French · Seafood · Special Occasion

Pat & Betty

For our monthly girls’ night, I picked Pat & Betty. We started the party at my house with a bottle of sparkling cider I picked up at Vine Arts. Kournikova enjoyed the dry, unfiltered bubbles so much that she snapped a picture. For this post, let’s listen to “Bread and Butter” by The Newbeats.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we were pleasantly surprised to receive the best table in the house. Usually, I get the worst table when I visit a new restaurant. Our spacious booth looked out onto the restaurant on the second floor. Québécoise liked how the top of the booth was arm’s length so that she could hang her arm around it.

Kournikova and I asked Québécoise to pick the wine, as she knows what we like best. Québécoise recognized several wines from her favourite French regions at prices far less than she would expect to pay. I felt so giddy that I wanted to call my father up and tell him there is heaven on earth. It’s called Pat and Betty.

The first bottle we tried was the Clos Bellane Cotes Du Rhone Valreas (Rhone Valley, $67). We sipped away while snacking on the Roasted Eggplant Dip ($9.50). These are some of the best potato chips I’ve eaten – thick, crunchy, and with enough salt to bring out the full flavour in the potato. The eggplant was cool and light, with a consistency like whipped cream. The fried capers added a tart saltiness to the dip. Kournikova mentioned the chips went well with the wine.

My favourite wine of the night was the Domaine Tremblay Petit Chablis (Burgundy, $59). I noticed that this wine was lighter and had less acidity than the first white wine. Québécoise, you did your magic again.

Betty mentioned the Country Beef Tartare ($25) was even better than the other versions we’ve tried in Calgary. The beef tartare was saucy and silky. This tartare was unique in that the addition of the devilled egg aioli and sunflower sprouts added some Southern comfort. I loved warm, soft buttered toast. To me, it smelled like old-fashioned goodness.

Betty and Québécoise enjoy a good pasta, so I recommended the Crab and Shrimp Tagliatelle ($26). Oh, baby, this dish was rich and spicy. Betty noted you could tell the pasta was homemade. I thought the prawns were perfectly cooked, soft with no snap. Québécoise liked the addition of the fennel and dill.

Kournikova picked the Chilled Baked Beets ($15.50). The beets and ricotta were cool, light and refreshing. I could taste orange in the salad dressing. I loved the addition of dill, mint and pistachio but wished our dish came with more mint, as it went so well with the salad. Betty thought this dish was a good palate cleanser after the crab and shrimp tagliatelle.

I requested the Broccoli Puttanesca ($17). Man, oh man, this is a winner! The spicy tomato ragu and lemon aioli offered a nice acidity that contrasted with the broccoli’s smokiness and the umami from the anchovy and parmesan. In addition, the garlic bread crumbs added a delicious crunch to it.

I thought of L when I tried the Angus Beef Striploin ($44). The meat was so tender and buttery smooth. The chimichurri sauce was salty and accentuated the juices from the steak. He would love this dish. I was impressed that the sides weren’t just a side thought, so fabulous I had to pause and think, which bite do I want next? The steak or crispy duck fat potatoes or the butter roasted radishes? The correct answer is all three. I would order the steak again.

The dish I was most excited to eat was the Pork Belly and Scallops ($42) with caviar ($19). Kournikova mentioned the scallops were perfectly cooked. I could taste a slight sweetness from the Quebec maple. The moment I bit into the pork belly, I immediately worried I would come down with gout the next day. The pork fat was so hot, rich, and melted in my mouth. The exterior was seared to a dark caramel brown and crispy. The caviar was soft and so subtly flavoured, that I couldn’t detect the flavour. Kournikova mentioned this dish would be too rich for one person. With that bad attitude, no wonder she’s so thin. Québécoise tapped out, so I ate her portion.

We shared the Carrot Cake ($10.50). This is no ordinary carrot cake. The cake itself was fresh and moist, intensely flavoured with spices, sweet from caramel and crunchy from the candied pecans. The cream cheese was a little sour and sweet from what tasted like confectionary sugar.

I enjoyed our feast at Pat and Betty so much that I wanted to return for our next month’s dinner. Québécoise said we could come back, but after we try a new restaurant. I wanted to protest but then I remembered about my potential case of gout, so I agreed to book our next outing at Ten Foot Henry, as requested by Kournivoka.

