Fast Food · Fusion · Hawaiian · Restaurants · Seafood

Pacific Poke – COVID-19 edition

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

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

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

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Posted without permission from Pacific Poke.

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

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

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

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

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

Chain Restaurants · Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Cuty Restaurant – Dalhousie

For my birthday lunch, I wanted to check out Cuty Restaurant’s newest location in Dalhousie. I was craving something fresh and crunchy and Cuty is known for their wrap and roll combo plates. For this post, let’s listen to “Let’s Go” by The Cars.

The last time we visited, we shared the Grilled Combo ($19.50) – a mix of traditional fillings like the grilled minced beef la lop, grilled pork meatballs and shrimp paste. Though I wanted the deep-fried bounty in the Traditional Platter ($31.50), I resisted and ordered something slightly healthier.

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We ordered the Grilled Shrimp Paste Platter ($18.50), Imperial Rolls ($8) and the Vietnamese Crispy Pancake ($12). Cuty is generous with the herbs. Our plates contained plenty of basil, mint and lettuce. The texture of the shrimp roll is bouncy and firm and the taste reminded me of ho gow, a Chinese steamed shrimp dumpling.

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The shell of the imperial roll was crispy and chewy. Tightly packed with pork, taro root and black fungus, the filling was tastier than a regular spring roll.  I like contrast of the fresh, cool herbs wrapped around crunchy, blistering hot pork roll.

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The Vietnamese Crispy Pancake or bánh xèo is an Asian crepe. The pancake is made with tumeric powder, rice flour and coconut milk. I thought there was egg in the pancake batter, but it’s the tumeric powder that gives the crepe a yellow hue.

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The crepe was lacy and crisp. The crepe wasn’t overloaded with mung beans and sprouts, there was a balanced amount of chopped up shrimp, pork and squid. I’d recommend going heavy on the basil as it cuts into the sweetness of the coconut milk.

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The crepe harder to eat than the wrap rolls. I found it difficult to wrap the mixture with lettuce because when I went to dip, the filling would fall out into the sauce. L and I noticed our wrapping job wasn’t as good as the other customers. No one else was struggling.

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I ordered too much food. We could have made do with one platter and the imperial rolls, with extra vegetables and noodles. Overall, this restaurant is a nice change from the standard pho and bún chả joints in Calgary. Hitting the Sauce gives Cuty Restaurant two fat thumbs up.

Cuty Restaurant 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

Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Pure Kitchen and Bar

I organized a dinner for L’s 15 colleagues. I worked on the menu with the owner and chef at Pure Kitchen and Bar – Lam Pham. For only $45 a person, he created a spectacular feast for us. For this post, let us listen to “Pure Comedy by Father John Misty.

To start our meal, Pham sent out a complimentary amuse bouche – Roasted Duck Crostini. I loved the combination of the rich, warm chicken pate with the sweet orange jam and watercress salad. This crostini had it all – crunchy, soft, sweet and savoury.

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The Tenderloin Tataki was an appropriate introduction to Pham’s cuisine. The beef was thinly sliced and cool on the tongue. The sauce was lively – a spicy blend of tamarind nuoc cham and chili oil. The ruby red beef was layered with bean sprouts, herbs, crispy shallots and peanuts. Refreshing and light, I liked the contrast of the crunchy sprouts against the tenderness of the beef.

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Each couple shared a Char Siu Sesame Donut. The sous vide pork shoulder was soft and sweet from the sauce. The donut was stuffed with cucumber, cilantro and pickled carrots. I could taste some lingering spice from the sriracha aioli.

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The fruit from the Papaya and Mango Sate Grilled Shrimp Salad had a gentle, mellow sweetness. Our group liked the addition of the crunchy taro chips. Normally I find bean sprouts don’t taste like anything. These bean sprouts must have just been plucked, because the flavour profile was clean and watery.

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L’s favourite dish was the Roasted Duck Spring Rolls with Crepes. The roll itself was piping hot, filled with creamy duck meat and orange jam. I thought the spring rolls would taste more like a traditional Chinese Peking duck crepe, but with the addition of the watercress and sour green apple, it was more lively. L said it was a wrap of awesomeness.

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The Salted Duck Yolk Crusted Shrimp Tempura was the highlight of my meal. The shrimp was large and sweet, encased in a crunchy batter with a creamy sauce of 5 Spice chili, tobiko mayo and nori. Even though I was full, I ate three pieces. Pham’s version reminded me of ebi mayo, but supersized, more decadent and intensely flavoured.

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My second favourite dish was the Claypot Lemongrass Tofu. The tofu was still crunchy, despite the thick pool of lemony, caramelized gravy.

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I’ve tried the Seafood Fried Rice several times before, and as always, the fried rice did not disappoint. I liked the generous ratio of shrimp, crab, egg and tobiko to rice.

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I heard a lot about the Pan Seared Master Chicken. I liked the master stock jus and the mushrooms.

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The Gai Lan was excellent. I don’t know where Lam buys his produce from, because I can’t get gai lan this fresh. The greens were sweet and perfectly cooked – tender but there was still a bite to it. The ginger scallion jus, garlic chips and sate oil elevated the greens and then some.

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By this time, I was too full to enjoy the Wok Tossed Shaken Beef. I did ravish the watercress salad. So good, I would request to order the watercress as a side in the future.

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For dessert, we ate Crispy Banana & Yam Spring Rolls. The soft filling was warm and sweet. Our server told us to swirl the spring roll around the coconut taro sauce. Yummy, though I was too full to finish my dessert.

Pham knocked it out of the park. The food exceeded L’s expectations, and we have eaten at Pure several times before. This feast reminded me of the Chinese banquets and weekly multi-course dinners my mother use to organize. I’ve been trying to eat smaller portions, but surrounded by so much tantalizing food, my inner fat kid came out and I would not stop eating. I could see from across the table that the other shared platters were still piled high with food, but the plates near me shone clean. In 2019, Pure was voted by Avenue Magazine as best Vietnamese restaurant in Calgary. I can see why. Hitting the Sauce gives Pure Contemporary Vietnamese two fat thumbs up.

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

Fusion · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Vietnamese

Foreign Concept

Beep Beep was in town for my birthday. For one of my celebratory dinners, I picked Foreign Concept. We arrived at 7:00 p.m. and the rooms were just buzzing. Most of the clientele were in their fifties and well-dressed. Though I doubt Foreign Concept’s crowd listens to Jidenna, I want to give props to Chef Duncan Ly so here’s Long Live the Chief.

Beep Beep and I started off with a cocktail – Long Farewell (2.5 ounce, $12). This is a drink I can get behind. The combination of Ketel One vodka, plum sake, maraschino, lime juice, and basil was tart, boozy and refreshing.

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We started off with the Bulgogi Imperial rolls ($12). The lettuce arrived lush and shiny. The imperial roll was hot out of the fryer, crunchy and chewy. The addition of the greens, pickled vegetables and mint made this dish come alive. We asked for more mint half way through our rolls. I like my mint.

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I was surprised that the Cashew Satay Toasted Eggplant ($10) packed such a flavour punch. When I bite into the marinated eggplant, the juices drip down on my plate. The delicate tangle of greens, sautéed red peppers and perfectly cooked snap peas sopped up the eggplant juices.

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My favourite dish was the Charsiu Pork and Foie Gras Steamed Buns ($29). I liked the process of taking a warm squishy bun and adding a slice of pear, small coins of cucumber, and pickled vegetables. When I chewed, I could taste the distinct and contrasting flavours of the foie gras and pork.

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I appreciated the pace of which the food arrived at our table. Our server asked us if we needed more time in between the eggplant and the pork entree.

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I want to start coming to Foreign Concept more often. The food is refined and the flavour combinations are sophisticated, at least to my palate. Hitting the Sauce gives Foreign Concept two fat thumbs up.

Foreign Concept Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Chinese · Happy Hour · Japanese · Korean · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Vietnamese

Foreign Concept – Birthday Dinner

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My actual birthday was on a Thursday but my husband L had to work late that night. Instead, I had my coworkers come over and we feasted on delicious food and wined the night away.

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My office mate Patricia brought over three boxes of empanadas, cheese, chicken and beef from the Empanada Queen. These heavenly critters made the party. The crowd favourite was the cheese version, the pastry was deep-fried and the cheese was warm and salty.

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On Friday night, L took me out to Foreign Concept. L and I are both fans of the owner and chef – Duncan Ly. We arrived at 7:00 p.m. to a packed restaurant. On the night I visited, the restaurant hummed like a well-oiled machine. From front to the back, every component from the initial greeting, coat check, and the delivery of the food and drinks was smoothly coordinated.

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I started off with a glass of Escapade Cava ($9) while L ordered a Philips Hop Circle ($7.00). Our server suggested we try Last Best Tokyo Drift ($8).

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This beer is awesome! Hoppy but still mellow and smooth. I also drank a glass of Chenin Blanc (Domaine de Vaufraget Vouvray) which was  sweet.

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One of my favourite dishes is the Yuzu cured salmon fresh roll ($12). Delicate and light, I like the different textures and tastes of the creamy avocado, crème fraiche, cashews, gochujang, radish and cucumber. The rice wrapper was soft. The salmon was a good bite-size. The ikuri was the highlight. When it popped in my mouth, it added the taste of the sea. I could have eaten the entire plate myself.

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L and I both enjoyed the Vietnamese style Scotch egg ($11.00), with green onions and chili thread. The sausage casing was juicy and crispy, cupping the warm, creamy yolk goodness inside. The greens were delicious.

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The miso baked sweet potato ($10) dish was more than a decent portion, which makes it ideal for sharing between two or more people.  I thought I could detect maple syrup. The Quebec cheese curds were yummy.

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L and I shared the Alberta trout cha ca la vong ($24). We don’t like trout, but Foreign Concept’s version converted us. The fish was thin and flat, crispy on the outside. The flesh itself was flaky. I enjoyed the delicateness of this dish, the flavours and lightness of the dill, persimmon, rice noodles and garlic. This was an excellent dish with well-balanced flavours.

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When we received our bill, we were given these plastic fish. Depending on how the fish curls in your palm, you can determine your fortune. A nice touch and a lighthearted way to end the meal.

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The music was loud, but in an upbeat, lively way. L and I felt like we were out on the town. You could still have a good conversation using a regular speaking tone. The vibrant ambience makes for a good first date place. Service was excellent.

I could see Duncan Ly and Jinhee Lee at the front of the kitchen, ensuring every dish that went out was perfect. I know you aren’t suppose to bug the chefs, especially when it was so busy… However, I was tipsy and forgot my manners and I asked for a photo. Duncan kindly obliged. Tee-hee. Hitting the Sauce gives Foreign Concept two fat thumbs up. This new restaurant makes it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

Foreign Concept Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fusion · Happy Hour · Vietnamese

Pure Contemporary Vietnamese Kitchen + Bar

Buzzy left our office to take another job. At her going away party, her boss Meeting said that while Buzzy says now that she’ll miss us, once she sees her first pay check, we’ll all be forgotten. Well, Buzzy got paid on Thursday and met us for lunch that day. His ominious premonition proved false.

Getting my co-workers to a destination, no matter how close, is an ordeal. Meetz and Little Red are like me, they walk fast and don’t get distracted. However, Buzzy, Crazy Girl, Randy,  Mindi and Queen Bee would stagger back and get lost around a corner or distracted by a fly. I resorted to playing tour guide to get our group to the restaurant in time. I did a head count out loud before we left the train. To keep the group herded together, I waved them along and pointed to “landmarks” to keep their attention. It was a bit like what I imagine it would be like to work on The City of Calgary’s new goat pilot.

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After what felt like eternity, we arrived on time (after I had bumped our reservations 15 minutes later as I could tell hear them dawdling in the hallway). We landed a semi private room, which was a positive as we are a loud, happy bunch. One thing you need to know about Pure Contemporary Vietnamese is that it was a former club and the changing techno coloured lights remain. You can see the rainbow of colours reflected in our food.

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Randy and Buzzy shared  a Char Sui Sesame Donut ($5). Our server Dani kindly asked the kitchen to cut it in half. They both raved about the saucy pork stuffing and the crispy sesame shell.

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A bunch of us ordered the Sate Pho ($11.75). The bowl was bigger than my head! The broth was spicy and rich. There was a ton of bouncy, perfectly cooked noodles and tender slices of beef. This pho is worth the drive from my house in Killarney. I ordered my pho without cilantro and instead, used up everyone else’s basil for my soup.

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Mindi ordered the Chicken and Spring Roll ($12.75). The picture below is awful and doesn’t do the dish justice. I was hungry and I didn’t feel like putting in the effort to take a better photo. Sorry.

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The pho is ridiculously delicious. The spiciness made me cough and choke and cry at times, but that’s cuz it went down the wrong pipe. Good thing I wasn’t on a date. It would likely be the last.

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Crazy Girl sat next to me and let me try her lemon grass vermicelli beef ($12.75). There was an ample amount of beef and onions. The noodles and all the vegetables were very tasty and fresh. A good option for those with a lighter appetite.

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Queen B ordered Chicken Wings ($8.75), which were huge, meaty and crunchy. She loved the seasoning and sauce, which she said was a nice change from the usual pub wings. Everyone at our table was jealous and wished they had ordered wings as well.

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Crazy Girl and Mindi have a birthday coming up. I’m going to book our lunch at Pure Contemporary Vietnamese. Pure can handle large groups and our server Dani was so patient with our table. She was even cool with us splitting the cheques, which I know is a pain in the fanny. I’m also going to bring my office family down here on Tuesday too, after our annual Stampede event on the grounds for happy hour. If you haven’t already, check this gem out.

View my food journey on Zomato!

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