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Restaurant Review: Bank and Baron

Location: 125 8 Avenue SW
Website: http://www.bankandbaronpub.com

Bank and Baron is unique in that it’s located in an old bank that has been converted into a restaurant. First off, I’m never gonna say no to going to an old building. I love historical old buildings. It’s not just the beauty of the architecture, but the story behind each brick, every nail, every board, the stories the wall would tell if it could speak.

For our after work adventure, we decided we’d go with just happy hour appies. We ordered the chicken gyoza, steak bites, crafted lager beer fondue, and American sliders from the happy hour menu and the Spinach Dip from the regular menu.

The steak bites were a recommendation from my sister. This was amazing! I could probably eat the entire appie by myself if I didn’t have any self control. This was the best dish of the evening. My sister recommended that I not order the chicken gyoza, but we did anyways and she was right. The peanuts were not exactly crushed, they were halved and stale which made it hard to eat. The meat texture was impossible to discern, there was no flavour, the only good thing about the gyoza was that part of the wrapper was crispy, just the way I like it, but only part of it. It was my first time having the fondue and I was unfortunately disappointed. The cheese was gritty and grainy and it just didn’t have a great taste. The flatbread accompanying the fondue, on the other hand, was amazing. It was like a lighter version of focaccia. The sliders were as sliders often are. There was nothing particularly special about them. I’m not saying I wouldn’t order them again, but only if nothing on the menu really appealed to me. The last dish was the Spinach dip. This dish is a staple at so many restaurant, so like the sliders, unless I was really craving it or there was nothing I liked on the menu, then I would order this again.

For dessert, Alex and I both ordered the Valharona Chocolate Panna Cotta.  While it may not look the most appealing, it was delicious!  The creamy texture of that rich and slightly bitter chocolate was the perfect way to end the night.  If I hadn’t been so stuffed with carbs, I probably would’ve ordered another one.

I would definitely come back to this place, if only to eat those steak bites and panna cotta again. Based on my experience, I would give this place a 3/5.

Bank and Baron Bar

Interior (by our table)

Ceiling

Basement Vault

Close up of vault

Washroom

Cheese Fondue

Steak Bites

Chicken Gyoza and American Sliders

Valharona Chocolate Panna Cotta

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Meal Plan Box Review: Hello Fresh

Website: https://www.hellofresh.ca/

These meal plan boxes first came out a few years ago and instantly became popular.  I mean, what’s not to like.  It promised portioned out foods for recipes selected by the user to make every day meal prep so much easier.  When they first came out, I was very interested in giving them a try, but with my dad being a judgy chef and all, I never really did.  Plus, giving them a few more years would show me whether it was worth the investment or not and give them a chance to iron out any kinks they had, technologically or tactically.

The goal for me is to try out all the meal plan box companies and determine which one is most superior based on my experience.

I decided to go with Hello Fresh first because we received a coupon for 55% off of the first box for all new members.  At the time, most of the other box companies, goodfood and Chef’s Plate, were only offering 50% off.  My first step was to investigate which recipes were available for the three plan boxes they had, all of them include free shipping.

The pronto plan box, priced at $13.33/serving, is meant to make preparation quick and easy, promising that recipes would take less than 30 minutes to make.  The pronto plan allows the user to select whether it will be for 2 or 4 people and how many recipes, 3 or 4, for the week.  Taking the number of people and multiplying it by the number of recipes will get you the number of serving sizes and thus the price of this box, which ranges from $79.98 – $213.28.  The recipes that were available for the week in question were Coriander-Spiced Pork with Fragrant Couscous and Herby Salsa; Chimichurri Burgers with Avocado, Monterey Jack, and Cabbage slaw; Turkey Milanese with Pesto Greens and Creamy Potatoes; Peanut Satay Noodle Stir-fry with Sugar Snap Peas, Red Bell Pepper, and Thai Basil; and Pesto Chicken with Lemony Couscous and Zucchini Salad.

The family plan box, priced at $10.83/serving, advertises that the recipes in this plan will  encourage everyone to get into the kitchen and that everyone would enjoy dinner together, including the picky eaters.  The standard size for a family is set at 4 and cannot be changed, but the user can select 3 or 4 recipes, putting the price range for this box at $129.96 – $173.28.  This is the box we selected, going with 3 recipes.  The recipes available for the week in question were Seared Pork Tenderloin with Green Beans, Roasted Potatoes and Tarragon sauce; Retro Burger with Caramelized Onions and Creamy Potato Salad; Crispy Chicken Parmigiana with Cucumber-Apple Salad; Pork and Parmesan Patties with Butternut Squash Mash and Green Beans; and Crunchy Potato Chip Chicken with Cheesy Cauliflower and Green Peas.  We selected the Seared Pork Tenderloin, Crispy Chicken Parmigiana, and Pork and Parmesan Patties.

The final box is the veggie plan box, priced at $12.33/serving which is as the name indicates, a vegetarian option.  While I’m not a vegetarian, I do appreciate that it includes a box to accommodate those who are and having seen some of those recipes, I am not opposed to trying this box out in the future.  Besides, I rarely get enough veggies in my life to begin with, so it wouldn’t hurt to try.  This box is the most limited of the three boxes.  It is set at 2 people and 3 recipes with no room for selecting otherwise, which sets the price of the box at $73.98.  The recipes available for the week in question included the Peanut Satay Noodle Stir-fry (same as in the pronto meal); Veggie Chili with Tortilla Chips and Sour Cream; and Spinach and Feta Pie with Cucumber-Olive Salad.  In other words, there are exactly 3 recipes so there were no other choices for alternative recipes that week.

Before I dive in and describe the whole food making process and delivery, I will share with you the ordering process.  So this meal plan box acts like a subscription service (I’m not sure if the others are like this as this is my first one, but with time I shall either confirm or deny).  If you don’t see a recipe you like or you just don’t want the meal box for that week, you can have that week skipped.  If you had just wanted to try for the one week, then after you receive your order you can simply just cancel.  The thing I love most is that I only have to pay for the boxes I ordered.

When I was first setting up, the site kept crashing on me.  It would load the menu pages one time, but then later, upon revisiting, it would say that the page either did not exist or was unavailable at the time (due to maintenance or something).  No matter, I pressed on, adding the plan I wanted to my shopping cart and checking out.  I entered my credit card info in as well as the promo code and then it crashed.  I wasn’t able to get back into it all night and wasn’t sure if my credit card had actually gone through.  So the next day, I checked again on a PC (I have a Mac now) and on a different browser and it didn’t have any record of my purchase going through the night before.  Okay, fine, so I put in another order and put in my credit card and promo code.  Everything went well.  It went through and then I got my receipt by email and it had charged me full price.  I was furious.  So I did what I do best.  Write a very strongly worded email expressing my dissatisfaction with the situation.

Then I waited.  The website said it would take at least 2 business days for me to receive a response to my inquiry.  The first email I received stated that unfortunately my credit card had been charged before my promo code had been applied.  Well no kidding!  After a bit of correspondence, they said that I would get a full refund, but my meal box would still come.  In the end, I didn’t get a full refund, but that partial refund was still worth it.  I am very impressed with how customer service handled my complaint and as a result, has made me more likely to come back to this particular company than I would have had they refused to refund me.

On the website, it indicated a 12 hour window for the time of delivery on the chosen date of delivery (Mon-Wed).  When I signed up, it gave me a slightly narrower window.  Before the food was to be delivered, I received an email around 6:00 a.m. saying that it would soon be on its way.  My mom confirmed that it came by Fed-Ex at around 10:00 a.m. on Monday morning (the day I had chosen for it to be delivered).  I had given directions for it to simply be left at the door and since the box is insulated and contains ice packs to keep the meat cool, I wasn’t too concerned if it didn’t make it into the fridge right away.

Now on to the food.  The first recipe we tried was the Crispy Chicken Parmigiana with the Cucumber-Apple Salad.  I didn’t realize when we had ordered it, it had the instruction “make first” because we were going to start with the Seared Pork Tenderloin.  However, it ended up having to be the Crispy Chicken Parmigiana because the chicken was the only protein that was thawed enough to be cooked that night.  The recipe instructs us to make the salad (just the cucumber and apple part) first, to allow it to marinade.  The dressing was just sugar, lemon juice, and dijon mustard.  If I make it again, I would substitute honey instead of sugar.  It’s also worth mentioning that this meal kit assumes you have the basics like sugar, pepper, salt, oil/butter, etc. so make sure you have those things at the very least.  Since I already know some things about cooking, prepping the chicken was pretty easy.  However, instead of eggs, the box included mayonnaise, which is something I never thought of using.  Mayonnaise is egg based, but sticks to the chicken so much better than egg and also allows the bread crumbs to adhere more easily as well.  However, mayonnaise is also inherently oilier than egg and at some points I failed to take that into account.  After breading the chicken breasts, the recipe instructed me to pan fry until golden brown, approximately 3-4 minutes per side.  It included an additional note that it wouldn’t be a concern if the chicken wasn’t cooked all the way through, which is expected if you’ve only cooked each piece for a total of about 8 minutes.  I had expected to finish the breasts in the oven, but the next instruction was simply to turn on the broiler and put the chicken, which was now topped with pizza sauce and cheese and leave it until the cheese was melted and the internal temperature was 165°F.  I, of course, misread that and set the oven as low as it would go (it wouldn’t go down to 165°F).  I baked it for an additional 15-20 minutes, but the middle was still raw, so I ended up having to cut them in half, turn up the temperature and bake them for another 10-15 minutes, which then resulted in some portions being overcooked.  Since there were no carbs (if you don’t count the breading on the chicken), I decided I wanted to make a portion of pasta to go alongside it.  It was nothing special, just plain pasta with a little bit of butter.  My mom helped me out with that while I had my hands full with the chicken.  The cucumbers and apples were served on top of spinach, which was the final touch.  The amount of spinach we were given was so small, it looked like it was only one portion size of spinach.  This told me one of two things.  The first was that we were in the habit of over eating and over estimating the size of a single portion.  The second was more of a question of why there was so much more of the cucumber and apples compared to the spinach (the ratio was way off). The acidity of the salad (since we did use a whole lemon) was a perfect contrast to the heavier Chicken Parmigiana.

The second dish we made was the Pork and Parmesan Patties with Butternut Squash Mash and Green Beans.  Since we didn’t end up using all the parmesan from the night before, I used that in addition to the package of parmesan that had been portioned off for this meal.  The butternut squash had already been cubed and so all we had to do it put it into some boiling water with a bit of salt and boil until soft.  The green beans were seasoned with salt, pepper, and tossed with oil before setting them to roast in the oven.  Since the night before, we had problems getting the chicken to cook all the way through, I tried to make the patties as thin as I could so that they would cook more faster.  However, I didn’t make them thin enough because, despite following the recipe properly this time (no misreading), it still didn’t cook all the way through and we ended up just microwaving them.  I have to say, the butternut squash mash and green beans were my favourite sides of the three meals.  I especially loved the sweet-savoury combination and creamy texture of the mash.  I may have baked the beans a little over, but I do prefer my beans to be a little drier, so that turned out well.  I really like fresh parmesan because it isn’t as strong as dried parmesan and creates a different texture when used in cooking.  This was the first time I didn’t hear a complaint from my mom about having parmesan in a dish.  The night before she was already saying that the chicken parm could do without the parm, but with this, she couldn’t even tell.  I felt like a parent who had to hide veggies in their child’s food, except instead of veggies it was cheese.  The onion gravy I made for this dish was my crowning achievement.  I’ve made a similar one at Julia’s house with the same success and with the addition of rosemary, the sauce was taken to the next level.  I will acknowledge that rosemary is a fairly strong herb and that me forgetting to put it in till the end may have added to its pungency.  My mom liked the gravy, but said that rosemary in general was too strong for her.

With those two dishes complete, it only leaves the Seared Pork Tenderloin with Green Beans, Roasted Potatoes, and Tarragon Sauce to be discussed.  It’s ironic that this was the dish I had wanted to make first and it ended up being the last dish.  We made some modifications to this dish.  Instead of roasted potatoes we decided to go with a mash (more on this later) and since the roasted green beans had been such a success the night before, we decided to roast them instead of pan-frying them.  I prefer recipes that utilize the oven as well as the stove top because it is way more efficient.  The pork was essentially seasoned and seared off before finishing it off in the oven which was great because by this time in the week I was getting pretty tired and this recipe was a little more hands off, which was nice.  My sister helped with this one and instead of boiling the potatoes decided to microwave them.  Generally this isn’t a problem except for the fact that Yukon Gold Potatoes are not meant for mashing.  This made for the lumpiest mashed potatoes I have ever made.  Even with the amount of sour cream we added to make it lighter and fluffier did nothing except for make it taste like a lot of sour cream.  We reserved some of the tarragon to put into the potatoes, but being so mild, the tarragon was generally lost in the potatoes.  This time, being so concerned with not getting a raw slice of pork tenderloin, we ended up overcooking it.  I guess, that’s part of the reason why there was a sauce, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the sauce as it had been made from sour cream.  In other words, with sour cream being so prevalent in the potatoes the sauce was just a sour cream overload.  I think if I make this sauce again, I will just use flour, butter, salt, tarragon, and milk instead.

Each dish had their highlights and the prepped and portioned ingredients saved me a lot of time.  It definitely comes in handy for those who don’t have the creativity to come up with their own recipes on a weekly basis or if they don’t have very much time to prep and cook everything after work.  The great thing about the meal box is that the recipe booklet Hello Fresh sends includes the recipes that I didn’t select, but having the recipe gives me the chance to try making it myself even if I didn’t buy it from them originally.

Usually my mom prefers Chinese/Vietnamese food over any other cuisine, but this week was the first time I’ve seen her eat everything off her plate without complaint.  She had good things to say about all the plates, so I consider this a huge success.

If I had to sum this box up in one line, it would be restaurant quality dishes at home.

I don’t want to make a recommendation until I’ve had the chance to try out more meal plan boxes, but they have made a good impression on me and I encourage others to try it out and let me know what your experience is like with the box.

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Hello Fresh Box (It’s gigantic and really heavy!)

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Our three recipes for the week

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Crispy Chicken Parmesan

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Crispy Chicken Parmesan

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Pork and Parmesan Patties

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Pork and Parmesan Patties Plating Style 1

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Pork and Parmesan Patties Plating Style 2

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Pork and Parmesan Patties Plating Style 3

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Seared Pork Tenderloin

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Seared Pork Tenderloin Plating Style 1

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Seared Pork Tenderloin Plating Style 2

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Seared Pork Tenderloin Plating Style 3

Restaurant Review: Diner Deluxe

Location: 104 – 350 Aspen Glen Landing SW
Website: http://www.dinerdeluxe.com/

I’ve been to this restaurant many years ago with my sister and cousins for Christmas.  We went to the Edmonton trail location and it was packed.  This was back when brunch wasn’t hugely popular, but novel enough that people were interested in trying it out.  I also believe that at that time, they didn’t take reservations, which is why it was so hard to get into in the first place.

Today, we were in the Aspen Woods area (headed to Color Me Mine) to pick up a pottery piece my sister had done and to do a piece with our mom as a late birthday thing, so we stopped by here to grab a quick lunch.  What I love most about going out with my mom and sister is that when we go out to eat, we share everything.

I had been waffling between getting the Fish and Chips or the Chicken and Waffles as I had been craving Fish and Chips for a while and Chicken and Waffles being my lifelong love.  Ultimately, I decided on the Fish and Chips, but found out that’s what my mom was ordering so I got the Chicken and Waffles because I know I can always pilfer some of the food from her plate.  My sister was undecided and went with what the waitress recommended, the potato rosti stuffed with Quebec cheese curds and sausage, topped with hollandaise and a side of extra crispy bacon.

These are honestly the best Chicken and Waffles I have ever had.  The batter on the chicken is so light, in fact, I’m 90% sure that it’s the same batter used for chicken karaage in Japanese restaurants.  The Waffle isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a typical breakfast waffle.  The waffle actually contains cheddar and jalapeno, which gives it a nice kick.  I have to admit, I was a little worried about the hot sauce coming out and tasting like Frank’s hot sauce, which is really not that good.  But luckily, nothing to worry about.  Their in house made hot sauce is actually really good.  And there’s just the right amount of heat.  Especially when you take into account the fact that the waffle is already kinda spicy from the jalapeno.  On top of all that is the maple brown butter.  It’s a whipped butter, which I prefer to regular butter because it’s much easier to spread and it is absolutely delicious.  Yeah, you can feel the pounds adding up with this dish, but I’m going to have to say that I don’t even care.  I think this is a personal favourite of mine because I love sweet and savoury combos because it keeps me from getting bored which almost always happens when I’m eating.

The Fish and Chips weren’t great, but they weren’t bad either.  Diner Deluxe uses mahimahi instead of cod, haddock, or pollock.  In the past I haven’t like mahimahi because it has a stronger fishier taste than cod, haddock, or pollock and I usually shy away from fishy tasting seafood.  However, that didn’t appear to be a problem today.  The nice thing about mahimahi is that it is a firmer fish and holds together much better than cod, haddock, or pollock, which made it easier when dipping into their house made tartar sauce.  Now, normally, I’m a huge fan of tartar sauce and I’m not saying that it’s not a good tartar sauce, I just wish it had more of a tang to it.  Conversely, my sister enjoyed this tartar sauce much more than she usually enjoys tartar sauces.  My sister enjoyed the fries, citing the crunchy ones as being the best ones, but I though they were flavourless and mostly limp…which is super unappealing.  The East Coast Slaw wasn’t all that different from the coleslaw that is typically served with fish and chips, only difference I could detect was that it was a lot lighter than coleslaw.   Another disappointment with this dish was that it claimed to come with malt vinegar, but that was not the case and my mom mentioned that the two lemon wedges that it came with weren’t enough to cut through the somewhat thick batter.  Her other complaint was that the batter, while not greasy, was a little on the dry side.  This was the first and probably only time I will ever see her use tartar sauce on her fish.

The final dish, Val’s dish, the potato rosti, was a dish that the waitress recommended without hesitation.  While it was delicious, it was very heavy.  I was very impressed by the cheese pull of the Quebec cheese curds, but there wasn’t very much sausage stuffed in it and I expected the rosti to be a lot more crisp along the outside.  The bacon was crunchy as promised, but when it’s like fried potato with cheese topped with creamy hollandaise and a side of greasy bacon…it’s nice to have a little bit of a breather from all that.

Since it was a pseudo-belated birthday outing for our mom combined with the fact it was a chilly fall day, my mom wanted the apple pie.  Just the thought of the buttery, flaky crust coupled with the heat of the cinnamon was just wonderful.  An apple pie is like an edible hug when done right.  Now, normally I would have gone a la mode regardless of whether it was blizzarding outside or not, but neither my sister or mom wanted it, so today I would do without.  I’m sure you’ve learned this if you’ve read enough of my reviews or know me well enough, but I’m really particular about my food.  I like my apples on the softer side (more like a melt in your mouth kind of thing) in an apple pie, the pastry should be warm, buttery, flaky, and with a little bit of crunch to it, and my ice cream, if I have it, better be made from real vanilla bean.  Well, it wasn’t any of those things.  The crumble was falling around the pan, the pastry was soggy and soft, the apples were very hard and you couldn’t cut through it and ended up taking a gigantic spoonful, and it was barely warm.  Two bites and I was done.

Let’s just say if I come back, it’ll be for the Chicken and Waffles not the Apple Pie.  I’m sorry to say this, but McDonald’s had better Apple Pies cold than this place.  Based on area and type of food they were serving, I can’t say I’m surprised about the price, but it is on the more expensive side for sure.  And while our waitress was really, super cheerful, there were times I found her attention to be lacking which was frustrating when we were trying to either order or get another drink/top up on a drink.

Based on today’s experience, I would recommend this place and I would definitely come back, but I would say that Vero Moderne Bistro would be my first choice for brunch.  It’s just more my kind of restaurant than this one was. I would give it a 3.75/5 based on the Chicken and Waffles alone.

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Restaurant Interior – Upper level

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Restaurant Interior – View from Table

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Fish and Chips

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Chicken and Waffles

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Potato Rosti

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Apple Pie

Restaurant Review: Oriental Phoenix

Location: 105, 401 – 9th Avenue SW
Website: http://www.orientalphoenix.ca/

Seeing as this restaurant is only about a block away from my office, I thought after about 5 months of seeing it everyday, that I ought to try it out.  It was a kind of impromptu decision, but Alex made us a reservation the morning of and we were able to be seated fairly quickly (once they noticed us at least).

As with all restaurants, I like to look at the menu before and and the site stated that there was a slight chance that the downtown location could have a different menu with slightly different prices (aka more expensive because it is expensive to do business/rent a location downtown, plus all the “rich” business people working down there).  So it was a more general idea of what I wanted slash seeing if the downtown location had the things I had chosen off of the menu on their website.

I started off with the shrimp salad rolls, which I shared with Alex.  They consisted of A LOT of vermicelli and not much else.  Having grown up with making my own at home and stuffing it full of meat and veggies rather than vermicelli (even though I do love my carbs), this seemed to be very expensive for a roll of carbs served with hoisin mixed with a sriracha style hot sauce, topped with peanuts.  I couldn’t even figure out where the shrimps were!  The University of Calgary salad rolls from La Prep are even better than the ones here!

For our mains I ordered the Sate Beef Pho and Alex had the Grilled Pork Vermicelli.  When the dishes arrived I was both offended and delighted by the size of the veggie accompaniment (bean sprouts).  I’m used to going to Vietnamese restaurants that give at least four times that amount with a lime and basil, so offended was my first reaction, but then my sense kicked in because I don’t actually eat that much of the bean sprout and hardly any basil that it was probably better they didn’t waste it on me anyways.  I was still offended it was a lemon rather than a lime because it completely changes the flavour profile.  The other thing that irked me was that there was no dish for me to put my hoisin sauce in to dip the meat into and the spoon was way too small for me to be able to balance the food on and put on it without it slipping into the soup (so I eventually had to put it in the spoon and then grab the meat to dip it, but it was also annoying I had to pick up the bottle every single time I wanted some hoisin).  When it came to taste, I really don’t think it was sate; it was more like chili flakes in soup, but other than that the broth was really well developed and flavourful.  But just because it wasn’t sate didn’t mean it wouldn’t burn you.  At first it was like, oh ok, this is alright, but after a long time (since the soup is hot temperature wise and hot spicy wise), it gets to you.  Then of course my body likes to exaggerate (just like me) how spicy it actually is by full on crying and runny nose and make me look like I’m really suffering.  The other thing I really loved was the texture of the noodles.  Maybe it was because I was really craving noodles or they truly are superior noodles, but they were so good!  The presentation was interesting; I was intrigued by the bowl shape, but as usual, way too much soup.

Alex’s Grilled Pork Vermicelli is her Vietnamese restaurant staple; one that she orders at every Vietnamese restaurant she goes to.  It looks like a typical grilled pork vermicelli, nothing special.  I watched as she poured on the nước mắm over the dish and then then that turned to horror when she grabbed the hoisin sauce and drizzled it all over her vermicelli and pork.  I’ve never understood why people put hoisin on there.  I probably should’ve asked, but the most logical answer would probably be “it tastes good,” but me being me, growing up on homemade nước mắm  and vermicelli it seems very odd and feels very wrong.  Also, it seemed weird that she wouldn’t mix it all up.  She just ate it, working from one side of the plate to the other, which is also not something I am used to.  So this was an interesting experience for me.  I wouldn’t say it was wrong, but it was definitely different.

We both ordered the iced coffee and unlike what I’m used to at Vietnamese restaurants, they brought out the already mixed coffee (I’m used to them bringing out the thing to drip the coffee into a glass cup that has condensed milk on the bottom of the cup and then pouring it over the ice myself).  I completely understand the reasoning why they would choose not to do this, the first being what a mess it would make and the second being that this is downtown and if they’re expecting us to pay them more, then they have to provide the service of a slightly higher class.

Although this place isn’t exactly wheelchair accessible from the entrance we entered in from, I’m sure there is a way to get in through the Gulf Canada building, but I don’t know for certain.

Overall, I would recommend this place and I would definitely come back.  The service was quick and the servers were polite enough, checking in at the appropriate times to make sure everything was to our liking.  I know that a coworker of mine came here last week, but didn’t have as great of an experience.  They went to lunch at their usual time, noon, ordered, but their food didn’t arrive until 12:45 and they had to shovel down their food.  She said that she got sick from doing that, but still thought the food was really good.  Based on my experience today, I would give this place a 3.75/5.

Salad Rolls

Shrimp Salad Rolls

Pho

Sate Beef Pho

Vermicelli

Grilled Pork Vermicelli

Restaurant Review: Without Papers

Location: 1216 9 Ave SE
Website: http://wopizza.ca/

After two months I finally got the chance to meet up with Carmen for dinner.  I usually let Carmen decide where we’re gonna go because of her allergies and since I had been craving pizza for several weeks, this was the perfect fit.

We had been planning this since June so I had time to look over the menu well in advanced.  On my initial perusal of them menu, I wanted to order the Shrooom pizza because I love mushrooms and truffle oil, but since buying that bottle of truffle oil, I don’t think I need to really order anything that contains truffle oil because last time I made something at home with the truffle oil, I got all truffled out and I don’t want to go through that again.  I’ll work on finishing the truffle oil I’ve bought before truffling myself out on restaurant food.

On the day we finally made it here, we had some trouble finding the restaurant because the sign wasn’t very prominently displayed.  Since we got there around four, the restaurant wasn’t very busy yet and we were promptly seated by the window.  I didn’t realize I had been here before, a few years ago, as part of a Jane’s Walk that was focused on visiting restaurants in the Inglewood and Ramsay areas.

It didn’t take long for us to decide on the pizzas we wanted.  Carmen ordered her usual, the Parma with mushrooms added and I decided on the margherita pizza.  The sound of fresh mozzarella gave me images of those large chunks of creamy, stringy, melty, deliciousness.  That’s what drew me to this particular pizza.  Well, that and the fact I had been craving a simple, but delicious pizza as of late.

As the waitress indicated, all the pizzas are thin crust, like actually thin crust, which I was really happy about.  The unfortunate thing about the pizza being so thin is that it cools really quickly and this pizza is not good cold (although I do enjoy cold, leftover pizza most other times). The pizza itself was a little sparse and I did not get the ooey gooey fresh mozzarella as promised in the menu description.  Carmen’s pizza was less sparse and if I had liked prosciutto and it wasn’t so overloaded with arugula, it would’ve been a delicious pizza.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy arugula, but I don’t need a salad on my pizza (totally exaggerating, but you know me).

Despite all my “complaints,” I really would order from here again.  I can’t stress how much I loved how thin the thin crust is.  However, returning to the restaurant is a different matter altogether.  The flies constantly buzzing around our food was one source of vexation, but the second was the level of service.  Here, at Without Papers, I did not experience the same level of hospitality as I expected to be accorded at a restaurant.

Unfortunately, this place is not wheelchair accessible since it’s at the top of some fairly steep stairs.  Carmen had mentioned that she had ordered in from here several times, so for those who want to enjoy this from the comforts of their home, that’s an option available.

Based on my experience, I would rate this restaurant a 3.5/5.  The score is high because of the quality of its food, but also low because of the quality of its service.

Restaurant Interior

Restaurant Interior

Parma

Parma with Mushrooms

Margherita

Margherita

 

Restaurant Review: Pampa

Location: 521 10 AVE SW Calgary
Website: http://pampasteakhouse.com/calgary/

This was my first time going to a Brazilian Steakhouse, and I have to say, I will definitely be coming around more often.  While it is amazing it is also very pricy, so I’m really glad that one of our cousins, Tanna, had the sense to purchase a groupon for the event.  While this place does have a salad bar (for all the sides you might want to go with your meat), Tanna has the right idea grabbing just the cheese bread (pão de queijo) and a smallish bowl of soup.  Since it was Sandra, Cynthia, Val, and my first time here, we got a little more from the salad bar than was probably recommended which we would all regret later.

For those who haven’t been to a Brazilian Steakhouse, it’s essentially servers walking around with giant skewers of meat to which you can have as much as you want.  They will stop once they see you flip your card from green (yes, please) to red (no, thank you).

We started off with drinks.  Sandra, Cynthia, and Tanna didn’t order any drinks, Val had the Brazilian Lemonade and I had the Brazilian Shirley Temple.  The Lemonade consisted of lime juice blended with condensed milk, topped with ice and the Shirley Temple used guaraná, (an Amazonian berry) orange juice, and grenadine.

On this evening they had their usual ten meat skewers:

Beef Top Sirloin
Beef Rumpsteak
Beef Garlic Steak
Chimichurri-Basted Beef Tri-Tip
Pampa Pork Sausage
Parmesan Pork Loin
Rosemary-marinated Pork Shoulder
Bacon-wrapped Chicken Thighs
Marinated Chicken Drumsticks
New Zealand Leg of Lamb

As well as four seasonal ones:

Coconut-Lime Shrimp
Slow-roasted Beef Ribs
Caramelized BBQ Pineapple
Marinated Chicken Hearts

I didn’t try the marinated chicken hearts because I’m not usually one for offals and I did try a little bit of the leg of lamb.  The gamey taste of the lamb was very mild, but it still wasn’t really for me.  Of the ones I did try, the bacon-wrapped chicken thighs, parmesan pork loin, Pampa pork sausage and chimichurri-based beef tri-tip were my least favourite.  The bacon was soggy and limp, the pork loin was dry, the sausage was nothing special and the chimichurri, which amazingly tender, was way over salted and the texture was more like a stewed beef (which is nice, but also not my favourite preparation of beef).

Some of the other beef dishes were also quite salty, but I had expected as much.  The deliciousness of the cut made up for the over salting.

I will say, that this place is not for the faint of heart.  There is a lot of food and it’s very easy to overeat and go into a food coma.  Especially since the groupon comes with dessert.  For dessert we got a passionfruit mousse, a chocolate mousse, a coconut flan, and a orange roulade.  The mousses were served on top of a pao-de-lo cake/sponge, which absorbed the compotes and made them soggy.  I felt as though there was a little too much liquid on the plate from the compotes and that the mousses themselves were amazing and would have been even more amazing if the sponge had not been drenched with sauce.  The coconut flan was the most ordinary dessert we had.  It’s flavour was very light and delicate, making it very easily overpowered by the tastes of the other, more decadent desserts.  The orange roulade was my least favourite.  I had expected an appetizing orange flavour that would aid in the digestion of my dinner (as Chinese often have orange peel in their desserts as a digestive), but that was not the case.  It was fairly dense and sweet and after one bite I essentially gave up on eating it.

As I said, I would definitely return here without question, but not alone and not without a groupon. I would rate this place 4.5/5.

pampa 5

PAMPA!

pampa4

Interior View 1

pampa 3

Interior View 2

pampa 2

Yes, please!

Brazilian Shirley Temple

Brazilian Shirley Temple

Brazilian Lemonade

Brazilian Lemonade

Meat 2

My plate with way too much food (and a piece of Chimichurri-Basted Beef Tri-Tip in the corner

chicken

Chicken Drumstick

Pampa 1

Beef Top Sirloin and Garlic Beef

pineapple

Pineapple and Sandra

Escape Room Review: Escape60

Location:1638 10th Avenue SW
Website: https://www.escape60.ca/

*NO SPOILERS*

I’ve never done a review on an escape room, but don’t worry.  If you’re intending on trying this room out, I will not spoil it for you.

We (as in Val and my cousins Sandra, Cynthia, and Tanna) came across this escape room after finishing a different escape room.  Originally, after doing the first escape room, we were left hungering for another adventure and stumbled across this one when googling “escape rooms near me.”  Unfortunately, we were one person short and couldn’t make a second escape room adventure happen that day.

Upon further exploration on Escape60’s website, we discovered that they had a Harry Potter themed room!  From that moment on, that became my point of fixation; I had to do this room!  Due to the popularity of the room, however, we were unable to book in a time until August (we had been intending to go since July, but there were no rooms available until now).

The Harry Potter room is their only premium room (they’re intending to come out with more, but it probably won’t be until later this year) at the moment, so it is slightly more expensive than regular escape rooms ($35 rather than $25).  But, of course, since the room is more expensive/premium, it is a little bit longer (75 minutes rather than the traditional 60 minutes).

Unlike traditional rooms, the Harry Potter room did not feature any of those classic number, letter, or directional locks.  These were much more unconventional, which was nice in the sense that it was really creative, but that also made for quite a startling experience.  There were times we completed the puzzle, not knowing what to expect or where to expect something from and screamed.  There was even a moment where I actually just bolted and had I not remembered  that the doorway was slightly lowered, I would’ve smoked my head on a wall.  As funny as that might’ve been, I luckily did not do that.

In the end we did manage to escape with five minutes to spare, which I would say was pretty good considering that this is one of their hardest rooms or one of the hardest rooms we’ve done (the rating on this room was extremely hard, most of the other places use stars to indicate difficulty and the hardest we did to date was a 3 star at Exit Calgary, which had an escape rate of like 25%.  We also did a 2 star at The Locked Room, which had an 18% escape rate and we got out of both of those).

We had opted in to get Butterbeers after we completed the room.  If we hadn’t gotten out, they would’ve been consolation Butterbeers, but since we did, they were celebratory Butterbeers.  This place offers two types: alcoholic and non-alcoholic.  Both of them are the same price, $9, so if you drink, obviously, the alcoholic choice is the better one (this place has a licence to serve alcohol, so you are allowed to purchase drinks and bring them into the room with you, as long as you’re careful not to spill anything anywhere).

In my opinion, this was not how I imagined Butterbeer at all and not in the best way, but since it’s from a fictional universe with no recipe book to accompany it, it’s pretty much left to anyone’s imagination.  Based on how Butterbeer was described in the Harry Potter books, I always imagined it to be something like a butterscotch concoction that was rich and creamy and I always imagined it to be a hot beverage that could be enjoyed in both summer and winter, but better suited for winter as a drink that would warm you up.  At Escape60 their Butterbeer is a root beer float topped with whipped cream, jelly beans, chocolate sprinkles, and three roasted marshmallows on a stick served in a Moscow Mule mug.  The marshmallows, having been roasted by a blowtorch, don’t have the same delicious flavour of ones roasted over a camp fire.

Even though this place is a little more out of the way than the other escape rooms we’ve been to, with the exception of The Locked Room escape rooms, I would definitely come back and would recommend this place to others.  It’s a small business and they’ve only been open for 7 months, but they have ambitious plans for the future (another Harry Potter room, a Star Wars room, and a Jurassic Park room).  They also host a Harry Potter paint night which I would love to attend some time. Overall, I’d give this place a 4/5.

Escape 7Escape 5Escape 6

Butterbeer

Butterbeer

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