Bars/Lounges · Beer · Chinatown · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Paper Lantern – COVID-19 dine-in edition

Lovegastrogirl and I checked out Paper Lantern, a new underground tropical Vietnamese lounge in Chinatown. On Friday night, Paper Lantern was spinning some nostalgically old R&B tunes. So, for this post, let’s listen to “Try Again” by Aaliyah.

When we sat down, I immediately noticed two things. First, the staff take sanitation seriously. I saw tables being thoroughly cleaned in between parties. As this was Lovegastrogirl’s first time out in a restaurant since COVID-19, Paper Lantern’s safe practices put our minds at ease. Second, the music is played at an optimal level. For what my terrible eyesight lacks, my excellent hearing makes up for in spades. The music was loud enough to get into yet low enough to carry on a private conversation. A pet peeve of mine are restaurants that play music at a power level their speakers are unable to handle, resulting in fuzzy bass.

pina
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

The prices at Paper Lantern are easy on the wallet. Well-made and sizeable snacks range from $7-$12. Cocktails cost from $10-$18, wines from $9-15, and beers from $6.5 – $8. On the evening we visited, pina coladas were on special for $8 and a shot of premium rum sold at cost.

room
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

Lovegastrogirl and I had no problem sucking back our pina coladas. Our chilled glass stayed frosty until the last delicious drop. I liked that my drink wasn’t too sweet and I enjoyed the balance of rum to the flavours of the coconut and pineapple. A coconut flake lodged in my throat and I started self-consciously coughing. I looked around the packed room and thankfully, no one gave me stink eye.

Break even
Photo credit: Paper Lantern

Paper Lantern does a “break-even” special – a shot of premium liquor sold at cost. We tried Flor de Cana ($7.22), a 25-year slow aged 80 proof volcanic ash enriched rum from Nicaragua. I enjoyed the clean burn in my throat as it warmed me up.

shot
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

We shared an order of Beef Thịt Lụi Nướng ($8). We received three skewers of soy marinaded beef, topped with grilled and crispy onions and accompanied with a dipping sauce of coconut hoisin. We requested no peanuts due to Lovegastrogirl’s allergy.

skewers

I enjoyed the taste of the charbroil beef and the generous toppings on each skewer. Lovegastrogirl taught me a new trick. Get your friend to shed some light from their phone while you take a photo. Not only do you get a clearer and brighter picture, your flash doesn’t go off and blind other customers. L will be relieved.

skewer single
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

We tried the Thịt Ba Chỉ Ram Mặn ($10) – a stir fry of pork belly, shrimp and pineapple on top of steamed rice. I enjoyed the sweet and tart glaze on the caramelized pork and shrimp. The portion of protein and rice was generous. I would order this again.

pork bowl

I’m planning on bringing my work family in early August to check out more of the menu. Office Dad said he will come if he’s allowed to bring his wife Jay Low.  I like his wife, so I said sure. Office Dad told me that Jay Low used to have a little, but now she has a lot. He said don’t be fooled by the rocks that she got, she’s still Jay Low from the Block.

rice bowl better
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

For our third drink of the night, Lovegastrogirl ordered a Saturn cocktail ($10) and I ordered a glass of Reynolds Branco. This white wine was described as a tropical vacation in a glass.  I found this wine rich, creamy and smooth. I thought this was an unusual wine and I enjoyed the chance to try something different.

Saturn
Photo credit: @lovegastrogirl

I’m thrilled that Calgary has a unique speakeasy in the heart of Chinatown. This is something the neighbourhood needs – an urban escape with tropical beverages and  yummy Vietnamese bites. Chinatown is changing and I’m loving it. For information about the entrepreneurs behind Paper Lantern, check out food writer Elizabeth Chorney-Booth’s detailed review.

Bars/Lounges · Seafood

Bar Von Der Fels – It’s all relative

My sister-in-law The Enforcer flew to Calgary for training. I took her out to a restaurant that I thought she would enjoy – Bar Von der Fels. In honour of The Enforcer, I’m going to play the theme song Cops.

I tried a few wines and found a new love – Las Tres Filas – a Spanish red ($12). I thought it was juicy, silky and full-bodied. I also tried a glass of sparkling Italian rosé – Rosa Bella G.D. Vajra ($16). I found this rosé tart.

Las Tres Filas is more to my taste and one that I’ll hunt down. I told our server that whenever I try to find a wine from their restaurant at my liquor store, I’m always told that particular wine is only sold to exclusive businesses. He responded that I’ll have to frequent Bar Von der Fels for my wine fix.

