Featured

Bob’s Submarine Sandwiches

Yen picked me up at YVR for our girls’ trip to Seattle. We wanted to get a bite to eat before the drive over to the border. I saw on Yelp that Sakana Sushi was a popular bet, so off we went.

Yen parked her car and we walked to Sakana, which is a few doors past Bob’s Submarine Sandwiches. I’ve read about this sandwich joint but I never tried it. Sitting by the front window, I saw two guys with huge smiles on their faces, just about to dig into their footlong sandwiches. Screw Sakana… Yen and I were going to eat subs.

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I walked up to the guys and asked them what they were eating. They told me they got a large Teriyaki and Deluxe hot subs. Each half sub is cut into two pieces, so each of their subs looked like four sandwiches. Based on the expression on their face, I wanted to try Bob’s submarines.

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Inside the shop, it’s like a time warp. The decor and set-up reminds me of a 80’s style diner, a dingier version of the coffee shop in Seinfeld. There’s a steady line-up of customers and tables filled with dirty plates. There’s one chef at the front grilling the meats for the sandwich, a young man at the cashier and a woman popping in and out of the kitchen.

I noticed an empty heater for fried chicken. There was grease and crumbs littering the bottom of the case. When we left, it was refilled with freshly fried chicken. Maybe next time…

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We shared two small hot submarines, the Super Sub ($5.90) and the Teriyaki Chicken ($5.90) and a side of fries with gravy ($2.50). The Super Sub was the best of the two sandwiches. Packed with double layers of melted mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, salami, capicollo and steak, this is one of the meatiest subs I’ve ever consumed. The toasted seasame bun looked puny compared to all the meats, grilled onions, shredded lettuce and tomatoes.

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The Chicken Teriyaki sub came with big, meaty pieces of chicken. I could see the teriyaki sauce but I couldn’t taste it. Flavour-wise, both subs could use more seasoning, like salt and pepper and maybe some mustard or mayo. I found the chicken a bit bland.

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The subs were hot off the grill and messy to eat. Oddly enough, the fries tasted better when cold. Filling, super cheap and retro cool, I think this is a neat place to check out. If you’re a germophobe, I would skip this place for something more sterile, like Subway.

Bob's Submarine Sandwiches Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Anejo Restaurant – Happy Hour

I’ve heard good things about Anejo Restaurant. My boss Tread Lightly told me Anejo makes the best chili coconut margaritas and guacamole. I know What’s Up Hamsup frequents Anejo for happy hour. So when it was time to meet up with some of my husband’s work friends for drinks, we picked Anejo.

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Every day from 3-5 p.m., Anejo offers $5 margaritas and beers, and half off tacos. I don’t particularly care for Mexican food, but I do love tequila and a strong margarita.

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Trojan ordered the Guacamole ($14). Three avocado halves, diced white onions, tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, sea salt and a squeeze of lime were all mixed up together at our table. L and Trojan enjoyed the guacamole. I thought the chips tasted stale.

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Trojan and I ordered our margaritas half sweet. Trojan was partial to the Mango Margarita, which is made with blanco, triple sec, mango pulp, agave, and lime. I tried the Guava Margarita, which was very tart. My favourite was the Coconut Chili. The coconut syrup was subtle and the heat from the habernero was intense. I could really taste the citrus.

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Trojan ethusiastically and authoritatively informed us that Anejo has the best looking customers and staff. He would know, he’s dated half the city. Trojan makes What’s Up Hamsup seem almost monk-like.

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Robin and Batman arrived late due to their work schedule. Our server came up to our table to warn us that happy hour was coming to an end. Both doubled downed on drinks and tacos.

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I tried the chicken, bison, pork and fish tacos. I thought the fish and chicken tacos were the tastiest. The bison was a little dry. Each taco was packed with filling. At $2.50, this was a great price. Sour cream is extra. I noticed we didn’t get the bottles of condiments, perhaps because ordered the happy hour tacos.

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Our server Chad should be commended. He was professional and offered excellent suggestions for tequila, margaritas, and tacos. I wanted to discretely find out his name so I looked at our bill, which stated our server was Estrella. I asked Chad if he is Estrella. He said no, that’s the automatic name which shows up on the bills and it means “upstairs floor”.

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If you love tequila as much as I do, the entire list is 50% off during happy hour. So if you want to try some premium stuff, there is a time and a place for it. Anejo, between 3:00-5:00 pm.

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

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Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ

Office Dad is turning 50 years old this week! To celebrate his birthday, What’s Up Hamsup, Asian Persuasion and I took him out for lunch. This time around, What’s Up Hamsup didn’t bail on us (good office son!). We thought Office Dad would enjoy the BBQ experience at Gyu-Kaku. As well, Asian Persuasion and I have been wanting to check this place out since it opened.

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We each order the three BBQ meat item lunch special ($15.95), which came with a fresh salad, miso or seaweed soup,  and rice. The salad was fresh and crisp, the Asian vinaigrette was addictive.

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The seaweed in the soup was plentiful. The taste of the seaweed was subtle. What’s Up Hamsup thought it tasted like a Japanese seaweed salad, just in soup form.

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We opted to share all nine meats. For sauces, there were bottles of ponzu, sweet and spicy. I enjoyed the sweet sauce the most and the ponzu the least.

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For meats, we pretty much picked one of everything on the menu. We ordered: Bistro Hanger Steak Miso, Filet Mignon, Kalbi Chuck Short Rib Garlic, Angus Beef Ribs Sweet Soy, New York Steak Miso, Toro Beef Sweet Soy, Yaki-Shabu Beef Miso, Pork Belly White Soy, Spicy Pork, and Pork Toro White Soy. The only thing we didn’t try was the chicken, shrimp and more expensive cuts of meat.

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Everyone had a personal favourite. Surprisingly, I liked the Spicy Pork the most. I thought I would like the beef more but I preferred the texture and taste of the pork options.

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The group sitting next to us had this one guy lecturing his friends about Japanese cuisine. He went on and on about my favourite cafe, Redheads Japa Cafe. He told his friends that Redheads wasn’t open in the evenings. Redheads is open in the evenings, from Tuesday to Friday.  I wanted to correct him. I kept glancing over and his friends would look over too, as if they sensed my urgency to reveal the truth. I decided to mind my own business as I didn’t want to engage in a conversation with the guy.

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Office Dad took over most of the cooking. You can learn a lot about people when you BBQ with them. Man, I’ll tell you, Office Dad is bossy. He barked at me for flipping over a piece too early or late and viciously accused me of burning a few pieces. The only reason I tried to help was because he kept infecting the almost ready to eat meat with the raw meat with his tongs.

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The picture above is What’s Up Hamsup’s hand over the BBQ grill. As you can tell, his hands are much larger than Trump’s hands. I put Trump’s picture in as a comparison to What’s Up Hamsup.Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 8.03.25 AM

Just joking, that’s not very nice of me. Below is a more accurate picture. I don’t know why everyone  makes fun of Trump’s hands. He’s running for president, not as a pianist.

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Service was great. Our server was pleasant and patient explaining which meats were which because we kept forgetting. She refilled our teas often and replaced our grill for the smores ($2.50). I’m not a sweets person, but even I enjoyed this treat. You grill the marshmallow until its nice and warm, then mash it against Hershey’s chocolate and two graham crackers.

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The best part of the lunch was when our server learned it was Office Dad’s birthday when we paid the bill. We got up to leave only to see our server run over to say, “Don’t leave! We have a surprise.” We scampered back to our table. A whole bunch of employees came out, one holding a birthday sign, another bringing a dessert with a candle and yet another crowning Office Dad with a hat. We all sang happy birthday at the top of our lungs.

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I like Gyu-Kaku and I would return again. My husband would enjoy this place and I’ll let him do all BBQing. If you work downtown, definitely give it a try. The price for lunch is a bargain.

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Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Pho Binh Minh

I already finished my lunch when Mindy and Crazy Girl asked if I wanted to join them in Forest Lawn with Buzzy for pho. I said no a few times, but when they asked me right before they were  about to leave, I decided to go. I never get to see Buzzy or go to Forest Lawn, so I figured, what the hell, I’ll eat two lunches.

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We dropped by to check out Buzzy’s new work digs and then over to Pho Binh Minh. When we arrived at 12:00 p.m., the restaurant was quiet. By the time we left, Pho Binh Minh was almost completely packed. We received tea the moment we sat down.

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I ordered a small pho sate ($8.00) while Buzzy, Meetz, Mindy and Randy ordered a large sate pho ($9.99). Crazy Girl ordered the chicken vermicelli with spring rolls. We received fresh bean sprouts (I forgot to ask for them to cooked), fresh basil and a herb that tasted like cilantro. FYI, If you don’t request cilantro, you’ll get it automatically in your soup.

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My small pho would be a good size for a child. The meat was served pink. The portion of meat was a little scanty. Not too spicy, broth had a subtle spice to it that hit your throat. The clear broth had a slightly tart taste to it, flecked with drops of oil. I was informed by my friend Asian Persuasion that the noodles are homemade. I couldn’t detect the difference.

Service was prompt and friendly. The restaurant is clean and neat. If you like a clean, simple beef sate pho, I’d recommend Pho Binh Minh.

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Pho Binh Minh Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Canmore and Banff Day Trip

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My colleague EA Supreme took me out to Banff and Canmore for an afternoon retreat. She picked me up at the parking lot of a McDonald’s in Bowness, and off we rode off in her big red truck. The ride up was scenic, lots of green fields and a view of the looming mountains.

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Our first stop was at her favourite breakfast spot, The Summit. According to EA Supreme, this cafe is always busy, filled with hikers fueling up for the day. The food is simple and homey, something my father would make for us when we were kids. EA Supreme ordered the breakfast bagel ($6) and I ordered the breakfast sandwich ($7.50). The egg was flat, the orange yolk still warm and gooey. The piece of lettuce, tomato, cheese and bacon was also thinly sliced.

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Before we left for Banff, we stopped next door to Fergie’s, a convenience store with homemade baked goods. EA Supreme told me the owner is French. At the front by the cashier, you can buy freshly made doughnuts, cinnamon buns and the best, hugest apple fritter. I could not stop eating this over sized treat ($2.99 or 2/$5.00). The exterior was crunchy, greasy and drenched in a sweet glaze. The interior was soft but not doughy. Just thinking of it makes my mouth water.

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Once in Banff, we went up to the gondola ($42) on Sulfur Mountain. I was initially reluctant to go along as it was foggy. However, the staff informed us that there was an inversion, so once we made it past the dense layer of fog, the view was spectacular. When we arrived at the top, we spent an hour walking on the hiking paths and soaked in the sights.

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EA sumpreme

When we came down, we walked over to dip into the sulfur hot springs ($7.00). Most people were with their significant other. Both our husbands dislike this sort of day trip. EA Supreme and I joked this was a romantic trip so far. I asked her if she wanted to hold hands but she declined the offer.Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 1.25.38 PM.png

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From the hot springs, we walked past the Banff Springs Hotel into the touristy downtown core. After I spent too much money on workout gear, EA Supreme and I checked out Bow Falls for a few photos.

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On the way home, we stopped by my favourite poutinerie, La Belle Patate. We shared a large deluxe poutine ($15) which came with sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions, smoked meat, cheese curds, gravy and fries. The toppings were enormous, piled high on our foil takeaway container. I was so full, that I didn’t eat dinner that night. The dish is salty, which makes sense given the ingredients. I prefer the traditional poutine, as the fries stay crisper. Next time I’m in, I think I’ll share a small classic poutine with a side of extra curds.

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Thanks EA Supreme for taking me on such a delightful day trip. It’s a shame I don’t get out more often to enjoy Alberta’s unique and beautiful landscape. Next, I want to visit Jasper and Drumheller.

 

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La Belle Patate Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Banded Peak Brewery

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I’m a believer of Banded Peak Brewery. I first sampled Banded Peak’s delicious beers at Full Circle Pizza. I dig the beer so much, I’d pass on a glass of vino for a pint of the Chinook Saison. I saw on Yelp that Banded Peak has a brewery. So on a rainy Saturday afternoon, my husband and I stopped by to check it out.

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Located in an industrial area in the SE, the brewery looks kinda like a garage-style venue. There’s free popcorn at the front and a set of tables and chairs underneath a storage area. I love the music playing, a mix of the Monkees, Bill Hayley , Simon and Garfunkel, George Harrison, and the Beattles. I would return just to enjoy the playlist.

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We arrived around 3:00 pm and the place was packed. There was only one person working (one of the three owners). I felt bad for him as the stream of customers never ended. I felt the urge to ask him if I could help pour pints. To make matters worse, a customer knocked over a glass when the owner was trying to fill up a large order and a bunch of people were waiting to pay for their beers.

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We sampled three beers, the Chinook Saison, Summit Seeker and the Plainsbreaker. The Plainsbreaker was L’s favourite beer. I also really enjoyed it, it’s a pleasant, easy drinking ale with a touch of what I thought tasted like citrus.

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My favourite beer was the Chinook Saison, a Belgium-style ale that was crisp and fresh. I could drink the Saison all day long. The Plainsbreaker is a great beer for those who don’t normally like IPAs. There was touch of sweetness to it which mellowed out the hoppy notes.

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Banded Peak has only been opened for four months. However, the cat is out of the bag thanks to Shelley Boettcher, who wrote about this new local brewery in the Calgary Herald. If you are a beer drinker, you need to check this place out. How good is this place? Banded Peak makes it on Fei Po’s list of favourite places in Calgary. Note that other than popcorn, no food is served.

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Banded Peak Brewery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Kim Chi House – Lunch

Kim Chi House is located in Chinatown, inside the City Plaza building. The main floor houses several restaurants, such as Han’s, Delicious Country and Gui Lin. Kim Chi House is one of three stalls in the food court. The other two stalls include a bakery and a vegetarian joint.

Don’t make the rookie mistake I made when I first ate at Kim Chi House. I ordered a rice plate. What you need to order is the stone bowl bibimbap. What a deal! For $10.00, you get a sizzling stone bowl filled with rice, vegetables and a protein of your choice. All stone bowls come with complimentary vegetable side dishes, barley tea and miso soup.

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The owner carries these red hot stone bowls to your table. Please do him a favour and get out of his way. What’s up Hamsup was his usual oblivious self and blocked the owner as he was carrying out trays of the heavy, sizzling bowls to a table.

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I enjoyed the Spicy Pork and Crispy Calamari bibimbap stone bowl. The squid was tender and the batter was crispy. The addition of the julienne carrots, daikon and sprouts cut into the spicines and oiliness of the rice and squid. I let the rice sit against the hot stone for a few minutes, which made into a crunchy layer. The portion of the pork and calamari dish was large. I ended taking about a quarter of it home.

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Office Dad ordered the chicken bibimbap stone bowl, which came topped with an sunny side up egg. The chicken is chopped up finer than Stone Bowl Korean. I like the big juicy pieces of chicken from Stone Bowl Korean, but flavour-wise, I prefer Kim Chi House.

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The food court gets busy, with the vast majority of the customers digging into a stone bowl. The husband and wife team do an admirable job churning out bowl after bowl during the lunch rush. I’ve been a few times and the quality and presentation is consistent. If you’re in the hood, I would totally recommend this cash only joint.

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Kim Chi House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Chong Fat – Best Eats in Chinatown

Chong Fat is one of my favourite Chinese restaurants. The hours are odd. The restaurant closes early for dinner and isn’t open on Tuesdays. The room itself is utilitarian. However,  none of that matters to me. It’s the food and service I love. The dishes are simple and well-cooked. The food isn’t sloppily cooked like so many other Chinese restaurants in Calgary.

Most customers order the hearty noodle soups, like the meatball, brisket or seafood balls. The homemade fish cakes have a nice bounce and a nice sweet, clean taste. I often see customers chowing down on plates of chow mein and duck. Lately, there’s one dish that has caught my fancy but it isn’t on the menu.

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What is this mystery dish? Eggplant, tofu and peppers are stuffed with shrimp paste. Doesn’t sound exciting but it is amazing. The eggplant is silky smooth. The peppers are crunchy and spicy. The exterior of the tofu is crispy and the interior is soft and light. The savoury oyster sauce has that wok hei smell and taste that I love.

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You can order this dish with rice or soup noodles. I prefer rice, so all that sauce gets soaked up. A whole plate of the stuffed vegetables and tofu with rice will fill you up.

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A warning if you drop by during the lunch rush. If you’re only one or two people, you might have to share a communal table. The last time we sat at a shared table, Office Dad chatted with a group of four. When I got up to leave I said jokingly,”Thanks for the meal. That was very generous of you. Next time it’s our treat.” Everyone at the table knew I wasn’t serious with the exception of one guy. He looked alarmed and said firmly, “No, I’m not treating.” I walked up to the front and I made a big production of pointing to his table while I paid for our meal. The guy stood up and shouted, “No. You pay for yourself!”. Hahahahaha. Sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Chong Fat is located in Far East Shopping Centre. You’ll know you’re in the right place if you smell the Chinese herb store. There’s a reason why this shopping centre is commonly referred to as the ‘stinky mall’.

If you want to try the dish I described above, just show the server the picture on my blog. I always find the service to be welcoming and kind, despite my limited Cantonese. Cash only.

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Chong Fat Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Cerezeo Cafe & Bar

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Date night! L asked if we could go somewhere different from our usual rotation of restaurants. What? He doesn’t want to go to Full Circle for three nights in a row? Fine. I decided to humour him as he was picking up the bill. I thought of Cerezeo as my friend Jaimie recommended this cute spot before she left for a life of leisure in Kamloops.

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The Japanese cafe is located in an older, well-kept bungalow style house. I liked the hardwood floors, large windows and cute little nooks and crannies in the house. We sat outside in the patio. Since we were the only ones dining in the back, we felt like we were our own private backyard.

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We received a complimentary amuse-bouche. I think the dish consisted of a citrus aioli, crispy tofu and a lip-smacking dashi sauce.

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L ordered a European draft beer ($7), in a frosted glass. For an extra $1.00 more, we received a bowl piled high with fried mushrooms. The quartered, button mushrooms made for an addicting snack. We thought we could taste soy sauce and something sweet. The batter melted on your tongue. A little salty though.

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My sangria ($5) was refreshing and fruity without being too sweet. An inexpensive cocktail and it tasted better than the version I make at home. I would order the sangria again.

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Next up was the chicken karrage ($8). The chicken wasn’t as crispy or battered as other versions in the city. L enjoyed the seasoning, sesame seeds and the flavour of the marinated chicken. I found this dish a bit salty.

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We shared the foie gras rice bowl ($23). The rice was perfect, firm and with a bite to it. I liked the sprinkle of green onions and the generous amount of shredded black seaweed. The foie gras was rich, smooth and creamy. One of my favourite elements of the dish was the deep-fried shiso leaves and the duck sauce soaked rice.

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The ikameshi was beautifully presented on the plate ($17). The squid was nicely charred and tasted of the grill. The combination of seasoned rice, tobiko, homemade mayonnaise, ginger and citrus was unique to me. I did find this dish heavy-handed in the salt department.

All the food we ordered was tasty and filling. We will return and try some of the other non-fried dishes, like Ton Toro ($16), Hotate Enoki ($16) and Toro Sashimi ($17). I’m going to try to persuade my office family to check this place out for lunch, as I have my eye on the Gyu Suji Beef Curry Rice ($16). Office Dad’s birthday is coming up and there are a few places I have in mind for his lunch. Cerzeo, Roku and my go-to favourite places, Pure Contemporary Vietnamese and Full Circle Pizza are all possible contenders.

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Cerezo Cafe & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Ho Won – Work Lunch

I told my husband L that I need a pseudonym for my boss when I blog. L advised, “I don’t know honey… Whatever you choose, you should tread lightly”. Originally, I was thinking of naming my boss ‘Mozza’ or ‘Angel’, because he’s obsessed with the mozza mushroom burger at Angel’s Drive In. However, after L’s heeding, I decided that from here on in I will refer to my boss as Tread Lightly.

Tread Lightly announced he was taking his team out for a lunch meeting. My co-worker Rascal said that since Tread Lightly was treating, he wanted steak or lobster. Tread Lightly retorted, “No. We’re going for Chinese. I want to go the squid and dumpling place that Hitting the Sauce picked the last time.” He was referring to Ho Won.

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At the restaurant, I ordered Salt and Pepper Squid, Ginger Chicken, Singapore Noodles, Pea Tips and Pork Dumplings. I requested the dumplings to be steamed rather than fried, as we would be having enough oily delights throughout our meal. Rascal said he wanted it fried. I told him Office Dad prefers the dumpling steamed, as it’s not as greasy. Rascal retorted, “Yeah, while I’m not Office Dad.” I ignored him and ordered what I wanted. I’m learning a lot from Tread Lightly. The large dumplings were fat and bursting with pork, ginger and cabbage.

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The best thing to order at Ho Won is the salt and pepper squid. The batter is mouth-watering, well-seasoned with salt, pepper and hot chilli flakes. Rascal thought the squid was too long in size. I disagree with him but I lacked the energy to tell him that not everything should be shaped like a chicken nugget.

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Before I left for lunch, I asked Office Dad to write in Chinese “pea tips in garlic sauce” so the server would know what I wanted for our vegetable dish. He obliged and wrote out the Chinese characters. It turns out he forgot a character so the piece of paper read “peas”. In any case, the snow peas were sweet and crisp, covered in a garlic sauce. Tread Lightly said we should give Office Dad the bill as he screwed up on the ordering. When we got back to the office, Tread Lightly tried to find Office Dad to give him the bill. Lucky for Office Dad, he had already left for a meeting.

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Next up was the Singapore Noodles. The noodles were spicy and clearly fresh off the wok. I liked the generous coating of curry. Flecked with green peppers, egg, sweet onions, chai su and shrimp, this dish was very tasty.

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Rascal didn’t comment about the Ginger Chicken, but I noticed that he ate most of it. Tread Lightly prefers ginger chicken over ginger beef. I prefer the ginger beef, but the chicken was good. Though heavily battered, there was a decent amount of meat. The ginger sauce was syrupy and reminded me of honey, but lacked a garlicky bite to it.

There’s a bigwig that is leaving our company soon. Ho Won was his weekly lunch spot on Fridays. Office Dad and I plan to take him to Ho Won to celebrate his retirement. This time around, I hope to get my order of pea tips.

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

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Pho Hoai Vietnamese Noodle House

Office Dad and I were suppose to take Ms. Biz out for lunch to celebrate her latest promotion, but she insisted it was her turn to treat. I was feeling a little under the weather, so I suggested pho. The only place that’s decent for pho in Chinatown is Pho Hoai Vietnamese.

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Biz was reluctant to go to Pho Hoai as she finds the owner’s son particularly rude. While I don’t disagree with her, I’m willing to gloss over his angry gestures for the sake of the food. I reminded Ms. Biz that the prices and quality are the best in the vicinity. Plus, the owner is a real sweetheart and the rest of the staff are quick to get you a delicious and hearty bowl of pho. Ms. Biz and Office Dad agreed to go for the sake of my ailing health.

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We started off with a plate of piping hot spring rolls. The wrapper was thin and melted on your tongue. The filling was full of meat rather than vegetables and noodles.

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Ms. Biz and Office Dad ordered either the Pho Hoai Dac Biet ($11.99) or the Bon Bo Hue. I thought they ordered the latter, but in their bowl I could see sliced beef, beef ball, tendon and beef tripe, which is the description for Pho Hoai Dac Biet. Ms. Biz asked for the sprouts to be boiled rather than served raw.

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My bowl of Pho Sate ($11.99) was delicious. I ordered a medium bowl with no cilantro. There was more rare beef than noodles. The beef slices were tender and not stringy. The noodles were perfectly cooked, with some bounce still to them. The broth was served hot and filled with cloudy bits of peanuts, green onions, lettuce and red spices. It was so spicy I would take turns sputtering, coughing, sneezing, and then dripping in my own perspiration.

In Pho Hoai’s defense, I think it says a lot about the food if the restaurant is packed every lunch. The pho is darn tasty, inexpensive for the quantity and quality, and you can get in and out under an hour.

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Pho Hoai Vietnamese Noodle House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Chrysler Club in the Saddledome

Every year, Mindy organizes our annual Stampede office luncheon at the Saddledome. The previous year, she asked me for my honest feedback on the food and service at the Chrysler Club. I told her that the salmon was inedible and our server had a bad attitude that put a damper on the mood of our entire table. Mindy told her contact at the Chrysler Club and that was that. I wasn’t expecting much this year. In fact, I had already planned to head over to Pure Contemporary Vietnamese after checking out the grounds.

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I was planning on eating a bit of salad and beef to tie me over. Chef David Petruic was overseeing the buffet and employees. He told me that the poached salmon was particularly delicious. I was sceptical based on my previous experience but I took a piece.

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Soft and moist, this salmon was far superior than I can make at home.  I really liked the seasoning of black beans, green onions and white sesame seeds. The combination of ingredients was delicious. The salmon was perfectly poached.

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The smoked roast beef was tender with a nice marbling of fat on the top. Everyone at our table thought this was one of the best items in the buffet. I didn’t even need the condiments of gravy and horseradish, as the beef was  flavourful enough.

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I’m not a baked bean lover, but the house made version at the Chrysler Club has converted me. The beans weren’t the gross mushy metallic canned beans that my brother Narc loves to eat with boiled wieners, a taste he cultivated from his air cadet camp days. Nasty.

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Asian Persuasion raved about the potatoes, which were soft and silky. It tasted like the potatoes were generously buttered and salted. Just potatoes, I know, but when done right, it’s a simple pleasure.

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The buffet also included green salad, steamed vegetables, bread and buns, and a few other things I’ve forgotten as I wasn’t planning on blogging about the buffet at the Chrysler Club.

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My server saw that I gave my tart to What’s Up Hamsup and asked me if she could get me something else. She offered to bring me some mixed fruit instead. I was very appreciative of the offer and the fact she even asked me.

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After my meal, I asked Petruic for his name, so I could credit the positive change in the food. He gave me executive sous chef James Haacke’s business card and told me to cite Haacke. If you are planning on hosting a fun and convenient lunch for a work event next Stampede, give the Chrysler Club a try. I was certainly impressed with the improvement from the years prior.

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The Chrysler Club Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Pure Contemporary Vietnamese Kitchen + Bar

Buzzy left our office to take another job. At her going away party, her boss Meeting said that while Buzzy says now that she’ll miss us, once she sees her first pay check, we’ll all be forgotten. Well, Buzzy got paid on Thursday and met us for lunch that day. His ominious premonition proved false.

Getting my co-workers to a destination, no matter how close, is an ordeal. Meetz and Little Red are like me, they walk fast and don’t get distracted. However, Buzzy, Crazy Girl, Randy,  Mindi and Queen Bee would stagger back and get lost around a corner or distracted by a fly. I resorted to playing tour guide to get our group to the restaurant in time. I did a head count out loud before we left the train. To keep the group herded together, I waved them along and pointed to “landmarks” to keep their attention. It was a bit like what I imagine it would be like to work on The City of Calgary’s new goat pilot.

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After what felt like eternity, we arrived on time (after I had bumped our reservations 15 minutes later as I could tell hear them dawdling in the hallway). We landed a semi private room, which was a positive as we are a loud, happy bunch. One thing you need to know about Pure Contemporary Vietnamese is that it was a former club and the changing techno coloured lights remain. You can see the rainbow of colours reflected in our food.

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Randy and Buzzy shared  a Char Sui Sesame Donut ($5). Our server Dani kindly asked the kitchen to cut it in half. They both raved about the saucy pork stuffing and the crispy sesame shell.

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A bunch of us ordered the Sate Pho ($11.75). The bowl was bigger than my head! The broth was spicy and rich. There was a ton of bouncy, perfectly cooked noodles and tender slices of beef. This pho is worth the drive from my house in Killarney. I ordered my pho without cilantro and instead, used up everyone else’s basil for my soup.

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Mindi ordered the Chicken and Spring Roll ($12.75). The picture below is awful and doesn’t do the dish justice. I was hungry and I didn’t feel like putting in the effort to take a better photo. Sorry.

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The pho is ridiculously delicious. The spiciness made me cough and choke and cry at times, but that’s cuz it went down the wrong pipe. Good thing I wasn’t on a date. It would likely be the last.

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Crazy Girl sat next to me and let me try her lemon grass vermicelli beef ($12.75). There was an ample amount of beef and onions. The noodles and all the vegetables were very tasty and fresh. A good option for those with a lighter appetite.

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Queen B ordered Chicken Wings ($8.75), which were huge, meaty and crunchy. She loved the seasoning and sauce, which she said was a nice change from the usual pub wings. Everyone at our table was jealous and wished they had ordered wings as well.

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Crazy Girl and Mindi have a birthday coming up. I’m going to book our lunch at Pure Contemporary Vietnamese. Pure can handle large groups and our server Dani was so patient with our table. She was even cool with us splitting the cheques, which I know is a pain in the fanny. I’m also going to bring my office family down here on Tuesday too, after our annual Stampede event on the grounds for happy hour. If you haven’t already, check this gem out.

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

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Red Ember – Lunch

I’ve been on a Red Ember rampage. This time around, I convinced my office family to join me for lunch. There is a long list of lunch specials, around the $15.00 mark. Be warned – the portions are large.

Asian Persuasion enjoyed the strong green tea,  which only cost a dollar per person. Our server constantly refilled our big teapot throughout lunch.

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At my recommendation, Office Dad ordered the chirashi ($16.99). We received the usual pieces of salmon, tuna, snapper, scallop, octopus, clam and the highlight – seared salmon belly. Office Dad enjoyed the thick slices of fish. He prefers the tuna and salmon at Zipang over Red Ember. However, Office Dad said that without a doubt, Red Ember wins in the value department. While I also favour Zipang’s white tuna and salmon, their scallop is sometimes fishy, unlike Red Ember, which come large, luscious and sweet. Plus, the prices at Red Ember are wallet-friendly. I tried to trade a piece of my salmon for Office Dad’s scallop, but he declined my offer. Dammit. The scallop was the size of a big old fat west coast oyster. The salmon belly was superb.

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Asian Persuasion ordered the tempura and sashimi combo ($15.50). She thought the sushi rice and tempura were particularly good. Though she enjoyed everything, she couldn’t finish everything on plate. Office Dad ate her surf clam and a piece of What’s Up Hamsup’s dynamite roll.

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What’s Up Hamsup ordered the teriyaki chicken and sushi combo. He really liked the salad dressing. He saved the salmon nigiri sushi for last because he says he wants it to be the last thing he tastes. I totally know what he means, that’s why I save the skin off my fried chicken to eat at the very end. The dynamite roll was well-made. The shrimp tempura was freshly made, the layer of rice well-formed.

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When What’s Up Hamsup heard that I prefer my sashimi cool rather than at room temperature. He said that in Japan, because the sashimi is so fresh, it’s served at room temperature as it allows the flavours to come through. Serving raw fish at cooler temperature masks less than fresh fish. Point taken, but here in landlocked Calgary, I don’t mind tricks to make raw fish taste better. I don’t know how “fresh” one can get it here, as I heard fish is frozen and then shipped to Cowtown (not sure if this is true or not). I guess when I go to Japan, I’ll see for myself.

