Archive for February, 2015
Location: 130 Crowfoot Terrace NW
Tonight is a special night. It’s the eve before the Chinese New Year. And fittingly, we decided to have go out for dinner. I made the executive decision not to go for Chinese food as those places will be packed for weeks leading up to and after Chinese New Year’s. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to The Keg and as I have only gone one other time, I have no recollection of it.
The Crowfoot location is fairly new and looks absolutely breathtaking. As it is a newer location, the restaurant looks very modern, but the lights are turned down low to set the mood for a romantic “candlelit” dinner. Conveniently, it is located directly across from the movie theatre. When we first arrived around 5:30, there were already quite a few patrons, which surprised me. I didn’t expect that so many people would be there in the middle of the week, let alone that early in the evening. But as the evening progressed, more and more patrons arrived, until we were about to leave and the volume became so loud that I was no longer feeling the romantic atmospheriness that I felt when I first walked in. Since we arrived early, there wasn’t a wait, we were quickly seated and our waiter came by promptly to fill our glasses and take our drink orders. Almost immediately after he left, another waitress came by and dropped off a plate with the complementary sourdough bread and whipped butter. The sourdough was freshly baked and very aromatic. The butter melted on contact. The inside was fluffy while the “crust” was wonderfully chewy.
As it was a special evening, we indulged a little bit more than we usually do. We started with the calamari, that of course being my choice. I have apparently made it my goal to try out every calamari in every restaurant to compare and find the restaurant that serves the world’s best calamari. The calamari came with a mix of breaded and fried sliced jalapenos and pickled red bell peppers and two sauces: a spicy sweet ginger garlic sauce and a Greek feta sauce. In addition to adding a kick to the dish, the heat of the jalapenos and the pickled red peppers helped to balance the greasiness of the deep fried squid. Between the two sauces, my family and I preferred the spicy sweet ginger garlic sauce because like the pickled peppers and jalapenos, the acidity and heat from the sauce helped mitigate the oiliness even more.
For our mains, I had the Sirloin Oscar, my sister and father had the prime rib, and my mom had the Lobster and Shrimp Dinner Salad. Both my sister and father got the ten ounce and it was huge! Each came with your choice of side; my sister had garlic mash and my dad had mixed vegetables (carrots, broccoli, asparagus, red bell peppers), crispy fried onions, red wine herb jus, and horseradish. The onions were incredibly over-salted. Though I do love fried onions, these were nearly impossible to eat in large quantities without a need for gallons upon gallons of water or something kinda plain to eat alongside it to make the saltiness more bearable (like rice, bread, potatoes). For my Sirloin Oscar, I also chose to have the garlic mash. It was delightful, smooth, garlicky, and oh so buttery. I liked that there were potato skins in the mash, but I can also see that it might be a divisive point as some people would rather their mashed potatoes to be consistently smooth rather than having the random piece of skin in random forkfuls. Ah, but what is life without a few surprises? The Bearnaise sauce, like the red wine herb jus, came in a small creamer like apparatus so that I could control the amount I wanted added onto my shrimps, scallops, and asparagus. In the end, I just dumped the entire thing all over my steak, shrimp, scallops, asparagus and potatoes, wishing there was more and wanting to lick out the inside of the container, but deciding against it as it would be poor etiquette to do so. The shrimps and scallops weren’t over seasoned, with the exception of one piece. That was good because the Bearnaise and seasonings on the beef and the beef jus fulfilled that purpose. My mom’s salad was nothing special really. The salad consisted of Artisan greens, black beans, corn, charred corn, field mushrooms, tomatoes and fresh avocado with a mango sesame dressing, topped with pine nuts and of course lobster and shrimp. I’ll admit that the dressing was pretty good; it was light, but due to the acidity of the mango, sufficiently stimulated my appetite. Ironically, I found it weird to be eating leaves of salad and accidentally stabbing a hidden black bean or field mushroom or avocado and getting a strange, unfamiliar texture in my mouth when I least expected. Clearly, for me, some surprises are better than others.
