Burgers · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Charbar – COVID dine-in edition

Aga visited me last Wednesday from Lethbridge. She told me that she’s been unlucky when it comes to dining out in her new city, particularly for Vietnamese or Chinese cuisine. I felt sorry for her and let her pick the restaurant for our dinner date. As this beautiful bout of summer weather always makes me feel frisky, let’s listen to “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley.

Aga picked Charbar in East Village. We were lucky to get a patio table, with a view of Bow River. Since COVID-19, the menu is more limited but it still has the old favourites, like the Charbar burger, steaks, and seafood.

char outside

We both started off with a glass of Sacrifice Rosé ($11). We enjoyed our rosé – it was dry with a tartness that reminded me of raspberries.

wine

I contacted Miss Foodie the night before to ask for her recommendations. She suggested the cabbage salad, the burger, and the ceviche. The night after I ate at Charbar, I had a dream about Miss Foodie, a person I’ve never met.

menu

In my dream, Miss Foodie and I were living in a student residence and she just came back from a dinner. She put her leftover prawns in a pot on the stove but she had to leave after taking an urgent phone call. I didn’t bother to reheat the food and just ate it out of the pot.

I asked my friend Karplop if she thought I was weird for dreaming about eating Miss Foodie’s leftovers. Karplop laughed and said no, I was normal and I probably had that dream because Miss Foodie has been posting about BC spotted prawns on her Instagram account.

ceviche

Aga and I shared the Eggplant Milanese Chips ($14), Charred Napa Cabbage Salad ($18), Tableside Ceviche ($19), and the Double Stacked Gaucho Burger ($19). Aga was initially hesitant to try ceviche because she has never tried marinaded raw seafood but she figured she would put on a brave face since she was with me. Thankfully, she was a fan.

chip

Each piece of shrimp, mussel, clam, and baby squid was squeaky clean. The lime marinade was zesty and refreshing. I liked the addition of the toasted popcorn – it provided a fluffy crunch followed by a nice chew. My favourite piece of seafood was the squid – it was glossy white, with a satiny texture and tender to the tooth. The ceviche tasted even fresher than I’ve experienced in coastal cities, such as Cabo San Lucas.

chip

Our server recommended ordering the eggplant chips to go with ceviche. The chips went well with seafood as it provided a crunchy, salty vessel to the seafood.

salad

I’m not a salad person, but there are four restaurants in Calgary that make one worth eating – Pure Modern Asian Kitchen & Bar, Una Pizza + Wine, Cotto Italian Comfort Food, and Charbar. The charred cabbage tasted like the yakitori I ate in Japan. The avocado was creamy with a texture similar to chilled butter. Aga raved about the freshness of the mint and the bright citrus dressing. My favourite element of the salad is the lentils – it tasted like fresh peas but with the watery texture of raw bean sprouts.

close up burger

I’ve said repeatedly that Charbar makes one of the best burgers in the city. The double patties are well-seasoned and juicy. I didn’t find the burger as saucy as previous visits but I think I prefer it this way so I could taste more of flavour of the beef. Aga liked the avocado topping in the burger. I’m partial to the beef fat fries – the interior was soft and mealy and the exterior shell was ultra crunchy.

half burger

I chatted with out server and asked him if he thought their customers adhere to the new safety precautions. He said staff keep a close eye on everything – from sanitation standards they had in place before COVID-19 to ensuring customers follow procedures when entering the restaurant. He mentioned that Shoppers Drug Mart offers free testing, so after his shift ends on Sunday, he gets tested and finds out the result before his first shift starts on Wednesday.

fries

Dining out has its risks, much like grocery shopping, working, and any social outing. Since the pandemic, I’ve been making an effort to pick restaurants that are upfront, fully transparent and put in precautionary measures to better protect everyone’s health and safety. Personally, I felt safe eating at Charbar. Hitting the Sauce gives Charbar two fat thumbs up.

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

Fast Food · Fusion · Hawaiian · poke · Restaurants · Seafood

Pacific Poke – COVID-19 edition

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

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

pacific poke

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

Screen Shot 2020-04-14 at 4.14.39 PM
Posted without permission from Pacific Poke.