Special Occasion · Steakhouse · Vegas

Gordon Ramsey’s Pub and Grill – Vegas

Jacuzzi disagreed with my suggestions for our last meal in Vegas. I planned to go to another Strictly Dumpling recommended restaurant or the Oyster Bar at Palace Station. Instead, he wanted to go to Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant – Hell’s Kitchen. I reminded him there is a dress code at Hell’s Kitchen, and he refused to bring a shirt, tie, or jacket on this trip. He countered with Gordon Ramsey’s Pub and Grill and stated his other sister Me Shell had gifted him some money to celebrate in any way he wanted. Fine with me. As I learned through his past commentary, Jacuzzi is not an Offspring fan. So for this post, let’s listen to something that’s more his style – “More Than A Feeling” by Boston.

We both wanted to try the beef Wellington. Jacuzzi ordered the lunch set ($65.99), which included a salad or soup, a petite version of the beef Wellington, and a sticky toffee pudding. I requested the regular size of beef Wellington ($69.99) and a glass of Gordon Ramsey’s Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Cruz, $22). Our server recommended this wine as it was specially designed to pair with the steak.

Jacuzzi informed me that beef Wellington is challenging to make, as the temperature is critical and there’s no room for error. Worst yet, you can’t tell if the meat is served at its desired medium-rare until you cut it into the pastry when it is too late. I had no idea Jacuzzi was so into beef. He really should visit me in Calgary.

Our server was attentive and brought me a plate if I wanted to try Jacuzzi’s Caesar salad. I did take a bite and enjoyed the liberal amount of powdered and shaved parmesan cheese. Jacuzzi mentioned that Caesar salads are his favourite, and this was a nice portion of food for a starter.

I could tell it was the chef and not a server that brought out our beef Wellington because of his confidence and the swagger in his walk. When he presented our plates, he made direct eye contact, and I could see he was proud of his dish. I would be too, if I could whip up a Wellington like this for the mass crowds in Vegas. That’s some serious talent.

My knife crackled into the thin, golden brown pastry, cutting into soft, ruby-red meat. Jacuzzi declared the steak was cooked to a perfect medium-rare. He commented on the smooth, buttery texture of the beef. Despite the red colouring, the steak itself was nice and warm. I enjoyed the taste of the big flakes of sea salt, as I thought it brought out the flavour of the beef. The mushrooms on the bottom of the pastry gave this dish a unique, earthiness flavour profile. Jacuzzi reminded me to use the red wine demi-glaze with each bite.


The sides were delicious in an understated way. The mashed Yukon gold potatoes were whipped into silky submission. We both loved how the carrots, asparagus and potatoes weren’t drenched in butter or salt so that we could appreciate the natural sweetness and freshness of the vegetables. We both ate as slowly as possible to delay the inevitable, the end of our meal. Jacuzzi and I kept smiling at each other as we ate.

What shocked me about Gordon Ramsey’s Pub was the dessert. Fuck me! The sticky toffee pudding is so mind-blowingly good that it is swear-word worthy. The English toffee pudding tasted like Christmas. The caramel sauce was overwhelmingly delicious – drenching every warm, moist crumb. The vanilla ice cream was cold and satiny, melting into the hot caramel bomb of a cake. This dessert was so good I wanted to cry out in pleasure. The portion was so large that it would have been enough for a meal. I would come back here in a heartbeat. Eating here was the way to end a trip on a high note. Thanks, Me Shell, for taking us out for lunch in Vegas. Hitting the Sauce gives Gordon Ramsey’s chef two phat thumbs up.

Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Ranchmen’s Club

Wonderland and Double 07 invited us to The Ranchmen’s Club for dinner. Since I first met Wonderland, she has consistently praised the executive chef, sommelier and staff at Ranchmen’s, so I was curious and excited to go. For this post, let’s listen to the James Bond theme song.

We met in the lobby and then moved into the Samson Lounge for a cocktail. When I sat down by the fireplace, the first thing I noticed was the deer mount. The room itself has a heritage vibe, like the Lougheed House, located across the street. Wonderland told me she often drops by the lounge to play bridge or to read a book.

Double 07 ordered a round of French Cowboys. I found this cocktail delightfully tart and refreshing. I loved how the bubbles fizzled on my tongue. Before I knew it, Double 07 told us it was time to go for dinner in the Mary Dover room, and we could bring our cocktails inside. Before finishing his sentence, I had already gulped my drink down. L has been trying to break that bad habit of mine since we met. Good luck with that, L.

