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Archive for November, 2016

Restaurant Review: Open Sesame

Location: 6920 Macleod Trail South
Website: http://www.open-sesame.ca/

Open Sesame, like Smuggler’s Inn and Tango Bistro, are part of the Smuggler’s Group of restaurants ( the last one is Bolero and all four of these restaurants are clustered together in one building). Open Sesame is their Pan-Asian cuisine which is best known for their do it yourself stir-fries. As described on their website’s menu, customers “[c]hoose [their] own selections from our fresh Asian Market brimming 
with crisp vegetables, spices and condiments. Season with [Open Sesame’s] authentic 
sauces created from scratch for every taste. [After the completion of the compilation, customers] [t]ake [their] selection to [the] 
Wok Chef.” The market features only sauces and vegetables, the orders for the carbs and protein are placed with the waitress and marked down on cards which will be placed with the veggies for stir-frying.

We started with drinks and I’d have to say, Open Sesame has one of the best strawberry lemonades I’ve ever had. The addition of mint is brilliant and adds a fresh bite to the drink that would otherwise be sweet with nothing else to offer.

We started with an appetizer, the Pu pu platter. A name that kept making people at our table laugh. The platter consisted of teriyaki riblings, calamari, satay, crisp spiced naan, crab wontons, pickled vegetables, chili mango dip, and raita. When the platter first came out, I thought that it was a decent sized appetizer, however, it proved not to be enough when it came down to sharing it between five people. Overall, despite it not being enough for all five of us, it was at the same time, enough for all five of us. What I mean by that is that there was enough for everyone to sample each of the items, but not enough for us to have any more if we like a particular element. Of the six items on the platter, the riblings were my least favourite. There was very little meat, which is understandable because they were riblings, but also I don’t love teriyaki sauce on my ribs or wings (a little in stir-fry would be good). The raita was reminiscent of tzatziki sauce and in essence it was.

For our mains, three of the five ordered the stir-fry, which made sense, since this is what they are known for. My cousin added the Asian pancake wraps/mu shu wraps, grilled naan, and lettuce wraps to his meal and the maid of honour added the grilled naan to hers. I didn’t have a chance to try out their stir-fry combos, but as everyone cleaned their bowls, I’d say everyone enjoyed them thoroughly. My sister and I, ironically, ordered the same thing: the Hibachi Steak. The temperature was perfect on the steak and well seasoned. The seasoning took into account how salty the dipping sauce was, but at times it still seemed a little too salty for my liking. In regards to the portion size, I’d say that it was pretty good. I was unable to finish it since I had had the appetizer and was saving some space for dessert, but what I had packed up was enough to make a meal for the next day.

What meal is complete without dessert? Of course we went all out on it. I ordered the black and white brownie, while my sister had the ginger creme brulee, and my cousin and his fiancee shared a mango and coconut snowball (the lump of frozenness). I found the brownie to be a bit dry (some parts could almost be passed off as cookie like in its consistency) and the ice cream generic (would’ve been nice if it had been a vanilla bean ice cream). The ginger creme brulee was very strong on the ginger. I mean, there was no question that there was ginger in it and that it was good, but I just don’t think that it’s really for me.

Based on this experience, I would give this place a 4/5 and would most certainly return. Next time I would want to give the stir-fry a try since that is, after all, their specialty.

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Restaurant Interior

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Restaurant Interior

drinks

Aladdin’s Passion and Strawberry Lemonade

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Pu Pu Platter

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Asian Market

food-options

Asian Market

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Asian Market

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Asian Market Sauces

sauce-options

before-stirfried

Beverly and Diana’s veggies for stir-fry

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Beverly stir-fry

dianas

Diana’s Stir-fry

daves-stirfry

David’s Stir-fry

extra-sides

Extra sides: Asian Pancakes/Mu shu wrappers, grilled naan, lettuce wraps

hibachi-steak

Hibachi Steak

black-and-white-brownie

Black and White Brownie

ginger-creme-brulee

Ginger Creme Brulee

mango-and-coconut-snowball

Mango and Coconut Snowball

 

Restaurants Revisited

Based on some recent experiences, I thought I’d do something different and review restaurants I’ve already reviewed and gone back to. Sometimes the experience has improved, but more often than not, most of these places have somewhat slipped.

Vendome Cafe
Vendome is still among one of my favourite cafes; however, in recent years, I’ve notice a decline in food quality. What was once flavourful and inspired me to start restaurant and cafe reviews has fallen to the wayside. Their most well-known dish is their duck confit. It used to be the reason I always wanted to spend time in Kensington. The two or three times I’ve gone, the texture of the meat hasn’t been quite right (the only way I can think of describing it is that it’s kind of grainy or has a powder like texture in my mouth). Besides that, the meat was way over-salty, to the point that I had blisters on my tongue and lip.

Van Gogh’s
The tzatziki sauce is still one of the most amazing I’ve ever had, but now service is lacking, prices are incredibly high, and portion sizes have shrunk. Since the restaurant used to be busier, there used to be more servers and as a result, there was a higher standard. Though I know I shouldn’t eat too much and smaller portion sizes and higher prices will help to discourage me from over-eating, I’d still want to get my monies worth.  I will still come here because I love the tzatziki until this place closes down.And I don’t think that this restaurant will last much longer. I mean, considering how “isolated” our community is, I’m not surprised that the only traffic this place usually sees is from its residents. And with no other restaurants around, there isn’t all that much competition which would drive it to maintain better standards.

Empress Palace Restaurant
I go back and forth with this place. When we first visited this place with my family, it had just been open for a few weeks and it was horrible, the second time (when I wrote my review) it wasn’t all that bad. However, just recently I returned there and they served pringles with my chicken. Why? I wanted the shrimp chips that the fried chicken is normally served with, not salt and pepper pringles. They were just so out of place and weird. Other than that slight transgression, this place, for the most part, is getting much better.

Chili’s
It’s hard to believe that I once sang praises of this place. I’m not sure if the time I had affects anything, but the first review was written was during dinner service, while this second visit was during lunch. For one thing, when I recommend a restaurant to someone,  it reflects favourably or negatively on me depending on their experience. When we walked in, it was about 1pm and there was only one family waiting in front of us. Once they seated that large party, I approached the desk where the host typically stands and the host never returns. After about ten minutes I decided to take a seat and wait for someone to come out. It took nearly another twenty minutes before someone acknowledged us and another five before we were seated. Once seated it took fifteen minutes before our waitress came over to take our drink order. The restaurant was empty, I didn’t understand why it would take so long for the waitress to come and do that. It took her another ten minutes to bring the drinks and take our order. Food came out relatively timely, but as we were eating, my boyfriend finished his drink and was looking for our waitress to get another. From his vantage point at our table, he could see her standing in the kitchen just chatting. We tried getting her attention and she either ignored us or just didn’t see us (because she wasn’t paying attention). We finished our meal and took another fifteen minutes. By this point I was furious particularly because I had suggested going here and my boyfriend was pretty hungry. When she finally brought the bill, I didn’t want to go through the hassle of waiting longer because she had to go get the machine. I actually was angry enough that I didn’t want to even tip her. However, my boyfriend made me so I tipped about 10% which I feel was overly generous. This was about two weeks ago and I am still so angry about it. I won’t go as far as saying I’ll never go back because the food’s pretty good, but the likelihood of me returning to that location is fairly low. I might give it another chance, but that will be in a few years.

The Fine Diner
Sometimes restaurants have a rocky start when they first open, so I usually give it a second chance unless my first impression/experience was horrible enough to keep me away for good. I came to here again for brunch with my cousin to introduce my boyfriend to the family, a few people at a time. Although we made reservations and ended up getting there a bit late (maybe 15-30 mins late), my cousin and her boyfriend who arrived on time hadn’t even been brought their drinks. I understand that it was very busy (as I’ve said on numerous occasions, brunch is very quickly becoming the thing to do on weekends) and that they were understaffed, but something as simple as a drink should not take 15-30 minutes. And though in my last review of this place I said I wouldn’t be coming back, I most certainly will not be coming back after this experience. The only good that came out of this visit was that the waitress was cheerful despite being completely overwhelmed and overworked and she didn’t look like she hated everyone there like the last waiter we had here.

Chianti’s
I’ve never had any problems with the Crowfoot location, but on our six month anniversary/boyfriend’s birthday, we discovered an amazing appetizer platter that he’s come to love. I think from now on, every time I go I’ll have to get it. (For reference, it’s called the Antipasto Italian Platter).

Scopa
I returned to this place when my best friend visited from Vancouver back in July, to give it a second chance. I had the calamari to start and I ordered their mushroom pizza. Oh. My. God. Amazing. The mix of chili peppers with the calamari was a very delicious combination. And as I found out later, they’re actually best known for their pizza and honestly, their pizza is to die for. I also found out what a cannoli was. From now on, if I come back to this place, it’ll be for the pizza and the calamari.

 

Cafe Review: Wise and Wright

Location: 163-317 7 Ave SW
Website: http://www.wiseandwright.com/

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a cafe. I’ll admit, since I’ve been in this relationship, I’ve been a bit spoiled. Typically, we’re more of the take out and enjoy the food at home kind of people and since he has a car, I’ve gotten accustomed to being driven everywhere.

At my cousin, Yulin’s suggestion, we decided to try this place out. Based on her recommendations and experiences, I’d have to say she’s my cafe consultant. Like most of Calgary, the brunch craze is starting to hit and this cafe is no exception. My first impression based on the menu was that everything was very healthy and promoted a healthy lifestyle via food (like post- or pre-workout foods).

We arrived at around 10:30/10:45 and found the place to be relatively empty. It was clean and welcoming and although I had previously perused the menu, I still had no idea what I wanted. With most restaurants and cafes I’ve been to, they have a brunch menu on weekends in addition to their regular menu. However, this is not how Wise and Wright chose to do it. On the weekend, they only allow patrons to order off of the brunch menu. I was slightly disappointed because I wanted to try their mushroom flatbread and sweet potato and roasted garlic soup, but was told I couldn’t order those things. So I went for my go to dish: an eggs benny. Originally I was going to get a Rancheros Bowl -Wise Style, but as Yulin was getting it, I didn’t want to get the same thing. I got the house oven ham eggs benny, which comes with two soft poached eggs atop a toasted sprouted bun, topped with a yogurt hollandaise and a side of wise sweet potato hash and salad. Yulin’s Rancheros Bowl -Wise Style consisted of refried beans, brown rice, stone bread, crushed avocado, poached egg, cilantro, spicy salsa, arugula, and rancheros sauce. In terms of drinks, I decided to try the philosopher’s brew and Yulin had an Americano. As the waitress brought the Americano, I was removing my jacket and bumped her, spilling coffee everywhere on the floor. I felt terrible as she said she was going to make a new one. I felt as though she was saying that it was okay, but it was a situation where that’s what you say, but not how you feel. Even after I helped to clean it up, I still felt bad. The philosopher’s brew was fairly light, but because of the ginger, it really warms you up from the inside out. I probably wouldn’t order it again unless I was sick or really cold.

The eggs benny was the biggest disappointment. The ham and sprouted bun were dry, the hollandaise was essentially non-existant, the salad incredibly under-dressed, and the temperature on one of my eggs was wrong. The Rancheros Bowl on the other hand was the complete opposite, a complete delight. If you had not expected it, the heat of the salsa hits you like a ton of bricks. I wouldn’t exactly call it a salsa as much as a thick sauce, but it was amazing. As I sit here and write this, remembering the depth of flavour, I am salivating. I appreciated that it wasn’t spicy for spicy’s sake. That bowl was just perfection, it wasn’t over-salted, and next time I visit, if I can’t get the flatbread, I will definitely have this one.

Overall, the staff were really friendly and accommodating given the aforementioned incident. I would return to give this place a second chance with brunch and would return to try out the regular menu. However, based on today’s experience and judging it based on the dish I did order, I’d have to give it a 2/5.

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Background: Rancheros Bowl and Americano  Foreground: Oven

 

Lest we Forget

I know that many of us do not dwell long on the meaning of this day. After all, so many can’t or don’t understand without having to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. But why can’t we? Why can’t we put ourselves in their position?

I know that when I was younger, I was particularly ignorant. All those Remembrance Day assemblies didn’t do much to educate me. I was too young to know or to care. I saw Remembrance Day as just another stat holiday, another day off from school, a day I could just spend at home with my parents. In a way, this is what today is about. It’s about appreciating the fact that you have the luxury to take a day off, to spend it with loved ones and to remember that those who fought for us, for our freedoms, past, present, and future did not have that luxury. They may not have been in the news as often as they have in the past, but that does not diminish their importance.

However, there is one thing about this day I never considered. For some of our veterans, this day is a day filled with triggers. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to remember and relive the atrocities and horrors that they have seen. How hard it is for some to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies. So while we honour our heroes on this day, remember that they are just like you and me. That they deserve love and affection like everyone else. And we should not let stereotypes of what we think a soldier should be to cloud our perception of the great things they have done for this country. Sometimes all we need is someone to be there, to look past the imperfections, and to understand that we do not fit into a box that our professions, genders, and so forth force us into.

So yes, today we have a day off, but don’t forget why. Don’t forget the sacrifices that our loved ones have made-the ones that have left us and the ones that have returned-and what it all means.

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