretchy, thin and chewy texture and the beautifully charred blisters. Besides the taste, the best thing is the crackling sound the bread makes as we tore off pieces to eat with the fish and salta.
Jennntle said the bread reminded her of the crispy layers in a Chinese green onion pancake. While the flavouring is different, the stretchy texture of Yemeni bread made me think of Azzurri, Savino and Rocket Pizza. I think it’s because of the technique involved to produce a magical bread like this. This bread is so good that no one, unless they have health restrictions (e.g. Celiac), should live without trying this.
The chicken Mandi is pressured cooked, which creates a tender, succulent meat. Jennntle took a spoon and when she pressed it against the chicken, the meat literally fell off the bones. The long grains of the basmati rice was soft and fluffy, fragrant with spices that reminded me of oranges and cloves.
The restaurant was packed on a Tuesday night. The phone was ringing off the hook, customers were lining up at the door, and dishes were flying out of the kitchen. I appreciate that despite the chaos, the staff was still genuinely interested in how we found the food. Hitting the Sauce gives Yemeni Village two phat thumbs up.
On Thursday, Bottlenick, L and I checked out Fonda Fora, a new contemporary Mexican restaurant inside The Westley Hotel. L and I were uncharacteristically late because I confused the Westley Hotel with the Westin Hotel. To celebrate the beginning of Stampede, let’s listen to Johnny Cash “Heart of Gold.”
For our first bottle, Bottlenick selected a rosé – Chateau Gassier Sables (Provence France, $45). I thought this was a nice rosé – light and dry.
We ordered the Salsa Tasting ($9), Guacamole & Tostadas ($15), Empanadas ($8), Tiradito de Huachinango ($17), Pescado Zarandeado ($37) and extra tortillas ($4).
Get the salsa tasting! Not only was it fun to try all the different salsas, but you can use the condiments with your other food. My favourite was the orange variation – it was rich and velvety like cream. I also liked the salsa with chili peppers and oil.
The guacamole was cold, creamy and delicious. The tostadas were enjoyable to eat because each chip was so thick and crunchy, and it tasted like it was freshly made.
The empanada was yummy. The crispy shell was filled with corn, chili peppers, tomatoes and onion, topped with some cool, smooth white cheese. The sauce was so delectable, we would use the tortillas to mop up the leftovers.
L and Bottlenick both noticed the red snapper had a strong fishy flavour to it, but in a good way. The onions tasted like fennel to me. This dish reminded me of a mix between sashimi and ceviche. I enjoyed the heat and spice in the orange sauce.
For our second bottle of wine, we picked the De Monde Cabernet Franc Fruiuli Grave Italy ($54). Oh baby, this wine reminds me of the cabernet franc I pick up at Tinhorn Creek and Burrowing Owl in BC. One major plus Fonda Fora offers is the wine list. I enjoyed the two bottles we tried and each was around the fifty-dollar range. The wines went well with the food and each bottle was something different than I could find at my local liquor store. My father recently sent me an article on restaurants and the markup on wines. I’ve got no issue paying for wine, as a restaurant has to make money, otherwise they would go out of business. By all means, markup the wines! But offer me something I can’t find at the Real Canadian Liquorstore. Fonda Fora does this in spades.
I was impressed with the mussels tostada. My gosh – the texture of each mussel was sublime – soft and fat – with a cool silkiness on the tongue. The white sauce was decadent. Bottlenick commented on the smoky flavour from the vinaigrette. L thought the pumpkin salsa was incredible. I would return just to each this dish again, because it was that good.
Our last dish was a whole grilled fish. The fish was moist and flaked apart easily. I liked that I could taste the natural, light juices of the fish. It’s easy to hide freshness when fish is battered or covered in heavy sauce. We also received a pretty bowl of herbs to eat with the fish. The fresh tortillas were thick and smelled like corn. I read Fonda Fora uses heirloom corn imported from small farmers in Mexico.
I shouldn’t have, but since I was feeling celebratory, I got carried away and ordered a pint of Cabin Morning Sun Saison (6%, $8.50). This beer was delicious – spicy and bubbly, but it wasn’t worth the hangover I received the next day. I can’t rock and roll like I used to. Those days are numbered. Post COVID, I’m going to be a moderate eater and drinker of delicious things.