I wasn’t expecting to dine in a private room, making the dining experience more intimate. We started with small cubes of cheddar cheese and French bread. The bread innards were silky, and the crust was chewy and flaky. Wonderland received gluten-free bread, as the staff are familiar with her dietary restrictions. Wonderland mentioned the cheddar was either two or three years old. L liked the intense, nutty flavour. I enjoyed the cheese, but I would have been content with the bread and butter because the bread was that good.

Double 07 picked out fantastic champagne. Wowee! The bubbles were tiny, with a soft, mellow flavour. I thought this champagne was really something special.

I ordered what the maître d’ recommended – the Caesar Salad, AAA Tenderloin Steak, and the Crab Hasselback Potatoes.

L and Double 07 picked Foie Gras and the Roast Duck Breast, and Wonderland ordered Oysters and the Rack of Lamb.

The lettuce in my salad was crisp and cold, with none of the bitterness I usually find in romaine leaves. I enjoyed the saltiness and softness of the whole sardines and the balanced flavour of the dressing. I thought Ranchmen’s makes a better Caesar than Caesar’s Steakhouse, which was previously my gold standard.

The red wine Double 07 picked out was phenomenal. The smell was so beautiful. I could sniff this wine all night long. The wine was smoky, smooth, with no sweetness to it. I was glad I was sitting down, or I would have been swooning from sheer ecstasy.

The knife crackling through the salty, charbroiled steak sent shivers down my spine. The texture of the meat was so luxuriously tender that I almost wept from the sheer bliss. I’m not exaggerating. I was quiet the entire time I ate, just marvelling at the pairing of the wine with the beef and the sweetness of the tomatoes and the crunch of the pickled onions. I grow my tomatoes, and even when I pick them at the optimal ripeness, they don’t taste this good.


I requested the bearnaise sauce as Wonderland recommended, but I didn’t have to choose, as I received the peppercorn Armagnac and the bearnaise sauce for my steak. The peppercorn and bearnaise added this rich, hot layer of flavour that coated the beef. The Hasselback potatoes were buttery and soft, topped with generous amounts of sweet, flaky crab.

Double 07 picked a 13-year-old dessert wine. The fragrance of the wine was earthy, like a garden in the morning. I’ve never smelled anything like this.

L picked the Spiced Meringue for dessert. The chef split L’s portion in half so I could sample it. I tasted a little clove in the spices. I thought the sour cherry granite nicely balanced the sweetness of the walnut nougatine. I loved the crumbly bits that melted in my mouth. My favourite component of the dessert was the rich smoothness of the birch creameaux.

This meal was something I could never prepare at home. I wouldn’t even know where to get these ingredients, let alone find the wines. What was different about this meal was that I didn’t get tunnel vision like I usually do. There wasn’t one dish that overshadowed another item. Every component worked well together, so I enjoyed the entire progression of the meal.

When I thanked our generous hosts for such an extravagant meal, I mentioned I didn’t know what to do when they came to our place for the next get-together. Wonderland genuinely stated that this was not a competition. I said that was good because there was no way I could ever top the chef’s talent or the sommelier’s skill. I’ll have to think of something special for when Wonderland and Double 07 come over for dinner. Perhaps I’ll have to enlist some professional help.

I ate my breakfast and mid-morning snack the next day. I usually enjoy my chicken and green onion congee and local boiled eggs with cracked pepper and salt. However, the morning after such as epic feast, I have to say my food did not taste as good as it usually does. Hopefully, my tastebuds will revert to their old self, or I will have to do some real soul searching. Thank you, Double 07 and Wonderland, for the excellent company and hospitality.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Bars/Lounges · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Hy’s Steakhouse – Lunch

For Cruising’s birthday lunch, I wanted to take her to Caesar’s Steak House. However, due to her busy work schedule, Hy’s Steakhouse was the more convenient choice. For this post, let’s listen to “I Want to Take You Higher” by Sly and The Family Stone.

As I had to work after lunch, I couldn’t order a glass of wine. Instead, I stared enviously at the carefree couple next to me who were two martinis into their lunch. Cruising wanted hot water but Ms. Biz and I told her to forgo cultural stereotypes for this lunch. Cruising and I ordered an Earl Grey tea ($4.99) and Ms. Biz requested a club soda with lemon ($3.50).

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To start, we shared an order of the Cheese Bread ($10.95). One order contains two slices, each cut into three pieces. As the cheese bread is so decadent, I felt like two pieces was almost too much for me.

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The bread was crunchy on the edges and soft in the middle. The layer of warm creamy cheese had a deliciously mild tang to it. I’d order this again.

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Cruising and Ms. Biz ordered the Sliced Calf Liver with Bacon and Onions ($23.99). I’ve never tried calf liver. Ms. Biz instructed me to eat the meat with the onion and bacon. The liver was crisp on the outside and velvety tender. The flavour was intense but there was no bitterness or gameness to it.

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I ordered the New York Steak Sandwich ($29.99). I upgraded my side to a double stuffed potato ($8.99). My steak was cooked as requested – medium rare. My steak was too salty and a tad tough. The double stuffed potato was light and fluffy with crispy edges, garnished with bacon bits, green onions and sour cream. So tasty and worth the extra charge.

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The lunch portions at Hy’s are so filling, both Ms. Biz and I took more than half our food home. L heated up my steak for his dinner. He said the steak was delicious but salty and the potato was awesome.

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Service was professional and attentive. The staff worked efficiently to ensure customers receive their food in a timely matter. I’d recommend coming to Hy’s for their well-priced lunch.

Hy's Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Patio · Pubs · Restaurants

Southland Yard – Lobster BBQ

L and I attended Inn from the Cold’s 4th annual Lobster BBQ ($100) at Southland Yard. Inn from the Cold provides emergency shelter, affordable housing, and support services to help families in crisis retain and achieve housing-security and independence.  As she references Red Lobster in her song “Formationlet’s listen to Beyonce.

To begin the event, there was a cook off between competing chefs: Mike Frayne of Southland Bar and Table; Phil Andrews, Executive Chef of Delta Downtown; Joshua Dyer Sous Chef of Mariott Airport; and Eric Beaupre, Executive Chef of Pomeroy Kananaskis Mountain Lodge. I felt like I had to wait forever to take the photo below because three of the four chefs were fidgeting and looking down. The chef on the far right was the only one good at posing.

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The three judges were Heather Morley, Executive Director of Inn from the Cold; Justin Labossiere, VP of Culinary at Vintage Group; and Daryl Kerr, Executive chef at Great Events Catering. I didn’t spend as much time taking their photo and you can tell.

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The chef’s platters were auctioned off. YYCFoodiePak and her gang tried to bid on a platter but they were outdone by the goodwill of other guests.  I noticed people shelled out more as the night went on. The first platter went for $70. The last platter sold for over $200.

Photo Credit: @YYCFoodiePak

The MC said tables would be selected to go up to the buffet. I saw that no one waited and everyone just got up. I told L I was going up too. He reluctantly followed only after the rest of my table agreed with me.

Photo Credit: @YYCFoodiePak

The buffet included rolls, Caesar salad, coleslaw, baked potato, potato salad, corn, steak and lobster. The corn was super sweet. I liked my potato – it was simple and tasty. The steak was a bit dry but who cares. We came for the lobster.

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I preferred the tail over the claw meat, as the former was sweeter. The lobster was pre-cracked, so it was easy to separate the meat from the shell. There was enough food that I saw several customers go up for a second lobster. L was a little weirded out that as the night went on and became cooler, the butter never solidified.

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I wanted to bring my leftover shells home to make lobster bisque, but even I have limits. Can you imagine how much lobster bisque you could make from the all the shells?

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Photo Credit: @YYCFoodiePak

I use to volunteer for Inn from the Cold’s Sunday evening dinner service. It’s a rewarding experience and something I’d recommend to try at least once. Want to help? You can volunteer or donate.

Southland Yard Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Burgers · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Bar Modern – No Man’s Dinner #2

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Photo Credit: Loaf2go

For our second No Man’s Dinner meetup, our supper club met at Bar Modern on Stephen Ave. L was initially hesitant to join our club due to a past negative experience. In 2012, I dragged him to a food event. We learned years later that one of the guests we met was charged for child luring and sexual touching of a minor. C came to L’s defense and said she doesn’t blame him, as she too would be jaded if she accidentally met a pedophile. For this post, let’s listen to “Heebie Jeebies” by The Bosell Sisters.