For a steakhouse of its calibre and reputation, I expected nothing more than the very best and it did not disappoint. More often than not, when I go to a restaurant (claiming to be a steakhouse or just being an ordinary restaurant whose’s specialty is not steak), the steaks always come out so poorly that I’ve given up on ordering them all together. Oftentimes when I order a steak medium, I’ll get either a bloody steak or a well done steak. I don’t mind getting a well done steak because that’s what I actually want most of the time. However, if I order well done, I get to eat flavoured cardboard. I’m happy to say that is not the case here. Tonight I decided to go for a medium and I was pleased that they got the temperature correct.
Finally, for dessert we decided to get “two.” The first was the Billy Miner Pie and the second was a trio of samplers. The Billy Miner Pie, isn’t much of a pie. Essentially it is mocha ice cream on a chocolate crust (which was very crumbly and resembled crushed oreos) with hot fudge, caramel and almonds. It was way larger than I had imagined, but considering what we were paying for it, it was reasonable. The pie wasn’t really anything special. Essentially it was an ice cream cake drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce. The trio of samplers were a fudge brownie, mango creme brulee, and a butter tart. The fudge brownie was my least favourite. It tasted like it had been in the fridge too long and had absorbed all the yucky tastes of fridge. It was served with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. Funny thing was I wasn’t really paying attention when I took my first bite and grabbed a spoonful of cream and ate it instead of the ice cream. Well you can imagine what my face looked like after I had consumed it…The next one I tried was the butter tart. I had difficulty cutting into it with my spoon, but maybe that’s just because I’m gibbled. I have to say, the butter tart was my favourite. It wasn’t too sweet or rich and it was perfectly complemented by the vanilla ice cream. The only bad thing I could say about this sampler was that the vanilla in the vanilla ice cream was far more mild than most other vanilla ice creams I’ve had for dessert. The last one was the mango creme brulee. The caramelized sugar on top make the most beautiful crackling-crunch when the spoon broke through the surface. Inside, the mango filling was cold. Personally, I don’t like mango in my creme brulee, the tartness of the mango just doesn’t seem to go with the creaminess of this dessert. However, this was one of my sister’s favourites. I still prefer the original or maybe even coconut, and I prefer it warm.
Some would say that this restaurant is on the pricey side, but I’d have to disagree. Steak is often more expensive than most other menu items, but considering the portion sizes, I’d say the price is worth it. I was only able to finish half my entree, which was about $32.
All things considered, I would definitely return here if I’m craving a steak. Though there isn’t much else on the menu other than steak (understandably, as this is as STEAKhouse, not a chicken house or fish house or what have you), it has a great selection of steaks. I would rate this restaurant 4.5/5.
The fact that you still make my heart flutter
Means that I still fancy the idea of us
I thought I was over you
But still I sit here
For your reply
I didn’t think things would work out
All the signs that you gave
Told me to abandon ship
But like everyone else
I want my happily ever after
I want my Prince Charming
I want my Knight in Shining Armour
Please stop lingering in my head
And come into my life
Location: 1623 Centre St N (Central Landmark Mall)
This restaurant is a place I have frequented since I was a child both for Dim Sum and dinner. Regardless of time of day or month, the restaurant is always bustling. Yesterday, we arrived shortly after 11am and grabbed a number, it wasn’t until an hour later that we were called in and seated. By that time, the restaurant was packed and they had made several makeshift tables to accommodate smaller parties (read: parties of two). Because my Chinese isn’t strong enough to engage in any sort of coherent conversation, the waitresses generally avoided any sort of conversation. From one perspective I can see that that would have been interpreted as being extremely rude, but from another perspective I can understand that some of them know English to the same extent that I know Chinese. From my work experience, it is frustrating for me that they refuse to speak English as this is Canada and it is one of the official languages. I expect that they should be able to speak the language of the country they have chosen to take up residency in. I don’t know if this is an unreasonable expectation, but it is my expectation nonetheless. Due to the language barrier, they did not ask what kind of tea we wanted and just brought one out for us. I’m not even sure what kind of tea it was. The thing that annoyed me was that later when they took our tea to refill the hot water, they delivered it to the wrong table… The one thing I really love about this place is that it still has its tradition method of serving dim sum: through the use of carts. This is one reason why I continually bring or recommend this place to my non-Chinese speaking friends; it is much easier to point to an item than it is to try and figure out what the English or Chinese name is off of a piece of paper that you tick off the items you want to eat. Of course, the disadvantage of the carts is that you have to wait for the item you want to come around if there is something specific that you want, but don’t know the name. On this visit we ordered a total of twelve dishes which easily came to seventy odd dollars. The first round we got Braised Chicken Feet in Black Bean Sauce (Fung zauu), Fried Taro stuffed with Seasoned Ground Pork Dumpling (Wu Tau Kau-according to wikipedia…), Shrimp wrapped in Rice Crepe (Har Cheong), Chiu Chow Dumpling (Chiu Chow Fun Gor), Curry Fish Balls and Chive & Shrimp Dumpling. The Chicken Feet in Black Bean sauce is kinda like a rite of passage dish, every person’s first visit to dim sum will involve this dish. The chicken feet are first deep fried before they are smothered in black bean sauce and steamed or braised. The thing about eating chicken feet are that they are incredibly bony, with the occasional chance of splinters, and essentially you’re just eating the skin off of them. So in other words, there is no way that you will look nice eating them. As I’ve been eating them for a very long time, I can polish them off in about five seconds a piece. Less experienced eaters will attempt to neatly consume them. Don’t. It’s more enjoyable if you just stop caring about how you look when you eat them. The Fried Taro stuffed with Seasoned Ground Pork Dumpling is a personal favourite of mine because of the combination of the sweet of the taro, the saltiness of the pork and the crunch of the outer shell is to die for. However, this time I was disappointed. It was clear that this had been on the cart for a few rounds because the dumpling was cold and not very crunch, but what was more disappointing was the filling. There was hardly any. The dumpling was overwhelmed by the amount of mashed taro filling that I didn’t even notice the pork. Besides that, a random piece of shrimp got mixed in. The Shrimp wrapped in Rice Crepe is another classic dim sum staple. It is exactly as the name states, shrimp is wrapped in a soft, but smooth rice crepe blanket and smothered in soy sauce. The perfect rice crepe is one that stays intact when you try to pick up a piece as opposed to not being able to support the weight of the piece of shrimp which results in the shrimp falling out of the wrap and tearing a ginormous hole in the crepe before falling from the grasp of your chopsticks. Another favourite of mine is the Chiu Chow Style Dumpling. Unlike most other dim sum dumplings, the wrap on this one is closer to the consistency of mochi or sticky rice. The Chiu Chow Style Dumpling is unique because of it’s ingredients, aka not shrimp. It has peanuts, celery, ground pork, carrots, cilantro, and possibly really minced shitake mushrooms. This is one of the few dishes I don’t mind having “cooked” peanuts in because they aren’t cooked until they are soft. Honestly, in my brain, a peanut should be crunchy, not cooked to mush. Though I’ve seen them as a dim sum item, I’ve never actually seen the Curry Fish Balls going around on the carts. It wasn’t bad, though the curry was well flavoured, the fish ball tasted a bit off and had random cuts in it. I’m assuming that was to get some curry flavour in there, but that didn’t work out so well. I don’t think I’d like to try that again. The Chive and Shrimp Dumpling is a variation on the typical Shrimp Dumpling (or Har Gow). It’s another first for me. In terms of taste, it’s not too bad, though the chive isn’t really that noticeable. Other variations of the Shrimp Dumpling include pea shoots and shark fin. The second round consisted of Fried Eggplants stuffed with Shrimp (kei sze), Tripe (gow pak yeep), Bean Curd Spring Roll, Fried Wonton Wrapped Shrimp Ball, another shrimp dumpling (not sure what kind this time), and a dessert tofu. The fried eggplant is another staple for our family. Unfortunately, these ones tasted like they had been on the cart for a while too because they were also cold and a bit hard. The tripe was amazing. Usually I don’t like their preparation of the tripe, serving it with onions and garlic, but this time they seemed to have made a modification to their typical recipe and I enjoyed it immensely. If I had a favourite dim sum item of all time, it would be the bean curd spring roll. I mean what isn’t there to love about succulent shrimps wrapped super crispy fried bean curd? Okay, maybe the fact that it is super high in calories and they decide to serve it with salad sauce (as they like to call it, but really it’s just mayonnaise with chunks of canned fruit in it). I could honestly eat an entire meal of those if I wouldn’t gain any weight from eating that much. Despite being deep fried, the bean curd keeps the dish rather light (but you are constantly reminded about how oily the dish is by the oil pooling under the spring rolls). The fried wonton shrimp balls are essentially the same thing, but aren’t nearly as good. The wonton wrapper is substantially thicker than the bean curd so if you’re looking for something to fill you up, this dish would be a better choice. I think this other shrimp dumpling had carrots and shitake mushrooms, but honestly can’t remember. It’s not a bad thing that I can’t remember. It just means that it was good enough that I had no complaints or problems that I remembered. The wrapper, like all dumpling wrappers of its kind was what Italians would called al dente (that would be the closest term to the Chinese one). It’s sufficiently chewy, but not so chewy that it is like eating rubber, but also not so soft that it would break upon contact with one’s chopsticks. I’m not a fan of the tofu, but the ginger sugar syrup is really good. I could just drink that stuff, but you can literally taste the diabetes. The dish is plain soft tofu in this ginger syrup. Really simple, but it doesn’t make you feel like you ate a heavy dessert. So essentially it is impossible to eat every dim sum item in one sitting unless you have a party of four or five or go several times. Over the years I’ve been to this place for a lot of dim sum. Other common dishes that we didn’t order this time are Shrimp dumplings (Har gow), Pork dumplings (Siu mai), Chicken Sticky Rice (Lo mai gai), Spare ribs in black bean sauce (pai gwat), crispy pork buns (char siu so), daikon/turnip cakes (Lo bak go), Egg Tarts (Dan Tat), assorted fried noodles, and Steamed bean curd rolls (sin zuk gyun). Though their customer service maybe a bit lacking, it’s not any worse than any other Chinese restaurant. Sometimes when I have gone with my Chinese speaking family, I have found that they are rather impatient, but that’s a rare occurrence. The food more than makes up for their behaviour. I’m not saying that it’s okay for them to be rude or anything like that, but if I am going to a restaurant, it is as much about the food as it is about the service. And I never expect much of Asian restaurants (as bad as that sounds, I’ve come to expect some sort of rudeness at some point in the service). They are always noisy and you have to yell just to be heard by the person next to you. The restaurant opens up at 10am and though there isn’t much of a crowd then, there isn’t much of a selection of dim sum and a higher chance that food will be cold. If you go early, be prepared to order thing because you will never get what you want if you just keep waiting. The trade off of coming later for a larger selection of food is waiting for longer, minimum one hour, regardless of what they say (not literally, if you can see that there are three families before you, it’s likely that their estimate is correct, but if there are ten or more, it is completely inaccurate). And the annoying thing is that it’s so hard to get the waitresses’ attention. It’s like they’re on a mission to avoid all eye contact to avoid helping you so it takes even longer to get out of there and that’s why there’s usually a huge delay. In terms of cost, it’s really not that expensive. Each dish is about $4-6 and they really add up, so I suggest that if you have someone who is big eater going with you, order fried noodles or rice to fill them up and save you some money. I know from experience because every time I go with my mom we eat about $30-40 worth of food, but when we add my sister the price is closer to $80… In taking everything into consideration, I’d rate this restaurant 4/5. I would definitely continue to return here. If you don’t mind waiting then definitely give this place a chance.
I buy you a sweater
You buy me a ring
I buy you a car
You buy me a house
What’s happened to love?
Why must we commercialize?
When did we decide
Why can’t we just be?
Why can’t we just exist?
Solely for one another
What happened to us?
Torn by the increase commericalization of our love
….is not love
Location: 13-3625 Shaganappi Tr. NW
After a horrible start to the day, my sister and I sat down to lunch at Moxie’s. We had been here twice before, neither of which had been a good experience. We decided to give it one more chance before crossing it off of the list of restaurants we’d return to. The first time we came, we ordered an appetizer special that looked to be the portion size for one person…we were sharing it between three people. Though the taste was not bad, for something that small to be $8 was a little ridiculous. That meal only got worse when the mains came. The steak in the steak salad was impossible to find as there was so little of it and the lime for my tacos were dried out husks. I was not impressed and at the time swore never to return. The second time we returned was to a different location, but we didn’t really have much choice as it was for Christmas dinner. I can’t even remember what I ate it was that unmemorable. Today we returned after an eye appointment, where both mine and my sister’s eyes had been dilated, that made for an interesting challenge when it came to reading the menu.
We were seated in the bar by this incredibly good looking host who outlined the wine special for the day. Not long after we were seated, our waitress came to take our drink order. I personally thought that her neckline was a bit low and that she was showing a bit too much, but considering how many patrons were males and how business works today, I’d say she was appropriately dressed to fulfill the goals of the company. Originally, we were going to stick with water, but when the waitress mentioned that bellinis would only be $5 (as opposed to the regular $7-$8 typically of cocktail drinks) and I was like sure why not. I ordered a white peach bellini to share with my sister. It wasn’t a bad choice; there was so much sugar in it I couldn’t even taste the alcohol and I was thoroughly squirrelly after a couple of sips.
Instead of our usual, appetizer and two mains, we had two appetizers and one main to share.The appetizers consisted of a calamari and a mosaic dip. Unlike most other places, Moxie’s calamari has an Asian twist to it with shrimp, ginger, and jalapenos served on a bed of seaweed and two dipping sauces: a sriracha aioli and a sweet chili sauce. The calamari, shrimp and ginger were coated in a light tempura like batter, while the jalapeno was more like a jalapeno chip. Of the two sauces, I preferred the sweet chili one because a lot of restaurants serve calamari with some sort of aioli and to have this sweet chili sauce gave it Thai twist, which was a refreshing change. The mosaic dip was something new that I’d never had anywhere else. It had Quebec goat cheese, mushrooms & fresh tomatoes served with a side of flatbread for dipping. The flatbread wasn’t what I expected; they were more like pitas, but they were delicious nonetheless. From what I could see with my dilated pupils, the colour of the dip wasn’t all that appealing thanks to the mushrooms that had been somewhat pureed. We eat with our eyes as much as with our mouths and I never realized how true that was until I couldn’t really see what I was eating today. I feel like this review is a bit lacking because I couldn’t really describe what I saw. However, having said that, the diminishment of my sight led to a heightened sense of taste and I could taste the different notes of the dip on my palate. I enjoyed the creaminess of the goat cheese and thankfully the fresh tomatoes scattered through kept the richness in check.
For our main, we had the Loaded Backyard Burger which was aged white cheddar, mozzarella, sautéed mushrooms, bacon & barbecue sauce served on a toasted kaiser & topped with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, pickles & grainy dijon burger sauce. The pickle on top of the burger tasted a bit weird, but maybe it wasn’t a pickle, but a gherkin? Anyways, the patty was a decent size and half a burger with all those toppings was super filling. The only thing was, was that it tasted like there was horseradish in with the dijon and I’m honestly not a fan of horseradish (or it’s cousin, wasabi). The bacon was nice and crisp, in fact it was so crisp that it stabbed my sister in the mouth. It came with a small bucket of fries, not too small, but not too big either, satisfying my fried potato craving. The unfortunate thing about the food was that it was slightly over salted that I was drinking gallons of water afterwards and it still didn’t help.
As a rule, I normally don’t do desserts for lunch, but today I did because of the two times we came to Moxie’s, we had never had their desserts. They only have five desserts and brownie was one of them. When we go for desserts, it’s often the brownie that we choose, so we went for the Sticky Toffee Pudding instead. The toffee, though sufficiently buttery, was a little more watery than sticky. The pudding, was dry and not really sweet (thankfully). I’m not sure if it was meant to be eaten this way, but we mashed the pudding into the sauce so that it wasn’t so dry and could be coated in a buttery deliciousness. I always love a hot-cold, salty-sweet contrast and this dish really did it for me. The vanilla ice cream was one of the best ice creams I’ve had in a while.
After taking everything into consideration, I would still say I would not return to Moxie’s. It was an average restaurant and failed to meet my standards on two occasions. On the third occasion, service was slow and the food was good. There were some highs and lows, but overall, I can’t say that it was good enough this time to convince me to come back again. For that I’d rate it a 2.5/5.
Location: 638 17 Ave SW
Tonight after work, I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Fiore Cantina. I had walked and driven by on several occasions, always wondering if the food was any good. I was happy to finally be trying it out. We arrived at Fiore for an early dinner and found the restaurant to be quite empty with the exception of four or five other tables, so we were quickly seated and presented with a menu. Though the menu was not huge like Chianti’s or Boston Pizza, it didn’t give the feeling that there was no choice. Once we were seated, the waitress came immediately to fill up our glasses, but neglected to ask if we wanted anything else to drink.
We started with a calamari, as we often do because it is one of my favourite appetizers. For our mains, my dad and I had the Combo Italiana, my mom had the Bocconcini Pizza and my sister had the Tortellini Bombay. We didn’t have to wait long for the calamari to arrive at our table. Though the menu specified that we had a choice of marinara or tzatziki sauce, the waitress didn’t ask and just brought us the tzatziki sauce. Personally, I didn’t mind the tzatziki because it was fresh and the cucumbers added a cool refreshing aftertaste in my mouth. My dad would have preferred the marinara because, as he said, it would have provided a bit of acidity to counter the deep fried oiliness of the calamari. The calamari itself was lightly breaded and had a wonderful, audible crunch to it. The only issue I had with it was that it was unevenly seasoned, leaving some pieces saltier than others.
The Combo Italiana, is not unlike Chianti’s Combinazione della Casa. This dish is a trio, in a sense, a sampler of three different pastas. Like Chianti’s, it features a veal stuffed cannelloni, spinach fettuccine alfredo, and chicken parmesan. Unlike the Combinazione della Casa, it was hot, but also unlike the Cominazione della Casa, the spinach fettuccine was very piece, in other words, it was like the pasta had been broken into little bits to fit into the pot to be cooked and served. Firstly, if I order fettuccine, I expect it to be in one strand. Secondly, when I order any kind of pasta at an Italian restaurant, I expect it to be al dente…it was not. The cream sauce was rather bland and not as rich as an alfredo sauce ought to be. Frankly, the fettuccine component of the dish was an utter disappointment, making me glad that I didn’t decide to order the fettuccine alfredo instead of the Combo Italiana. This dish, however, was not a complete disappointment. The cannelloni and chicken parm were done perfectly; they were moist and flavourful and the cheese was so stringy! My sister’s tortellini was another dish I was contemplating ordering, but decided against it when it listed that it would be served with broccoli. The curry cream sauce gave Chianti’s curry cream sauce a run for its money, but Fiore has the upper hand on this one in that the curry cream had a bit more heat than Chianti’s, which is something I expect from curry. The unfortunate thing is that the curry cream was the star of the dish not the tortellini. The tortellini itself was rather dry. We had difficulty discerning what the ground up meat inside was. Upon rechecking the menu, it stated it was chicken, but either way, it was overcooked, while the pasta was a little under. And broccoli is broccoli, there’s nothing good, bad, or exciting I can say about that. I would have to say the best dish of the night was my mom’s bocconcini pizza. She opted to add bacon to it. In the end we all agreed that that had been unnecessary and having the pizza as it was would have been just as good. The pizza was almost as good as the ones that we had in Italy. The crust was perfectly crispy. I’m glad it wasn’t burnt like it was in Italy. There wasn’t too much on the pizza and therefore, the crust didn’t get soggy like the pizza my mom had at Pulcinella’s. The bocconcini pizza was essentially a caprese salad on a pizza minus the balsamic vinegar reduction, which was fine. The only thing was, was that the bacon made the pizza really salty. So again, it really wasn’t necessary to add it.
The restaurant is self-described as being modern Italian and the restaurant’s interior really reflects that. It is different from most Italian restaurants because there aren’t heavy velvet curtains covering the window and there are lots of windows to let in natural light. My only concern was the torch like contraption by our table…it was being held by two thin coils of metal. I was afraid that it would fall on us. It was probably a completely irrational fear, but anyways.
The biggest thing for me for Italian restaurants is how well they prepare their pasta. If they can’t prepare it to perfection, it’s no different from going to a burger joint and ordering a pasta there. For that reason, I’d rate this place 3/5.