I’ll return to Fonda Fora. The food is creative, fresh and different from the norm. Hitting the Sauce gives Fonda Fora two fat thumbs up.
For date three of the 19 L owes me, I wanted a banh mi from Pure Kitchen Bar. Pure’s banh mi is pricier than other places, but each sub comes with fries, salad or soup. When L learned of the price difference, he argued this date should count as two because each sub was double the cost. I sensed immediately that he was full of piss and vinegar and ready to parley. I only fight when I know I’ll win, so I agreed with him and enjoyed the look of disappointment on his face. In light of Stampede, let’s listen to “Jolene” by Dolly Parton.
I ordered the Grilled Lemongrass Sub ($16) with fries and the Grilled Beef Sate Sub ($16) with a salad. When we returned home, I noticed the beef sub was squished. I tried to fluff it up for the picture but it was beyond repair.
Pure is heavy-handed with the sriracha aioli and sauces, which makes for a very drippy sub. Even before I unwrapped the beef sub, I could see the sate oil leaking out onto the wrapper. Despite the abundance of sauces, the bread was still crispy. The vegetables are different from the norm. The cilantro and cucumber is minced up, similar to a salsa. L doesn’t normally like cucumber but he didn’t mind Pure’s version because the skin was removed. I was pleased to see the carrots and daikon were pickled.
Both subs were so awesome, we didn’t like one more than the other. I did find the beef sate spicier and sweeter than the chicken. The creamy cheese in the chicken sub was more noticeable than in the beef sub. I could tell the meats were grilled. L raved about the charred flavour from the slices of chicken and beef.
L is a fan of the parmesan garlic fries. The seasoning is lemony with a hint of sugar. He said the sweetness in the seasoning reminds him of Wow Chicken’s bulgogi fries, but better because Pure’s version is more subtle. L noted that even the ketchup was different and tastes like a homemade sweet chili sauce.
I enjoyed the salad – an Asian-style slaw with shredded lettuce, daikon and carrots. I found the salad light and refreshing, a nice contrast to the richness of the sauces in the subs.
To date, this is L’s favourite Vietnamese sub because of the smoky flavour of the meats and the creative flavour profile of the toppings and sauce. I can’t compare Pure Kitchen Bar to the other banh mi shops because Pure’s subs are a different beast. Pure puts in a lot of thought and care into every ingredient. I will say that once you factor in the salad or fries, Pure’s subs are close to the price of Kim Anh, Thi Thi, and Trung Nguyen. Quantity wise, Pure’s sub and side combo are more filling than any other banh mi spot, except To Me.
Pro tip – if you call to place your order, you get 10% off your bill. Four banh mi dates down and 15 more to go! Next up? I’m leaning to Paper Lantern.
On June 10th, Alberta entered its Stage 2 reopening. No surprise here, to celebrate the lifting of government restrictions L and I dined at Sukiyaki House. For this post, let’s listen to “Dancing In The Streets” by Martha and The Vandellas.
This is my first dining out experience since I’ve started using Noom – a health and fitness app. I’ve never lasted more than six hours on any diet, but I figured it was time for me to become healthier. After surviving two days, I assessed Noom to be a Debbie downer. There are no fun foods that I can eat without breaking my daily calorie count. As Foodiegyal7 informed me, Noom is not a site for foodies. L timidly observed that I’m noticeably more irritable since I’ve been on Noom. Poor L.
Our server Judith has the best taste in sake. When we asked for a suggestion, she recommended Fukucho Hattanso 50 Junmai Daiginjo ($46, 10 ounce). The sake smelled fragrant. The flavour was light and clean, with a honeyed sweetness. If fairies existed, this would be their drink.
For our first dish, we ordered BC Spotted Prawns (market price). Head chef Koji Kobayashi hit a home run on this creation. The spotted prawns sat in a gorgeous tomato yuzu shisho sauce. The raw shrimp was soft and creamy. The sea lime green sauce was refined and balanced, with bright, summery notes. L said the hint of lime in the sauce reminded him of Mexico. I could eat this dish all day long. The fried shrimp heads were scrumptious. I could tell the difference between the BC prawns and the regular ones. The BC prawns are sweeter and the meat has a lighter flavour.
