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Posts tagged ‘Calamari’

Restaurant Review: Barcelona Tavern

Location: 501 8th Ave SW
Website: https://barcelonatavern.com/calgary/menu/

It seems like such a long time ago that I was here. And indeed that is so. I actually visited this place on October 8, which is nearly two months ago, but things got busy (read: NaNoWriMo happened) and this completely slipped my mind.

Alex and I came here before the hockey game – the Calgary Flames vs. the LA Kings. Since we worked next door, we were constantly passing this place. I had booked my lawyer in at this restaurant a couple times and actually, a lot of the restaurants on my list are places I’ve booked him into. Alex’s boyfriend had the chance to come here and he had liked it. Alex, herself came and was pretty impressed, so we decided on this night that this would be a good place to go to before the game.

As it was so long ago, I forget if we had to make a reservation or not. It wasn’t super busy when we were there as it was still pretty early. However, despite that, it was still quite noisy, which is the same feedback that Alex had given me when she had gone for lunch. Comparatively speaking, I don’t think this place reached the volume levels of Paper St. but it was still somewhat noisy.

We were seated and our orders taken. I decided to go with two appies rather than a main, though those looked really good too. I ordered the calamari and the burrata (the latter doesn’t appear to be on the menu anymore). Alex had the truffled mushroom “pizza”/”flatbread.” The last time Alex came, she had the calamari and loved it.

The calamari were Monterey Bay baby squid paired with a duo of sauces: an avocado salsa verde and a roasted red pepper almond romesco sauce. I can go either way with salsa verdes as every restaurant prepares it a little differently. So sometimes I absolutely love it, while other times it’s just all right. This time was the latter. I mean, it wasn’t bad, but when there are two choices, we naturally gravitate towards one over the other and we often have the tendency to compare them, voluntarily or not. Up against the romesco, this salsa verde just couldn’t compare. The romesco provided the perfect balance that this dish needed. I found myself near the end practically wiping every last bit off the plate. While this is not the best calamari/sauce pairing I’ve had, it was pretty good. I really like it when they’re not just rings or tentacles. Having the whole squid is such an experience. Plus, being baby squid, they were bite size, which is even better. The burrata was really something else. I had never had anything like it. Sure, I have had burrata once or twice, but never the entire thing. It looked like a giant mozzarella ball until you cut into it. The interior practically just oozed out. It was perfect for spreading on the crostinis. However, despite that, the crostinis were sliced very thinly and were quite long so that made for quite the challenge to spread anything across it as it would snap whenever I tried. Additionally, the corn relish and tomato “jam” were somewhat wet and further weakened the integrity of the crostini. Unfortunately, because it’s been a while, I can’t remember which of the two side “sauces” were better. I know both were good, but one of them just inched the other out by the slightest of margins. Presentation wise, I thought it was a bit not good having the knife pointing directly at me.

I’m going to start by saying I love truffle anything. I know that white truffle oil is super overpowering and can be a bit much for some people, but I absolutely love it and as such, Alex’s truffled mushroom was a dish I had also considered getting. It had three kinds of mushrooms on it: portobello, oyster, and shiitake. I’ve always thought of shiitake as an Asian mushroom and always find it strange when it’s been featured in a very Western style dish. I guess also that I associate specific flavours and textures with the shiitake that I personally don’t think fit the use of these mushrooms in Western style cooking. However, in this flatbread/pizza, I hardly even noticed them. Again, this was pretty decent and had the flavour profile I had expected of a truffled mushroom pizza. It was an interesting choice to include chili oil as a pairing for this pizza. I would’ve thought chili flakes would’ve been a better fit. It was good, but not the best I have had. I still give the pizza at Scopa (now it’s a Cibo I believe) the honour of being called the best truffled mushroom pizza I’ve ever had. That fried rosemary on top of the pizza is what did it for me.

We finished off the meal with a white chocolate creme brulee. While it was pretty good, I know something about it disappointed me, but now I can’t remember what it was. It’s so frustrating to write a review when there are things you could say, but time has erased them all. I did find it a little weird that the raspberries got torched or baked into it and turn a weird brownish colour.

Overall, it was good food and good service. I’m just sad that I waited so long before writing this and have since forgotten a lot of the experience. I suppose that means I have to come back again soon to try have something else off their menu.

