Fusion · Restaurants · Vegetarian · Vietnamese

Pure Kitchen & Bar – COVID-19 takeout edition

L and I dropped by Uncle Ben’s house for dinner. Since Veggie Girl is having pregnancy cravings for bún (vermicelli bowl), we ordered Vietnamese takeout.  I picked Pure Kitchen and Bar because their vegetarian dishes offer a more varied selection than its competitors. For this post, let’s listen to “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige.

My photos are particularly bad as I didn’t feel like even putting in my usual half-ass effort. Pandemics make me unmotivated for self-improvement. Hopefully Pure Kitchen and Bar doesn’t mind me using some of their Instagram photos.

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Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I’m a big fan of the Papaya, Mango & Shrimp Salad ($13).  I thought there was a lot of shrimp in this dish, particularly for the price. The fresh basil was aromatic and plentiful. The shredded papaya and mango was pleasingly chewy. The chilli lime sauce was really spicy. I liked all the crunchy elements in the salad –  peanuts, fried taro and crispy onions. I couldn’t finish this salad in one sitting and the next day, it tasted just as good.

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Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

L and I shared the Salted Duck Yolk Shrimp Tempura ($15). This dish illustrates how Chef Lam has mastered the art of takeout. I want to know how the shrimp remained so crunchy almost forty minutes after picking up our order. The dipping sauce of nori and tobiko mayo stood up beautifully against the crusty battered shrimp. He needs to charge more for this dish.

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I ordered Veggie Girl the Vegetarian Vermicelli ($15).  She raved about the texture of the fried tofu and noted that other Vietnamese restaurants often skimp out when it comes to the vegetarian dishes. Veggie Girl mentioned the vegetarian spring roll tasted similar to a Chinese style egg roll.

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Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I ordered Uncle Ben the Lemongrass Ultimeat Feast Vermicelli ($17) because he doesn’t often get the chance to eat meat. The ultimeat feast includes chicken, beef, shrimp and a pork spring roll. Uncle Ben mentioned the shrimp was large and not like the peanut sized ones that other Vietnamese restaurants use. He said that all the meats were generous in size and not overcooked. When Veggie Girl mentioned she was digging her spring roll, Uncle Ben chimed in that he enjoyed his spring roll as well. When I pressed him to describe the flavour he said, “It tastes like a good spring roll”. Uncle Ben, for the love of my blog, you got to work with me.

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Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I ordered L the Caramelized Chilli Lemongrass Chicken ($17) but I substituted vermicelli noodles for the rice. When I handed L his food, he asked me what I got him. I reminded him that in March, he wanted to try the lemongrass chicken but with noodles instead of rice. I tried a bite and I can confirm that I prefer the original rice version. The rice soaks up the rich flavour of the lemongrass better than the noodles.

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Photo credit: Pure Modern Asian

I ordered the Crispy Chicken Noodle Soup ($17) to eat the next day. The broth contained strong notes of garlic and something sweet. I opted for the spicy broth version and by the end of my breakfast, my whole face was perspiring. Yes, this is definitely a pho to eat at home alone, and in the dark. The portion was so generous I was able to make the soup last for two meals.

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With the rising number of COVID cases in Calgary, L and I are being extra careful where we dine. Currently, Pure is only accepting takeout or delivery orders. If you are ordering pickup, you have to call the restaurant once you get there and an employee will bring out your order to the door. I’ve ordered twice now from Pure Kitchen and I’m satisfied with their safety precautions.

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Pure Contemporary Vietnamese Kitchen + Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi · Vietnamese

Cooking Mama YYC – COVID-19 edition

Lovegastrogirl did it again! When I opened the bags she dropped off for our dinner, L shook his head and said, “You finally met your match. I don’t think even you can top her.” If this was a competition, she would have won. For this post, let’s listen to “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled, Ludacris, Rick Ross, T-Pain and Snow Dogg.

Lovegastrogirl said she was bringing over snacks. In reality, what she brought over was an epic feast. As she had food for her fiancee Pomp sitting in the car, she wouldn’t join us for dinner. I was able to persuade Lovegastrogirl to enjoy a glass of wine with me. When she left to bring Pomp their dinner, we opened up the treasure bags she left behind.