I did something I rarely do. I let The Enforcer pick all the dishes. I wanted to make sure she was able to try everything that tickled her fancy.

Enforcer’s favourite dish of the night was the smoked mussels with pickled peppers ($9). She thought the mussels were better than she gets back home in BC, which she finds too salty. These mussels were plump. I enjoyed drinking the warm, sweet liquid and chewing on the gently poached meat. I’d order this again.

The beef tongue with Asian pear ($9) was a delicate and clean tasting dish. Enforcer mentioned beef tongue is a popular dish in Sweden.

On my favourite dishes was the golden beets with concord grapes and goat feta ($12). I don’t normally like beets because of the damp flavor and I find the texture unpleasantly wet. Bar von del Fels version was tender and light. I enjoyed the sprinkling of salt, the sharpness of the goat feta and the light dressing of olive oil.

The endives with sour beer plum and fresh cheese ($14) also wowed me. The endive was a touch bitter, which contrasted with the fresh cheese with sour beer plum. This combination reminded me of whipped cream and strawberries. The Enforcer wondered how the chef came up with the ingredients. This dish was unique, a generous portion and decadent. I’d order this again.

The last savoury dish we tried was the Fogo Island crab red with romaine speck ($21). We didn’t know what speck was so The Enforcer looked it up. Speck means smoked aged ham. The dressing was crunchy and salty, reminding me a bit of a Caesar salad. There was a good amount of sweet crab meat. We thought the salad was overdressed and the crab itself was so juicy, the whole dish tasted a tad waterlogged.

The Enforcer ordered the Sugar Pumpkin cheesecake ($9). She only took a bite and declared she was too full. She told me that she rarely eats like we did that night. She eats for subsistence, not taste. If that is what it takes to be skinny, I want nothing to do with it. L and I were suppose to take her out to Cassis Bistro the next night, but all that wine and food made her too woozy. What a lightweight. No, really she is. The Enforcer had a boxing scholarship throughout university.

I’ve been to Bar Von der Fels three times now. Yes, I’m most definitely a fan. Hitting the Sauce gives this wine bar two fat thumbs up. The wine is different and the food is delightful. Remember to make reservations, as this place is regularly packed to capacity.

Bars/Lounges · Restaurants

Bar Von Der Fels

Jaime and I made plans for dinner on Monday night. I’ve been meaning to go to Donna Mac ever since Soup and Ottawa recommended it. Jaime also hasn’t been to Donna Mac. We looked up the menu and saw some dishes that appealed to us, like the porcini and gouda crullers, fried cauliflower, and fried oysters.

glass

I’ve been on an anti-house wine campaign. I asked Jaime if we could duck into Bar Von Der Fels for a glass of wine before our dinner. For this post let’s listen to a song I heard playing that night – Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder.

We sat by the window. There was a man who secured his yellow bike right in front of us. During our meal, I saw two people come up and try unsuccessfully to steal his two-wheeler, and two other less sketchy people walked up to admire it. I’m not so sure what was so special about this vehicle to garner so much attention.

What I like about this wine bar is the large selection of wines by the glass. You have to ask for recommendations, as there is no list for wines by the glass, as Bar Von Der Fels offers a rotation of bottles.

first wine

Our server asked me if I liked full-bodied red wines. I responded in the affirmative. I tasted two wines. The first was Les Essais – Chateau Michel de Montaigne and second bottle was a Syrah, Bench775, Okanagan Valley. We both picked a glass of the Les Essais ($16). Wow! That finish pulled me in. I could smell this wine all night – if the word gorgeous had a scent, it would be Chateau Michel de Montaigne. I tried to order a case of Chateau Michel de Montaigne at my liquor store. Apparently, it’s a bit exclusive so I’m not sure I’ll be able to get a case. I order by the case because I can get a better price.

bench.jpg

Jaime ordered Hickory Smoked Olives ($6.5). She’s really into olives. I liked the smokiness but I couldn’t eat too many of the olives because the flavour was quite strong. Jaime liked the olives so much she wanted to buy some to take back home.

olives.jpg

About this time, I realized I didn’t want to leave Bar Von Der Fels. Still traumatized by my experience at Bank and Baron and Kaya in Kyoto, I wanted to stay and enjoy more wine. I asked Jaime if we could cancelled our dinner reservations at Donna Mac and eat here instead. Jaime, being the agreeable, easy-going friend that she is, complied. She ordered Fermented Potato Bread ($8.00).

potato bread

The potato bread is steamed to order and individually made for each customer. The bread was hot and soft, scrumptious like a crumpet. I smeared a generous amount of the butter on it. The butter tasted like clotted cream. We asked what was in the butter that made it taste that good. Bar Von Der Fels uses ramps.

oyster.jpg

I ordered the Chinatown Baked Oyster ($12). The large oyster tasted like the ocean. The oyster was so ridiculously fresh, I couldn’t believe I could get this in Calgary. The creamy sauce was spicy and it reminded me of shrimp and black bean chili oil I order from an acquaintance’s mother.

yum oyster.jpg

Jaime mentioned the oyster looked so rich, it wouldn’t be possible to eat a second one. My dear friend, you don’t know my stomach at all. I could have easily feasted on six of these oysters.

last wine

I ordered a second glass of wine – Domaine de la Charboniere – Vacqucyras ($16). I recognized this bottle as L bought it for me a few months ago. Smooth and full of berry notes. Goddamn, this glass of wine was something. I got tingles all over.

falafel

Jaime ordered the Spring Pea Falafel ($16). This was another winner. The falafel balls were large, crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. I could taste cumin. The pea tips tasted like they were just plucked from a garden. The hummus was luxuriously smooth and gave a needed creaminess to round out the drier texture of the chickpeas.

Instead of ordering another oyster (because I didn’t want to be judged by Jaime) I opted for the Stuffed Chicken Wings with yuzukosho aioli ($16.00). The wings were meaty, stuffed with cheese. I thought I could taste a little charcoal in the meat. I want to bring L here to try these wings, as they reminded me of the yakitori we ate in Japan.

chicken

The concept of this bar is delightful. I like trying new wines and not settling for a glass that I don’t particularly enjoy. I love Bar Von Der Fels so much it makes it on Hitting the Sauce’s list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

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

17th Ave · Beer · Happy Hour · Patio · Restaurants · Seafood

Las Canarias Spanish Paella and Tapas Bar

I’ve been meaning to try Las Canarias ever since I saw Gwendolyn Richard’s Instagram post (March 15, 2017). I knew it would take 40 minutes for the paella to cook, so I called the restaurant 20 minutes before we arrived to get the dish started. For this post, let’s listen to Siempre Me Quedara by Bebe.

Las Carnarias has a patio that’s conducive to my memories of eating in Barcelona and Madrid with Beep Beep. Sharing pitchers of sangria under the hot blue sky followed by small dishes of calamari, paella and garlic shrimp. I ordered a glass of sangria ($12) and L ordered a pint of lager ($7). His beer came in a tall frosted glass. My drink came in a huge goblet. The sangria was floral and fruity. If you don’t like sweet drinks, stick to the wine or beer.

sangria.jpg

To start, we shared the Calamari ($15). The ringlets were large and tender. The exterior texture was dry and crumbly. Unlike some restaurants, this calamari wasn’t all batter. I quite liked flavour of the lemon aioli. I would order this dish again.

calamar

We ordered the Mixta Paella ($36) – which contained seafood, chicken and beef. The paella arrived in a big, black cast iron pan filled with langostinos, clams, mussels and shrimp. I couldn’t detect the beef or chicken but I could really taste the shellfish and fish flecked throughout the rice. Other options for paella include: daily fish special; black rice with calamari and langostinos; chicken and chorizo; rabbit, chicken, fish and seafood; and a spinach, mushroom and chickpea version.

close up

I was impressed that none of the seafood was overcooked. The rice was firm and flavourful. I particuarly liked the tangy bits of tomatoes on the baked top layer of the rice. The mussels were plump and bursting with juice. I enjoyed the process of breaking into the long shell of the langostinos to get to the meat.

paella

J-Thug asked me how Las Carnarias compared to Ox and Angela. I get the sense he’s quite fond of the latter restaurant. Las Carnarias isn’t fancy but it’s not trying to be. The dishes here taste like they were made from a traditional recipe that has remained unchanged over the years. I thought the food was different and refreshing from the norm in Calgary. Don’t get me wrong. I like fusion restaurants and trendy ingredients, but sometimes I just want old world cuisine.

dessert

I recommend you check out Las Carnarias for their daily specials. Happy hour is from Monday to Friday (3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.). Local craft beer is $5.50, highballs are $4.00 and all food menu items are 15% off. On Sunday, all paella and sangria is 20% off. On Monday and Tuesday, bottles of wine are half off. Steamed mussels are $10.00 and coconut shrimp is $8.00. On Wednesday, beer is on special and the calamari is only $11.00. On Thursday, you can get a three-course dinner and sangria for two people for $70.00.

Las Canarias Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato