Cheap Eats · Japanese · New York · Restaurants

New York – Ivan Ramen

I told Beep Beep that for her birthday dinner, she could choose any Michelin star restaurant she fancied. Based on my friend Soup’s recommendation, I suggested Daniel. Beep Beep said she prefers value and wanted to dine at Ivan Orkin’s restaurant instead. We watched his episode on Chef’s Table twice before.  For this post, let’s listen to something from Orkin’s music to slurp ramen to.

As we walked along Clinton St., Beep Beep observed the neighbourhood has a real fuck you attitude. I was about to ask her to elaborate when we overheard a guy say to his friend, “And then I was like – fuck you – you can’t do that.” One block later, I saw another indicator that residents don’t beat around the bush.

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The restaurant itself was low key, packed with customers clearly happy to eat there. The decor is minimal and clean, with comic book like illustrations on the wall. Service was industrious, polite and attentive. I asked our server what beverage he would recommend with our meal. He said that nothing goes better with ramen than a cold beer. For something easy sipping and light, he suggested  Jack’s Abby Post Shift Pilsner ($8).

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Beep Beep and I started off with an order of the Curry Flower ($11). The cauliflower was still crisp, tossed in a light, buttery curry sauce. The bite size pieces were topped with bonito flakes, green onions, and crunchy pickled ginger.

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I finished my beer and wanted to try a sake.  I asked for something that was dry, smooth and fragrant. Our server recommended Miyuzakura Panda Cup (Junmai, $14). Bonus, it’s like getting two drinks for the price of one! Look at the size of the tumbler.

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Beep Beep ordered Chicken Paitan with an egg ($22). I ordered the Triple Pork Triple Garlic Mazemen, plus an egg ($18). I wanted to try the mazemen because my brother Narc is a huge fan of Strictly Dumpling, who recommended the brothless ramen. Maybe Strictly Dumpling should stick to critiquing dumplings, because I much preferred Beep Beep’s paitan over the mazemen.

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Paitan means white and creamy soup. The generous portion of noodles were chewy and had a great mouth feel to it. The chicken broth was rich tasting but light on the tongue. The flavours were soft and unique but still familiar. The broth reminded me of Thanksgiving, but with more intense, lingering flavours. I’d order this the next time I visit.

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I told Beep Beep to pull the noodles up with her chopsticks so I could take a food shot. She didn’t understand until I showed her by pulling my noodles high above the bowl. I learn this trick from the young kids I hang with at my office.

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The pork in my bowl was tender. The noodles were springy and thick, coated in a salty sauce that reminded me of smoked oysters. The egg was so creamy it could pass as a dessert. Tasty, but the chicken paitan was more unique and satisfying to eat. There was something addicting and unexpected in that chicken broth. It’s been a week since I ate there and I’m still thinking about the paitan.

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The episodes I enjoyed most on Chef’s Table are the ones that I can afford to eat at. Ivan Ramen was the real deal for me and I had zero guilt when I paid off my credit card last week.  Next up, Beep Beep and I ended her birthday festivities at Bar 54 – the tallest rooftop bar in Manhattan.

Ivan Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Happy Hour · Japanese · Restaurants

Ikemen Ramen Bar

L and I finished our grocery shopping when he announced he wanted to go out for lunch. In November, I won a $25 gift certificate to Ikemen Ramen Bar , so I figured we might as well use it. For this post, let’s listen to something groovy and relaxing, similar to Ikemen’s playlist.

The restaurant is bigger than it appears by its storefront. The room is spacious and stylish. I like the large chalkboard wall of specials, the cool stools and the colour scheme.

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Unlike some ramen places, at Ikemen you can make reservations via Opentable and book a table for larger groups. Convenient and a plus for those who detest waiting in line.

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I like the addition of kale. Non-traditional but I thought the hearty greens worked well with the salty broth and generous amount of meat. The noodles were chewy and plentiful. The portion was so big I didn’t finish all my ramen.  L was shocked. A first for me.

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The char siu (pork) was the highlight. The pork was cooked well –  succulent and the leaner cuts fell apart easily when you bit into it. There was one piece of meat that was quite fatty and tougher to chew. We like the proportion of meat to noodle, a ratio of about 1 to 4.

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L thought all the ingredients in his miso ramen worked well together.  The free range egg was interesting in that the egg white was wobbly and seemed less cooked than the yolk, which was in a semi liquid state. The broth wasn’t as hot as we would like. I think if the broth was served at a higher temperature, the egg would have been easier to pick up  with my chopsticks.

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When our bill arrived, I told our server that I had won a gift certificate. When I went to the counter to pick up my card, I spoke to the person in charge. I remembered that Asian Persuasion informed me that Ikemen hired the ramen chef from Ichi Rock. I inquired and was told that information was false. Glad I didn’t leak that gossip on Reddit. I learned my lesson the first time with Office Dad.

Ikemen is an ideal restaurant to meet up with old friends over a leisurely meal in the heart of Kensington. Service was excellent during our visit. Our server (guy with blondish hair) was attentive and thoughtful. We didn’t feel rushed out and we enjoyed the relaxing ambience and filling meal of ramen.

Ikemen Ramen Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Japanese · Restaurants · Tokyo

Tokyo Eats – Ichiran Ramen

I chatted with Bubbles and Ramen Girl about their experience at Ichiran, a well-known ramen chain in Tokyo. Ramen Girl said it was so good, it beats the soba place I recommended to them. I’ve wanted to try Ichiran last year, but I couldn’t figure out where it was located. Bubbles and Ramen Girl allowed me to let tag along for lunch the next day. Lately, I’ve been into angry tunes. For this post, let’s listen to Fuck You by Lily Allen.

Bubbles put the address in Google Maps and off we went! Past the seedy part of Ikebukuro and up and over a bridge. It’s a 12 minute walk from our hotel. On the way over to Ichiran, I pointed out my favourite cheap conveyor belt sushi restaurant. They both tried it a couple of days later and loved the food.

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Ichiran is open 24 hours and specializes in private seating. The individual booths are designed for customers to sit and savour the full-bodied tonkatsu broth. In a note posted near my seat, Ichiran states that solitude allows for greater enjoyment. I don’t know if I buy into this theory. I could be sitting in a dumpster next to every single person in the world that has ever offended me I would still enjoy this ramen.

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I ordered my ramen at the vending machine at the entrance. I ordered the regular size tonkatsu ramen (1, 020 Yen) with a boiled egg (130 Yen). If you have a moderate or ‘Western appetite’, I would recommend getting a large size.  I gave my ticket to an employee and she led me to a private cubicle with a piece of paper on the table. I checked off my preferences and then pressed the service button for an employee to pick up my order. After a few minutes, a different employee opened up my cubicle window,  placed my plate of food in front of me and bowed.

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The broth is made from pig bones. The rich, fragrant smell hit me the moment my bowl arrived. The broth was served boiling hot, which I prefer as the fat doesn’t stick to the ramen as much when you slurp the noodles up into your mouth. The intense velvety flavours were tantalizing.

The red sauce in the center of my bowl is a blend of 30 different spices.  Just awesome – the chili sauce had a heat that lingered on my tongue. I requested my freshly made noodles to be cooked to a medium and it was just how I like it –  there was still a bite to it but the texture was smooth and silky. I also requested my egg cooked to a medium and I received a soft, gooey yolk. I was so excited my hands shook as I cracked the shell open. I was so eager I tore a bit of the egg white. Ramen Girl raved about the pork slices but I didn’t really think it stood out in comparison to the broth.

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My ramen was so delicious I ordered a small refill (130 Yen) and another egg (130 Yen). I ordered my noodles cooked to firm and it was too hard for me, possibly because my broth had cooled by that time. Ichiran states that it takes 10 minutes to eat ramen and recommends that you order your refill when you’re halfway done your meal. When I return next year, I’ll order a large ramen with two eggs rather than a refill so the noodles and egg are cooked properly in the broth.

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This whole meal set me back about 1, 400 Yen. I only went to Ichiran once on this trip because I have a bottomless stomach and ramen is so high in calories. Hitting the Sauce gives Ichiran two fat thumbs up. I’ll be back in 2019.

Comfort food · Japanese · Restaurants

Ramen Ichinen

I’ve been meaning to try Ramen Ichinen ever sinced it opened in November of 2016. Since L and I were shopping in the hood, we stopped by for lunch. I called beforehand to make sure they weren’t sold out of ramen. The person who answered the phone was cheery and helpful. She warned me if I were to come in the next hour, we would likely have to wait a little for a table. Excellent receptionist service always wants me to visit a restaurant. For this post, let’s listen to Donna Summers Hot Stuff(ed).

For an additional two dollars at lunch you can add chicken karaage (fried chicken) or cha shu (BBQ pork) bowl, goma ae (cold spinach salad with peanut dressing) or edaname. For three bucks, you can get a seared bonito (fish) bowl or a large portion noodles no extra charge. We opted for a karrage bowl.

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When our bowls hit the table, the aroma of the food wafted up. The chicken was hot and crispy. The taste of the nori (seaweed) was prominent. I could detect mirin and the green onions must have been just sliced, because the flavour was intense. The rice was nice –  each grain was firm and separate.

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We both ordered the Tonkatsu Red Ramen ($15). I’m glad I didn’t just order the tonkatsu ramen because the spicy red miso gave the broth a much-desired kick. The broth was heavy and rich.

Thick Noodle

I ordered thick noodles while L ordered thin. Both our noodles were al dente. We preferred the thick noodles as it provided a satisfying chew and brought out the flavours of the broth. I know die-hard ramen fans prefer thin noodles.

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The simmered egg was nicely cooked, still soft and creamy in the middle. The yolk just melted in your mouth.

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The pork had a lovely roasted flavour. The meat was tender and thickly sliced. The portion was very generous. The ratio of meat to noodles was almost 1:3. Next time I’ll order the lean pork because of the large amount provided.

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Halfway through the meal I asked for extra noodles ($2.00). Big mistake. By the end of the meal I felt stuffed. On the ride home, the  sunlight streaming through the windows warmed my face, making me very sleepy. When I came home I took a two-hour nap. I woke up feeling groggy and disgusting. However, my gluttony is not Ramen Ichinen’s fault. L and I both agree, this is the best ramen we’ve tried in Calgary. Hitting the Sauce gives Ramen Ichinen two fat thumbs up and it makes it on her list of favourite restaurants in Cowtown.

Ramen Ichinen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chain Restaurants · Cheap Eats · Japanese · Restaurants · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Jinya Ramen

Beep Beep and I made plans for dinner. I picked Guu on Thurlow. After a couple of drinks, her partner Mars said Guu was too far away and it would be difficult to find parking. He said he would prefer to go somewhere closer. He added that he and Beep Beep eat there so often, he would rather go somewhere else. I’m easy going! I don’t care what we eat and I give so little thought into where we eat, I cancelled our reservations. Easy peasy. Instead, I suggested Jinya. Jinya doesn’t take reservations but it’s about five minutes from Beep Beep’s house.

For this post let’s listen to Sheryl Crow, If It Makes You Happy.

We arrived around 5:30 p.m. but the restaurant was full. We ordered beers at Bean Brothers and waited until about 6:00 p.m. When we got our table, the first thing Mars did was order their baby Me Ah a Kid’s Meal ($11.99).

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L ordered the Sprouting Up Ramen ($13) and I ordered the Spicy Tonkatsu with an egg ($14). I don’t remember what Beep Beep or Mars ordered. L’s ramen was better than mine. I preferred the flavor of his chicken and pork broth over my spicy pork broth.

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The ramen at this location is far superior to the Calgary location and I don’t understand why, as the food should taste the same. The broth here is served steaming hot. The ingredients seem more generous and flavorful. I liked the thick noodles so much I ordered another serving. I chose the thin noodles to see what it was like compared to the thick version. I prefer the chew and the flavor of the broth that the thicker noodles take on.

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The kitchen was bustling away getting all the orders out. Me Ah’s ramen came out at the very end of the meal after Mars had to ask for it (twice). They also forgot her vanilla ice cream. Not a big deal at all.

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The food is affordable and though the wait for some of it was longer than anticipated, what came out was well done. Hitting the Sauce gives Jinya two fat thumbs up.

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Jinya Ramen Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Comfort food · Japanese

Jinya – Ramen Time

I was pumped when I found out Jinya was opening up in Calgary. To date, the best bowl of ramen I ever ate was at Jinya in Kerrisdale, Vancouver. Asian Persuasion and What’s Up Hamsup and I arrived ten minutes to 11:00 a.m. The restaurant opens at 11:00 a.m., so we had to wait outside until it officially opened.

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I like the interior of the restaurant. It’s a hip space. The prices are reasonable too. I did get the sense that this is not the place to sit and linger. I could feel our server’s urgency for us order and to leave after we finished our meal. If I was a customer waiting in for a table, I would absolutely support Jinya’s efficiency. We ordered a couple of appetizers before Asian Persuasion’s friend arrived.

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The fried chicken ($6.00) was tasty. The batter was light and crackled on your tongue. The sour note of the ponzu sauce and the taste of the pepper seasoning was noticeable. The size of the pieces was more than decent for the price. However, best fried chicken in #yyc still goes to Shokunin.

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We each ordered a Jinya Bun ($4.50). The steam bun was soft like a marshmallow. The slow braised pork was tender and fatty. I liked the addition of Japanese mayo and Jinya’s special sauce.

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When Asian Persuasion’s best friend Son showed up, we ordered our ramen. I noticed his necklace because it was jade and a buddha. My parents also have a penchant for jade.

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Son has the same birthday as me and he mentioned to Asian Persuasion that he found the perfect gift for her to buy for him.

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He wanted a diamond encrusted buddha. Damn, that’s some Chinese bling! The only thing that would make that piece even flashier is if there were diamonds in his belly button and grill.

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Back to the food, cuz this ain’t the shopping channel. We all ordered the same thing – the Chef’s special,  Tokyo Tonkotsu Ramen ($13.25). I was pleased how relatively quickly our bowls of came out.

Look at all these goodies! I received two fatty pieces of pork, a whole egg, green onions, kikurage and onions. The amount of ingredients in this bowl was generous and filling.

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The thin noodles were firm, just the way I like it. The egg was creamy and poured out into the broth like thick lava. The pork practically melted on your tongue. The broth was thick, rich, and heavy. Too heavy, it was actually greasy. I think because the broth was served lukewarm. If the broth was hotter, the fat in the broth wouldn’t cling onto your tongue. I tried not to drink too much of the broth.

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Jinya would be a fun place to check out late at night. I plan to bring L here for dinner. The prices for booze is downright cheap. $5.00 for beer (Big Rock, Village Wit, Lazy Mutt Alberta Red Ale) and red and white wine (Oyster Bay Merlot/Chardonnay).

Welcome to Calgary Jinya!

JINYA Ramen Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

View my food journey on Zomato!

Japanese

Umami Noodle Bar

After watching the results of the USA 2016 election,  I felt pretty bummed out. I dragged my sorry ass to work, humming R.E.M’s It’s The End of the World. To snap out of my mood, I asked Asian Persuasion, Office Dad and What’s up Hamsup if they wanted to go out for something soul satisfying. I had already brought my lunch, but I have a habit of eating out when I’m having a bad day. Asian Persuasion suggested Umami Noodle Bar because it wouldn’t be too busy and the ramen was good.

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There were only two tables of three customers when we arrived. However, my ramen took 35 minutes to arrive while Office Dad and What’s up Hamsup had to wait 40 + minutes. I was peeved that I came back to work so late. Let’s just say trotting into the office after an extended lunch doesn’t win you any brownie points with my boss.

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Was the food worth the wait? The Tonkotsu Spicy Ramen ($12.50 plus $1.00 for the soy sauce egg) was tasty. I didn’t like the spicy red sauce as it tasted a bit harsh to me, like Korean hot sauce. The noodles were skinny and not overcooked. That soy egg was marvellous. The creamy orange egg yolk had a subtle amount of salty goodness. The pork belly was the best part of the bowl,  the fatty edges were beautifully seared, the leaner bits melted on your tongue.

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I ordered the cha shu Don ($3.50), which was worth the calories. The cha shu (BBQ pork) was finely cubed, sprinkled all over the rice, topped with Japanese mayo, a sweet brown sauce, red tobiko, and green onions. Savoury, sweet, and creamy all at once.

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What’s up Hamsup’s ordered the Tan Tanmen ($13). The peanut broth was fragrant and nutty. I preferred his broth over mine. If we return, Asian Persuasion and I would both order the Tan Tanmen ramen.

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Office Dad thought the broth of his Tom Yum broth ($13.50) ramen lacked flavour. He said the seafood was okay. He ordered the pork and beef curry don ($4.00) and he said there was barely any meat. What’s up Hamsup concurred, but Asian Persuasion said she liked taste of the  curry, which reminded her of Redheads Cafe.

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My  favourite place for ramen is Jinya in Vancouver. In Calgary, I’ve tried Muku, Shokunin, Shikiji Japanese Noodles & Sushi, Redheads (which is the best of the bunch for the price). I’ll have to give Ramen IchinenShiki MenyaIkemen Ramen Bar, and Gagana Ramen a chance before I give my vote on best ramen in Calgary.

 

Umami Noodle Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Beer · Japanese · Seafood

Seattle – Late Night at Tsukushinbo

Beep Beep and I arrived at the WorldMark Seattle at the Camlin. Beep Beep’s step-mother has a time share there and she gave us the penthouse for the weekend. We valeted Beep Beep’s car and hopped inside to check-in. That’s when the timeshare salesman pounced on us. After half an hour of hearing him talk nonstop about coupons and an Amex gift card for $150 if we attend a meeting (but don’t tell anyone because I’m just giving YOU a special deal), we finally got away to eat dinner. I picked Tsukushinbo based on the numerous and positive reviews on Yelp.

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The front of the restaurant is nondescript. Blink and you’ll miss it. The restaurant was busy and our server was attentive but she looked exhausted. From what I could see, she was the main server for the entire restaurant.

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The miso soup was thick, cloudy, rich and salty. There was lots of seaweed and slivers of green onions.

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We received a complimentary dish of edamame. These lightly salted, slightly warm pods weren’t the cheap frozen ones you get at T&T. The boiled soy beans were sweet. You know when the free stuff taste this good, the food is going to be fantastic.

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Beep Beep is pregnant and she can’t eat raw fish, oysters, and soft cheeses. She also won’t drink any booze, not even a sip. However, since she was craving sushi, I ordered her an ebi onigiri ($5). For her main, she wanted cold noodles ($12.99). I opted for the chirashi ($25).

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Not the prettiest onigiri I’ve seen, but it is one of the most delicious I’ve tried. The tempura crumbs were crunchy and light, and that soy soaked sauce over the perfect rice was mouth-watering. I didn’t try her cold noodles, but she said it was refreshing and yummy. Our server told us that her dish were one of the most popular items at the restaurant.

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My bowl of chirashi was worth every American dollar. The rice had a strong vinegar taste. The presentation and the cut of the fish wasn’t best, but the freshness was incredible. Each piece of fish tasted better than I can get in Vancouver. The eel and snapper, normally my least favourite, were the best. In the past, I found eel has an almost dirt like taste. At Tsukushinbo, you can taste the charcoal essence, the crispy skin and the sweet glaze. I thought the snapper had great texture.  This chirashi was without a doubt one of the best versions I’ve tried.

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I was starving when I got to Tsukushinbo but when I left I was uncomfortably full. We both would have loved to just return here night after night, but we wanted to see what else the city had to offer. Hitting the Sauce gives Tsukushinbo two fat thumbs up.

Tsukushinbo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

View my food journey on Zomato!

View my food journey on Zomato!

Japanese

Daruma

Asian Persuasion, Sun, What’s Up Hamsup and I made plans to check out Shokunin for ramen. I made reservations the day prior for lunch. What’s Up Hamsup dropped us off right at the front of the restaurant and then drove off to look for parking. However, when we walked up to the door, we saw that Shokunin was closed to prepare for a function that night.

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Asian Persuasion called What’s Up Hamsup to tell him that we had to find an alternative restaurant. He parked his SUV at the end of the street. The three of us ran to his car. Asian Persuasion said that this was likely the first and only time What’s Up Hamsup would have women running to him rather than sprinting away. I told him what Asian Persuasion said and he responded, “That was the most pathetic attempt of ‘running’ I have ever seen. You chicks need to learn how to run.” What’s Up Hamsup does pretty well with the ladies, so jokes about his prowess don’t bug him.

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We drove around and around because What’s Up Hamsup was craving ramen. He had eaten at Shokunin the weekend before and said thought it was the best traditional ramen in Calgary. I mentioned Redheads, but instead, What’s Up Hamsup drove over to Shiki Menya. The line-up was too long and at this point, I was feeling the time crunch. We already wasted 30 minutes driving to Shokunin and then to Shiki Menya. In a hurry to get back to work, I suggested Daruma which is a couple of minutes away from Shiki Menya.

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Asian Persuasion and I ordered the miso ramen ($9.50). Sun and What’s Up Hamsup ordered bento boxes ($11.50). The egg in the ramen wasn’t warm. It was pre-cooked and then added to the broth. The noodles were cooked al dente. The broth was tastier the more you drank it. I liked the addition of the sweet corn niblets.

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Sun and What’s Up Hamsup didn’t have much too much to say about the bento boxes. They were both full and didn’t eat all the food. I did notice was that the other customers at the restaurant complimented the chef on the way out.

The next food adventure? I want to take the office family to Pure Contemporary Vietnamese. We have a Stampede event coming up that includes a buffet lunch. I plan to skip the buffet and then head over to Pure for happy hour eats.

View my food journey on Zomato!

Daruma Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Japanese · Mexican · Pizza · Pubs · San Diego · Sandwiches

San Diego – Unfiltered

L’s best friend S and his wife E wanted to go on a couples’ trip, without their children. Okay with us, as we are childless. We picked San Diego because we heard there’s a lot to do and flights were affordable. Throughout the whole trip, L and E made references to Three’s Company, as the show was supposedly based in San Diego.

Come and knock on our door. We’ve been waiting for you.
Where the kisses are hers and hers and his, three’s company too.

Come and dance on our floor. Take a step that is new.
We’ve a lovable space that needs your face, three’s company too.

You’ll see that life is a ball again and laughter is calling for you.
Down at our rendezvous, three is company, too.

 

The Airbnb condo I picked was right under a plane route, located minutes away from the airport. Planes would roar by every five minutes. After a couple of days, we adjusted to the noise.