Bar Modern offers a daily happy hour menu from 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm. For six bucks, you can choose from house red or white wine, beer, highballs and some snacks. I detest house wine so I ordered a 5-ounce glass of Cabernet Sauvignon (Submission, Napa Valley $12.25). The wine was plummy and jammy, with a sweet vanilla aftertaste. I preferred my second glass of wine – a light and peppery Pinot Noir (Spy Valley, New Zealand $9.75).

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Our server Jordan gave us a rundown of the menu. His mouth-watering description of the Modern Smash Burger ($19) sold us. L liked the ratio of meat to produce. The double patty was crispy on the outside and the meat melted in your mouth. L described the burger as a sophisticated Big Mac but with top quality ingredients.

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I’d recommend you add bacon ($2) and upgrade the fries to truffle ($2). The bacon was crisp and arrived still glistening. Every element in the burger was excellent. Even the slice of tomato was a treat – so sweet it tasted like it was plucked from a garden.

lof burger
Photo Credit: Loaf2go

I announced that L’s burger was one of the best I’ve tried in Calgary. Seashell said she is wary when people claim something they have eaten is the best, because what is that based on and how can you compare that to someone else’s experience? Someone at the table clarified that I said it was the best burger I had in Calgary. C said she needs to eat more burgers before she can decide. T was impressed the bun held up to all the juices and sauces in the burger. @pak_to_eating_yyc tried a bite of her boyfriend’s burger and wished she ordered that instead of the beef rib. All I know is that if we spent this much time talking about a god damn burger, it must be something special.

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C enjoyed her New York Striploin Steak frites ($34). She thought the striploin was nicely cooked and simply seasoned. I tried a piece of C’s meat and I could tell the difference between Modern Steak’s beef and what L normally buys on sale from Safeway. The flavor of the steak and the juiciness was superior. @kimrobynyyc ordered the 7 oz Flat Iron ($29) and she thought it was yummy.

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I ordered the Steak Tartare ($18). Lately, I’ve been on a steak tartare bender. The tartare  was both tender yet chewy. I forgot to give C a piece to try.

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C permitted Seashell to pick the next venue. I suggested that she pick whatever she liked – be it the Ship and Anchor or some other Calgary institution. She nodded and said she would need some time to think about it. I just hope Seashell picks a restaurant with a decent wine list. Otherwise I’ll be irritable and likely focus my negative energy on L.

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Thanks to the members of No Man’s Dinner for the good company and fun. I’m looking forward to the next meet-up.

Modern Steak Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Bars/Lounges · Happy Hour · Patio · Restaurants · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Murrieta’s West Coast Bar + Grill

My colleague Jo picked Murieta’s for her birthday lunch. For this post, let’s play something I listen to on the way to work to pump myself up for the day – Money, Money, Money by Abba.

The restaurant is beautiful. The large skylight filters in ample natural light, setting off the stonewalls. There’s a posh wine cabinet with a ladder at the back of the restaurant.

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Despite being a Monday in February, the restaurant was packed. Every single table was full, mostly of smug looking men in suits. Jo had to get back to work in an hour so we were impatient to order. Mindy saw her favourite server Vanessa and asked her if we could place our order with her instead of waiting for our designated server.

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I ordered the Cobb Salad ($16.00). Points for presentation. I liked how the herb dressing was lightly drizzled over the salad so I could enjoy the flavours of the individual components. The blue cheese was sharp and melted in my mouth. The farm egg was still soft in the middle, the yolk was bright orange.

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Mindy added a grilled chicken breast ($7.00) to her Cobb Salad. The salad was good enough on its own that you don’t need to add any additional protein. However, after after I saw Mindy’s salad, I wished I added a little something extra to mine as well.

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Jo and Gilchrist ordered a Steak Sandwich ($18.00). They requested medium and received well done steaks. Mindi told them to tell our server Stephanie. They were reluctant to but when Stephanie asked how the food was, I piped up and said the steaks were overdone. She asked if she could replace the two steaks. Since Jo had to get back to work in 15 minutes, she declined. Gilchrist also declined a new steak.

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Erika ordered the Tuna Poke Wrap ($18.00). The fries were very good. I ate Jo’s leftover fries when she had to leave.

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Legal ordered what I wanted – Lamb Meatball Spaghetti. This is what Miss Foodie eats when she dines here. Legal said it was delicious.

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Stephanie came over to inform Jo and Gilchrist that they would receive a complimentary dessert. Jo had to leave so Stephanie had her dessert packed up. We shared a delicious chocolate cake with cherry coulis.

