Emba invited me to Hy’s for happy hour. I haven’t been here in ages. I used to organize work events at Hy’s, and I still remember how the GM, Barbara Steen, was always on top of everything, providing an exceptional experience for us. For this post, let’s listen to “My Baby Just Cares About Me” by Nina Simone.
Emba texted that she could only find a table at the bar. When I walked in, the lounge was packed. I wandered to the bar area and noticed that everyone was over fifty, with either short grey or white hair. My eyesight is, at best, poor in the dark, but I knew Emba wasn’t sitting at the bar. It turned out she did manage to get a table, and I didn’t see her when I walked in. Pro-tip – note that the lounge can get loud because the live music is in close proximity to the cluster of tables.
Service at Hy’s has always been good, but it was excellent this evening. I ordered a glass of the featured white wine ($9). I found my beverage light and refreshing, with fruit stone notes that reminded me of BC wines. To date, Hy’s is the only place where I enjoy the house wine.
Emba asked me if I wanted any food. I responded that I shouldn’t, as I’ve been frequenting wing Wednesday so often I’m starting to resemble Sponge Bob. Emba suggested we share a dozen fresh oysters ($30) and Blue and Black Ahi ($25.50), as both are low-calorie.
The ahi tuna is a must-order! When I bit into a piece, I tasted this deliciously salty char, contrasting with the ruby-red center. Dabbed with wasabi and dipped in soy sauce, my teeth cut through the fish like butter. So far, this is one of the best bites I’ve consumed in 2023.
The oysters tasted fresh, but some were so tiny. I got a kick out of the mini hot sauce bottle, which suited the size of the oysters. I blame the oyster grower who put these suckers on such a strict diet. On the plus side, since the oysters were so thin, it meant fewer calories. Our order came with cocktail sauce, a lemon wedge, a mignonette, and freshly grated, feathery horseradish.
Emba insisted on treating me, so I was firm we set another date so I could return the hospitality. We can return to Hy’s, or perhaps check out another hot spot on Stephen Ave. Thanks Emba, for a fun night out.
L and I departed Naxos to Athens for our last day before heading back to Calgary. I love Naxos, but I also enjoyed my time in Athens. The mix of different architectural styles amongst ancient ruins creates an incredible backdrop to explore. For this post, let’s listen to Billy Joel’s “Longest Time.”
We checked into our hotel and then walked around the neighbourhood. I noticed several permanently closed stores with Asian names. The buildings themselves looked old and historic, reminding me a little of Hastings Street in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. We grabbed a gyro and cold glass of beer for lunch, then ducked back into our hotel to cool off. It felt like such a shame to stay in our hotel room due to the overbearing heat.
I looked up restaurants in Athens, and one in particular stood out – Atlantikos. I almost exploded with unbridled delight when I found out we were within walking distance of this seafood restaurant. I told L I had to eat here.
Psiri is an offbeat, bohemian neighbourhood. We enjoyed walking around, admiring the quaint-looking streets. L picked a place for a pint of beer and a glass of wine for me. Then, after the evening cooled down, we made our way over to Atlantikos. Located in an alley, customers lined up to the busy restaurant all night. Oh my Cod, the food here is my idea of perfection. The seafood is fresh, simple and inexpensive.
We shared a Greek Salad (€6.50), Fried Calamari (€7.50), Mussels Saganaki (€6), and Grilled Shrimp (€11). The salad was huge. The feta was creamy and smooth. I noticed the tomatoes were bright red and juicy.
I just learned that calamari is a type of squid, and the “calamari” I’ve always eaten before is squid. The difference in texture is calamari is thinner, and there’s a delightful bulb-like air bubble that makes for satisfying munching.
The mussels were tasty morsels – fat and fresh. Perfectly cooked – each mussel was soft and hot. I would use the crusty pieces of bread to mop up the rich, tomatoey sauce.
The meat in the shrimp was delicately crunchy, sweet and juicy. The shrimp shells were so blisteringly hot that I burnt the tips of my impatient fingers.