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

Lieghotn

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

poke me

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

poke mixed

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

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

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi · Vancouver/Richmond

Richmond – Sushi Hachi – L’s birthday dinner

I booked L’s birthday dinner at Sushi Hachi Japanese Restaurant. Run by a husband and wife team, Sushi Hachi is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Reservations are required, as the small restaurant is perpetually booked.

Sign

I invited N and Beep Beep to L’s dinner. N asked if she could bring her new gentleman friend A-OK. When I spoke to the owner to request an extra seat, I confided to the owner that I was excited to dine at his restaurant. He sounded pleased, but cautiously mentioned that he only serves sushi and sashimi. There is no teriyaki or tempura on the menu. I told him that was fine with me, as I’ve been to Japan before and I’m aware of the difference between real sushi and the North American version. He sounded worried and humbly stated that he didn’t want to get my my hopes up, as his sushi is not as good as what you can get in Japan. For this post, let’s listen to “Saw You in a Dream” by The Japanese House.

When we were seated, L commented that he knew Sushi Hachi was a good restaurant based on the tantalizing smells wafting from the kitchen and sushi bar. Unfortunately, the description of the food we ate won’t be as detailed as I would have preferred. Beep Beep and I were too busy sizing up A-OK. I usually hate the guys N dates, but A-OK was a refreshing break from the norm.

sayuri.jpg

A-OK and I shared a bottle of cold sake – Hakutsuru Nigori ($17). The flavour was floral, lush and milky in texture. L, Beep Beep and N refrained from drinking alcohol. Beep Beep was driving. L wanted a good sleep. N just came back from her second ayahuasca trip in Peru. Her shaman said she could eat seafood again, but not alcohol, meat or soy sauce. I asked A-OK if the next time, he could slip the shaman an extra twenty bucks so N could eat meat again.

miso soup

The Miso Soup ($2) was subtly different from the norm. I read in other reviews that the female owner makes her fish miso in small batches. Each bowl contained a collarbone.

nigiri

I ordered four Chef’s Special ($120) – a selection of ten pieces of nigiri and tuna maki. We were given a description of each fish, but I didn’t have time to write any of the names of the fish down.

maki.jpg

The balance of vinegar and sugar in the rice was perfect. The temperature of the rice was neither cool or warm. I noticed the rice was a bit softer than I’m used to. L and I liked the proportion of fish to rice.

piece

My favourite piece was the bright white glossy piece – it was both crunchy and creamy. The simplicity of garnishes on the nigiri still let the freshness of the seafood shine through.

scallop.jpg

The scallops were tender and sweet. My favourite version was the chopped scallop. There’s just something so winning about the combination of delicate scallops and the rich egg flavor of velvety Kewpie mayonnaise.

extra.jpg

I enjoyed crunching into the raw prawn ($3.50). Cold, sweet and with a texture that was both gooey and crunchy. The uni ($4.00) was the most buttery and briniest I’ve ever had. I’d order this again.  L ordered an extra piece of his favourite sushi –  tako ($2.50).

piece 2.jpg

L noted he’s never tried so many pieces of white fish, each with its own unique flavour. All the seafood tasted pure and clean. 

bite 3.jpg

A-OK and N ordered a plate of Toro ($18) and Sockeye Salmon ($14). No comment as we didn’t try any of it.

sashimi.jpg

A-OK also ordered the Grilled Squid ($10.50).  The squid was tender and the juices were reminiscent of charcoal. This dish was simple and delicious.

grilled squid.jpg

N ordered a Tempura Roll ($6) because she was still hungry. She took one piece and announced she was full.  I ate a couple of pieces.  The roll was crunchy and warm from the tempura, made even tastier with a generous slathering of mayonnaise.

sushi .jpg

N mentioned that while she can eat fish, she only wants to eat white fish. She felt that the fish with a pink tinge was closer to meat. I disagreed but didn’t feel the urge to argue with her. I’m not a hot shot shaman.