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We returned to work full and giddy. In one of the elevators, and in front of other employees, Office Dad exclaimed he was going to fart. We badgered him and then entered the final set of stairs to our office. Office Dad opened the door and turned to me and said, “You know I was joking right? I wasn’t really going to fart.” When I walked through the door, right behind Office Dad,  I smelled sulphur. I covered my mouth and pushed my way back out the door, shouting “Gross! (Insert Office Dad’s real name _____) farted! Disgusting!” The odour was so strong, the rest of the family stumbled out into the hallway. Office Dad’s face turned bright red and he said,”It wasn’t me. It’s rank in there but it wasn’t me.” Sure Office Dad, sure.

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Red Ember Japanese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Daruma

Asian Persuasion, Sun, What’s Up Hamsup and I made plans to check out Shokunin for ramen. I made reservations the day prior for lunch. What’s Up Hamsup dropped us off right at the front of the restaurant and then drove off to look for parking. However, when we walked up to the door, we saw that Shokunin was closed to prepare for a function that night.

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Asian Persuasion called What’s Up Hamsup to tell him that we had to find an alternative restaurant. He parked his SUV at the end of the street. The three of us ran to his car. Asian Persuasion said that this was likely the first and only time What’s Up Hamsup would have women running to him rather than sprinting away. I told him what Asian Persuasion said and he responded, “That was the most pathetic attempt of ‘running’ I have ever seen. You chicks need to learn how to run.” What’s Up Hamsup does pretty well with the ladies, so jokes about his prowess don’t bug him.

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We drove around and around because What’s Up Hamsup was craving ramen. He had eaten at Shokunin the weekend before and said thought it was the best traditional ramen in Calgary. I mentioned Redheads, but instead, What’s Up Hamsup drove over to Shiki Menya. The line-up was too long and at this point, I was feeling the time crunch. We already wasted 30 minutes driving to Shokunin and then to Shiki Menya. In a hurry to get back to work, I suggested Daruma which is a couple of minutes away from Shiki Menya.

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Asian Persuasion and I ordered the miso ramen ($9.50). Sun and What’s Up Hamsup ordered bento boxes ($11.50). The egg in the ramen wasn’t warm. It was pre-cooked and then added to the broth. The noodles were cooked al dente. The broth was tastier the more you drank it. I liked the addition of the sweet corn niblets.

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Sun and What’s Up Hamsup didn’t have much too much to say about the bento boxes. They were both full and didn’t eat all the food. I did notice was that the other customers at the restaurant complimented the chef on the way out.

The next food adventure? I want to take the office family to Pure Contemporary Vietnamese. We have a Stampede event coming up that includes a buffet lunch. I plan to skip the buffet and then head over to Pure for happy hour eats.

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

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Bank and Baron – Happy Hour

I like the Bank and Baron, with its high ceilings, impressive digs and heritage status. My colleague is getting married soon and at her request, we held her office shower at the Bank and Baron.

I forgot my wallet at home and had a 6:00 pm yoga class that night, so I refrained from ordering booze. However, I did snag a big piece of  Kathy’s pizza (50% off on Thursday) which was tasty. The crust was thin and crunchy. For $10.00, there was absolutely nothing to complain about.

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Our table ordered $5.00 house wine and $5.00 pints of Mill St Organic. Twilight and MacBeth ordered fish and chips ($18.00). This picture doesn’t do the food  justice. The two pieces of cod were huge and the fish was fresh. The fries were plentiful and served hot and crispy. One order is big enough for two people. I will try the fish and chips when I return.

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Unfortunately, the bride to be wasn’t as impressed with her fish tacos. The trio of tacos looked pedestrian and she thought the portion was small for $14.00. She picked at Twilight’s fries instead.

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The food at the Bank and Baron has improved since it first opened. For Stephen Ave, the prices are cheap. If you work downtown and haven’t been yet, check it out!

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The Bank and Baron Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Date Night – Trolley 5 & Red Ember

On Saturday, I coaxed L out to try Trolley 5 Restaurant and Brewery. All along 17th Ave, even the most popular restaurants sat empty. However, when we walked up to Trolley 5, the patio was jumpin’. Have you ever heard Destiny’s Child’s song Jumpin’, Jumpin? That’s what the energy was like, though with Alberta adjustments.

Ladies leave yo man at home
Trolley 5 is full of hipsters and
They pockets groan (it’s recession time in Alberta)
And all you fellas leave yo girl
With her friends
Cause its happy hour and the brewery is
Jumpin, jumpin

The restaurant was well-staffed. The employees were young and appeared happy to be there. Service from the hostess, bussers, bartenders and our server Georgia C were all friendly and customer-oriented. The uniforms were anti-Earls/Joey/Cactus Club. Staffers wore comfortable shoes, black jeans and tee-shirts.

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Overhead, we witnessed a “trolley” of beer bottles track through the restaurant’s ceiling. I noticed the bottles were empty, so I’m not sure if the bottles are just for show or serve a purpose in their beer-making process. In any case, the marketing for this place is appealing.

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Since it was happy hour, house beers, wines and highballs cost only $4.00. L ordered a 12 ounce glass of First Crush White IPA  (6.2%), which was described on the menu as a white IPA with citrus and hops. 

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I ordered the Zephyr Hefeweizen (5%). Too bad it’s only a seasonal beer, because it’s one of my all time favourite beers. A light wheat beer, it wasn’t sweet and it had a pleasant non pedestrian tang.

Though the food at Red Trolley looked tasty (especially the Korean lettuce wraps), both L and I were craving Red Ember. When we arrived, we saw that both Christina and Calvin were working. Though early on a Saturday night, the majority of the tables were reserved. The place seemed popular with parents with kids and couples on a date.

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Calvin made us a special amuse-bouche of raw salmon, creamy avocado, tobiko, underneath a sweet and spicy mango sauce. The bright red flying fish roe gave it a nice salty crunch.

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We ordered an appetizer of tempura ($4.99). The batter was light and crisp. The shrimp was large and sweet. I liked how the dipping sauce was served warm. If you like tempura, do try Red Ember’s version.

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Our chirashi ($16.99) was personalized based on past visits. I received the deep-fried shrimp head and amaebi (sweet raw shrimp) while L received a huge scallop. He traded his scallop for my raw shrimp. The scallop was silky smooth and without a trace of fishiness. L said the amaebi was stellar in terms of taste and freshness.

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All the seafood was served at an ideal temperature, which was cool on the tongue. The salmon, tuna, snapper, clam and octopus were perfect in texture and flavour. The hamachi belly stood out, as each piece had beautiful cuts with a rich, smokey taste. The rice was well-seasoned with vinegar. L and I ate every single grain of rice. With Wa’s no longer in the picture, Red Ember makes it on Fei Po’s list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

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For the month of July, Red Ember is having a Stampede special. If you pay in cash, you get 10% off your entire bill! Yahoo! Now that’s incentive to dine at Red Ember. I plan to take my office family here for lunch.

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Trolley Five Restaurant and Brewery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Red Ember Japanese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Full Circle – Twitter Night

I spent Saturday preparing for my friend’s visit. Picking up groceries, cleaning the house, chilling the champagne, etc. I was planning on making dinner that night but I was too tired to cook. I checked my Twitter account and saw that Full Circle was offering a promotion.

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At 50% off all food items, the meal was practically free. How could I resist? I told L I was treating him for dinner at Full Circle. Whenever I want to go out for dinner and I can tell he’s not in the mood, I always offer to treat.

L asked if I could call this blog post “Redemption Dinner”, as he pissed me off the last time we were there (another dinner I paid for). I said no, how can he redeem himself when I’m paying the bill?  He’s still in the dog house. Woof!

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Full Circle was half full when we arrived at 7:00 p.m. By 9:00 p.m, the restaurant was packed. L started off with a pint of Blue Buck beer ($7) and I ordered a flute of prosecco ($8). One of the owners, Joshua, presented us with a complimentary smoked oyster. I enjoyed the sensory experience of eating a smoked oyster. Smoke billowed up when we lifted the glass, which smelled a bit like scotch to me. The oyster was salty, still chilled and flavoured by the smoke. We asked Joshua how he got the smoke inside the glass. The process is a labour of love, involving a cedar plank.

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Since it was 50% off the entire menu, I wanted to try all new dishes. I picked the Braised Octopus ($7.00). L and I both went nuts over this dish. He said he could eat this everyday. The octopus was served chilled and the texture was clean and firm. Dressed in olive oil and green onions, the freshness of the octopus shone through. Not in the least bit fishy.  The owners bring in fresh octopus as opposed to the frozen stuff. You can tell the difference. L enjoyed the bread, which he thought was a delicious combination with the octopus.

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Next up was a half-dozen oysters, three Raspberry Point ($3.25, New London Bay, PEI) and three  Evening Cove ($3.00, Fanny Bay BC). The west coast oysters had this creaminess that I adore. I really liked the cucumber mignonette, as it was refreshing and something I never tried before.

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Next up was the Sicilian Lifeguard Style Calamari ($16). Below is a half portion, as we were given individual bowls as it was easier to share. The squid was tender and not in the least chewy. The broth was light but with nice spiciness and intense from the taste of the black olives, whole garlic cloves and fennel. I find seafood very difficult to cook at home, unlike Full Circle, who has mastered the art of cooking seafood.

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I ordered the Clover Club cocktail- which is comprised of vodka, raspberries and egg white ($13). L took one look at the glass and shook his head, “Hon, there’s a lot of booze in that drink.” I took a tentative sip. The raspberry tasted fresher than the fruit I buy from Coop. The liquid was sweet and I couldn’t detect the vodka. Five more sips and the alcohol hit me. I remember when I was a teenager and my brother Narc found a bottle of Silent Sam vodka in my dirty laundry basket (who looks in there?). He paraded the bottle in front of my parents in the living room and lectured, “It’s called Silent Sam for a reason. That stuff can kill you.” I giggled and thought how even back then, he was so self-righteous.

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The last dish of the night was a homemade Carrot Ravioli ($15). The pasta itself was delicate. The addition of roasted pine nuts, slices of bacon, peas, and a balsamic reduction went well with the subtle carrot filling. Incredibly tasty. I’m going to have to return and try every single pasta on that menu.

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L believes the owners could have easily opened up a pretentious restaurant with corresponding prices. The food at Full Circle is cooked exquisitely but it’s presented in a laid-back environment with prices you’d find at a pub. With its killer cocktails (it’s called killer for a reason!), this is one place on 17th Ave you must try.

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

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Sushi Bar Zipang – Office Dad’s Father’s Day Lunch

Asian Persuasion and I took Office Dad out for a belated Father’s Day lunch. What’s Up Hamsup didn’t show because he’s a bad office son. I  picked Zipang because Office Dad loves high quality sashimi. As we walked up to Office Dad’s car, Asian Persuasion and I politely offered each other the front seat. Office Dad said, “You both sit in the back”, and starting throwing some stuff from the back seat in the front seat. I thought he was joking until I saw him gently lay a white coat over the front seat. “What? What is this, Driving Miss Daisy?” Asian Persuasion quipped. Office Dad explained that only his wife could sit in the front seat. I’ll have to remember to tell my husband about this rule. I think it’s a good one.

Asian Persuasion and my view from the back.
Asian Persuasion and my view from the back seat.

We got to the restaurant and ordered three green teas ($4.50) chicken yakitori ($7.00), two sashimi lunch specials ($18.50) and one sushi and sashimi lunch special ($16.50).

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The tea was strong and hot. Office Dad is always courteous and refills our teacups at Chinese restaurants. At Zipang, the cups are taller than  your typical teacups and the tea is served hot. Office Dad would fill the cups up with tea to the top. I said to him, “Thank you for filling up our tea. However, mind if I offer a suggestion? Perhaps you should only fill it half way, so that the tea stays hot and we don’t burn our fingers trying to drink it”. Office Dad started to argue with me but then laugh when he noticed my dirty napkin wrapped around the cup. I showed him my red fingertips as proof.

One of Asian Persuasion’s favourite foods is chicken yakitori. The aroma of the chicken was mouth-watering, the dark meat full of flavour, hot and juicy.

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The temperature of all the seafood was ideal, cool on the tongue. I find most places in Calgary don’t serve sashimi at this temperature. It’s either too warm or frozen. My favourite cut was the salmon, which was fresh, light and buttery. The octopus had a nice bite to it. The scallop was small and fishy. The only other minor quibble is I found the rice overcooked.

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Office Dad was still hungry, so they ordered vanilla ice-cream ($4.50). We received three scoops with slices of strawberries.

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I’m happy to report that both Office Dad and Asian Persuasion thought Zipang has some of the freshest sashimi they ever tried. Yay! Happy Father’s Day Office Dad. So glad you enjoyed your meal.
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Sushi Bar Zipang Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Full Circle Pizza – An Angry Date Night

My mother was in town for the weekend. For breakfasts I made homemade scones, for lunches I steamed up dim sum from Chuen May, and for dinner we served up BBQ steaks and ribs. By Monday when my mother left, I thought L and I deserved a meal out. Our favourite place for cocktails, seafood and pizza is Full Circle Pizza.

Though it was 8:00 PM, the restaurant was packed. Seniors flagged the front while a randy crowd (where we were seated) were in the back. I ordered a Tequila Old Fashioned cocktail. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, because it is worth repeating. Full Circle Pizza makes the strongest cocktails I have ever had the privilege of drinking. Made with Milagro anejo, reposado tequila and lime, this was knock you off your seat good. L stuck to a refreshing glass of Grizzly Paw beer.

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For appetizers, we ordered the Beef and Oyster Tartare and a Half Dozen Deep Fried Oysters. The oyster was large, creamy and salty. The beef tartare was Full Circle’s usual standard (which is perfection). The fried oysters? Superior to Rodney’s Oyster House in Vancouver. What made Full Circle’s version better? The oysters were plump and cooked just so – similar to poached eggs. The seasoning on the perfectly battered buttery morsels had a nice spice, a bit like KFC’s special blend. That sauce under each oyster served on a shell? Crack in cream form. Also, the presentation was lovely.
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Around this time, L received a phone call from someone who is working for him. L said, “Sorry hon, I got to take this”. For the next 18:33 minutes, I sat quietly fuming while he chatted. Let me tell you that this conversation was not so important that he could have either wrapped it up in five minutes or called him back. For entertainment, I eavesdropped to my neighbours. The group of girls next to me were boring, so I turned my attention to the guys on my right.
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Dude 1: (has a girlfriend) “Man, she was beautiful and didn’t speak a word of English. She was at this resort while I was there for a wedding, and yeah, I had a girlfriend at home, but you have to understand that people outside the UK do this all the time, it’s just F**** sexual and we can’t do anything about it.”
Dude 2: (has a wife and cheated on her) “I know, at this last wedding, I met this girl and she was so hot. She didn’t even know she was hot. She spoke like no English. My wife would kill me if she knew”.
Dude 3: (very quiet, just laughed a lot) “Ha ha, no way.”
Dude 1: She was wearing this yellow dress. And I wanted to take her on a date, you know, like a romantic one. But we couldn’t say much as she didn’t speak English”.
That's L talking on his phone.
That’s L talking on his phone.

The moral of the story is never to let your husband go to a wedding alone and don’t marry a douche bag. There was a pillar between the wedding cheaters and our table. When they got up to go, I tried to not blatantly stare at them. They were short and ordinary looking. No horns on their heads or tails trailing after them.

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When my husband finally got off the phone, I snapped at him, “Not cool!”. Then I ordered a glass of Riparosso, Illuminati wine that was smooth and lovely. Then I drank another cocktail and all was forgiven.

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We ordered two pizzas, the Beef Carpaccio Pi and the Flaming Moe. Both were tasty but so different from each other. That’s one of many things I love about Full Circle. The combination of ingredients on each pie are unique and it works. You know how at some pizza places, you order different pizzas but they all taste the same? Not here.

The beef carpaccio tore apart easily, not pulling like a stringy piece of cheese. I liked the little dash of grainy mustard and the sweetness from the aged balsamic. The crust was crispy, baked just so there was a pleasant chomping sound when you bit into a slice. The mustard greens were fresh.

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The Flaming Moe had a nice kick to it from the spicy peppers,  calabrese salami, and siracha. While the other pizza had more subtle, the Flaming Moe is great if you like some heat.

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This week, my best friend The Yen is coming with her fiancé  to Calgary. We’re going to BBQ one night and take them out to Full Circle for their last night here. I know they are going to just love the pizzas, pastas, appetizers, wine and those deadly delicious cocktails.

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

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San Diego – Unfiltered

L’s best friend S and his wife E wanted to go on a couples’ trip, without their children. Okay with us, as we are childless. We picked San Diego because we heard there’s a lot to do and flights were affordable. Throughout the whole trip, L and E made references to Three’s Company, as the show was supposedly based in San Diego.

Come and knock on our door. We’ve been waiting for you.
Where the kisses are hers and hers and his, three’s company too.

Come and dance on our floor. Take a step that is new.
We’ve a lovable space that needs your face, three’s company too.

You’ll see that life is a ball again and laughter is calling for you.
Down at our rendezvous, three is company, too.

 

The Airbnb condo I picked was right under a plane route, located minutes away from the airport. Planes would roar by every five minutes. After a couple of days, we adjusted to the noise.

The local grocery stores around sold a six-pack of Leffe beer for only $10.00! Holy smokes. Back home, Highlander sells it for $20.00. I told L I couldn’t believe it was cheap. There must be something wrong with it, like maybe it was non alcoholic. I was wrong. It tasted just like the $20.00 beer I drink at home.

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Based on Yelp reviews, I checked out Artisian Bento for a late lunch. When I walked up to the counter, I asked for poke but I mispronounced it, as in “I will poke you” rather than “po-kay”. The youngish Asian American female stood there and looked at me like I just spoke to her in foreign language. I really wanted the po-kay and the silence was getting longer and more awkward, so I pointed to the dish on the menu and said slowly, “I want that one”.

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The complimentary miso soup was flavourful and packed with seaweed, soft bits of potato and other goodies. One of the best miso soups I’ve tried. The po-kay was cut up in small little pieces, silky in a light sesame sauce. The mixed grain rice was perfectly cooked, parts of the rice was covered with a delectable savoury sauce. The bowl was filled with greens, beyond the generic carrot and romaine genre, and garnished with ripe avocado slices. The chef behind the counter was nice (and a great cook) and said bye when we left. We thanked the disgruntled woman at the counter, but she didn’t look up from her iPhone. She’s really not helping stereotypes.

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We walked around Balboa Park and then headed to Little Italy. We stopped by Bolt Brewery as it was busy and seemed like a good spot with the breeze flowing through the open windows. L found the freshly brewed beer flat. I ordered white wine by the tap, which was only $7.00 for a large pour. The pizza we ordered ($15) was freshly made, but bland. The chicken was dry and tasted like it was the pre-packaged sandwich meat. Still hungry, I ordered the baked wings. Some of the wings were meaty, some small, but all soggy. I heard you can’t find a bad restaurant in Little Italy. I wonder if they have tried the food at Bolt.

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S & E’s flight was delayed five hours due to a lighting storm in Texas. To kill time, L thought it would be a great idea to go to a Trump rally. I would like to state that we are NOT Trump supporters, but L insisted and billed it as “a once-in-a-lifetime experience”. Getting stabbed in the heart is also a once-in-a-life-time experience, but that doesn’t mean it is special.

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The Trump experience was not a great one. There was a small group of anti-Trump people who accidentally wandered over to our side (the only non Caucasian people there besides me). Of course, of all the people to ask, he turned to me and said, “F%$#, are we on the Trump side?” I was so ashamed to be standing be there, I couldn’t meet his eyes nor verbally answer him. He screamed “I f******* hate Trump!” and then wandered away. I was worried there would be a riot or the angry people around me would beat him up, but instead, everyone just looked at him and one old man clapped and said, “Good for you. Nice language there buddy”.

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L considered buying a shirt as a souvenir but decided against it as it was bootleg version. I wanted to ask him if he was joking but I was too afraid of hearing his answer. I’m pretty sure he was serious. He’s a bit of a snob when it comes to labels.

night scene

When L’s friends finally arrived, I picked ALTITUDE Sky Lounge for the view of the city. I didn’t mind the crowd but S and L didn’t like it. There were people dressed like they were going to prom and pretty much everything in between. The age group varied from junior prom to middle-aged.

Altitutde

I ordered a Redbull with Titos vodka and our bartender free poured. Truly a wondrous thing. M ordered a a Moscow Mule, which was off-the-wall good. M couldn’t finish her drink so I gulped it down. I would have stayed longer but L and S did not care for the scene.

bao

E were hungry at this point and want something to eat. We wandered over to Underbelly in Little Italy, based on our Uber driver’s recommendation. We all ordered bowls of ramen and bao sliders. I found the sliders bland. The meat in the baos weren’t particularly tasty either.

Ramen

The noodles in the ramen was a little soggy, but I found the pork tender and the broth flavourful. The ramen did it’s trick, our bellies were full and soaked up all that alcohol.

bagel

The next morning we Ubered over to Pacific Beach and walked along the long stretch of beach. We checked out Mission Beach Coffee Break. I noticed all the customers were ordering acai bowls. I think acai is an “it” food in San Diego. We waited 15 minutes for our bacon, cheese and egg bagel. I found the egg omelette overcooked, but a couple of packets of hot sauce livened up the sandwich.

beach

We stopped by a local bar for beer and then headed back to Little Italy to another brewery, Ballast Point. At this point, I had a raging headache and I was so hungry I walked over to a 7/11 and bought Advil and a $2.00 chicken burger. I should have known better, the chicken burger was vile. The chicken and bun was mushy and tasted like soft foamy plastic. I took two bites, threw it away and headed back to the pub.

I really liked this Ballast Point. You walk up to the front and order from their large selection of beers. The place was packed the entire time.

duck nachos

We ordered duck nachos, fries and pretzel bites. The food is delicious and incredibly fattening. The fries were triple cooked, the exterior battered and crunchy. The duck nachos were drenched in a cream sauce and blue cheese. I would have returned again, but S said he didn’t want to go to the same place twice.

prezel

That night we went to Cornado Island. Our Uber driver was more like a tour guide, giving us the history of San Diego. The Americans really value their military. All along the streets, houses were decorated with their national flag. E told us in Dallas, people will get up and give their table away if a solider is waiting for a table. At functions, the MC will often announce the arrival of soldiers.

We waited over an hour to get into a Mexican restaurant our Uber driver recommended, Miguel’s Cocina. You would think that a long line-up would indicate the food at the restaurant is good. The food was what you expect from a buffet at a four star resort in Mexico. Our server was pretty bad. You could tell he did not want to be there. When S started alpha dogging our server, we knew it was time to go.

uni

The next day was the best. We Ubered over to the Hillcrest Farmers Market. It’s an open air market filled with craft stalls, produce, baked good and ready to eat food. I opted for uni ($10) from Poppas Fresh Fish Company. The uni was cracked open and washed right in front of me. The sea urchin was quite delicate, foam-like and tasted a bit like oysters. Other people kept coming up to ask me if I liked it. This also happens when I’m at a Chinese banquet with other non-Asians. Everyone asks me questions like I’m an expert, as the food is exotic to them. I like the attention and even if I don’t know, I’ll make up an answer. The one time people listen to me. I’ll take it, I’m not proud.

poke

One of the best things I ate on this trip was spicy tuna pokay from the San Diego Poke Company. The tuna tasted super fresh and the spicy creamy sauce made my hair tingle. It wasn’t a large portion, but it was filling. The seaweed, the seasoning and the rice was perfect.

We walked around the city, checking out Balboa Park and museums. We dropped into a cafe to drink a pitcher of $10 mimosa. I couldn’t believe it was so cheap, I figured it had to be non-alcoholic prosecco. I’m wrong again, it was real! I could feel my face turning pink.

outside bar

S picked the restaurant for our last night, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens-Liberty Station. We sat at our table for hours, drinking and eating the night away. Highlights include the duck tacos and that delicious, sweet corn salad.

The next day, we took Uber one last time to the airport. Surprisingly, I enjoyed my last meal at the airport. Hello Calgary, are you paying attention? Get your act together so I can stop bringing my own meals when I fly out of YYC.

I drank champagne from Bubbles Seafood and Wine Bar. The gentleman serving us was old-school cool. He paused dramatically and told us to “wait for it” as the cork popped high above our heads. Then we headed over to Phil’s BBQ. The BBQ Broham sandwich was delicious. The pulled pork was tender and had the most deletable sauce. Next time, I want to try the onion rings, which everyone else was ordering.

I like San Diego. The city is clean, safe and walkable. The only thing I’ll complain about is the exchange rate, but that’s not the city’s fault. I’m planning a trip to Seattle with my best friend the Yen this summer. Hopefully by then, the Canadian dollar will pick up. I don’t want to eat at McDonald’s the entire time.

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Spot on Kitchen & Bar

My sister-in-law Turned and Dave frequent Spot on Kitchen & Bar as it’s a kid friendly restaurant. Their other option is Montana’s. They told me that kids eat free at Montana’s. I looked it up, and it’s not true that kids eat free. Kids under twelve eat free on their birthday. I’ll have to remember to tell them.

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We started off with two pounds of wings (honey hot and honey roasted, $22.99) and a round of beers. My father-in-law Bobbino said it tasted like the wings were cooked previously and then reheated. I theorized that the wings were left sitting out for a good ten minutes. Some wings were meaty while others were scrawny. I liked the fried bits tossed on top of the wings. Whatever it was, it was a tasty, free add-on.

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The poutine was lack lustre ($12.99). The fries were good and tasted like real potatoes, opposed to McCain-type fries. The cheese curds tasted like the real deal. However, the gravy was lumpy, cold and gelatinous.

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We ordered two large pizzas and my brother-in-law Uncle Ben ordered the Chipotle Fried Avocado Burger with fries ($16.99). I tried a bite of his burger. I liked the crunchy batter of the avocado and the beef patty was delicious. Unlike the appetizers, the burger, fries and pizzas were served hot.

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For pizzas, we ordered a large Karouzo Special ($25.99) and a large cheese pizza with Italian Spolumbo Sausage ($23.49). The special contained pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers and a layer of raw tomatoes. The crust was thick and crunchy. Momma G and I preferred the simplicity of the other pizza, with its thick layer of molten cheese and the richness of the sausage chunks.

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No one at our table was happy with the service we received. It took a long time to order more beers, the food and then the bill. Our server didn’t remove our plates or napkins, leaving our table overflowing with dirty dishes. Turned and Dave said the service is usually good. I could see that the other servers and the hostess helping out were friendlier and customer-oriented. Luck of the draw I guess. Usually if I receive bad service, I’m reluctant to return. However, in this case, I’ll be back as Jack’s parents love Spot On’s kid-friendly environment.

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Charcut – What’s Up Hamsup Bday Lunch

My office crew and I often eat at Charcut for birthday lunches. The $15 lunch special is consistently value-packed and most importantly, delicious. We can also get in and out relatively quickly, which is essential to me. Despite the recession, Charcut was packed full of customers.

Kudos to Mike M, one of the best servers we’ve ever had at Charcut. He was always refilling our glasses and good-naturedly joking around with us even when Office Dad got his weird on. The last time we were here, Office Dad startled our server with his eccentric manners. Sometimes he will break out in a terrible British accent, pretending he’s not from Canada. This time around, he was pretending to be Australian. Mike took it all very well. When we asked if he would mind taking our picture, he offered to move the dishes first, so the photo would look better. He also warned us that he already added the gratuity for our large party, so that we wouldn’t overpay.

The $15 special included duck fat fried fries, sausage and potato soup, pork loin sandwich and two homemade chocolate chip cookies in a bag. There’s always a pickled cucumber or carrot on the side.

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The soup was salty, but served piping hot with generous chunks of sausage. The pork was juicy and nicely marbled with fat. I liked the addition of juicy tomatoes, crisp spinach and pop of the grainy mustard. Office Dad asked Asian Persuasion what part of the pig was the loin. She gestured with her hands toward her crotch.

The gravy ($4) is delicious, creamy with a subtle taste of truffle. One order is another for three people. The fries were crispy even after taking a hot gravy bath.

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Happy birthday What’s up Hamsup. Hope you enjoyed your personalized birthday card. You better stop eating at Oiishi lest you ruin your killer bod.

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Date Night at Red Ember

Lately, I haven’t been in the mood to blog. However, my Sunday date night at Red Ember jolted me out of a slump. I think Christina, a long-time fixture at Red Ember is one of the best servers in the city. She is polite, attentive and she has this ability to make dining at her restaurant such a pleasant experience.

Though it has been two years since I last visited, Christina recognized us and remembered how I love deep-fried shrimp heads while my husband avoids watching me munch away on the antennas. Service from Christina is like being pampered at the spa. Let me tell you that after a long week at work, it feels incredible. I think having a great meal with even better service is a respite from reality.

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On an early Sunday evening, the restaurant wasn’t super packed. The mood is serene and relaxing, with old school jazz playing oh so soothingly in the background. Christina brought out a special complimentary bite for us to eat. Smokey tuna in ponzu sauce and a piece of butterfish that was deliciously seared.

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Our main dishes of chirashi ($16.99) and chef select nigiri ($19.99) was fantastic. Christina told us she asked the chef to make ensure the food was extra good, as the owner/chef Calvin was away that night. Aw, we missed you too!

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My selection of nigiri included saba, raw shrimp, deep-fried shrimp head, salmon, tuna, scallop, butterfish, octopus and red crab. My new favourite item at Red Ember is butterfish. Oh my. Butterfish is silky like a scallop but with a rich oil aftertaste. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The raw shrimp was sweet and deep-fried shrimp head reminded me of soft shell crab.

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L’s chirashi came with a huge piece of butterfish. The octopus was thickly sliced and crunchy. The scallop was large, fresh tasting and not at all fishy. The salmon was buttery and flavourful. The portions were generous in both dishes. We were both full for hours after our dinner.

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With a big pot of tea ($1.25), our the bill for two was under $40.00. While I really enjoyed the select nigiri, I want to try the chirashi next. Thank you Christina, for the extra TLC. The food was delicious and we plan to make Red Ember a regular spot to dine.

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Red Ember Japanese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Shokunin – Happy Hour

My colleagues Asian Persuasion and What’s Up Hamsup are trouble. The last time I went out with them I came home and vomited so violently, my husband thought I turned. I was just about to leave the office when Asian Persuasion persuaded me to join them for happy hour at Shokunin. Before we go on, let’s listen to appropriate music to read along, Britney Spear’s Work B**ch.

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We made it just in time for happy hour (3:00-5:00pm). You can get a select cocktail, a draft beer or house sake for only $5.00. That particular day, select skewers went for only $2.00.

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The Kiiro cocktail was delish. Made with Beefeater gin, ginger and lime cordial, it reminded me of my favourite drink at Vie Cafe, ginger kombucha. So good in fact, I drank two.

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Then came the skewers. We ordered chicken skin, thigh, ass, and drummettes. Everyone had their favourite, this time around, chicken ass was mine.

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The thigh was beautifully cooked, with the distinctive taste of charcoal. I like it when the meat is blacken on the edges because of the more intense flavour.

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The chicken ass at Shokunin was mighty fine. The meat was fatty and came blisteringly hot and crispy.

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When the chicken karrage ($11) came out, I actually drooled out of the corner of my mouth. I was relieved my husband wasn’t there to see me salivating, as I’m sure it’s a real turn off. That day, the karrage was made out of breast meat, as the restaurant was out of thighs. The chicken was so moist that I didn’t even notice. The batter had its trademark crunch.

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What’s Up Hamsup and Asian Persuasion thought Shokunin’s tempura squid ($12) was the best they ever ate. The squid was tender. The batter was light and melted on your tongue.

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We ordered the beef tongue gyoza ($9), as our favourite server Moto recommended it to my friends. This time around, I thought the dumplings were amazing. The gyoza was nice and crispy on the outside while the juicy meaty interior was super flavourful. Much better than the last time I ate it. I detected a spicy heat, which I think may have stemmed from the dipping sauce.

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The owner and chef of Shokunin, Darren MacLean sent out a complimentary dish. The daily forage, Tempura Asparagus with Morels. Oh my goodness. My vegetarian friends all need to try this dish. The grilled morels were soft and that sauce, a miso hollandaise was amazing. The asparagus stalk was lightly battered, similar to that stellar fried squid. Best dish of the evening.

How much was 12 skewers, an order of squid, karrage, gyoza, and five premium cocktails ? With tax and a  20% tip, it was only $34 dollars a person. I don’t normally do happy hour as it interferes with my daily yoga practice, but for this quality and price,  I make it work b**ch!.

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

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Sassi Kitchen and Bar

Disclaimer – The following content may contain one image that is not suitable for some audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.

My friend Blondie threw herself a divorce party.  She and her friends decided to have the party at Sassi Kitchen and Bar in Mission, as they enjoyed their last girls’ night there. My own pictures of the restaurant didn’t turn out, so the next few photos below I stole from the restaurant’s Instagram account. To get you in the mood, let’s listen to one of my favourite break-up songs, You Oughta Know by Alanis Morrisette.

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Sassi is not your typical Calgary restaurant. The room is beautifully decorated with lovely murals, dark chandeliers and lots of white furniture. The best time to dine is in the evening when it’s dark outside and the entire room lights up.

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We were seated in the back – in our own private section with a section to stow away our coats and purses. Our server Vicki should be commended. She went out of her way to ensure we were comfortable, happy and having a good time.

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Our table of 12 started off with prosecco, cheese and charcuterie ($30). We were able to do half and half of cheese and selection of Italian meats. The platter was filled with buttered warm pita bread, crunchy pickles, candied walnuts, dried fruit and a selection of condiments like honey, mustard and chutney.

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I ordered a 9 ounce glass of Dancing Bull ($16) and the Homemade Ravioli ($24). I received 12 pieces of ravioli that was filled with a smooth filling of provolone cheese. The dish was creamy from the rich marscarpone cheese sauce, salty from the prosciutto and sweet from the figs. The toasted almond slivers added a pleasant crunch to the dish. I was starving when I started to eat and when I was done, I was stuffed.

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I hear Sassi serves wonderful desserts. However, Blondie’s friends bought her a novelty cake… A picture says a thousand words. Though I try to keep this blog P-G rated, this cake is too darn nuts not to post! I hope their cutting humour doesn’t hurt your delicate senses.

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Sassi excels with its hospitality and ambience. From the host to the owner (I think) coming over to say hello, our large group was made to feel welcomed and special. Considering this was a divorce party, the extra TLC meant a lot. Thanks Vicki for helping make the night a fun one.

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I’d like to return to try the chicken liver pate and gnocchi. If you haven’t checked it out yet, drop by. The ravioli is tasty and the service (from Vicki) can’t be beat.

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Sassi Kitchen & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Redheads Japa Cafe

My husband and I are going to Japan! While he’s been several times, it will be my first visit. To celebrate, we went over to Redheads Japa Cafe for a late dinner.

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At Redheads, I can usually count on hearing Jack Jackson’s song, Better Together. I remember when I worked at my neighbourhood coffee house.  I would put Jackson’s playlist on repeat during my six hour shift. Customers would always complain that they were sick of hearing the same artist but I didn’t care enough to do anything about it.

One of the owners of Redheads who is also the chef came out to say hello. He recommended the special, Hamburg Curry ($10.99) and told me he would incorporate some mushrooms in the gravy. L ordered his usual, Japa Katsu Curry ($10.99) and the Beef Tataki ($8.00).

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The presentation of the curry has changed. Now, the curry is separated in a gravy boat. The beef curry is served piping hot, thick and with a texture similar to pulled pork. The curry is heavy and super flavourful with a subtle heat to it. L’s pork katsu was practically still sizzling from the fryer, the batter thin and crunchy. The portions at Redheads are spot on, generous with the amount of curry and a smaller portion of rice.

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My hamburg brought out my inner fei po. The patty itself was well-seasoned and packed with the rich taste of Alberta beef. The exterior was super crunchy and remained so despite the bath of the shitake mushroom gravy. How good was this dish? I promptly ignored my beer and focused on shoving this delicious food into my mouth. As always, the rice was perfect. The egg on top was poached beautifully, the yolk soft and sticky.

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I asked L if hamburg tasted this good in Japan. He thinks Redheads makes the best one he tried, possibly because of the use of Alberta beef. He says there is something in the taste of Redheads and Shokunin food that reminds him of Japan.

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The beef tataki was good. Generous slices of chilled ruby red steak. The sauce was a sweet soy ginger blend. The crunchy garlic chips and salad were a nice addition to the dish.

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Redheads Japa Cafe is one of my favourite places to eat. Japanese curry is out of this world good and so underrated in Calgary. The prices make it an affordable place to eat on a regular occasion and service is always good. It’s a great place to grab a quick meal and enjoy it in a quiet atmosphere.

 

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

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Tamarind Vietnamese Restaurant

My buddy Jaime is leaving Calgary. She wants to hit up some of her favourite restaurants before she leaves at the end of this month. On a chilly Wednesday night, she suggested we check a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant in the downtown core, Tamarind.

Before I talk about the food, I’m going to set the mood with a song to show how I feel about my friend leaving me. If the ever so melodramatic Celine Dion depresses you while you read along, you can blame Jaime. Sadly, I’ve become attached to the little vegetarian.

Tamarind is tiny and near closing time, was still packed with customers. The food takes a long time to arrive as it is so busy and the homemade food is plated with care. For example, the tofu is house made with non-GMO soya beans and without calcium sulfate.  I noticed the colours were bright and  the food artfully presented.

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When Jaime opened the menu, she let out a happy little squeal and said, “I can order anything off the menu!” I take it for granted that I can go into any restaurant and choose whatever I want. Well, except the really expensive stuff but that’s my choice as I want to stay within my budget.

Jaime and I wanted to try the Veggie La Lot Rolls ($9), but the restaurant was sold out. Instead, we tried the Tofu Mini Pie ($8.50). The tofu is mixed with mushrooms, bean thread noodles, peas and carrots. As instructed, we poured the fish sauce on top and spooned the warm tofu mixture on sesame rice crackers.

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I ordered the Sate Tofu Noodle Soup ($11.00) sans cilantro. The broth here rocked. Spicy, clean, flavourful but light. The tofu was particularly good, sweet with a pleasantly firm, silky smooth texture. The bowl was filled with broccoli, cauliflower, onions, carrots, celery, sugar snap peas, and mushrooms. I added some fresh basil leaves and sprouts. Usually I’m still hungry after eating vegetarian food, but here I was more full than a regular non vegetarian restaurant.

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Jaime ordered Laksa ($12), which came with similar vegetables and noodles. I tried a sip of her broth, which was lighter and more fragrant than my sate soup. I could detect the lemongrass and the coconut milk. Jaimie enjoyed her dish but preferred the sate tofu soup over the laksa.

I found the prices reasonable for the portions and quality. If I was a vegetarian, I would come here every day. I plan to return but I will likely opt for take-out. Next time, I want to try  Tamarind’s fresh Paradise Rolls ($7.50), Veggie La Lot Rolls ($9.00), Pad Thai ($13.00) and any dishes with tofu. Tamarind’s tofu is delicious.

 

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Shokunin – Guest appearance with BottleNick and J-Thug

The older I get, the harder it is to find a venue that plays music from my era. I know Modern Steak does a hip hop night on Fridays after 9:00 p.m., but that’s an hour before my bedtime. I recently found a restaurant that’s exactly what the late 90s/2000’s doctor ordered. Whenever I’m craving a night out with my favourite foods and tunes, I head over to Shokunin.

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My husband L just came back from a week long conference, which meant I could guilt trip him into taking me out for a late night dinner. Moments after we sat down, two of L’s colleagues stepped inside. Imagine this song came on when we first saw J-Thug and BottleNick, two ballers entering the restaurant.

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J-Thug and BottleNick invited us to sit at their table. As they have never been to Shokunin, I suggested all the food.  I ordered J-Thug and myself a glass of sake, Kaiun “New Fortune” Iwaizake Junmai Daiginjo ($20/3 oz), while BottleNick and L stuck to bottles of Asahi. Unfortunately, the restaurant was again out of the Shokunin/Big Rock collaboration, Okami Kasu ($8/16oz), which is made with Canadian grown rice from the Fraser Valley in B.C. and sake lees from Vancouver. Poo! If you want some, you’ll to wait until June.

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BottleNick is a pescetarian, so I ordered him shiisito ($3) and mushroom ($3) yakitori, Japanese style potato salad ($8), rice ($3), the daily maki roll (scallop $16) and an octopus appetizer. The rice in the maki was a little hard. Looking back, I should have ordered him the scallop isoyaki (market price), which is a large sweet, still sashimi-like scallop roasted over charcoal, butter and soy. Next time.

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I ordered J-Thug the most expensive cocktail on the menu, this cool glass sphere filled with fog ($20). I think the main ingredient was a costly Japanese whiskey, and as the fog lifted, it would change the taste of the drink. According to J-Thug, it was worth the price tag. I tried a sip and yes, it’s out of this world.

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I also drank a lovely cocktail, the Remonado ($12), which is comprised of Beshi sake, Oolong tea and Yuzu lemon sake. Then I drank another sake, the Mikotsuru “Majestic Crane” Junmai Pink ($11). I’m going to play another song because I was in heaven at this point and you need to get into my mindset.

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For food, J-Thug tried the chicken karrage ($11), which he thought was amazing. He also ordered thigh ($3) and skin yakitori ($2.50). The restaurant was sold out of gizzard, which J-Thug wanted to try.

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All of us except for Pescetarian BottleNick tried a piece of a handmade crispy braised beef tongue gyoza. Our favourite guy at Shokunin, Moto, highly recommended this dish. While I enjoyed the gyoza, it’s not one of my favourite dishes here. Rather, it was a complimentary dish presented by Darren MacLean, the owner and chef of Shokunin, that wowed us.

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Darren brought over a plate of four fresh Japanese Kabura turnips with the greens still attached. The turnip was sweet, crunchy and unbelievably fresh, while the rich saltiness of the red grainy miso and garlic dressing was just incredible.  J-Thug didn’t finish the greens and I really wanted to eat it but since we just met, I held back.

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L and I ordered our usual yakitori picks and Shokunin’s perfect steamed rice. We enjoyed dipping the chicken into the soy cured egg dip, which I’ve never seen before at any other izakaya. I tried chicken neck ($3.50) which was the softest meat ever. I also ate chicken skin ($2.50) which tasted like delicate crunchy fried chicken skin. To date, my favourite skewers rank in this order: chicken neck, chicken skin, chicken thigh (best value/flavour), chicken ass and chicken heart.

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J-Thug said he couldn’t understand why this restaurant was getting such poor reviews on Zomato and Yelp. I can’t speak for when Shokunin first opened. However, I will say this place is not for those looking to get stuffed for cheap. It’s not possible with the top quality ingredients and the techniques employed here.

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After our feast, we decided to head over to Milk Tiger Lounge, J-Thug’s favourite bar. While service was very good and the crowd was fun, it was so loud I couldn’t even hear our conversation. All I could see were pictures of tang. I would have preferred to stay at Shokunin for drinks, as the prices are the same (if you avoid the crème de la crème sake and the more extravagant cocktails). Milk Tiger does have a larger and more varied beer list than Shokunin.  

This was my second time in Shokunin in two weeks. I might be in later this week for late night ramen if I can manage to stay up past 10:00 pm. I’m actually not a big ramen fan, but I’m curious to see what all the fuss is about.

View my food journey on Zomato!

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

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Khao San Thai Kitchen

Ms. Biz has taken me out for so many lunches that I can’t keep track. She speaks highly of Khao San Thai Kitchen so I told her I’d take her and Cruizing out for lunch. Of course Office Dad came too as we needed our office chaperone.

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Khao San Thai Kitchen is tastefully decorated. The colour scheme has lots of dark colours and rich decorative flourishes. Ms. Biz informed me that one of the owners, Sam, has a background in the hotel industry. His hospitality experience is evident in the professional service we received to the heavy silverware, teacups with saucers to the linen napkins.

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When we ordered, Office Dad asked if they could blend the green and red curries together. Aya Office Dad! The gentleman, who I think was the other owner, looked surprised at the request and said that no one has ever asked him that question but if that’s what he wants, he could do it. I protested and told Office Dad to not be a weirdo and just order like a normal person, off the menu. Office Dad laughed good-naturedly, and picked a curry with no modifications.

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We ordered four cups of jasmine tea ($8) and two bowls of the tofu ($5) and chicken ($6) Kha San Creamy Tom Yam soup. The soup was unbelievable. My tastebuds were alive, awoken by the spicy, tart, salty and sour notes of the soup. I could taste the lime, lemongrass and the deep heat of the chilli. The soup was silky smooth. The tofu was still crispy, tasting like it was briefly deep-fried before being added to the soup.

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Surprisingly, one of my favourite dishes was the Chicken Cashew Nuts ($13.00). I find at Chinese restaurants, chicken and cashews taste one dimensional. Not at Khao San. The sauce was sweet and sticky, so good we ensured each drop was used mopped up in the rice. The chicken was battered and juicy. The cashews were roasted. The bell peppers and onions still retained a nice crunch.

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The Pork Green Curry ($13.00) was delightful. The pork slices were tender. I liked the lightness of the green curry and the use of zucchini and fresh Thai basil leaves.

The Beef Red Curry ($13.00) was also good. The beef was nicely sliced but could have been a bit more tender. The squash was soft and sweet while the bell peppers were crunchy. I appreciate that Khao San uses a variation of vegetables for all the dishes, so you aren’t eating the same ones in each dish. Sometimes I find at Asian restaurants use the same vegetables in all the dishes.

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I enjoyed the Pad Thai Koong Sod ($15.00). There were plenty of prawns and a generous smattering of eggs, bean sprouts, roasted peanuts and tofu. Most importantly, the taste of tamarind was evident. Not ketchup used here. While the pad thai was very good, I preferred the cashew chicken and the pork green curry even more.

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Finally, we ordered two servings of coconut ice cream ($12.00). The ice-cream was hard (that’s what she said), which we all preferred. I hate it when ice cream melts too quickly. Rich and creamy, the coconut flavour was strong and it tasted like it was homemade. Office Dad loved the addition of the peanuts, palm sprouts and a jelly-like topping. I like my ice cream plain. The portion was generous.
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Unlike Tuk Tuk, I found the food at Khao San vibrant and screaming with flavour. I didn’t even need the tray of spices, as it tasted great as served. None of the dishes were spicy, but the soup had a strong heat to it. Yes, the prices are a little higher than other Thai restaurants, but it’s worth it. I agree with Ms. Biz that it’s better to pay extra than to eat subpar food.

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This is the best Thai food I’ve ever eaten, but mind you, the only other places I have for comparison are in Vancouver and Calgary. I plan to take my husband here for date night to try the braised short ribs in massaman curry ($23), chicken cashew dish and of course, that soup. Ms. Biz says she and her husband come for dinner and order soup, an appetizer, two main dishes, cocktails and leave for under $100. That’s a great price for all that expertly prepared food and profesional service.

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If you haven’t checked out Kha San Thai Kitchen yet, I would highly recommend it. This 17th Avenue gem is making it on Fei Po’s list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

 

View my food journey on Zomato!

Khao San Thai Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Shokunin

I wanted to try Shokunin since it opened, but all posts on Yelp and Zomato saying the food was too expensive deterred me. Shokunin uses only the best and freshest ingredients. Even the charcoal used for the yakitori is flown in from Japan. Pretty much no expense is spared to create these dishes. I understand these things cost money. Heck, when I go to Superstore and Coop, I notice how expensive food is and that stuff ain’t organic or shipped from Japan. However, as I follow Shokunin on Twitter and Instagram, I noticed the menu prices have decreased.

My husband won another award so I told him I was taking him out to celebrate at Shokunin. I requested a table away from the action by the open concept kitchen and bar. A little privacy was needed for this occasion.

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The restaurant was happening and bustling with good energy on Friday evening. The interior of the restaurant is awesome. I loved how the sunlight filtering in the front of the room interplayed with the darkness from the back of the room. We sat in a corner, facing the vibrant Japanese murals.

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Kudos to our server Moto. I swear L and I both know him for somewhere, but I am not sure where. His delightfully cheery demeanour was contagious and added to the good vibes that night.

I never enjoyed sake until I tried it at Shokunin. When I drank sake before I would hold my breath. The sake served here is amazing. Smooth, mellow, with sweet melon notes. Delightful and not cheap. A three ounce glass set me back $14. Nice for a special occasion. I ordered a glass of Fukucho Sparkling  and then a glass of Kuheiji Hitto ($14.00). My favourite was the latter. L picked a bottle of Asahi ($7.00) as the bar sold out of the speciality beer that Big Rock and Shokunin developed together.

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Our yakitori picks included: chicken heart ($2.50), chicken liver ($2.50), chicken breast ($3.00), chicken thigh ($3.00), and Pope’s Nose (aka chicken ass, $4.00). Our favourite was the chicken thigh, as it had the most distinct taste of the charcoal. The breast was the least flavourful of all the cuts, but it’s to be expected, white meat and all. Chicken ass was crunchy and fatty. The heart was pretty tasty, I would order it again. If I was looking to get full, I’d stick to the chicken thighs, which were meaty.

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We shared a bowl of rice ($3.00). This was a good size bowl, but most importantly, it was perfectly cooked. Grains were sticky but firm, with a bit of a chew to it. L enjoyed the seasoning sprinkled on top of the rice. Next time, I’m getting my own bowl.

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The chicken karaage ($11) was the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten in my life. L doesn’t normally like fried chicken, but he ate more than I did. The batter was light and really crunchy, shattering when I bit into the juicy, hot chicken pieces. I could eat just this and a bowl of rice and be the happiest fei po in the world.

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L went nuts over the potato salad ($8.00). The potatoes were beautifully stacked and layered with a tart, pickled vegetable, green onions, and dandelion leaves.  Served cold, nicely seasoned, the potato salad was simple and refreshing.

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How much was all this superb food? $61 bucks. Drinks set me back $35.00. We left super full and happy. I like that we could stop by for a snack of yakitori and beer, or go all out with the omakase ($65 per person, sake pairing add $40). L has a big day coming up late 2016, and I’m already planning on treating him to Shokunin’s omakase.

If you haven’t already, check this place out. If you have and didn’t have the experience I did, give it another try during happy hour (Monday to Friday from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm) for some excellent and inexpensive booze and yakitori. Note that after 5:00 pm, you can park for FREE in Shokunin’s parking lot. Spend that $4.00 you saved on chicken ass, it is mighty tasty.

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

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Ke Charcoal Grill and Sushi

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On Tuesday, L thought it was too hot to cook. That’s good news for me, as I’m the one who does most of the cooking at home. L can only cook five dishes: BBQ ribs, BBQ chicken, BBQ pork loin, sausages and steak.

L told me to pick the restaurant. I read a lot of positive reviews about Ke Charcoal Grill and Sushi on Zomato and Yelp, so I figured it was a safe enough bet. Plus, the prices looked reasonable. With this economic recession, I feel really guilty going out to eat.

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The interior is so much nicer than the exterior of the building. Ke Charcoal did a nice job remodelling the place. At 8:00 p.m., the lower floor was packed with customers. Music was vibrant but not too loud. The smells coming off the grills were tantalizing.

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We started off with a pint of Sapporo ($5.00) and complimentary edamame. I forgot how good beer and edamame go together. Our server was so cute, she brought these over saying, “Have some snacky snacky!”

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I like the open kitchen and the good vibes coming from the cooks and servers. Despite how busy it was, the chefs and servers exuded a happy to be here vibe.

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L saw the chefs using a contraption to make these the Wild Salmon Oshi Sushi ($6). L liked the simplicity of the sushi. The miso sauce was light and highlighted the salmon, rather than overpower it like so many other fusion Japanese restaurants. I didn’t really taste the sear of the sushi, but perhaps that’s just me.

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L ordered Tuna Nigiri ($3.50), which was pretty good, though the rice could have used a touch more seasoning. Again, this is a personal preference. L liked that Ke Charcoal didn’t put wasabi on the rice. I thought all the sushi was well-priced for the quality.

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My favourite was the Spicy Salmon Oshi Sushi, with chopped salmon and spicy mayo. The salmon was firm but nicely marbled. I didn’t think the jalapeño did much for either sushi, so I just removed it. To each their own.

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The best dish of the night was the Black Miso Cod ($10). The fish was sweet, almost candied. So flavourful, I didn’t need to use the mayo.

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The Chicken Karaage  ($7) had a nice crunchy batter, but there wasn’t much meat. The karagge was mostly batter. I would have preferred plain mayo instead of spicy, but again, that’s just my personal taste.

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I ordered Kaki Fry ($8.00), one of my favourite things to eat. The oysters tasted fresh and were perfectly cooked. The coating was thin and crunchy, reminding me of the batter of deep-fried scallops in Japanese restaurants. The dish was suppose to come with spicy mayo sauce, but instead, it came with a heavier brown sauce. I prefer the lighter batter and ponzu sauce that Zipang uses in their version.

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L wanted to try some meat skewers, as everyone else was ordering it.  Just over $2.00 a  stick, these were a tasty snack. My favourite was the pork belly, which was hot in temperature and fatty. L thought the  chicken yakatori was fine, though lacking in a distinctive charcoal taste.

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I really liked our server. She dropped off a box of Pocky and the bill. She said, “Pocky for you, and the bill for him.” Smart woman.

Overall, the food was tasty and well-priced. Without tax and tip, all those dishes and with two beers, our bill was $62.00. I enjoyed the selection of varied dishes and would happily return to try all the other dishes. This place is popular for a reason. If you haven’t already, come by and check it out.

Ke Charcoal Grill and Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Pure Vietnamese Kitchen + Bar

Chef Pham’s take on Vietnamese food reminds me of one of my favourite chefs in Calgary, Duncan Ly (formerly of Raw Bar/Yellow Door). Dishes are creative, flavours stand out, and he spins a playful take on Vietnamese food.
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Jaime and I got the chance to check out Pure Vietnamese this past Saturday. We started off with a glass of pinot gris ($8.00). The glasses were chilled, the wine cold and refreshing.

Kudos to our server Dani. She ensured that the food Jaime ordered was vegetarian, from the dipping sauce to the sauce in another dish.
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I started off with the Sate Surf and Turf ($9.00). I wasn’t sure what it was based on its description, but it’s a salad roll. Each piece was garnished with shrimp, stuffed with fresh herbs, noodles and a slice of beef. I liked the crunch from the shrimp, crispy onions and cucumbers. Filling, light and refreshing.
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Chef Pham sent us a salad on the house, the Papaya and Mango Salad ($10), with shrimp on the side for me. The grilled sate shrimp was spicy and sweet. I loved the edible flowers and the freshness of the julienne young papaya. The peanuts and rice crackers added another dimension to this lovely salad.

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Next up was one of our favourite dishes when Chef Pham was at Watercress, Kimchi Fried Rice ($11.75). At Pure Vietnamese, this version is saucier and heavier on the gochujiang. Beware, this is a spicy dish. A fried egg with a still soft center, scallions and a whack of sesame seeds completes this dish. Heaven.

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The vegetarian spring rolls ($6.75) were so delicious that I didn’t miss the meat. The filling of cabbage, mung bean, carrots and glass noodles was creamy, the wrapper crunchy though oily. I should have done what Leng Lui taught me – to press a napkin around it before eating the spring roll.

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Finally, we ate a side order of snap peas, mushrooms and onions ($8.00). Speckled with black and white toasted sesame seeds, this simple dish was properly cooked. The snap peas were sweet and crunchy.

My office manager loves Vietnamese food, and I’m going to recommend that she and the rest of my office family check out this gem. The food is delicious and reasonably priced. I also found the portion sizes more generous than Watercress. This is food to share with a group of people. I can’t wait to take my husband back so I can try some of the meat dishes, like the Claypot Chicken, Lobster Fried Rice, and pretty much everything on the menu.

FYI – between 2-5pm, happy hour features appetizers at half off with the purchase of a drink. At that price, the food is practically free. Fei Po likes Pure Vietnamese Kitchen + Bar so much, she’s talking about herself in the third person that this new restaurant is making it on her list of the most favourite restaurants in Calgary.

Kudos to Chef Lam Pham for leaving his popular eatery, Watercress on 17th Ave, to start a new venture, Pure Vietnamese Kitchen + Bar. Growing up, I saw my mother start up and run her own businesses and the experience has forever traumatized me. The long hard hours, financial risk and need to persevere through it all is damn scary. I wish him all the success in his latest venture.

View my food journey on Zomato!

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

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Bookers BBQ and Crab Shack

Dr. B just returned from one of his epic trips. We usually get together two to three times a year.  As I know he has a penchant for pubs, I picked Bookers BBQ and Crab Shack for lunch. Booker’s has street parking for Dr. B and it’s close to my workplace.

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The interior of the restaurant is pretty cool. The building is old, the room is dark with super high ceilings. I could smell the smoke coming from the kitchen, and it lingered on my hair hours after lunch. Ah, I bet my fellow yogees just loved standing next to me that evening, inhaling my BBQ infused sweat. Yummy.

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Dr. B is a light and healthy eater, so I did the ordering. I didn’t want to be stuck eating a salad. We shared a Beef Brisket Sandwich ($12.95) and a plate of the Brisket Burnt Ends ($10.95). The beef brisket was covered in a  Kansas City BBQ sauce. I found the sauce delightful.

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I would recommend the brisket sandwich. The smooth, clean texture of the bun went really well with the thick, juicy slices of beef. The crispy onions were a nice textural touch. I also liked the deep-fried pickle that came on top of the bun.

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The beef tips were another winner. Dr. B noted that this dish was not the type thing you would make at home. The square-like meat was pillowy soft. Dr. B said some pieces were too fatty for him, but that’s what I think made it taste so good. If you prefer lean cuts of meat, don’t order the brisket sandwich or the beef tips. I know this comment is going to gross my vegetarian friend Jaime out… but it must be said. I love the taste of hot squishy fat as it squirts on your tongue.

The cornbread was a good portion, crumbly and sweet. The jalapeño macaroni and cheese came bubbling away in a hot pan. I didn’t find it spicy and it was light despite the cheese sauce. I liked the oven baked crumbs on the top of the perfectly al dente noodles. While a lot of reviewers on Zomato love the sides at Bookers, I prefer the meat. The meat here trumps all.

I want to book an event with my coworkers at Bookers. The venue is neat and different from the usual places on Stephen Avenue. I can’t compare the food to Palomino, our usual hangout, because the food at Bookers, though also BBQ, is different.

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Bookers BBQ Grill & Crab Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Spaghetti Cafe Prairie

I learned about Spaghetti Cafe Prairie as it was featured in my boss’ newsletter. I never tried Japanese style spaghetti and L was interested as he ate it when he lived in Osaka. We came by on a Friday evening. The place was quiet, but it gave me the opportunity to learn about the food from the owner Takeshi.

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Takeshi specializes in Japanese style spaghetti. He serves up 15 versions at his restaurant. Takeshi informed me that Japanese spaghetti is common in Japan. Due to the economic development in the 80s’,  Japanese culture was diversified. Italian food become a favourite among the Japanese because it looks fancy but it’s not expensive. Many Japanese chefs left Japan to learn how to cook Italian food in Italy. When they returned, they used local ingredients in their version of spaghetti. Takeshi said Japanese style spaghetti restaurants are common and can be found in many strip malls in Japan.

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Okay, enough of the history lesson. Let’s get to the good stuff. Dishes range from around $8.00 to $11.50. Mention you saw the ad in a community newsletter and you get free garlic bread. At lunch, spaghetti and meatballs are on special for $9.50. A dish of pasta will fill you comfortably but not stuff you. Japanese tea ($2.00) came in a bag and was self-served.

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I ordered the Japanese Chicken Spaghetti ($11.50). The noodles were al dente, slippery, and intermingled with shredded steamed chicken, green onion, and toasted sesame seeds. The noodles were well-seasoned from the soy sauce and chicken stock.

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L picked the Chicken Nut Spaghetti ($11.50). Again, there was shredded chicken, ground nuts and onions. The sauce was creamy and reminded me of a cross between dan dan noodles and pad Thai. This was a richer dish than the Japanese Chicken spaghetti which was much lighter and fresher.

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The room is utilitarian and no alcohol is served. Food comes quickly, making it an ideal place to stop by for a quick meal. I hope business picks up for Takeshi as Spaghetti Cafe Prairie fills a void for something inexpensive and different from the other places in the neighbourhood in that price range. Check this place out and remember to say you saw the ad in a community newsletter to get free garlic bread!

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Spaghetti Cafe Prairie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Monki Breakfast Club and Bistro

One of Jaime’s favourite brunch spots is Monki. She raves about the the prosecco hollandaise sauce on the eggs benny. Last Sunday, I arrived at Monki at 12:45 pm. I was told our table would be ready by 2:00 pm. Jaime and I shopped around to kill time. At 2:00 pm we checked our status at Monki. Turned out someone tried to call me but I didn’t see it on my phone, nor heard it ring. I blame my brothers for their constant texting about Walking Dead. Our table was long gone, but Jaime sweetly asked if it was still possible to get a table. Lucky for us, we only had to wait another ten minutes.

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Monki is a tiny restaurant. I remember when it was Petite, one of the first nice restaurants I experienced in Calgary when my husband and I were dating. The vibe is funky and eclectic. I enjoyed the music, boisterous tunes ranging from 60’s to 80’s.

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Our server was friendly and despite how busy it was, he was around to refill my coffee and our water. The action in the open kitchen was awesome. We could see flames flaring up from our table.

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I ordered Fratello coffee ($3.00) while Jaime opted for a decaf cappuccino ($4.50). I liked that the coffee was piping hot. For food, Jaime ordered a vegetarian benny while I took my server’s recommendation to try the Spanish Chorizo Benny.

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I enjoyed popping my yolks and watching the bright dark orange liquid flow over the egg whites. Jaime said she could taste the prosecco and some orange zest in the hollandaise sauce. My tastes are not so refine. I just tasted deliciousness.

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I liked the texture of the ground up chorizo, soft and mealy. The caramelized onions and goat cheese complimented the spicy heat of the sausage. The potatoes crispy, chunky, and well seasoned. I thought the spices tasted a bit like what you get in ketchup chips, sweet and tangy.

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The side of fruits is worth eating. I normally pass on fruit cups, but at Monki, we were treated to blood oranges, grapes, mandarin oranges, melon and pineapple. I found out from our server that they buy all the fruit from the Farmer’s Market.

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For dessert, we received fortune cookies. I received two while Jaime got a lame fortune. Jaime’s fortune isn’t worth a picture, but I’ll tell you what it said, “The best way to get rid of an enemy is to make him a friend.” Now that’s a bad fortune. Like hell I’d make an enemy a friend. Life’s to short to surround yourself with frenemies. Jaime just needs to hang around me more often and avoid sh%!#y advice.

Jaime likes Monki more than Parc because she says the food is more flavourful and unique. Prices are very reasonable considering the quality. I want to go back to try the Frittata and panini. Thanks Jaime for recommending this popular brunch hot spot.

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MONKI Breakfast Club & Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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K&B Pho – Lunch with the Office Family

I was just about to eat a bowl of my homemade ham and split pea soup when Leng Lui came up to me with Office Dad and asked, “Want to check out that K&B Pho place you’ve been dying to try?”.  I’ve been  diligent about bringing my own lunches to work, but for pho, I put my soup in the fridge for the next day.

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Office Dad’s son, Clingon, really enjoyed the complimentary tea. We found out from the server that its a Vietnamese tea. Sweeter and with more of an aroma than the tea we normally receive in a Chinese restaurant.

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Leng Lui asked if we wanted to share the Spring Rolls ($5.95). Initially, I said no but changed my mind when the spring rolls arrived at the table. Leng Lui used her napkin to soak up the grease. I did the same because I figured that lovely leng lui knew a trick or two to stay so thin. These crunchy morsels were packed full of soft pork and noodles. Really tasty filling. One of the best spring rolls I’ve eaten.

spring roll

Bit size spring roll

I ordered Rare Beef, Flank and Tendon Noodle Soup ($8.99), Leng Lui opted for Beef Sate Noodle Soup ($8.99), Office Dad picked Rare Beef, Flank and Meat Ball Noodle Soup ($8.99) while Clingon chose the BBQ Pork Chop and Fried Eggs on Broken Rice ($9.99).

Pho mix

If you hate cilantro like I do, make sure you tell your server to omit the noxious herb from your dish. The soup was yummy, with a lingering taste of star anise. The noodles were fresh and bouncy. The tendon was soft, while the beef and flank were clearly of higher than average quality.

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Leng Lui liked her sate a whole lot. She said the beef was sliced with care, unlike most pho restaurants. She thought the broth was unusual but delicious, with notes of creamy peanut sauce.

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Clingon’s dish was the best. Two big slices of pork chops. The meat smelled like it was fresh off the grill. Clingon was so stuffed from the fried eggs, rice and meat, he didn’t touch the side of vegetables.

andrew pho

We each ordered the large size of pho, which was too much food for even me. I had to give Office Dad some of my noodles. This was the first ever that I couldn’t finish all the noodles in my pho. I will order a small size the next time or share the pork chop dish with Office Dad.

We were all pleasantly surprised with the food. The room is clean and looks like it was recently renovated. The washrooms were another story. Service was slow. However, the food is cheap and delicious, so who cares? Not my office family. Leng Lui said resisted checking out K&B Pho for so long because all the authentic pho places are located in the NE. After eating here, she’s going to bring her boyfriend and all her friends to K&B. I’d say that’s quite a compliment. Pho snob.

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Pho K&B Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Full Circle Pizza and Oyster Bar

Jaime and her husband Kamloops took L and me out for dinner. We started off with a round of cocktails: Paper Plane, Corpse Reviver, Dark and Stormy, and the Lisbon Flower. I love them all, but my favourite is the Paper Plane. Made of bourbon, Aperol, and Amaro, I found the floral, lemony and herby notes refreshing.

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Full Circle is one of the few restaurants I’ll order a cocktail. My husband thinks I’m nuts but I tell you that most places water down the drinks or don’t put a full shot in a drink. Superman can fly. The Hulk has super strength. My super power? I can detect alcohol level in any drink. I had two cocktails and I tapped out for the night.

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Jaime also ordered a bottle of the house wine ($32). We all thought the house wine was fantastic for the price. We learned that the owners get all their wine from across the street, Wine Ink.

tartar

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Kamloops went wild for the Oyster and Beef Tartare ($15.00). Man, the beef was so flavourful and punched up with the homemade aioli and parmesan crisps. The fresh oyster was a nice touch. I would have never thought that raw beef and oysters pair so well together.

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Jaime was shocked to see at the large portion of fried fior. The cheese was melty and warm, a perfect contrast to the light, well-seasoned crunch of the batter. Jaime omitted the bacon, but with all the arugula and fresh tomatoes, we didn’t miss the meat.

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Jaime ordered the Guy Pi without the ham. The pizza smelled so good. With all the mushrooms, this pizza was hearty and rich. I’m glad that Jaime asked for hot pepper flakes, as I think most earthy pizzas taste better with a little heat. We also received Full Circle’s homemade jalapeño oil, of which I made good use.

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I ordered the California Pi, which is made with smoked trout, roe and chives. The mascarpone cheese was light and almost like non sweet whipping cream.  This is one of my favourite pizzas to date. Both pies exhibited a good crunch, which I find so satisfying in a pizza.

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I ordered tripled cooked fries. I should have waited a bit longer before ordering, because when the fries arrived, I was too full. That didn’t stop me from eating most of the fries. Scrumptious.

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On another occasion, I ordered the Ricotta Gnocchi. The gnocchi was smooth, covered in a silky smooth sauce of creme fraiche. Initially, I thought the combination of brussels sprout and pasta was odd, however, I thought it went really well with the mushrooms and cream sauce. Full Circle is really good at combining unusual ingredients together and making it work.

Kamloops thought Full Circle was unbelievable and he appreciated all the distinct flavours in the dishes. In the five times I visited, I’ve always experienced excellent service from different servers. I’m such a fan of this place I’m going to put Full Circle Pizza on my list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

If you’re an oyster lover, you need to check this place out. The last two hours before closing, oysters go for a mere dollar. Super fresh and with a thoughtful, varied selection, even at full price, these oysters are worth ordering.

 

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

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Hapa Izakaya – Happy Hour

My husband won an award at work. I told him we were going out to celebrate. He wanted Japanese, but not sushi. We both recently got food poisoning due to bad sushi, and ever since, we’ve been wary. Well, let’s see… there’s Hapa Izakaya, Ke Charcoal, Cerezeo, and Shokunin. L said he wanted to try Hapa, so off we went.

The interior inside Hapa is nice. Dark, high ceilings and plenty of sectional lounge seating. I noticed two large TV screens. Personally, I hate having having television screens around when I eat, but I’m sure it’s popular during hockey season.

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We arrived at the tail end of happy hour. As it was Monday, all draft beer was $5.00. L ordered a Sapporo while I ordered a glass of the house white ($5.00). From the happy hour menu, we tried: Beef Tataki ($5), Negitoro ($5), Ebi Mayo, ($5)  and the Spicy Pork Stone Bowl ($6).

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The beef tataki was excellent. The beef was flavourful, cold and thinly sliced. The sesame chili sauce was spot on and the crisp red onions and garlic crunchy bits put this dish over the top. I would order this again in a heartbeat. Way better than Oiishi.

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The negitoro in contrast to the beef tataki was awful. The tuna belly was mushy and covered in a weird spicy sauce. The garlic bread tasted like it was from Safeway.

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The shrimp in the ebi mayo was tasty. The shrimp was crunchy and large, without a heavy fried batter. The sauce was more sweet than spicy, and it reminded me a bit of ketchup. I liked the Chinese style shrimp chips, which were fresh and crackled  and then melted on my tongue.

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Our server told us to wait five minutes for our spicy pork ishi-yaki rice to fry properly in its stone bowl before eating. He’s right. The last few bites were the best when the rice had time to caramelize. This dish was comforting and filling.

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We were full at this point but L wanted to try the Chicken Karaage ($10). The chicken was super juicy and meaty. I noticed the batter was thin and soaked in a tasty soy ginger sauce. Hapa’s version is softer and not as crunchy as Gyoza King or Guu in Vancouver.

L and I would return to try some of the other dishes, like the ramen. One dish we would order even if it’s not happy hour would be the beef tataki. If you haven’t  been to Hapa yet, I totally recommend going during happy hour. Four beers, a glass of wine and all that food cost about $60.00.

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Hapa Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Soluxe – Dim Sum Lunch

I forgot to make my lunch as I spent the previous night celebrating my husband’s recent award at work. I asked Office Dad if he wanted to get something light for lunch, as we both are trying to cut back on the amount of food we eat. He wanted to check out Soluxe, as he heard the food and management has changed and improved from the previous year.

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When we walked in, we noticed that there was a buffet with REAL Chinese food, like yams, steamed meats, plain rice and homemade soup. Office Dad said the restaurant is owned by an oil company, and the restaurant feeds it employees and houses them too. We wanted to eat the same food as it looked really good in a homemade sort of way. Unfortunately, the manager said no.

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There were a ton of Chinese seniors at Soluxe. The restaurant was packed full of them. If you ever need an ego boost, come here for dim sum. I felt young and glamorous. FYI – that’s Office Dad’s head in the background. I prefer to be an anonymous blogger, and that means my friends are also incognito. However, I thought I’d tease you with a peek of the infamous Office Dad.

Office Dad didn’t like the chairs, which were too low. We felt like little kids eating at the table. I didn’t like that whenever a dish was ready, it was thrown at the table by the front. There were cleaning rags that would touch against a plate, too darn close to the food.

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Office Dad ordered XO Beef Chow Fun ($12.99). We didn’t detect any heat to the dish, despite the XO sauce. The dish wasn’t uniformly hot. The beef tasted like it was sitting around and then thrown in the dish at the last moment. The green peppers, onions and particularly the bean sprouts were undercooked. The noodles themselves were too thin and chopped up. The portion was much smaller than U&Me.

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The Sui Mai ($5.99) tasted better than it looked. There was a whole shrimp and a half. The pork mixture was bouncy and pleasantly chewy. As good as U&Me’s version.

Some of the popular dishes I saw come out of the kitchen include a rice roll Chinese doughnut, fried chow mein with beef, steamed buns and deep-fried crab balls. Portions for those particular dishes looked like a healthy size.

FYI – the food takes quite a while to come out. Though the restaurant was busy, I was surprised at the amount of time it took for our dishes to come out.

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

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Sun’s BBQ

I persuaded Clingon, Leng Lui and Office Dad to have lunch at Sun’s BBQ. We picked up Leng Lui’s friend, Sun (no relation to the restaurant) along the way. The restaurant was bustling with customers devouring succulent BBQ meats on noodles or rice.

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Office Dad and I have started to share an entree for lunch in an attempt to eat less and save a little. We ordered the Red Curry Beef with Spaghetti ($12.99). Leng Lui and Clingon always order BBQ Duck and Roasted Pork on Rice, while Sun ordered curried something in a noodle soup.

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Leng Lui and Clingon’s dish came with boiled lettuce and complimentary soup. Both are light eaters, so they both gave most of it to me. The soup was tasty and simple.

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The BBQ meats at Sun’s are very good. I like the dark roasting of the duck skin and the leanness of the meat. The roasted pork has a thin layer of white fat and a crunchy, salty skin. I bought over $60 worth of roasted pork, BBQ pork and a whole duck home with me. I freeze it and use in my fried rice and ramen.

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I enjoyed the curry sauce which was rich, creamy and buttery. The beef was tender and a good amount. I liked the addition of water chestnuts and baby corn. The broccoli was still crunchy. I wish there was more spaghetti, there was only a small fistful. However, with Leng Lui and Clingon’s charitable contributions of boiled lettuce and soup, I was comfortably full.

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As for service… let’s just say you come here for the food. Don’t wait for the server to come to the table with the bill. You have to go up and pay at the cashier. Oh yeah, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

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Sun Chiu Kee BBQ Restaurant 新釗記 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Chong Fat

Ms. Biz, LV and 24/7 Mom took me out for a belated birthday lunch. As we walked over to Chinatown, we have to cross this tricky two-lane left turn intersection on 4 Ave SE and 1 ST. Ms. Biz always sticks our her arm straight out and stares at the drivers as we walk. However, this time around it didn’t prevent a driver from almost hitting us. Ms. Biz turned around and pointed at the driver and then at the walk sign, her Louis Vuitton bag swinging on her dainty arm. The driver scowled at us as we commenced and tried to gun pass us. Seriously! There is no respect for pedestrians in Calgary.

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After my near death experience, I wanted to eat at Chong Fat. The owner always gives me a compliment, and greets me with a a friendly leng lui (pretty girl). I didn’t get my customary greeting, so I’m guessing I wasn’t looking so hot after almost being run over.

Ms. Biz consulted with everyone before ordering Soy Sauce Duck ($9.99); Fish Balls and Noodle Soup ($8.99); Black Bean Beef Noodles ($10.99) and Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice ($10.99).

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The duck was meaty and lean. I like how the soy sauce flavour is soaked into the skin. The cuttlefish was razor thin, crunchy and not chewy. A winner in my book.

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The black bean sauce was not overpowering. Everyone agreed it was ho sic (delicious). The beans were crunchy and sweet. The beef was tender. We couldn’t finish this dish because we ordered so much food.

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The fish balls and fish cakes are homemade. Ms. Biz really liked the bouncy texture and she was relieved the fish balls didn’t have that mushy texture.

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The highlight of the meal was the fried rice. This dish was hou hoeng (fragrant). You could smell the wok hei and contrasting taste of the salted fish, which gave it a nice umami flavour, kinda like anchovies in a Caesar salad. The rice was caramelized from the wok. There were so many little treasures in the rice. Honestly, this was the best fried rice I ate in Calgary, almost as good as my famous duck fried rice.

I love the friendly service and the homestyle food. Remember it’s cash only. Thanks girls for a wonderful lunch. On our next foodie adventure, we are heading to Ms. Biz’s favourite Thai restaurant, Khao San Thai Kitchen.

Chong Fat Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Cluck ‘n’ Cleaver

This Saturday was a gorgeously balmy evening. I wanted to get a drink and a burger at one of our old haunts for nostalgic reasons. The Ship was packed, the only seats right by the band. My ears were ringing from the music. My husband and I checked out Local 510, and again, the only seats were right by the speakers. Finally, we checked out Ming, but we could hear Biggie blaring from the sidewalk. L hates my taste in music, so it was a no-go.

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Then it hit me. Cluck ‘n’ Cleaver! The new chicken joint that opened up in the Beltine. We’ve seen line-ups since it opened but at 7:30pm there were only a few people ahead of us. L was pestered by a man who hung around the front door. The whole time we were waiting for our food, this guy cornered L and kept asking for money or food.

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We ordered a two-piece southern fried chicken with one side ($9.75) and a three-piece with one side ($12). I picked the rotisserie potatoes, fresh cut fries, and two handmade buttermilk biscuits ($2.50 each). It took about 5-10 minutes until our food was ready.

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I’ve never tried southern fried chicken before, so my only reference is Olive Chicken, KFC, and Church’s Chicken. Here’s my take on it. The chicken is definitely high-quality. You can taste the difference in the texture, the meatiness, and the clean taste of the chicken. The skin was crispy but I didn’t find it greasy. Unlike Olive Chicken, Cluck and Cleaver’s version doesn’t rely on a heavy batter. The seasoning was subtle, there aren’t those spices that you would find at KFC. Since this was “real” chicken, it was filling. I was full after two pieces, which is not typical of me.

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Initially, I thought the $2.50 price tag for a small biscuit was high. Well, you pay for quality. The exterior was flaky and melted on your tongue. The interior was so soft, and teared apart like cotton candy. I predict these biscuits are going to win awards in Avenue Magazine. I’m going to bring my vegetarian friend Jaime here for those biscuits.

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The fries were a generous portion and very good. Crispy and addicting. I should have ordered some gravy to dunk the fries in.

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The potatoes are made with the rotisserie chicken drippings. The potatoes tasted like the local variety I buy from Market 17, the type that has so much flavour you don’t need to add anything but a sprinkle of salt.

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One tip. Normally I save the skin and eat it separately from the chicken, a gross habit I learned growing up in a KFC loving family. At Cluck & Cleaver, I prefer to eat the skin with the chicken. The skin taste better with the meat than on its own.

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Cluck 'n' Cleaver  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Five Spice – Vietnamese Subs

My brother-in-law Uncle Ben and his partner, Veggie Girl really like Five Spice. Uncle Ben reports that the owners are meticulous in the sub preparation, making sure that the toppings are arranged just so. They often pick up Vietnamese subs or eat in for pho. Veggie Girl can never finish her sub, but she eats like a bird.

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For Uncle Ben’s birthday, the family met at his house. Bobbino ordered 11 subs and some homemade dumplings. If you ask, Five Spice will deliver too. Uncle Ben got a kick out of the fact Five Spice prints the labels for their subs, for example, Tofu Sub or Pork Sub. He’s really into the details, and Five Spice delivers on that front.

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You can tell by the filling that it wasn’t made in a factory. The vegetarian version had corn and bits of tofu in it. The pork dumplings were more substantial. Both versions looked deep-fried or cooked in a lot of oil. I would pass on the dumplings and try another appetizer, but perhaps I’m just spoiled by Chuen May. FYI – I LOVE CHUEN MAY!

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I tried the vegetarian sub, the chicken sub and the beef sub. My favourite was the beef sub because the beef was the most flavourful, saucy and juicy. The chicken was a little dry and I thought the meat was skimpier than the beef. The vegetarian sub has marinated tofu in it. I liked the combination of vegetables and the noticeable kick from the jalapeños. The bread was crusty with a good chew to it. This is one of the most filling subs I’ve consumed, even bigger than Thi Thi , which I adore (as does Mayor Nenshi, based on the number of pictures of him at Thi Thi). The price is awesome too for the quantity and quality.

Funny story. My boss is promoting businesses in Montgomery and Bowness for free, as a way to help out local businesses. No strings attached. I called Five Spice a week earlier to ask them if they wanted to be advertised at no cost. The owner responded he was fine for now and didn’t need it. The food is dang good and cheap. I guess they have enough business from word of mouth. In any case, give this place a try. When I return, I want to try the pho, pad thai, the take-away frozen food and of course, more of the subs.

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Five Spice Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sky 360 – Big Taste Lunch

Playboy was sick, so our plans to try out Shokunin  were scrapped. I saw J.Chews positive review of Sky 360, so Leng Lui, Office Dad and I made reservations to check it out. Normally the entrance fee to visit the Calgary Tower is $18, but if you eat at the Sky 360 restaurant, you get to check out the observation deck for free.

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For the Big Taste event, Sky 360 offers a three course meal for $25. I ordered a green salad, grilled blackened chicken sandwich and for dessert, gelato. Leng Lui went rogue and ordered the potato leek soup and the fettucine.

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I was pleased with my salad. The pomegranate and pink peppercorn vinaigrette was subtle. The carrot chips gave the salad a pleasant crunch. The greens were the leafy type and not the typical watery romaine and iceberg variety.

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The chicken in the sandwich was thick, all white meat. The focaccia was toasted with melted provolone, juicy tomato slices, greens and a whole lot of roasted pepper aioli. A solid sandwich. I liked that proportionally, there was an equal amount of meat and toppings to bread. The fries were average but a big portion, though not very crispy.

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For dessert, we received two small scoops of blueberry gelato with basil. Two slices of melon completed the dish. Thanks Leng Lui for the photo.

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If you want to get in and out within an hour, I would not recommend this restaurant. We arrived at 12:30 pm and I returned at the office at 2:20 pm, a huge faux pas in my workplace. I’ll be working on the weekend to make up for the time I missed.

We all agreed that if  you take into account the free view, it’s totally worth a visit. The view is gorgeous and the restaurant is quiet and private, which is great if you want to have a romantic dinner,  catch up with friends or want to entertain an out of town guest.

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Sky 360 Restaurant & Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Parc Brasserie – Big Taste

My friend Jaimie and I wanted to catch up. She told me to pick the restaurant. I chose Parc Brasserie for the Big Taste lunch. However, when we arrived, we were informed that the Big Taste lunch feature was for weekdays only.

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I ordered a Kir Royale ($9) while Jaimie stuck to green tea ($4). I will say I prefer the Kir Royale at Cassis, as this version was flat and didn’t have that bright fruit flavour. Sparking water ($2 per person) was kept flowing throughout our lunch by our server Maya.

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Maya told us her favourite thing on the menu was the Vegetarian Eggs Benny. She eats out a lot and the eggs benny at Parc is in her opinion, the best in the city. I agree with her, this dish is a winner.

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The eggs were puffed out and shaped like fluffy white clouds. The yellow of the perfectly cooked medium yolks reminded me of hot molten gold. Okay, I’m being  silly, but the food here is worth the flowery compliments. The portobello mushrooms were meaty and luxurious, the spinach tasted fresh and green. The hollandaise sauce was rich and flavourful, so good that I swirled the delicious pan fried potatoes and sweet caramelized onions in the buttery sauce. The English muffin was fluffy and not puck-like. Excellent flavours, quality ingredients, perfectly cooked food and presentation was very nice.

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Brunch here is relaxing and leisurely. Maya let us stay and linger, always refiling our waters and never rushing us out. My husband hates going out for brunch, but I think Parc’s pace and food will win him over. If you are tired of the no reservation, long line-up brunch hot spots in the city, give Parc a chance.

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Parc Brasserie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Blanco Cantina – Big Taste

I picked another Mexican restaurant for L to try. I read posts on Zomato that Blanco Cantina makes a bad ass burrito and a wicked cocktail. Plus, this cantina is super close to our house, so coming here was a no brainer for Big Taste week.

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Blanco Cantina has this American rock and roll vibe. The restaurant has a big bar section, and throughout the night, the turnover was constant. Add in the fact you can make reservations on Opentable, this is a place you can easily drop in for a drink and appies or stay for a longer dinner.

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For drinks, L ordered Pacifico ($7) while I tried a speciality cocktail, the Watermelon Margarita on the rocks ($16.50), made with 3 ounces of tequila, triple sec, agave nectar, and fresh watermelon. I normally avoid cocktails as I suspect a lot of bars water down their drinks. The cocktail had a nice blend of tartness and an undertone of sweetness from the watermelon.

I had an interesting conversation with L during dinner. He said, “You know that pseudonym you use for Office Daddy, don’t you think its  kinda sexual?” I said no, I didn’t think it was at all. Chi sin (crazy)!  L said that unless you are under five, no one uses the word daddy, and if you do, it has a sexual connotation. Well, this was news to me and I’m no ham sup (pervert). This is a PG rated blog! I asked L why he took so long to tell me. Apparently, he gets around to reading my blog once in a blue moon. For the record, I’m not ham sup so I’m going to rename my buddy Office Dad.

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For Big Taste, diners can pick from Chili Con Queso or Guacamole, any taco on the menu and Tres Leches or Crispy Banana for $25.00. While the special looked good, L and I preferred to order what we wanted: Pescado Tacos ($14), Small Chicken Burrito ($15 +$3 for cheese), Medium Picante Hot Wings (half order) with creamy jalapeño sauce ($9) and a side order of fries ($5).

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The hot wings I ordered weren’t spicy or hot even though I ordered medium hot. The spice is blended in the dry coating, and you can pour hot sauce from the condiment tray. I preferred this method, as the wings remained crispy and the Mexican hot sauce you put on yourself is awesome.

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The basa in the tacos was tasty stuff, particularly the breading on the fish which remained crunchy throughout our meal. I still like Mikey’s fish tacos more for value and flavour.

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The chicken burrito was messy in a good way. Stuffed with soft chicken meat, sour cream, tomatoes, poblano, refritos, rice and red onions, everything tasted fresh. I liked the the burrito was neat and clean tasting, despite the number of sauces in and on it. The guacamole is solid, thick and chunky and definately worth ordering. The rice tasted like there was lime in it, but the rice itself didn’t taste like it was the best quality.

The fries were really good and well-priced at $5.00 for a side dish. Fresh and hot, crispy and perfectly salted. Reminded me of New York fries, with the little bits of potato skin still left on.

Next time when we return, because there will be a next time, I think L and I will share a one pound burrito and try some of the speciality main dishes. I alway hope to get Leng Lui and Playboy out for happy hour. I have my eye on Zacapa 23, my favourite rum and a few other tequilas.

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BLANCO Cantina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Vic’s HK Style BBQ & Cafe

Office Daddy always wants to go to Vic’s. He knows the owner, the manager and servers. I like going to Vic’s too, but only if he is with me as the food tastes better when he orders. He will tweak the dish and ask for it to be prepared a certain way or substituted a meat with something else. I wish that I had panned out in Chinese school. I’m really missing out now.

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I always drink the complimenary Chinese broth. There’s always some beef and bones, Chinese herbs, and a carrot or potato. Though its saltier than my paw paw use to make, I still feel healthy when I drink it. My mother and paw paw would always tell us when we were kids that if we drank it, it would improve our skin or make us beautiful or some other random lie.

shrimp

Office Daddy ordered shrimp ho fan noodles ($10.99) .  I know, this dish isn’t a looker. However, it tastes a lot better than it looks. I love these noodles because of the wok smell and subsequent taste of the noodles due to the cooking technique. I noticed some of the shrimp wasn’t properly deveined but Office Daddy didn’t care. He said if it bothered me I could remove it myself.

eggplant

The best dish was the eggplant ($10.99) with pork. Office Daddy wished the pork was bigger and not tiny ground up pieces. I agree with him, but  I loved the sweetness of the eggplant and the taste of the wok in the sauce. The eggplant was soft but still retained some texture without being mushy. The peppers were sliced thin and still crunchy. This dish is a real winner in my books. I also liked the rice, which was on the drier side.

The cafe is busy at lunch and for good reason. Portions are large and the prices are reasonable. Food comes quickly, so if you’re in a rush for lunch, you’ll be in and out within half an hour.

Vic's Hong Kong Style BBQ & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Lucky Place

My Chinese-speaking friends at work and I always default to Lucky Place. I’ve been at least a dozen times since my last posting. Below is an accumulation of food I’ve ordered. “Lucky” for me I take notes so that I don’t forget what I like about each dish.

bean curd

I took my old prof here once for lunch. I wasn’t sure he would like the Beef with Rice Roll ($6.99) as it’s not a typical dish he would order or even see on a menu. The beef was tender and the bean curd was pleasantly soft. The gravy like sauce is a little too mild tasting for me, so I like to add some hot chilli oil to give it some heat. He enjoyed it.

sweet and sour

My buddy GR and AC wanted to try the Palace Style Chicken ($11.99). The batter was light but could have been crispier. The sweet and sour sauce was light and thin. I like the finely chopped up pieces of celery, carrots and bell peppers. All the vegetables retained a good crunch.

congee

No matter who I go with, we always order a bowl of congee. Doesn’t matter if we order mixed-meats, fish, chicken or beef, the congee itself is served hot, the consistency thick and fluffier than U & Me or Vic’s in Chinatown.

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My friend Ms. Biz likes this dish –  beef liver with green beans. She says the chefs at Lucky know how to “chi wok”, which I think loosely means cooking in a high heat to achieve that soft yet chewy texture. This was my first time trying beef liver and while I enjoyed the richness and the tenderness of the texture, I could only eat a few pieces. The beans were crunchy and sweet. This isn’t on the regular menu.

noodle lucky

When I go with Office Daddy, he orders either the Special Fried Rice or Ho Fan noodles with white gravy. I never get tired of eating these saucy noodles. To me, this is ultimate comfort food. Again, this is a special order. You need to speak the Cantonese to order the noodles with white gravy.

lucky riceOffice Daddy likes to order Fried Rice here. The rice is lightly fried and fluffy, mixed with fine pieces of egg, meats, and vegetables.

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One of my favourite dishes is the Thai style noodles. The noodles are not super saucy but huge on flavour. I particularly enjoy the fried tips of gai pan and the wok fragrance. Addicting, I dare you just to eat a bowl.

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Another dish that won me over is the rice cakes. Not exactly going to win a modelling contract for its looks, this dish is big on flavour. Again, the taste comes from the wok, smokey and mouth watering.

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Another dish I always order is the bitter melon with spareribs and rice rolls. The bitter melon is cooked so that its tender but still firm. I like the flavour of the gravy sauce more than the beef version.

One thing to note if you aren’t Asian and familiar with certain mannerisms. Don’t take offence if the server seems to be in a bad mood or even angry at you (she isn’t).  It’s not personal. Plus, the food is delicious and cheap, so who cares.

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Lucky Place Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Native Tongues Taqueria

My husband has been working extra long hours, so I thought I’d be nice and get him to take me to Native Tongues Taqueria, as I know he loves Mexican food, particularly tacos. I’m thoughtful like that.

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We waited over an hour for our table. The hostess was friendly and accommodating, letting us stand by the door and order drinks. I requested a tequila cocktail ($14.00), something “strong and serious” while L stuck to Pacifico. The bartender asked me if I enjoyed the drink. Yes, I did, thank you for asking. It tasted like something Donald Draper would approve, smokey and potent. Our server was also customer oriented, helping us with the menu and suggesting to order a little bit at a time. I also noticed that despite the long line-up, none of the servers were rushing any of the customers. There were people who were eating when we arrived and were still there after we left.

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L and I shared the Hamburguesa al Carbon ($14.00) and the Chilaquiles ($10.00). The hamburger consisted of two  Wagyu beef patties covered in a warm, velvety layer of orange cheese. This was like a gourmet version of a Big Mac. The sesame bun was homemade, and I liked that proportionally, the beef and toppings were larger than the bun. The homemade chips were thin and fragile, drizzled with hot sauce. L and I noticed that though the burger and chips were yummy, both were so salty.

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The chilaquiles made for a filling appetizer. The chips were already wet with the juices of the salsa. It was like the salsa was built into the chips. We enjoyed this dish, the toppings of crema, quesco fresco and cilantro was delightful. The cheese melted like snow on my tongue.

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We ordered Lengua ($3.95); Carnitas ($3.95), Pollo ($3.95) and Hongos ($3.95). My favourite was the bongos, locally cultivated mushrooms with kale, cream, queso fresco and cilantro. The mushrooms were silky smooth, absolutely luxurious. L’s favourite was the pollo, spicy braised organic chicken. The lengua, beef tongue, was our least favourite as the texture was a bit mushy and again, over salted.Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 8.42.40 PM.png

Later that night, both of us woke up several times as we were so thirsty. I should note that I’m no salt wimp. I really hope the heavy handedness of the salt was a one off as we really enjoyed the ambience, service and food.

I can see why Native Tongues is such a hit with the locals. It’s a great place for a date or a night out. The service we received on a happening Saturday night was excellent, from the hostess, bartender to the server. Kudos to the staff for a fun date night.

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Native Tongues Taqueria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato