hittingthesauce

“If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

Emerald Peking and Seafood

My new co-worker R told me about Emerald Garden, his favourite Chinese restaurant. Instead of our usual team pow wow at Good Earth, I told R and MD that I was treating them to lunch at Emerald Garden. I know better than to ask my boss if I could expense the meeting.

I still remember my first day on the job. My boss said he would take me out for lunch. We walked along Stephen Avenue and I remember feeling giddy, wondering if we would have eat at one of the restaurants I could never afford to eat as a student. He picked A&W because “It’s cheap and it’s fast.”

chow fun

I was surprised to see that we were charged for tea at the Emerald Garden. Not a biggie. Our server was friendly and attentive throughout our meal. The restaurant itself was about 1/5 full.

The dish I enjoyed the most was Beef Chow Fun ($11.99). The sprouts and onions were crisp. The noodles were slippery and smooth, with that heavenly wok smell and flavour. The beef was tasty and tender.

sizzling rice hot sour soup

R loves the hot and sour soup at Emerald Garden. I can see why. Emerald Garden nailed the right consistency and ingredients. Peas, tofu, pork, thin strands carrots which added lots of different textures. I liked the strong taste of pepper, the spicy heat and hint of vinegar. I would have preferred the soup without the crispy rice as I thought it took away from the soup, but R wanted it.

ginger beef

The Ginger Beef ($12.99) was disappointing. The dish wasn’t very hot and I found the flavours one dimensional. There was little beef but lots of this hard candied batter. However, the temperature of the other two dishes was spot on. The hot and sour soup was served sizzling hot. The chow fun arrived steaming hot as well.

Overall, I liked the food. I would order the hot and soup again, without the rice. The chow fun was good as well, though the server told me they don’t always serve it. Reviews on Yelp mentioned Emerald Garden served Portuguese influenced dishes, of which I saw none on the regular menu.

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Paros Souvla

front paro

L asked if I would come with him while he picked up a new pedal in Royal Oak for his guitar. I was game but I used the opportunity to try a newish fast food joint, Paros Souvla.

first calamari

My sole reason for wanting to check out Paros was because I heard they make incredible calamari ($6 half order, $10 large). Oh my. The calamari was so good that after L and I devoured a half order, I went and ordered another. A half order comes with about a dozen ringlets. The batter was light and melted on your tongue. The squid itself was tender and toothsome.

calamari second round

L and I shared a Chicken Wrap ($8). The chicken was juicy and tender. The fries were cold and overcooked. We liked the cool, refreshing white sauce and fresh lettuce. This wasn’t the most flavourful chicken wrap, but it was good.

chicken wrap

I plan to drop by again for more calamari and to try some other dishes. The shop had a constant stream of customers, who ordered a range of food, from salads, wraps to more substantial platters. I haven’t been to Greece but L has visited and he informed me the food tasted authentic to him. One thing is for sure, Paros ain’t no Opa (no offence Opa, you were there for me when I needed you).

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The Keg – Stadium Location

Ah, the good old Keg. Back in Vancouver, my family would always default to the Keg for family dinners. I would usually get the most marbled steak available or choose the ribs.

keg drinks

When L and I arrived at the patio, our server greeted us with water. We ordered our drinks immediately, a Stiegl Radler Grapefruit ($7) and a Keg size caesar ($11). We waited 20 minutes for our drinks. In the meantime, I was fortunate enough to enjoy the picturesque view of Tim Horton’s and the gas station across the street.

Despite how busy it was, our server still asked L if he would like a glass for his beer and topped up our waters. She also replaced a knife inside the cloth napkin that was stained with something sticky. The caesar was too spicy for me, and I have a very high spice tolerance. I think this was the first time I felt like sending a drink back but I didn’t because it was so busy.

steak

After 30 minutes, we received our food. A medium-rare 12 ounce Top Sirloin ($29) and the Scallops and Bacon ($11). When our server brought our steak, she warned us it looked more well-done because of the natural sunlight. When I cut into the steak, it was most definately well-done. I didn’t bother to say anything to our server, as she just told us if we found our steaks more cooked than requested, it was all in the lighting. I disagree with her rationale. Wouldn’t more light mean you could better see the steak?

scallop

I really enjoyed the scallops. Each piece was meaty and sweet. The bacon around it was crisp. The steak was tasty thought it was a little tough only because it wasn’t cooked to our specification. If it was cooked to a medium, I can only imagine how tender and juicy this cut would have been.

The Keg is doing something right. Every table was filled by the time L and I left. Overall, if I was craving steak again, I think I would rather go somewhere known for being more attentive to the quality of the food and service, like Modern Steak in Kensington or Vintage Chophouse. You pay more but with that I think you can expect more too.

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Sunny Vietnamese

I went out for lunch with KN and H. They felt like eating Vietnamese food but didn’t want to eat at Pho Hoai Vietnamese Noodle House because of the poor service they received in the past. The older gentleman that works on the weekends is nice, but I did notice the guy who mans the till on the weekday is short with customers. He usually points a table without saying anything and then throws the menus on the table.

sprouts

We each ordered small/medium bowls of Pho Sate ($9.00). KN orders the sprouts cooked to avoid salmonella and E. coli. The broth was steaming hot but the noodles were barely warm. I’m glad the sprouts were cooked beforehand, so that it didn’t further cool the soup. The beef was razor thin and not a generous portion. The broth was bright orange with a mouth-watering spice to it.

I would come back again. The portion was what I should be eating. I wasn’t full but I wasn’t hungry. The service was polite and it was easy to wave a server over if we needed anything. The restaurant is calmer and less cramped than Pho Hoai, so that’s another bonus.

pho

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Cleaver

curry popcorn

Ever since I read Dale’s Yelp review, I wanted to try Cleaver. Finally, on Saturday night, I told L I was treating him out to dinner. Unfortunately, that night it was raining and we got the end seat on the patio. The servers brought over multiple blankets and made sure we were comfortable. A few drops weren’t going to make me melt. I could see L’s eyes glaze over in prerest (meaning – pretend interest) as I described how I thought it was kinda romantic to eat, cozily wrapped up in blankets, as the rain dripped behind our table.

drinks

L ordered an IPA ($9) while I stuck to a white ($11) and later, a full bodied Malbec ($13). As we sipped on our chosen poison, I noticed that Cleaver is full of decked out women. Have you seen that Real Housewives of Vancouver? Imagine full on make-up, hard to wear but nice to look at shoes, and clothes you would need to not ever eat to wear well. I opened the door to the ladies washroom and walked into a scene involving a brunette and something illegal. You would think she’d have the sense to lock the door.

real housewives

My favourite dish at Cleaver turns out to be the cheapest. Double dipped duck fat fried fries ($7.00). The fries were so good, I would come just for these crispy suckers. The exterior was crunchy while the interior held pillowy goodness. Dunked in curry aioli, I was in ecstasy. The chips and dip combo reminded me of my favourite late night fry house in Vancouver, Fritz European Fry House.

fries duck fat

Cleaver makes two wicked sliders. We order the trio ($24) The soft shell crab was hot, meaty and full of goodness. I was surprised that I thought the buttermilk chicken was as good or better. The chicken was crunchy, double-down, with cucumber ribbons and sweetness from I think, an apple. The lamb slider was okay, flavourful but puny in size.

slider

The only dish that disappointed was the Kale Salad ($17). I thought the raspberry vinaigrette was too light for the sharpness of kale. The arugula did cut into the bitterness of the kale, but the dry sprinkling of quinoa and curry croutons didn’t add much to it. I did like the blue cheese and thin slices of two different colours of beets.

salad beets
I would come back for the duck fries, two of the sliders and to people watch. There are lots of other dishes that look good. If you’re a dessert person, I saw some pretty decadent desserts at reasonable prices.

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Cafe Medina

AY insisted she was taking L and I out for brunch. She told me to pick whichever restaurant I wanted, but recommended Cafe Medina. Cafe Medina it was! My sister use to take me here for brunch, back in the day we both lived in the same city. Once we arrived, waited about 25 minutes for our table (no reservations).

While we waited in the sitting area, L and I noticed how loud the music was playing. I felt like a premature granny, wincing at the noise. The grumpy old man next to me concurred – Cafe Medina liks to rock out.

We ordered rounds of coffee ($2.75) and decided to share a few dishes: Les Boulettes ($17), Poisson Lem Marrakech ($17), Oeufs Du Jour ($15) and a Liege Waffle with a topping ($4.15). Coffee came quickly, and our server topped it up frequently.

waffle

We picked the white chocolate pistachio rosewater topping. Made fresh, the waffle was still warm. The portion of the sauce was generous for the size of the waffle. I like the simple presentation of the dish.

poached eggs

Les Boulettes translated into two poached eggs with lamb meatballs in a tomato stew with focaccia. The meatballs were very firm and didn’t have the juicy fat ratio I enjoy. However, the eggs were poached to a creamy medium and delicious with the spicy stew with roasted peppers and olives.

salmon

The Poisson Lem Marrakech included one soft poached egg with elegantly placed Marrakech cured wild salmon. The salad was out of this world. Made with sprouted wheat berries, pistachios and parsley, the salad was unique and zesty. I would order this wild salmon dish again, the flavours of the salmon and assorted greens were light and refreshing.

fritata

I was also a fan of the Oeufs Du Jour. The daily frittata showcased sausage, fresh dill, peppers, and asparagus. The omelette was fluffy and a filling portion. I like the addition of the arugula, which cut into the heaviness of the dish.

Overall, I really enjoyed the food at Cafe Medina. Despite how busy it is, servers were polite and attentive. The venue is nice as well, I adore the super high ceilings. If you want to brunch in style, check out Cafe Medina.

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Craft Beer Market

L and I met our friends N and R for drinks. R picked Big Rock, which didn’t impress us much with its lackluster flatbread and mediocre wine. For the next venue, I chose Craft Beer Market, as the trainer at my gym raved about the food at the Calgary location.

We sat outside on the patio, overlooking the park which overlooked the water. N ordered the Harvest Graden Sandwich ($15) L ordered the Baja Fish Tacos ($16.00), and I ordered the Craft T.L.T. ($17).

I tried a bite of N’s vegetarian sandwich. The distinctive taste and texture of sprouts was evident. The sandwich was too large for N to finish and according to her, not good enough for her to take home.

I loved my tuna sandwich. The cool slices tuna was a generous size, which was proportional to the thick, still warm slices of toasted focaccia. I really appreciated the layers of fresh, chilled vegetables: pea shoots, avocado, tomato and cucumber. The spinach salad was nice as well, lightly dressed and speckled with walnuts, strawberries, and feta.

tuna ahi

L and R polished off their dishes and said it was tasty. I enjoyed Craft T.L.T. so much, I’m going to venture to the Calgary location when I return home. Fei Po doesn’t normally like chain restaurants, but Craft is the exception.

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Vij’s

L and I met my buddy N and her new man friend, M, at Vij’s. L’s never been to Vij’s before but he’s heard me rave about the food and service often enough. My sister use to take me there when I was a student at SFU. I remember the first time I dined at Vij’s. I felt out of place until the owner introduced himself to us. He seem genuinely interested in our experience and made us giggle like schoolgirls over his jokes. Now that’s a host.

veg dish

We sat outside in the patio for about an hour and a half, drinking wine and snacking on complimentary hor d’oeuvres. My favourite apply was a vegetable pakora that tasted a lot like KFC chicken. I must have eaten at least five of those delicious fritters. By the time we sat down to eat, I was full.

lamb sticks

L and I both ordered Wine Marinated Lamb Popsicles ($30), which come with endless rice and naan. I was the only one who dug into the carbs. N only nibbled on her vegetarian dish, her boyfriend was on the Paleo diet, and L only ate the lamb, ignoring the potatoes and spinach.

I love the taste of the lamb popsicles. I received five chops, each grilled with that heavenly charbroil taste. I though each chop had the perfect amount of fat, that type that squishes onto your tongue like hot juice. The yellow fenugreek sauce was rich and creamy. I made good use of the naan and rice to soak up the flavours of the dish.

Too bad Calgary doesn’t have a place like Vij’s. We could use a restaurant that turns hospitality into an art. Oh well, just more reason for us to visit my old hometown more often.

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Rodney’s Oyster House – Yaletown v. Gastown Location

beer

My sister and her family was back in town, so L and I decided to visit. The first thing we did when we landed in Vancouver was to head to Rodney’s Oyster House for the “low-tide” specials, $1.50 oysters. My family can wait till after happy hour for us to visit. I had oysters to devour.

caesar

We sat by the door, which emitted an occasional cool breeze. I ordered a Caesar ($10.25) while L ordered an IPA ($7.00). The caesar was pint size, filled with crushed ice, freshly grated horseradish, pepper and decorated with a large chilled shrimp. There is only one place that makes a better caesar than Rodney’s, and that’s the Lazy S in Calgary.

wine

I also ordered a glass of Burrowing Owl pinot gris ($10.50) which was poured to the brim. I giddily bent over to slurp the first sip of wine, as lifting it up to my mouth would mean spillage of this precious liquid.

oysters

We started off with a dozen of the oysters on special. Each was shucked perfectly – there wasn’t any shell fragments. The oysters were sweet and creamy, so good that I only needed a squeeze of lemon. L made good use of the half dozen condiments on our table.

fried oysters

I wanted to try the fried oysters, which was on special for only $12.99. We received six large oysters. The thin crispy coating of batter was dark and a tad burnt tasting, but the oysters themselves were perfectly cooked, soft and silky.

sparkling

The next day we headed to Rodney’s second location in Gastown. We sat upstairs in the loft section. While the ambience is newer and nicer than the Yaletown location, I prefer the original spot. The service and oyster shucking was superior at the Yaletown location.

second oysters

This time around, I ordered a glass of prosecco ($11) while L ordered an IPA for only $5.00. We ordered two dozen oysters. While the oysters tasted the same as the previous day, each one was filled with shell fragments. We saw other customers order the garlic prawns, clams, mussels and scallops. Of the bunch, the garlic prawns and scallops looked appetizing.

The service at the Gastown location was fine but it doesn’t compare to the charm that exudes from the servers at the Yaletown location. When we return in August, we plan to visit Rodney’s in Yaletown for oysters, garlic prawns and scallops.

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Last Best Brewery & Distillery

On Thursday, I came home in a foul mood. L took one look at me and told me he was taking me out for dinner. His reaction reminded me of my father, who would often cheer me up by offering to take me to a new restaurant. Ah, great minds think alike! I opted for the Last Best Brewery & Distillery as I knew L would dig the beer selection.

trybeers again

The distillery attracts its fair share of hipsters. I never saw so many manicured beards and elaborate moustaches in one place. I stuck out like a sore thumb. Perhaps I should try to do something cool with my upper lip peach fuzz.

If it wasn’t for our super server Dagny, we wouldn’t have stayed for food. I saw an old co-worker right before we were seated. M told me that the wings, calamari, and knuckle sandwich were not worth ordering. However, our server Dagny made us give the distillery a shot. Her sunny disposition and knowledge of the beer won us over.

Dagny served our six beer sampler ($14) in drinking order: Rock ISA; Kolsch; Organic; Show Pony; WIPA; and the Latte.

– The Rock was light, a little fruity, dry and not in the least bitter.

– I took to the Klosch, which was a floral light beer that tasted like the smell of lilacs. I found the Klosch to be a refreshing sipping beer.

– My favourite beer was the Organic, which is aged in a Chardonnay cask. This beer was mellow, smooth, mild with a creamy after taste. I liked it so much, I ordered another sleeve.

– The Showcase smelled like marihuana (hey, I use to live in Vancouver, so I know what it smells like) but tasted like lychee. This beer was a tad bitter. I found the smell a little unsettling.

– L did not like the WIPA, as it smelled strongly of cloves. I thought it was fine, but it was my least favourite beer.

– The Latte beer tasted like a good quality espresso with a sweet, creamy finish. Though I couldn’t drink a whole pint, I found the flavour of the latte beer quite delicious and not fake tasting, like most coffee flavoured beers. Read more of this post

Posto Pizzeria and Bar

bottled water

L’s best friend S, and his wife E wanted to take us out for dinner. They felt like pizza, so I picked Posto Pizzeria and Bar. We sat in the patio, in the cool shade.

Our server asked us if we wanted still or sparking, to which we responded accordingly. I should have asked, but I assumed they offered their own filtration system like in the restaurants I usually frequent, such as Suzette Bistro, Una, and Cassis. Instead, we received bottled water, which I wouldn’t have ordered had I known. Lesson learned.

pistachio hummous

For drinks, the boys ordered beer while I opted for my usual, a glass of BonAnno cabernet ($13), which E preferred over her glass, a chianti ($14). E was hungry and ordered a couple of appetizers, the Chickpea Brushetta with Pistachio ($8.00) and the special appetizer of the day, grilled prawns. The bread that came with the chickpea mixture was soft, chewy and oily.

prawns

The prawns were nicely presented with toasted pine nuts, panko crumbs, and beans. We received a total of five large prawns, and man it was cooked perfectly. Crunchy and juicy, we all raved about the prawns. The beans were sweet and had a nice snap to it.

mystery pizza

Our server recommended ordering three pizzas if we were hungry. S chose the meat laden pizza, with sausage, salami, smoked pancetta, and calabrese ($19.00). This was L and S’s favourite dish. The meats were cooked to a crisp.

Meat pizza

My favourite dish was the pizza with potato, creme fraiche, leek, smoked pancetta ($18). The unusual combination of ingredients and textures worked. To us, it tasted like one giant, delicious perogy.

salmon

E’s favourite dish was the pizza prosciutto, fiore de latte, arugula, and grana padano ($22). The arugula gave the pizza a freshness while the chili flakes added a nice heat to the pie. The crust was light and airy, and it pleasantly crackled when you bit in it.

gelato

Instead of dessert, I opted for another glass of wine. My counterparts indulged in gelato, mini doughnuts, and panna cotta. To each their own. I declined a taste of dessert, but everyone seem to like what they ordered.

creme brulee

Overall, we enjoyed the food and wine. Posto takes reservations, unlike my favourite pizza place, Una. I would like to go back and try some of their non pizza items, which I hear is pretty tasty.

doughnuts

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Place Pizza and Steak House

My brother-in-law lives in Bowness. Whenever our family gets together at his house, we always find ourselves at Place Pizza and Steak House. The restaurant is usually packed with customers hankering for steak and potatoes. Our family goes for the Fish and Chips ($12.00).

I deviated the last visit and ordered the Seafood Tortellini ($16). I received a large serving of baked creamy pasta. Besides the generous amount of soft tortellini, I found chunks of crab stick and small but plentiful amount of shrimp.

pasta

I took a bite of my husband’s fish and chips. As standard, the batter on the fish was thin and crispy. The fish itself was hot and flaky. Though the pasta was tasty, I think the fish and chips are still my favourite dish to get at the Place.

fish chip

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Pigeonhole

On Saturday night, I had plans with my friend Jaime. I put on my most comfortable shoes, wore my most stretchy pants, and put on a fresh pair of contacts. I stopped by Jaime’s place for a glass of wine before we walked over to 17 Ave for dinner.

room

I know Jaime always wants to try the newest hot spot. I heard good things about Pigeonhole, plus I follow the GM, Heather Wighton, on Twitter so I figured it would be a safe bet. We arrived around 7pm and landed a spot by the window.

strond

Jaime and I were really impressed with our server, Hanna. She was funny, witty and knew the menu inside and out. When she described the drinks and food, she waxed poetic.

pigeonholewine

I ordered a Hanky Panky cocktail ($12.00) because Hanna described it as strong and boozy. Made with Tanqueray, Punt E Mes, and Fernet, this drink had a punch to it. I could feel the drink uppercut my liver. I could taste orange and I think, juniper berries.

cheese

The Halloumi Cheese ($11) was kick-ass good. The cheese was firm and warm. With each nibble, I would swirl some of the pistachio sauce and a piece of the pickled celery or olive. The flavour of the pistachio was pronounced, as well tartness from the rhubarb.

dumplingd

The second snack we ordered was the Morels and Dumplings ($12). Oh wow. This dish is a stunner. The morels were soft, the dumpling skin was delicate. The herby filling tasted like there was ricotta inside. I loved the freshness of the peas. All together, the flavours were well-balanceed.

Pigeonhole calls these dishes “snacks”. I call it fine dining. This is food that I can’t make at home. For those on Yelp/Zomato that complain that the dishes are expensive for the portion, try shopping for some of these ingredients yourself and see how much that would cost you.