I told L that one day, we have to return to Greece. I would go back to Naxos and Athens in a heartbeat as they are both on the top of my list of favourite places to visit.
For breakfast, L suggested we find a cafe randomly, just like people did before the Internet. I felt uneasy about this decision, but I was a good sport and agreed to go old-school. For this post, let’s listen to “Denial.”
We ordered a latte (€2.70), a cheese, and a meat pie (€3.90). Unfortunately, the latte was too hot, and as a result, the milk tasted off. I worked at Starbucks in my younger days, so I knew the milk was oversteamed. There was too much foam, so it was more of a cappuccino than a latte.
L’s cheese pastry was tasteless and, for the portion, overpriced. On the other hand, my meat pie was tasty. The filling reminded me of the fried glutinous rice dumplings (ham sui gok) I ordered at dim sum. I would order this again.
L booked a car for two days. First, we checked out historical points of interest, such as the Temple Demeter and a few defunct churches.
For lunch, we planned to drive to a beach in an area known for its seafood. L navigated through the tight, steep one-lane roads that wind along the mountain. I felt a little like I was in a James Bond movie. He was excited to drive, and while the views were breathtaking, seeing all the roadside memorial sites spooked me.
We chose a busy beachside spot and ordered an octopus salad (€15), grilled calamari (€11), and tzatziki (€5).
Our server proudly proclaimed that the squid was the best in Naxos. I loved it! The calamari was silky and smooth, with a nice bouncy texture. I would order this again.
L enjoys octopus more than I do, and he was crazy about the sweet, tender chunks in the salad. Everything was simple but so good. I thought this was one of the best meals we had eaten.
After lunch, we drove to several villages and other landmarks. We returned to our hotel and stepped out for a Kitron cocktail in Old Town. Afterwards, we did one of my favourite things to do in Naxos: wander around Kastro Castle. Not only did the thick marble walls offer shade from the hot sun, but it was so delightful to get lost in the nooks and alleys of the fortress. At night it offered a different experience, as the castle’s passages became lit with restaurants buzzing with activity.
For dinner, I wanted something light. We checked out To Soulvlaki, for pork gyros (€3.50) and a mega pint of white wine (€3.30). After eating so many gyros, they all start to taste the same. I did notice the meat was seared, and the portion was more generous than their competition next door, Ya Souvlaki. We left full and eager to start the day again on this glorious island.
Early in the morning, L and I booked a taxi to take us to the ferry to Naxos. When we arrived, a restaurant owner hustled us over to his patio and invited us to stay while we waited for the ferry. Right away, I knew we should continue walking and check out the other cafes. However, he struck up a conversation with L about when our ferry would arrive. His winning sales pitch that we could see our ferry come and only be obligated to purchase a coffee. For this post, let’s listen to Maria Farantouri ‘s “To the Little Wind.”
Our americanos (€5) tasted like instant Nabob coffee. When we gagged down our drinks, L purchased two large cans of Mythos beer (€6) for our ferry ride. I thanked L and noted that we probably could have bought the beers for cheaper at another store. He agreed so good-naturedly that I felt guilty. I really need to stop hen-pecking him over nickels.
We arrived in Naxos and stopped by Ya Souvlaki for gyros on the way to our hotel. We sat by the pier and devoured our pork gyros (€3.50) in minutes. We always eat the fries first because if you eat don’t, the flavour of the meat gets muted by the potatoes.
Usually, I’m full after a gyro, but since we skipped breakfast, I was still hungry. I ordered a lamb skewer (€3.50), and L ordered a chicken skewer (€2.50). Our server told us it would take a while, as the skewers are made fresh. Our skewers came with fries and pita bread. What a wicked price!
The lamb was killer – so juicy and almost grassy in flavour. L said he could taste the flavour of the charcoal in his chicken skewer. When we finished, L left to pay. I knew they were happy with their tip because our server came over with complimentary booze. L didn’t want to drink a shot at noon, so I happily took one for the team.
After we checked into our hotel, we toured around Old Town. We walked over to the Portara, the marble gate of an unfinished temple ofApollo. I had seen pictures of the gate before visiting. I wished I didn’t, as while the marble ruin was unique, it didn’t look nearly as impressive as the online pictures. Instagram filters ruin real life. I guess this is what people feel like on dating apps.
For our first night, I booked a table at Scirocco, located in the town centre. I relished the over-the-top polite service. I noticed the older British guests were known customers and were given the royal VIP treatment by all the staff.
I ordered a glass of bubbles that was pretty average (€7). I sipped a white wine with our dinner, which reminded me of citrus (€ 6). When I noticed guests drinking rosé wine (€7), I ordered one for dessert, though it seemed to cause our server some concern. I’m pretty sure the issue is the rosé is typically ordered by the bottle, not by the glass, but an exception was made for me. This was a real Goldilocks moment. The rosé wasn’t too sweet or generic, and it tasted a little like strawberries. I would order this again.
L and I shared an order of Sagankaki (€ 10) and the mixed seafood platter (€30). The fried cheese was crispy and topped with honey and black sesame seeds. The flavour of the toasted sesame and the mild, nutty flavour of the cheese reminded me of a dim sum dish – rice-wrapped Chinese doughnut. I would order this again.
Of the seafood medley, I enjoyed the salmon the most. The creamy lemon sauce paired beautifully with the fatty layers of the salmon. The shrimp was sweet and juicy. I also enjoyed the calamari, as the texture was smooth and firm. The marinated octopus was thick, meaty and succulent. I could tell all the seafood was fresh and not previously frozen because the consistency was unlike what I’m accustomed to in Calgary.
The service at Sciroco was an easy 10/10, the food was 8/10, and the wine was a 6/10, though the rosé was a 9/10. The dessert was so bad it is not even worthy of a tactfully worded description because it was so piss poor. In any case, Naxos is a hit.
Kournikova, Betty, and Québecois dropped by my house before our dinner at Orchard Restaurant. Betty is the latest addition to our monthly dinner club, referred by her best friend, Kournikova. We started off with champagne and then a bottle of my favourite red wine from Burrowing Owl.
L dropped us off and encouraged us to take our time, as he planned to watch a big match on PPV. I knew that was code for “be quiet when you guys come back home. I paid to watch this fight.” Unfortunately for him, we came home and partied on well past his bedtime. For this post, let’s listen to “Material Girl”.
Orchard is a gorgeous restaurant, resplendent with high ceilings, cascading plants and a variety of chandeliers. In terms of impressive digs, I’d say Orchard and Major Tom lead the pack in Calgary.
We each started off with a cocktail. Kournikova, Betty and I ordered From Shelter with Love ($15). Kournikova mentioned the passion fruit in the cocktail reminded her of the guava mimosas in Hawaii.
Our server told us about a bin end sale of French Sauvignon Blanc ($40). What a steal! I enjoyed this bottle as I found the wine smooth and not tart like I find to be the case for many New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.
Betty informed me that her favourite food is Beef Tartare ($18), so of course, we had to order it. The lighting in the restaurant is dark, so when I mistakenly scooped up all the cranberry mustard, I mentioned the beef tasted oddly sweet. Betty laughed and pointed out what I was eating was beets and not beef.
Kournikova and I both loved the Grilled Humboldt Squid ($16). The squid was toothsome and so expertly cooked; it made me think of Chef James Water version at Klein and Harris. The salad was delicious, bright with citrusy orange notes. I thought each unique ingredient in this dish worked – the salsa verde, green olives, and lemon. I would order this again.
Québecois and I enjoyed the Beet and Burrata ($15). The Italian burrata was fresh and creamy. I liked the sweet, savoury and fragrant combination of the beets, hazelnuts, and orange. Québecois enjoyed the crunchy burst of hazelnuts, and Kournikova mentioned she liked the smoky pesto.
My favourite appetizer was the Eggplant and Maitake ($15). I thought the mix of the soy glaze, mushrooms, and eggplant was insanely delicious. I would order the eggplant again as well.
We wanted to try the Miso Maple Cured Sablefish ($38). However, on this night, Icelandic cod was used instead of sablefish. The fish was soft and covered in a delicate, buttery sauce. Kournikova and Québecois raved about the juicy bok choy.
I was pleasantly surprised with the Ocean Cioppino ($36), as I’m generally not impressed with this dish at other restaurants. The scallops were so fat and sweet, I thought it was just as good or even better than the scallops at Hawthorn Dining Room. The prawns were large with a delectable crunchy texture. The mussels and clams tasted fresh and were perfectly cooked. I also loved the rich flavour of the marinara sauce. I would order the cioppino again.
Kournikova loves a good duck, so we shared the Bougie Duck Breast ($35). The duck meat was flavourful but a little chewy. Everyone was a fan of the Israeli couscous. The sauce and couscous were creamy and silky smooth.
Betty picked out two desserts for us to share – the White Chocolate Tiramisu ($11) and Rocher Chocolate Cake ($11). The chocolate shell was hard and then quickly melted in your mouth. The tiramisu was soft and creamy, with a texture similar to semi-melted ice cream. Wowee – both were so good; I was scraping the sides of the dish to get every last drop.
We all enjoyed our experience at Orchard. The food, service and ambience were top-notch. Hitting the Sauce gives Orchard two phat thumbs up.
I had to cancel our trip to Vancouver due to L’s work schedule. I was disappointed as my family had planned a feast at Ludwig’s favourite restaurant – Fisherman’s Terrace. My brother Narc sent photos of my father’s 79th birthday dinner – Peking duck carved at the table, fresh lobster in green onion and ginger sauce, duck lettuce wraps, fried stuffed taro, almond chicken, pea tips, fresh whole fish, deep-fried pumpkin, e-fu noodles, beef chow fun, green beans, and a bunch of other dishes I didn’t recognize. As I gazed at the photos, a small moan escaped from my mouth. For a moment, I missed my former life as a glutton. My younger brother Jacuzzi would always say to me whenever we got out of hand that it tastes good to be a pig. I concur.
Since I was missing the action back home, I told L we had to try out Emerald Garden for the more traditional Chinese dishes. I didn’t want ginger beef, salt and pepper squid, or chicken balls. He was game, even though he prefers westernized Chinese food. For this post, let’s listen to “If” by Janet Jackson.
When we arrived at Emerald Garden, we were surprised to see the constant stream of customers dining in, as well as the takeout orders flying out of the kitchen. Based on my friend Fung Ling’s recommendation, I ordered: Fried Stuffed Treasures ($19.95, 煎釀三寶 Eggplant, Green Peppers and Crispy Tofu Stuffed with Shrimp); Beef Tendon Casserole ($17.95, 牛筋腩煲 Beef Shank, Tendon and Tofu); Cod Fillets ($24.99, Fried Cod with Tofu and Chinese Mushrooms); Dried Scallop and Egg White Fried Rice ($14.95 瑤柱蛋白炒飯 Tobiko, Green Onions, Egg Whites and Dried Scallops); and Fried Dumplings ($13.95).
The scallops and fluffy egg whites in the fried rice tasted subtle and fresh, which accentuated the pops of flavour from the tobiko, green onions and crunchy onion garnish. The portion of fried rice is generous. I found Emerald Garden’s seafood fried rice better than Sun’s BBQ version.
I was looking forward to the beef tendon and I wasn’t disappointed. Each piece of tendon was soft and chewy. The beef shank was tender and tasty, marbled with a thin layer of fat. The daikon was juicy and delicate in flavour. I could tell the gravy in the casserole was fattening because the flavour was so rich and smooth.
