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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Japanese · Korean · Restaurants

Katsuten -L’s bday lunch

It was L’s birthday on Saturday. I asked him where he wanted to go for lunch. He said no where far and something warm. I reminded him of Katsuten, which is a five-minute walk from our house. For this post, let’s listen to Shape of You by Ed Sheeran, with a dance choreographed by Kyle Hanagami.

Katsuten doesn’t take reservations. When we arrived at 12:30 p.m., the room was more than half full. Soon after, there was a line-up. Pro tip. If your group is bigger than two people, come right when the restaurant opens to guarantee a seat.

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There was only one server for the whole restaurant. Despite the line-up, takeout and serving the rapid turnover of tables, she remained cool as a cucumber and efficient. We were well looked after and felt service was uncompromised despite how busy the restaurant became.

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L and I shared the Cheese Katsu ($17.90) and Creamy Curry Udon ($14). The katsu comes with miso soup, rice and a cabbage salad. In my past visits, the only thing that prevented me from loving this restaurant was the rice. Well, that’s been rectified. The rice was good. The grain looked like what I use at home – Kokuho Rose. I like how firm each grain of rice is and that it has a bit of a chew. The cabbage was drizzled with a yellow dressing that was nice and bright, which was refreshing after eating fried food.

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The cheese was warm and soft. Against the fluffy, fried breading, it was like eating a grilled cheese sandwich, but more decadent. The cheese makes the katsu tasted even richer. I would recommend sharing this dish.

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Our server instructed us to mix the topping with the noodles because the potato cream is cold. Marvelous. The noodles were chewy and slippery in a heady curry gravy of bacon, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, and green onions.

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L thought the combination of curry and cream was unusual and delicious. The curry wasn’t hot or overpowering. More of a hint that complimented the bacon and potato cream.

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The katsu here rivals the best I’ve tried in Japan. I didn’t realize how full I was until I got up to pay the bill. For this feast, our bill was only $35. I’d say that’s a steal for katsu of this calibre. I love this place so much, I’m putting it Hitting the Sauce’s list of favourite restaurants in Calgary. I give Katsuten two fat thumbs up.

Katsuten Japanese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Brunch · Cheap Eats · Comfort food · Curry · Dessert · Happy Hour · Japanese · Sandwiches

Redheads Cafe

Redheads is always tweaking its dishes or trying out something new. On my last visit, I learned that Sapporo is now on tap.  A new rice burger (not yet on the menu) has become my new favourite, beef and gobo. I still haven’t tried the Japagetti or five-course meal set, but I’ll get there eventually.

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The beef and gobo (burdock root) rice sandwich is something special. The beef is sweet and nicely seasoned. Gobo has this marvellous mild, earthy taste and crunchy texture. The rice was perfectly cooked, warm and topped with fresh spinach leaves. The nori is fresh and crisp.

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Recently, L and I have tried the Tofu Asian Salad ($6.99). What a great price for such a stunning salad. I particularly enjoyed the strands of seaweed and nori. The tofu was nicely cut and fresh-tasting. Just a tip, you probably don’t need to use all the dressing, as the sesame dressing is quite rich.

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One of my other go-to dishes is the miso-tonkatsu ramen ($9.99). I’ve been telling my friends Asian Persuasion and What’s Up Hamsup to try Redhead’s version. They want to but every time they visit, they can’t help themselves and order the tonkatsu curry. The soup is steaming hot. The broth is rich and the noodles are chewy. The pork crispy and fatty. I love the assortment of sprouts, the milky egg and all the garnishes.

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Redheads is best known for their Japa Curry, the Katsu ($10.99) or the Karaage Curry ($10.99). The katsu is well-marbled and crispy. The beef curry is thick, rich and flavourful.

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Finally, L and I were lucky to try a special dessert, apple with caramel and strawberries. Sounds simple, but so good. The tart crispness of the  apple with the sweetness of the caramel sauce was old-school delicious. Check out the crazy knife skills.

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The best time to go is in the evenings, when the cafe is quieter. The prices are a steal and the food is so comforting in the chilly weather. Thank you Redheads, for being so consistently delicious.

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

Comfort food · Curry · Happy Hour · Japanese

Redheads Japa Cafe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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