sushi 2.jpg

My favourite part of the night was when L thanked the sushi chef. In Japan, locals go crazy over my husband’s enunciation while I am generally frowned upon for breaking protocol. After L broke out his perfect Japanese, the  chef’s expression didn’t change and he simply nodded to L.  When I went to thank the sushi chef in English, he beamed and bestowed me with a big grin. Take that L.

octopus.jpg

Sushi Hachi is a gem. Now that L and I are no longer going on our annual trip to Japan, we can look forward to dining at Sushi Hachi. I’m eager to try more of the adventurous seafood on their sushi menu. Hitting the Sauce gives Sushi Hachi two fat thumbs up.

Sushi Hachi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Happy Hour · Restaurants · Seafood · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Fanny Bay & Oyster Bar

L asked me what I wanted to do on our free afternoon. Walk along the seawall! As we strolled over to English Bay, he complained that I walk too fast and said that I was going to blow out my hip. You don’t have to worry about me L, I have strong child bearing hips.

seawall

When we arrived at our destination, he wanted to rest on the bench. L mentioned he felt like oysters and if we left now, we could make it in time for happy hour. I could tell Old Man L was tired, so I sat and admired the water for a moment more before we turned around and headed over to Fanny Bay Oyster Bar & Shellfish Market . For this post, let’s listen to “Sweet About Me by Gabriella Cilmi.

Happy hour is daily from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Select wines are $7, house beer is $5, and featured oysters are $1.50 or $2.25. The west coast oyster was the Sun Seeker (Floating Bag – 18 months old, Okeover, BC) and the east coast oyster was Totten Virginia (Beach Grown – 3 years old, Totten Inlet, WA).

menu 2

I wish I got the name of our server – a young man that spun our plate of oysters around in a circle and said it reminded him of the Game of Thrones introduction. His energy and attentive service, paired with the sublimely fresh oysters, made this visit exceptional.

bubbles

I tried a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc (Open Estates, Okanagan) and for $7 it was fine. However, I preferred the sparkling Pinot Grigio ($10, Most Wanted, Hungary) as it was simple, light and refreshing.

plate 1

Each oyster was perfectly shucked – there was no grit or shell in it. When you pulled the oyster out of the shell, it made the sound a cork makes when you pull it out of a wine bottle. 

shell

L and I prefer west coast oysters, but we enjoyed the Totten Virginia ($2.25). The oyster tasted a bit like celery. Compared to the Summit Seeker, the east coast oyster was cleaner with a crunchier texture.

shell 2

The Sun Seeker ($1.50) was firm and sweet, with a salty finish. The center of the oyster was cool on my tongue. These were chubby, creamy oysters. I was ecstatic.

beauty

The oyster was so big, I had to use my oyster fork to pull it out of the shell. Holding the oyster on the fork reminded me of a poached egg. The flavor was so good, I didn’t feel the need for anything but a little lemon and horseradish. The fresh horseradish was feathery soft – it added a bit of heat and chew to the oyster. I ate as slowly as possibly to enjoy the flavor as long as possible.

egg.JPG

The oysters were so enjoyable, I would be happy to return for non-happy hour prices ($3.50 each, Shuckers’ Dozen $39). I plan on visiting my parents again in November. I’ll definitely come by again to get my oyster fix. Hitting the Sauce gives Fanny Bay Oyster Bar two fat thumbs up.

happy .JPG

Fanny Bay Oyster Bar & Shellfish Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Italian · Restaurants · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Lupo

For our first night in Vancouver, L and I went our separate ways. He went on a bicycle and brewery tour with Moody and Cuz, while I took Beep Beep and N out for dinner. I’ve asked L before to set up N with his single friends, but he said she’ll eat them alive. When I told N, she agreed with L. Unlike me, she doesn’t like nice guys. In honour of N, let’s listen to “Bad Guy by Billie Eilish.

N recommended we dine at Lupo Restaurant & Vinoteca, an Italian restaurant in Yaletown. Beep Beep and N suggested that I pick all the dishes and wine. I chose a bottle of Burrowing Owl ($96, Cabernet Sauvignon 2016). I found the wine full-bodied, intense but still fresh enough to sip on a warm summer night.

oct.jpg

We shared the Bufala Mozzarella ($20), Parmigiana Custard ($20), Ricotta Gnocchi ($28), Taglierini ($28), and an order of Focaccia Bread ($7.00). A server accidentally brought over a plate of Octopus Mosaic ($20). When he realized his mistake, he told us to enjoy the octopus appetizer on the house.

bura.jpg

We all thought the burrata was excellent. The cheese was creamy and smooth. The tomatoes were ripe and sweet. The organic greens were crisp and the basil noticeably fragrant. This dish rivaled the caprese salad at Cotto Italian in Calgary.

parm.jpg

I wasn’t as crazy about the Parmigiana Custard. The texture was smooth and rich, and I enjoyed the cheesy custard-like texture, but it didn’t stand out like the other dishes.

foc.jpg

We all loved the focaccia bread – it was ultra light with a crusty, airy exterior. The toppings of cheese, olive oil, cooked tomatoes and mushrooms made it almost pizza-like. The texture and flavour of Lupo’s bread is far superior to my homemade focaccia. I would order this again.

gnoc.jpg

If you are into tomatoes, you must order the ricotta gnocchi. The gnocchi was soft, warm and gooey. Beep Beep said she could taste the fresh tomatoes in the sauce. I liked the addition of the eggplant. This was Beep Beep’s favourite dish. N was tipsy at this point and didn’t comment on the food, except to say it was good.

mush.jpg

My favourite dish was the linguini with wild mushrooms. I enjoyed the sensation of crunching into the delicate earthy mushrooms. I found the chili and garlic oil downright decadent. I would order this again.

N informed me that Lupo is one of her go-to restaurants because of the excellent food, professional service, and the fact it’s a hidden gem in Vancouver. I enjoyed the food and company immensely. Hitting the Sauce gives Lupo two fat thumbs up.

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

Bars/Lounges · Restaurants · Seafood · Steakhouse

Bar Von Der Fels

In the past two weeks, I’ve visited Bar Von Der Fels twice. I can’t help myself. The wine is divine and I’m a creature of habit. I really should branch out and try new restaurants, but Bar Von Der Fels hasn’t let me down yet. For this post, let’s listen to “I’m a Lady by Santigold.

L and I scored the best seats in the room, the table by the window. I sampled three bottles before I found a white wine I appreciated – La Croix Gratiot ($16). I found this wine fresh, light and crisp, with no lingering aftertaste. L tried OT and Bar Von Der Fel’s collaboration sour ($8) as well as a double IPA ($8).

L and I always order the House Made Bread and Homemade Cheese ($7). The toasted sesame seeds and salt balanced the softness of the bread and the fresh, mild cheese. I love the olive oil – it has a notable grassy flavour.

L and I shared the Raw Kingfish ($21) with hakurei turnip, yuzukoshi and crisp lettuce leaves. Our server told us their fish couldn’t get any fresher, it arrived that morning alive and well. The mayonnaise tied all the ingredients together. I could detect a sparkle of heat from a spice – I’m guessing cayenne.

My new favourite item on the menu is the Charcoal Grilled Broccoli ($15). The broccoli was crunchy with a heavenly smokey flavour. The sambal sauce and lime with the crispy shallots added an element of brightness and zing.

I like the slow pace in which our dishes were brought out. When we were pondering what else to get, our server brought over complimentary Alberta turnips with the silkiest, most wholesome tasting butter. The green end of the turnip had a spicy heat. I thought the simplicity of the turnips helped to showcase the quality of the butter.

L wanted dessert so I picked the Honey Semifreddo ($9). Holy dessert Batman! You’ll be hard pressed to find a better dessert than this. The white chocolate contained crunchy rice puffs, and the combination melted in my mouth. The strawberries were jam packed with sweetness. The dessert was large enough for a light meal.

Thank you Bar Von Der Fels for being such a consistent star in Calgary’s culinary scene. We look forward to our next visit.

Bar Von Der Fels Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dessert · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Canmore – Trough Dining Co.

Scary Sherry organized a surprise birthday party in Canmore for Veronica’s 50th birthday party. There was a total of seven in our group. L was worried for me as the team consists of all-star alphas. I told him I would be fine. I grew up in a household of strong-willed women. For this post, let’s listen to “You Don’t Own Me by Lesley Gore.

Scary rented a three-bedroom penthouse suite at Solara Spa and Resort. She ordered two charcuterie boards from Table Food + Drink. We all brought bottles of champagne. Scary also spoiled us with grab bags filled with toiletries, fancy treats, after party supplements, birthday paraphernalia and a $10 gift certificate to McDonald’s.

meat.JPG

The plan was when Veronica came inside the room, I was to pop open a bottle of champagne. However, for some freak reason, the wiring on the cork got stuck. I frantically twisted and turned the wiring as Veronica open the door and walked inside. Just when I saw her shocked face, I managed to pry open the cork.

platter).JPG

For dinner, we picked Trough Dining Co. The restaurant itself is small and quaint. We started off with a round of cocktails. I found my Kir Royale ($12) a little flat and didn’t finish it. Everyone else raved about their drink. Shiv mentioned her Bloody Caesar ($12) was awesome.

wine.jpg

I was designated to pick the wine. I asked for something full-bodied and selected a cabernet sauvignon ($109, Knights Valley, Beringer, 2015). I’d order this wine again. It was soft and jammy with a hint of dryness. Everyone enjoyed my selection and asked me which winery it was from. BR corrected my pronunciation as I used a hard g instead of Beh-rin-djer. Veronica didn’t like that and told BR not to make fun of me.  I didn’t think BR was making fun of me, but I stayed quiet because I didn’t want to provoke anyone.

bering.jpg

Veronica and Scary ordered the Wild Mushroom Truffle Soup ($10). I don’t normally go crazy for a soup, but this one was phenomenal.  Flavourful and earthy, you could tell the soup was prepared with local ingredients.

soup.jpg

Mandy ordered the Frisee Salad ($14) and Mussels with Frites ($15). I tried a mussel – the shellfish was small, covered in a roasted fennel tomato broth that reminded me of tomato bruschetta.

muse

Veronica thought the salad was unexpectedly fresh and crisp, with bursts of flavour from the sharp, silky pieces of blue cheese.

salad

I took a bite out of Swedish’s entrée of Flank Steak and Herb Gnocchi ($36). I found the steak quite lean. Veronica said her taste of the beef was heavenly – literally like butter. I enjoyed the soft pillow-like gnocchi.

steak.jpg

I ordered the Wild Snapper ($32) with Potato Gratin. I think all the charcuterie and champagne I ate and drank beforehand dulled my taste buds. I thought my fish looked lovely but I couldn’t really taste much other than the tomato relish. Besides all the charcuterie, I had also eaten salt and vinegar chips.

fish.jpg
Dessert stood out for everyone, both in presentation and taste. We shared the Sticky Toffee Pudding ($10) and Cheesecake ($10). The pudding was warm and not overly sweet, despite the salted caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream.

chocolate.jpg

The cheesecake was my favourite dish of the night. The smoothness of the cream cheese reminded me of cold goat cheese. The white and dark chocolate was rich and decadent. The blueberry compote and  dark chocolate wafer cookie added to the richness of the cake. Next time, I’m ordering my own slice because it was that good.

dessert

Happy birthday Veronica! Thanks Scary for all the treats and organizing the Canmore retreat. It was a pleasure and privilege to celebrate Veronica’s birthday with the all-star alphas.

Trough Dining Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cabos San Lucas · Cheap Eats · Restaurants

Los Cabos 2018 – Part Two

I was counting down the hours until N arrived. Unfortunately, her flight was delayed and she could only get a flight out the next day. I can only imagine the earful the customer representative received. If anyone can get compensation from an airline service, it would be N. For this post, let’s listen to Consuelo Velasquez – Besame Mucho.

On the way to our Airbnb, our driver recommended Las Guacamayas. He said locals dine there and the molten seafood cheese molcajetes are delicious. When N’s flight was delayed, I cancelled our reservations at Roasted Grill and Bar and we went to Las Guacamayas instead. The restaurant itself is pretty neat – there are two and a half levels. Throughout the evening, there was live music and dancers.

L and I shared an order of Molcajetes ($18 CAN). The lava bowl was searing hot – filled with octopus, prawns, avocado, asparagus and covered in a mushroom cheese sauce. The tortillas were too dry and cracked when we put the cheese and seafood inside it. The asparagus was overcooked. The mushroom sauce would have benefited from seasoning. I couldn’t ask our server for fresh tortillas because they were short-staffed. I didn’t mind – the ambience and music made up for it. I thought the food was fair for the price.

After dinner, we walked around and admired an art gallery with a rock formation behind the store. An artist came out and asked us if we would like to attend the party behind the gallery. The exhibition consisted of 11 new artists and to celebrate the full moon, there was live music, poetry readings, and complimentary wine. He said to walk to the back and to follow our hearts to find the party. What a romantic! The curved stairs lead us to the top of the hill.

I was surprised that I enjoyed the wine – so much that I went over to take a picture of the label. I looked up the price and it’s around $9 US. I wish pubs in Calgary would serve Nicolas Merlot for their happy hour selection. There was nothing offensive about it – fruity, light with no after taste.

We walked around and enjoyed the view of the city. When the live performances were finished, we checked out the art exhibition. Our favourite painting was created by the artist that pulled us into the studio. He refurbishes old paintings and recycles it by adding his own story. We asked him how much his painting was and he looked shocked. He quickly said $500 US then admitted to us that he just made up the number. He brought over the gallery director who told us she didn’t have a way to ship the framed painting to us. I was tipsy so I told L we should take a look at the painting the next morning.

screen shot 2019-01-03 at 8.59.25 pm

The next evening, we ate at El Peregrino . We skipped appetizers because we didn’t want to overeat. L ordered the ribs that were on special that night for only $12 US. The meat was tender, though there was one piece that was too fatty. The fries were nice – thin and crispy like Earl’s version in Canada.

I loved my octopus dish ($15 US). The sauce tasted like olive oil, garlic and butter. The octopus itself was toothsome with no chew to it. I’d order this dish again. Best octopus I’ve ever eaten. I enjoyed our meal so much, I made reservations for when N arrived on Saturday. However, the pinot grigio tasted like tart apple juice.

The selection of wines here are good for a restaurant in Mexico and well-priced. The next visit, I found a bottle by the glass of red that I enjoyed with my steak – Montepuliano d’Abruzzo.

We returned with N on Saturday. I made sure that all the restaurants we took N to were vegetarian friendly. She asked for a cheese and mushroom dish.

L and I ordered the steak special ($15) – a large Argentinian cut. I gave about a third of my steak to L as it was too much meat for me. L raved about his dish. The beef was lean, which is probably one reason L enjoyed his steak so much. My salad had a fantastic balsamic vinaigrette and the mashed potatoes were smooth, buttery and perfectly salted. I’d return again for the octopus and the octopus ceviche, which I read was just as delicious. I noticed a lot of regulars chatting with the staff and customers having birthday parties.

After dinner, we stopped by my favourite bar in Cabos – Monkey Business. The open air bar seats about 10 people. I always order the pineapple margarita because it’s not that sweet. L ordered a strawberry while N wanted a traditional margarita. I watched as our bartender painstakingly blended fresh pineapple, slice and squeezed limes, add tequila and rim the glass with spices.

Monkey Bar use to have underwear and bras hanging up all over the ceiling. N’s 2016 drawing of a pair of panties was also absent. I asked what happened. The bartender said he took it home to wear. N asked him if he was  wearing a pair now.

Screen Shot 2019-01-13 at 1.38.35 PM.png

For dessert, we bought churros from a street vendor ($1 US). The pastry wasn’t hot from the fryer, resulting in a pretty tasting average pastry. N said we should have insisted on waiting for a fresh churro. Next time.

Highlights include N visiting, my octopus entree and getting a spontaneous invite to an art gallery. Lowlight was N missing a whole day and night in Cabos.

Cabos San Lucas · Mexican · Restaurants · Vegetarian

Los Cabos 2018 – Part 1

Every year, L and I try to go somewhere hot to get away from the cold. I like Cabos because it is convenient, cheap and clean. If the winds are in your favour, it’s less than a four hour flight. I also like the restaurants in Cabos more than in Playa del Carmen or Puerta Vallarta. In Cabos, there seems to be more of a variety and I think the seafood is superior. The only negative is the water is really rough and not ideal for swimming due to the strong undertow.

Screen Shot 2019-01-06 at 9.55.27 AM.png

L complained that the Airbnb place I rented in Cabos in 2016 was utilitarian. This time around, I rented a luxury condo. With service and cleaning fees, the apartment averaged around $250 (CAN) a night. I was pleased to see security was tight – we had to be buzzed whenever we left the complex. Drivers weren’t allowed in unless they had permission. Since we had an extra bedroom and bathroom, I invited my friend N.

screen shot 2019-01-06 at 9.55.36 am

The apartment is situated three minutes away from the beach and a 12 minute walk to town. The pool was immaculate. We never took a cab because we preferred to walk everywhere. For this post, let’s set the mood with La Bamba by Ritchie Valens.

Tourism was down, perhaps because of the negative news of the six bodies found hanged in Baja California Sur or reports of tainted alcohol at Mexican resorts and bars. Whatever the reason(s), there were noticeable changes since we visited in 2016.

I could get into any restaurant I wanted that day, and this was the week before Christmas!  Massages by the beach decreased from $30 an hour to $20 for an hour and a half. Two years ago, I used pesos without any issue. This year, some vendors insisted on American cash, such as our transportation company. When I said I wanted to use pesos instead, they would recalculate and tack on an extra $3-7 American dollars. I ended up going to the bank to get US cash. In the future, I’d bring US cash for larger purchases and pesos as backup.

The first thing L and I did was get a massage on the beach. We found a newish looking tent with all white curtains and beds. Every massage tent offered 90 minute massage for $20 US. When L paid in pesos, they increased the cost to an equivalent of $46 US.

screen shot 2019-01-03 at 8.55.37 pm

Before N arrived, L and I planned to eat at the places that I thought N wouldn’t like. I convinced L to try Taco Gus again. On our last trip, I liked the tacos but he did not. The tortillas are thin and the meats are grilled to a pleasing crispness. As with any open air eatery, you have issues with flies landing on food. Tacos range from 25-45 pesos. There’s a large carousel of toppings and vegetables that I have a feeling are probably reused for the next customer. No proof – just speculation on my part.

At Tacos Gus, we met two Americans. They both complained about how much more Americans work compared to Canadians and particularly, Europeans. They both have jobs at good companies, but only get two weeks of vacation. They said it’s an expectation to work that much in the States. We also discussed how skimpy the shot pours are in Canada compared to the States, as Americans free pour. I told them I think it is due to taxation and likely, regulations. 5.3.8 a) from Alberta Liquor License says the standard amount of spirits and liqueurs is 28.5 ml (1 oz).

L thought the tacos were tasty but he missed having pineapple with his al pastor. The next day, I suggested we check out El Pasia , an open air restaurant that is popular with the locals.

Screen Shot 2019-01-06 at 10.03.41 AM.png

I saw several people who just got off their shift stop by for a light meal. I liked how El Paisa’s condiment bar was sealed up in the middle of the room, preventing flies from landing on the food.

The combination of the sweetness of the pineapple and spit-roasted pork can’t be beat. At Taco’s Guss, each taco is about $2 US. At El Paisa, it’s a little more than $3 US but the portion of meat was double that of Taco Gus and you can taste the difference in meat quality. Our lunch came up to about $25 US. L said he was happy to pay that for these tacos.

Highlights so far include massages on the beach, tasty tacos, and our apartment. The location was perfect and it was one of the nicer Airbnb’s I’ve stayed at. Lowlight was getting dinged when I tried to pay with the local currency.

 

 

Fusion · Italian · Japanese · Restaurants

Carino Riserva – L’s birthday dinner

For L’s birthday dinner, he picked Carino Riserva. In past visits, I noticed that you must have a reservation or you won’t get into the restaurant. Despite being popular with locals and Japanese guests, I don’t think Carino gets the accolades in magazines and social media that it deserves.

It seems that restaurants get covered by food writers for one or two articles, but then it seems to be back to the same rotation of restaurants that show up in the ‘best restaurants’ category in Avenue Calgary.  I’m not knocking the restaurants, writers or the magazine. I’m just saying I don’t want to read about the same restaurants year after year. I have a good memory and the articles on the same restaurants get redundant. Edit- I stand corrected. Avenue Magazine rated Carino best fusion restaurant. My bad! My memory isn’t as good as I thought.

wine two.jpg

Last night, L and I had the best meal of 2018. For this post, let’s listen to one of L’s favourite bands “Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, GT400”.

We sat by the window. I would recommend requesting this table if you have out-of-town guests. We enjoyed people watching and recognizing familiar faces walking the trendy streets of Mission.

wine.jpg

I appreciated our server’s food and wine recommendations. She also prevented us from ordering too much food. If you like your wine, but don’t want to pay a fortune, this is the place for you. I’ve never tried a wine I didn’t like at Carino. The owner Toshi was Teatro’s head sommelier for years. Wines by the glass range from $9-12.  I ordered a flute of prosecco ($9.00) and L stuck with Sapporo ($7.50).

wine list.jpg

A feature appetizer was the pork gyoza ($7.50) with basil dipping sauce. The dumplings were plump with juicy meat. The wrapping was beautifully pinched and grilled to a crisp.

gozya .jpg

Look at the fresh basil in the filling! L thought the gyoza showed the best of Italian and Japanese cuisine. Freaking fantastic. I would order this again.

gyoza.jpg

We shared a second appetizer – Steamed Clams and Mussel Hot Pot ($18) with Italian sausage and fries. The flame burning underneath the black cauldron added a mystique to the ambience of our table. The sausage was sweet and I could taste fennel. The broth was so tasty, we kept drinking it. I would buy this broth if I could- it was like a seafood bisque.

seafood.jpg

The absolute star of the show was the Alberta Beef Tenderloin with Wagyu Meat Sauce and Aglio Et Olio ($35). I can’t believe pasta with so few ingredients can taste that good. The noodles were served piping hot and al dente. The flavour of the oil was incredible – it must speak to the quality of the olive oil and the chef’s cooking technique. I want to compare Carino’s version to Cotto Italian Comfort Food, the next time the latter restaurant has aglio et olio on their weekly pasta feature.

beef.jpg

L declared Carino’s steak the best he’s had in his life. The steak was charred on the outside and cooked to a medium rare in the middle. The beef was tender and juicy. The mix of arugula and bitter greens acted like a palate cleanser in between bites of steak. We both ate as slowly as we could to enjoy every morsel. I ordered a glass of Liberta ($11) to go with my steak.

This entire meal with three alcoholic drinks cost only $92 dollars! Just goes to show you don’t need to spend a fortune to have a fantastic meal in Calgary. In fact, the best meal we had all year. I’ve already booked Carino Riserva for my birthday dinner with L and Beep Beep.

Carino makes it on Hitting the Sauce’s Phat Picks – which is a list of my own favourite restaurants in the city. I’ll take my own advice and try to keep the list fresh by trying new restaurants. I’m the biggest culprit for revisiting the same old restaurant instead of trying something new. Next on my list – Big Catch’s new restaurant, OMO Teppan & Kitchen, Raj Palace, Han Maru, and Namsam Korean Cuisine.

Carino Riserva Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato