hittingthesauce

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

Vic’s – HK Style Food in Chinatown

AC knows the owner of Vic’s, so we go when we crave HK style Chinese food. Though the restaurant is busy at lunch, you can usually get a table because the staff turns over the tables quickly.

Located on the second floor, booth seats offer a view of the bustling streets of Chinatown. I like to stare at the people walking by, always checking to see if I recognize anyone from work. soup Service at Vic’s is efficient and friendly, accommodating to AC’s many questions and revisions. Lunch specials ($10.50) include a soup and tea or coffee. The soup I favour is a simple broth with watercress, beef and carrots. Vic’s version reminds me of the medicinal soups my grandmother use to prepare for me.

beef flank turnip

AC ordered beef flank with turnip on rice. The beef was tender while the turnip texture was soft and juicy. The rice was a health portion for one, fluffy and hot.

noodle

My favourite dish was an AC special order – ho fan noodles with shrimp, egg and peas. The noodles were slippery in sauce, the peas gave it a nice little pop of freshness. Though the shrimp was small in sauce, it made up in quantity.

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Fei Po gives Vic’s two fat thumbs up. Service is attentive and efficient. The food is consistent and always served hot.

Vic's Hong Kong Style BBQ & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Alpine Sausage – Meat Market

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

ham hock

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

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

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

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

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

Il Sogno – Tinhorn Creek Wine Dinner

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

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

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

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

Il Sogno on Urbanspoon

Chong Fat – Fei Po Strikes Again

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

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

curry

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

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

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

beef

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

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

Chong Fat on Urbanspoon

Buon Giorno – Bday Dinner

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

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

rose

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

scampi

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

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

pasta

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

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

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

Buon Giorno on Urbanspoon

Great Taste Chinese Restaurant- Bday Lunch

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

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

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

fish maw soup

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

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

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

Great Taste Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Watercress Express – Fei Po Approved

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

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

Calgary Court – $10.99 Lunch Specials

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

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

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

soup

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

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

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

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

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Calgary Court Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Ho Won – Fei Po’s Favourite

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

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

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

I’m a huge fan of Ho Won’s Singapore noodles ($8.99). The chef isn’t afraid to turn up the heat with this dish. The noodles are covered in a rich, wet curry coating. Along with the noodles, there is a generous mixture of crunchy green peppers, green onions, white onions, and egg. The portion is generous for the price, much like all the other dishes.
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I hope Ho Won sticks around for many more generations. The food is cheap, filling and delicious. Fei Po gives Ho Won two fat thumbs up.

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Ho Won on Urbanspoon

Chong Fat – Oodles of Noodles

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

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

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

plainsoup

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

gailan

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

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

Chong Fat on Urbanspoon

Nikos Pizza – Skip the Dishes

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

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

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

cheese

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

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

meat pizza

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

Nikos Pizza on Urbanspoon

Gachi – Killarney Gem

Gachi is a neighbourhood restaurant that L and I frequent for reasonably priced and creative Korean fusion food. Located in a strip mall in Killarney, Gachi is easy enough to miss. The restaurant itself is small, so I always make reservations to secure a table.
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Of the appetizers, I’ve sampled the Orange Ebi (shrimp) ($8.00), the Wild Calamari ($9.00) and the Big Boss Roll ($13.00). The shrimp is battered and heavily doused with a tangy house made orange mayo sauce. Though the sauce is sweet, it isn’t cloyingly so.

The batter of the calamari is reddish and taste similar to cayenne. Personally, I found the batter a little doughy and lacked that satisfying crispness. I do like the addition of the jalapeno sticks and the tomato pickle sauce.
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The Big Boss Roll ($13.00) is packed full of seared tuna, salmon, ebi, avocado and cucumber. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of sushi at a Korean restaurant. The sushi rice is well cooked though not fragrant with vinegar or sugar.
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L’s favourite dish is the Bowbolgi Donburi ($13.00). This rice bowl offers good value – filled with delightful medley of perfectly sauteed vegetables, BBQ beef and lovely thing strands of egg omelet. The presentation and flavours of the marinaded beef beats out its competitors.
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The dish I’m crazy about is the Bon Thai ($14.00). A small deep-fried soft shell crab and shrimp, the seafood swims in a mildly spicy, creamy yellow curry. I like how the seafood remains crispy despite its creamy coating of curry.

It seems all the neighbourhood eateries are getting too busy for walk-in. Newcastle has a line-up on Wednesdays (wing night). Cassis requires at least one week for a dinner reservation. Then the newly renovated Himalayan is packed full every night, making it hard to drop by for a spontaneous dinner. I hope Gachi doesn’t get too busy, but if it does, it deserves all the success in 2015.

Gachi on Urbanspoon

Nami Sushi and Grill – Cheap Eats

Born and raised in British Columbia, I use to eat out at least once a day. In Vancouver, it was cheaper to dine out then to cook at home. Calgary does have inexpensive eateries, though not as many as in Vancouver. Lucky for me, John Manzo makes it his mission to find value deals. As I’m no longer working or studying at the university, I miss hearing firsthand his latest discoveries. I’m left to resort to his reviews on Urbanspoon, which is where I saw his newest post on Nami Sushi.

For the month of December, Nami offered a 20% discount. For take-out, customers receive 10% off the total order. I ordered the Nami Tower ($35.00) and I was told to come within 20 minutes, though I ended waiting an extra 23 minutes, so it took a total of 43 minutes. The restaurant was slammed hard that night, with one sushi chef and two servers.

The Nami Tower comes with two miso soups, two salads, three pieces tuna and salmon sashimi, six pieces assorted nigiri, a dynamite roll, a spicy tuna roll, a salmon and avocado roll. This was more than enough for two people.

SUSHI

I can’t compare Nami to my favourite sushi places, because the price difference is extreme. An average roll will set you back $5.00. A big ass sushi party platter cost only $30.00. I was pleasantly surprised with the nigiri sushi. The fish to rice ratio was balanced, I could eat it in two clean bites. The ebi was sweet and crunchy. Snapper, my least favourite fish, wasn’t stringy or fishy. The rice was Japanese, and lightly flavoured with vinegar and a touch of sugar.

Unfortunately, I didn’t care for the sashimi. The salmon was cut in an irregular, slightly too thick slices. The tuna sashimi was still frozen, so I didn’t eat it. However, I enjoyed the maki rolls. The spicy tuna roll wasn’t overly spicy, and the addition of the cucumber chilled out the heat. I also liked the addition of the crunchy tempura bits. The dynamite roll was yummy, the shrimp was freshly cooked and a good size.

SASHIMI

On another visit, I ordered Sushi Platter A ($30.00) for my house party. Obviously freshly made, the selection was varied. I received two California rolls, two Dynamite rolls, cucumber, tuna and salmon maki, as well as a Yam roll. Conveniently located nearish to my place, inexpensive and tasty, Nami is now one of my favourite places for Japanese take-out.

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Nami Sushi and Grill on Urbanspoon

Lucky Place Restaurant

Taking lunches is usually frowned upon in my office, at least if you go on a regular basis (e.g. as in more than once a week). However, my boss was out of the office for a meeting, so when the cat is away…

My work buddy AC knows where all the good Chinese restaurants are in Chinatown. He also knows what to order at each restaurant. We felt like simple and filling Cantonese fare, so he picked Lucky Place.

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AC tends to ask the servers numerous questions about the menu and items. His interrogation often takes no longer than two minutes, and always includes revisions to the dishes ordered. However, the result is always superior than ordering just as is.

We shared a bowl of beef congee, which arrived steaming hot ($6.99). Silky smooth in texture, the soup tasted clean and light. The beef was soft, and green onion added the only other prominent flavour. AC likes to add white pepper, much like my late grandmother did whenever she dined on congee.

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Our second dish was a typical AC special order. AC requested white flat rice noodles with a clear white sauce ($12.99). The dish didn’t come out exactly as he ordered, but it was still delicious. The gravy like sauce had that smokey wok smell and taste. The shrimp was large and plentiful in number, cooked just so it had a nice crunch. Served with Chinese greens, this dish was a wet, slippery mess to eat.

AC told me that Lucky Place is particularly busy at dinner. I’m eager to come again to try the lobster lo mein, crab and beef chow fun. For tasty, inexpensive Cantonese eats, Lucky Place is a solid choice.

Lucky Place Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thi Thi – Vietnamese Sub

Thi Thi usually has a line-up. Once, the owner’s son asked me if I was previously on a run because I arrived out of breath. I replied that when I spot customers walking over to their storefront, I sprint to get ahead of them.

Thi Thi has two locations, but the Chinatown location is the best in terms of quantity of ingredients and taste. There are also Vietnamese sub shops nearby, but they don’t offer the same flavour explosion. I would rather wait another 15 minutes to get what I actually want – a Thi Thi assorted sub ($5.50).

Thi Thi
The baguette is fresh, the bread is soft, while the crust is satisfyingly toasty. I order my sub with pate but I omit the mayonnaise. Layered with cold cut meats, sweet carrots, marinated onions, two long flat ribbons of cucumber, this marvelous wonder is finished with two red hot peppers, and a drizzle of soy sauce. I love how the pate soaks into the bread, its warm juices intermingling with the cool meats and vegetables.

I speed walk back to work with my treasure, where my buddy AC watches in wonder as I wolf the sub down in record speed. He knows better than to talk to me while I am eating my sub. The size of my forearm (and I have abnormally long arms), I can demolish my sandwich in about three minutes. Next time you head over to Thi Thi and you see me running past you, remember to get out of my way. I am ruthless when I am hungry.

Thi Thi Vietnamese Submarine on Urbanspoon

Cassis – Christmas Menu

Valentine’s Day, my birthday, the anniversary of our first date and engagement, the list of every miniscule milestone goes on and on. I feel sorry for my husband, who accepts my cheesiness with feigned enthusiasm.  This time, I wanted to celebrate our wedding anniversary. I heard Cassis Bistro was showcasing their special Christmas menu, so I booked us a table.
foie gras

The “petites bouchées de Nöel” include Foie Gras Torchon aux Figues ($10); Oyster ($3); Perigord Black Truffle Egg Brouillade ($25); and Caviar ($58). We opted for the foie gras, which was one of L’s favourite bites of the night. The foie gras was cool in temperature and melted on my tongue like chilled butter.

scalloplobster

I wanted to try the deep sea scallop and lobster salad ($18), as I saw on Facebook that Cassis brings in live lobsters. The freshness of the scallop and lobster really impressed me. Mixed with fennel, grapefruit, razor thin cucumber tagliatelle and a citrus vinaigrette, I thought this dish showcased Cassis refine style of cooking. The subtly of the flavours allowed the sashimiesque seafood to shine through.

shepard pie

For our mains, we opted for the specials – mussels with frites ($24) and a mixed meat Shepard’s Pie ($28).  The Shepard’s Pie was a good mix of meats and creamy whipped potatoes. I particularly liked the crusty cheese layer on the top.

mussles

The mussels were stellar. Each shell was open, and all the mussels were as fat and juicy as a big oyster. If I knew the mussels were going to be that good, L and I would just have ordered a few bowls and just stuffed ourselves silly. I dumped all the frites into my bowl to let it soak up the flavour of the fragrant broth. The frites were cooked well enough to sustain a bath in the leftover broth and still emerge crispy.

I am happy to know that I don’t have to go to Vancouver to find fresh and perfectly prepared seafood. I’m trying to remember the first time L and I dined at Cassis so that we can add that date to our list of reasons to celebrate.

Cassis Bistro on Urbanspoon

Brunch at Nash Restaurant and Off Cut Bar

I’m a creature of habit. If it wasn’t for Jaime, every restaurant meal would likely be at my go to restaurant, Cassis Bistro. As Jaime usually dictates where to go for our bimonthly brunch date, she picked Nash. After dining there this weekend, there are two things that really stand out for me. The excellent service and the gorgeous interior.

What I like the most about Nash was the set-up. The room is modern, tasteful and spacious. The windows provide ample natural light. Diners won’t be crammed into a tiny spot. Customers sitting next to you won’t bump into you, because all the tables and chairs are well spaced, leaving ample room. Unlike most restaurants that serve brunch, the atmosphere is calm and relaxing. No line-ups, crowds, or hassle.

soup

Our server Emily was warm and exceedingly friendly. She also offered good advice as to what to order. I wanted to eat something healthy and Jaime, a vegetarian, wanted something simple, as she was just getting over a bad cold. I ordered the Artic Char fritatta ($16) while Jaime ordered a small mushroom soup ($8), and eggs and toast ($6.00).

hash

I liked that the fritatta wasn’t heavy or covered in a rich cream sauce. I could taste the individual ingredients, such as the rich flavour of the fish and the arugula garnish. I found the potatoes in the fritatta a tad undercooked. The portion was a good size – I was full but not stuffed.

eggs

Jaime enjoyed her mushroom soup, which was broth based. She gave me a piece of her toast, and I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed something as simple as bread and jam. The jam was vibrant in flavour without being sweet. Jaime joked we should come back and just have tea and toast with jam. I told her if we didn’t want to be kicked out, we should also order a bottle of champagne. I can imagine if Jaime and I ever did start coming to Nash just for toast and tea, then Nash would be forced to write on the bottom of their menu, “Guest required to spend more than $3.00 per visit.”

nash

Jaime and I plan to come back for dinner and drinks. I’m looking forward to trying more of the menu and I promise to order more than toast and jam, though it was that good.
Nash Restaurant & Off Cut Bar on Urbanspoon

Bank and Baron Pub – Reopening Night

I received an email to drop by the Bank and Baron for its reopening. The invite included three guests of my choosing, so I brought along fellow co-workers AC, GR and BF. We all had dined at Bank and Baron before, so we were eager to sample their new menu.

entrance

The Bank and Baron Pub is a nice alternative to our usual after work haunt, The National. Generic the restaurant’s decor is not. Located on Stephen Avenue, the pub is located inside the heritage Scotia Bank building. The vibrant rock music contrasts with the dark wood fixtures, ornate decor, and the high stain glass ceilings.

skylight

I have to give props to our server, Lindsay. In the past, I found the service at the Bank and Baron to be somewhat lacking. However, Lindsay was ever so courteous and attentive. Our glasses of Thorn-Clarke Terra Barossa Shiraz were never empty. This was a feat, considering she looked after the entire half section of the upper floor, which was completely packed with people.

The first dish I sampled was the Tomato, Basil and Prosciutto Slider. The exterior of the bun was crispy, stamped with noticeable grill marks, while the interior was still soft and fluffy. The basil was fresh, the mozzarella soft and slightly melted.  The prosciutto was sliced thin, with just the right amount of saltiness to bring out the mellowness of the fresh buffalo cheese.

AC really enjoyed the Maple Glazed Short Rib on Toast. He thought the glazed beef with maple and red wine reduction tasted a bit like Stampede, it wasn’t anything fancy but pleasantly simple and satisfying.

beef

AC also thought the Bank and Baron made one of the best burgers he’s ever consumed. The patty was as large as the brioche bun. I enjoyed the juicy Wagyu patty as much as the array of gourmet toppings: melted aged white cheddar, vine ripened tomato, apple cider aioli and arugula.

slider

Everyone at the table devoured the Short Rib Grilled Cheese. The beef was so tender, chewing was unnecessary. The horseradish aioli and au jus dripped all over the meat onto the sour dough bread, making it a messy but decadent mouthful.

shortrib

Last but not least was the prawn tempura. The super sized prawn was cooked just so that it had a slight snap to it. The batter was a thin shell that held up to the ponzu sauce. We could have easily eaten a half of dozen each, it was so good.

I’m happy to find a new after work hangout. The food I sampled was fresher and tastier than the nearby pubs, and the ambiance couldn’t be beat. Add in the super service and great daily drink specials, and I think we have a new winner on Stephen Avenue.

Bank and Baron Pub on Urbanspoon
Bank and Baron Pub on Urbanspoon

Chef’s Choice Menu – Yellow Door Bistro

Last week, I noticed on Facebook that Yellow Door Bistro was featuring a chef’s choice three course meal for $40.00, and a five course meal for $60.00. This deal was too good for me to miss. So on Friday night, L and I paid a visit.

I opted for the three course meal ($40) with wine pairings ($25), while L picked the Beef Cheek Burger ($20). For the month of May, wine pairings for the chef’s choice are 50% off ($12.50). I enjoyed the wines so much that half way through the meal I pondered if I should order another flight. L told me to pace myself, as we were heading to Raw Bar after our meal.

taster

The first course was a gift from the kitchen, crostini with watercress, strawberry fluid gel, toasted walnuts and tete de moine (cheese). Small in size, it was big in delivery, taste wise. The pairing of different flavours was creative and it worked.

pate

Our server brought over a glass of Kung Fu Girl to match with the second course, Chicken Liver and Foie Gras Parfait with toasted brioche. Ly’s pate was pure decadence, light, airy and rich. The presentation was gorgeous. The pate was decorated with chives, plated with pickled butternut squash, blackberries, shaved radishes, elder flowers, and beet pearls. This was my favourite dish of the night.

chicken, hen

The third course was Cornish Game Hen Sous Vide Breast, Broek Acres Pork Stuffed Leg with quinoa and sour cherry jus, paired with a glass of Route Stock Pinot Noir. The pork was tender, the stuffing slightly sweet. The quail meat was flavourful, while the skin had a hint of spices. The quinoa had a nice chew to it.

burger

L ordered the Smoked BBQ Braised Spring Creek Beef Cheek Burger. The soft meat was topped with celeriac remoulade, chimi churri aouli, arugula, heirloom tomatoes, little crispy fried potatoes, all on a homemade bun. L was crazy over the twice cook fries. The seasoning on the frites were so good, ketchup would only ruin it. I found out from Ly that the seasoning on the frites was a mixture of tomato powder, parmesan cheese, sea salt, malt vinegar and fresh parsley.

Dessert was Lemon Panna Cotta with lemon curd, raspberry fluid gel, almond and pie crust crumble, and meringue. The wine pairing for the dessert was Quails Gate Optima. I’m not a dessert person, but I scraped the plate clean. Again, this was an excellent matching of flavours and textures. The mildness of the panna cotta tamed the citrus in the curd, while the meringue and pie crust completed this lovely deconstructed pie.

dessert
L enjoyed our meal at Yellow Door Bistro so much, he wants to return for the chef’s menu on a regular basis. He also requested that I take the time to blog about our meal, because he felt Ly was so incredibly talented.
rawbar

I’m glad I restrained myself to one flight of wine, because Raw Bar makes some stiff drinks. Yes indeed, the bartender won my heart, as he made a killer Mint Julep ($12). The cocktail had the right balance of mint, sugar and bourbon. I’ll have to make Raw Bar my place of choice now for after work drinks.

Avec Bistro – Date Night

Since I started my new job, I have lost interest in blogging. However, my co-worker G requested I write about my experience at Avec Bistro, as he is interested in how it compares to our favourite French bistro, Cassis. So G, this post is for you.
avec
I dig the ambiance at Avec. It isn’t pretentious but inviting and informal. L and I chose to dine at the bar, and by the end of the night, we were glad of our decision. L and I were impressed with Travis, Avec’s bartender extraordinaire. It was refreshing to talk to someone who knew more about wine and food but wasn’t condescending about it. With each conversation, I felt like I learned more than I did before speaking with him.

L was pleased with the small but well chosen selection of craft beers. His pick was an Ontario beer, Hop City Barking Squirrel Amber lager ($7.50). I was a fan of the sparkling Drink French Fluently cocktail ($12.50). Normally when I indulge in a cocktail, I find it too watery or icy. Not the case at Avec. The bubbles were small and tight. I could taste a pleasant, almost floral note. Best of all, there was no skimping on booze. Two ounces of alcohol is truly two ounces, which means I plan to bring my work friends to Avec to sample more of the cocktails.

We ordered Moules ($16.00); Goat Cheese Croquettes ($6.00); Pate ($16.00); Steak Frites ($27.00); and banana bread pudding ($10.00). Travis organized the flow of the food, which resulted in a perfectly paced meal.
goatcheese

First up were the goat cheese croquettes and pate. The goat cheese was great for snacking. The combination of the crispy coating and soft goat cheese filling was perfect bar food. I thought I could taste a bit of citrus. I noticed with each course, no matter how small, we received new cutlery and plates.
pate
Creamy, cool and light, the pate was as excellent as Cassis and Model Milk’s version. The bread was crusty on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and gave the velvety smooth pate the proper vessel to sail away.
mussels
The mussels were small and fresh. The tomato and white wine sauce was light, slightly smoky from bits of bacon. L and I both scooped up the cubes of bacon and tomatoes in the sauce. Again, we were served more of that delicious bread to sop up the rest of the sauce. Travis paired the mussels with a glass of 2012 Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc ($10).
steak
Our main course was a 12-ounce serving of steak frites. Oh my! The steak was tender and well seasoned, cooked to L’s request of medium. The generous serving of steak meant this dish was a value-laden favourite. The homemade aioli was addictive while the fries were scrumptious.
bread pudding
For dessert, L devoured his banana bread pudding in record speed while I sipped on a glass of rosé ($9.00). I’m happy we checked Avec out, as we can add this bistro to our regular rotation of date night restaurants.
Avec Bistro on Urbanspoon

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