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Archive for April, 2019

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

Restaurant Review: BoRi Korean Restaurant

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

Restaurant Review: Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria

Location: 125 Stewart Green SW (Westhills Towne Centre)
Website: https://famoso.ca/

When the place first opened, I had heard so much about it. The place was always packed, which I took to be a good sign, but one day, my dad tried it and said that it was horrible and as such, we never got the chance to try it out as a family. I’m not the kind of person who would dismiss something as important as food based solely on someone else’s opinion. I would keep it at the back of my mind, certainly, but I wanted to form my own opinion of the place. I waited and waited and today, my patience was rewarded.

After a relaxing day of pedicures, facials, and shopping, Alex and I headed to Famoso for dinner. The restaurant was practically empty when we arrived (probably because it was a weird time) and we seated ourselves. We promptly perused the menu and decided on an eggplant parmigiana as a starter. We both chose to do the 7″ pizza with a caesar salad side.

I started with a drink. Something I’ve never tried before: a raspberry ginger beer. After a few sips, I decided that ginger beer isn’t for me.

Originally, I was going to be adventurous and try out the Spicy Thai Pizza, but under pressure, I defaulted to my usual, the Funghi. Alex went with a classic Margherita. When the pizzas came out, there was no question that the Funghi pizza contained white truffle oil. Even though I knew there was truffle oil (as this is my go to pizza, but also, the menu indicated that there was truffle oil), the smell still caught me off guard. It made me worried that the dish would be overpowered by the taste of white truffle oil; however, the taste was not nearly as strong as the smell (thank goodness). The salad was very lightly dressed, almost to the point that I couldn’t even detect the dressing. My personal preference when it comes to caesar salad is for it to be dressed a little more aggressively and be a lot more garlicky. I know that that much garlic isn’t for everyone (especially if we have to go back to the office and/or to a meeting afterwards because if I have to do either of those things I’ll go easy on the garlic), but the level of garlickiness in Van Gogh’s caesar salad (if they still make them the way they do, since I haven’t been back in like a year) will always be my benchmark for a good caesar salad.

The highlight of the meal ended up being dessert. We ordered four. Alex got the affogato with the salted caramel gelato and a tiramisu, and I ordered a mango (the seasonal flavour) sorbetto and white chocolate panna cotta.

All the desserts were composed with perfection in mind. Each bite was absolute luxury. I started with the mango sorbetto because it has the potential to melt. BEST. SORBETTO. I. HAVE. EVER. HAD! It was so fresh that I could almost taste the texture of the mango. Alex started with the affogato for the same reason. I’ve had affogatos before (at Made by Marcus) and I can say definitively that pistachio gelato is not a good choice to use in an affogato because of its delicate flavour, it gets lost against the strong espresso flavour. The salted caramel is a much better choice for an affogato. Although I’m not typically a fan of salted caramel, its strong flavour is a great pairing with the espresso and it is absolutely delicious. I think, following that same vein of thought, the salted caramel dark chocolate would also be delicious because chocolate and coffee are a classic pairing. Then came the panna cotta and tiramisu. The panna cotta was to die for. The creamy texture was perfection. I don’t consider white chocolate a chocolate, more like a block of fat and sugar, but absolutely loved it in this preparation. The chocolate slivers shaved on top and strawberry coulis provided just the right touch to balance out the flavours in the dish. The tiramisu was equally excellent. There was no question that it had been composed with mascarpone.

My overall experience was extremely pleasant and I would gladly return here. Next time, I hope to try the Spicy Thai pizza. Perhaps we’ll make it here after nine after archery one day (1/2 priced pizzas!) . Based on that experience, I would give this place a 4/5.

Restaurant Interior
Restaurant Interior
Raspberry Ginger Beer
Eggplant Parmigiana
7″ Margherita with Caesar
Funghi with Caesar
Going clockwise from top left: affogato with salted caramel gelato, tiramisu, mango sorbetto, and white chocolate panna cotta

Restaurant Review: The Gateway

Location: 1301 16 Avenue NW (SAIT Campus Centre)
Website: https://saitsa.com/gateway/menu/

Unlike The Den, which I tried out in my final year of my university career, I didn’t get to try out The Gateway until after I graduated.

Alex and I decided that this would probably be the best/most convenient place for dinner as we would be proceeding to the Jubilee Auditorium to watch Rigoletto shortly after. It also happened to be one of the last days of Advanced Polling and seeing as I live pretty much in the middle of nowhere, voting on actual election day would prove to be a bit of a challenge.

It wasn’t crazy busy when we arrived, but it was fairly packed. Given that it was a Friday afternoon, that was to be expected. It was nice that there was a live band playing, but made it difficult to have a conversation, which again was to be expected.

What I liked about The Gateway over The Den was that there were large windows in the establishment, making it feel less enclosed and dungeon-like.

After a week of eating a lot of deep fried foods, I wanted to go a little lighter, but considering where we were, lighter isn’t really a thing. I decided to go with appies instead of mains for this dinner.

We ordered the fried pickles to share and I got the roasted poblano and artichoke dip and the bacon bomb trio. Alex ordered the saucy cow.

Our orders came out pretty quickly, considering how many people there were in the place, so I was pretty happy about that.

I started with the pickles. These are pretty standard, and as Alex said, you can’t go wrong with these. While these were good, these aren’t the best fried pickles I’ve ever had. I still have to say that Seanachie’s has the best bar food I’ve had to date. The next dish I tried was the roasted poblano and artichoke dip. It was pretty much what I expected, except for the toasted bread crumbs on top. My only wish is that the dip was a little hotter because then it would be more like a cheesy dip than a cheesy paste. Taste wise, it wasn’t bad. I liked that there were chunks of artichoke because if I ordered something that indicates that a certain ingredient in it, I like to be able to at least see it, if not also to taste it. Unfortunately, the poblano didn’t come through as much as I had hoped. I was in the mood for spicy and this dish didn’t quite deliver. The last appie I had was the bacon bomb trio. On paper it sounds really good: house ground bacon sliders with crispy bacon, root beer BBQ, cheddar, bacon mayo, and crispy fried onions on pretzel buns. When the sliders came, there weren’t any crispy fried onions or bacon as far as I could see. Instead, they were topped with lettuce and tomato. Honestly, if I could have had the crispy onions and bacon in addition to the lettuce and tomato, it would have made for the perfect balance. The veggies would’ve provided that much needed hit of freshness that the heavy slider would’ve been. Without the crispy bacon, the slider patty just tasted like pork. I haven’t quite decided if that’s a good or bad thing yet, it was just a very porky pork taste. The root beer BBQ isn’t something I’ve had before and it was a very unique flavour that I enjoyed.

Alex’s saucy cow, which is essentially a beef dip, was quite nice. The horseradish in the mayo didn’t quite come through in the bite I had, which was a little disappointing. In the past, I’ve also had beef dips buttered with garlic butter, which I have enjoyed immensely. While this beef dip was good, there were so many things that could have made it better. Another thing is that The Gateway’s “standard” fries are curly fries. Curly fries are 100% better than regular fries, in my opinion anyways. I think Alex really enjoyed them, as she prefers softer, pillowy fries rather than extra crispy like I do. They seemed a little bland and could’ve used a little bit of seasoning on them.

Overall, it was a good experience. As it’s on the SAIT Campus, the pricing is very affordable, which is a huge incentive for me to keep coming back. The food is pretty good, but having been to The Den so many years ago, I don’t think I can make a fair comparison to the food there. Each has its merits and given the opportunity, I would happily return here again. Based on this experience, I would give this a 3.5/5.

Saucy Cow (back), Fried Pickles (left of Saucy Cow), Bacon Bomb Trio (left side of image), Poblano and Artichoke Dip (front)

Restaurant Review: M Palace

Location: 10400 Macleod Trail SE

I’m glad that my parents have finally stopped caring that I take pictures of the food for my reviews, which means I get to do lot more reviews on Chinese restaurants now! YAY! Of course, that comes with it its own set of challenges. One in particular is translating some of the names of the dishes. That and trying to find the characters for the Chinese names of the dishes to maintain authenticity (they have such pretty names in Chinese that sound ridiculous in English when translated).

As many people already know (and I may have mentioned in previous reviews), Chinese food is meant to be consumed family style. It still offends me when I see people in a party of nine or ten order an entire dish and eat it themselves. THAT’S NOT HOW IT’S MEANT TO BE CONSUMED PEOPLE!!!

However, whenever we go out for dinner as a family, my dad likes to order A LOT of food. For instance, tonight we took home about 5 boxes of food home with us. For reference, we don’t normally order that much food at restaurants we frequent, usually about 4-6 dishes depending on what we get, which yields about 2-3 boxes to take home, but when we’re trying out somewhere new, my dad likes to order enough off the menu to give us a wide variety to try (because sometimes they’re not the best at preparing one type of dish, but great at another, or at least this is what I’m assuming).

As with every restaurant experience, they ask for your drink order. At a Chinese restaurant, more often than not, they ask you what type of tea you’d like. My favourite is the chrysanthemum pu’er tea, but my dad’s is 鉄観音 (Tie guan yin) which translates to Iron Goddess, which is what we get every time. While it’s rare for the tea to get cold over the course of a meal, it does happen at times (especially if you’re not constantly drinking it), the presence of a tea warmer is wonderful…even though the tea pot didn’t really sit on there right.

We began with a starter, duck neck and wing with jellyfish (鸭頸翼拼海蜇 which Google translates to duck neck wing fight…which is ridiculous…) . Duck neck is incredibly difficult to eat. It is very bony with very little meat. You really have to get in there with your hands. According to my dad, duck neck isn’t typically served in as an appetizer because it’s so bony. It’s more typically used in developing the depth of a soup base. As it was an appetizer, there was very little jellyfish accompanying the duck. The flavouring on both the duck and jellyfish were spot on, although the jellyfish could have done with slightly more seasoning and a touch fewer onions. The addition of wood ear mushrooms is also not something I’ve seen done before. It has a similar texture and crunch as jellyfish and gives the illusion that there is more jellyfish in your mouth than there actually is.

The next dish that came out was the duck fried rice, which was a little weird because normally when you order the Peking Duck set course, it’s supposed to come out in a certain order (soup, duck with pancakes, rice). As an aside, this restaurant has four courses rather than three (most restaurants have soup, duck with pancakes, and fried rice/noodle, the duck neck and wing is an addition that they made). The rice came wrapped in a lotus leaf, but was done so in a very inefficient manner. The opening had been placed against the bottom of the steaming basket rather than the top meaning that when they brought it, they had to cut a hole in the top of it so that we could get to the rice. The alternative, of course, was simply to flip it over, (but also, I think it’s a sanitation thing where they don’t want to touch your food with their hands, which I’m totally fine with). When rice is steamed in any kind of leaves, I expect it to have a slightly more sticky consistency, as it’s usually sticky rice that is steamed. This was just ordinary rice, so while the presentation was nice, it was completely unnecessary. Taste wise, it was nothing special. There was a dark colouring from the soy sauce and microscopic fragments of duck, but it tasted to me of nothing but rice. Not even the fragrant lotus leaf flavour managed to make it in.

Next came the duck with hoisin sauce, onions, cucumber wrapped in a pancake dish. It was slightly disappointing too. While the duck was sliced significantly thinner than I’ve ever had at most restaurants and they gave us a lot of pancakes, the duck had no flavouring, they barely gave us enough hoisin for 4 wraps (we had to use it sparingly and when we asked for some more they gave us so much that it seemed pointless).

The soup was the next dish to come. While the pot it came in was pretty hot, the soup itself was not. It was lukewarm at best. This would, unfortunately be the theme of the evening. This too had their own spin on it. Instead of just soy milk reinforced with duck broth, they threw in some wontons. However, the wontons didn’t really feel like they belonged in there and with the soup not being as well developed as other duck soups I’ve had, it was rather disappointing.

At this restaurant, the Peking Duck set course meal includes two additional dishes: a gailan hot pot and a shrimp and egg tofu dish (金銀赫蝦球蒸玉子豆腐 which Google translates to gold and silver prawn balls steamed jade tofu). The gailan came first. It had, what appeared to be some kind of Chinese sausage and what smelled like salted fish (which is a very distinctive, sorta unpleasant, fishy smell). It felt a little too oily and was a little too salty for my liking.

The next dish that followed was the curry beef hot pot. If I haven’t already mentioned, my dad loves beef hot pots, especially curry. Of the beef hot pots, I prefer this one over all others. If I’m going to get beef stuck in my teeth, it might as well taste delicious and provide a bit of heat. Well, it wasn’t really spicy for me. I’m not saying it didn’t exist, but it was so faint that it was almost undetectable to me. At the restaurant there was so much food that I only got to try a small sample, the next day (today), we ate it for lunch and the sauce tastes really good over egg noodles! I know my mom prefers it over rice (and traditionally this is how it would be eaten), but as a noodle person, I would really recommend giving the noodle thing a try.

The last dish was the shrimp and egg tofu dish. As simple as it is, it’s the most delicious thing. Even this restaurant couldn’t mess it up. The egg tofu comes in a tube and is sliced into little medallions, topped with prawns and garnished with fish roe (I believe it’s tobiko) and onions with soy sauce.

As usual, we ended the meal with a complementary dessert: red bean soup. In terms of substance, there wasn’t much of it, and in terms of the consistency of the soup, too much water had been added. I didn’t have more than a few spoonfuls before I gave up.

Despite the disappointing food, service was pretty good. The food came out hella fast and there happened to be someone available whenever we needed them. Even though we had issues with temperature and the food being not as good as we were accustomed to, I would definitely come back to try their dim sum and to go to the Tea Chat Cafe (which is in the same restaurant, but on the other side). I also just looked through their takeout menu that I grabbed last night and their translation for wood ear mushrooms (黑木耳) was a little racist. I would give this place a 1.5/5 for my experience last night. It’s possible that because this place just opened they’re still ironing out the kinks, so if it’s still here in a couple months or years, I’ll give it another go (it’s where the old White Spot used to be on Macleod).

Restaurant interior #1
Restaurant Interior #2
Pretty geometric chandelier in the doorway
Duck neck and wing with jellyfish salad
Duck Fried Rice served in Lotus Leaf
Front: Duck Wonton Soup
Back: Peking Duck with Pancakes
Front: Curry Beef Hot Pot Back: Gailan Hot Pot
Shrimp on Egg Tofu

Restaurant Review: Mitillini’s Pizza and Steakhouse

Website: http://www.mitillinispizza.ca/
Location: 2 – 5720 Silver Springs Blvd

Touted as the best pizza in Calgary is a big claim made by the restaurant’s website and one that I had to verify. It’s a claim that my friend Alex, and her boyfriend, Alex, would agree with.

As it was a Sunday, it made sense to stop in here as they had 1/2 priced pizzas on special. As usual, I took a look at the menu before hand, deciding on the Donair Pizza. Ever since I’ve had the Chicken Shawarma and Donair Pizzas at Seniore’s, I’ve been obsessed (more on this later). What’s not to love about fresh tomatoes and garlic sauce and onions? Alex decided on the Hawaiian and her boyfriend decided on the spinach and feta.

I will admit that this place has some interesting combinations that I’ve never thought of trying together and yet, here they are. My first thought of the spinach and feta pizza is that it’s a spin on a spanakopita.

The donair pizza was what you’d expect from it: onion, tomato and donair meat. It also had mushrooms, which isn’t something I normally get in my donair/shawarma. Like I’m not sure mushrooms are even an option for donairs/shawarmas.

Since I had been so hungry earlier and started snacking, by the time it was dinner, I couldn’t really eat all that much, so I opted to go with a small, individual sized pizza. Because it was 1/2 price, the rules were that the pizza had to be dine in and you couldn’t pack what you didn’t finish to take with you, otherwise the 1/2 price wouldn’t apply. Luckily, by finish, it didn’t mean I had to consume all the crust. If it did, I would’ve been dead.

According to Alex, it wasn’t as busy in the restaurant as it typically is, which was nice because it meant that we got our food in pretty quickly.

I know this is a centuries old debate, and oftentimes, I go both ways, but on this night, I decided to eat the pizza with a fork and knife. Partly because it was too hot to pick up and the part that I could pick up would cause the rest of the slice to droop and the toppings to potentially fall off. The first thing I noticed about my pizza was how much cheese was on it. I love cheese. Especially gooey, melty cheese (God, cheese pulls are to die for!). And the best part was that as the meal went on, the cheese stayed gooey and stringy and melty, which is more than I can say for most, if not all the pizzas I’ve had in my life. The crust is pretty good, but I would have preferred it a little less doughy. I like mine with a little more crunch, but that’s a personal preference rather than a technical error on the part of Mitillini’s.

Overall, the pizza was just mediocre. Especially when I compare it to the donair/shawarma pizzas I’ve had at Seniore’s. I think the garlic sauce is what really does it for me at Seniore’s and I would have to say that Seniore’s has the best pizza, in my books. I know I haven’t written a review on it yet and I’m not sure that I will. My reviews are more based on sit down restaurant experiences, but I would say, if you’re in the Beddington area to stop by Seniore’s and give it a try (I’d probably give that place a 3/5). I’m not sure that I’d go out of my way to come to Mitillini’s again for the pizza, but that said, I would definitely come back and try out their pasta and steaks on their respective special nights. I would rate this restaurant a 2.25/5.

Small Donair Pizza

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