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Girls Night Out – Scary Sherry’s Bday

I was in charge of picking the restaurant for a surprise party for my friend Scary Sherry. I’m not making fun of her behind her back, that’s her nickname. Our mutual friend, JG, actually formally introduced me to her as “Scary Sherry”. To this day, I still don’t know how Sherry got the scary.

derlik

Now, where to go to celebrate someone’s 50th birthday? I wanted a venue ideal for a large party. I also wanted the service to match the food. I know if Duncan Ly is in the house (or rather in this case, the hotel), we would be in good hands. So JG booked a hotel room for the night and brought Scary Sherry to Raw Bar for drinks.

martini

Seven of us surprised Scary Sherry at the bar. After she bawled like a baby, we sat at the same table that Leonardo DiCaprio graced the previous month. We also drank what he drank – the Derelict $12 (spiced plum and clove jelly, Skyy Vodka, Soho Lychee liqueur, fresh lemon and pineapple juice).

mint

I ordered my usual – the Aztec Julep ($12). Every time I took a sip, the girls took turns impersonating some unknown southern belle, “I do declare, on a hot summer’s day, only a bourbon mint julep will do.” For my second round, I wanted to drink in peace so I ordered a glass of Wayne Gretzky the “Great White” ($10.00). I was mercilessly heckled for drinking a wine made/marketed by the “Great One”. Tough crowd.

salmon tartar

JG ordered the table oysters on the half shell with Thai chili hot sauce ($18 for six) and spicy salmon and tuna tartar ($14). Some of the hecklers at our table don’t eat raw seafood. All the more for me! The puffed rice cracker went really well with the tuna mixture. I wish more restaurants would serve tuna tartar with this type of vessel.

oysterrawbar

We really appreciated the VIP service. Yellow Door’s service manager, Sebastian Bravo (aka Awesome ‘Stache) help to arranged for Scary Sherry’s husband to drop off a gift from Tiffany & Co, as the previous plan fell through. As well, Christina Mah, the mixologist at Raw Bar, came over to say hi and wished Sherry a happy bday. Duncan Ly, who I know is crazy busy, came over to personally say hi and arranged for a special dessert for Sherry.

raw bar dessert

After drinks and oysters, we moved to the second venue, Yellow Door Bistro. We weren’t the only group who decided to celebrate at Yellow Door. A stag and a 30th birthday party was also in process, though neither was as loud nor rowdy as our group.

closer cheers

Our group opted for the daily chef’s choice (three courses $40) plus wine pairings (normally $25 but for the month of May, promotional price of $12.50). The fresh bread and butter on the table was too good to pass up. The foccacia was warm and you could taste and smell the rosemary. The brown bread had sesame seeds and was soft and sweet.

pate

A surprise for everyone at our table was an amuse-bouche of Foie Gras and Chicken Liver Parfait with rhurbarb gelee. All eight of us loved this parfait shooter. The foam was fruity, while the rest of the mixture was rich and creamy.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 9.58.50 AM

The Scallop Ceviche with compressed Asian pear, frisée and salsa verde was light and refreshing. The salad had a nice mixture of different greens and a nice, zippy dressing. The pear was juicy and sweet, sliced razor thin. I couldn’t get enough of the scallop ceviche.

main

The fourth course was the Sous Vide Milk Fed Veal Strip loin with spring vegetable succotash and sun choke velouté. I know what veal is but the succotash and velouté I had to Google. The meat was soft and tender. I really enjoyed the vegetables, particularly the fresh beans. So much, I ate my skinny neighbour’s plate as she was too full. You know the food is good when you eat off another person’s plate. It also means that you eat too much.

dessert 2

Dessert was paired with a decadent coffee liquor. I don’t normally eat dessert but I devoured it. Layered with chocolate, it had just the right amount of sweetness to it. I drank the liquor before my dessert arrived, but I imagine it was a heavenly pairing.

dessert coffee

We were a loud and rowdy bunch. I was grateful we were not kicked out. Someone who shall remain nameless broke a wine glass, as that person slammed it down like a finished bottle of beer. Sorry about that Duncan.

For a fun night out with a bunch of friends, Raw Bar and Yellow Door sure know how to create a memorable experience. Thank you Duncan and Yellow Door/Raw Bar staff for truly making Scary Sherry’s birthday a special celebration.

bday dessert

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Seafood Lunch at Market on Macleod

royal miyagi

L prefers Market on Macleod (formerly Kingsland Market) because its quieter and more peaceful to shop around than Calgary’s Farmers Market and Crossroads. Market on Macleod has become my favourite too, mostly because Billingsgate Market recently opened up and they sell freshly shucked oysters. Besides oysters, I can also get steamed mussels and hot chowder.

malpeque

I was and I still am giddy. Here I was in Calgary, getting oysters shucked right in front of me while I was shopping. I picked 3 east coast and 3 west coast oysters. In about five minutes, I received perfectly shucked oysters on a bed of crushed ice. Lemon wedges and a bottle of hot sauce were served on top of the metal serving plate. This dish of delicacies cost me $11.00 clams.

oysters

L and I sat outside on the patio. The sun was shining down, our seafood feast glistened, no, it sparkled. The west coast oysters cost only $1.00. Creamy, cold and flavourful, oh I could have eaten a dozen of these. The east coast oysters ($1.89) had that bitter, briny taste to it. Could oysters be any fresher? Well, perhaps, if I lived on the west coast. So I suppose the question should be rephrased as “Can you get fresher oysters anywhere else in the prairie?” Not at these prices, you can’t.

toro

To round out my meal, I ordered a maki platter and an order of toro from Big Catch. The sushi was well-made and presented. The toro was buttery and delicious. Next time, I’m just going to order a few different plates of sashimi because I think raw fish tastes better with oysters. Big Catch served up their food in elaborate decorative plates. I was worried I would accidently knock it off the table, but luckily these dishes survived a meal with me.

combo

I can’t wait to return again for my oyster and sashimi fix. I was contemplating BYOC (bring your own champagne), but I saw bylaw officers in the market. Yikes, better not. Oh well, the oysters at Billingsgate and the toro at Big Catch are so good I will be intoxicated enough.

sign oysters

Billingsgate Market & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Big Catch Sushi on Urbanspoon

Palomino Smokehouse

If my brothers visit me again in Calgary, I would take them to the Palomino. There aren’t many places in Vancouver that serve up so many meatalicious dishes in a delightful western style saloon.

palominobeers

My coworkers and I started off with a round of beers. I usually stick to Mill Street Organic ($7) while my friends prefer to drink Thirsty Beaver ($7). Palomino also makes a wicked Caesar, with a big crunchy pickle and a slice of bacon.

wings

My friends ordered the Carolina BBQ Wings ($12) which can be ordered battered or grilled. They also shared a huge plate of garlic fries ($7.00), which were better than the same fries that came with my burger. While my fries were small, cold little end bits, the fries on the appetizer plate were longer and fresh out of the fryer.

ribs

My buddy also ordered Smoked and Rub Ribs ($12) and BBQ Nachos ($17). All the appetizers looked good and received rave reviews around the table. I declined as I wanted to focus on my favourite dish, the Palomino Cheeseburger ($14).

nachos

The fresh ground chuck patty was large, thick and juicy. The produce was chilled, the bun grilled. Each bite was a contrasting mixture of soft meat, crisp bacon, warm apple smoked cheese, tomato, pickles and lettuce.

garlic fries

I ordered a side of soup and garlic fries with aioli. I would dip my fries in aiola and then stick the raw pieces of garlic on it. My breath was so bad, even my dog wouldn’t come near me when I returned home. Just the sandwich and fries let me stuffed until the next morning. The Bacon and Chicken soup was creamy, rich and heavy in the meat department.

bruger

I’ve eaten most of all the items at the Palomino: brisket; chicken; ribs; pulled pork; salads; appetizers; and catfish. I have to say that my favourite dishes include garlic fries, poutine, wings, and of course, the cheeseburgers.

Service 99 out of a 100 times is fantastic. The most recent visit was not the usual standard. The server had a special talent for complaining that made me want to stick pins into my head rather than listen to her. After a day of work, all I want to do is chill out. However, her good looks saved her from a corresponding tip, as my single and looking friend enthusiastically wanted to tip well.

Palomino Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Suzette Bistro

Jaime treated to me to lunch at Suzette Bistro. I was keen to try the food, as I heard the restaurant is managed by the same owners of Cassis Bistro. While Suzette Bistro focuses more on buckwheat and sweet crepes, the trademark service and lovely ambience of Cassis carried over. Of course, let’s not forget the food. Oh, the food.

We were seated right by the window, right by all the street action. On a sunny day, the room is lit up with natural light. I really liked the energy of the room, it was clear that all the customers were loving life.

mussels2

Our gregarious server recommended that I pair dish of my mussels with a particular wine. I didn’t write the name of the wine down, but it was pretty, light yellow hue and a tart after taste.

mussels

I love the production of ordering Moules Frites ($22.00). First comes the heaping bowl of fragrant mussels, and a large metal tin for shells. Then comes the bowl of frites and condiments, a homemade ketchup and garlic aioli. The mussels were small in size, soft and silky. I shouldn’t have but I drank up spoonfuls of the addicting cream broth, which was speckled with shallots and parsley. The frites were a golden yellow, crisp and even better when I dipped it in alternating condiments.

crepe mushroom

Jaime ordered a tea and the Forestière ($18.00). Jaime has a small appetite, so I got the chance to eat about a third of the galette. The filling of sautéed mushrooms was rich, seasoned with garlic & parsley. I thought the crepe-like wrapper was lacey and crisp.

Suzette Bistro is the sort of place I would bring my out of town friends for delicious and good value food. The service, food and ambience are top notch. Thank you Jaime for a lovely lunch.

Suzette Bistro on Urbanspoon

Richmond Pub – Mayweather-Pacquiao Fight

L and I go out for dinner about twice a week. We already met our quota of the week when he mentioned to me that he wanted to watch the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. L was surprised that I was so into watching the game. I wasn’t, I was into the opportunity to eat wings. I diligently researched nearby pubs to see which one was showing the boxing match.

Richmond pub beer

The person who answered the phone at Richmond Pub told to arrive before 6:00pm to score a seat. When we arrived, the manager showed us our options. We opted for the high seats near the big screen.

Hot wings

Cold beers and hot wings. Can life get any better? The wings were very good ($8.99). We received about 12 wings and drums. Nice amount of meat, crispy skin and one of the nicest hot sauces I’ve sampled. I could taste the vinegar in the hot sauce, which I enjoyed.

Pizza Richmodn Pub

We ordered the large Meat pizza ($19.99). The crust was crunchy and tasted homemade. The crust was not too thin but thick enough to hold up the heavy layer of cheese, crunchy green peppers, onions, and meat. The processed meat was a little too Safeway if you know what I mean. However, Richmond Pub makes a better pizza than many of its competitors. The pizza was really large too, and I had to tap out at three slices.

I saw a huge appetizer platter that called out for me to order it next time. I spied with my beady eyes onion rings, chicken fingers, ribs and some veggies. The next time L and I head over to Richmond’s Pub, we will have to give the platter a try.

Richmond Pub & Eatery on Urbanspoon

Chuen May Food Products

My favourcheun mayite thing to do after a night of moderate partying is to eat. In Vancouver, there was no shortage of late night restaurants. Well, I’m not in Vancouver anymore. Lucky for me, I found Chuen May Food, a store that specializes in homemade dim sum.

The store itself is spotless. I’ve peered behind into the kitchen and I have seen first hand how clean the equipment and work areas. I also talked to the owner about the local ingredients she uses. She informed me that unlike some competitors, she never uses the scraps and end pieces of meat. For example, she buys whole local chickens and the best ingredients she can find. I can tell.

My dipping sauce - a mix of everything.

My dipping sauce – a mix of everything.

Before you see the photos, I’ll warn you that I use very little oil when I cook up the dumplings and spring rolls. As I have an unhealthy penchant for mayonnaise, I try to cut calories in other ways. If I used more oil, the spring rolls and dumpling would have a more consistent golden hue. I also bake my spring rolls instead of deep frying it. My picks at Chuen May include the Pork and Vegetable Dumplings ($15 for 50), Pork and Cabbage Spring Rolls ($35 for a huge bag), Sticky Rice ($7.00 for 2 large or 3 small), and Ground Pork and Mushroom ($8). dumplings

For the dumplings, I drizzle about a teaspoon onto the pan and throw the dumplings on medium for 15 minutes. I put some water on the pan and put a cover on for the first 7 minutes. When I can see the dumpling plump up, I flip it over so that the dumpling is crispy all over. The dumpling wrapper is thick enough to hold the meaty goodness inside. The pork is mixed with minced Chinese greens and ginger. I like to put a little mayonnaise and red rooster sauce while L prefers to make his own soy based sauce.

spring roll

For the spring rolls, I lightly brush the shell with oil and chuck the tray in the oven at 400 degrees for about ten minutes. I watch for the spring rolls to turn a golden brown, then I shut the temperature off and let it sit inside the hot oven for a few more minutes. These spring rolls are quite large and filled with ground pork and bright green cabbage. I dig the saucy almost gravy-like filling, and I think I can detect Chinese five spice.

Before I cook the Sticky Rice, I defrost it in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat it, I plop the lotus wrapped parcel in a bowl filled halfway with water. I nuke it for about 5-7 minutes, depending on its size. If you have the time and patience, you can steam the sticky rice instead of microwaving it. I love the big pieces of Chinese mushroom, fat chunks of juicy chicken, and lap cheong (Chinese sausage), which makes for a substantial snack. Minced pork

Recently, I tried the Ground Pork and Mushroom dish. For this dish, you need a steamer or a tray in a covered pot. I improvised and found a little ramekin or miniature baking ornament. I let the water simmer for about 15 minutes, then I turn off the heat and let it sit for five minutes. L really enjoyed this dish. The meat is so tasty and succulent and cooks in a broth-like juices. This dish tastes like sui mai, a pork based dumpling served during dim sum. I liked the addition of the shredded beige vegetable with its crunchy texture.

I love Chuen May Food Products. The food is superior to the vast majority of dim sum restaurants I’ve consumed in Calgary. The frozen food is made daily and sells out regularly. Cash only. Chuen May Food Products is located on 221 1 St SE Calgary, AB T2G 2G3 (403) 232-8364

Milestones on Stephen Ave

Milestones

My work buddies LB and BF wanted to meet up for drinks at Milestones. My past visits at Milestones on Stephen Avenue were not positive ones, but I didn’t want to be a negative Nancy. To my surprise, it turns out this location has improved vastly from previous visits in 2009 and 2012. Most likely due to Robin Hushagen, the new general manager at Milestones.

Milestones wine

LB and BF know Robin from previous visits. Frequent fliers at this location, my friends informed me Robin is always mingling with guests to ensure they are enjoying themselves. True to their word, he made his way over to our table and chatted with us.

Artichoke dip

I was surprised to see so many bottles of wine just over the $30.00 mark. Steal on Stephen Ave! The Spinach and Artichoke Dip ($12) was just like I remembered in Vancouver. Thick and creamy, the dip stayed soft and warm despite our leisurely pace of munching. We also snacked on the Mediterranean Bruschetta ($9), the toppings were strong on the balsamic reduction, feta cheese and tomatoes.

brushetta

The lounge is newly renovated, complete with a steam fireplace. No longer dark and cramped, the spacious lounge is now filled with lots of natural light. I can’t wait for the new patio to be built. This is one chain restaurant I’ll frequent more often for appies and well priced drinks.

Milestones2
Milestone's Grill + Bar on Urbanspoon

Gachi Restaurant

L and I are getting old. In my wilder days, I stayed up past midnight. I voted NDP because I knew it would upset my Liberal loving parents. I bussed for well over an hour to check out a new eatery. Now, I fall asleep by 10:00 pm. I vote based on my opinion on the character of the people running rather than ideology. More telling, L and I dine out based on convenience, which means anywhere within five minutes of our house.

beer

Gachi fits the bill. I like Gachi for a quick and quiet dinner. The room is comfortable, with hanging lights that colour of 70s style sunglasses. The restaurant is quieter than it should be – as the food is consistent and far better than its nearby competitors.

yam fires

For a light appetizer, we snacked on Yam Fries ($8.00). These were real yam fries, not the super battered type you find at fast food joints. I could really taste the sweetness of the soft yam. A side of house-made chili mayo accompanied the fries.
pizza - Korean

I’m a fan of the Korean pancake, which was filled with seafood. Though thick in size, the pancake wasn’t in the least doughy. The exterior was crispy while the pieces of squid, shrimp and octopus were high quality and perfectly cooked. The pancake was so flavourful, I felt no need to dip it in the accompanying sauce.

fire chicken

L and I both loved the Spicy Chicken Donburi ($14.00). L use to live in Korea and he declared Gachi makes an excellent version of “fire chicken”, a dish he ate often. I could smell the BBQness of the chicken the moment the dish arrived at our table. More chicken than rice, this dish was a delight. Chock full of spicy marinated chicken with perfect egg omelette ribbons, green onions, red peppers and crunchy strands of cabbage.

Fire chicken

The only other dish that is better than the Spicy Chicken is the Bon Thai with Soft Shell Crab ($16.00). The crab is crispy, standing up to the creamy spicy green curry. I thought the sautéed broccoli and mushrooms went with the curry. The side of rice was well flavoured, though I would prefer a simple white rice so I could really enjoy the taste of the curry. For $16.00, this dish is a big portion with excellent seafood.

Bon Thai

Thanks Gachi, for offering residents in Killarney an affordable option for delicious Korean food. Gachi has moved up to one of our favourite restaurants in the city.

Gachi on Urbanspoon

Spolumbo’s Fine Food and Deli

L and I were shopping in Inglewood last Saturday. We bought several spices from the Silk Road Spice Merchant, checked out a new store Plant as well as purchased a knife from Knifewear.

To rest our weary wallets, we popped into Spolumbo’s Fine Food and Deli for lunch. The line-up stretched down past the condiment table but the wait wasn’t long. Employees would pop out and ask you what you wanted so our food order quickly came up. I was delighted to discover that Spolumbo’s sells draft beer by the glass ($3.75) to wash down our food.

beer

L and I settled in a table with our cold beers and hot sandwiches. L ordered a Spolumbo’s Spicy Italian Sausage on a bun ($8.00) while I scored the winning choice, a Porchetta Sandwich ($7.00). L enjoyed his dog, the bun was crusty and the big old weiner was steaming hot, covered in fresh tomato sauce.

sauage

My Porchetta Muffaletta was FREAKING FANTASTIC. Holy moly. The pork was thinly sliced, stacked a mile high. The meat was juicy, succulent, and garlicky. The portion was large too. I should have just ate half the sandwich but my fei po tendencies got the best of me.

danwich

Next time we head over, I would love to try the Mama’s Meatloaf in a Bun and the Cutlet Parmegiana. Fei Po gives Spolumbo’s two fat thumbs up.

Spolumbo's Fine Foods & Deli on Urbanspoon

Maurya Fine East Indian Restaurant

Twice I’ve been invited to a private party at Maurya. Both times, L and I really enjoyed the food and vowed to return again for dinner. The restaurant is large enough for about 50 guests.

Our friend N was hosting a surprise party for her husband. L and I were the only people there without children. My bad. We forgot to procreate a year before this party.

The buffet included about ten dishes: butter chicken; paneer; potatoes and eggplant; tandoori chicken; saffron rice; naan; beans; daal and salad. While all the food was tasty, there are three dishes that stood out.

buffet leighton

The naan was freshly made. You can see the chef making it at the front of the restaurant. I think there’s nothing better than fresh naan. Light and crispy, the flat bread was the perfect vessel to scoop up the butter chicken.
buffet platter

Speaking of butter chicken, the meat was tender and juicy. The sauce was thick, creamy and tangy. It rivaled the tandoori chicken, which I loved. Normally I find tandoori chicken a tad dry. Not the case at Maurya. The chicken was a reddish hue and wonderfully spiced.

Belly dancing rounded out the party for the birthday boy. The belly dancer asked all children and adults to join her in a series of lessons. My belly was in no shape to dance, as I was too stuffed with all the yummy food at Maurya.

Maurya Fine East Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Momo Yami Sushi Japanese Cuisine

L and I were in the mood for sushi. Not wanting to drive very far, we settled on Momo-Yami. Located in the Glamorgan strip mall, we opted to order take-out. The manager/owner who’s always around makes the ambience a tad tense. Let’s just say you can read her mood easily and her staff look terrified of her. Good thing the sushi is consistent and well-made.

deluxe

I ordered the deluxe sushi combo ($18). Of the bunch, the salmon nigiri was my favourite. Smooth and buttery, the salmon was sweet and nicely marbled. The scallop was large but fishy. I usually find snapper too chewy to eat, but this piece was not at all sinewy. I enjoyed the sushi rice though it was half the size of the fish. The rest of the fish selection was good though not exceptional. Note that all the nigiri was heavily smeared with wasabi. Luckily, I’m a fan of that sinus clearing green stuff.

The California roll was tasty. The crab was sweet and mixed with mayonnaise. A sizeable triangle of avocado was perfectly ripe. The rice was nicely seasoned and spiked with orange tobiko.

L always ordered the Dynamite Combo ($12). I think Momo Yami makes one of the best dynamite rolls in town. Two pieces of shrimp fill this roll out and the airy batter remains crispy throughout. A dab of avocado, a healthy sprinkling of sparkling tobiko round out this texture and taste rich roll.

dyanmie combo

Overall, the nigiri and rolls that I’ve sampled are good. Fei Po gives Momo Yama two fat thumbs up for salmon nigiri and dynamite rolls.

Momo-Yama Sushi Japanese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Newcastle Pub – Wing Night

Last Wednesday L and I dropped by Newcastle Pub for wing night. The previous time we visited Newcastle, I chatted with a wing night regular who told me the best time to snag a seat. For a hint, check the last image at the end of the post.

mill street

I don’t know if Newcastle has a great HR team or just lucky because the service is consistently good. However, last night service and the food was excellent. We sat back and drank big pints of Mill St Organic. I like the pints at Newcastle more than Pop’s Taphouse because beer is filled in larger glasses for cheaper.

medium hot

I ordered Medium Hot and Lemon Salt Wings. Within five minutes, our wings were ready. L and I were impressed that the wings were hot and crispy. A trainer at my gym told me she won’t eat wings because she finds it disgusting to see the little veins and discoloured bits near the bone. No fear of that nastiness at Newcastle. The chicken was plump and all white in colour.

lemonsalt

We still felt peckish, so I ordered Poutine (9.00) and an order of Honey Hot Wings. The first time I ordered poutine at Newcastle, the fries were underdone. Not this time. The thick cut fries were soft in the inside, covered in blobs of cheese that would stretch for miles whenever I forked a fry.

poutine

I was too full to finish the Honey Hot Wings, but I tried a couple. I prefer the medium hot and lemon salt flavours, but at 25 cents per wing, it was fun to try something different.

bill

Newcastle, keep up the great work. Give it some time and I’ll predict that this pub will be an institution in Killarney like the Ship and Anchor is on 17th Avenue. Fei Po gives Newcastle two fat thumbs up.

Newcastle Pub on Urbanspoon

Pop’s Taphouse

A trainer at my gym told me that she loves Pop’s Taphouse. She’s super fit, so I thought if she eats at Pop’s, maybe if I eat where and what she eats, I’ll be fit too. Faulty logic, I know. I also received coupons in the mail from Pop’s Taphouse to use in the month of April, which motivated me to try a different pub other than my beloved Newcastle.

cuban

I shared the Cuban Sandwich ($13.99) with skinny fries with L. The sandwich wasn’t anything special. A few pieces of thinly sliced meat, a whole lot of pickles, and a generic bun. I wouldn’t order this dish again.

L and my brother-in-law B enjoyed the sizzling calamari ($13). The batter was slightly sweet and fell off easily from the squid. I prefer Newcastle’s version, as their tentacles and arms are larger and didn’t taste like it was previously frozen (even though it was likely so, as we live in a landlocked city).

calamari

I liked the Artichoke Dip ($14.00). The dip was bubbling hot, and the consistency was thin and cheesy, which was perfect to coat the chips. I liked how the dish offered an assortment of dipping options, such as baguette slices, carrots and celery.

dip

The food on our second night at Pop’s was much better. I ordered the pasta special ($8), Chicken Fettuccine. The pasta was light and flavourful, with nice slices of chicken and spinach. I would order this dish again. The value was incredible.

pasta

L ordered the Buffalo Chicken Wrap with Waffle Fries ($12.50). The wrap is large in size and the tortilla wrapper was soft and fresh. There is a lot of greens and hot sauce in the wrap, which I enjoyed but L would have preferred more chicken and less hot sauce.

buffalo

The Poutine ($14.00) was another winner. The skinny fries remained crisp despite its bath in gravy and curds. The curds were clean tasting and firm, a nice contrast to the saltiness of the gravy. Everyone at our table thought the poutine was worth ordering again.

poutine

I really enjoyed the Big Ass Wings ($12). Our server recommended the honey hot flavour. The wings were crispy and stood up to the sweet, spicy sauce. I prefer Pop’s honey hot sauce over Newcastle’s version.

wings

In future visits, I want to try Pop’s burgers, fish tacos, and the taco salad. FYI, Friday at Pop’s has all their bottles of wine for half price and pasta for $8.00.

Pop's Taphouse Calgary SW on Urbanspoon

Dragon Chinese Restaurant

wall

AC wanted GR and I to try the food at Dragon Chinese Restaurant. From the outside, the building is nothing to look. However, the interior of the restaurant is pretty cool. For example, the wall by the kitchen is glossy with textured blue and gold designs. The washroom isn’t the typical cold, utilitarian version you would expect to see in a Chinese restaurant. The tiling in the hallway leading to the washroom is elaborate and colourful.

donought

Dragon Chinese offers high quality dishes. Yes, the food is a few dollars more than my cheap and cheery lunch spots in Chinatown, but it is worth it. Take something as simple as the Chinese Dough in Rice Wrap ($6). We received two soy-based sauces plus a rich peanut dip. The doughnut was warm, airy and not in the least chewy. The rice wrapper was glossy and smooth.

rice

The Dragon Chinese Fried Rice ($15.95) contained a healthy amount of crunchy shrimp. The rice was yellow, and peppered with orange tobiko and bits of squid. This was my favourite dish.

squid

I ordered GR Salt and Pepper Squid ($9.99). The first order was too doughy. I could taste the wetness of the batter. AC asked the server if the cook could fry it for a bit longer. Instead, the chef made a fresh dish for us, and this version hit the spot. The batter was light and thin, crackling like fried skin on a chicken.

Fei Po gives Dragon Chinese Restaurant two fat thumbs up. The food is so good that both AC and I, world renowned cheapskates, are willing to cough up the extra cash.

Dragon Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Gohan Sushi Lounge – New Downtown Delight

To Groupon or not to Groupon? I’m hesitant to buy online deals. However, I saw some positive diner reviews on Urbanspoon for a new Japanese restaurant, Gohan Sushi Lounge. So when I saw a deal for Gohan on Groupon, I figured, why not?

First off, I want to give props to our server, Melissa. She was super sweet and did her job well. She also doesn’t annoy easily, as we could see from the high maintenance customers sitting next to us. The couple also had a Groupon. After Melissa brought them tea and a beer, the customer requested a water, with lemon but no ice. Two minutes later, the customer wanted a fork, which she used to flatten each piece of sushi before eating it. Three minutes later, she wanted a knife to cut into her maki rolls.

scallop

Back to the food. As it was Thursday, appetizers were half price. L and I decided to ordered a bunch of dishes to get a sense of what Gohan had to offer. L raved about the Motoyaki ($10). Both the scallop and shrimp were plump and well seared. Nestled between the seafood was a tangy seaweed salad doused in a creamy sauce.

Sushi pizza

I love deep fried food. L not so much. So I devoured most of the Sushi Pizza ($10). The rice patty was crispy on the outside like a hash brown. The rice inside the patty remained fluffy, each grain still held its integrity. The mixture of salmon, avocado, masago and mayonnaise was tangy and rich. The deep-fried carrot strands that garnished the top of the pizza was sweet.

scallophamaci

Our third appetizer was the Ahi Tuna and Scallop Carpaccio ($16.00). I thought the red tuna was fine and the avocado a tad unripe. However, the scallop was dynamite. Large, firm and sweet, the freshness of the scallop was unsurpassed.

ramen

L and I each ordered Tonkatsu Ramen ($15.00). The sea salt based pork was creamy and the flavour didn’t over power the more subtle ingredients, like the bamboo shoots, sprouts, fish cake and seaweed. The roasted pork slices were generous in size with a nice fat to lean meat ratio. I would have preferred if the ramen was a tad firmer, but that’s just my preference. The half slice of egg was phenomenal. The texture of the egg yolk was soft and melded so well with all the flavours of this dish. Next time, I’m going to ask if I can pay for an extra egg because it was that good.

Dynamite roll
We ordered the Dynamite Roll ($8.00) which was average in size, presentation and taste. Next time, I would opt for the Spider Roll ($15.00), which was double the size and looked like it was overflowing with deep-fried crab.

Overall, L and I really enjoyed the food. We plan to go again and try a few more dishes. Fried Oysters ($12.00), Seafood Yakiudon ($20.00), a sushi platter, and of course, more scallops. I made L buy a Groupon, so that we could try more items than we would normally order. Tee-hee. Fei Po gives Gohan Sushi Lounge two fat thumbs up. I hope the quality and service continues, so that Gohan becomes a regular stop for us (even without a coupon).
Gohan Sushi Lounge on Urbanspoon

U & Me – Lunchlicious

The last few times I’ve dined at U & Me I was impressed with the food. I think the key to a good meal here is to come when the restaurant is the busiest. I usually try to come for lunch before 11:45 am in order to avoid waiting for a table.

century old

I ordered one of my favourite dishes at U & Me, Mixed Meat Congee with Century Old Egg ($6.99). The congee itself is fluffy, studded generously with tasty morsels of pork and beef. Ginger, green onion, and century old egg quarter give the soup plenty of flavour. The yolk part of the egg is creamy and salty, whereas the outer part of the egg is chewy and looks and taste like jelly.

squid

I wasn’t expecting much for the Salt and Pepper Squid ($8.99) because the last time I went, it was too tough to eat. Mind you, it was 2:00am the morning, so perhaps that had something to do with it. The pieces of squid were on the small side and cut irregularly. However, despite how it looked, the squid was tender and the batter was crisp and melted on your tongue.

chow fun

The XO Beef Chow Fun with XO ($12.99) was a heaping platter of well sauced noodles. There was a generous amount of meat. The bean sprouts were still crisp, as were the grilled onions and green and red peppers. The spice in the sauce was hot enough to linger in our mouths.

AC pointed out that the owner was present and in the kitchen making all dishes. I’d like to know when he’s in, so that I can dine here more often. I can taste the difference between when he cooks and the other chefs. Fei Po gives U & Me two fat thumbs up (when the owner is cooking).

Vic’s Hong Kong Style BBQ and Meats

AC and I wanted congee, but Lucky Place was closed for a week. AC told me that Vic’s made congee. We bickered back and forth for a couple of blocks as I never recalled seeing congee on the menu. Turns out, he was right. One for AC, one billion for me. Not that I’m keeping track.

free broth

We enjoyed the complimentary soup, which is included in any lunch special. Unfortunately, I took a picture after we took all the goodies out of the soup.

chicken mushroom congee

AC ordered the Chinese Mushroom and Chicken Congee. The texture of the soup was more smooth and silky, rather than the thick and fluffy style at U & Me. I liked the big pieces of mushrooms and white pieces of chicken.

vic noodle shangai

AC and I shared an order of the Shanghai noodles. The noodles were saucy, tangled with carrots, baby corn, water chestnuts, onions and pieces of pork. Turns out the head chef was working, and man, I could tell by the way the food was prepared that he knows what’s he’s doing. Next time I bring my co-workers, I’ll make sure to order this dish again.

I also picked up some BBQ meats from Vic’s. This Easter, my in-laws requested that I make my famous duck fried rice. I usually go to Sun’s BBQ, but Vic’s is a more convenient location for me. Half a pound of chau siu, roasted pork and half a duck cost me about $30. Props to the BBQ master working behind the counter. He cut off the hard corners of the meat before weighing the pieces. He also took the care to cut the roasted pork skin separately after slicing through the meat, so that the crispy skin remain in even, unbroken pieces. It’s little details like this that you don’t see very often anymore.

Vic's Hong Kong Style BBQ & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Newcastle Pub – Weekly Specials

burgers

L doesn’t always like my taste in restaurants. Sometimes I have to compromise because the restaurant I picked is too far away, too frou-frou, or the wait time is too long. Thank goodness for Newcastle Pub. newcastle I like that Newcastle offers nightly specials. My favourite nights are Monday for burgers, Wednesday for wings, and Friday for fish and chips. This time around, we dropped by for 25 cent wings. My favourite of the evening was the Thai Chilli wings. These wings packed a nice combination of sweet and spicy. Despite the sticky sauce, the chicken remained crispy. Chili wings The garlic parmesean wings arrived with shaved cheese on top. The garlic was subtle. When I order an assortment of wings, I like to get a variety of wet (saucy) and dry (no sauce, only seasoning) wings. Next time I’ll order the salt and pepper wings, which I hear from my buddy GR are his favourite of the dry style. Garlic parmesean I accidentally ordered hot wings instead of medium hot. I pride myself on my spice tolerance, so I was surprised I could actually feel the heat. L normally can’t tolerate spice, but he devoured this batch. Turns out hot, not medium hot, is his favourite flavour. Hot wings L said we couldn’t just eat wings for dinner, and insisted on ordering fish tacos. Personally, I see nothing wrong with only consuming chicken skin, a little meat and beer for dinner. The fish was grilled, not deep fried. We both enjoyed the tacos, particularly the lightness of the grilled fish. tacos Newcastle Pub can get really busy on Fridays and Saturdays. However, in my dozen plus visits, service has always been pleasant and efficient. Fei Po gives Newcastle Pub two fat thumbs up.

Newcastle Pub on Urbanspoon

Regency Palace- Downtown Dim Sum

My buddy AC attends a lot of functions at Regency Palace. AC informed me that Regency Palace is one of the biggest restaurants in the city. The largest room holds 60 tables, so about 600 people.

AC and I dropped by for lunch. I took a peek at the buffet options and decided to opt for dim sum. Regency does it old school, servers drive their cart of delicacies around the room. Insert stereotypical joke about Asian drivers here (not).

sui gail

One of the best dishes I sampled was Sui Mui, a steamed pork and shrimp dumpling. The texture was spot on. The size of a golf ball, the dumpling was juicy and flavourful.
how gai
Unfortunately, I didn’t care for the How Gai, a shrimp ball steamed in a rice wrapper. The shrimp was half the size it should be and the wrapper was too big, gummy and tough.
prok
AC told me to eat this dish, but wouldn’t tell me what it was. We fought back and forth, and it went something like this.

Me: “What is this?”
AC: “It’s good, try it.”
Me: “But what is it?”
AC: “Just try it. Surprise. Fall of the bone. So good.”
Me: (Growing more and more frustrated) “Yeah, but what is it? I want to know what it is before I eat it.”

Finally, AC told me its pork knuckle/feet or some joint in a sauce with peanuts. It taste better than it looks, it was soft and rich in flavour. He told me to suck on all the bones so that there are only little pieces of cartridge left over. I avoided eating the skin, as the sticky texture grossed me out.
shrimp warappaer
I liked the shrimp bean curd. The thin wrapper encasing the shrimp paste mixture was crispy.
tripe
I tried tripe for the first time. AC said that tripe is ideal in soup with noodles. The texture was chewy, soft and slightly sticky. The flavour was subtle and I liked it more than I thought I would.
rice wrapper
The shrimp rice roll was tasty. The noodle itself wasn’t gummy, but smooth and silky. The shrimp was plump and crunchy.
fish cake

Last up was a pan fried fish and shrimp cake. The texture of the dough was a bit like a Korean pancake. I liked the crunch of the shrimp and the flavour of the chives. AC didn’t care for it, but I gobbled it up.
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Regency Palace is nice for a quick meal in the downtown core. If you are in a rush and don’t want to wait in line, Regency will do in a pinch.
Regency Palace on Urbanspoon

Watercress Express – Fei Po is a Fan

Ten bucks won’t buy you much in this city. Maybe one and a quarter pint of beer. Two thirds of a glass of wine? However, Watercress Express does offer some of the best value in Calgary. Thus, it is no coincidence that Watercress Express has become my weekly obsession.
beef bao
L and I stopped by on the weekend for lunch. We shared the Korean Kalbi Beef Chuck Bao ($10.75) and a Grilled Pork Spring Roll Vermicelli ($10.00).

The beef bao isn’t really meant for sharing, as its impossible to cut into two neat pieces. The bun is fried, so its crispy and oily like a freshly fried doughnut. The beef was saucy, smothered between kimchi, green apple, herbs, and aioli. The juices dripped from the sandwich onto the pile of fries. This is ectasy in a bun (not that I have tried the narcotic, I’m just using slang speech).
pork
The tender pork in the vermicelli bowl tasted like it was marinated before it was grilled because it was so flavourful. The noodles were bouncier than ordinary vermicelli noodles and denser. The bean sprouts, the strands of cucumber and basil tasted so fresh, like it was plucked right from the garden.

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I talk to the chef and asked if I could buy their kimchi, as its the best I’ve ever tasted. He told me that he would sell me a container, and it would last about a week in my fridge. Sold! I’ll pick some when I visit again, as I was leaving the next day for a week trip to my hometown.
Watercress Express on Urbanspoon

Lucky Place – Comfort Food

Except for Ho Won, Lucky Place is the only other old school restaurant in Chinatown that has not raised their prices. However, my buddy AC mentioned to me that Lucky closed for renovations. He predicts when they re-open, their prices will increase. AC is so value driven, he makes me look like Donald Trump. And you know, Fei Po ain’t no Trump.

AC ordered GR’s favourite dish – ho fun noodles with beef, Chinese greens and “gravy” ($9.99). AC prefers the sauce poured onto of the plain noodles instead of the standard pan fried style. Wow oh wow, I really dig the rich, smokey flavour in the sauce. The noodles are never mushy or sticky at Lucky Place, each noodle is separate and slippery.

beef how fun

AC always orders beef congee. The beef was tender and cut in nice bite size pieces. The congee was light, smooth and hot. I prefer the fish congee. The fish has a sublte flavour that just blends in with the rice.
congee

My new favourite dish is one that I originally didn’t want AC to order. I don’t know the name of the dish, but it’s pretty much vermicelli noodles with chicken, onions and green peppers. The gravy is clear, and taste sweet and sour. AC told me that sour taste was from the pickled vegetables. I like the addition of the crunchy peppers and black beans.

sour

I can’t wait for Lucky Place to reopen. Will a price increase of a dollar or so make me visit less frequently? Hell no. Prices already are the best in the city, ranging from $5.00 for congee to $9.95 for a lunch special.

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Lucky Place Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Hot Stone Rice Bowl Sushi & Roll

I’m surprised that I didn’t like Stone Rice Bowl Sushi and Roll as much other Urbanspoon bloggers. I’m not a fussy eater, but I am cheap. Perhaps I was just expecting more bang for my buck.
Rice Bowl Restaurant
The room is cute, full of coloured lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Service is polite and courteous. The menu was sticky.
salad
Based on other reviews, I ordered the Lion King Roll ($13.99). The roll looked promising, with its array of fish, sauce and sparkle of tobiko. However, the fried salmon inside the roll was mostly grey and fishy tasting.

cream cheese roll

The Chicken Teriyaki Bowl ($9.99) was tasty. The chicken was tender and the rice was perfect, with just the right amount chew to it. I found the lettuce added a freshness to the dish.

chicken bowl
The Scallop Pizza ($7.99) was decent. Each of the four pieces had two small pieces of scallop. The rice was deep-fried, which I found oily and gummy. The tobiko wasn’t the freshest.
scallop pizza

The food is fine for Calgary, and a convenient spot for those living in the hood. Hot Stone Rice Bowl is obviously a popular spot with other customers, as the place was packed late on a Saturday afternoon. Fei Po gives Hot Stone Rice Bowl gives one skinny thumb up.

Hot Stone Rice Bowl on Urbanspoon

Saltlik Saves the Day

I originally made reservations at Charcut for 9:00pm on a Saturday night. At 9:28pm, I was tired of waiting around by the door, so I asked if we could sit at the bar. If we were going to wait, we could at least have a drink. We sat at the bar only to realize it wouldn’t work, as my friend who was coming later has a hearing problem in one ear, meaning she wouldn’t be able to hear both of us sitting side by side with us at the bar. L and I took off and headed over to Saltlik.
drinks
It turned Saltlik was the better choice. The room is cozy yet sexy, outfitted with a fireplace and leather clad booths. The acoustics were better here too – there was a nice buzz of music and customers talking, but we could still have a quiet conversation. The wine selection and prices for all alcohol were more varied and less expensive than Charcut. Beers cost $6.00 and up, glasses of wine starting at $10.00 (and fresh glasses arrived with each new pour), and cocktails for $11.00. Saltlik also has a number of nice wines without a big mark up, with plenty under $60.00.
Cheese and meat platter
In terms of food, what we opted to munch on was delicious. The Meat and Cheese Platter ($17) was full of high quality goodies. The bread tasted homemade, chewy and soft despite being toasted, glistening with butter. Two cheeses, two meats, olives and candied pecans rounded out the platter.

squid

Our lovely server, Victoria, looked after us well despite also manning the bar. She suggested I try the Calamari ($15.00) with a side of the homemade aioli. The squid was tender and tasted like it was marinated beforehand. The batter was snow white, covered with cooked red onions, and thin strands of green and red peppers. If it was cooked just a minute or two longer, the batter and squid would have been perfect. However, being slightly underdone was not a biggie for me, it still tasted good.

bread pudding

L opted for Bread Pudding. I didn’t taste any of it, but the presentation was nice. L enjoyed it though he wished the texture was more like a traditional bread pudding, which I’m guessing means more bread-like. However, that’s just a personal preference.

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Fei Po gives Saltlick two fat thumbs up. I’m bringing my co-workers back for the ambience, cozy seating, and tasty appetizers. Oh, and of course, the great prices for alcoholic drinks is an incentive as well.

Saltlik on Urbanspoon

Delicious Country – Red Hot Chilli Fish Soup

AC introduced me to Delicious Country. Whenever the weather is cold, we feel like something spicy and soupy. Delicious Country specializes in northern dishes and serves a kick ass Chilli Fish Soup. You’ll find plenty of pickled vegetables, lamb, cumin, and noodle dishes, all made with plenty of heat to warm you up.
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We always ordered Fish in Chilli Pepper Soup ($19.99), bowls of steam rice, and at our last visit, Cumin Lamb ($18.99).

spicy fish
The soup arrives very hot, a pot of red hot liquid. The white fillet of fish is soft and moist, breaking easily when you pick it up with chopsticks. AC likes to pour a little of the soup on top of his rice. I prefer to take a small piece of the fish and eat it with a scoop of plain rice. Besides the fish, there are lots of other goodies in the soup. Pieces of ginger, wedges of cucumber, green onions and two types of bean sprouts.
lamb
The lamb was delicious. Thin slices of lamb were stir fried with onions, flavoured with cumin and caraway seeds. The taste of this dish made up for the portion size, which was big enough for an appetite more delicate than mine.

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Every time we’ve visited, there is only one server working, Cici. I admire how she can handle the entire room full of customers and still provide service with a smile. I wish I could do the same at work. Fei Po gives Delicious Country two fat thumbs up.

Delicious Country on Urbanspoon

Maharajah East Indian Restaurant

Every Sunday night, we head over to my sister-in-law’s house for potluck and Walking Dead. She told me that night previous, her boyfriend’s brother threw a hissy fit while on the phone with the owner of Maharajah over the wait time for delivery. I asked how the food was and she responded that everyone loved the food, even the hissy fit thrower.

The next day I called at 4:00pm to ask if they could deliver at 6:00pm. The woman on the phone responded that it wouldn’t be an issue, and delivery from Discovery Ridge to Killarney would cost $6.00.

Exactly at 6:00pm, our food arrive, steaming hot in the paper bag. Based on previous Urbanspoon and Yelp reviews, we ordered Butter Chicken ($13.95), Lamb Biryani ($14.95) and two pieces of plain naan ($3.95).
naan
The butter chicken consisted of big chunks of juicy white meat. The sauce was sweet, tangy with a strong taste of cilantro. The naan was soft and chewy. I would tear off a chunk of naan to wrap up pieces of the chicken.
butter chicken
I was surprised with the amount of lamb in the biryani. The rice was heavily seasoned with nice spicy notes. The yogurt helped diffuse the heat for my husband.
briyanni
We ate more than we should and still had leftovers for L’s lunch. The food is really tasty and the portions are generous. Next time I order delivery, I want to try the Lamb Korma, Goa Fish Curry and Paneer Makani. Fei Po gives Maharaha two fat thumbs up.

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Maharajah East Indian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Stone Bowl Korean Cuisine

Stone Bowl Korean Cuisine is located by the City Hall C-Train stop, next to Tim Horton’s. Having eaten in and ordered takeout from Stone Bowl, my advice for heartier appetites is to eat at the restaurant. The portions for take-out are noticeably smaller.
stonebowl
My favourite dish is the Chicken Rice Hot Stone Bowl ($10.95). The chicken is juicy and cut into bite sized pieces. Besides the rice, there is a nice variety of vegetables, such as cooked spinach, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms and crunchy beans. A runny egg tops this dish, which I mixed up with the rice so that it cooked in the bowl.
pankcake

The owner came over to give our table a complimentary Korean pancake ($4.75). Man – this dish is worth ordering again. The savoury pancake was thin, the crispy exterior almost delicate.
pork

My other co-workers ordered variations of the lunch special ($8.95), which included either beef, chicken or pork, a fried dumpling, rice, glass noodles and a salad. The salad is actually quite refreshing – the dressing tasted a bit like thousand island mayonnaise. If you have a lighter appetite, I would order the special.

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Fei Po gives Korean Stone Bowl two fat thumbs up. The chefs cook with care and it shows in the flavour of the food. If they put a bit more in the take-out portions, Fei Po would roll herself over there for lunch more frequently.
Stone Bowl Korean Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Vic’s – HK Style Food in Chinatown

AC knows the owner of Vic’s, so we go when we crave HK style Chinese food. Though the restaurant is busy at lunch, you can usually get a table because the staff turns over the tables quickly. Located on the second floor, booth seats offer a view of the bustling streets of Chinatown. I like to watch the people walking by, in case I recognize anyone I know from work.soup Service at Vic’s is efficient and friendly, accommodating to AC’s many questions and revisions. Lunch specials ($10.50) include a soup and tea or coffee. The soup I favour is a simple broth with watercress, beef and carrots. Vic’s version reminds me of the medicinal soups my grandmother use to prepare for me. beef flank turnip AC ordered beef flank with turnip on rice. The beef was tender while the turnip texture was soft and juicy. The rice was a health portion for one, fluffy and hot. noodle My favourite dish was an AC special order – ho fan noodles with shrimp, egg and peas. The noodles were slippery in sauce, the peas gave it a nice little pop of freshness. Though the shrimp was small in sauce, it made up in quantity. feipo-leafbg Fei Po gives Vic’s two medium size thumbs up. Service is attentive and efficient. The food is consistent and always served hot.

Vic's Hong Kong Style BBQ & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Alpine Sausage – Meat Market

One of my favourite place to shop is Alpine Sausage, located in the Glamorgan Shopping Centre. Personally, I think Alpine makes the best maple bacon, chicken chorizo sausages, and turkey burgers.

ham hock

Recently, I found several other great items, such as the smoked turkey legs for my split pea soup ($10.00) and ham hock ($10.00). The last time I dropped by, the owner put up the drumsticks on special for only $5.00 because he wanted to clear his freezer. There is so much meat on these babies. The flavour of the turkey is so intense that I don’t need chicken broth and barely any salt for seasoning in my soup. smoker

The owner of Alpine, Norm, proudly informed me he just bought a new smoker. He even showed me his smoker and gave me a sample of some turkey bacon he was drying.

specialcut

Sometimes Norm has prime cuts and he gives me a smoking deal on just because he’s feeling nice. Once I got a beautiful piece of bison for only $15.00. More recently, he gave me a fantastic cut of prime beef for only $20.00. I never expect to get a discount, but when I’m offered, I’m too thrifty to refuse. It’s the Chinese in me.

beef
L took Norm’s prime beef and seasoned it with spices then slow cooked it on his BBQ. The result? Tender, succulent pieces of beef.

beef

My advice? Go and check out this incredible deli shop for quality meat. Even without the occasional sale, the prices are way better than Safeway and the quality is far superior. Fei Poi gives Alpine Sausage two fat thumbs up.
Alpine Sausage on Urbanspoon

Il Sogno – Tinhorn Creek Wine Dinner

I love Tinhorn Creek Winery. I use to drag my husband there every year, until he confessed that driving me around while I tasted wines was not his idea of a fun vacation. We haven’t been back since. So when I heard Il Sogno was hosting a wine and food pairing with Tinhorn Creek, I told my buddy GR that it was on like donkey kong.
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I’ve never been to Il Sogno before, but some of the 50 plus diners I met that night were frequent fliers. Sitting at our table was the new wine maker of Tinhorn Creek, Andrew Windsor, who between meals, would discuss the wines we were drinking. Overseeing the entire event was GM Heather Wigmore, formerly of Muse Restaurant.

The long time customer sitting to my right, Dr. Quinn, raved about the pasta maker of Il Sogno, Assunta, as well as the executive chef, Brian Diamond. She praised the portion sizes in the set menus and appreciated the little extras given to her throughout the meal in past dinners. Another treat for me – I found myself a new family doctor in Calgary.

The first taste teaser to arrive at our table was a salmon crudo with lemon and fennel. The woman sitting in front of GR, Jackie-O, mentioned she really liked the fresh and crunchy blend of fresh lemon and sea salt. GR said the salmon crude reminded him of Vancouver.

The next bite was a soft beef meatball with lentils and tomato braise. To wash it all done, we sipped on Tinhorn Creek Gewürztraminer 2013, which Andrew described as having mineral notes with lycée, a dry style that was both refreshing and sweet.
octo
A big winner at our table was the antipasto octopus salad with radicchio, potato, lemon emulsion, and parsley vinaigrette, paired with Tinhorn Creek Pino Gris 2013. I have never tasted octopus like this before. The texture was perfect, not chewy, while GR thought it tasted a bit like raw tuna. Andrew noted the wine was an aromatic fruit friendly, creamy wine. Jackie-O pointed out the presentation was like a work of art, and this one one of the reasons why she loved Il Sogno. The restaurant  prides itself with both the taste of the food and aesthetics.
pasta
My favourite dish and wine of the evening was the Pasta Cavatelli Bolognese with Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc 2012. Andrew informed us that this wine was aged 12 months, lucious with bright red fruit and spice. He added that it’s one of the wineries best selling wines. I liked it so much that I ordered 12 bottles that night.
shortrib
The next course was a beef short rib with soft polenta, butternut squash, and broccolini. Andrew paired the beef with the Oldfield Series 2Bench Red 2011, an acidic, ripe but balanced blend that was barrel aged for at least one and a half years. The beef was tender, like pulled pork, in a mellow tomato sauce.
dessert
For dessert, we were served a lemon tart with blueberry sorbet, poppy seed creme anglaise, and almond streusel with Oldfield Series Kerner Icewine 2013. I gave GR my dessert while I conned the server into giving me another glass of Cabernet Franc. Andrew noted that the ice wine we were tasting was the last crop from the winery’s oldest vineyard.
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GR and I were impressed with the overall experience. I’m keen to try another wine and food pairing event. I also plan to bring L over to sample the pasta dishes. Fei Po gives Il Sogno two fat thumbs up.

Il Sogno on Urbanspoon

Chong Fat – Fei Po Strikes Again

My two amigos, AC and RG, wanted to go out for lunch. I told AC that I wanted to eat somewhere not “yeet hay” (oily or deep fried food). AC snickered at me, because he thinks it’s funny when I occasionally break out in Cantonese.

AC took a roundabout way to Chong Fat, one of my favourite places for Chinese food. I like that the dishes are tasty without the addition of heavy sauces or a deep-fryer.

curry

AC ordered chicken curry ($9.99) which came with a plate of rice and boiled lettuce, dressed in oyster sauce. I liked the spices in the chicken curry, and the soft mellow potatoes. The chicken was all white meat and juicy. AC informed me that the chicken is first steamed, then sliced before added to the curry.

I munched on most of the boiled lettuce, which sounds weird but actually is delicious in a simple way. The lettuce still retains a crunchiness.

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The soy sauce duck with mein was my favourite dish ($9.25). Oh my. Cut into thin slices, the duck was lean, flavourful, and succulent. AC knows the owner, who added squid to the dish just for him. The wonton mein noodles were still firm and not soggy even after sitting in the broth for half an hour, which I find happens to often to this type of noodles. I like the squid, which had a nice bounce to it. AC told me that the people who own Chong Fat open the restaurant because they enjoy food and cooking so much.

beef

GR favourite dish was beef ho fun. AC orders the sauce on top of the noodles rather than stir fry, which means it makes for a healthier and wetter dish. The beef was cut in big pieces, tenderized and super soft.  The beans were fresh and had a pleasant crunch to it. We all fought over the noodles with our chopsticks.

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Ah, Chong Fat. I love you so much. Fei Po gives Chong Fat two fat thumbs up.

Chong Fat on Urbanspoon

Buon Giorno – Bday Dinner

My buddy GR and I have similar taste when it comes to food and wine. He told me that Buon Giorno is one of his favourite restaurants and it’s not as expensive as the other Italian heavy weight in Calgary, Mercato. He assured me that every dish was good, from the soup, scampi, veal to the pasta. I was sold. For my bday dinner, I booked a table for two at Buon Giorno.

The decor is a blast from the past. Each table was outfitted with green tablecloths, green napkins and a single long stem rose. It reminded me of the first restaurant my father took me when I was about five years old. I still remember that night. My mother kept requesting one song for the piano man to sing “That’s Amore“, and my sister didn’t receive a rose at the end of the night like all the other female customers because the owner mistook her for a boy. Ah, that was a good night.

rose

I asked our server for a recommendation for red wine by the glass. I assume he picked the house wine because it was only $8.00. Shortly after we received our wine, we were provided with two warm bread rolls with cold pats of butter.

scampi

For an appetizer, L and I shared an order of the Scampi Al Burro ($16.95). I could smell the garlic the moment the dish was placed in front of me. I’m a big cheapskate, so I thought the price tag for the four pieces was a little pricey. Next time, I’ll try the soup or the calamari.

L and I ordered the Pasta Feast for two ($38.95), which allows you to to pick three of any of the pasta dishes on the menu. We ordered Tortellini Buon Gustaio, Fettuccine Con Capesante and the Seafood Lasagne. However, when we received our platter, the seafood lasagna was replaced with the Linguine Pescatore. Not a big deal, as the Linguine Pescatore turned out to be L’s favourite dish of the night.

pasta

I really enjoyed the tortellini. The veal filling was delicious, smothered in a rich cream sauce and fresh sauteed spinach. The fettuccine was also a winner. The rose sauce was a nice balance of tart tomatoes and cream, and there was a ton of bullet size scallops. The linguine was tossed in a simple tomato sauce, and heavy on the seafood, tender calamari rings, mussels, and shrimp.

The food was so good that despite being full, I polished off the entire platter. Our server exclaimed that we did well, as no one usually can finish the platter. I announced that this was some of the best pasta I have ever consumed. He replied, “I can see that, as I told you, not many people can finish the pasta platter.”

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Fei Po gives Buon Giorno two fat thumbs up. It’s not fancy fare, but the food is comforting, filling and frigging delicious. For two glasses of wine, the pasta platter, and an appy, the total without tip was $75.00.

Buon Giorno on Urbanspoon

Great Taste Chinese Restaurant- Bday Lunch

My colleague MD wanted to take me out for lunch for my birthday. Normally, we got to Charcut because we can in get in and out within 45 minutes. However, MD was so unimpressed with the service we received the last time, she wanted to go elsewhere.

The two servers looking after all the customers at Great Taste were pleasant and attentive. The restaurant was quiet on a Monday, and relaxing for a Chinese restaurant. Unlike Calgary Court, I didn’t need to worry about being mowed over by a server hell bent on being efficient, which incidentally, I appreciate.
tea

Based on Yelp reviews, I wanted to try three items: Lamb Cumin Ribs ($15.99); Fish Mah Soup with Crab ($14.99); and Tea Smoked Duck ($15.99). As MD has a light appetite, I ordered a medium bowl of the Fish Mah Soup with Crab and the Tea Smoked Duck. We sipped on tea that was at least a couple grades higher than nearby restaurants, U & Me and Ho Won.

fish maw soup

The first to arrive was the soup. Oh my – the soup smelled so good. I thought I could detect garlic. The soup was served hot. The flavours were delicate, with hits of sweet, fluffy pieces of crab.

tea duck
After a leisurely pause, we received our tea smoked duck. The skin was crispy but the meat was juicy and meaty. I really enjoyed dipping the duck in the side dish of salt as it really enhanced the flavour of the duck. The dish included four soft white buns, which we stuffed full of duck meat before consuming.

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Two dishes was more enough food for us. In fact, MD had leftovers for dinner. MD and I can’t wait to return to try the hot and sour soup and lamb cumin ribs. Fai Po gives Great Taste two fat thumbs up.

Great Taste Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Watercress Express – Fei Po Approved

My long time buddy GB and his wife, AB took L and I out for my bday lunch. As AB is preggers, I thought it would be best to avoid my favourite Sunday watering holes. The consensus from my ever growing group of pregnant friends is that being around other people who drink is not so fun. I opted for Watercress Express because John Manzo raved so much about it on Urbanspoon and no alcohol is served. My posse and I were all impressed with the food. In fact, I plan on bringing my meat hating friend Jaime to Watercress, as I know she’ll like the creative vegetarian offerings.

Watercress Express is set up like a fast food joint as you order and pay at the till. However, the food and plating would surpass any Vietnamese restaurant I’ve been to in Calgary. GB went crazy and ordered a bunch of appies. L tried to pay for the bill, but GB insisted on picking up the tab. I felt bad, as GB is finishing his PhD and expecting a baby. To ease my guilty conscience, I made it up a week later with two awesome bottles of vino and dinner at my house. salad roll To start, I ordered the Poached Shrimp Salad Roll ($6.00). I received a salad roll cut up in eight bite size pieces. I loved the sauce, which was a mix of hoisin, peanut butter, and hot sauce. The combination of the fresh herbs, the flavorful grilled shrimp and the salty, creamy and spicy dipping sauce wowed my taste buds. wonton GB shared his order of Crispy Char Siu Wontons ($5.50) with the table. The sous vide char siu pork shoulder with served with a ginger scallion sauce. The crunchy shell was a good contrast to the soft, meat filling. Char siu looks unnaturally red and taste sweet, salty and a bit like charred BBQ. Growing up, my grandfather would buy my siblings and I a piece of char sui to nibble on while we shopped in Chinatown. I enjoy it much more now than I did as a kid. spring roll AB shared her order of Pork Spring rolls ($5.50). The creamy filling was all meat, served piping hot. The spring rolls are small in size, so if you are sharing, order at least two appetizers.
sate
I opted for the Sate Pho ($9.75), which contained a generous portion of beef, anito seed oil, rice noodles, bean sprouts, and herbs. Oh my – there are few places in Calgary that can rival Watercress’ version. The noodles were al dente, which I prefer as I hate overcooked noodles. I really appreciated the richness of the beef broth. rice L ordered the Chicken and Shrimp Fried Rice ($11.00). I can honestly say this is the best version of fried rice I have ever tried. The flavours of the tobkio, corn, and scallion added a lightness to the dish. The chicken consisted of tender white pieces of chicken and the shrimp was perfectly cooked. My buddy AC would adore the smokey wok flavours of this rice. desert L raved about the complimentary dessert – a freshly fried shell with vanilla ice-cream and crushed peanuts. As I ate most of his fried rice, I let him have my dessert. feipo-leafbg The next time I visit, I want to try the Tamarind Beef Roll ($7.75), Nuoc Cham Braised Pork Check Bao ($10.75), Kimchi Rice ($11.00) and the Lemon Grass Vermicelli ($10.00). Fei Po gives Watercress Express two fat thumbs up. Watercress Express on Urbanspoon

Calgary Court – $10.99 Lunch Specials

My buddy AC is a funny guy. He only eats at Chinese restaurants that are visibly busy because he believes that’s a sure sign the food is fresh. He has this stubborn habit of ordering food for the entire table in Cantonese, but not telling us non Chinese speakers what he ordered until it arrives. AC also takes different routes each time we walk to Chinatown, because he says it feels like its a new journey. I like his quirks plus he has a knack for ordering the best dishes.

This day, he felt like eating Calgary Court. At lunch, Calgary Court is bustling restaurant. We arrived at 12:30pm and scored the only table left. The table was right by the kitchen, so every single server would brush/bump past me on their way into the kitchen. AC mentioned to me that it wouldn’t bother him. I waited for him to offer to change seats with me, but when that didn’t happen, I just resigned to my spot.

AC ordered two dishes from the lunch special menu: BBQ Pork and Egg Foo Yung on Rice ($10.99) and Szechuan Spicy Beef on Rice ($10.99). Tea and soup is included in the special. AC chose the Chinese broth, a soup my grandmother always made from meat bones and medicinal ingredients.

soup

The broth was much more richly flavoured than my grandmother’s version, filled with almond slivers, greens, soft carrots and bits of soft, tender chunks of beef.
egg

The eggs in the Egg Foo Young was silky soft and wet. I wish there was more BBQ pork. What was there was cut in tiny little pieces, so I couldn’t really taste it. However, the egg mixture was flavourful.

beef
The portion of meat in the Szechuan Spicy Beef was also a tad scanty. However, just like the other dish, the flavour was there. I liked the heat and spices and the addition of crunchy onions. The rice at Calgary Court is on the dry side, which I prefer. AC disagrees with me, as he prefers a wetter, moister rice.

In summary, portions for the lunch special aren’t big but still filling. The food is darn tasty, despite the absence of a whole lot of meat. The restaurant is chaotic and super busy, but the servers are friendly enough and efficient. Fei Po gives Calgary Court one fat thumb up.

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Calgary Court Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Ho Won – Fei Po’s Favourite

My buddy AC introduced me to Ho Won. Since then, I’ve been back at least three times. One warning – this restaurant gets busy and there are only a few servers, so be patient. I usually make eyes at our server the moment we sit down. The moment s/he arrives at my table, I pounce with my order.

The last time I was there, there was a loud mouth, obnoxious jerk at the adjacent table, giving the server a hard time. He wanted egg rolls, but the female server told him it was only available at dinner. He aggressively argued with her until she relented and asked the cook for an exception.

I noticed several dishes that customers always order at Ho Won: Salt and Pepper Squid ($12.99); Ginger Beef ($11.99); and Pork Dumplings ($6.00). My favourite dish is the salt and pepper squid. The squid is thick and toothsome, almost tubular in shape. The batter is so light, it breaks and melts on your tongue.
squid
I’m not a ginger beef girl, but I acknowledge Ho Won makes one of the best and cheapest versions in the city. The beef pieces aren’t skinny or tough, rather, each piece is tender and meaty. Again, I’m a fan of the batter, airy and so crispy despite the sugary coating.
ginger beef

I’m a huge fan of Ho Won’s Singapore noodles ($8.99). The chef isn’t afraid to turn up the heat with this dish. The noodles are covered in a rich, wet curry coating. Along with the noodles, there is a generous mixture of crunchy green peppers, green onions, white onions, and egg. The portion is generous for the price, much like all the other dishes.
singapore

I hope Ho Won sticks around for many more generations. The food is cheap, filling and delicious. Fei Po gives Ho Won two fat thumbs up.

feipo-leafbg

Ho Won on Urbanspoon

Chong Fat – Oodles of Noodles

I met Jaime recently at our favourite boutique, Eye on Design, in Inglewood. We were suppose to head over to Market or a new restaurant after shopping, but with the snow flurry in effect and an uncharacteristically carefree shopping splurge on my part, I opted for cheap eats in Chinatown.

AC first introduced me to Chong Fat. I tried to look what what chong fat translates into in English, without much luck. If I ever opened up a Chinese restaurant, I would call it Fei Po (fat girl), my nickname growing up. I’m unsure if that would fly or just attract emotional eaters.

I like to think of Chong Fat as a Chinese version of Tom’s Restaurant from the television show, Seinfield. The restaurant is basic, clean and old school, in an 80s sort of way. I like the service, the staff is friendly and they don’t rush you out after eating. In fact, Jaime and I sat for a long time after our meal, sipping on numerous refills of free tea.

plainsoup

Without AC to translate, it was harder to request a vegetarian bowl of noodles. The best we could do is to ask for no meat. So Jaime received a plain bowl of ho fun with a sprinkle of cilantro. She followed up with another order of gai lan, which was brought out simply steamed, stacked, drizzled with a soy sauce and deep fried garlic.

gailan

I ordered a large bowl of four meats ho fun soup without cilantro ($8.99). It’s actually not four meats, but four different types of meat and seafood balls. My favourite pair of balls was the beef version, the meat tasted fresh, juicy and flavourful. The shrimp balls was also very good, the texture had a nice bounce to it. The noodles were hand cut, I could tell because the shape was irregular. I love ho fun noodles, it doesn’t have a lot of flavour, but I enjoy the slippery smoothness and how easy it goes down my throat. For some heat, I throw in some spoonfuls of chili oil from the side set of condiments on the table.
fourmeat

I also noticed Chong Fat's version of beef chow fun and Singapore noodles looked well made and generous in size for under ten bucks. Not open on Tuesday or evenings. Cash only.

Chong Fat on Urbanspoon

Nikos Pizza – Skip the Dishes

I was contacted by a new restaurant delivery service, Skip the Dishes, to try their service. I was given a $20.00 credit and told to pick whichever restaurant piqued my fancy.

Scrolling through Skip the Dishes’ vendors, I noticed I have a greater variety of restaurants to choose than if I tried to order directly from a restaurant. I wavered back and forth between Nikos, Thai Bistro, and Eats of Asia. I ended up with Nikos because I’m a cheap ass and Nikos waived the delivery charge if you ordered more than $30.00 worth of food.

Ordering online was super easy. There is even an option for the exact time you want the food to arrive. My order arrived right on time. The pizza was piping hot. I had a feeling that it came straight from the restaurant to my door.

cheese

I ordered a small, plain cheese pizza ($15.00) and a small, pepperoni, mushroom and green pepper pizza ($17.00). L and I really liked the sauce, which was zesty and tasted homemade. The cheese was chewy (in a good way), and baked to a golden brown. The crust was neither too thick or thin, rather, it was a nice balance between the two extremes.

I enjoyed the simplicity of the cheese pizza. When eaten cold the next day, the pepperoni, mushroom and green pepper pizza tasted even better the next day. The peppers were still juicy and crunchy.

meat pizza

There are quite a few restaurants through Skip the Dishes that will deliver in my hood. Delivery charges range from free (Nikos) to $9.00, no minimum order to varying minimum orders. Not being mobile and living in a city where winter never seems to end makes Skip the Dishes a handy, dandy service.

Nikos Pizza on Urbanspoon

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