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Auntie’s Chinese Burger

I love eating out with my Chinese speaking friends. Being fluent in the language makes such a difference when it comes to ordering the right food. I wish I tried harder in Chinese school. Unfortunately, I don’t have an ear for catching the different tones and enunciation. The penalty? A lifetime dependency on Office Daddy and every other Cantonese or Mandarin speaker.

Office Daddy and I always walk past Auntie’s Chinese Burger on our way to Chong Fat, Ho Won and Great Taste. We were curious but it wasn’t until I saw a customer digging into a big bowl of homemade noodles that my interest was piqued. Office Daddy agreed that the noodles looked good and finally relented.

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One thing you need to know about the food at Auntie’s Chinese Burger is meat is secondary to the noodles. The meat in the noodle dishes is used to compliment the dish. Office Daddy had a little difficulty adjusting, as he prefers to eat mostly meat and tries to avoid carbs.

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We ordered the Handmade Noodles with Lamb with Soup ($11.99), and the Spicy Minced Pork Handmade Noodles ($12.99). Food is made upon request, so it took about ten minutes for our food to arrive.

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If you like heat, I would highly recommend ordering the dishes medium to hot. I loved the use of chili oil in the spicy minced pork noodles. The noodles were toothsome and hearty.

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The soup noodles were similiar to the dry noodles, but were chopped up in smaller pieces. However, the broth was not served hot enough for Office Daddy. He would have preferred if both dishes were served at a warmer temperature.

Our meal was a little more than we pay when we eat at Lucky Place and Chong Fat, but it was a treat to eat handmade noodles. Sharing these two dishes left us stuffed for the afternoon. Jaime wants to try Auntie’s Chinese Burger on Chinese New Year. I’m game, and I’m looking forward to upping the spice level in my next bowl of noodles.

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Auntie's Chinese Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Aida’s Mediterranean Bistro

For my birthday, Jaime took me out for dinner. After our usual pilgrimage to Espy and then to the new Gravity Pope store, we strolled along Mission looking for eats. My first pick was Carino Riserva, but at 7:00pm on a Saturday, the place was packed. Every single seat was occupied. The gracious server there told me there would be seats opening in 2o minutes. However, I was hungry and wanted something to eat NOW.

Lucky for us, some customers just left Aida’s Mediterranean Bistro. I felt bad for the two servers manning the restaurant. They were running their feet off, trying to accommodate the entire room. Our server, despite the chaos, was patient as we hemmed and hawed over the wine list. She kindly let us sample her favourite white wine before we decided to ordered half a litre of it.

Jaime peppered our server with a few questions about the mezza platters. We decided on the Vegetarian Mezza ($35). This was a feast. We received endless pita and a large array of food.

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Of the three dips we tried: hummus, baba, and mouhammara, the mouhammara was my favourite. Most likely because it’s the most decadent tasting, made with red pepper paste, walnuts and pomegranate juice dip. I liked it because it was sweet and nutty and the sticky texture was delicious with pita. The baba – broiled eggplant and tahini, came in a close second.

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The fatayer – pita pastry filled with spinach was simple and easily dolled up with the side of yogurt and mint dip. The rookaak was heaven in my mouth. A cigar shaped phyllo stuffed with a piping hot blend of cheese and olives. The grape leaves were well done as well. The leaves weren’t rubbery and the filling was a tasty blend of perfectly cooked rice, tomatoes and onions. The fattoush salad was fresh and bright with lots of romaine, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a ton of radishes.

The food at Aida’s was even better than I last remembered it. The food is refreshing and plentiful, a good value in the Mission district. Thank you Jaime, for taking me out for my belated birthday dinner.

Aida's Mediterranean Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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The Himalayan – Going away dinner

The Yen had to head back to Vancouver. For her last supper in Cowtown, I wanted something close to my house, and something hot and filling to warm us from the cold weather. The Himalayan fit the bill.

Based on our server’s recommendation, we ordered the Kathmadnu Vegetables ($14) Himalayan Eggplant ($14.50), Mango Fruity Shrimp ($16.50), and the Butter Chicken ($16.50). Our server said two dishes would do, but I wanted to take the leftovers for my husband, who was again, working late.

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I’m surprised to say I enjoyed the vegetarian dishes the most. Did you hear that Jaime? In particular, I was impressed with the kathmadnu vegetables, a mix of chickpeas, cauliflower and potatoes in a tomato and onion based sauce. The vegetables were still firm and retained its own texture.

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I love eggplant, and Himalayan’s version – grilled stir fried eggplant with onions, tomatoes, and green peppers was delicious. The soy sauce and Neapli spices was a nice alternative to the Chinese version I often eat. I liked the crunchiness of the onions and peppers as well.

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I wanted to try the Mango Fruity Shrimp because John Gilchrist recommended it. I found the creamy mango tomato sauce too sweet for my taste. The shrimp was cooked well – still crunchy and a decent size.

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I tried a little of the butter chicken. The chicken tasted like it was cubed chicken breasts. The sauce was creamy with a hint of ginger and tomato. I couldn’t order the dishes with more spice, as both The Yen and L can’t take the heat.

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With the sides of rice, fresh naan and complimentary papadum, The Yen and I were blissfully stuffed and L had enough for dinner as well. He raved about the butter chicken when he came home.

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I always like the service and the food at the Himalayan. Servers are attentive and kind, always around to make sure our waters were topped up and we were comfortable. I should eat here more often than I do, but I’ll blame the difficulty of getting a last minute reservation at the Himalayan.

One more week and I’m back in Vancouver visiting family and friends. I got my eye on Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill & Enoteca and Acorn and my usual, Miku, Guu and Kingyo. I don’t normally blog in my hometown because I like to catch up with my friends rather than take notes, but I think I’ll make the exception for Cioppino’s, Jaime’s favourite restaurant.

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The Himalayan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato,

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Briggs Kitchen & Bar- Sharing is caring

I was contacted by a PR person from Briggs. This person thanked me for my reviews, complimented my humour and invited me to give them another shot, as I said in my previous post that the calamari wasn’t as good as it was the first time I tried it. Well… with me, flattery will get you everywhere.

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Dr. J and her husband L Junior met us for dinner. We started with a bottle of red wine, Troublemaker ($55), and the boys drank cans of Bottle Rocket (Phillips). Our server Andrew promoted a shared concept menu, to which we agreed to try.

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The first shared dish were the Smoked Brisket Sliders ($4 each). Dr. J loved the soft squishy buns. She thought the buns tasted like brioche.The tender meat was covered in a zingy bbq sauce and apple slaw.

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Dr. J’s favourite dish of the night was the Aged Cheddar Fondue Dip ($13). She’s a cheesy sort of person, so it makes sense she liked this dip. The dip was smokey and tasted like there was a bit of truffle oil in it. Dr. J said if it wasn’t so hot, she would drink it.

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Next up was the Crispy Humboldt Calamari ($13). This was served differently than the first two times I tried it. The calamari was cut into smaller pieces. The squid itself was tender. The lemon fennel slaw was a nice compliment to the squid. The tomato aioli was liberally drizzled all over the squid.

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I really liked the Wild Mushroom Ravioli ($17). The ravioli was nicely stuffed with smoked mushrooms, served with caramelized onions and covered in poblano butter.

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I loved the Not Those Brussels Sprouts ($10). The brussels sprouts (BS) were thinly shaved, mixed with bacon and honey. Oh my, magnificent. One of the best versions of BS in the city. Dr. J said it rivals Bo-Beau’s version in San Diego.

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We enjoyed a plate of Seared Broccoli. The broccoli was still crunchy, covered in a heavy cheese sauce.

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The Lemon Chicken Breast ($21) was one of my favourite dishes. I wouldn’t normally order lemon chicken at a restaurant, so I’m glad I tried this. This dish is worth ordering again. The lemon chicken is cooked, sous vide. The flavour of the lemon was subtle and the chicken breast was so tender.  The Asian fried noodles and bok choy were delicious.

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Another winner was the 8” Beef Short Rib ($26) with hash brown, crispy onion, and red wine jus. I couldn’t believe how tender and rich the meat tasted.

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When the bill came, our server asked us how much we thought the food was worth. It worked out to $31 dollars a person, a steal for sure. If you haven’t gone, do go and try the sharing concept. For dinner, this is one of the best deals in the city.

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Briggs Kitchen and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Full Circle – Fun for the entire family!

 

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It was one of those days again. I came home and really wanted to go out. My in-laws Bobbino and Momma G told me to pick a restaurant. I knew where I wanted to go. Again. Full Circle Pizza and Oyster Bar!

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Just a week prior, L and I were at Full Circle eating the Pea Ti Pi ($18). L was hesitant to eat a pizza with peas, but our favourite server Steven told us the flavours worked. The peas and pea puree gave the pie a sweet pop to it. The ham had just the right amount of saltiness to it, satisfying the carnivore in my husband. The gorgonzola cheese gave it creamy kick that it needed.

 

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We also ordered Mussels ($16) with the Triple-Cooked Fries ($7) and a few oysters for myself ($3 each). The mussels were cooked perfectly and the spicy fennel tomato broth was so good, I didn’t use the chorizo aioli for my fries. The Shugi oysters were well-priced at $3.00. The only thing I personally didn’t care for was the smoked flavour of the bread that came with the mussels.

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This time around, my family and I arrived on a Monday, which happen to be oyster night. Bobbino and I devoured two dozen oysters ($24), both east and west coast varieties. I wasn’t expecting the oysters to be so good for only a buck. Most buck an oyster places in Calgary taste like a quarter. Not here. I found out from the owner that they use the regular oysters and don’t make any money off the special. Bobbino and I made good use of the assortment of condiments, including a grapefruit and miso-based jelly.

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To ensure Momma G that would please her Saskatchewan stomach, I ordered the Beet Salad ($8), Roasted Brussel Sprouts ($10), Fried Fior Di Latte ($11), and the 3.14 Day Beef Pi ($19).

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The 3.14 pizza was enjoyed by all. The braised beef was juicy and the mushroom morsels were meaty, not the button variety. The crust was cracker thin and bendy, so I could fold the slice over and eat it like a sandwich.

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The beet salad was refreshing and well-priced. The goat cheese and slices of orange and grapefruit went well with the sweetness of the different coloured beets. I would order this again and I don’t like vegetables. However, my Chinese horoscope for 2016 says I better or else.

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L requested the fried cheese again. Just like the last time we ordered it, the cheese was subtle and soft, contrasting with the strips of crispy bacon and crunchy, well-seasoned coating. We will likely order this again in our next visit.

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Momma G raved about the brussel sprouts. Flavourful, not overcooked and made better with bacon. The crowing glory for Momma G was speaking to one of the owners, a prairie girl herself. My in-laws quizzed her on possible people they would know and indeed, they know someone who knows her mother. Small world.

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Honestly, it’s not often the four of us can go out and get exactly what we want. Bobbino was shocked that the bill was only $110 for all those oysters, a few alcoholic drinks, coffee, appetizers and a pizza. He was expecting the bill to be closer to $170. Bobbino says the bill was cheaper than when we go to Newcastle for fish and chips, and he feels better after eating at Full Circle because he doesn’t feel stuffed or bloated.

Though Bobbino and Mama G raved about Full Circle, I think L is the biggest fan. He complains that some of the restaurants I take him are pretentious and under deliver food-wise. Well, no fear of that here.

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Full Circle Pizza and Oyster Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Mercato -29th (wink ;-) Birthday Dinner

I’ve been wanting to try Mercato for years. I was hesitant to book a table because everyone I knew kept telling me that Mercato was very pricey. I’m usually leery of expensive restaurants because with higher prices come greater and perhaps (my) unrealistic expectations. After consulting with my ex-neighbour, a wine distributer and overall man with excellent taste, I decided to book my birthday dinner at Mercato. I went with my childhood bestie, The Yen, as my husband had to work late that night.

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Our server that night was Mike. A long time professional server at Mercato, he impressed us with his recommendations of wine and his thoughtful suggestions for food. Throughout the night, we sipped on lovely glasses of white, then red and then tasted some dessert wines. I wish I wrote down the names of the glasses we tried but I couldn’t catch the pronunciation of the wines we sampled. If we were at a pub, I would do what I normally do, point at the menu and say, “That one?”.

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We ordered the Caprese Salad ($23), Gnocchi ($17), and Bistecca ($49). The portions were big enough that we took home some of the steak and gnocchi for my husband. Of the bunch, my favourite dish was the gnocchi.

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The caprese salad was worth the price. I really enjoyed the mixture of toasted pine nuts, various tomatoes, and the smokiness of the eggplant. The fresh buffalo mozzarella and olive oil was killer. The temperature of all the ingredients was perfect. Cool but not too chilled.

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The 20-ounce steak was cooked to a medium rare. The meat was juicy and tender. I did find the steak to be a fatty cut. The Yen and I liked the addition of citrus we got from squeezing the grilled lemons all over the steak and arugula. We didn’t find the steak or any of the other dishes over-salted like other reviewers on Zomato and Yelp. I noticed the salt for our steak was served on the side.

The potato gnocchi was out of this world good. I tried gnocchi before but it never tasted like pillows of perfection. The shaved Reggiano and Romano was plentiful and added a luxuriousness to every bite.

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The Yen insisted on ordering tiramisu. The dessert was large, not too sweet, and light. I would have preferred a more boozier version, but hey, I am HittingtheSauce. Lately though, I’ve been thinking about changing my blog’s name to HittingtheSack. Old age will do that to you.

I’m also glad Mercato finally put up their menu with prices on their website. I won’t set foot inside a restaurant until I know if I can afford it. Yes, Mercato is spendy but the food was delicious, the portions ample, and the service was excellent. If I had an expense account or didn’t care about having a retirement plan, I would eat here every week. Thank you bbf, for taking one restaurant off my bucket list.

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

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Ho Won -Work Bday Lunch

I’m usually the one in my office that organizes birthday lunches on my floor. I prefer to book Charcut because: 1) we can get in and out within an hour, 2) eat a filling and delicious lunch for $15, and 3) the restaurant is two blocks from our office. However, as I know most people are broke after Christmas, for my birthday lunch, I told Crown Royal to book our lunch at Ho Won.

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We rounded up the troops and walked to Chinatown. Office Daddy helped me order in Chinese: Pea Tips ($15), Gai Lan ($10), Special Assorted Chow Mein ($9.99), Ginger Beef ($11.99), Salt and Pepper Squid ($11.99), Hot and Sour Soup ($9.99), Fried Rice ($8.99), and Beef Chow Fun ($8.99). There was so much food, we could have easily omitted a vegetable dish. Including tip, tax and my meal, everyone paid $15.00. Not bad at all!

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The hot and sour soup arrived steaming hot, filled with lots of goodies like peas, meat, mushrooms, shoots and a few unknown items. EA Supreme and Crown Royale did not like the soup, probably because of the spice and heat. Crazy Girl, Office Daddy and I enjoyed the soup and drank most of it.

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The ginger beef came out and was promptly devoured. Buzzy and EA Supreme gave the ginger beef two thumbs up. I think Ho Won make one of the better versions in the city, the flavour of ginger is pronounced and the batter is light and crunchy.

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Another hit was the salt and pepper squid. The squid was tender and the trademark batter was brittle and melted on your tongue. Nice heat from the chili flakes. Portion was incredible for $11.99. Crown Royal said Golden Inn makes a better salt and pepper squid, but it is only open for dinner.

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The noodles in the assorted chow mein was overcooked and quite oily. However, I did like the amount of seafood, Chinese mushrooms and boy choy in this dish. Perhaps I’m being so picky because by this time, as everyone at our table was already full.

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The beef chow fun was tasty, though it was a little too heavy on the sprouts and oil and could have used more of that wok taste. Not one of Ho Won’s best dishes, but I love chow fun and wanted to order it.

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I don’t have a picture of the pea tips because by the time it arrived, I was too much in a food coma to snap a photo. The pea tips one of the best dishes. The sauce was delicious. Office Daddy ordered it and requested a special sauce. It wasn’t the usual ginger and garlic sauce, but something with more of a kick to it. The pea tips were fresh and the shoots were tender. The gai lan was nice, though it didn’t compare to the pea tips.

Thanks to my office crew for taking me out for by birthday! We celebrate Queen B’s birthday tomorrow at Regency Palace, as she has a hankering for dim sum.

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Ho Won Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Mug Shotz – Wing Bliss

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My sister-in-law, Turned, wanted to celebrate my upcoming birthday. She asked me where I wanted to go. To Mug Shotz Sports Bar! Our party of six – my husband, two brother-in-laws and a future sister-in-law made the trek out to Ogden.

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We arrived at 7:00pm on a Friday night. The whole place was packed. We managed to get a table and ordered nine different types of wings: Mugz Shot Salt and Pepper; Hot; Honey Hot; Soy Sensation; Dill Pickle Hot; Louisiana Galic Parmesan; Sultry Ginger; Bacon Whiskey; and Thai Suicide.

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My favourite flavours were the Mugz Shot Salt and Pepper, Soy Sensation, and Sultry Ginger. The wings and drums were juicy and meaty. The batter on most of the orders were crispy delights. However, one order was not cooked long enough and hence, lacked that satisfying crunch.

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Besides the bigger than average size of the wings and drums, Mug Shotz adds ingredients you don’t normally see at a pub. The Mug Shotz Salt and Pepper came with bits of onions and peppers you would expect from a Chinese style salt and pepper squid. The Dill Pickle was topped with chopped up pickles. The Bacon Whisky wings were covered in bacon bits in a sticky sauce.

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From Wednesday to Sunday, Mug Shotz offers plates of wings for $8.25 or larger sharing platters for $37. The price is right and the wings are so good, it is worth the commute if you don’t work nearby.

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If you haven’t been, do check this legend out. I’m going to try to get my office mates out for wing night for the 5 lb wing platter. Unless of course, they are too chicken to do the 5 lb challenge. Cheers!

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Mug Shotz Sports Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Bon-Ga – Hot Pot

Office Daddy and I went out for lunch. I wanted to go somewhere new. I was thinking Kingfisher, New Tang or Auntie’s Chinese Burger. Office Daddy reminded me we haven’t checked out Bon-Ga. So off we went.

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The restaurant wasn’t that busy, so the owner Sunny let us sit in the spacious booths. Sunny spent quite a bit of time guiding us through the menu and talking about the food. We ordered the Gam-Ja Tang Hot Pot for three ($29.99), which was way too much food for the two of us.

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Sunny told us the pork broth is cooked for six hours, then seasoned with spices like garlic, onions, and red pepper. His wife and son are the chefs, while he manages the front of the restaurant.

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We received complimentary tea, rice, sides of cold potato, sprouts, kimchi and a whole lot of dishes to use for our hotpot. Sunny instructed us to break the bones apart and suck up all the good bits and soft pieces around the bones. He gave us a metal container to put the cartilage in when we finished as well as extra napkins.

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The Gam-Ja Tang comes with loads of pork still on the bone, green onions, potatoes and kimchi. The broth wasn’t spicy, as Sunny wanted to ease us into our first experience eating Korean hotpot. I really appreciated his sincere desire to ensure we enjoyed the food and that any questions we had were answered.

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The pork was super tender and easily fell of the bone. Office Daddy liked the soup so much, he drank all of it. The potatoes were soft and almost melted on your tongue. I enjoyed eating the cooked green onions and cabbage with the rice and soup.

Next time, I want to also try the fried chicken, rice bowl and seafood pancake. I saw other people ordering the fried chicken, which smelled amazing. I could see that the bento boxes were also popular options with customers.

Check it out, particularly if you aren’t well-versed in Korean cuisine. Sunny will walk you through the menu. I recommend trying the hotpot, but beware, it is messy to eat.

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Bon-Ga Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Full Circle Pizza and Oyster Bar

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Holy-moly! How often do you go out for pizza and say to yourself , “That was a f#*$%! good pizza!” In my case, once, after eating the octopus pizza at Full Circle Pizza and Oyster Bar. However, I need to warn you. If you like a good old fashion thick crust, cheesy pepperoni pizza with mushrooms and green peppers, don’t come here for the octopus pizza (I’m talking to you mommy and daddy). Eat the simpler pizzas, the pastas and the appetizers.

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I declared Friday date night because of John M’s glowing review. I love that man’s enthusiasm for good food. On a cold, wintry night, my husband and I braved the -15 weather and headed over to Full Circle. We were warmly greeted by a gracious hostess. Our server Steven was equally keen to provide stellar service and solid food advice.

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L ordered Blue Buck beer ($6.50) while I hemmed and hawed over the wine list. Our server let me sample two: a Californian Zin Marietta Old Vines Red ($16/9 ounce) and an Italian Rivera il Falcone $19/9 ounce). I preferred the latter, as it was not as sweet and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can tell I like a wine when I sip it slowly instead of guzzling it back like a cold Vitamin Water after a 75 minute hot yoga class.

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Based on our server’s candid opinion, we tried the Fried Fior Di Latte with pancetta and arugula ($11). Wow. The cheese was so fresh and light, covered in a light, non greasy crumb-like batter. L though he could taste lemon zest. We received four sizeable pieces, which would have cost more for me to buy at the market. The pancetta was crispy and gave the cheese a subtle saltiness.

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We ordered the Dr. Octo-Pi ($21). L went nuts over this pizza, stating that he would expect a dish like this in Japan. If you like takoyaki or squid okonomiyaki, you will LOVE this pizza.

The crust is paper thin and has this charred but not burnt flavour and texture. The pizzas are all cooked in a wood oven, using birch wood. The braised octopus was perfectly cooked, tender and juicy, not chewy. The saltiness of the bonito flakes and seaweed is cut by the sweetness of the corn. This isn’t a pizza for everyone. It’s a pizza for those who appreciate these particular ingredients.

I plan to come again to try more of the dishes. The gnocchi, oysters, and a calzone. My tummy is still upset from my trip to Mexico and a possible stomach bug, but I can’t wait to dig in and try the oysters here.

I’m all about value and I found it here. Add in the exceptional service, and you have to check this gem out. Flavour combinations, cooking technique and ingredients are refine and thus not your average pizza restaurant. Note that you can get a card and stamps for each pizza you order. Collect five stamps and you get the sixth pizza for free.

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Full Circle Pizza and Oyster Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Forbidden City Dim Sum & Seafood

My work buddies Office Daddy, Playboy, and Crown Royal coerced me to join them at Forbidden City for dim sum. The food was good, the company even better, though I suffered a major headache after the meal. I thought initially that the MSG got to me. In fact, I came down with an illness, which has visited most of my colleagues on the third floor. Ah, the joys of working in an office. I ended up working from home the next day.

Back to the theme of this blog… which is my food experience, not my physical well-being. The restaurant is nicer than most dim sum joints. The linen on the table was fresh and crisp. Sparkling chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Servers were easy to wave down and for the most part, were pleasant.

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The first of ten dishes we ordered was BBQ Pork Pastry. The pastry was buttery and light. The filling was still warm, sweet and tangy.

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Everyone except for me ate Chicken Feet. I tried it once and didn’t like the texture of the skin. Also, these feet were particularly intimidating – big and claw-like. Crown Royal told me she thinks I need to try chicken feet at least three times to give it a fair try. I agree, but I “chickened out” this time.

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Crown Royal ordered Deep-Fried Won Ton. The wrapper was delicate and not overcooked. The shrimp filling was a small portion. I couldn’t resist dipping the won ton in the side dish of sweet mayonnaise.

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Taro with pork. This was the winning dish. The exterior was airy, the batter delicate and melted in your mouth. The taro was smooth and creamy. The pork filling was hot and saucy.

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The Fried Meat Dumplings were tasty, in a greasy sort of way. The dough was thick, gummy and warm (the way it should be). The meat filling consisted of ground pork in a gravy like sauce.

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The BBQ pork crepe was my second favourite dish. I liked how much lean pork and cilantro filled the rice wrapper. I find most places don’t have the right proportion, as they skimp on the meat.

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The Pork and Preserved Century Old Egg Congee was good. The soup was served in a hot black cauldron, which bubbled for a good five minutes. The texture was smooth and more fluid than the fluffy thick congee served at Lucky Place.

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Office Daddy ordered Cow Stomach, which I have grown to like. The texture was bouncy and chewy, flavoured by a light, clear sauce.

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How Gow was pretty good. The shrimp filling sweet, mixed with water chestnuts which gave it more texture. I prefer a less wet filling.

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The Sui Mai was tasty too. Again, it’s a personal preference but I prefer a less wet filling. I liked how we were served five dumplings for the how gow and sui mai instead of the standard four pieces.

I agree with my friends that Forbidden City has some of the better dim sum in Calgary. I prefer Forbidden City over T.Pot China Bistro. Central Grand makes better meat buns and dumplings, but Forbidden City does a delicious taro and pork dumpling and a far better BBQ pork crepe. Also, the food at Forbidden City taste quite fresh and the service is better than T.Pot.

Thanks to my buddies for taking me out to check out Forbidden City. It’s been on my bucket list for a while, but I never usually get out into NE quadrant of the city due to limited mobility. Our next adventure? Oiishi!

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T.Pot China Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Quickly

AC took me out for lunch, again. I don’t know what’s gotten into the guy. I won’t question his goodwill. I think I’m going to give him the pseudonym “Office Daddy” because of his paternal tendencies.

It’s been a while since I was in a bubble tea joint. I noticed a lot of young teenagers bopping around. We shared the Singapore Laksa ($10.95) and the Taiwanese Braised Pork Rib on Rice ($10.99). Office Daddy also ordered a dessert, Mango Pudding ($5.50).

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I loved both dishes. The laksa came with a boiled egg, sprouts, a generous amount of white chicken, fish balls, and tofu puffs. The white rice noodles were slippery and were the perfect medium to such a rich, sweet curry soup.

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I found out from the owner of Quickly that the pork rib soup was made the previous night. I drank every drop of the broth. The soup is almost medicinal, filled with little bits of herbs, orange peel and roots that my late grandmother used in her soups. The pork was so tender and flavourful. Office Daddy said he suspected we got an extra portion of pork.

I was surprised that I enjoyed the mango pudding. The texture was soupy. I liked the tapioca balls and the fresh grapefruit and mango. I didn’t find the pudding too sweet.

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Office Daddy knows the owner, of course. Office Daddy calls her “Mommy”. No joke. I didn’t ask him why he called her Mommy, I’m going to guess because she’s a mother? In any case, I noticed that service was slow until Mommy returned to her restaurant. Let’s just say our food didn’t come so “quickly” until Mommy was in the house.

Quickly has three locations, the closest to me is located in Kensington. If the food is always this good, I’m going to be a regular. I can’t wait to come back. I left stuffed and happy.

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

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Charbar – Yelp Event

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Recently, I attended a Yelp event at Charbar. I saw some old faces and met some new Yelpers. Since it was a Yelp event, the infamous chef behind the restaurant, Jessica, and  Candace, the director of marketing at Charbar come out to say hello and chat. This was a more social night then when L and I go out. We usually scarf our food down and are out of the restaurant within an hour.