The highlight of the night was the fish casserole. The pot arrived bubbling and sizzling, filled with battered fish fillets, fried tofu puffs, Chinese mushrooms and tofu skin. The cod tasted fresh and the texture of the fillet was thick and fluffy. I would order this again, though next time, I want to try the fish steamed or pan fried.
The shrimp stuffed eggplant, peppers and tofu came with a special sauce. We found the shrimp filling a little dry. However, I enjoyed the silky texture of the eggplant and the soft innards of the fried tofu.
The dumplings are deep fried and chewy. The wrapper on the dumplings was thick, puffy and gummy. Proportionally, the wrapping was about double the filling. For the dipping sauce, I added soy sauce, chili oil and vinegar.
The portions are generous and the prices are affordable. Our feast cost $100 and there was more than enough food for four people. I noticed later on in the evening and the next day, I didn’t feel dehydrated, which I think indicates Emerald Palace isn’t heavy handed when it comes to the salt and seasoning of the dishes.
I noticed the clientele at Emerald Palace are split into three camps. I saw customers who spoke fluent Cantonese order the more traditional dishes for a banquet style dinner. There is also an obviously loyal clientele of English-speaking customers who ordered the more westernized dishes, like salt and pepper squid and hot and sour soup. Then there’s me – someone who has the Chinese vocabulary of a two-year old.
Part of the charm of Emerald Garden is watching how all the customers interact with the staff. There was a young teenage employee who spoke fluent Cantonese and English. He was clearly working hard answering the phone, taking orders, bringing dishes out, serving drinks, and packing up food. An older man got up to leave and as he passed the reception area, he bellowed to the kid, “Bye Brian!” Another table of two women questioned what vegetable was in a certain dish. There was some confusion and back and forth with the customers and the server. The customer said, “Hey, I don’t mean to be a bitch. I’m just curious, so don’t worry about it.” The server confirmed with the chef and it turned out the vegetable was indeed zucchini. A Chinese speaking customer looked like another regular. He seemed right at home, cutting directly through the staff only section to his table. No one even blinked an eye.
The atmosphere reminds me of the past Chinese banquets I’ve attended. The background noise consists of a blended murmur of a screaming baby, laughter, and the happy clink of dishes. L wants to return to Emerald Garden try the westernized dishes, like the sizzling beef and sweet and sour pork. I’m fine with that as long as I can order the chef’s specials and signature dishes. I have my eye on the deep-fried egg yolk bitter melon and shredded chicken with jellyfish. Hitting the Sauce gives Emerald Garden two fat thumbs up.
After July 31, Von Der Fels will be no more. Lovegastrogirl and I had to dine one last time before chef Douglas King and owner Will Trow move on to greener pastures to The Ranchmen’s Club. For this post, let’s listen to “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer.
I’m going to miss Von Der Fels for the wines. This is the only place in the city where I’m impressed with the wines by the glass. I’m normally a red wine drinker but due to the heat, I wanted to try a glass of white. Our server recommend Miser Riesling 2020 ($16). This one was lovely – I enjoyed how the wine sparkled on my tongue. However, my favourite wine of the night was De Collette 2019 ($18). There was just something soft and mellow about it that made me want to keep on sipping.
The only reservation I was able to score was at 8:45 p.m. I couldn’t wait that long to eat and as a result, I was full when I arrived. However, we had to order food because you can’t come here and not eat. The food is just too good to pass up.
Our first dish was the Crispy Pork Belly with Lettuce Wraps ($43). The fragrance of the smoky sweetness of the pork was intoxicating. The crunchy fat on the pork belly reminds of me of Peking duck, but with a more complex flavour profile. I liked how the pickled cucumbers and fresh mint help to cut into the richness of the pork belly and sauces.
The second dish we tried was the Miso Sablefish with Tempura Shrimp ($49). Holy mackerel, this dish is a visual stunner. I felt like my eyes were eating as well. There was so much fried goodness in this plate that I felt giddy just looking at it. I could literally feel my inner fat kid transfer out of my body to hug this dish.
Each layer of the artichoke was silky soft, drenched in a light citrusy matsutake beurre blanc sauce. The shrimp was delightful – the batter was as light as tempura. My favourite part of the dish was the miso sablefish. The fish was so tender and flaky, with an incredible buttery texture. I would order this again but I can’t unless I become a member of The Ranchmen’s Club.
As a parting gift, Lovegastrogirl brought a bottle of champagne for the staff to enjoy. When her hubby Gpomp dropped us off at the restaurant, he asked me now that Von Der Fels is no longer assessable by the general public, what other restaurant could offer a similar experience? There’s only a handful of restaurants I have frequented in Calgary, so based on my limited exposure, and in terms of food, consistency, wine, service and value, I would say Sukiyaki House and Klein & Harris.
I have to talk to L about getting a membership at The Ranchmen’s Club. There’s a stellar negotiation course at the Haskayne School of Business that I’m considering taking to help me with my persuasion skills. Perhaps the mere threat of going back to school will encourage L to explore the new happenings occurring at The Ranchmen’s Club now that Douglas and Will have taken over the culinary reins.
I’ll always remember Von Der Fels as the spot to bring friends and family. This was a restaurant that you could depend on to consistently deliver, visit after visit. I wish the owner and chef the very best in their new roles and future at The Ranchmen’s Club.
Quebecoise’s parents are in town, which meant she and her husband Sirski could get away for a double date. Both haven’t been to Von Der Fels, which in my opinion is the place to get mind-blowing food, with zero pretension. For this post, let’s listen to “Strawberry Letter 23” by Shuggie Otis.
Québécoise and I ordered a glass of bubbles to start – Aubusieres Vouvray France Chenin Blanc (5 oz, $16). L and Sirski chose a Kinabik pilsner from Sylvan Lake ($8). I enjoyed my bubbles – it was dry and smooth. I thought it was better than the bottle of champagne we had just consumed at our place. Québécoise disagreed and said nothing is better than champagne.
The restaurant is small to begin with, but with COVID-19 restrictions and the implementation of large plastic dividers between tables, there are even fewer tables available. We were lucky to snag the best seat in the house – the round table by the front window, complete with a view of the Calgary Tower.
Quebecoise and Sirski know more about wine than I do, so I deferred to them. Quebecoise asked for a white wine that wasn’t oaky. When she noticed our server also spoke French, she switched to her native tongue. He recommend a textured white wine- La Collière, Côtes-du-Rhône (2017, $60). Quebecoise was happy and exclaimed the wine was “bon”. She found the wine aromatic, bright and not acidic – a good choice because it wouldn’t overpower the food.
I knew Quebecoise would enjoy the Smoked Castlevetrano Olives ($8). These little olives are incredibly juicy with a subtle smoky aftertaste. My buddy Jaime goes crazy over these olives, so much she wanted to get an extra order to bring home in Kamloops.
The Korean Fried Oyster ($4) tasted of the sea. The plump oyster morsel was soft and creamy as a poached egg. The batter was light and delicate. The crunch of the cucumber garnish was refreshing.
Each couple shared a Green Tomato and Mortadella Tempura Sandwich ($8). I could hear the crunch of the thinly battered tomato as I bit into it. The tomato itself was firm, smeared with a sauce that reminded me of Thousand Island dressing.
The Pizza Fritta with black truffles and potatoes ($15) was lighter in flavour than I anticipated because I’m used to the pungent black truffle salt from Silk Road Spice Merchant. I enjoyed the contrast between the crackling of the batter to the softness of the slice of potato. I thought the simple sprinkling of salt was the perfect condiment for the combination of ingredients.
The seafood in the Scallop and Shrimp Crudo ($29) was so fresh. L thought the combination of the toasted pine nuts and the softness of the artichokes paired well with the silky scallops and sweet shrimp. I liked how the the artichokes weren’t acidic as I prefer a clean flavour over a strong herby marinade. We all wondered where Von Der Fels buys their seafood. I can’t remember when I tasted shrimp with such a soft delicate texture and clean flavours. This was L’s favourite dish.
One of my favourite dishes was the Wild Squid Haskap Berry Aguacile ($20). The batter was brittle and light, similar to the crispy skin on Sukiyaki House’s agadashi tofu. The non-fried squid was soft and tender, and again, with that pureness you can only get with super fresh seafood. The fresh basil and the brightness of the berry sauce was unique and made me think of Scandinavian cuisine.
My other favourite dish was the Charcoal Grilled Pork Toro Lettuce and Herb Wraps ($36). This dish reminded me of Peking duck wraps. I loved the combination of the sizzling, fatty meat with the fresh basil and lettuce. I actually prefer pork toro over Peking duck because of the intense smoky flavour of the pork.
At the end of the night, Quebecoise and I wanted one more drink. She asked for a cocktail that was fruity, herby and not sweet. What we received was pure heaven. If you want to get sauced, this is the drink for you. I asked our server what was in this magical elixir of life. The only information I could squeeze out of him was there was some champagne and strawberries in it. Quebecoise said she could tell it was really boozy. I could tell I was in love. If I could name this drink, I would call it the Cinderella because after consuming just one of these drinks, I can see why she lost her shoe after the ball. I’m glad L took me home immediately after, because I would have surely turned into a pumpkin.
Please Von Der Fels, put this drink on your regular menu. This cocktail is a masterpiece. The Cinderella cocktail ties with Klein/Harris’ D’Angelo martini for best cocktail in the city. Hitting the Sauce gives Von Der Fels two extra chubby thumbs up.
Lovegastrogirl knows how to make an entrance. I knew before I even looked up that she arrived at Klein/Harris. I could hear her heels lightly clicking on the wooden floors. With her flowing trench coat, oversized floppy hat and face mask, she looked like a modern day Carmen Sandiego. For no particular reason, she even brought flowers for me! L is right. I can’t top Lovegastrogirl’s flair for hospitality. I think she even beats my mother in that department. For this post, let’s listen to “Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison.
I could have picked a new restaurant to try but I had a feeling Lovegastrogirl would love Klein/Harris. I thought she would appreciate the craftsmanship of the cocktails as well as the impressive cooking techniques deployed in the food. I could also count on the food and service as being excellent because the owners – Chef James Waters and Christina Mah – can be found in their restaurant every single day.
We started with the feature cocktail – a Classic Negroni ($10) crowned with pineapple foam. Christina informed us that our server Kaitlyn is in charge of their cocktail menu. As Christina herself is known as one of Calgary’s best mixologists, I knew we would be in good hands with Kaitlyn.
We received an amuse bouche of pickled beet, crab apple purée, and crispy leeks. This bite was sweet, crunchy and tart. This was a nice introduction our meal.
We started off with the Diver Scallops ($20). The three scallops were beautifully seared and silky smooth inside. There was plenty of smoky crispy bits of farmer’s bacon nestled with the braised peppers, Savoy cabbage and apple nosh. The broth was so good – it was sweet and salty.
For my second beverage, Kaitlyn poured two wines for me to try. I picked one of her favourite wines – D’Angelo Miscela Tempranillo (9 ounce, $14.5). When she asked me if I would like a 5 or 9 ounce glass, I inquired if there was an option for a 20 ounce. I got a laugh from Kaitlyn and Lovegastrogirl but no definitive answer.
One of the best things I have eaten this year is the Candied Pork Belly ($15). I could taste the smokey flavour of the grill on the sweet bread. Combined with the softness of the egg, the flavour and texture reminded me of French toast. The pork was tender and there was enough to go around for each bite of toast. The addition of the sautéed onions really made this dish. I would order the candied pork belly again.
We shared the Friday Toast and Roast ($25) – sous vide pork shoulder with Swiss chard, quinoa, roasted acorn squash, apple and beet puree and mustard pork jus. The portion of meat was very generous – I counted four seared chunks.
The flavour of the pork shoulder was very different from our pork belly appetizer. The pork was also soft but the sauce was tart and vibrant. I enjoyed the texture of the zucchini – it reminded me of a sweet potato. If this dish was a regular item on the menu, I would order it again.
For dessert, we shared the Crusted Boursin Cheese ($21). I enjoyed the process of cutting into the pastry and smearing the cheese on top of the toast, then layering the house preserves and warm tomatoes. I know Chef Waters can work magic with meats and seafood, but he also does the same to something as simple as onions and tomatoes. The intensity of the flavour of the tomatoes made this dish pop, just like the onions in the candied pork belly appetizer.
Lovegastrogirl seem to dig her Tanqueray Martini ($12) so I requested one too. I’m not normally a fan of cocktails but at Klein/Harris, it is a different story. Kaitlyn made me her favourite drink – the D’Angelo ($14.50, 7 ounce). The lemon peel provided a pleasant floral fragrance. The combination of the salty olive with the vodka and gin blend is something dreams are made out of.
Lovegastrogirl was so impressed with the food, she wants to return with her fiancé Pomp. I know she loves a view, so I suggest she bring their in-laws and reserve the table by the window. That way, she can get her coveted cityscape of Stephen Avenue. She’s a sucker for a view.
Christina informed me that Klein/Harris is opening a lounge located in the basement of the restaurant. I’m keen to go, as I’ll use any excuse to drop by for a martini. I wonder if Kaitlyn will make me a 14 ounce D’Angelo. If she laughs again, thinking it is a joke, I’ll quote Walt Disney’s unidentified and most likely unappreciated employee – “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Cheese Pull called and wanted to meet for dinner. She asked me to bring L but he declined as he dislikes being the only dude out with a group of chicks. For this post, let’s listen to “Just a Girl” by No Doubt.
Cheese Pull and I wanted to check out Carino, specifically for the gyozagna – a fusion blend of gyoza and lasagna. Carino has moved a couple of doors down the street into spacier, fancier digs. The room is filled with natural light and has a fresh, airy feel to it.
I asked our server for a glass of wine that would pair with the lasagna. He recommended the Barbera ($11). Cheese Pull doesn’t drink. I noticed that kids nowadays don’t consume alcohol, perhaps because they have better coping skills than my generation did.
For my appetizer, I choose Chicken Karaage ($8). Each piece of chicken was bite-sized and juicy, with a light, soft batter. The taste of basil in the mayonnaise was prominent. Cheese Pull commented the batter wasn’t as crunchy as Sukiyaki House‘s karaage.
The Gyozagna ($24) was so good that Cheese Pull let out a low growling sound as she ate. If that isn’t a compliment, I don’t know what is. Each dumpling was so plump, stuffed with a pork filling that burst with its hot juices. The wagyu meat sauce was so rich and heavy it just melded into the lava of melted mozzarella.
I enjoyed everything about this dish. From the delicate dumpling wrapper to the fresh flavour of the tomato sauce to the crunchy bits of caramelized cheese that crusted onto the top corners of the dish. The portion was also very filling.
Cheese Pull packed half her pasta away while I ate my entire serving. I was planning on bringing L half my pasta but it was so decadent I couldn’t stop eating. Cheese Pull said it was his fault for not coming. Our server was surprised I crushed my plate.
I was too full for dessert but Cheese Pull ordered the Hassun ($12) – a trio of sweets. Cheese Pull said the lemon flavouring in the shooter glass was subtle with a consistency like apple sauce. Her favourite of the trio was the creme brûlée. I could hear her tap on the sugar until it broke. She described her creme brûlée as a fancy pudding. The tiramisu was deconstructed – with the bottom layer tasting strongly of espresso.
I plan to return and get L to order the gyozagna so I can order the Alberta Beef Tenderloin with Seared Foie Gras Ravioli ($49.99). If you haven’t been, you have to check Carino out. The food is unique and delicious. Hitting the Sauce gives this Japanese Italian fusion gem two fat thumbs up.