Reader. Writer. Romantic.

Restaurant Review: Araxi

Location: 110 – 4222 Village Square, Whistler, BC
Website: https://www.araxi.com/

Writing restaurant reviews had begun to lose their appeal. It had just become another mundane task, tedious, another “chore.” I had hoped that of all the writing I did, this would never happen to the reviews I wrote. As a matter of fact, I’m haven’t written the review for Tokachi and I’m not sure if I’m going to do a full review or if I’m going to just do a quick/short blurb on my Facebook page and call it a day. After all, it was more of an all-you-can-eat experience rather than a “fine dining” one. Then I happened across Araxi. From the minute that Alex suggested we make a day trip to Whistler, this restaurant has been on my mind. Ever since having heard of it on a season of Hell’s Kitchen, it’s been a dream of mine to try a “Gordon Ramsay” restaurant. I’m not sure if it’s still considered a Gordon Ramsay restaurant, but to dine at one of his restaurants has always been a dream of mine. Araxi, at its core, is the reason I began writing these reviews in the first place. Dining here has reignited a passion within me again.

When I mentioned this restaurant, I never expected to be going so soon, so when Alex asked me this morning if I wanted to go here, I had to keep myself from screaming out. Though I gave the calmest, most nonchalant answer I could manage, the foodie in me couldn’t keep quiet. I had perused the menu, as per usual, and I knew that a restaurant of this caliber would not be cheap, but I also knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I would not regret it. On a whim, I decided to check if there was availability at the restaurant for today and I don’t know if it was luck, but there was time. I can’t express enough how much I love modern technology when it comes to booking reservations. With a touch of a button, I made a reservation here through OpenTable. OpenTable is by far my favourite platform for booking reservations. The app is so user friendly for changing times, dates, and party sizes and for cancellations.

After a couple hours of exploring the town site, we headed down to the restaurant, arriving approximately fifteen minutes early for our five o’clock reservation. However, the dining room and dinner service doesn’t begin until five, so we were shown to the bar until our table was ready. We were seated at the bar and presented with three drink menus, all fairly comprehensive. Alex ordered a Wartsteiner non-alcoholic beer, her boyfriend, Alex ordered a raspberry lemonade, substituting water for soda, and I order the Perfect Wave, a non-alcoholic cocktail containing grapefruit, lime, lavender, and soda. The raspberry lemonade had a freshness to it from the sprig of mint used for garnish. The Perfect Wave was a little heavy on the lime and the only hit of grapefruit I got from the drink was in the bitterness of the fruit. In my first sip, I was greeted with an overwhelming punch of lavender, the kind of punch that makes you think, “Hello!” This drink is certainly not shy in its flavours and while it all seemed overwhelming at first, it really grows on you as you continue to drink it. Along with our drinks we were given some truffle popcorn. I absolutely love truffle, so this was delicious to me. However, I can’t say that this is the best truffle popcorn I’ve had to date. That honour goes to Evoolution with their butter truffle popcorn. The creamy, saltiness of the butter in Evoolution’s popcorn beats truffle salted popcorn.

Having seen the prices of the a la carte items and having seen that there was an option for a prix fixe menu for Araxi’s 37th anniversary, we decided to go with the prix fixe. Alex and I both ordered the Albacore Tuna Poke and Alex (bf) ordered the Jumbo Prawn Cocktail as starters. The menu advertised the Poke as crispy yam noodles with albacore tuna, sockeye salmon, green onion, Japanese pepper and spicy poke sauce. I can’t say that that sauce was spicy, but it certainly was aggressively seasoned. The tuna had a melt in your mouth quality and the salmon was bright and firm on the palate. Though it wasn’t mentioned on the menu, the poke was accompanied by a seaweed salad. Alex thoroughly enjoyed the salad and in my first bite, my tastebuds rebelled. You could definitely taste the sea in that salad. But as the meal went on, the salad grew on me. It was the perfect compliment to the salinity of the soy and the pure flavour of the fish. The Jumbo Prawn Cocktail is exactly what you’d expect of it. The prawns were paired with a house prepared cocktail sauce and accompanied by a salsa verde and spring pickles (assorted pickled veggies). While the cocktail sauce was of a higher quality than what you’d get out of a jar or even at some of the other restaurants, I personally don’t find this dish to really be worth it. The spring pickles were an interesting addition to the dish. Based on the flavour profile of the pickles, they don’t really complement the prawns or cocktail sauce. They felt slightly out of place within this dish, almost as if they were added as an after thought to the plate to justify the cost (on the a la carte menu, 4 prawns is $19.50).

While we waited for our mains, we munched on some bread. The presentation of the butter wasn’t like anything I had ever seen before. It was somewhat reminiscent of an egg, but the colours of yolk and albumin were reversed. On the one hand, it’s just bread and butter, but on the other, the warm bread, the slight chew of it, coupled with the unique presentation of the butter, in a way, elevated it.

For our mains, Alex ordered the Alberta Beef Tenderloin Steak (for an additional $15), Alex (bf) ordered the Paradise Valley Pork Tenderloin Duo, and I ordered the Miso Marinated Wild BC Sablefish. All three dishes were plated beautifully. Sablefish, also known as black cod or butterfish, is one of my favourite fish, but it is also one of the most expensive fish because of its amazing texture. As one of its alternate names indicates, it has an intensely rich buttery taste. Sablefish is a delicate fish, prone to becoming rubbery when over cooked. This is the fish I want served at my wedding. The Sablefish is served with daikon radish, baby bok choy, shaved scallions, shiitake mushrooms and a smoked tuna lemongrass dashi broth. The mushrooms had been properly infused with flavour, I assume from the dashi, and wonderfully succulent. It was unfortunate that the first of my two piece of fish was slightly overcooked. It wasn’t horrible and not a consistency that was disagreeable to me because I didn’t even realize that it was overcooked until I dug into the second piece. While the second piece wasn’t as severely overcooked as the first, it was still more cooked than I was used to and more than I would’ve like. It had lost much of its flaky smooth quality that defines it. In the past, I have had bad experiences with ordering pork, primarily with it being underdone (and still pink inside. I know that you can eat it with some pinkness, but it’s still not something I’m overly comfortable with) or overdone (and dry). I have to say, the pork duo was the most surprising dish of this evening with how absolutely amazing it was. The dish was a roasted pork loin, smoked pork belly, sweet onion soubise, brandied cherry jus, Rootdown Farm rainbow chard and hakurei turnips. The pork belly was the best thing I’ve ever tasted in my life. It simply just melted in your mouth. It was actually so good that my head started spinning. The loin was impressive, but paled in comparison to the belly. Don’t get me wrong, the loin was very good. It wasn’t under or over cooked. It was tender and the natural juices remained within the cut of meat. The dish actually came with brandied cherries, not just the jus. Like the lavender, the brandy really announced itself. The Steak was served with roasted fingerling potatoes with thyme, asparagus, charred baby onions, red wine sauce and chimichurri. Sure, it seems ridiculous to be ordering Alberta beef in BC, but the masterful preparation of this cut of meat at Araxi is second to none. The chef’s handling of the beef is nothing Alex has ever enjoyed before. Throughout the meal, she couldn’t keep from remarking on the tenderness of the meat. There was almost a melt in your mouth quality about it even. Alex even mentioned that she typically doesn’t enjoy chimichurri, but she quite enjoyed it.

Last but not least, dessert. There were three desserts and three of us, so naturally we ordered them all. I had the strawberry + pistachio nougat glace, Alex had the Araxi ‘Harmony Ridge’ Chocolate Tart, and Alex (bf) had the House Made Petits Fours. Alex and I ordered coffees with our dessert; she had an Americano and I had a macchiato. I’m glad that Alex² chose their dessert first because I was really struggling with what I wanted, but in the end, I think we all ended up with desserts that best suited us. The Glace consisted of Fraser Valley berries with frozen pistachio parfait and lemon-basil chiffon cake. The smell of the strawberry coulis waifed off the plate, seriously stirring my appetite. It was a light dessert and didn’t make me regret my entire life as most desserts often do with their richness and sweetness. The fresh strawberries were firm, but very sweet and I don’t know what variety of mint this restaurant uses, but it’s a very minty mint. It’s delightful! Alex’s Chocolate Tart was dark chocolate ganache in a sweet pastry crust topped with chantilly cream and accented with fresh raspberries. From the one bite I had, I thoroughly enjoyed it as it wasn’t nearly as sweet and rich as I had expected from a chocolate ganache. The bitterness of the chocolate was absolutely perfect to me. I didn’t even need the coffee to cut through the sweetness as I often have to do. The Petits Fours consisted of a financier, chocolate, fruit jelly and salted caramel. It also came with hazelnut chocolate bark and a blondie. I’d have to agree with Alex that the fruit jelly was one of the best things on the plate. I didn’t try the salted caramel or the hazelnut chocolate bark, but was informed that the salted caramel contained flecks of sea salt dispersed within. The financier was almond (I believe) and was very light in its flavour.

This place had impeccable service, a perfect balance to the impeccable food. As I mentioned earlier, Araxi reignited a passion in me that I thought no longer existed. If I could afford to eat like this every day, I would, but I suppose that would remove the “special” element from it. I will acknowledge that it is expensive, but I would say that this place is worth every penny. The best thing I find with fine dining restaurants is that there’s lots of courses, but I never walk out of the place feeling like I’ve eaten too much. I would 100% come back to this restaurant and would rate this place 4.75/5 (which is probably the highest rating I’ve ever given, on par with Teatro’s).

Araxi Exterior
Restaurant Interior
Bread and Butter
Albacore Tuna Poke
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail
Miso Marinated Wild BC Sablefish
Paradise Valley Pork Tenderloin Duo
Alberta Beef Tenderloin Steak
Strawberry + Pistachio Nougat Glace and Macchiato
Araxi ‘Harmony Ridge’ Chocolate Tart
House Made Petits Fours
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Threatened

Every glance
Every smile
Every gilded touch

Every moment
Every whisper
She steals away from you

Beside her
I feel
Inadequate
Small
Weak

A face that could launch a thousand ships
A smile that could start a war

She has it all
And I?
I have nothing
I am no one

You promise me
You love me
Always
And forever

But how
When human nature
Is so fickle
Can you promise such grandeur?

What does it feel like
To trust someone so completely
To give in
To surrender all defences
To believe

Too long have I known
The transient nature of love

I will never be good enough
I never have been

Like smoke
Flitting through my fingers
You are gone
Like so many before you
And I am alone again
Just as it’s always been

Empty promises
And fruitless dreams

You’re just another liar
Whom I’ve let in

Break down my defences
Enter through the gates
Trick me into trust
And wreak havoc on my heart

How I never learn
Is truly beyond me

One day I truly hope
I’ll learn to love myself

Pages

As I go on and write
Another chapter
Flip another page
I find cowriters
And lose them too

What once began in leisure
Quickly spiralled out of control
Fire and brimstone
A wagon hurling
Unmanned
Down an ice covered hill
Into the depths of hell

How quickly the flow of life changes
Ebbing and flowing
Bringing with it
New adventures

As each chapter ends
As each page turns
We learn to live the life we have been given

Learn and adapt
Fight and fly

This is the gift
Given to humankind

Location: 414 3 St SW (Downtown location)
Website: http://www.kabuku.ca/tabid/10640/Default.aspx

The first time I heard of this restaurant was through work. I had booked several reservations at this location for my lawyer and it appeared to be one of his favourite places to go. Eventually, I did end up eating here, but the first time doing so was with a client. Today, I had the opportunity to return with my sister.

As this place is situated in downtown, the prices reflect as such. However, I strongly believe that the preparation and presentation of the dishes warrants such steep pricing.

We ordered the orange bay scallops, an assorted tempura, tempura avocado, goma-ae, gyu sashimi, tamago sashimi, inari nigiri, a volcano roll, and the sushi/sashimi lunch special. The sushi/sashimi lunch special came with rice, miso soup, and a house salad which was dressed with a ginger vinaigrette and consisted of one piece each of ebi, salmon, and tuna nigiri, one piece of unagi sashimi, two salmon, two Atlantic salmon, two blue fin tuna, and a spicy temaki.

The two salads and soup arrived first. On the surface, they didn’t look like much, but once we dug in, we were pleasantly surprised. The first time I came here I had ordered the goma-ae before and it had not disappointed. This time, it lived up to those standards. As Val mentioned, it was almost as if the spinach had been marinated in the sesame, as the flavour permeated throughout every leaf. It was a little bit on the salty side, but it was bearable. The highlight of the dish was the nuttiness of the sesame; it really came through. The house salad, though ordinary in appearance was quite hearty. The lettuce leaves were sturdy and held the dressing quite well. As it turns out, this ginger vinaigrette dressing was a little saltier than the sesame dressing and made the goma-ae seem significantly less salty. But again, it wasn’t so salty it was unbearable. In fact, I hardly noticed it with the house salad. Perhaps that could be attributed to the acidic element within the dressing. Both salads were served cold, which was a welcome change to the room temperature salads I was accustomed to. Unfortunately, I’ve been having some issues with sensitivity and the cold caused some issues with my teeth which affected my ability to completely enjoy my meal. The first thing I noticed about the soup was the slice of white mushroom floating on the surface. I voiced my observation just as Valerie broke the surface of the soup, dredging up the expected tofu and seaweed from below. However, what we didn’t expect to find were more white mushrooms and enoki mushrooms. I love mushrooms and really appreciated this small touch to make their miso soup unique in comparison to the other sushi restaurants I’ve been to. According to their menu, the miso base is further enhanced by the use of a fish broth to better develop the flavour of the soup.

The soup and salads were followed by the tempuras. I ordered the avocado tempura because I was curious and Val had mentioned trying some at Globefish in Kensington, which she had thoroughly enjoyed. Avocado develops a very different taste and texture after been coated in batter and deep fried. While it didn’t taste bad, I don’t think I’ll be ordering that one again. According to Val, it’s paired with a different sauce at Globefish Kensington, which works better than the warm sweet soy sauce that is often paired with tempura. The assorted tempura was a good size containing two piece of yam tempura, two spears of asparagus (cut in half), two whole white mushrooms, two pieces of broccoli, and three pieces of shrimp. I would have preferred the yam to be a little softer, but other than that, I have no complaints about the dish as a whole. Overall, the batter on the tempura was very well done. The ratio of vegetable/shrimp to batter was well balanced and didn’t leave an excess of oil on my palate.

The next to arrive were the orange bay scallops and volcano roll, inari nigiri, and tamago and gyu sashimi on one plate. The volcano roll was another item I had on my first visit. The spicy sauce is among one of the best I’ve had. It provides just the right amount of heat. Since I don’t typically use soy sauce, I often rely on the sauce(s) that comes with the roll and too often I’m left wanting. This was not the case with this roll. Like the miso soup, Kabuku put a twist on their tamago with the addition of shiitake mushrooms. To be honest, I didn’t know that to expect from a tamago sashimi. I ordered it primarily to avoid eating more rice than was necessary. I think in recent years, I’ve been able to develop both my palate and tolerance when it comes to raw fish and meat and today I was “brave” enough to order the practically raw beef sashimi. Unlike tataki, it is unseasoned, save for some pepper, green onion, and ginger, but to be honest, it didn’t need more than that. The pepper, green onion, and ginger helped to enhance the taste of the beef, which was very clean. I didn’t really realize that, like sashimi and sushi, the gyu sashimi is meant to be enjoyed with a splash of soy sauce. According to Val, the sweet soy is more complementary. I would very much like to try this the next time I order gyu sashimi. The inari was fairly standard of sushi restaurants. However, they didn’t put in too much rice, which I was very happy about and they neatly folded and tucked in the excess inari making a very pretty and clean presentation. My only quip about this is that there weren’t sesame seeds mixed in with the rice in the inari, but other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The orange bay scallops were ordered more out of curiosity. This dish was described as bay scallop tempura and diced fresh orange tossed in an aioli sauce with tobiko. While the dish was delicious with the crunch and pop of the tobiko, the creaminess of the aioli, and the sweet, freshness of the diced orange, I agree with Val’s sentiment that it could have done with a touch less of aioli. It honestly felt like the scallops and orange were swimming in it.

The last dish to come was the sushi/sashimi entree. Like the inari, they had kept the rice to a minimum. Even Val’s original concern about the temaki containing too much rice was unfounded; they had found the perfect ratio of rice to spicy tuna to greens. While the sashimi was thinly sliced, it was of the highest quality. The only complaint about this was that the unagi was cooked a touch over; therefore, it was a little stiff going down rather than the smoothness I’m used to from eel. As this was an entree, it also came with rice. However, with everything we ordered, there was enough rice between the rolls and nigiri that the bowl of rice remained untouched.

Service was excellent. Empty dishes never sat on the table long, teacups never remained empty long. The servers, whether we were their table or not, checked in periodically to make sure everything was still okay (not to the point where it got annoying).

I know I haven’t really be consistent in the past regarding accessibility and I apologize and am trying to be better and notice these kinds of issues. In terms of accessibility, it’s a little bit difficult. There is a step up in order to access the front door of the restaurant and the back way through the connecting building is a little narrow.

My overall assessment is that I would definitely come back, but because of how expensive this place is, I’d have to come here in moderation. Based on this experience, I’d give this restaurant a 4.25/5.

Restaurant Lights/Interior
Left to right: Goma-ae, house salad, miso soup
Assorted and avocado tempuras
Top: Orange Bay Scallops Bottom (starting at the 12 o’clock position, going clockwise): tamago sashimi, volcano roll, inari nigiri, gyu sashimi
Sushi/Sashimi Entree

Restaurant Review: Prego

Location: 200 Barclay Parade SW
Website: http://www.pregocalgary.com/

Another delightful evening catching up with Carmen over a delicious meal. For those like me, who had no idea, this restaurant is located on the second floor of the Eau Claire mall.

Carmen prefaced the meal (on our walk over) with a comment to the effect that this restaurant used to be so much better in the past. Even with that, I went in with a critical mind, as I often do for these meals.

We started with the Gamberi Agrodolce – jumbo shrimp sautéed with cherry tomatoes and spinach, dressed in a balsamic reduction. My biggest concern with cooked spinach is that it will get overcooked and become chewy and develop this taste/texture that I can’t describe in English (I know the word in Chinese, but that doesn’t help me here). I generally don’t like cooked tomatoes because they become quite mushy when warm, but I don’t mind eating them when they are featured in dishes such as this. The dish was well seasoned and the olive oil and balsamic reduction was great for dipping the bread into.

For our mains, I ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara and Carmen had the Vitello Piccatta. I think I’ve only ever had Spaghetti Carbonara like once or twice before, so while I knew what ingredients went into making one, I didn’t really know what to expect from one. Based on knowing the ingredients, I was able to imagine the flavour profile and this dish met all my expectations. The sauce was creamy and there was a good ratio of bacon to noodles. The sauce was a little more runny than I’m used to, but it’s great for dipping bread into, which I love to do with my pasta. The veal was very thinly pounded (scallopini), topped with sautéed mushrooms and dressed with a lovely light lemon and white wine sauce. This was my first time having veal prepared this way and it was really good. The mains come with seasonal vegetables and a choice of either pasta with a tomato basil sauce or roasted potatoes. Carmen opted for the potatoes since I had offered to share my carbonara.

For dessert, Carmen ordered the dessert of the day: a lemon white chocolate cheesecake and I had the chocolate pâté. Due to Carmen’s allergies, the cheesecake came without the berry compote, but regardless, Carmen expressed that she really enjoyed the dessert. The chocolate pâté was nothing like I’ve ever had before. The best way I could describe it is a slightly heavier version of frozen mousse. It was everything the menu promised. It was heavenly, but to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever had a dessert as luxurious as the ones that I had at Famoso. I still dream about that panna cotta. Of course, I had to get an espresso with my dessert. Coffee and dessert have kinda become my thing. The espresso came with a piece of biscotti, almond, I believe it was. The biscotti was delicious, both by itself and dipped into the espresso. This is one of the things I would certainly order again.

Service was excellent. Our server had a quality I expect from a fine dining establishment and it certainly felt like we were at a higher end place despite its location and the view from our window seat. The view left much to be desired and the food was good, but not excellent. I’m not sure that I would return here again, but I might stop by for lunch as I’ve been told that they do a fast lunch service.

Based on this experience, I’d give this place a 2.5/5.

Restaurant Interior
Gamberi Agrodolce
Vitello Piccatta
Spaghetti Carbonara
Lemon White Chocolate Cheesecake
Chocolate Pâté
Espresso with Almond Biscotti

You can count on me

The lightest touch
Tips me over

Falling endlessly
Like Alice
Down the Rabbit Hole

For too long
I’ve drawn out
The strands of my soul
What made me me is now long gone

I look in the mirror
And all I see is sadness
Exhaustion
A husk
A shadow
A sliver of who I once was

Where is that girl
Who used to smile so easily
Now lives the girl
Who hides behind forced delight

I will never let on
How much I’m hurting
I’ll never let let on
How much I struggle

I’ll be whoever you need me to be
Want me to be

I will face the world
And perform perfection
Because I’ve forgotten how to live
Any other way

I will wear whatever mask you choose
Dress in whatever attire you require
Dance to the beat of your heart
And sing the song of your soul

I’ve long forgotten who I am
All I know is that I’m here to serve

Whatever you need
Whenever you need
I’ll be here

Always

And forever

Location: 3616 52 Ave NW

An impromptu family lunch brought us out to this restaurant here. This restaurant replaced the previous Korean restaurant that used to be here and I have to say I like the new changes. The tables feel like they’re much larger than they used to be, which is good considering they have a self-serve, all you can eat side dish bar.

Like the previous Korean restaurant that stood here, they had a lunch box option. However, under this new management, the lunch boxes are better organized and contain much more food for an affordable price. Each lunch box includes soup, salad, a spring roll, honey fried potatoes, shredded ribbons of fish cakes/fish tofu, a protein of choice, and of course, unlimited sides. The price of the meal is dependant on the protein chosen. All dishes with the exception of the short ribs ($15) and salmon teriyaki ($13) are $11. In regards to the offering of number of side dishes, I would say that it’s perfect. There’s just enough selection for variety, but not too many that it would put a strain on the chefs in the kitchen to have to prepare for restock.

For side dishes, this restaurant offers kimchi (of course, how could you not offer a staple of Korean cuisine, daikon, sweet potato salad (sweetened with sugar, not using sweet potatoes) and sesame bean sprouts. We’ve tried making the sweet potato salad at home but didn’t have the right kind of mayonnaise and we didn’t add nearly enough sugar. This restaurant’s interpretation of the dish included a sprinkling of shredded carrots and sweet corn. This, by far, is one of my favourite, new side dishes (this isn’t a side dish I’ve seen until the just recently and I’ve frequented Korean restaurants for years). The self-serve area also has miso soup, rice, salad, and coffee. While the lunch boxes already contain rice and salad, the self-serve bar offers additional rice and salad for people who want or need more. There is only one soup available for selection and it is served in a rice cooker (presumably to keep it warm). Green onions and tofu are on the side for you to add in as much or as little as you want, but there was no seaweed either in the soup or as an add in. So essentially, what I got was miso soup with onions and no tofu.

I ordered the marinate beef short ribs, my mom got the salmon teriyaki and my sister and dad got the spicy chicken lunch boxes. In addition to that, we got one order of Jap Chae (Jap Che on their menu) as well.

Even at $15, I’d say that the lunch box has more than enough food. I ended up actually packing up half of it to go (probably because I had the noodles too). The beef wasn’t too chewy, but as with short ribs, they’re still kinda tough in some places. The spring roll was nothing special, a cabbage and carrot filling with what tasted like tonkatsu sauce on them. The fried potatoes with honey on them were pretty good, kinda reminiscent of the sweet glazed garlicky fried potatoes that I loved as a side dish at some of the other Korean restaurants I’ve been at. The fish cake strips are pretty standard, which makes me think that it’s a commercial product that most restaurants would buy in rather than make in house (I don’t know know what goes into making these, but I’m thinking it’s a lot of work!). And finally, the salad is to die for! From what we (read: Valerie) could figure out, the sauce is made from vinegar, pureed carrots and onions, and some kind of sweetener (probably just sugar water). The chicken and salmon were both pretty good too. The chicken was moist and the one piece I had wasn’t that spicy and the salmon was cooked all the way through but not dry.

The noodles were also pretty good. The dish is slightly on the salty side, but still delicious. if not a little inconvenient for a few reasons:
1. Metal Chopsticks
2. Extreme length
3. Slippery noodles
4. Elasticity of noodles

I would 100% come back here again! The service and food were both very good and the pricing definitely helped. Based on today’s experience, I’d give this place a 4.25.

Restaurant Exterior
Lunch Menu
Side dish self-serve bar
Miso, Rice and Coffee
Side dishes
Marinated Beef Short Ribs
Spicy Chicken

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