On Fridays, Murrieta’s has live jazz. Stephanie suggested that we get there early in order to get a table, as it gets busy. When asked what was considered early, she said 8:30 p.m. Our table was impressed with the level of customer service at Murrieta’s. Stephanie was pleasant throughout our meal and handled our feedback like a pro. I’d be happy to revisit and try more of the food and wine.

Murrieta's West Coast Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Happy Hour · Steakhouse

Hy’s Steakhouse – Happy Hour

My colleagues wanted to get together after work for the holiday season. I suggested Hy’s as I’ve been wanting to try their happy hour menu for months. What’s the big dealio? Bubbles are 40% off, select wines for $8.00 and featured cocktails are 50% off. There’s also a tasty list of specially priced food, including one of the best steak sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. Also note that now until Christmas, you can drop off a Christmas toy for The Magic of Christmas, a charity that gives toys to children in need.

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I started with a Manhattan (2.5 oz, hh $7.50, regular $15.00). I savoured each chilled sip. This was a perfectly balanced martini, a blend of Jim Beam Black bourbon, Cinzano rosso, and Angostura bitters.

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I also indulged in two flutes of Domaine Chandon, Blanc de Noir,
Champagne Blend California NV (hh $8.00, regular $16.00). Oh my goodness. I loved these bubbles, which went straight to my head. My co-worker Patricia agreed, preferring the Domaine Chandon over the prosecco offered by the glass.

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Marvelous Mary ordered the fish tacos (hh, $13). She thought the tacos were juicy, spicy and conveniently bite-sized.

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Our legal representative that night opted for the Beef Sliders (hh, $5.oo each) plus a side of fries. Legal thought the sliders had lots of flavor and she loved the dressing on the bun.

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My friend Cindy loves a good burger, so she opted for the Prime Beef Burger (hh, $13.99). She added bacon, mushrooms, and chose a Caesar salad for her side. Everyone at our office except for me is sick, otherwise I would have tried to snag a bite of her burger. She said she was in burger heaven.

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I wished I order the fries myself. These were soft and pillowy on the inside, and crunchy munchy golden brown on the outside. Lightly salted, steaming hot, I could eat a huge pile of fries. I sneaked a few whenever Legal wasn’t looking. She’s skinny, so I figured I was doing her a favour, doing my part to keep her slim.

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Here’s what I ordered – a New York Steak Sandwich (hh $20, regular $29). I ordered my steak medium rare and it came as requested. The steak was so tender, I barely needed to use a knife. The flavor was phenomenal, my steak was squirting with the richness of its own juices. I ordered the baked potato, which was massive and generously topped with scoops of sour cream, bacon and chives. This was the best steak I’ve eaten. I want to come back to try the featured steaks for dinner (e.g. Neptune, Filet Mignon, Oscar).

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My colleagues each brought a kid’s gift for each other to open and then donate to The Magic of Christmas at Hy’s. Some gifts were ethnically charged. Jen, always one to get politically incorrect, bought Asian Persuasion Hello Kitty themed gifts. I bought Marvelous Mary a Monopoly game because I could picture her and her family playing the game (I stalk her family on Facebook). I didn’t get a gift to open because co-worker Meagan who picked my name didn’t show up. This happens to me every year I participate in Secret Santa. It’s okay, I’m use to the disappointment.

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When the bill came, I realized I left my wallet at work. Yikes, I ain’t no scrub! Enter appropriate music here. I booted it back to my office via CTrain and returned in time to pay and get a group photo in front of Hy’s Christmas tree. In my happy stupor, I lost my winter boot somewhere, somehow between the restaurant, Foreign Concept’s grand opening and my time on the Ctrain. I don’t know what I’m going to do with only one boot! Door stopper?

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Hy’s awesome happy hour is no secret. The entire lounge was filled with customers popping bottles and chomping on those delicious sliders, steak sandwiches and oysters. I like this place so much, I’m giving Hy’s two fat thumbs up and putting it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary. I can see why Hy’s gets such high ratings on Yelp. Service was excellent and the food was superb.  I’m keen to come again, perhaps on my birthday in January. If you want an experience and are willing to splurge, you need to check out Hy’s Steakhouse now. If you’re frugal (like me) but still want to see what the big dealio is about Hy’s, come by for happy hour. You won’t be disappointed.

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Hy's Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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