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On a Thursday evening, the place was about three quarters packed to capacity. Upstairs, there were stockbrokers celebrating with shots. On the other end of the spectrum, there was a more demure party of accountants. In between these two groups were us, a bunch of Yelpers feasting away.

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On a budget, I stuck to an Argentina Shiraz ($9) and the Burger Gaucha with beef fat fries ($18) and a side of ahi picante aioli ($2.00). W ordered a bunch of appies, D ordered a steak and a side of beets, and S ordered a pizza and a vegetarian ceviche.

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I have a real problem with over-eating. This never happens when I eat vegetables or fruits, just deep-fried food and anything mayo based. In other words, I have no self-control when I eat delicious foods. As a result, I asked our server to pack half my burger and fries into a take-out box.

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The portion of the burger and fries is too much for one person, so cutting the meal in half was a great idea. However, the beef fat fries were so delicious, with its thin delicate exterior and super silky filling, I went into my take-out box to devour more of them. I really like Charbar’s burger and fries. This double decker beauty makes my mouth water. It’s the antithesis of Burger 320. Thick, creamy sauce on top of a juicy beef patties. Slippery tomato and lettuce that oozes out with the avocado and crisp bacon between two soft, squishy buns. Another thing I really like about the food here – you can taste the trademark Charbar charbroil flavours in a lot of the food, such as the meats, grilled bread and vegetables.

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Jessica came over and dropped off a huge complimentary dessert for us to try. Soft vanilla ice-cream, a fresh waffle cone and a pool of warm Lindt chocolate. The chocolate made this dessert. I’m going to try and recreate this dish at home.

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Thanks W for organizing this Christmas get-together at Charbar. I really like that there’s something for everyone here and affordable options for those who want to go out to a nice restaurant and still show fiscal restraint.

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

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Redheads Bagel Cafe

Oh man. I just came home after eating at Redheads Bagel Cafe. The food was so tasty that I was pumped to write this blog post right when I came home.

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L and I over-ordered again. The prices are so reasonable that I wanted to try everything. We picked a bento box with miso katsu, katsu curry, miso soup and a chicken karage sushi burger.

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The salad dressing is fantastic. I want the recipe. Perhaps its a good thing I can’t duplicate the dressing at home because if I could, I’d put that %#!# on everything.

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The chicken in the rice burger was juicy and flavourful. Despite the delicious deep-fried exterior, it still tasted healthy. At least, I felt comforted thinking it was not unhealthy.

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You haven’t tried a real bento box until you’ve ordered one here. Holy moly, I couldn’t believe the amount of treasures in this box. Sweet and warm assorted Japanese root vegetables. Edamame. More of that addicting salad. Rice speckled with black sesame seeds. Katsu chicken with a light, thin miso sauce.

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L always orders the Katsu Curry. He says there’s nothing better than Redheads curry on a cold night. This is rib sticking soul feeding comfort food.

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The best part of the meal was a new dish at Redhead’s, which our server gave to us on the house. This dish is stellar. What do you get when you deep-fry hamburg made of Alberta’s finest beef? Redhead’s spin on hamburg. The exterior has this crunchy layer. The beef is soft and flavourful. Oh my. Good thing I was sitting. My knees were weak.

L and I shared a large Asahi, ate way too much food, and had the loveliest service. How much did this feast cost us? $37 bucks.

L and I love Redheads Cafe. He says the food transport him back to Kyoto. I’ve never been to Japan but with the economy the way it is, I’ll doubt I can go anytime soon. In the meantime, thank goodness for Redheads. I can eat my heart out, save money, and pretend I’m in Japan.

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Redheads Japa Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Tubby Dog

My sister-in-law Maggie spends quite a bit of time drinking beers and hanging out at Tubby Dog.  So, it was only natural for her to have her work going-away party there. Plus, she is friends with the owner.

 

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Inside and at night, it’s quite a cool place to hang out. Old school arcades line the walls.  A DJ played that night as well. I haven’t played an arcade game since I was in high school.

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L and I ordered two tacos each. One beef and one chicken ($3). Each taco came with two wrappers and a generous amount of meat. I think we got more meat than usual, as I heard the owner say to the person who was making our tacos to add extra, as we were friends of Maggie. Tee-hee. I felt special. Dressed with cilantro, the tacos were plain but filling.

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L ordered the Tubby Dog ($7). As you can tell it was a loaded dog, covered in cheese, homemade chili, onions and mustard with a whole load of warm bacon bits. The chili was tasty. I should have ordered the Sumo Dog, which had seaweed and wasabi mayonnaise, as I heard from someone else that it is delicious. However, I was too full from the tacos.

The staff were friendly and were quick to keep up with the steady stream of orders. Tubby Dog is a fun place to stop by for a hot dog and a beer. Next time I’m in, I’ll try the Sumo Dog. After I work up an appetite playing Pac Man.

Tubby Dog Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Teaspoon – Killarney Gem

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I wanted to go out for dinner but I didn’t want to spend a whole lot. I was thinking either Papito’s Chicken Grilled, Chefbar or Teaspoon. Teaspoon won in the end because it is super close to my house and we had plans to meet up with friends at 8:00pm.

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When L and I entered the restaurant, almost all the seats were filled. I found out from the owner that on Friday and Saturday, Teaspoon is usually packed. The venue is small with a pleasant homey vibe. Despite the constant flow of take-out orders and incoming customers, our food arrived quickly. L ordered the Pomegranate Stew with Meatballs ($9.99) while I opted for the Lamb Shank ($19.99). We both chose the half rice and salad option.

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The salad was delightful. Crisp pieces of lettuce, cucumber and tomato were dressed in a slightly sourish yogurt base with dill and some other spices. Throughout the whole meal L and I were thrilled to eat food that was so unique to us. We could detect lemon, orange and some unfamiliar spices. Note that Teaspoon does not over season their food. Flavours are subtle and at times, was almost perfume-like.

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L’s meatballs were covered in a tangy sauce of pomegranate and walnuts. My lamb was a huge portion and tender. The broth of the lamb was light and tasted like it was onion and herb based. I ended up taking more than half of my portion home.

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Dessert ranged from $1.99 to $4.99. We sampled Persian sweets that were lovely, stuffed with pistachios and a syrup cake that was moist and dense. The owner gave us complimentary tea as well. The tally for our whole meal? $36 bucks! Anyone who says the food is expensive (see some Zomato and Yelp posts) needs to get their brain examined.

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When we return, and we will, I want to try the Persian Chicken Pie, Beef Sirloin Kebob, Wraps and more of the desserts. If you want to check out something unique in the city, visit Teaspoon. They serve up great homemade food. Note that the restaurant is closed on Sunday but it is opened on Monday.

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

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320 Burger

My buddy Jaime and I went to grab a bite before our massage appointments. She recommended 320 Burger, which just opened up in Kensington. The interior is spacious and there’s plenty of seating for walk-in. While it was empty when we first arrived, within 10 minutes, three couples came in.

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The owner, Sharon Woo, was very patient in explaining the menu. When she found out Jaime and I were sharing a small order of the Parmigiano Garlic Fries ($5), she offered to put extra fries in it.

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Burger 320 slices the fries right before it is cooked in the deep fryer. Jaime loves the fries be cause she says it tastes like a real potato. I liked the thick shavings of Parmigiano. The garlic was not overpowering.

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I ordered the Cheese Burger ($8) with local cheese curds. I chose all the complimentary condiments: ketchup, mustard, onions, arugula, and tomato. What I really liked about the burger is that you can taste the quality and freshness of the vegetables, the cheese and the leanness of the beef patty. If I didn’t eat the fries, I would say it felt healthy eating a burger.

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Jaime ordered the Vegetarian Burger. I took a nibble and I was surprised how flavourful the patty tasted. I’m not sure what spices were used, but it tasted liked Middle Eastern spices.

I found the prices reasonable for the quality. This ain’t your typical burger joint. They are licensed and sell Peroni, wine and prosecco. Ah, just another reason to revisit Burger 320.

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Burger 320 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Charcut – Express Lunch

My co-worker CL and PB wanted to have lunch at Charcut. AC tagged along, even though he prefers to frequent Chinese restaurants over all else. AC is really eccentric. I think he gave off an odd vibe to our wonderful server Amanda.

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First, AC thought it would be funny to lick the communal spoon and dip it back into the homemade ketchup. He did this right in front of Amanda. Amanda laughed it off and said she would bring some more ketchup for everyone else at the table. Then AC tucked his linen napkin into his shirt, peered his eyes quizzically at Amanda and slowly asked for her name. He then put out his hand and said, “My name is AC.” I felt so bad for Amanda because if I didn’t know AC, I would think, “OMG. Possible creepy dude!”

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I didn’t spy with my beady eyes the owners Connie and John in the house. Usually when I’m at one of their restaurants, I can see them working at the front. Not that I’m a stalker. However, despite their absence, the restaurant hummed beautifully. Service was polite and swift. Food was hot and delicious. The restaurant looked spotless.

We all ordered the lunch special, pulled BBQ pork sandwich, duck-fried fries with parmesan cheese, and tomato soup with wine sausage ($15). The meal was filling! The pork was so tender, covered in a tangy, sweet sauce. The fries were piping hot. The soup was comforting, packed with pieces of sausage. I can honestly say this was one of the best and most inexpensive meals I’ve enjoyed in a long time.

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For dessert, we received complimentary chocolate chip cookies, fresh from the oven. I found out from the pastry chef what type of chocolate is used in these cookies. I’ll give you a hint. It ain’t Chipits. Long live Charcut! Hip hip hooray! Charcut makes it on Fei Po’s list of favourite places for lunch in the downtown core.

Charcut Roast House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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OEB – Best breakfast in town

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Yahoo! I found out that you can download an app, NoWait, and skip the line-up at OEB. However, our seats were given away because we had difficulty timing how long the line would move and arrived too late. The host told us we were next on the list, and so we were.

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My co-workers and I scored a spacious booth. Our server was efficient and pleasant, offering suggestions and answering questions to my friends, who were newbies. We ordered a round of coffee and tea. My coffee was rich and delicious and refilled throughout our meal.

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My friends were impressed with the food. Crazy Girl ordered Crab Eggs Benny while Buzzy ordered the Banana Stuffed French Toast. I tried a bite of both dishes. The crab was fluffy and didn’t have that fake taste you get in California rolls. The French toast was fluffy and the sauce was delectable.

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I was torn between the duck confit ($16.99), Hogs and Scallops or the Gold Digga ($16.99) Soul in the Bowl. Based on our server’s recommendation, I ordered the Hogs and Scallops ($17.99), half with duck fried potato wedges and half of the fresh, organic spinach. I was impressed that they left me do the half of each option.

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The scallops were seared beautifully on the outside. Sweet and silky smooth, the scallops were the highlight of the dish. I ordered the medium poached eggs, and it came as requested. The bright orange yolks were just soft enough to blend in with the rich browned butter hollandaise sauce. The little bits of bacon added a pop of smoky saltines.

Now that OEB has the NoWait app, I’ll be here more often. Breakfast food is elevated at OEB. All the ingredients are local and sing with freshness and flavour. Forget every other breakfast place in the city, get your ass here. OEB makes it on Fei Po’s list of favourite places to eat in Calgary.

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OEB Breakfast Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Carino Riservo

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L wanted to go to Carino Riservo for his birthday. We sat at the front of the restaurant. The front window afforded a view of 4th St. We watched the snow fall and people scurry back and forth from their vehicles into the nearby restaurants and bars.

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L ordered a Sapporo while I drank a glass of Collazzi Liberta, a blend of Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese from Italy ($10). Our server told me this wine would go with everything. I love trying wines out at Carino, as they always have a selection of wines that are new to me and all affordably priced.

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If you love Ahi Tuna Poke ($15), you must order it at Carino. You could tell the tuna was high quality. Cold and creamy, with no Calgary fishiness to the dish. I liked that the avocado wasn’t used as filler. This photo doesn’t do the food justice. The pretty purple garnish, radish, the slivers of green onion and occasional avocado made this dish sing (with my high praise).

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Next up was a Healthy Seafood Hotpot ($16). The portion was large for an appetizer, not that I’m complaining. The broth was rich and deep. The fish, prawns and shellfish were perfectly cooked. Gnocchi, bok choy, snow peas, and mushrooms completed this bowl of delights.

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L ordered the Proscuitto Wrapped Tenderloin ($25). He went crazy for the onion sauce and the juicy meat. There was quite a bit of garlic in the mushroom risotto. L doesn’t care for garlic, but I do.

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I would order the Scallop and Prawn with Mushroom Risotto ($28) again. The big scallops were silky smooth inside, sweet and tender. The prawns were crunchy and delectable. The portion of risotto was large enough that I could have easily taken it home. However, I couldn’t stop eating the risotto. I wish the portion police was there that night, as self-control was absent.

Service was stellar. One table was waiting for a cab after dinner. Our server told them to wait inside while she waited outside to flag the taxi down, which took at least ten minutes. Did I mention it was a cold, snowy night? Who does that? It was refreshing to say the least. Lately, at some of my favourite restaurants, service has been less than pleasant. Not that I would bother to blog about it. Lousy service deserves an appropriately mediocre tip, but it isn’t worth writing about. Lucky for me, Carino Riserva has it all. Excellent service and amazing food. I’ll go as far to say that Carino Riserva in Mission is the most under-rated restaurant in the city. If you haven’t already, check it out. The experience won’t disappoint.

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

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Fresh-Adilla Fresh Tortilla

Damn and double damn. Fresh-Adilla makes some freaking awesome tortillas and sopes. I go to Mexico pretty often and I have my share of delicious street tacos, everything from marlin to brains, tongue and lip. However, Fresh-Adilla makes something I haven’t tried before – deliciously fried stuffed tortillas and sopes.

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For $15.00, I ordered a beef sope, a chicken tortilla and a tamarind drink. Though it was after 2:00pm on a Sunday, this little Mexican stall was pumping out orders like mad. The little tables around the kiosk was full of families devouring these savoury pockets of deliciousness.

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The sope had this thick, lovely crusty bottom, like a deep-fried quiche. I personally preferred the beef over the chicken. The mixture of melt in your mouth meats, cheese, beans all in a crispy, delicate vessel was a taste sensation.  I would recommend the liberal use of the complimentary side toppings, particularly if you want to add some spice your dish.

Each sope or tortilla is under $5.00. Two is enough to fill you up. Definitely make your way to this gem of a food stall. There will be a line-up but the food is worth the wait.

On a side note, Billingsgate at the Stadium Shopping Centre burned down due to a fire. L and I headed over to support their second location on Market on Macleod. Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 4.55.45 PM.png

I ordered a dozen oysters and picked up a bag of langostino meat. I cooked the langoustino in bacon fat and tossed it with some pasta, cream sauce, and a load of freshly grated parmesan. Yummy. If you want to support Billingsgate, check out their location Thursday to Sunday or check out their GoFundMe account.

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Fresh-adilla Fresh Tortilla Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Lunch Today -HK Style Pho

My buddy AC took me to Lunch Today, a Vietnamese restaurant near the 7 ST C-train stop. I wished he introduced me to this gem earlier. Lunch Today serves up the best value Vietnamese food in the downtown core. The food is simple, fresh and comforting.

Location

To find this restaurant, go to 736 6th Ave SW. Go up a flight of stairs and you’ll find Lunch Today. If you go around noon, you’ll see a long line-up. AC knows the owners Jenny and Raymond, a very sweet couple. The owners are extremely efficient and fast, so the line moves quickly.

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AC ordered Chicken Pho and I ordered Sate Beef. Both bowls were served piping hot. AC informed me that Raymond makes the broth and cooks it for hours, which is why no additional condiments are needed. I agree. The broth was salty and flavourful.

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It’s impossible to go anywhere without AC bumping into someone he knows. This time around, we met B. B told me that he comes to Lunch Today often because the food is good and the value is outstanding. He told me that unlike the nearby food court, the pho served at Lunch Today has lots of noodles, meat and sprouts.

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I couldn’t believe the amount of meat that was given to me. AC said the Raymond prides himself on buying high quality meat and shopping often for groceries, so that everything is fresh.

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The noodles were perfectly cooked – bouncy with a bite to it. We also ate homemade vegetarian spring rolls, which had a satisfying crunchy shell. AC told me he’s drop by and saw the owners make it themselves.

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The food was so good, I ordered salad rolls to go. Of course, Jenny made it on the spot. Freshly wrapped, the roll was almost bursting with noodles, lettuce and shrimp.

Salad Roll

Lunch Today is a must if you work downtown. The food is downright cheap for the big portions. Plus, the owners are very sweet and kind people. Lunch Today makes its on Fei Po’s list of favourite Vietnamese spots in the downtown core.

Please note – the pho served here is more of a HK style than traditional pho.

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Lunch Today Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Great Taste Chinese – What’s in a name?

Great Taste Chinese Restaurant gets to the point, just like me at work. What does this restaurant want to tell you? That their food has great taste! I appreciate their candour. There’s no ambiguity or mixed signals here.

Joking aside, I have another joke. My ex-neighbour is a wine connoisseur and he once said to me, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a Chinese restaurant that had great wines and service?”. Well, Great Taste does serve wine and the service is well.. for lack of a different word, great!

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This Monday, I went to Great Taste with AC (aka my Calgary father), PB and Choi. We all ordered soup noodles. I ordered the lunch special, Dandan noodles ($9.99). The portion was filling but not overly so. The noodles were a little too soft for my taste, but the soup was creamy and pea-nutty.

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The complimentary seaweed egg drop soup was light. I liked it, though I wouldn’t pay for it. For my money, I would rather sup on the fish maw or the hot and sour soup.

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We ordered three rounds of the Shanghai soup dumplings ($7.99). The dumplings tasted great (of course)! CL taught us to gently pick up the dumpling by the “nipple” (she makes everything sound so dirty) and to nibble on the side and suck out the hot juices. Worth ordering again.

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A few days later, I took out a graphic designer for lunch. She bailed my office a few times and I wanted to thank her. I wasn’t sure what she liked so I played it safe. We started off with a medium size bowl of Hot and Sour Soup ($11.95). Damn, this was fine soup! In fact, even better than great. Thick and spicy, spot on in the right balance of vinegar and heat. The soup was thick, crunchy with silky smooth lines of tofu. I liked the pieces of shrimp in it. Best hot and sour soup in town.

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The Beijing Style Dumplings ($7.99) were simple but really well-done. The wrapper tasted homemade and was bang on with its smooth, thin dough. The filling was delicious with the taste of fresh green vegetables.

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The Beef and Cucumber Roll ($7.99) was tasty in a greasy sort of way. The pancake was super crispy and chewy. The roll could have used a bit more beef. Good portion. I was full.

Service at Great Taste was great. For those who complain that service at Chinese restaurants is not always great, you should check out this restaurant. Servers smile! Servers are polite! I even get a thank-you when I pay for the bill! Great Taste lives up to its name and deserves copious exclamation marks to show my enthusiasm!

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Great Taste Chinese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Regency Palace – Dim Sum

A & W took AC, Gee and myself out for lunch at Regency Palace. I have to say on this second visit, the dim sum was much better than my first experience. The food was hot, fresh and the seafood dishes were really good.

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As with most lunches with AC and his friends, this was a work lunch. The last time I went out with AC friends, we talked taxes, customer service and finances. This group of friends were chatting about some private venture overseas. I occupied myself by eating and posting the photos on Instagram.

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One of the best dishes I tried was Beef Tendon. The tendon was soft and took on the flavour of the light sauce. The beef and tendon was served piping hot. I only like tendon when it’s served really hot, as I think it makes the texture smoother and richer.

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I really liked the Shrimp Rice Crepe. One prawn per half rice roll, the seafood was crunchy while the wrap was smooth and glossy in texture. The soy sauce was sweet and just enough to flavour the crepe.

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The Salt and Pepper Squid was tender but the batter was too soft and bland in flavour. The batter also had this sweetness to it that reminded me of plastic. I would skip this dish.

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I remember that the last time I wasn’t impressed with the How Gow. This time, the shrimp ball was full and plump. The rice wrapper was perfectly steamed so it wasn’t gummy or too soft.

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The Sui Mai was scarfalicious. These were big balls (that’s what she said). The flavour of the dumpling was really tasty. I particularly liked the big piece of shrimp and I thought it had a nice crunch to it.
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The sticky rice was a no-go this time. The rice was over-cooked and the meat tasted quite bland. I wouldn’t order this dish again.

Overall, I was really pleased with the food. I would hit Regency Palace the next time I’m craving me some haw gow, sui mai, and beef tendon.

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Regency Palace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Ho Won – Friday Lunch

AC and I were walking to Chinatown when we saw his friends B and A. AC asked them where they were going for lunch. B said, “Ho Won of course! We always go on Friday”. AC invited us along to B and A’s weekly tradition.

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We ordered the Salt and Pepper Squid ($11.99) because it’s one of Ho Won’s best dishes. I must have ordered this dish a dozen times. The squid is consistent though sometimes its more tender or the batter is not as delicate as it can be. Regardless in what state of perfection the squid is in, I’ve always enjoyed the big toothsome pieces and the level of spice in it.

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B saw another table order the Beef Hotpot and decided we should try it too. The pieces of beef were soft and flavourful. The onions had a good crunch while I thought the bok choy was a little overcooked.

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I really enjoyed the Assorted Fried Chowmein. Man oh man. The light crunch of the noodles was delicious. While I know the noodles were fried, hence the deliciousness, I didn’t find it oily. Lots of squid, shrimp, char sui and black fungus (wood ear mushroom) completed this textural delight.

A lot of people knock Ho Won on Zomato, but my foodie friends and I love the cheap prices and tasty fried-delights. Some dishes are hit or miss but generally, the food is a home run for me.

Ho Won Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Vie Cafe – Market 17

One of my favourite places to pick-up groceries and get one of the best sandwiches in the city is Vie Cafe, which is inside Market 17 (which is inside the Casel Marche building). It’s a short walk from my house so I usually walk my dog to the store and park him at the dog lot. My dog anxiously chirps while I’m shopping, which is embarrassing because other customers always look around say, “Is that a dog? Is that dog okay?”. The employees are very nice about the noise disturbance and provide him with treats and cuddles.

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The produce is very good. In the summer, the price of some of the local vegetables are on par with Safeway. In the winter, the cost climb up but I think the freshness and taste makes up for it. I usually pick up the brown mushrooms, kale, potatoes and the organic bananas when they go sale for being too ripe. The reduced price is super cheap and it makes for great banana bread. When the avocados become perfectly ripe, Market 17 usually sells them for a dollar. I also pick up olives, which I swear taste just like the ones served at Cassis, which is also located inside Casel Marche.

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I think the local cheeses are well-priced. I usually get the ricotta, fresh mozzarella and the cheese curds. The mozzarella is made in Alberta and it is cheaper by weight than the generic stuff you get at Safeway.

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What I really love about Market 17 is Vie Cafe. The baguettes are well-worth the cost ($7.50). My favourite is the roast beef but the vegetarian version is also tasty. There isn’t anything fancy about the baguettes, just high quality ingredients and the perfect ratio of the vegetables, meat/cheese and condiment spread. A little secret… if you near the end of the day, you can snag one of the sandwiches for the ridiculous amount of a dollar.

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I’m going to try Vie’s coffee, as I see from other Zomato reviewers that it is good stuff. So there you have it folks. Vie Cafe and Market 17 get 5 Zomato stars from me. Excellent customer service, high-quality ingredients and wicked deals make Vie Cafe/Market 17 a Fei Po favourite.

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Vie Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Central Grand – Dim Sum Bliss

My buddy AC took a bunch us out for dim sum at Central Grand. My experience here was way better than T.Pot. The food was hot and fresh. The servers were attentive, partly because AC knows them and because he is a real sweet talker. He was all “leng lui” (pretty lady) this and ho leng (very pretty lady) that.

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I never order deep-fried shrimp wonton so I’m glad AC ordered a plate. The shrimp ball was large and crunchy. The wonton wrapper was brittle and a tad oily. I was in heaven.

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The BBQ pastry was flaky and filled with a good amount of minced BBQ pork. Delicious. The filling was warm and the ratio of meat to pastry was perfect. All the meat buns at Central Grand are delicious. A must-order if you come.

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AC ordered shrimp and BBQ pork rice rolls. Central Grand sure doesn’t cheap out when it comes to the seafood or meat. The rice wrapper was smooth and silky, soaked in light, sweet soy sauce.

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I tried cow stomach for the first time. I prefer the plain version (white) than the curried one shown above. The texture was chewy and clean. Yummy.

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I also tried chicken feet for the first time. I resisted for a long time but peer pressure was fierce. Normally I can handle AC, but combined with a table full of pro-chicken feet eaters, I succumb to the pressure. I was heckled for not sucking the bone, but hey, at least I tried it. I thought the skin was too soft and I didn’t like the texture. Taste-wise, it was fine.

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The shrimp dumpling was well-done. For a second, I forgot I was in Calgary. The shrimp ball was large, crunchy and sweet. The wrapper wasn’t gummy, over-steamed and it had a good resistance when I bit into it. I’ll give Central Grand an A for the how gow.

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Pork spareribs in black bean sauce was typical, in a good way. Just a simple dish of fatty, juicy spareribs in a light sauce.

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I don’t like using the phrase too die for, so I’ll say the BBQ buns are are to gain weight for. The pastry was soft and sweet, the perfect vessel for the warm BBQ pork filling.

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C loves egg tarts. I tried one to appease her and though I don’t care for Chinese desserts, this one was good. Flaky crust, warm filling. Enough said.

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AC ordered tofu with ginger sugar sauce. I was too full to sample this dessert. I ate and ate and I really felt like a fei po. I was so stuffed that I was getting dim sum sweats and feeling hyper from all the MSG.

Roughly for all the dishes, some of which we ordered twice and some others that I’m too lazy to post, the bill came to about $23 per person. If my family comes to visit me, I would take them to Central Grand. For Calgary, I don’t think you can get much better than this.

Central Grand Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Redheads Jap Cafe – Fei Po returns

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L and I are making our weekly tradition to eat at RedHeads Jap Cafe. This time around, we were seated at a table and served, instead of ordering at the front counter like the last visit. I’m guessing the cafe is slowly turning into a bistro. We ordered two cans of Belgium black beer ($7.50). The beer reminded me of Guinness but it was lighter and sweeter. Just an FYI – Redheads now offers a happy hour special for drinks from 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm.

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We were tempted to order the table d’hôte ($19.99) but L wanted more of that delicious katsu curry. I ventured out and picked the Japa Rice bowl ($12.99) and the DLX Japa Dessert ($5.00).

The moment the food hit our table, L and I both ravenously dug into the food. How good was the food? So delicious that by the end of my meal, I barely drank my beer. Now that’s a sign of damn fine cooking.

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I don’t know what goes into that salad dressing, but it must be magical because I couldn’t stop gobbling it up. It taste like traditional Japanese salad dressing but with a noticeable kick to it.

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My Japa Rice Bowl was a hit, so much in fact, L wished he ordered it as well. The Japa Rice Bowl is similar to a Vietnamese vermicelli bowl (bun). You get the textural differences between the salad, soft carbs, something crunchy and savoury. My bowl was filled to the brim with rice balls, hamburg, chicken karrage, katsu, salad, a jiggly gently poached egg, and a side of beef curry. Every single item was delicious. The karrage was juicy and meaty. The hamburg – a Japanese style beef patty – was mildly spiced and flavourful. I could taste the quality of the beef.

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L’s katsu curry tasted just as good as the last time we tried it. The curry was magnificent, heavy with a mild heat. The chunks of beef were so tender and nicely marbled with fat. The rice was perfectly cooked, so good that I could just eat it alone.

Dessert was a light treat for our tastebuds. The doughnut reminded me a bit of a bran muffin, which went so well with the matcha green tea ice-cream. A side of strawberries and green grapes with caramel rounded out the dessert.

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L wants to return for the lunch buffet, even though he hates going out for brunch and buffets. We plan to return weekly and try the entire menu. Japaghetti, table d’hôte, cold ramen bowl, salmon, tempura shrimp rice burger, sushi, and miso-katsu sandwich… These are just some of the items we can’t wait to try.

My work buddy C said she wants me to stop blogging about Redheads because she’s afraid it will get too busy and she won’t be able to get a table anymore. However, this is one gem that is too great for me to not sing its praises. I figure if Redheads gets too popular, the owners can open up a chain of restaurants in Calgary.

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Redheads Bagel Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Earl’s Tin Palace – Meet Market

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Oh my! I haven’t been to Earl’s since I was in high school and college. Back then, Earl’s was considered by people in my age group as a sound bet for drinks and food. In those times, chain restaurants were considered cool. But that was so early 2000’s… So what was I doing here on a Friday night?

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L and I were previously at WURST (see pictures above and below) for the Früli Oktoberfest roast pig party. Tickets were only $25 including taxes and include samples of Früli, Früli radler and a buffet of roast pig, potatoes, salad and bread. Our friends Gee and Crazy Girl were meeting up with us and didn’t want to pay the $20 cover charge. The nearest venue was Earl’s.

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The bar section at Earl’s is quite the pick-up scene. And I’m not talking about customers ordering food to eat at home. While our party waited for a table, we ordered glasses of wine (Mission Hill Pinot Gris $15.25/9 oz) and beer (Phillips Blue Buck Pale Ale, $7.25/18oz). The prices for wine were reasonable and the server and bartender were really good about giving us samples before committing to a glass. I actually give Earl’s an A for service.

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We shared the Italia Pizza (15.00). The pizza was more bread than toppings, but it was pretty tasty stuff. Thin slices of Genoa salami, ham, chorizo with provolone cheese and chiffonade basil.

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Our table was surprised that we liked the Warm Spinach + Three Cheese Dip ($13.00). Though the dip isn’t much of a looker, with its almost neon green hue and hunks of toasted flat bread, it was good. The dip was hot and creamy, rich with cheese and chunks of artichokes.

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I noticed that Earl’s still offers daily specials and a pretty good happy hour. There is an Earl’s near my workplace and I just might check it out with my co-workers one day after work.

Earl's Tin Palace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Mikey’s Juke Joint – Best Fish Tacos in Calgary

Mikey’s Juke Joint is must visit for anyone who loves a good fish taco. Known for its live music and food with southern and Mexican influences, this is one pub that L and I will frequent more often. When I was in school, L and I rented an apartment two blocks away from Mikey’s. It’s a shame we never ate there when we lived so close.

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Mikey’s reminds me of a 70’s style basement. There’s old chairs and tables, a pool table and mismatch of memorabilia. However, you come for the food, not the furniture.

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Our server told us the soup of the day ($6.00) – chicken and rice – was getting rave reviews from customers. I really liked the taste of lime and the fragrance of the broth. However, the soup was served lukewarm, much unlike the super hot corn cheesy jalapeño corn muffin. If the soup was served hot, I would have enjoyed it even more.

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Next up was a neatly packed, well-made chicken burrito. The rice was fluffy, the mixture of beans, stringy cheese and chicken each retained its individual flavour and texture. The bean sauce mixed with the cold sour cream really elevated this burrito. The fries were crispy and reminded me of New York Fries.

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The fish tacos were the best I had in Calgary and Mexico too. The spices in the tacos was addicting. I like how it was crispy but not over-battered, so you could enjoy the still juicy white flesh of the fish. The mix of cabbage and other vegetables were light and fresh. The tortilla had grill marks, giving it this smokey charcoal taste. I think Mikey’s fish tacos kick Local’s tacos in the balls.

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L and I ordered two beers, fish tacos, a burrito with fries, a large soup with cornbread and with tip and tax, this meal cost me under $50.00. I’d say for the flavour explosion, the food is a steal. Our server told me the crab and shrimp cakes, burgers and wings were all winners in her book. My co-workers C and PB plan to coming with me for lunch try the crab cakes and of course, more of those fish tacos.

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Mikey's Juke Joint & Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Local on Stephen Ave

I always wanted to check Local out because of the all the positive reviews on Zomato and Yelp. I got the chance when B threw herself a going-away party at the nearby Bank & Baron at 8:00 pm. Before we dropped by B’s party, L and I stepped into a completely packed Local.

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The restaurant was packed with a twenty-something clientele. Back when I was a student, this was the type of place I would frequent. The beer selection was varied and better yet, a 14 ounce glass was only $5.50. I could hear Funky Cold Medina blasting in the background. For those of you who think they don’t know the song, let me jog your memory.

The girls all jockin’ at the other end of the bar
Havin’ drinks with some no-name chump
When they know that I’m the star
So, I got up and strolled over to the other side of the cantina
I asked the guy, why you so fly? He said, Funky Cold Medina

mail.google.com

L and I came for the fish tacos and I have to say, for $5.00, it was pretty tasty. The amount of fish was small but there was just enough to taste it in each bite. The was a lot of fresh, crunchy cabbage which helped to cut into the batter of the fish and the sweet garlic aioli.

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The calamari ($7.00) was underwhelming. The portion was very small, but I’m glad there wasn’t much to eat as it was greasy and flavourless. The worst part was the sauce – a mix of overly salty hot sauce and something creamy that didn’t go with the taste of squid.

I work nearby and would return again for the fish tacos at lunch. I saw other customers ordering burgers and wings, which looked good enough for me. Fei Po gives Local a solid Zomato rating of 3.5/5.

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

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Maharajah East Indian Restaurant – Lunch Buffet

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I was in charge of picking a restaurant for a work-related lunch. I suggested Maharajah because it’s close to work and the buffet means we can get in and out in a timely fashion. The exterior of the building is nothing to look at, which was why I was surprised to see a spacious room and decorative touches. I particularly liked the chandeliers dangling from the ceilings.

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There was always an employee around watching and replenishing the trays with small, fresh batches. The selection included: naan; papadum; rice; butter chicken; tandoor chicken; daal; panner; vegetable pakoras; vegetables; salads; rice pudding; gulab jamun and fruit.

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I tried most of the dishes except for dessert. Several of the dishes were quite creamy and rich. The big chunks of butter chicken and the nicely spiced pakoras were my favourite dishes. There are lots of saucy dishes, which is perfect to mop up with the endless naan.

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The flavouring and spice level in all the dishes was quite mild, which was appreciated by our table. Our table of ten went for a second heaping plate and then for dessert. The restaurant was a hit with my co-workers. For the all-you-can-eat buffet, it cost $20.00 a person. Not cheap but worth it if you have a big appetite and work in the area.

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Maharajah East Indian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Charbar – Yelp Elite Event

The main reason I’m on Yelp is because I love the Yelp Elite parties. Seriously, the Yelp social manager arranges epic parties with the newest and coolest businesses and best of all, the events are free!

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In the three years that I’ve been going to Yelp Elite parties, Charbar was the most memorable. The food, ambience and service far exceeded any other bash I’ve been fortunate enough to attend. And all the Yelp Elite parties are fantastic, meaning that Charbar hit this one out of the park.

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Once we walked inside and went up the stairs, L and I were treated to ceviche, which was made on the spot for us. The seafood was so fresh and the acidity was bang-on. Throughout the whole night, my husband wouldn’t get his own dish to taste. Instead, he just picked off my portion. I love him to death but he was really pissing me off.

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I sipped on a full-bodied Shiraz Malbec, Bodegas Callia Alta, an Argentina wine that I found out cost only $45.00 at Charbar. My neighbour Esther visits Charbar quite often and told me she enjoys the Casa Ferreirinha Papa Figos, Sogrape Vinhos, a Portuguese wine that also costs $45 a bottle. Next time we visit, I’ll have to try her pick. She knows her wines and the price can’t be beat.

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L and I feasted on slices of 75 day aged porterhouse with aji picante aioli, chimichurri, white chimichurri green chimichurri, and red charred romesco “fire pit sauces”. The sauces each offered a different flavour profile.

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The best of the best, however, were the super large raw prawns. These babies were freaking fantastic. I ripped the shell off and even sucked at the head. L knew to back off. If he went for one of my prawns (yes, plural, I ate two), I would have forked his hand. We also ate raw oysters, shrimp, crab legs, two types of pizza and avocado pistachio dip.

Live music, wine from JustWineApp , and chatting with the owners of Charbar really made this party “elite”. Connie DeSousa (Canada’s Top Chef) was gracious and friendly, even though I came on a bit strong, asking if I could pen a book about her career. John was also amiable and chill as I ranted about the abuse public servants and people in the service industry suffer. I blame the generous pours of the Just Wine App representatives for my abrasive behaviour. My bad.

L and I will be back for the rooftop patio. Though the menu is limited to a burger, chicken sandwich and a handful of appetizers but the view alone will be worth it. It is truly stunning to be on the top of the building, gazing below at the view from the top of East Village.

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

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Muku Japanese Ramen

My friend Stephanie was in town and she wanted to try Muku. I’ve never been before but Professor A+ from my old department would always rave about the ramen. The line-up is ridiculous but he would pick-up up his food to eat at home. He said that the servers at Muku would separate the noodles from the broth, so the ramen wouldn’t get soggy.

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I arrived at 2:00 p.m. and waited about 15 minutes for a table. We ordered green tea ($1.00 per person). Stephanie mentioned she thought the green hue of the tea was a pretty colour.

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Based on Stephanie’s recommendation, we each ordered Kuro-Ton ($9.50). I just loved the smell of the broth. The black soup had this delicious nutty taste, enhanced with the taste of smokey notes of garlic. The noodles were not as chewy as I liked, but I still enjoyed the long, skinny noodle strands. Between the lean and fatty pork, I enjoyed the marbled piece.

I would eat here again. Most likely, I would do what Professor A+ told me to do. I would order the ramen to go and slurp it in the comfort of my own home. The prices are cheap and the noodles are toothsome.

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Muku Japanese Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Wurst – Oktoberfest

Our buddy Trevor had his birthday bash at Wurst. I haven’t been in a long time (pre-2013 flood) but I was looking forward to eating some good German food. When I was a fat little kid, my father Ludvig use to take me to this all-you-can-eat German buffet on Robson Street in Vancouver. Ludvig thinks it was called Hofbräuhaus. I can still taste that creamy cold potato salad and the mounds of schnitzel I packed away. Unfortunately, that place closed down decades ago.

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Back to 2015. Trevor had a table reserved for his party. L and I ordered a German beer, Erdinger Weissbier, which I enjoyed because it was a light refreshing wheat beer ($7 for 1/2 litre). We snacked on a giant stuffed turkey wing ($7.00) and shared the Schnitzel BLT ($16.00).

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The sausage stuffing inside the wing was quite tasty and I thought it went well with the vinegary hot sauce slathered on top of the skin. The temperature wasn’t hot nor was the skin crispy, but it still tasted good to us. The portion was worth the $7.00.

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The schnitzel BLT was a small sandwich, but it made up for it taste-wise. The thin slices of rye bread was toasted, giving it a crunch. I liked the garlicky aioli spread and the addition of bacon. The fries were cold and stale, but the entertainment around us made up for it.

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My brother-in-law ordered the Franzels Mixed Grill ($68), a cast iron platter of meats for four people. The piece I really liked was the roasted pork. The crunchy skin was my favourite part, as it reminded me of the roast pork you can buy at a Chinese BBQ counter. Despite four hungry appetites, a good portion of the platter was left-over.

Our party was impressed with our server Christina, as she pleasantly managed our table and the jumble of separate bills. I enjoyed the general merriment that is encouraged at Wurst, such as the jumping on tables and singing along. I thought of Ludvig as I was swigging my beer and shouting. My father would always sing in German “Die Zauberflöte” (Sarastro/Magic Flute/Mozart). His friend, who is German, once told him that his pronunciation was awful.

I wish every Friday at Wurst was the opening night for Oktaoberfest. We were treated to a live oompah band, dancing and a guest appearance by ex-Calgary Flames goalie Mike Vernon. The official keg tapping was awesome. The keg sprayed over the floor and then everyone lined up to get a free beer. In fact, I had so much fun, I just might book my next birthday party at Wurst.

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

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Italian Store – #YYCPIZZAWEEK

Zomato bloggers were invited to participate in YYC’s Pizza Week. I picked up my ingredients from the Italian Store/Scarpones, as the store generously donated 3 of the 4 mystery ingredients and the pizza dough. Since L and I were already shopping at the Italian Store, we decided to grab a bite to eat as well.

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The set-up is a bit like a cafeteria and bakery combined. At the counter, there were trays of hot, ready-to-eat food, such as pasta, lasagna, and pizza. L and I ordered a latte and an americano.

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Let me tell you that the ladies at the Italian Store can teach YYC baristas a thing or two about making excellent coffee. I don’t even like lattes but I couldn’t stop sipping L’s drink. Both our coffees didn’t need sugar because of the noticeable sweetness from the espresso.

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My father would love the Italian Store’s version of gnocchi with meatballs. I could taste the tomatoes in the sauce, which was light and fresh. The meatballs were extra large and fluffy. With a liberal sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese, which you can help yourself to at the front counter, this dish was very homey.

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The pizza was delicious. The crust was thick, the exterior crunchy. The texture of the pie crust reminded me of focaccia bread. The thin layer of cheese was hot and gooey. The pizza had the right balance of saltiness from the olives and meat with a pleasant kick of heat.

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The food is simple and hearty. With our bellies full, my wallet was happy too. The feast of pizza, pasta and two fantastic espresso drinks cost us only $20.00.

The store is pretty neat as well, packed with customers all patiently waiting for their meats at the deli. I picked up homemade pesto, fresh pizza dough, mozzarella, ricotta, roasted chicken, olives, roasted red peppers and olives. The pizza I made (see below) was tasty, but not as good as the one I ate at the Italian Store.

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Italian Store Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Redheads Bagel Cafe – Calgary’s Best Kept Secret for Funky Japanese Comfort Food

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I found my new favourite place for Japanese food. Redheads Bagel Cafe does indeed serve bagels, but they also serve homemade ramen noodles, Japanese curry, sushi burgers and fusion dishes, like chicken karaage sandwiches.

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Being the diligent person I am, I called ahead to preorder the ramen and to check to see if I needed reservations. I was shocked to see that cafe was not jam packed full of customers. The food is affordable, delicious and something you can’t get anywhere else in the city.

The cafe itself is stylish and calming. The grey tiles pop out of the wall, a small chandelier dangles from the ceiling and jazz music plays gently in the background. We sipped on Asahi ($5) while we waited for our food.

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The Pork Katsu ($10.99) was served with rice and a salad. The pork itself was extra crunchy, the meat was a nice thickness. The curry was rich and heavy with chunks of beef. The rice was well-made and slightly sticky.

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A green salad was included in the curry dish. The simple green salad was fresh, mixed in with finely sliced radishes. The dressing was yummy, light and tart.

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The Homemade Ramen Noodles ($9.99) was a treat. These were the very antithesis of instant Ichiban noodles. Thick, chewy and heavier than your average ramen, the noodles were worthy of slurping. Beautifully presented with charred slices of pork, a milky soft egg and sprouts. The broth was deep, flavourful and hearty.

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I don’t normally over order when L and I eat out. However, the prices were so good, I really overdid the ordering. We ate Salmon ($3), Tuna and Mayo ($3) and Spam and Egg ($3) sushi burgers. I didn’t expect the sushi burgers to be so large and filling.

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The salmon burger was our favourite. The salmon was good quality and salty (in a good way) and layered with crunchy deep-fried bits of onion. The tuna wasn’t fishy and quite refreshing with the layer of lettuce and again for textural delight, those crispy onions. I was too full at this time to enjoy the spam and egg sandwich, though it would make for a delicious breakfast.

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My husband loves his Japanese desserts, so we shared the Sesame Ice-Cream ($5). Oh man. This was good. The soft ice-cream was flecked with black sesame seeds. Nutty in flavour, the addition of the fresh strawberries cut into the intense flavour.

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Redheads is going to be my new haunt. Affordable prices, deliciously unique food in Calgary, and the lovely people who operate it make this cafe makes it on Fei Po’s list of favourite restaurants in the city.

On the weekend, Redheads offers a buffet of Japanese and Canadian breakfast food for only $18.99. Make sure to call and reserve a table, as I hear the cafe is packed to capacity. I spoke to the owner before we left and he informed me that by next week, they will have a new special dinner menu. Dinner is only available on weekdays except for Monday.

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Redheads Bagel Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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T.Pot Bistro – Dim Sum Confusion

T.Pot came highly recommended to me by my boss and two colleagues. L and I arrived around 1:30PM. It took ten minutes for the hostess to take my name down on the list. In that time, I saw an elderly Asian woman blow a spaz at the hostess because she had to wait so long. The hostess was quite understanding and patted her on her wrist, saying her table was almost ready. This little lady went to her not quite ready table, turned around and started yelling “zǒu” (to go/leave) to her friend and left.

front entrance

When our hostess was ready to take my name down, she couldn’t tell me how long the wait would be. Fair enough. L and I took the buzzer and went shopping at T&T and we came back in less than 15 minutes. When I went up to the hostess, she looked greatly annoyed, saying my table was ready ages ago and she gave it away. Normally, I’m an honest person and willing to admit when I’m wrong. Instead, I played dumb and said I was in the car, right outside but the buzzer never went off. She looked at me like she was trying to decide if I was full of it or not. She nodded reluctantly and said my table was the next one.

room topot

After all that drama, some self-created, we landed a table for four. I thought it was interesting that whenever a dish would arrive at our table, our server(s) would literally dump the dish at the corner of the table farthest from us. So we had to drag the piping hot dish over to our side of the table.

pot

I ordered the Home Made Noodles with Pork and Mushrooms ($5.99). I didn’t realize until the dish came to the table that it a noodle soup. The broth was light and tasty. The noodles were the slippery suckers that kept escaping our chopsticks. Little bits of char sui (BBQ pork) and mushroom were intermingled with the noodles.

noodles

The Steamed Scallop and Shrimp dumplings ($6.50) didn’t look the best but the seafood was good for Calgary. The shrimp was small and not the crunchiest. The scallop was a good size but a little fishy. The wrapper was nice, not too thin or gummy.

scallop

The sui mai ($5.99) were called Crab and Meat Dumplings,though I didn’t taste any crab. The wrapper was too thin and broke quite easily. The shrimp and the pork dumpling was small but tasty.

sui mai

The best dish was the Chef’s Special congee (HK style, $7.75), which came bubbling away in its own cauldron. There was about a dozen small shrimp, bits and pieces of delicious textural gems, green onion, ginger and deep-fried crispy strands. I was impressed with T.Pot’s version.

congee

I came to T.Pot because I was feeling homesick and I was treated like family, albeit, by indifferent and unloving relatives. I mentioned to my friend AC that T.Pot wasn’t as impressive as he made it out to be. He responded that if I had gone with him I would have experienced better service. I questioned my boss’ taste, “I thought you said T.Pot had the best dim sum?”. He retorted, “I said it was the best dim sum you can get in Calgary“.

I would go to T.Pot again for dim sum. The fried dishes looked delicious. Next time, I’ll promise to stay put and wait for my table. I don’t want to get xùnchì (rebuked) by the hostess for being a huài nǚhái (bad girl) again.

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T.Pot China Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Charbar – Girls’ Night Out

room

Jaime and I haven’t hung out in a while. For our girls’ night out, she picked Charbar because she loves checking out the newest hot spot.

table

Jaime is the most inquisitive and intelligent food lover I have ever met. There were a lot of items on the cocktail menu that Jaime and I were unfamiliar such as lillet blanc, carpano antica formula, and amaro montenegro. Our server Stephanie went the extra mile to describe the ingredients and how the drinks and food were prepared. Jaime asked so many questions, I jokingly reminded her that Stephanie is paid per hour.

jaime drink

After careful examination of the cocktail list and a flurry of follow-up questions, Jaime decided on the Aldeano ($13). She enjoyed it and thought it tasted like caramelized citrus.

boozy

I picked the cocktail with the most alcohol, the Corpse Revivier #2 ($13). My cocktail was surprisingly light, lemony and floral. Despite the the 2.75 oz of alcohol, it didn’t taste boozy. I could feel my face glow with revitalization.

pistachio

We shared the Pistachio and Avocado Bruschetta ($12) with two slices of grilled, buttered sourdough bread. The dip was cool in temperature, buttery, and nutty from the generous amount of pistachios. This would be the perfect appetizer on the patio on a sunny afternoon.

brolli

The Fried Roman Broccoli ($12.00) was one of my most favourite dishes. Jaime said it reminded her of the Fried Cauliflower at Nuba, which I concur, as it is fantastic. The combination of the crunchy broccoli, hint of mint, fresh lemon and spicy aioli was a unique taste sensation.

cheese

If you love saganaki, order the Blistered Provoleta ($13). Jaime almost burnt her hand squeezing the gorgeously broiled lemon over the cheese. Stephanie told us because the cheese has been aged, it makes the texture extra stretchy, giving it wonderful texture. The cheese was so good, I didn’t eat it with the bread, as I wanted to just enjoy it as is.

clam pizza

Another standout dish was the Clam Pie ($20). I make my own dough at home and I think, a pretty good pizza. However, Charbar’s pie put my pizza to shame. The buttery crust was crunchy and delicious from the top to the bottom down to the crust. There was a creamy layer of goodness underneath the crispy top layer that was thick, soft and seductive on the tongue. The clams on the top were fresh and covered in a salty mint sauce that was new to me. I didn’t see any clams in the pie, only the garnish on the top, so perhaps there was clam puree in the sauce.

delicious wine

Let’s go to the wine list. This is where Stephanie stole my heart. I was deciding on a glass of wine and Stephanie went to get me two samples. I ended up picking her favourite, Orin Swift Cellars ($15, or $75 for bottle), an Argentina wine that was smooth with a soft finish. Jaime spotted Orofino Beleza ($95) on the wine list, her favourite wine.

dessert

Jaime opted for dessert while I ordered a bottle of Village Wit White Wheat Ale ($7.00). The top of the crepe was brûlée-like. The dulce filling was warm and sweet. Stephanie ordered us a side of ice-cream to go with the crepe, which I thought was the perfect pairing. The soft cold vanilla ice-cream was a nice contrast to the crunchy and rich crepe.

ice cream

I mocked Jaime for her drink beverage, hot lemon water. I called her paw-paw (Chinese translation – grandmother), as hot lemon water is a popular beverage for older Chinese women. She was the one laughing the next day, when I had a hangover.

lemon water

I’m not sure what to take from the negative reviews I read on Yelp and Zomato about Charbar. The wine and beer prices were reasonable in such an unique and gorgeous building. My beer was $7.00, Jaime’s favourite wine sells for about $45 at a BC liquor store and is sold at Charbar for $95, which is a reasonable mark-up.

The food is unique and the cost to make a similar dish at home would be more than what you pay at the restaurant. The side dishes and shareable appetizers are $9-$13, and pizzas and burgers are around $20.00.

There are higher priced dishes. A lot of other customers were ordering the $120 seafood platter and the $100 steak for two, but if you’re on a budget like I am, there are plenty of main dishes for a more affordable night out.

I don’t think my positive experience was unique either. Everyone I know that has eaten at Charbar enjoyed the food. I saw a customer go up to an employee and thank her “for always taking such good care of me when I’m here with my clients.”

Charbar is new and I can only imagine the difficulty in starting up a large restaurant business with so many staff, cooks and servers. I know there should be kinks but Jaime and I didn’t experience any fault or flaws.

questions

I’d like to thank Stephanie for her excellent recommendations and knowledge of the cocktail, wine and food menu. I would like to also thank the people behind Charbar for bringing to Calgary a treasure. Charbar is going to put Calgary on the map now for food destinations.

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Toronto – Day 3: Carousel Bakery, Under the Table, Clinton’s Tavern, Tacos El Asador, and Corso

Our last day in Toronto. We woke up and walked over to the Carousel Bakery in the St. Lawrence Market. The set-up reminded me of the Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver, except St. Lawrence had zero vacancy and was filled with vendors selling gorgeous and high-end cuts of meat and seafood. The floor below was filled with food stalls and gourmet kiosks, selling caviar, smoked salmon and international goods.

peameal bacon

L and I shared the Peameal Bacon Sandwich ($7.00), as we knew it would be a food heavy day. The meat was hot and salty, nicely crisp on the outside. The Portageuse bun was the soft squishy type that allowed our tastebuds to focus on the bacon.

under table

We took the subway to Cabbage Town, as I wanted to see the neighbourhood and L wanted jerk chicken. I picked Under the Table based on Yelp reviews. I am happy to report that the food is worth seeking out.

jerk chicken

We ordered a couple of beers and shared a plate of Jerk Chicken ($12.99) with rice and salad. Though it wasn’t busy inside, it took about 30 minutes for our food. I didn’t hear a microwave in the background, and from the way the food tasted, I’m guessing a lot of care goes into the food. The chicken was succulent, subtly spicy and delicious.

beers clinton

We went back to our hotel to pack and called Uber to take us to Korean Village. By the way, I love Uber. It’s way cheaper than taking a taxi, faster and you can track where and who is picking you up. With the exception of one driver, all were professional and helpful.

clinton

As we were early meeting my friend Phoebe, we stopped into Clinton’s Tavern. Beers and wings were cheap on Tuesday. L and I shared an order of hot wings ($6.00) and Steamwhistle beer ($5.00). The meaty wings were burn your hands hot, the skin had a nice crackle to it. I also liked that the hot sauce was served on the side, so the wings remained crispy and we could control how much sauce was on it.

seperate hot sauce

When Phoebe arrived, we headed over to Tacos El Asador for tacos and pupusas. Tacos are made fresh for you and if you eat inside, there’s hot sauce and onions you can add to your dish.
taco store

tacos sauces

The food was so tasty, I forgot to take some pictures. Good thing we ordered seconds. We each ate a fish, shrimp and pork tacos and a mixed pupusa. The pupusa was really tasty though a little oily. I preferred the seafood tacos over the pork. The fish was light and flavourful while the shrimp was richer noticeably more of of that pink cream sauce.

fish taco

Without drinks, L and I paid just about $28.00. Soft tacos are about $3.70 and pupusas are around $3.00 each. The burritos looked good and very filling.

tacos supreme

L and I still had time to kill before our flight, so Phoebe took us to Tallboys. I love this place. The drinks are so cheap and the servers are so nice. Though it was busy, we never felt rushed even though we just sipping on our happy hour beers ($4.40) and wine ($5.00). The food we saw other people ordered looked good, such as the burgers and tacos.

tall boys

peronit

At the airport, we made one final pit stop at Corso. Our experience at Corso was the exact opposite of Chili’s

The prices of beer are listed in the menu (crazy, I know). Our food came out quickly, which is much appreciated as you don’t want to miss your flight. The prices of booze and food, selection and quality of food were far superior. I don’t understand why the Calgary airport cannot have a place like Corso. Does the Calgary airport want to punish locals? I don’t get it.

calamria

The calamari wasn’t just the generic ringlets, but also contained the lovely squid legs. The batter was light and melted in your mouth. There were lots of left over fried batter bits on our plate, which I scooped it up to eat.

I’m glad we only spent three days in Toronto. I ate and drank way more than I should. Toronto is a destination for any Canadian foodie.

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Day 2 in Toronto: Banh Mi Boys, Mill Street Brewery, Black Hoof, & Bellwoods Brewery

store brothers

We woke up late the next day and headed over to Banh Mi Boys. Our Airbnb host Kimmy recommended it for lunch. L ordered the Grilled Chicken ($6.99) while I picked the 5 Spice Pork Belly ($7.50) banh mi and a can of coconut water.

four banmi

I was surprised that the sandwiches contained so much meat considering the price. My favourite of the two sandwiches was the Grilled Chicken. The chicken was hot and smothered in a mouth-watering BBQ sauce. I really liked the pork belly and the fact the cut of meat contained quite a bit of lean meat and not all fat. I thought the seasoning in the pork belly smelled like dim sum.

Excellent prices, good quality ingredients and delicious flavours, I think Banh Mi Boys deserves all its hype. I can see why it is such a popular spot.

pork bin mah

We checked out the U of T campus and then the Annex before we met Thomas at the Mill Street Brewery. I know Thomas would have preferred to head to Kensington for drinks, but I wanted to show L the touristy Distillery section. We drank free samples in the tasting room and then landed a table on the patio.

cheese dip

L ordered a Tankhouse Radler, poured with grapefruit juice ($8.00) while I drank a pint of Mill ST Organic and a shot of bierschnaps ($14). The bierschnaps tasted like whisky. L’s radler was refreshing and delicious.

We munched on the Cheddar Ale Dip ($12.00), which is made with Tankhouse ale, four cheeses and came with fresh potato chips. I thought the dip was not the most flavourful and the chips were too oily to go with the watery consistency of the dip. Regardless, I’m glad we went as the speciality drinks were good and not something I can get back home.

pig hoof

We walked back to our hotel room to get ready for the main event, dinner at Black Hoof. The only show I watch on Netflix besides Narcos is Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown. I saw that he raved about Black Hoof, as well as our friend M, so I made it my mission to check it out.

cocktails hoof

We arrived at 6:30 pm and were the second couple to arrive. However, within an hour, the entire restaurant was packed. L went crazy over his Trou du Diable ($9.00), a beer made in Shawinigan, Quebec. The IPA was a juicy, slightly hoppy, with small bubbles. Based on my server’s recommendation, I ordered a glass of the Charles Baker riesling ($11), which I found not sweet and fragrant.

black drinks
Our server recommended five dishes but I’m glad we only ordered four as the food was so filling. We ordered Pistachio Hummus and Chicken Livers ($10, plus $3.00 for bread), Tongue on Brioche ($15), Horse Tartar ($18) and the Smoked Scallops & Sobrassada ($18).

tartar

The horse tartar was quite delicate in texture and flavour. To me, it was clean tasting, fresh and much lighter than a beef tartar.

dip

One of our favourite dishes was the Pistachio Hummous with Chicken Livers. By the way, no chickpeas were used in this dip. The sweet nuttiness of the pistachio went well with the richness of the chicken livers. With or without the bread, this was a divine dish.

scallop

I enjoyed the smoked scallops. The scallops had a buttery smooth texture without a trace of fishiness. This dish, like the horse tartar, was a light and subtle in taste.

tongue

The tongue was delicious. The meat was sliced super fine and was kinda like pastrami but less strong tasting. Mixed with whole grain mustard and the richness of the mayonnaise, the tenderness of the salty meat and crunchiness of the brioche made me forget all about what a whole beef tongue looks with its skin on.

bellotwon brewery

After dinner, we were meeting with my sister's best friend M and her husband D. They were running late so we headed over to Bellwoods for a table. I'm glad we were early as the place was packed. The garage-like interior was such a cool space, I wished there was one like it in Calgary or Vancouver.

bellotwon brewery

Based on the server’s recommendation, I ordered a Diable Pitoune, an unfiltered pilsner. This beer was fruity with tiny bubbles that reminded me of champagne. It was very easy to drink.

M and D ordered some snacks. Fries with garlic mayo toscano cheese, fine herbs ($7) and foie gras terrine ($12) with sour cherries and house-made brioche. The food looked and smelled so good, but I was so full from dinner, I couldn’t even try a bit nor another beer.

When L and I return to Toronto, we’ll give Bellwoods Brewery a go for dinner, and Bar Isabella, M and D’s favourite hang-out. I’m happy to report that day 2 in Toronto was a success.

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The Black Hoof Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Day 1 in Toronto – Steam Whistle, Wallflower & Fran’s

In 2008, I lived in Toronto for a month and then again in 2010 to do some research for my master’s thesis. I adore Toronto’s food scene. There is so much diversity and options. The restaurants can from extremely expensive to dirt cheap. While Vancouver has an abundance of Asian cuisines, Toronto also has excellent Caribbean, Ethiopian, Korean and Thai restaurants. On my most recent visit, I planned to try Pai Northern; Japango; Black Hoof; Okonomi House; Rasta Pasta; Gandhi’s Roti; and Banh Mi Boys. Unfortunately, the first day didn’t go as well as planned, food-wise.

crowd

On our first day, L and I headed over to watch the Blue Jays. We didn’t have time for a sit-down meal at a restaurant, so we picked up beef hot dogs ($4.00) at a vendor with the longest line-up. I loaded my dog with mustard, ketchup, raw onions, pickles, sauerkraut and hot peppers and let it drip down on the ground as we listened to a good drummer/performer who entertained the crowd milling around the Dome.

steamwhistle

Since we had some time before the game started, I took L over to the Steam Whistle for free samples and a couple of pints ($8.00). I ordered a blisteringly hot, buttery pretzel ($4.99) to go with my beer. The whole grain mustard had a nice pop to it.

pretzel

I’ve never been to a baseball game before. Though our seats were sky high, I could still see all the home runs the Blue Jays repeatedly hit. I was also impressed with the beer selection at the Dome. Unlike Calgary, the beers vary beyond Budweiser and Bud Lite. Hallelujah.

game

We met our friend Thomas at 1602, a bar on Dundas W. We were the only people in there the entire hour. With an absence of food and ambience, we left to check out a nearby restaurant, Wallflower.

patio wallflower

Ah, the Wildflower was more my scene. The patio was cute and clean, the selection of drinks was better and cheaper. Most wines by glass went for around $10.00 and beers were about $6.00.

menu wallflower

We ordered Gnocchi ($14.00), Jerk Devilled Eggs ($4.50) and Potato Wedges with Garlic Aioli ($5.00). The creamy filling in the devilled eggs ($4.50) had a nice kick to it. I liked how they sliced the bottom of the egg off so that the egg sat up on the plate. I need to remember to do this when I make my own devilled eggs. For $1.50 per egg, this was a tasty and cheap snack.

gncoochi

The dumplings were light and fluffy and came soaked in a heavy, rich creamy sauce. While the menu said there was chicken sausage, pancetta, and bolognese, I could only taste the sauce and salty meats. Not that this was a bad thing. The gnocchi was a hot delicious mess and the favourite thing we ate.

fries wallflower

The potato wedges remind me of the Naam‘s famous miso fries. The potatoes tasted like they were baked, crispy on the outside with an almost powdery soft consistency inside. I enjoyed the heavy use garlic in the aioli.

eggs

The food was so good, we should have stayed and eaten more. However, we left to see Thomas’s place and to meet his friends. By the time we left for our hotel, we were starving. The only place open and literally next door to our hotel was Fran’s.

fran

L and I thought since we had more than a couple of drinks, that no matter how bad the food was at Frans, it would be okay. Well, perhaps we didn’t drink enough.
sandwich

L ordered the Chicken Parmigiana Sandwich with fries ($11.99) and I ordered a Beef Burger with home Fries ($9.99). On the positive side, the food was cheap. However, the patty was dry and the bread in both the sandwich and the bun were too hard and chewy to eat. The home fries were hot and crispy, so another point there. I vowed that the next day, we would fare better and hit some of the places recommended to me by locals.

veal

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Chilis Texas Grill – Airport Experience

The Fort McMurray airport is the only other place that’s worse than the Calgary airport in terms of food options. If I’m travelling solo, I bring my own food via Chuen May. Once, the customs agent actually said my dumplings and sticky rice from Chuen May smelled so good that everyone in security wanted to know what was in it. However, this time around I was travelling with my husband and he likes to do “trip shorteners”. Essentially, it is having a couple of beers before a flight, which seems to shorten the waiting time before we board.

wines

Chilis was our only option. I’ve eaten here before and I would avoid the burgers and buffalo chicken wraps. I do like the chicken lettuce wraps, but it is no longer on the menu. I ordered a glass of NK Mip Cellars Pinot Blanc ($12.99) while L ordered a beer. I thought it was annoying that there was no prices listed for beer ($8.00).

fries

We waited fifty minutes for our food to arrive. Our server came at the twenty-five minute mark to say that the kitchen was having issues with the tickets. We repeated our order and watched as another table asked for their food to go, as they had to board. At forty minutes, our server told us it shouldn’t be too much longer. When we received our food ten minutes later, I mentioned out loud that the fries were cold.

salad

Our server heard me and looked annoyed but didn’t say anything. Lucky for us, the Sante Fe Chicken Salad ($15.00) fared better. I don’t normally order salads at chain restaurants, but I saw someone else order it and it looked good.

sald best view

The portion was filling. The lettuce was fresh. The avocado was buttery and a generous amount. The chicken was juicy and subtly spiced. The crispy tortilla strips added a crunch. I also liked that the dressing was served on the side, as only a little was needed.

I guess being the only restaurant at the airport means you have a captive audience. Hopefully when the airport is renovated, there will more options. If you find yourself at the mercy of Chilis, I recommend ordering a salad with a side of patience.

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Lunch at Q Haute

table

Seven of us from work (L and B no-showed) went to Q Haute for their $20.00 two-course meal. Q Haute is a bit of trek from our office. However, with our bosses away on vacation, I thought this would be a golden opportunity to go somewhere special.

table2

We were surprised to see that we got our own private room. The table was beautifully set-up, long wooden logs were elegantly arranged in the centre. I could imagine how cozy the fireplace would be during the winter. The window offered a pretty view of the trees and the street below. The back drop of the room would be ideal for a Christmas party.

bread

The complimentary buns were really good – almost scone-like in texture. I thought I could taste cheese and chives. The herb butter was so good, I couldn’t help but slather it on the bun.

best pour

For my appetizer, I picked the Carrot Veloute with Chive Creme Fraiche. The richness of the chive creme fraiche was a good contrast to the soup, which was light but flavourful.

carrot

When all the food arrived, I darted around taking pictures. My husband gets embarrassed when I take photos at a restaurant, though he won’t admit it. My mother gets impatient, telling me the food is getting cold and I shouldn’t be working while I eat. I explained to my co-workers that I was taking photos of their food for my blog. They didn’t mind and patiently waited while I snapped away.

peperoni

PB opted for the pastrami with hot mustard, rye crostini and pickles. PB is not his real initials, but I got to know him better that afternoon and thought it was better suited to him. PB stands for playboy.

pork salad

C and M ordered the beet salad with pork belly, tomato goat cheese and olive oil bread. This salad looked beautiful and according to C and M, it was delicious too. The presentation of the dish was so nice.

pork salad da

I was surprised how quickly our food came out. Our servers were friendly, professional and efficient. Despite the privacy of our room, there was always someone around to ensure we had everything we needed. From what I could see, Q Haute is well-staffed. Doing lunch at Q Haute within an hour is totally doable.

pork

J ordered the brined pork loin with lentil pilaf and honey glazed beets. The portions look small, but its actually quite dense and filling.

salmon cake

T ordered the salmon cake with warm quinoa salad and cucumber caper and red onion bruschetta. I think this is the perfect summer entree. If you visit and see this on the menu, do get it.

lamb

I ordered the sous vide leg of lamb tomato with barley risotto. The topping tasted like potatoes and eggs, aka potato salad which went well with the lamb. The meat itself was tender and pink. The barley risotto was perfectly cooked, each grain was smooth, glossy and firm. What we all liked nothing we ate was over salted, letting the flavours of the food shine through.

dessert

For $5.00 more, you can partake in dessert. J ordered the tonka bean cheesecake with almond financier and creme Chantilly. I loved the bright pop of colour on this plate.

beer

I didn’t have dessert because I had a beer instead ($10.00). I was going to order wine but changed my mind when J decided on a beer. With the air quality advisory, beer is much more refreshing. Disclaimer – I took the afternoon off – so I was not drinking on the job.

gerbra

The food was beautiful to look at and delicious to eat. The value was outstanding. The room was gorgeous and service was stellar. Company was great, but hey, what else do you expect when I’m in the room? The crowning glory however, was our server bringing orange and pink gerbras to all the ladies in our table. We squealed like teenagers, delighted with the gesture. I noted that the gerbras were really fresh – as in just delivered from the greenhouse.

gerbras

We all walked out feeling pretty special. Our server asked us if we would see him next Friday. Our bosses are back, otherwise the answer would be a resounding yes. I plan to organize another lunch or dinner at Q Haute with my buddies soon. Dining here is most definitely an elevated experience.

painting
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Sidewalk Citizen – Fei Po gives two fat thumbs up

At lunch, M and I went to check out the Simmons building in East Village. Charbar was packed so we went over to Sidewalk Citizen. I really like the soups and pizzas at Sidewalk Citizen’s Kensington location, so I was confident that food at this location would be good as well.

displaga

M picked up a pastry filled with cream that was decorated with blueberries. She said it was one of the best pastries she has eaten in a while. At 63 years old and an avid traveller and eater of desserts, I’d say that’s quite the compliment.

crossiant

I ordered the Sabich ($12), a homemade pita filled with vegetables. Yes – I knowingly ordered something with no meat. Jaime would be proud of me. And I wasn’t even doing it to impress her. An employee told me it was a unique pita and Sidewalk was probably the only place in Calgary that serves this type of vegetarian sandwich.

eggplant

The pita was thick, soft and pillowy. Stuffed with eggplant, hummus, egg and matchsticks of tomato and cucumber, it was surprisingly filling and I stayed full until the evening. The eggplant was creamy, smoky and full of flavour. There was also some cilantro (which I hate) in the pita, however the other ingredients were so good, I didn’t mind the offensive herb.

sauce

The side of amba looked like it was spinach, but I could also taste cumin. I smeared this tasty spicy oil-based goodness all over the pita. Double yum. I would happily order this pita again.

bread budding

My husband loves bread pudding, and my recent attempt at home was not nearly as good as Sidewalk Citizen’s version. This was phenomenal. The pudding was doughy (in a good way) and dense, studded with plump raisons. There was a flavour in the pudding that really elevated it – it tasted like vanilla but lighter, more subtle and fragrant. Perhaps it was magic.

display

From what I sampled, I’m a huge fan of Sidewalk Citizen. Fei Po gives Sidewalk Citizen an unheard of Zomato rating of five.

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One18 Empire – $15 Lunch Special

Today was P’s last day at our office as his contract ended. A group of nine of us decided to take him out for lunch. I picked One18 Empire in part because of bloggers Le Petite Shar and KimmyW/Journey of Wellness posts, the close proximity of the restaurant to my office, and the $15 two course/$20 three course meal.

lunch menu

Props to our server Vanessa (I hope I got her name right, my apologies if I did not). She managed our table efficiently, politely reminding latecomers to order sooner rather than later, so that everyone could eat at the same time. She explained the menu’s concept of 2 dishes for $15 or three for $19 and then described the special sandwich several times for those in our group in la la land. Vanessa went the extra mile to split up our tab and dividing P’s tab on our bills all in a remarkably short time. I appreciated this greatly as I had a meeting immediately after lunch with no time to dawdle.

special treat bottle

We couldn’t partake in a cocktail as our work place has a strict no drinking policy. Instead, we gasped at the list of special treat bottles and dared each other to buy a bottle. The most expensive bottle was a 1969 Glenrothes Vintage Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($11,450). My budget allows for more modest tastes. If I didn’t have to work that afternoon, I would have tried some of the Japanese whisky.

japanese saki

One18 Empire offers good value for lunch, much like Charcut across the street. Though the two restaurants share a similarly priced lunch set special, both offer something different.

grilled cheese

One18 is quieter and roomier than Charcut, making it more ideal for customers seeking some privacy. One18 is more conducive for bigger groups because its not as busy as Charcut and it has larger sized tables. On the other hand, if you want to experience Calgary or show the city off to an out-of-towner, I would go to Charcut for the wow factor.

omellete

Charcut has superior soups than One18. However, the sandwiches at One18 are very tasty and much more filling than Charcut’s lunch sandwich. Charcut promises to get you in and out within 45 minutes, which I did not see on One18’s menu. Charcut also has a larger lunch menu whereas One18 Empire menu is more limited in selection.

lamb

Everyone enjoyed the main component of their lunch – a huge mushroom omelette, grilled cheese, roasted chicken on a pretzel bun and the special of the day, lamb sandwich with brie on sourdough bread. The lamb was cooked medium rare, tender and a generous amount of meat. The combination of the toppings – sweet tomato sauce, rich aioli and brie made this a deliciously saucy sandwich to eat.

chicken salad

My co-workers that ordered the salads enjoyed it. Caesar with jumbo croutons, Kale and Farro and the Roasted Salad with bacon. The best looking salad was the Kale and Farro. You can see from the photo how vibrant the kale looks.

chicken

The only minor disappointment of the meal were the soups. P’s garlic and spinach soup was a bit bland and tasted more of spinach than garlic. My tomato soup was not warm and while it was not bad, it was not good either. However, two out of three components were tasty and the price was right.

recipe

When our server Vanessa found out we were taking P out for lunch for a special occasion, she brought out a slice of cake from him. This dessert was a winner. Soft, luscious and chocolate heavy. We all really enjoyed the bag of Bourbon Yorkshire pudding to go. The bag it was enclosed in had the recipe on the back. These little babies reminded me of French toast. I’ll definitely make this at home.

dessert

Overall, the food was pretty darn tasty. One18 offers complimentary sparkling water, free Bourbon Yorkshire pudding and a great value lunch that should get you in and out within an hour. Service was awesome and the venue was very nice with its modern fixtures and clean colours.

yorkshire
Continue reading “One18 Empire – $15 Lunch Special”

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Proof – Happy Hour

Saturday night on the second last week of August. I told L we were not wasting a sunny weekend evening playing guitar (L) or watching Anthony Bourdain (me). We were going out and it would be a happening hotspot.

bar

I like reading all the reviews on Zomato and Yelp before checking out a new restaurant. I usually find Dale, Ange, Mcclane and Tunit top picks are to my taste.

ahppy hour

I saw Dale’s and Ange’s review of Proof and decided it was time to check it out. When I checked Proof’s Twitter action, I was surprised to see that Proof offers happy hour all week and on weekends. Score! I love a good happy hour and to get a good deal on a Saturday is unheard of in these parts. Now Seattle, that’s a different story.

ber

Happy hour begins at 4 pm and ends at 7 pm. We arrived around 5 pm and the bar was about half full. L chose a can of the Tool Shed People Skills Pilsner ($5) while I ordered the feature cocktail, the Wallace (2 OZ, $7).

cinamon

The Wallace was a well-made drink. A nice balance of intoxicants: Writer’s Tears Irish Whiskey, Dillon’s Pear eau-de-vie, Cocchi Americano and some non-alcoholic liquid, fresh lemon juice. I thought the torched cinnamon stick, which arrived with my drink still smoking, reminded me of a smoking cigar.

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I also really enjoyed the Old Fashioned (2 OZ, $7). The cocktail was presented with a big ice cube, which I prefer as it keeps the drink cold but doesn’t water it down. The smell and flavour of orange and citrus was pleasing on the palate.

platter

For a snack, we ordered the meats and cheeses platter ($20). We received three meats, three cheeses, a bowl of toasted buttered bread, peach chutney and homemade mustard. The cheeses were top-notch. If you are like me and hate it when restaurants give you a cheese and meat platter that consists of what you can pick up at Safeway, then you’ll like Proof’s version. The orange blue cheese was smooth and not too sharp tasting. The other two cheeses were very different from each other and had unique flavours – the triangular square was nutty and the other reminded me a bit of cheese curds.

prok

We also ordered a preserved pork belly rillette ($8). The cured pork was salty and rich, a good bite on top of the toast. I appreciated how much bread Proof provides diners. It’s a pet peeve of mine when a restaurant doesn’t provide you with enough condiments or vessels for a dish in the first place and then charges you extra when you need more.

bread

Calgary needs more places like Proof. Fantastic drinks, good prices and a nice environment to quaff the evening away. The windows offer light and people watching. The room is small and urban chic with a touch of the old world. Cozy couch seats, tall table stools and a centre piece bar seating with a first rate view of a wall stocked with every type of booze imaginable.

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Italian Supermarket

I overheard my work buddies saying they were going to eat at the Italian Supermarket for lunch. I asked Cindy if there was room for me in her SUV. She granted me access and vroom vroom, we were off!

front

I love the Italian Supermarket. It’s the sort of place my father Ludvig and I would frequent in Vancouver. Ludvig grew up in a predominately Italian neighbourhood and he would often reminisce about the spaghetti, ribs and veal at Nick’s Spaghetti House, one of the oldest Italian restaurants in the city. His own mother could speak Italian and he always felt it was a privilege to grow up in the Italian district.

cutlet

To honour my father, I ordered what he would have picked. Veal Parmigiana with Vegetable Linguine ($11.99). Damn this was good! The breaded cutlet was still crispy despite the soft cheese layer and zesty tomato sauce. I could detect lemon in the veal, which help cut into the richness of the dish.

pasta

The pasta was soft and slippery. The marinated zucchini and eggplant was surprisingly flavourful, in a subdued way. Delicious.

menu

Next time I want to try the pizza. The dough is prepared once you order. The crust is thin, so it takes no time to bake in the oven.

pizza oven

After lunch I strolled around and picked up extra virgin olive oil ($25.99); ladyfingers ($3.99); parmesan cheese ($12.00); brie ($4.00); fresh buffalo mozzarella ($8:00); dried lasagna noodles; dried pasta; pesto; sun dried tomatoes; fresh bread, anchovy paste and candy for my co-worker M.

anchove

bread

lady fingers

sundried

olive oil

parm

pastadried

pesto

I left $100.00 lighter but a whole lot happier. I found a great store with quality products from Italy at excellent prices. Better yet, I can get a taste of home and tell my father all about it. He’ll be happy to hear I found an Italian supermarket that serves up food even better than what we could find on the Drive.
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SAIT Culinary Campus

My co-worker M wanted to walk down Stephen Avenue for lunch. We convinced our counterpart R to join us. We hemmed and hawed until I made the decision to pick something up at SAIT Culinary Campus.

flank steak

I poked around and looked at the cold sandwiches and salads. The hot food appealed to me as everything looked fresh. There were several stations serving up Perogies ($10), Pad Thai ($10), Pappardelle with Pork Ragu ($8.99), Flank Steak ($9) and Prime Rib ($9).

prime rib

The Chopped Salad ($6.50) was a good deal. Unlike most to-go salads, this one wasn’t mostly lettuce, but filled with bright red tomatoes and peppers, cucumbers and pumpkin seeds.

chop salad
salad

The Italian sandwich ($6.50) was light and fresh despite the heavy filling. The sandwich was filled with proscuitto, salami, capicola and provolone cheese.

italian

The prime rib sandwich was basic but I thought its simplicity let the quality ingredients shine. The beef was thinly sliced and still warm. The meat was soft and tender with a nice marbling of fat while the bread was dry was crusty. The sea salt and olive oil flavours really came through.

beef andwich

I like SAIT and I would go back again. The food is well-priced and there is a great variety of sandwiches, salads, and dessert. I’d compare it to the food at Whole Foods, but SAIT seems fresher with fancier ingredients and some of the hot dishes are prepared individually and just for you. FYI – SAIT is only open at breakfast and lunch during the week days.

cookie

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Sushi Bistro Anzu

miso

It took a long time for me to convince L to give Sushi Bistro Anzu a try. He doesn’t believe anyone can replace Wa’s, the former restaurant. Wa’s was our favourite restaurant in the city. We would dine there at least twice a month. The food, particularly the chirashi, was a work of art. The owner and chef also took a liking to L, so they would always chat in English and Japanese. The owner told L that he had some health concerns and he had to cut back on the opening hours. Then all of a sudden, the restaurant closed.

tea

As I was sick all week, when I finally got over my stomach bug I persuaded L to give Anzu a chance. Plus, we were picking up meats at Sun’s BBQ, which is two blocks away. He relented but I could tell he wouldn’t give Anzu a fair chance.

anzo

What I like the most about Anzu was the cooked food and the way the sushi chef slices the sashimi. L and I shared the bento box with sashimi, chicken teriyaki, and tonkatsu and a sashimi lunch special. The prices were inexpensive for the quantity of the food.

azuou two

The portion of the sashimi was generous: two large, flat piece of salmon; two pieces of ahi tuna; two pieces of snapper and a small piece of surf clam. Usually I don’t like snapper because I find it sinewy and hard to chew. However, the sushi chef sliced the snapper in thin slices, making it easy to eat. The salmon tasted fresh. The surf clam was sweet. I prefer the raw fish at Anzu more than Nami.

reward

In the cooked food, I saw touches of the old Wa’s. The miso soup was richly flavoured, with needle thin slices of scallions and crab. You would chew it and get this burst of green onion flavour. A little side dish came with root vegetables covered in a wonderful sauce and a piece of marinated beef. The tonkatsu was fresh from the fryer, the exterior crunchy. The chicken teriyaki was unusual. The sauce wasn’t the sickly sweet stuff you find at some restaurants, but lighter and more subtle. The batter around the chicken was soft and squishy, but comforting to eat.

I would like to return to try some of the other kitchen dishes. I saw other bento boxes sail past me and I thought the shrimp tempura looked lovely – long with a snow white batter. There’s also a reward program at Anzu. You get a stamp for every $10 you spend, and after you spend a $100 you get $5.00 off your bill.

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