Italian · Pizza

Rocket Pie – Crust me, this is a good one

Grohl is in town. He has a much higher standard than I do when it comes to food. I told L we had to take him to places that we know are awesome, otherwise we will have to listen to him dramatically complain how his current city is so much better than Calgary’s restaurant scene. L suggested we take him to Rocket Pie in Canmore. In light of Stampede, let’s listen to “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash.

We were hungry after our hike, so we selected three pizzas – the Margherita ($18), Formaggi ($25 + $5 prosciutto) and the Mortadella ($24). For beverages, we ordered pints of Misty Mountain Hops ($8.50) and Dat Juice ($8.50).

Grohl said that if you want to know if a pizza place is any good, you should try the margherita pizza. Well, if a margherita is the litmus test of a stellar pizza, Rocket Pizza passes with flying colours. What I liked about this pizza is how the three ingredients stood out. The fior de latte is soft and stretchy with just the right amount of saltiness. The smell of the torn basil leaves is strong and fragrant. The crushed tomato sauce is bright and tangy. Simplicity at its best.

The formaggi pizza with prosciutto is a killer combination of sweet and salty. The saltiness of the prosciutto accentuated the sweetness of the honey and sharpness of the gorgonzola cheese. L said the addition of the prosciutto is worth more than five dollars.

The mortadella pizza is the most unique pizza I’ve tried in a while. L and Grohl noticed the scent of lemon zest. I thought the candied pistachios paired well with the mortadella because the sweet nuttiness popped against the cool fatty slices of meat. The layers of mortadella also helped to balanced out the fluffier, heavier sections of the crust.

The crust at Rocket Pie is something special. There’s this pleasing tastiness to it that makes you want to munch slowly to savour the flavour. I thought it was interesting that texture of the pizza crust varied by each pie, perhaps due to the toppings.

The formaggi pizza provided the crispiest crunch. The dough is thinner and the honey was almost caramelized right into the cheeses. I noticed the crust on the margherita is more blistered than the other pies. I love the papery texture on the spots of blackened dough. Compared to the other two pies, the crust in the mortadella pizza is the thickest and fluffiest.

Miss Foodie recommended Rocket Pizza to me and I’m going to use her other recommendations for our meals with Grohl. She’s been a long-time fan of Han’s in Chinatown. Grohl loves spicy Chinese food, and if Miss Foodie approves, I know Grohl will be enjoy the food too. I should start tipping Miss Foodie for her restaurant recommendations because her picks are pure gold.

Italian · Patio · Pizza

Rocket Pie – Neapolitan Pizza in Canmore

Since the pandemic started, L has been working around the clock. Lately, he’s been looking more weary than usual. I wasn’t sure if his tiredness was work-related or because I’ve been extra cranky since I started Noom. Either way, I told him to pack an overnight bag because we were going to Canmore for the night. There’s nothing like a little mountain air to brighten one’s mood. For this post, let’s listen to “Slow Ride” by Foghat.

I’m not familiar with the food scene in Canmore. I’ve only eaten at Crazyweed, The Trough, Iron Goat and 514 Poutine. Since this was L’s getaway, I wanted to take him out for one of his favourite foods – pizza. I asked Miss Foodie and Lovegastrogirl where they would go. Both recommended Rocket Pie, a restaurant known for their Neapolitan style pizza, baked in a state-of-the-art stone fired oven.

Rocket Pie is located in a plaza-style shopping area. The restaurant itself is spacious and modern. L admired the textured wood wall while I appreciated the genuinely warm welcome from the staff. To start, L ordered a can of Misty Mountain Hops (Canmore Brewery, $8.50). I asked our server Tara about the wine list. She recommended the house wine (Remole Toscana, $10, 8oz) because it goes with everything. I’ve been on the hunt for an inexpensive red, and I think I found my unicorn. This is a solid wine – something I’d happily sip around my house. Look at this big pour! I knew immediately that Rocket Pie and I were going to be lifelong friends.

L complains that I never order enough food when we dine out, which is true. I purposely under order because I find I overeat if there’s extra food in front of me. This time I made sure L would have enough to eat. I ordered two pizzas and one calzone: Formaggi ($25), Diavola ($23), and the Fennel Sausage ($24). All pizzas come with complimentary chili oil.  After tasting the oil, I immediately thought of Foodkarma as she’s the undisputed queen of chili oil. I think even she would be impressed with Rocket Pie’s version. The oil is moderately spicy and nutty. I could really taste the richness that comes from a proper toasting of the chili flakes. The chef needs to bottle this liquid gold and start selling it. He would make fat coin.

The Diavola pizza is the most recommended pizza on Google reviews. I thought the ingredients sounded simple, but the flavour profile was anything but basic.  L said the Diavola was an excellent combination of quality cheeses, spicy sopressata and fresh tomato sauce. The salami was on point – each piece was so flavoursome. I loved how the pickled onions and chili flakes added a pleasant crunch and pop of heat.

L’s favourite pizza is the Formaggi. L loved the sweet, salty, and savoury notes from the blend of mozzarella, fontina, gorgonzola, pecorino ramno, parmigiana Reggiano and local honey. The crust is so lovely – crispy, thin and airy. The dough is light enough to let the blend of cheeses and honey shine, but substantive enough to carry the strong flavours. Chef and co-owner David Carruthers recommends adding prosciutto ($5) to the Formaggi. I’ll do that next time.

The Fennel Sausage Calzone is my favourite. This is the first time I tried a calzone that I enjoyed. Too often, calzones remind me of pizza pockets. The crust was different from the two pizzas we tried. The dough puffs up like a pastry and the crust was almost buttery in texture. The calzone was filled with mozzarella, ricotta cheese, fresh spinach, and house made fennel and sausage. The sausage tasted clean and bright – the meat wasn’t oily or heavy. I love the charring on the dough – the crust was blistered enough to give off a smoky flavour. The calzone is big enough for two people. Freaking fantastic and worth the calories.

What sets Rocket Pie from all the other pizzerias is the crust. David has created a master dough. This dough is perfection. This is the most delicious crust I have ever eaten. You need to try this pizza to taste what I’m saying. Some flavours can’t be described in words.

At the end of the night, we were stuffed as the inside of the calzone and blissfully happy. We took home half a calzone and a whole pizza, with two complimentary plastic containers of the chili oil. I also bought a bottle of the Remole Toscana ($20) to eat with our leftovers. We baked our pizzas the next day, and the food and wine were still awesome. This was further confirmation that the mountain air and time away didn’t unduly influence our taste buds.

Both L and I are planning our next stay in Canmore, and you can bet we will return and try some of the other pizzas. The food is worth the scenic hour-long drive from Calgary. There are options for vegetarians, and I read online that there is even a gluten-free pizza. I spied a highchair by the washroom, so this is a kid-friendly restaurant. Hitting the Sauce gives Rocket Pie two fat thumbs up.

Patio · Pizza · Restaurants

Rooftop Bar Simmons

I got my shot! To celebrate, I picked one of the safest patios I know – Rooftop Bar Simmons. I like the restaurant’s reputation for transparency during COVID-19, and their safety protocols in place to protect customers. For this post, let’s listen to “Shots” by LMFAO, featuring Lil Jon.

The rooftop itself is large. I noticed that the tables were spaciously distanced. I brought my own blanket to keep cozy, but at six o’clock, it was still plenty warm.

Charcut and Charbar do an excellent job hiring staff. Our server Mark was fun and interesting. After I picked a bottle of wine ($70, Miguel Torres, La Causa País, Itata Valley, Chile, 2016), he poured me a little to swirl, smell and taste. I wasn’t feeling it. I told Mark that I didn’t want to sample the wine because I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.  He said I was overthinking it and the whole purpose of trying the wine is to smell if the wine is off. That’s it, easy peasy. 

Photo credit: Karplop

I was so enamoured by the view of Bow River and the sun warming up my face, that I didn’t pay much attention to the wine. I found the wine easy drinking and non-offensive. With the good vibes and excellent service, I was already in the mood to celebrate. And everything tastes better with a view.

Photo credit: Karplop

When Karplop arrived, I let her pick the pizza. She ordered the Fun Guy ($29), a New York style 16” inch round pizza. Thank goodness she took some pictures. As L has observed, I’m not known for my photography. I actually hate taking pictures, and it shows. 