The local grocery stores around sold a six-pack of Leffe beer for only $10.00! Holy smokes. Back home, Highlander sells it for $20.00. I told L I couldn’t believe it was cheap. There must be something wrong with it, like maybe it was non alcoholic. I was wrong. It tasted just like the $20.00 beer I drink at home.

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Based on Yelp reviews, I checked out Artisian Bento for a late lunch. When I walked up to the counter, I asked for poke but I mispronounced it, as in “I will poke you” rather than “po-kay”. The youngish Asian American female stood there and looked at me like I just spoke to her in foreign language. I really wanted the po-kay and the silence was getting longer and more awkward, so I pointed to the dish on the menu and said slowly, “I want that one”.

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The complimentary miso soup was flavourful and packed with seaweed, soft bits of potato and other goodies. One of the best miso soups I’ve tried. The po-kay was cut up in small little pieces, silky in a light sesame sauce. The mixed grain rice was perfectly cooked, parts of the rice was covered with a delectable savoury sauce. The bowl was filled with greens, beyond the generic carrot and romaine genre, and garnished with ripe avocado slices. The chef behind the counter was nice (and a great cook) and said bye when we left. We thanked the disgruntled woman at the counter, but she didn’t look up from her iPhone. She’s really not helping stereotypes.

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We walked around Balboa Park and then headed to Little Italy. We stopped by Bolt Brewery as it was busy and seemed like a good spot with the breeze flowing through the open windows. L found the freshly brewed beer flat. I ordered white wine by the tap, which was only $7.00 for a large pour. The pizza we ordered ($15) was freshly made, but bland. The chicken was dry and tasted like it was the pre-packaged sandwich meat. Still hungry, I ordered the baked wings. Some of the wings were meaty, some small, but all soggy. I heard you can’t find a bad restaurant in Little Italy. I wonder if they have tried the food at Bolt.

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S & E’s flight was delayed five hours due to a lighting storm in Texas. To kill time, L thought it would be a great idea to go to a Trump rally. I would like to state that we are NOT Trump supporters, but L insisted and billed it as “a once-in-a-lifetime experience”. Getting stabbed in the heart is also a once-in-a-life-time experience, but that doesn’t mean it is special.

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The Trump experience was not a great one. There was a small group of anti-Trump people who accidentally wandered over to our side (the only non Caucasian people there besides me). Of course, of all the people to ask, he turned to me and said, “F%$#, are we on the Trump side?” I was so ashamed to be standing be there, I couldn’t meet his eyes nor verbally answer him. He screamed “I f******* hate Trump!” and then wandered away. I was worried there would be a riot or the angry people around me would beat him up, but instead, everyone just looked at him and one old man clapped and said, “Good for you. Nice language there buddy”.

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L considered buying a shirt as a souvenir but decided against it as it was bootleg version. I wanted to ask him if he was joking but I was too afraid of hearing his answer. I’m pretty sure he was serious. He’s a bit of a snob when it comes to labels.

night scene

When L’s friends finally arrived, I picked ALTITUDE Sky Lounge for the view of the city. I didn’t mind the crowd but S and L didn’t like it. There were people dressed like they were going to prom and pretty much everything in between. The age group varied from junior prom to middle-aged.

Altitutde

I ordered a Redbull with Titos vodka and our bartender free poured. Truly a wondrous thing. M ordered a a Moscow Mule, which was off-the-wall good. M couldn’t finish her drink so I gulped it down. I would have stayed longer but L and S did not care for the scene.

bao

E were hungry at this point and want something to eat. We wandered over to Underbelly in Little Italy, based on our Uber driver’s recommendation. We all ordered bowls of ramen and bao sliders. I found the sliders bland. The meat in the baos weren’t particularly tasty either.

Ramen

The noodles in the ramen was a little soggy, but I found the pork tender and the broth flavourful. The ramen did it’s trick, our bellies were full and soaked up all that alcohol.

bagel

The next morning we Ubered over to Pacific Beach and walked along the long stretch of beach. We checked out Mission Beach Coffee Break. I noticed all the customers were ordering acai bowls. I think acai is an “it” food in San Diego. We waited 15 minutes for our bacon, cheese and egg bagel. I found the egg omelette overcooked, but a couple of packets of hot sauce livened up the sandwich.

beach

We stopped by a local bar for beer and then headed back to Little Italy to another brewery, Ballast Point. At this point, I had a raging headache and I was so hungry I walked over to a 7/11 and bought Advil and a $2.00 chicken burger. I should have known better, the chicken burger was vile. The chicken and bun was mushy and tasted like soft foamy plastic. I took two bites, threw it away and headed back to the pub.

I really liked this Ballast Point. You walk up to the front and order from their large selection of beers. The place was packed the entire time.

duck nachos

We ordered duck nachos, fries and pretzel bites. The food is delicious and incredibly fattening. The fries were triple cooked, the exterior battered and crunchy. The duck nachos were drenched in a cream sauce and blue cheese. I would have returned again, but S said he didn’t want to go to the same place twice.

prezel

That night we went to Cornado Island. Our Uber driver was more like a tour guide, giving us the history of San Diego. The Americans really value their military. All along the streets, houses were decorated with their national flag. E told us in Dallas, people will get up and give their table away if a solider is waiting for a table. At functions, the MC will often announce the arrival of soldiers.

We waited over an hour to get into a Mexican restaurant our Uber driver recommended, Miguel’s Cocina. You would think that a long line-up would indicate the food at the restaurant is good. The food was what you expect from a buffet at a four star resort in Mexico. Our server was pretty bad. You could tell he did not want to be there. When S started alpha dogging our server, we knew it was time to go.

uni

The next day was the best. We Ubered over to the Hillcrest Farmers Market. It’s an open air market filled with craft stalls, produce, baked good and ready to eat food. I opted for uni ($10) from Poppas Fresh Fish Company. The uni was cracked open and washed right in front of me. The sea urchin was quite delicate, foam-like and tasted a bit like oysters. Other people kept coming up to ask me if I liked it. This also happens when I’m at a Chinese banquet with other non-Asians. Everyone asks me questions like I’m an expert, as the food is exotic to them. I like the attention and even if I don’t know, I’ll make up an answer. The one time people listen to me. I’ll take it, I’m not proud.

poke

One of the best things I ate on this trip was spicy tuna pokay from the San Diego Poke Company. The tuna tasted super fresh and the spicy creamy sauce made my hair tingle. It wasn’t a large portion, but it was filling. The seaweed, the seasoning and the rice was perfect.

We walked around the city, checking out Balboa Park and museums. We dropped into a cafe to drink a pitcher of $10 mimosa. I couldn’t believe it was so cheap, I figured it had to be non-alcoholic prosecco. I’m wrong again, it was real! I could feel my face turning pink.

outside bar

S picked the restaurant for our last night, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens-Liberty Station. We sat at our table for hours, drinking and eating the night away. Highlights include the duck tacos and that delicious, sweet corn salad.

The next day, we took Uber one last time to the airport. Surprisingly, I enjoyed my last meal at the airport. Hello Calgary, are you paying attention? Get your act together so I can stop bringing my own meals when I fly out of YYC.

I drank champagne from Bubbles Seafood and Wine Bar. The gentleman serving us was old-school cool. He paused dramatically and told us to “wait for it” as the cork popped high above our heads. Then we headed over to Phil’s BBQ. The BBQ Broham sandwich was delicious. The pulled pork was tender and had the most deletable sauce. Next time, I want to try the onion rings, which everyone else was ordering.

I like San Diego. The city is clean, safe and walkable. The only thing I’ll complain about is the exchange rate, but that’s not the city’s fault. I’m planning a trip to Seattle with my best friend Beep Beep this summer. Hopefully by then, the Canadian dollar will pick up. I don’t want to eat at McDonald’s the entire time.