We started with Assorted Sashimi ($24.99) and Coho Salmon ($10.99) from True World Foods. The pieces of fish were sliced thick and bursting with flavour. The sashimi at True Worlds reminds me of Japan. There’s a noticeable difference in the freshness, moisture and the texture of the sashimi.

L and I were impressed with the rich, buttery taste of the tuna sashimi. The salmon was marbled and smooth with a rich mouth feel.

The sashimi with the translucent colour had an enjoyable, crunchy-like texture. The sashimi with a beige like colour tasted smoky with a rich, fatty flavour profile.

Lovegastrogirl drove across the city to pick up two special dishes from CookingMamaYYC. The feature of the day was Crack Cha Nem ($16) – shrimp spring rolls with vermicelli. Anyone who is a fan of Vietnamese food needs to try Cooking Mama’s crack rolls and steamed rice rolls.

Lovegastrogirl contacted Cooking Mama and asked if she could save an order of Cuon Thit Heo – steamed rice pork rolls with sausage ($14) from the previous day. Cooking Mama is a one-woman show – so she only makes a set number of select dishes per day.

Photo credit: CookingMamaYYC

I reheated the spring rolls in the oven until it was crispy. The dominant flavour of the thick shrimp shell reminded me of the famous garlic prawns from Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas. I’ve never met Cooking Mama, but I can tell she cooks with love, generosity and mad culinary skills.

The mixed mushroom and noodle filling was very tasty. L noticed that the noodles were thicker, smoother and bouncier than the usual vermicelli noodles at Vietnamese restaurants.

I loved the pork steamed rice rolls as much as the crack spring rolls, though the two dishes are completely different from each other. These rice rolls were total comfort food – savoury, soft and squishy.

L and I both enjoyed the slices of pork. The texture reminded me a bit of a fish cake. The flavours were perfectly balanced – there was no jarringly sweet or sour notes. The softness of the rolls contrasted with the fried shallots and steamed bean sprouts. The sprouts tasted sweet and clean. The portion was so generous that I gorged myself and still had leftovers.

Photo credit: CookingMamaYYC

Cooking Mama told me I should try their rice rolls when its fresh. I resteamed the rolls in my rice cooker and this dish was so good, I can’t imagine it could be even better. Cooking Mama’s food is making it on my Best #YYC Restaurants, even though technically, it’s a home business.

As I ate, I could sense my rapturous cries alarmed L. I looked up from my food and asked him if this was not the most exquisite food he’s ever eaten? He said the food was excellent and he would be happy to order again, but he felt my enthusiasm was in part due to the fact Lovegastrogirl and I had consumed a bottle of wine. I informed L that I have enjoyed wine prior to a meal before and I didn’t experience this euphoric joy. L referenced an incident seven years ago. My neighbour the Wine Wizard and I indulged in a couple of drinks and a pizza from Papa John’s. I had proclaimed the pizza the best thing I’ve ever eaten. I remember that night well. I told L I would order catering from Cooking Mama for a future party and then we can settle this dispute once and for all.

I asked Lovegastrogirl what she thought of Cooking Mama’s food. She thought it was fantastic. Pomp said it was great considering the food sat in her hot car for over three hours. Sorry Pomp, I can get a little chatty. I promise I’ll make it up to you.

Lovegastrogirl also bought us mochi from True World and a bottle of wine her father-in-law recommended. Holy moly! This is serious business. How am I going to match her, let alone top her?

I have a few restaurants in mind. If you have any suggestions, shoot me a message. Thanks again Lovegastrogirl for making my week. I’ll break open that bottle of wine you bought me when you visit me in June.

Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Pure Kitchen & Bar – COVID-19 edition

On day 11 of Calgary’s self-quarantine, it hit me so hard how my friends and colleagues were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that I stopped in the middle of work to take a break. I felt overcome with nervousness. L took one look at me and announced that after my walk, we were ordering take-out from Pure Kitchen & Bar. 

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake via Instagram.

This habit of dining out to cure my blues started when I was young. To cheer me up, my father and sister would take me to the newest restaurant. In their honour, let’s listen to their favourite opera, “The Magic Flute” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

L and I normally do not order a lot of food. I try to eat just enough that I’m comfortably full. However, in this pandemic, I’ve been livin la vida loca. We ordered so much that we had enough for another lunch and dinner.

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I had initial concerns that the Salted Duck Yolk Shrimp Tempura ($14) wouldn’t travel well. When we returned home, the batter was still crunchy, but I didn’t mix the ingredients as I should have. Instead of tossing the shrimp in the tobiko mayo, I dipped each morsel into the sauce and then rolled the nori and scallion seasoning over it. The batter is crusty enough that it benefits from a creamy, even coating of mayo.

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Photo credit: @therealbuntcake via Instagram.

L doesn’t normally like kimchi but even he was a fan of the Sate Grilled Beef Kimchi Fried Rice ($16). There was a heat to the dish but the spice wasn’t overwhelming. I could taste and smell the smoky wok fragrance in both the rice and beef. I would order this again.

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L raved about the Caramelized Chili Lemongrass Chicken ($17). I was impressed with the large tender chunks of chicken thigh and the deep flavours of lemongrass, charcoal and ginger.

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L said the next time we order takeout from Pure, he wants to try the lemongrass chicken on vermicelli. I think I would prefer the rice, because the grains soaked up an aromatic sauce that reminds me of citrusy wood.

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The Braised Pork Cheek ($18) showed off the difference between Chef Lam’s cuisine and westernized Vietnamese restaurants. The flavour profile of the pork was satisfying, subtly sweet and sour from the pineapple glaze yet tart from the nuoc cham sauce. The meat itself was so tender it melted on my tongue.

pork

The Grilled Ultimate Feast Vermicelli ($19) was so large, it would suffice for two modest appetites.  I liked that each protein – the chicken, beef, shrimp and pork –  tasted like each individual item was cooked to their specification.  Usually when we order mixed meats on vermicelli at other restaurants, all the proteins blend into one and taste the same.

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Pure isn’t the only restaurant changing with these COVID times. To adhere to the government’s regulations, several notable restaurants are turning into a one person show.  For example, the owner and chef of Cotto Italian, Brasserie Kensington, and Foreign Concept are offering a limited menu items for take-out. Working in isolation, each chef is able to minimize contact with the public.

Dr. Hinshaw, the Chief Medical Officer of Health in Alberta stated that customers won’t get sick from food delivery, and if they really want to ensure the food is safe, to take precautions. For example, when you received your order, put the food in your own dishes and wash your hands thoroughly before eating. Click here for further discussion on COVID and food safety.

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If you want to help out restaurants during this time, reach out to your city councillor, MLA and MP . As owners, employers, or customers, write to each level of government to tell them how important the service industry is to our community.  It is vital that we ask the government to help small businesses during and after the pandemic, before it’s too late.

Pure Contemporary Vietnamese Kitchen + Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Song Huong – COVID edition

Due to rising coronavirus concerns, the Kokuho rose rice I buy at Superstore was sold out.  L and I decided to make the trek up to True World Foods for Koshihikari Homare rice.

True World

As we were minutes away from Song Huong, one of my favourite Vietnamese restaurants, we stopped by for lunch. Since Albertans are still reeling from a hell of a lot of bad news (e.g. health care and education cuts, stocks and oil prices plummeting) let’s listen to something calming. For this post, I’ll play “Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61:1”  by composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

The last time we visited Song Huong, we shared the restaurant’s specialty dishes – Bon Boe Hue (signature soup), Cha Gio (spring rolls) and Bun Hen (sauteed baby clams with vermicelli). I read on Instagram that Bo Tai Chanh (sliced rare beef with lime sauce) Banh Loc Tom Thit (pork and shrimp tapioca dumplings) are popular dishes.

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I ordered a large Bon Boe Hue ($11.25) without the blood pudding. If you’re starving, I’d recommend ordering an extra large bowl. For the garnish, Song Huong provides mixed greens instead of the usual bean sprouts and basil.

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I liked that despite adding a ton of raw vegetables to my bowl, my broth remained steaming warm throughout my meal.  I find that at most Vietnamese restaurants, once you add the sprouts, the soup drops to a tepid temperature.

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The clear broth was lively,  fragrant with lemongrass. I could taste tart, sour, and spicy notes. There was a proportional amount of noodles to beef shank, pork meatballs and Vietnamese ham. The white noodles were the round and smooth, hot and slippery.

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L ordered his go-to dish – Bun Ba Cha Gio ($11.95). The lemongrass chicken tasted like it was well marinaded before it was grilled. The spring roll is made with rice paper, resulting in a thin, light, crisp wrapper. The vermicelli noodles were bouncy and fluffy.  I thought the combination of the cool, crisp vegetables and hot pieces of chicken and spring rolls makes this dish perfect for winter or summer. L said the portion was generous.

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My new favourite appetizer is the Banh Loc Tom Thit ($8.50). The tapioca dumplings were filled with small pieces of pork and shrimp. Like my soup, the dumplings arrived piping hot.

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The dumplings were chewy and gelatinous. I like tasting the warm, squishy texture of the tapioca against the saltiness of the Vietnamese ham. The wrapper and meat filling were mild in flavour, which accented the toppings of crispy garlic chips, cilantro, and green onions.

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I forgot to request no cilantro in all the dishes, but that didn’t deter from my enjoyment of the meal. I’m never going to love cilantro, but in these particular dishes, I can tolerate the herb.

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For a filling and highly satisfying meal for two, the bill was only $30.00. When L went to pay for our meal, we chatted with the owner’s son. It turns out he took a class with L. What a small world!

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If you haven’t checked out Song Huong, you are missing out! For non-westernized Vietnamese cuisine, you can’t go wrong here.  Hitting the Sauce gives this gem two fat thumbs up.

Song Huong Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chain Restaurants · Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Cuty Restaurant – Dalhousie

For my birthday lunch, I wanted to check out Cuty Restaurant’s newest location in Dalhousie. I was craving something fresh and crunchy and Cuty is known for their wrap and roll combo plates. For this post, let’s listen to “Let’s Go” by The Cars.

The last time we visited, we shared the Grilled Combo ($19.50) – a mix of traditional fillings like the grilled minced beef la lop, grilled pork meatballs and shrimp paste. Though I wanted the deep-fried bounty in the Traditional Platter ($31.50), I resisted and ordered something slightly healthier.

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We ordered the Grilled Shrimp Paste Platter ($18.50), Imperial Rolls ($8) and the Vietnamese Crispy Pancake ($12). Cuty is generous with the herbs. Our plates contained plenty of basil, mint and lettuce. The texture of the shrimp roll is bouncy and firm and the taste reminded me of ho gow, a Chinese steamed shrimp dumpling.

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The shell of the imperial roll was crispy and chewy. Tightly packed with pork, taro root and black fungus, the filling was tastier than a regular spring roll.  I like contrast of the fresh, cool herbs wrapped around crunchy, blistering hot pork roll.

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The Vietnamese Crispy Pancake or bánh xèo is an Asian crepe. The pancake is made with tumeric powder, rice flour and coconut milk. I thought there was egg in the pancake batter, but it’s the tumeric powder that gives the crepe a yellow hue.

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The crepe was lacy and crisp. The crepe wasn’t overloaded with mung beans and sprouts, there was a balanced amount of chopped up shrimp, pork and squid. I’d recommend going heavy on the basil as it cuts into the sweetness of the coconut milk.

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The crepe harder to eat than the wrap rolls. I found it difficult to wrap the mixture with lettuce because when I went to dip, the filling would fall out into the sauce. L and I noticed our wrapping job wasn’t as good as the other customers. No one else was struggling.

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I ordered too much food. We could have made do with one platter and the imperial rolls, with extra vegetables and noodles. Overall, this restaurant is a nice change from the standard pho and bún chả joints in Calgary. Hitting the Sauce gives Cuty Restaurant two fat thumbs up.

Cuty Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Restaurants · Sandwiches · Vietnamese

Thi Thi – Chinatown Institution

Divine Offering met me in Chinatown for lunch. She has an obsession with sandwiches and was craving a banh mi from Thi Thi. We arrived at 12:00 p.m. and waited in line for 23 minutes. Sometimes the line doesn’t move because a customer orders five or ten subs for their friends. Personally, I think Thi Thi should ban this unfair practice and enforce stricter rules when ordering.

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Even though I haven’t eaten at Thi Thi for three years, the owner’s son still recognizes me. He asked me why I haven’t been coming around. I told him it was because I bring my lunch to work. What I didn’t tell him was that when I was a frequent customer, I put on too much weight. The owner interjected and suggested that I should walk more. He observed that the Japanese are so slim because they walk everywhere and don’t drive. He pointed to my sub and asked me if he should make it slimmer. I wanted to say, “Hell no! Leave my banh mi alone! It’s been three lonely years!” Instead, I pursed my lips and indignantly shook my head. For this post, let’s listen to “Let it beby The Beatles.

I ordered the Thi Thi special ($7) – cold cut meat combo with a sprinkling of sate beef. I asked for pate and no mayonnaise. The owner toasts the sub with all the meats before topping it up with vegetables.  I asked for all the toppings but no cilantro. I always request two chili peppers. The owner cuts it up fresh for each order.  In every couple of bites, you get a spicy mouthful.

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The sandwich is the size of Subway foot long. The bread is warm and crusty. The secret to Thi Thi’s deliciousness is the pate mayonnaise – the sauce is both light in texture but rich in flavour. I love how the pate oozes through the air pockets in the bread.

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The vegetables are fresh and crunchy. The cucumber is cut into long thin ribbons. The carrots are pickled and add a contrasting tartness to the savoury flavours of the meats. I like how the bread and meats are warm but the vegetables are cool.

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I tried to munch as slowly as possible because Divine Offering is a leisurely eater. She says it usually takes her half an hour to eat a sandwich, and that’s fast for her. When she realized I had to get back to the office, she started cramming the last quarter of her sub into her mouth. She looked uncomfortable but even when she was scarfing down her food, she was still really slow. At one point I thought she was going to choke. I should have told her to take her time, but I remembered how my colleague once jokingly referred to me as Cratchit. Thanks Divine Offering for making sure I got back to work on time.

Note: Cash only.

Thi Thi Vietnamese Submarine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Pure Kitchen and Bar

I organized a dinner for L’s 15 colleagues. I worked on the menu with the owner and chef at Pure Kitchen and Bar – Lam Pham. For only $45 a person, he created a spectacular feast for us. For this post, let us listen to “Pure Comedy by Father John Misty.

To start our meal, Pham sent out a complimentary amuse bouche – Roasted Duck Crostini. I loved the combination of the rich, warm chicken pate with the sweet orange jam and watercress salad. This crostini had it all – crunchy, soft, sweet and savoury.

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The Tenderloin Tataki was an appropriate introduction to Pham’s cuisine. The beef was thinly sliced and cool on the tongue. The sauce was lively – a spicy blend of tamarind nuoc cham and chili oil. The ruby red beef was layered with bean sprouts, herbs, crispy shallots and peanuts. Refreshing and light, I liked the contrast of the crunchy sprouts against the tenderness of the beef.

beef tataki

Each couple shared a Char Siu Sesame Donut. The sous vide pork shoulder was soft and sweet from the sauce. The donut was stuffed with cucumber, cilantro and pickled carrots. I could taste some lingering spice from the sriracha aioli.

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The fruit from the Papaya and Mango Sate Grilled Shrimp Salad had a gentle, mellow sweetness. Our group liked the addition of the crunchy taro chips. Normally I find bean sprouts don’t taste like anything. These bean sprouts must have just been plucked, because the flavour profile was clean and watery.

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L’s favourite dish was the Roasted Duck Spring Rolls with Crepes. The roll itself was piping hot, filled with creamy duck meat and orange jam. I thought the spring rolls would taste more like a traditional Chinese Peking duck crepe, but with the addition of the watercress and sour green apple, it was more lively. L said it was a wrap of awesomeness.

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The Salted Duck Yolk Crusted Shrimp Tempura was the highlight of my meal. The shrimp was large and sweet, encased in a crunchy batter with a creamy sauce of 5 Spice chili, tobiko mayo and nori. Even though I was full, I ate three pieces. Pham’s version reminded me of ebi mayo, but supersized, more decadent and intensely flavoured.

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My second favourite dish was the Claypot Lemongrass Tofu. The tofu was still crunchy, despite the thick pool of lemony, caramelized gravy.

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I’ve tried the Seafood Fried Rice several times before, and as always, the fried rice did not disappoint. I liked the generous ratio of shrimp, crab, egg and tobiko to rice.

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I heard a lot about the Pan Seared Master Chicken. I liked the master stock jus and the mushrooms.

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The Gai Lan was excellent. I don’t know where Lam buys his produce from, because I can’t get gai lan this fresh. The greens were sweet and perfectly cooked – tender but there was still a bite to it. The ginger scallion jus, garlic chips and sate oil elevated the greens and then some.

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By this time, I was too full to enjoy the Wok Tossed Shaken Beef. I did ravish the watercress salad. So good, I would request to order the watercress as a side in the future.

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For dessert, we ate Crispy Banana & Yam Spring Rolls. The soft filling was warm and sweet. Our server told us to swirl the spring roll around the coconut taro sauce. Yummy, though I was too full to finish my dessert.

Pham knocked it out of the park. The food exceeded L’s expectations, and we have eaten at Pure several times before. This feast reminded me of the Chinese banquets and weekly multi-course dinners my mother use to organize. I’ve been trying to eat smaller portions, but surrounded by so much tantalizing food, my inner fat kid came out and I would not stop eating. I could see from across the table that the other shared platters were still piled high with food, but the plates near me shone clean. In 2019, Pure was voted by Avenue Magazine as best Vietnamese restaurant in Calgary. I can see why. Hitting the Sauce gives Pure Contemporary Vietnamese two fat thumbs up.

Pure Contemporary Vietnamese Kitchen + Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Comfort food · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Phu Quy – AYCE Vietnamese Wraps

My colleagues asked me what I was doing for the weekend. I informed them L and I were going to Phu Quy. They all chuckled and said they loved the name of the restaurant. Phu Quy is the name of an island in Vietnam, not a swear word. Mai told me to check out this place out for all-you-can-eat beef and shrimp wraps. As she’s incredibly particular with her Vietnamese food, I had to try it.

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There wasn’t any music playing during our visit. The silence in the room took me by surprise. I considered not playing a video for this post to replicate the experience but I prefer my blog with music. For this post, let’s listen to “Wrap Her Up” by Elton John.

We ordered the all-you-can-eat beef and shrimp wraps ($26.99 per person). We received a heaping platter of raw beef and shrimp, rice paper wraps, butter, vermicelli noodles, iceberg lettuce, sprouts, basil, mint, cucumber and pickled daikon and carrots. I noticed the portions of everything we received was generous.

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The vermicelli was chopped up, so you can easily pick up and distribute it evenly around. The noodles were separate and loose and not clumped together like other restaurants that serve DYO wraps.

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The shrimp and beef were not seasoned or marinated, so you have to be liberal with the dipping sauces and tray of condiments. Dipping sauces include pineapple, peanut hoison, and fish sauce. However, I recommend also making use of the hoison and hot sauce to liven up the protein. I noticed the sauces weren’t sweet like I’m use to Pho Hoang Viet, Golden Bell (Richmond) and K-Viet.

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This picture above doesn’t show accurately how much beef and shrimp we received. It was piled high and too much for us to eat. Usually at Vietnamese restaurants, I find I don’t get enough of the mint and basil. I didn’t find that problem at Phu Quy. One of the best parts of this meal were the vegetables. The pickled daikon and carrots were sweet, tart and crunchy. The mint and basil were fragrant and fresh.

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In our first attempt of cooking, we didn’t realize the grill was too hot. The owner came out to replace the grill because he said the burned remnants of food made the grill unusable. I’d like to note that we didn’t set the temperature, our server did.

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There was a bowl that’s strategically placed by the grill to capture the drippings from the grill. I didn’t realize this and when L told me not to move it, I retorted that I didn’t like it when he tells me what to do in an Asian restaurant.  He didn’t say anything until 10 minutes later, when the water leaked onto our table. Oh god, I don’t deserve such a nice man.

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The shrimp was small and you have to remove the tails yourself.  Since it’s all-you-can-eat, it’s not a big deal. The shrimp wraps were light and needed extra help from the condiment tray.

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If you want just all-you-can eat beef, the price lowers to $23.95. Beef, shrimp, squid and fish cost $27.95. per person. I think the prices Phu Quy charges is well worth it. If I bought these ingredients myself, it would be around the same amount. Also, making this at home would be time-consuming and messy to clean up afterwards.

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The beef was lean and thinly sliced. I preferred cooking the beef until it caramelized on the grill. The hoison sauce in the squeeze tube bottle paired best with the meat.

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When I wrapped the beef filling with the rice paper wrap, the roll dripped with the sauces. I used the lettuce to wrap around the rice paper. I’d alternate between using the lettuce and rice roll to wrap my food, and in some cases both vessels.

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The family that operates Phu Quy are kind and genuine. The female owner came out and asked if we wanted another platter of beef and shrimp. No way we said, as we were too full. L forced himself to finish the remaining meat because he didn’t want to waste it.  I asked our server if customers eat more than one plate. He responded that usually the guys would eat two plates to themselves. Once, two guys came in and ate three plates. They told the owners they would stop at three plates because they were a family business, but they could eat more.  I told our server that I felt bad leaving all the fresh vegetables. He smiled and said not to worry about it.

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I’d recommend Phu Quy for their wraps if you want something healthier and different from what your accustomed to at Vietnamese restaurants.  The food wasn’t as sweet, greasy or as saucy as Korean or Japanese BBQ restaurants. I noticed all the customers dining here spoke Vietnamese and they were eating traditional Vietnamese dishes, like steamed clay pots with steamed rice. I’d like to return to try their 7-courses of beef ($49.99 for two). As we left, we saw a table being set up for a group of ten. I can see how this restaurant would be ideal for families or group of friends. Grilling your own wraps was  a communal and social experience.

Phu Quy Vietnamese Family Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cheap Eats · Comfort food · Fusion · Restaurants · Vietnamese

Cuty Restaurant

Mai informed me that she doesn’t dine at many Vietnamese restaurants because almost all are too westernized for her taste. One place she does frequent is Cuty Restaurant. She told me not to get anything but the grilled wrap combo. For this post, let’s listen to Harry Nilsson – “Gotta Get Up.”

For a lack of a better adjective, Cuty is cute. You can see the effort the owner put into the decor, like the professional photographs and hanging bicycle planter basket. The tables were spotless. The washroom was clean and warm, despite the -27 weather. A pet peeve of mine are Asian restaurants that purposely keep the room cold to save money on heat. This happens a lot in Vancouver and Richmond.

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L and I ordered  the grilled platter – Banh Hoi Chao Tom Nem Nuong Bo La Lot ($19) and despite Mai’s advice, I ordered Pho Sate Bo Hoac Ga ($11.99). I looked around and noticed all the non-Asian customers ordered pho or bun. The customers speaking Vietnamese ordered the grilled combo platter. I texted Mai to tell her what I observed.

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Our server brought out a container of rice paper wrappers that also serve as a dipping vessel. The wrapper would curl in my hand from the heat of my hands. You insert the rice paper into the hot water and rotate it until it is soft.

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Our platter contained three types of protein – Banh Ho Chao Tom (grilled shrimp paste), Banh Ho Nem Nuong (grilled pork meatball) and Bo La Lot (grilled minced beef). This portion would suffice for two small appetites or be a very filling meal for one.

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You pick your protein and then fill the wrap with a mixture of lettuce, basil, mint, carrot, cucumber and vermicelli sprinkled with nuts and green onion.  The dipping sauce – nuoc cham –  was salty and sour with only a touch of sweetness. Fishier than most Vietnamese restaurants, as my hands smelled strongly for hours afterwards. Mai said there is also hoisin and satay sauce, but I think you need to ask for them.

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Of the three fillings, we enjoyed the shrimp paste the most as it was tasty and sweet. The shrimp flavour wasn’t very shrimpy.

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The pork meatball reminded me a bit of a hotdog because of its bouncy texture. The minced beef was more delicately flavoured and I found the betel leaves were soft and pliable. Bo la lot reminds me a Mediterranean dish – dolmades.

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The pho ($12) was tasty –  tangy and spicy with tender slices of beef. The broth wasn’t as hot as I would have liked. After I dumped in all the sprouts, the temperature cooled down.

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Next time, I wouldn’t mind trying the Banh Hoi Gia Truyen Cuty Quan  ($31) – a traditional platter of spring rolls, imperial rolls (taro, pork, and onion), tiger prawn rolls and pork sausage rolls. Or I’d order the grilled shrimp platter and then add the tiger prawn rolls or the imperial rolls.

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I’m a fan of Cuty restaurant so much, it makes it on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary. I’d recommend the grill roll and wrap combo. Thanks Mai for the inside tip.

Cuty Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato