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Archive for April, 2016

Restaurant Review: Red Lobster

Location: 312 35th Street NE
Website: https://www.redlobster.ca/

It’s been a really long time since I’d been to Red Lobster. We used to go all the time because there was a closer location (it was the go to place for us to take my grandma out for lunch), the one on 16th Ave, but ever since it closed down, it’s been inconvenient to go across town to the other two locations.

Not exactly sure what the occasion was for tonight, but we headed down here. The wait time wasn’t too bad considering how many people were waiting for a table. It was beautiful weather and it wasn’t a burden to have to wait outside watching the sunset. Once seated we were informed that our waitress would be with us shortly. We waited for quite a long while before she came by to take our drink orders. It was long enough for us to have decided on a starter and place the order for it. She returned with our drinks and as it turns out, she did not have the specific flavour drink I wanted. I wasn’t too upset by this as I did actually want the one I ended up with initially. My favourite thing about Red Lobster is their cheddar biscuits and when she came to drop off our drinks she had a basket there. There was so much hope and excitement that when she took it to the next table, the table that had come AFTER us, I was very disappointed.

Shortly after she returned and we placed our orders. As we had place our order for the starter ahead of time, it arrived almost immediately after our orders were taken. We had ordered the White Wine and Roasted Garlic Mussels. Though I am not typically a fan of mussels, these I have to admit were amazing. That may of course have to do with the fact that there was garlic, but the mussels themselves were very fresh. There was no detectable  fishiness that I abhor. After that came our salads. The caesars were ordinary, but the blueberry balsamic was something unique. It was not until after our salads came that they finally brought us the bread. I was so tempted to eat the entire basket, but refrained so that I would be able to eat my main when it came.

I was able to get through one biscuit before our mains arrived. We came during Lobsterfest, so ordering something with lobster was a must (at least for me, because when else would you get to enjoy such a luxurious ingredient). I ordered the Dueling Lobsters, my sister had a Surf and Turf dish, my mom got some kind of Lobster and shrimp dish, and my dad got the make your own entree, choosing to have the coconut shrimp, shrimp Linguini Alfredo, and sundried tomatoes and green beans. My dad was the only one who didn’t order lobster because of some health concern I didn’t catch because he was muttering under his breath.

My main was especially huge (it took me three days to actually finish the entire dish). The dish consisted of two lobster tails done two ways (a lobster tail medallion with some kind of cheesy rice mixture like a rice au gratin, and the other was grilled and stuffed with mac and cheese) , mashed potatoes, and sundried tomatoes and green beans (it turns out this was a new menu item and it was pretty much included in every dish and everyone in my family decided to get them). It was so rich and delicious, but my only complaint was how salty it was. It was as though the chef didn’t take into account the inherent saltiness of seafood. My sisters dish had the lobster tail medallion as well, paired with her steak. The steak was cooked to perfection, according to her. And overall was a pretty good dish. I wasn’t really sure what my mom thought, she was a little busy eating and I didn’t get a chance to ask her. My dad’s was pretty ordinary. It’s something I used to order as a kid and those coconut shrimps with the dip are so sweet and oily, it’s easy not to be able to finish them. They are delicious, just a little hard to get down because just too much deep fried.

Overall, this is a good casual place to go for dinner. It is definitely kid friendly. The only complaints I had were that the food was over-salted and the waitress incredibly slow. Sure, I understand that it was a busy night, but it wasn’t any busier than what I had seen in the past at this location. Maybe they were understaffed. It could have been any number of reasons. I may just be bitter that another table seated after us got served before us. For this evening’s experience I’d have to give it a 3.2/5, but I would still come back to this place. And hopefully when I do, the service will be better.

*I apologize for the quality of some of the photos. I had no idea how dirty my camera was.

dueling lobsters

Dueling Lobsters

surf and turf

Surf and Turf

mom's dish

Shrimp and Lobster

dad's dish

Create your own Entree: Coconut Shrimp, Shrimp Linguini Alfredo, and Sundried Tomatoes and Green Beans

 

Restaurant Review: Pho Huong Viet

Locations: 3855 17 Ave SW
1829 Ranchlands Blvd NW

*Photos are from Ranchlands location*

This place is one of my family’s favourite Vietnamese restaurants to go to. This is one of the only Vietnamese places I know that is packed regardless of what time of day it is. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that both locations are very small and therefore fills up quickly. When we go, we usually go for dinner even though Vietnamese food is usually like a lunch thing for my family. I’m actually surprised that the staff don’t know us and our orders by now since we go so much, but to be fair, they must see hundreds of people a day and remembering the orders of one family isn’t realistic.

Each time we go, we order the same thing, or at least rotate through a few menu items in particular. My sister, for example, will always go for the Bun Bo Hue (or Bún Bò Huể) Bun Bo Hue doesn’t feature pho, the noodles in the bun bo hue are rounder and smoother than udon (and not as fat and starchy), they’re actually pretty similar to silver needle noodles. The soup base is a beautiful red hinting at the heat behind the dish. However, this kind of spiciness is different from a lot of the other kinds of spiciness you’d expect from phos. For me, I have one go to pho dish and one go to bún dish. If I’m having pho, my mom and I both go for the Huong Viet’s special sate beef noodle soup. It’s one of the best sate soups I’ve had and all others fall flat in comparison to it. The bún dish I normally go for is the combo three (B6-which is grilled shrimp paste, BBQ pork & spring rolls) because it’s the only one with grilled shrimp paste, which is one of my favourite things ever (Pho Kim has a pretty good variation of this; shrimp paste wrapped around a sugar cane stalk, a beautiful combination of sweet and salty). I can’t seem to recall what my dad usually orders, but he loves beef stew, so that’s usually what he gets, otherwise he gets the same as my sister. Something I like to do with my mom is I order the bún and my mom orders the pho and we share, that way we can have the best of both.

In terms of appetizers, we’ve pretty much tried everything. It may be my memory, but I think the 17th Ave location’s calamari has less breading/batter on the outside making it more enjoyable than the Ranchland location. Calamari will always be my favourite and I continue to look for more opportunities to try all the calamari at the restaurants I go to.

In terms of accessiblity, both locations are pretty hard to access. The Ranchland location is up a set of pretty steep stairs. And while the 17th Ave location doesn’t have stairs, it has a step that is kind of hard to get up onto. Furthermore, both entrances are pretty narrow and fitting a wheelchair or even a walker through is hard.

This is my go to place for Vietnamese food that has me coming back time and time again. I don’t even mind the wait here. We’re usually in and out pretty quick and the food is always good. It’s definitely not fine dining, but who cares when it’s happiness in a bowl. I’d give this place a 4.5/5.

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Pho Huong Viet interior

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Pho Huong Viet interior

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Fried Squid

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Assorted Skewers

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Super Combo Four: BBQ chicken, BBQ pork, charbroiled prawns and spring rolls

 

 

Restaurant Review: Carino Bistro

Location: 709 Edmonton Tr NE
Website: http://carinobistro.ca/

From the first time I saw a review of this place in a food magazine, it was on my list of place to go. Last night I had the chance to try it out. I’d like to call this “date night” officially, as this felt more like the traditional, stereotypical categorization of what a date looks like.

Since getting my opentable account, I’ve been wanting to go to more restaurants to earn points that could in turn be redeemed at select restaurants as a credit, so to speak. I had made my reservations at Carino about a week earlier. I had made the reservation for about 5:30 giving us plenty of time to get lost and/or account for any unforeseen delays. After a rather uneventful day at work, we arrived early to the restaurant to find the door still locked. The building is very easy to miss, we drove by twice and nearly walked past it. You have to really be looking for it to find it. Not only were we early for our 5:30 reservation, we were so early the place hadn’t even opened yet! We returned to the car to wait and as usual conversations and time spent with Braeden often flies by far too fast. Before we knew it, it was time to head on in.

When we arrived, only one family was seated near the window, all the other tables displayed a “reserved” sign. We were promptly seated and handed menus. Though I had looked at the menu before hand, I still had no idea what I wanted. In the review I had read, it had suggested the Duck! Duck!! Duck!!!, but that also happened to be the most expensive menu item and I wasn’t sure how much foie gras I could handle. I’ll save this dish for next time I visit with my sister because I know if I can’t finish it, she will. The waitress came by three or four times, but I still couldn’t decide on what it was I wanted. I finally decided to go with an appetizer to share (which really turned into me eating most of it) and “combine” two appetizer for my main entree. Braeden decided on the Teriyaki Wagyu Beef Burger with some modifications: regular mayo instead of wasabi mayo, no mushrooms, opting to go with a brioche instead of rice bun and adding bacon. Unfortunately, they missed adding the bacon with all the other requests they had to account for (and luckily it was not added to the bill).

The appetizer I had chosen was the Ahi Tuna Poke served with tortilla chips. In my opinon, they weren’t exactly tortilla chips, more like wonton crisps, but that increased it’s deliciousness (following more of an Asian theme, tortilla would have thrown the entire dish off in a completely different direction and as this is an Italian-Japanese-French fusion restaurant, Mexican doesn’t really fit into the picture very well). It was well seasoned, although a bit salty, it worked for the poke. The addition of arugula, the Italian twist, really worked for me; it provided a different flavour profile to the dish, giving it a much needed fresh lift. With the meal beginning on such a high note, I had high expectations for the subsequent dishes. There wasn’t too long of a wait time between the appetizer and the mains, which I was to be expected as we were currently the only other table in the restaurant. As I said earlier, Brae made so many modifications that when his burger came out it kinda looked boring (I would have really like to have tried it with the mushrooms on there because I love pretty much all kinds of mushrooms with the exception of canned mushrooms and straw mushrooms). The wagyu beef blew me away. The seasoning was spot on, the burger was succulent and chockful of onions, giving it a sweet, aromatic, depth (but as Brae doesn’t like onions, that wasn’t great for him lol). The first thing I noticed was that the ketchup tasted different from most other places, in a good way; it was sweeter and was enhanced by the hint of herbs. I ordered the goma (sometimes spelled gomae) caesar salad adding in the calamari. If you’ve read my other reviews, you’ll know I’m in love with calamari and intend to try them at all the restaurants I go to. Although the portion size looks small, it was very filling. I enjoyed the inclusion of slices of Fuji apple. The calamari provided the oil component to the dish, the apple the sweet, the kale the bitter, the dressing and bacon the salty, the jalapeno the acid, and the aioli for the calamari the spicy. My biggest problem with it though was that the salad was way too overdressed. At first I could manage by scrapping the vast majority of the dressing off, but eventually that became unbearable and I was unable to finish the salad.

Despite those minor hiccups, I’d say it was a pretty good meal. The waitress was ever attentive to us, making sure that our glasses were almost always full. Yes, it was a bit pricy, but that’s the cost of getting good quality food and service. I will most certainly return and next time I will try one of the mains I had been eyeing. Based on my experience this time round, I’d give it a rating of 3.75/5

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Carino Interior

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Carino Interior

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Ahi Tuna Poke

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Teriyaki Wagyu Beef Burger

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Goma Caesar Salad with Calamari

Restaurant Review: Scopa

Location: 2220 Centre St. NE
Website: http://scopacalgary.com/

This was a lunch I never expected to have. A while back, a friend of mine wanted to hang out and I suggested this place, but those plans fell through and I didn’t think much of it. Sure I had been working next to this place for a while, even back when it was Boccavino, I never had the chance to try it out. In a spur of the moment kind of thing, I headed over to this place with my boyfriend.

We were promptly seated and water arrived shortly after. The waiter was very attentive and made sure to check in in a timely manner that didn’t come off as being too frequent. I knew I wanted pasta because at an Italian restaurant, the deciding factor for me is their pasta and how well they cook it. I was initially torn between the orecchiette and the tagliatelle, but also debated getting the spaghetti as well. I ultimately chose to go with the tagliatelle. My boyfriend chose to have the Scopa Burger. After ordering, the waiter brought by some bread, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. I’m not entirely sure what kind of bread it was (I know with certainty it was not focaccia though), but the bottom appeared as though it had been fried, leaving more than just a greasy smear on my plate. It reminded me a bit of the lemony-rosemary type bread/spread on my bread when I went to Al Forno. The wait didn’t seem too long, but maybe because I had good company.  Upon its arrival, I thought that the tagliatelle was quite small, I was about to find out just how filling it was. The pasta sauce was more like whole stewed tomatoes slightly mashed (some were actually still whole) mixed with the tagliatelle topped with five polpette (veal meatballs). The pasta was the biggest disappointment to me. Although the flavours were all there, the pasta was way overcooked and if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s overcooked pasta (well under cooked pasta’s pretty bad too, it’s pretty much inedible). I barely got through half the thing before I had to stop, but that may have to do more with the fact that I had so much bread. The burger was served on a board, giving it a semi rustic feel. It was served with what appeared to be a lemon aioli, but there was something else I couldn’t detect. My boyfriend ordered the burger medium rather than their usual medium rare, which may have been a contributing factor. He probably ate about half of it and decided not to finish it, opting to eat the fries instead. The fries were pretty good, very thinly sliced, reminding me more of hickory sticks than fries.

Overall, I’d say it wasn’t the worst restaurant I’d been to, but it’s also not one of the best. Great service, but as a restaurant, the food needs to speak for itself. That it did not. For the price that it was, I was expecting a lot more, this place just fell flat. 2.25/5

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Restaurant Interior

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Tagliatelle Polpette

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Scopa Burger

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