We ordered Sawagani Crabs ($2.50 each). I’ve seen these crabs before in the food markets in Tokyo and Kyoto. The shell was thin and crunchy, similar to the outside layer of a candied apple. When I bit into the crab, the flesh was warm and juicy, with no fishy aftertaste.
Every time we visit Sukiyaki House, we order the Tako Carpaccio ($16). The octopus was thinly sliced and crunchy. I loved the balanced flavours in the yuzu sauce and the added layers of texture and flavour from the topping of arugula, kewpie mayo and potato strings.
L ordered Kani (Snow Crab $3.7), Tako ($3), and Atlantic Salmon Nigiri ($3). He said the salmon melted in his mouth. The snow crab was sweet. L mentioned the sushi rice was a cut above other Japanese restaurants in Calgary. He liked how the amount of wasabi in each piece of nigiri was subtle and not overwhelming like other restaurants.
I ordered the Irodori Hiyashi Udon ($24). This is a great summer dish. The udon noodles were thin and chewy. The tamago (egg omelette) was sweet, with a soft firm texture. I thought the yuzu dashi broth perfectly highlighted the flavours of the hotategai (hokkaido scallop), hamachi (snapper), ebi (steamed shrimp) and Ikura (salmon roe).
We enjoyed being back so much that we didn’t want to leave after we finished dinner. Instead of dessert, I asked for the driest white wine and L ordered an Asahi, so we could sit and soak up the exuberant vibes. You could feel the excitement to be back from the customers. Better times are coming. I’m hoping Calgarians get their vaccine so we can get on with Stage 3.
On Friday, I told L to pick the restaurant for our takeout. Usually when I ask him, I don’t mean it. I just want to see where he would eat if I did let him decide. L was craving food from Koji Katsu. For this post, let’s listen to “Drunk” by Elle King and Miranda Lambert.
Based on my last experience, I ordered Ebi Katsu ($17). My platter contained five deep-fried jumbo prawns. L ordered the Koji Special Mixed Katsu ($18), which has two prawns, tenderloin and two pieces of deep-fried cheese with pork. Each order comes with rice, miso soup, pickles, lemon, two sauces, mustard, and a cabbage salad.
Koji makes one of the best ebi katsu in town. The prawns were long and fat, juicy and crunchy. L was surprised Koji didn’t charge more for this dish. I wish Koji could do what he does to the price of prawns for wine. I’d save fat coin.
I tried L’s deep-fried mozzarella cheese and pork tenderloin. Despite the 11-minute ride back home, the mozzarella was still creamy and warm. The thin slice of pork added another subtle layer of flavour. This dish is best shared, just because of the pure decadence.
The pork was tender and meaty. The tenderloin was cooked perfectly. I could still taste the natural juices of the meat. The breading on the katsu seemed different from my past visit. The batter was softer but still crispy, and the crumbly texture reminded me of breading at Katsuten.
I love nibbling on the side dishes between bites of the katsu. The sourness of the pickles help to cut into the fattiness of the dishes. The miso soup was tasty, loaded with seaweed and strands of enoki mushroom. The large cabbage salad was refreshing. I particularly liked the way the cabbage was julienned; the cool, delicate texture was pleasant to bite into it.
L and I couldn’t finish our food. Even after I ate some of his food, there was a mozzarella stick and half his rice leftover. I left behind an ebi and just under a quarter of my rice. When I reheated our food the next day, it was still delicious.
This third round of restrictions is really hard on restaurants. If you can, support local businesses. L and I will be eating out more often this month, in what I hope is our final lockdown. If I could name this month, it would be Eat, Pray and Love (your local restaurants).
Monday sucked balls. I told my man I was taking him out for dinner. Since we were both in a bad mood, I didn’t want to risk trying a new place. And for L, there is only one restaurant beyond reproach – and that is Sukiyaki House. For this post, let’s listen to “Buddy Holly” by Weezer.
We ordered a glass of Sohomare Tokubetsu Junmai Kimoto ($14, 3 ounce), which turned out to be L’s new all-time favourite sake. I found the Kimoto smooth, with a sweetness that blooms on the tongue. The flavour was pure and clean, without the booziness I find in some sakes.
L could smell mushroom and then after we finished our sake, honey. He wanted to buy a bottle for the house, but I don’t want something that delicious in our home. Summer is coming, and I can do without the temptation.
Our first appetizer to arrive was the Tako Carpaccio ($16). Double damn, this is a fabulous dish. The octopus was crisp and crunchy. The citrus dressing, mayonnaise, and crunchy seasoning went well with the greens and octopus.
Chef Yuki Koyama sent out a special dish for us to try – Hachibiki Carpaccio. The flesh was a reddish hue, with a firm, fatty texture. I had no idea that a slice of raw fish could have so much flavour. This fish is downright decadent. L loved the yuzu miso sauce, which he said reminded him a little of gomae, a Japanese spinach salad.
The Grilled Ika ($14) was cooked perfectly – each piece of squid was tender. I thought the ginger sauce made this dish the ultimate comfort food. L said the dish smelled a little like yakitori.
I wanted to try the Volcano Roll ($11) and L ordered a Tekka Roll ($5). The moment the plate hit our table; the smell of roasted nori wafted up. I enjoyed the warmth of the crisp sheet of nori against the cool, creamy tuna filling. The white sauce paired well with the squid in the Volcano roll, the combination reminded me of tzatziki and calamari.
Our selection of nigiri was excellent. I also noticed how much larger the seafood was in the nigiri compared to other Japanese restaurants in Calgary, such as Nami and Takumi.
The Aka Maguro ($4.20) was so good, it induced an exclamation of pure joy from L. The toro was soft and buttery, the flavour was rich and smooth.
I’ve always enjoyed the Amaebi ($4) at Sukiyaki House, but on this occasion, it was extra fabulous. The head was almost the size of a chicken drumstick. The deep-fried shrimp head was covered in a fluffy batter, and the meat inside the shell was hot. The flavour reminded me a bit of fried crab innards, another delicacy L won’t try. I swear, I can eat a plate of these. Had I known the fried shrimp heads would come out like this, I would have ordered two more.
Look at the inside – it was filled with shrimpy goodness! I’m glad I was sitting because surely, I would have swooned.
L does eat amaebi, which he enjoyed. The shrimp was served cool, the flesh was crunchy and sweet.
We loved the Hotategai ($4.20). The scallop was extra thick and wide. So effing good. The rice in all the nigiri was on point. I thought each piece of sushi had the perfect amount of wasabi – just enough to give each piece a touch of heat.
L was still hungry, so for dessert, we ordered Chicken Karaage ($12). These were gorgeous, crispy nuggets of meat. You can never go wrong ordering the karaage at Sukiyaki House. Personally, I would have liked more salt on the chicken, but I’m a salt fiend. The portion was generous. After eating this, how can I go back to paying $15 for a plate of hot wings at a pub?
The restaurant is at half capacity due to COVID safety regulations, but every socially distanced table was taken. I could hear the phone ringing off the hook, and see all the deliveries going out the door. Despite this, our food and service was excellent. There was one server we noticed in particular, because she exhibited polite mannerisms that reminded us of the culture in Japan, such as bowing and folding the receipt in half.
Thanks Sukiyaki House, your team succeeded in turning our bad day around. Hitting the Sauce is grateful this gem exists in Calgary. We don’t have to drive far to get a taste of Japan.
For L’s birthday, I took him to Sukiyaki House for “omakase”. In Japanese, omakase translates to “I’ll leave it up to you”, meaning you entrust the menu up to the creativity of the chef. I got to say, Chef Koji Kobayashi knocked this dinner out of the park. For this post, let’s play “I Feel Fine” by the Beatles.
L and I toasted to his birthday with a glass of Kamoshibito Kuheiji Human Junmai Daiginjo, 2011 (3 oz, $15). Judith informed us that Sukiyaki House was the first restaurant in Calgary to bring in this particular bottle.
Judith is a sake nerd. Known as the white Burgundy of sakes, she described this sake as “bougie”, with lots of umami and sweetness. As we took our first sip, she pointed out the notes of bruised apple and pear. I thought this sake was light and not overly sweet.
We started off our meal with a plate of Hamachi with Daikon and Ponzu. L liked the seasoning as he thought it complemented the light, sweet flavour of the fish. If you notice my pictures have improved, it’s because L took all the photos below.
Our second dish was the Duck Tempura with Shiso and Mozzarella. The ume jam was tart and plummy, which cut into the richness of the duck. I thought the garnish of nori and green onion was a nice pop of flavour against the warm, velvety cheese filling.
One of L’s favourite dishes of the night was the Rice Cracker with Deep Fried Salmon, Potato Salad and Yam Crisp. Shwing! The crunch of the batter against the soft creaminess of the potato salad was killer. The salmon itself was flavourful, made even richer with Koji’s special homemade teriyaki sauce. Koji’s sauce has this intensity that makes you stand up and notice.
At this point in our meal, I wanted to try another sake while L stuck to a pint of Asahi. I ventured off and tried a glass of Yamagata Masamune Kimono Akaiwa Machi 1898 (30z, $11).
Judith informed us this sake is made from hamachi rice from the Akalwa region. The brewer uses a traditional method of sake brewing. Rather than having the lactic acid introduced in the fermentation process to cultivate yeast, the sake is allowed to naturally develop lactic acid on its own. This makes for a fuller, complex and richer sake. I enjoyed the melon flavour and the dry, light finish.
Our fourth course was the Matsutake Soup with Crab. The soup arrived boiling hot. The broth was clear and clean, which allowed the subtle flavours of the crab and mushrooms to shine. The wild BC pine mushrooms were thinly sliced, with a fragrance similar to sake. Drinking this soup felt so nourishing – simple but refine.
Next up, Judith showcased A4 Wagyu Nigiri. She torched it and then shaved a ton of black truffles. Real truffles taste so different from the truffle salt I buy. The flavour is gentle and earthy. The texture of the truffles was feathery and light. Seared, the wagyu gave off a mouthwatering smoky flavour. I loved the crunch of the salt. I thought this was an elegant bite.
Our sixth course was the Maple Smoked Anago. L doesn’t normally eat eel, but he loved Koji’s version. The seared aburi was soft, warm and deliciously smoky.
My favourite course was the Lemon Dengaku. Double shwing! Dengaku is similar to a cheesy seafood motoyaki but a billion times better. Half a lemon was filled with mussels, crab, scallops, asparagus, enoki, and matsutake mushrooms, then baked with a creamy, sweet miso sauce.
The flavour and freshness of the the seafood wowed me. The sauce had the perfect amount of saltiness in it. The lemon wasn’t overpowering – just enough to perfume each bite.
Koji created a beautiful platter of nigiri for us. This was an advanced sushi tasting. Each nigiri pairing was an adventure.
The bluefin chu toro was topped with sturgeon caviar. I liked how the salty pop of caviar mingled in with the fatty creaminess of the toro. The “Mother and Child” sockeye with ikura and chrysanthemum petals was another winning salty, creamy combination. The hamachi (yellowtail) was juicy. I found the lime zest with the kanpachi subtle. The cuttlefish had a pleasant crunchy texture. The bluefin tuna in the negitori with shredded kombu was soft and buttery.
Dessert was devastatingly charming. Not only was this the cutest creation, but the mochi had the nicest chew to it. As always, the fruit at Sukiyaki House was served at the optimal ripeness, just like in Japan.
Koji, you truly are an artist. This was the best meal L and I have ever experienced. We are so lucky to have you in Calgary. L and I have an upcoming wedding anniversary to celebrate in December. We can only order takeout because we are staying with in-laws. We might just have to hit up Sukiyaki House for their new premium bento takeout box of spicy prawns, beef tataki, miso sablefish, a hosomaki, and a mini chirashi. Whatever takeout we end up picking up, we’ll make sure to support one of our favourite restaurants.