Photo credit: Karplop

The crust was airy and light, and it held up to the heavy three cheese layer and pile of mushrooms. The mushrooms were plentiful and sliced thin. I liked the crisp texture of the mushrooms and the buttery flavour. Karplop enjoyed the saltiness of the pizza and the use of truffle oil. This was a super delicious pizza. 

For a view, nice wine, excellent service and a quality pizza, you can’t go wrong here. I’d like to return with L, so he could see for himself the awesomeness that is the Rooftop Bar Simmons. If you know of any other rooftop gems, give me a shout.

Cheap Eats · Pizza · Restaurants

Red Swan Pizza

L was too busy this weekend to indulge my banh mi fantasies. Instead, we picked up a pizza from Red Swan in Bowness. For this post, let’s listen to “Crimson and Clover” by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts.

Veggie Girl and Uncle B raved about the pizza at Red Swan, specifically the Three Cheese Pizza (Large $19.95, thin crust option). L wanted a meat pizza but I insisted we try the pizza Veggie Girl recommended. He eventually agreed, which surprised me. Whenever I try to get him to eat something meatless, he looks at me like I’m trying to poison him.

Pro tip – if you don’t eat the pizza immediately, reheat it in the oven. Some pizzas tasted as good or even better when cold. This is not one of them.

One of the best things about this pizza is the crust. I love the light and crunchy texture of the bread. The toasted sesame seeds on the crust added a buttery nuttiness.

The tomato sauce was tangy, and it tasted like there was coriander or some other fragrant spice or herb. The toppings aren’t heavy-handed like a Spiros or Hanni’s pizza. The amount of tomato sauce, feta, cheddar and mozzarella to crust was about 1:1. Personally, I enjoyed the simplicity of the three cheese pizza. This was a nice change from the Greek style pizza I normally eat.

We each ate three slices and we were full. The next day, L microwaved the last two slices of pizza and mentioned it reheated well. If I lived in the neighbourhood, I would definitely order again.

Pro tip – Red Swan offers free local delivery (some conditions apply), pick up specials and combo deals. They even make vegan, cauliflower and gluten friendly pizzas. Give them a try – for the price, you can’t go wrong.

Comfort food · Pizza

Hanni’s Pizza – S.M.O.G

There’s so much bad news out there that I’ve been seeking things of a lighter nature to counter the negativity. My newest source is Calgary Food – FoodYYC, a Facebook group that discusses customers’ experiences at restaurants. For this post, let’s listen to “You’re so Vain” by Carly Simon.

Even in this group, you can’t get away from heated debate. As you can see below, there’s some dispute about what constitutes a real pizza. Jason Lepla is the type of person I would gladly invite over for a dinner party.

There is no shortage of pizza joints in Killarney: Bow Tie Pizza, Spiros, Sauce Italian Market, Grecos, Jeanne’s Pizza Pantry, Hannis Restaurant, Village Flatbread and Newcastle Pub. Most of my friends and family each have a personal preference, depending on how they like their pizza.

L’s favourite is Hanni’s, perhaps in part due to nostalgia. The night we moved into our first house, we ordered takeout from Hanni’s. Nine years later, we can vouch that the pizza has remained consistently delicious. The pizza is always good and every now and then, spectacular.

We only order the S.M.O.G (12 inch, $24.99), a pizza densely laden with Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions and green peppers. The tomato sauce is tangy, with aromatic notes of rosemary. The cheese comes in hot and heavy. The crust is thick and crunchy enough to stand up to the toppings. The sausage is abundant and generously sliced, so each piece is fat and juicy. This is a stick to your ribs style of pizza that is so comforting and satisfying on a cold winter’s night.

The price is right too. A large specialty pizza will feed three to four people. L and I usually eat two slices each, and then we eat the remaining four slices for breakfast and lunch. Note that if you order delivery and live within 6 km, the delivery fee is only $3.

Beer · Burgers · Happy Hour · Patio · Pizza · Restaurants · Seafood

Roof Top Bar @ Simmons – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Lovegastrogirl and I met up for girls’ night. Finding a restaurant for her is tricky. Based on her Instagram photos, the emerging themes are: a) spectacular view b) photogenic cocktails c) pretty plates of food. I picked the Roof Top Bar at Simmons for the view and because I wanted to try Connie and John’s pizza. For this post, let’s listen to “7 rings” by Ariana Grande.

Getting to the Roof Top Bar was a trial. I walked from my house, which is 7 km away. I’ve walked much further before without any issue, but this time I wore shoes without stockings. By the time I reached Chinatown, my ankles and the arch of my foot were raw and bloody. I limped into Chuen May and cried out, “Theresa, I’m not here for dim sum. I’m bleeding. Could I buy some band-aids from you?”

Theresa told me I was silly for offering to pay her. She and her sisters brought out a first aid kit and offered me five different types of band-aids, a disinfectant wipe and Polysporin. She even offered me extra ones to take with me. I thanked her profusely and told her I’d be back for my dim sum refill. Patched up, I was ready to go and made it just in time for my reservation.

Lovegastrogirl started off with a cocktail and I ordered a glass of white wine. She likes to snack and try a lot of dishes. I am not listing all the prices because Lovegastrogirl treated me out and some of the dishes she ordered were not on the website menu.

I am a fan of the nachos. The chips arrived blistering hot. Lovegastrogirl noted that the cheese was layered throughout the nachos and just not on the top. I liked the unique dipping sauce of dill and the hot heat from the hot peppers.

For my second beverage, I tried Connie and John’s pilsner ($10). I thought this was a sweet and easy to drinking beer. I knew I would like this beer since it’s from my favourite brewery – The Dandy Brewing Company.

Lovegastrogirl was craving oysters. The fresh oysters we received were thin and salty. If I had to guess, I would say these were an east coast variety. The oysters were accompanied with lime slices and hot sauce.

Lovegastrogirl likes her spuds and wanted to try the Greek Spiced Roasted Potato Wedges ($9). She enjoyed how the fries were poofy on the inside and crisp on the outside. Again, we got more of that lovely creamy dill sauce.

My favourite snack of the night was the featured Meaty Pizza By the Slice ($6.95). I loved the thick, melty layer of cheese. The crust was thin, crunchy and flavourful. Lovegastrogirl thought extra cheese was added to our slice because of the lacy cheese bubbles over the edges.

The view up here is something else and not something you can find easily in Calgary. Lovegastrogirl thought the vibe was very Vancouver. I would return for the view and the pizza in a heartbeat.

Thanks Lovegastrogirl for treating me out. I have a couple of ideas of where I can take you on our next date. There will be a clear view of me, and I promise the food, cocktails and ambience will deliver.

 

Italian · Pizza · Restaurants

Azzurri Pizzeria – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Karplop and I met up for pizza night at her place. As she lives near all the Italian stores, we stopped by the Italian Super Market so I could stock up on some staples. For this post, let’s listen to “And She Was” by Talking Heads.

As we were shopping, Karplop pointed out Rio Mare tuna is the only canned tuna Miss Foodie will eat. Dammit Karplop, why did you have to go and say that? Now I had to buy it. Seriously, Miss Foodie should create her own stamp and start labeling restaurants and food products so customers know it was Miss Food approved.

When we went to order our pizzas to go, Karplop informed me that Miss Foodie only orders the Cotto e Funghi ($24) at Azzurri Pizzeria. Again Karplop? You know how impressionable I am. Of course I changed my order from my beloved Ten Pizza ($25) to the mushroom pizza. Karplop ordered the Italia ($26) and said we could share both pizzas.

While we waited outside on the patio, Karplop mentioned several times that it would be best to eat the pizzas straightaway because the crust is crispier. However, we decided to take our pizzas to go because we had wine at her place. When we got back, Karplop rushed to lift the lids up and fanned the pizzas to help with the condensation.

I thought the mixed mushroom pizza was a subtle combination of delicate flavours and textures. The prosciutto was so light and clean it reminded me of the deli sliced ham my parents would buy for our sandwiches. The goat cheese was smooth and soft with a little tartness to it. The mushrooms were earthy and with a prominent aroma.

Karplop’s sausage pizza was the opposite of the mushroom pizza.  The homemade Innis and Gunn Italian sausage was juicy and spicy. The zesty tang of the San Marzano tomato sauce was dominant. I enjoyed the crunch of the red caramelized onions and the strong flavours of the Genoa sausage, which rounded out this hearty pie. Between the two pies, I have to say I preferred the robustness of the sausage pizza over the refined flavours of the mushroom pie.

I can see why Karplop was so focused on preserving the integrity of the crust. I appreciate the thinness of the dough and the big air pockets within the crust. I particularly liked the charred bits and the chewy texture of the bread. Azzurri only used “00” flour and the dough is hand stretched, tossed, then baked in a 900 degree Marra Forni brick oven.

I told Karplop that I read a Google review by a customer who complained the crust was burnt and she had to pick off the black pieces. Karplop laughed and said that is the way its supposed to be and the charred bits doesn’t taste burnt. She wondered why the customer wasn’t aware that this was a specific style of pizza making. I was tempted to quote Biggie Smalls in the Google review and add, ” … and if you don’t know, now you know.”

If you are a pizza lover and enjoy quality over quantity, check out Azzurri Pizzeria. This place is something special. And if you got a beef with the style of pizza they make, think twice before posting a negative review because you are going to get burned. Hitting the Sauce gives Azzurri two fat thumbs up.

 

Italian · Patio · Pizza · Restaurants

Annabelle’s Kitchen

On Friday, L received good news. To celebrate, we went out for dinner. I couldn’t get reservations to my top picks: Shokunin, Bar Von Der Fels or Carino. L suggested three restaurants. None of his options offered a wine list that appealed to me. I countered with Tavernetta, but L didn’t want to drive that far. I scrolled through Instagram and saw a photo from Annabelle’s Kitchen, a modern Italian restaurant in Marda Loop.

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L was indifferent but I was insistent. I stressed that Annabelle’s Kitchen is only five minutes away, and we could go to Village Ice Cream for dessert. For this post, let’s listen to “Compromise” by Molly Kate Kestner.

Annabelle’s Kitchen doesn’t take reservations. Another group that was initially behind me ran up ahead and got the last table. It wasn’t cold, so we opted to sit outside on the patio.

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Our server Taylor provided solid wine pairing recommendations for our meal. She recommended a white wine – ($10, Brigaldar, il Soave, Veneto Italy) to go with the Ravioli ($16). The wine was light and lively on the tongue. I preferred the wine with the pasta, rather than just own its own.

You could taste the individual ingredients in the pasta – the lemon, the smooth mildness of the ricotta and the subtle pop from the garden peas and basil pesto. I thought this dish tasted almost healthy – there wasn’t an over abundance of salt, olive oil, butter or cream.

For our Sausage Pizza ($20), Taylor recommended a red wine (Mati Barbera, Piedmont, Italy $11). L ordered a Sour Cherry from Banded Peak ($8.50).

The Italian sausage had a nice chew to it. L liked the creaminess of the goat cheese. I enjoyed the heat from the pepper flakes and chili oil. The crust was perfectly baked and it reminded me of Azzurri Pizzeria.  Crunchy on the bottom but not burnt.

For dessert, L wanted a salted caramel waffle cone from Village Ice Cream. I didn’t want any but L insisted I try some of his ice cream. He kept offering me tastes and I nibbled away until he complained that I ate half his cone. Here’s a pro tip for you. If you don’t want me to eat your ice cream, don’t ask me to.

We will be back – to Annabelle’s Kitchen for pizza and Village for ice cream. If you haven’t been to either businesses, I recommend checking them out.

Annabelle's Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Pizza · Pubs · Restaurants

Blackbird Public Urban Bar

We met L’s colleague Tent and his wife Canoe for drinks in Auburn Bay. As we are traveling to Croatia together for a conference, Tent thought it would be a good idea to meet up before our trip. For this post, let’s listen to Blackbird by The Beatles.

I chose Blackbird Public Urban Bar because on Thursdays, wine is half-price. L and I were early, so I ordered a bottle of Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon ($48.50/HH $24.50). L ordered a pint of Goose Island IPA ($7.5). I learned after Canoe arrived that she drinks red but prefers white wine. I told Canoe that I heard Croatia has some nice white wines.  She suggested that we go to a winery while we are there. What an excellent idea!

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I could tell that I was going to enjoy traveling with Canoe because she makes good food choices. She ordered the Pig Fat Popcorn ($4). The seasoning was a blend of what tasted like hot chili powder and grana padano. The popcorn was warm and fresh, so addicting I couldn’t stop eating it.

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L and I shared a large Fried Chicken Pizza ($24). The crust was thick and doughy. The pizza had ample cheese, large slices of pineapple, small chunks of fried chicken and jalapenos. I didn’t care for the pineapple. L disagreed and said the combination was a good mix of savoury, sweet and spicy.

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Canoe ordered the Ahi Tuna Sushi Bowl ($18), similar to chirashi but with chunks of vegetables and a sauce that looked like honey mustard. Canoe enjoyed her bowl and said it was like eating a sushi roll. She thought the sushi rice was okay but not as good as Kinjo. She offered me a bite but since I just met her, I declined and instead ogled her food.

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Tent ordered a small Fried Chicken Pizza ($15). He ate about half of the pie and left the crust. Canoe mentioned she wanted to bring back lace from Croatia. Tent was very interested until he realized they were talking about different usages of lace. Canoe wanted the type you put on furniture, like a doily.

I’m getting excited for our upcoming trip. A few places I wanted to dine at include Konoba Bonaca, Barba, Buza Bar, Fish Bar El Pulpo and Pink Shrimp. Some of the excursions I’m interested include a day trip to Bosnia, island hopping, Lokrum Island, wineries and a Game of Throne tour. As Tent and Canoe are athletic, I’m going to suggest they check out chasing waterfalls, biking and kayaking.

Blackbird Public Urban Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Kyoto · Pizza · Restaurants

Kyoto – Colors and Kaya

Our first night in Kyoto! I wanted to visit L’s old stomping grounds. We hopped on a train and headed to Otsu, a sleepy little town just a few stops away from Kyoto Station. For this post, let’s listen to Journey – Don’t stop believin’ (Small Town Girl).

As we walked around, L pointed out everything that was either brand new or a place he use to frequent. He wanted to check out Colors – a hole in the wall bar on the main street. When L lived here, he use to hang out at Colors with his other foreigner buddy.

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He warned me not to use the washrooms, as it was a traditional one, a squat. There are a lot traditional washrooms in Japan. I have yet to use one. I’m just not there yet. Inside, a customer was smoking, but L was willing to tolerate this occasion because it was his idea.

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We were charged 400 Yen for some candies and wasabi potato chips. L said it’s common for a bar to drop off bar snacks for a small surcharge. L’s sleeve of beer was 600 Yen and my orange vodka was 800 Yen. My drink barely had any booze in it.

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L said customers often stay for hours and the ongoing conversation with the owner is part of the experience. Early in the morning, as in 6 or 7 a.m., L would see customers stagger out.

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L chatted with the owner and found out he just bought the bar. Another customer practiced his English with L and asked us if we were married.

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We only stayed for one drink. You could tell the owner and customer were surprised that we left so quickly. I informed L that I was taking him out for pizza and wine at Kaya Bar in Kyoto Station.

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I remember Kaya Bar being a lot better last year. I’m not sure if the quality went down or if my standards went up. I suspect it’s the latter. You can tell the employees are tired of tourists. This place attracts them in droves. Foreigners were excited to come in and order something familiar like pizza and pasta at inexpensive prices.

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The drinks are dirt cheap. 300 Yen for house red or white wine. 500 Yen for a small sleeve of beer. Pizzas start at 600 Yen. The pizza is fine for the price. The house wine was so bad, at one point I almost gagged. I just stopped drinking because I found it so unpleasant. I found it difficult to get a good quality glass of wine at a price I was use to paying for in Canada, which is about $16 a glass. The selection of wine is also not impressive at the department stores in Japan.

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The anchovy cabbage was vile. The texture of the cabbage was limp and soggy. The sauce just didn’t jive with my taste buds. The pizzas are thin and have a good ratio of cheese to dough. This place was a hit with our group. There’s nothing wrong with Kaya. Just avoid the house wine and you’ll do fine.