Based on this experience, I’d give this place a 3/5.

Restaurant Interior
Back: Truffled Mushroom Pizza Middle: Calamari Front: Burrata
White Chocolate Raspberry Creme Brulee

Restaurant Review: El Furniture Warehouse

Location: 107 8 Ave SW
Website: http://www.warehousegroup.ca/

I can’t remember the first time I ever heard of this place, but from the moment I learned of its $5.95 food menu, I knew I had to go. I mentioned it to whomever would listen and yet, never had the opportunity to go. This restaurant has locations all across Canada, but the one on Stephen Ave in Calgary is their only Alberta location. As far as I know, none of their locations take reservations (it says on their website under the contact tab), but one of my coworkers said that the Stephen Ave location will take reservations on any days that aren’t Thursday – Sunday (?).

I was fortunate enough, in the span of a couple of weeks, to have had the pleasure of dining here. The first time was with a friend and fellow foodie I hadn’t seen in over a year, Amy, and the second time was with my friend and coworker, Alex.

Even though I had done my “research” before coming to the restaurant the first time, in my experience, things on paper rarely translate so nicely to the plate. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I’m happily proven wrong, but there were a few things on this menu that were unfortunately, somewhat disappointing and I definitely won’t be ordering again.

When I came here for the first time, I was a little caught off guard by the size of the place. The restaurant was filled with mostly two tops in a slightly cramped space. Not knowing where would be best to sit, I simply chose an empty table, located near the middle of the restaurant. Turns out, that was probably not the best place to sit. The chairs were backless and small and I was constantly worried that I would fall. However, that was the least of my concern because of where the table was situated, it was right along a major thoroughfare, meaning if I wasn’t careful (aka not paying attention to what was happening around me), I could end up wearing the food or taking an alcoholic shower. Especially with the speed at which some of the servers were moving. That would make sense as the food prices were so low, they would be counting on the patrons either ordering a lot of drinks or a high turn over to offset the price.

My first time here we ordered the crispy calamari, west coast fish tacos (this was on the online menu, I think in the restaurant they’re Baja tacos), and the braised beef spaghetti. As everything sounded good, I deferred to Amy’s better judgment. After all, she’d been here before and she had done all the trial and error stuff I typically did at a restaurant.

All three dishes pretty much hit the table at the same time. My first impression of the calamari was somewhat unfavourable. I was used to a heaping plate of the delectable fried morsels that I so love, but instead was greeted by a rather sparse plate. I suppose for $5.95, I shouldn’t have applied my typical expectations to the dish. Flavour wise, it wasn’t anything too special. I did really enjoy the heat from the spicy mayo (or they call it macho sauce?). On the one hand, I was really disappointed by the portion size, but on the other, it was being offered at a pretty decent price and, of course, there was the matter of portion control. Despite my complaints, this dish was just the right amount fried. With everything else we ordered, had this dish been any bigger, we probably wouldn’t have been able to finish it. The fish tacos were more or less standard. It looked like one of those fish sticks you’d buy frozen that had been cut into three for the tacos. It looked and felt like it had been fried to shit; I nearly broke my tooth (totally exaggerating here) biting into the fish. It was that crunchy! I was sad that there was only one lime wedge to go around for all three tacos, and I didn’t notice until the end. I love fresh lime on fish, but I also love fresh limes generally so… It does come with a side of hot sauce (even though on the online menu it’s recommended as an additional add-on for $1.00). While it is spicy, the acidity of the hot sauce is off putting to me and the second time I was here I actually choked on it. I don’t like spicy things that are spicy for spicy’s sake. If you’re gonna burn my heart, lungs, and whatever else out, you might as well taste good. The last dish, the spaghetti, was the one that I was most pleasantly surprised about. This looked like a standard portion size, I suppose the fact that it was under the “big bowls” heading should’ve tipped me off. Of the three dishes, I think this was the most worth it at its price point. At first glance, it looks like the meat to pasta ratio is way off, but I can guarantee that it’s not. I’m not usually one for braised beef because I don’t like the strands getting stuck in my teeth all the time, but it really works for this dish. The beef was practically melt in your mouth and its long, strand-like shape made it easier to get a little bit of beef and pasta with every bite, as opposed to ground beef that kinda just rolls away in the typical meat sauce.

This experience, price, service, and food, were good enough that warranted me coming back so soon.

By the second time, I had learned and went for a booth seat instead. Some of the seats still don’t have backs on them, but for the most part, it was much more comfortable and there was a lower risk of being ploughed over by flying servers.

The second time we came, I wanted to try some different things. Alex ordered the fish tacos and I decided to try the Chiang Mai Bowl. Between us, we shared the fingers and fries and the glazed onion rings. Amy had recommended against the glazed onion rings, but a part of me REALLY wanted to try them for myself to form my own opinion. Suffice it to say, it was an “I told you so moment.” The first few bites weren’t too bad, but near the end, it felt like slogging through an oil bog. In fact, within our first few bites, Alex remarked that they had a very stampede-esque feel to them, brought on by the oily, maple flavour and smell. Whenever I order onion rings, I normally go for the smaller ones. I’m not totally sure why, but I just like them better. While A&W shouldn’t be the standard for restaurant quality onion rings (even though they’re delicious, but I think I’ve eaten too many of them to be able to order or eat them anymore. Also, they’re hella salty!), the crunch level that A&W onion rings have should be the level of crunchy that everyone should aspire to. However, I reached my limit with these when I bit into one of the larger onion rings and a waterfall of oil cascaded from it. Nothing should cascade oil when you bite into it! I just felt so disgusted after that and that made finishing the onion rings that much harder. The macho sauce is the spicy mayo sauce we had from the calamari and I really like it. Not sure if they go great with the onion rings, but I just wanted to dip everything in that. The fingers and fries was one of the dishes I was considering ordering (stuck between choosing that and the Chiang Mai Bowl). Amy had said this wasn’t bad, so we decided to go for it. I mean, why not, it was only $5.95 and there was honey mustard! The dish consisted of three strips of chicken, peppered fries, and a luscious honey mustard sauce for dipping. Their honey mustard sauce is pretty good, well, I love honey mustard on my chicken fingers, so I didn’t need much convincing to order this. You only need ask and my answer will be yes. I found the breading on the chicken to be a bit thick, but otherwise, delicious. The restaurant offers the option to toss their chicken fingers in sauce. We took that to mean, tossed in honey mustard, but they meant their other wing sauces. Could you imagine though?! I thought the peppered fries could use some salt, but as we were sharing, I didn’t think I should just dump salt into it. If I had a place to put it on my plate/bowl, I would’ve. The Chiang Mai Bowl, like the onion rings, sounded so good on paper, but when it came to execution, it fell flat. First off, I didn’t expect the pea shoots to be raw and so unyielding. I nearly stuck a shoot up nose in one of my bites because it was sticking straight up, off at a tangent compared to the noodles and I wasn’t exactly paying attention. Another disappointment was the soy-tamari marinade. I’m not 100% sure what it’s all supposed to taste like, but it tastes like a very sad fast food’s effort at restaurant quality food. This dish, if you choose not to add on chicken, is a completely vegetarian dish.

While the experiences were somewhat harried, I can’t complain about the speed of service. I like a place that can get me in and out with minimal hassle. I would definitely come back again. There’s still so much I haven’t tried! Based on these experiences, taking service and price into account, I would give this place a 3.75/5.

Top to Bottom: West Coast/Baja Fish Tacos, Crispy Calamari, Braised Beef Spaghetti
Starting from the Left side, working clockwise: Fingers and Fries, Chiang Mai Bowl, Glazed Onion Rings, West Coast Fish Tacos

Restaurant Review: Teatro Ristorante

Website: https://teatro.ca/
Location: 200 8 Ave SE

I have wanted to try this restaurant out since the first time I got into food. This restaurant is owned by the Teatro Group which is responsible for amazing restaurants, eateries, cafes and so on such as Vendome, EAT, Cucina, and Al Forno, just to name a few (I’ve been to all of these places). I’ve had pretty good experiences at all of these places, with the exception of a couple things at Al Forno that I found to be too greasy. We had gone there when it first opened so they may have still been ironing out a few kinks, so I wouldn’t be opposed to going back. Besides, Al Forno is known for its fantastic, house made bread which I’ve had before (or at least I think I’ve had), so if they make focaccia that amazing, they can’t be all bad right?

We came here for Teatro’s happy hour, which is essentially just the appetizer and salad sections of their menu, at 50% off. Walking in here can be intimidating and it’s so hard for me not to adopt airs walking into a place like this, but given the way I was dressed…well, we’ll just leave it at that. I mean, it wasn’t terrible because I had just come from work so I was dressed moderately appropriately, but I felt that my shoulder bag was out of place for somewhere like Teatro.

Walking in, this has got to be the most grand restaurant I’ve ever walked into, apart from Bank and Baron. However, the atmosphere is completely different from Bank and Baron. Teatro is high class; there is no doubt about that. I’m drawn to historical building such as these and it was hard not to stare at everything in awe. This is the level of luxury I hope to achieve one day in my life.

Carmen had already been seated when I walked in and there was no time for me to even take in the place when I was greeted. Immediately, the waiter offered to take my jacket and showed me to my table where Carmen was waiting. We took some time to peruse the menu and while their food menu is reasonably small, their wine menu is not. It’s not surprising in a place like this to have a 40 page wine menu, but at the same time, I’ve never been to a restaurant with a 40 page wine menu.

After some time, we decided to each get our own appetizers. Both of us chose the calamari. I decided to have a Caprese Salad and Carmen went with the Caesar. Probably because I had good company and we had so much to talk about and catch up on, it didn’t feel like the wait was all that long. The presentation of the dishes were beautiful. I loved the contrast of the colours of the tomatoes in the Caprese salad, and was incredibly impressed by the fact it was fresh buffalo mozzarella on the plate rather than boccoccini or just fresh mozzarella made from cow’s milk. The addition of the fleur de sel on the mozzarella gave the dish the slight hit of sodium it needed and the surprisingly, fresh ground pepper elevated the dish to another level. The squid ink crisp provided an interesting focal point on the calamari dish for an otherwise monotonous plate. It seemed like the breading on the calamari was lighter than most places I had been to, but the lemon aioli was a little lost in everything. Especially when comparing it to the lemon-caper aioli from Escobar, this one didn’t quite measure up. The Caesar was interesting to me because they had actually left the romaine lettuce leaves whole, but you could tell they were the best ones, at the centre of the heart of the romaine. What is interesting about this Caesar is that they chose to use guanciale rather than bacon or pancetta and that there were whole anchovies on the plate. I know that there are anchovies in Caesar dressing, but I’ve never had the whole fish feature in my Caesar. The other interesting thing was the soft boiled egg. Typically, I don’t think of Caesars as having an egg, but the creaminess of the egg yolk functioned like additional dressing, enhancing the dish. The bright yellow-orange of the yolk provided the Caesar with that much needed colour pop. However, from my vantage point the egg appeared to be more medium than soft.

Due to a slight mix up, we were seated at a table that had been reserved for a larger party, so as a result, we had to move to the bar. For the inconvenience, the restaurant decided not to charge us for dessert. For dessert I chose to go with the traditional route, tiramisu, while Carmen had difficulty choosing between the tiramisu, bomboloni, cannoli, and the s’more. I totally don’t blame her because all of them were so unique that I will have to go back simply to try all the desserts. Eventually she settled on the Ricotta Bomboloni. While bomboloni are traditional Italian doughnuts that are vaguely reminiscent of timbits, Teatro took the classic and put a twist on it by serving it with a cheddar gelato, roasted apple, and a caramel tuile.

While there were times that the servers intimidated me, it was not simply because of the type of place we were in, but because I wasn’t used to that level of promptness in service. I was completely impressed by how they all went above and beyond what I had felt to be standard service (by the end of the meal, we had gone through at least 3 servers, but there was continuity between all of them). As Carmen has allergies and many sensitivities, they like Escobar were very cognizant and asked all the necessary questions to ensure we would have a great experience there and we did. I would 100% return here and go for a full experience (appetizer, salad, soup, main, dessert). Of course the bill would come out to be quite hefty, but I think it was definitely worth it.

This place has got to be one of the best restaurants I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating at. Based on my experience, I would give this restaurant a 4.75/5.

Teatro Interior
Teatro Interior
Teatro Ceiling
Teatro Interior (view from the bar)
Back: Caesar Salad Left: Calamari Front: Caprese Salad
Ricotta Bomboloni
Tiramisu

Restaurant Review: Seanachie

Location: 5909 Signal Hill Centre SW
Website: http://calgarysbestpubs.com/seanachie/

I’d like to start off by saying that Seanachie is part of a chain called Calgary’s Best Pubs which includes Dixon’s (Millrise), Kilkenny (Brentwood), Limericks (on Macleod Trail), and Joyce (Mission), which means that each of these locations have the same specials and share the same menus.

Each day of the week has a different special and we chose to go on Friday, which meant Fish and Chips.  Besides getting the special, Alex and I opted to order the Salt & Pepper Calamari and Pickle Spears.

When I hear “salt and pepper,” I automatically think about the Chinese dish where it’s salt and (chili and bell) pepper, so I was very interested in seeing their take on it.  When the dish came out, it looked like a normal calamari dish, so I guessed that the salt and pepper had already been mixed in the batter, although, that’s what I would normally assume batter is seasoned with, so that wasn’t anything really new or innovative.  The calamari was served with a tzatziki sauce and breaded and fried banana peppers.  I always love red onions, lemon, and banana peppers with my calamari because it provides a strong taste to cut through the heavy, deep fried calamari.  As is often the case with deep fried seafood is that I wish that there was one more lemon wedge to squeeze over the calamari because I could barely detect the lemon.  The Pickle Spears was more of a last minute craving.  The cider dill dip that accompanied the deep/flash fried pickle spears has got to be one of my favourite dips I’ve had to date.  It has all the creaminess I love in the dill dip from State & Main, but the cider makes the dip thinner and a little bit more ranch like in its consistency, but gives the dip some much needed acidity.  However, it isn’t overly sour (like a punch in the mouth), which is perfect for me since I do like a little bit of acidity, but I’m not at the level of eating a lemon.

The fish and chips was a little disappointing.  For starters, it looked a little sad all alone on the skewer (the two piece fish and chips looked a little less sad, but then it would have been too much food and I wouldn’t have been able to finish the fish. I was already struggling and I didn’t even finish my fries, which were also disappointing).  Again, there wasn’t enough lemon so I resorted to dumping way too much malt vinegar on my fish.  The acidity was fine, but even with the copious amount of vinegar I added, the batter still felt thick and greasy and I ended up removing it and just picking the fish out.  Of the fries I did have, the crunchy ones (naturally) were my favourite.  The tartar sauce was really good, but after so much deep fried food, I had to lay off on putting too much on my fish.  I usually dip my fries into the tartar sauce, but the rich on rich on rich from appetizer to entree was just too much and I ended up just dipping the fries in ketchup and unfortunately the remainder of the tartar sauce went to waste.  The “creamy coleslaw” was also super sad and somewhat of a disaster.  It definitely wasn’t creamy, but it wasn’t like the acidic coleslaw either.  It was something in between and really weird to me.  Hands down, Olly Fresco has some of the best non-restaurant coleslaw I’ve had.  The best restaurant coleslaw still has to be Tony Roma.

Overall, the appetizers were average, what you’d expect for pub food.  I was really craving deep fried pickles, so those felt like they were exceptionally good.  The entree didn’t really measure up.  But despite all that, I would be willing to give this chain another go.  I definitely want to try out their steak sandwich and their shrimp po’boy.

Service is what you’d expect from a pub.  The wait staff are a little more hands off, which allows patrons to chat a little more.  So obviously, don’t come here expecting to be in and out super fast (except maybe lunch service?), but they’re not super slow either.  In other words, I think that we had a good amount of attention from our waitress.

Based on this experience, I’d give this place a 2.25/5.

IMG_2452

Seanachie Interior

IMG_2453

Back: Pickle Spears; Front: Salt & Pepper Calamari

IMG_2454

One Piece Fish and Chips

Restaurant Review: Cactus Club Cafe

Location:  101 – 6070 200th Street, Langley BC
Website:  https://www.cactusclubcafe.com/

For the longest time I’ve wanted to return to this restaurant.  The first time I went was many years ago with my family, but the Raincoast Greens made such an impression on me that I’ve always wanted to return, especially since I had now developed a palate that could discern “good” from “bad.”

We had tried going back in Calgary when Julia visited for wedding dress shopping, but the restaurant was so full, we weren’t able to get a seat.  It was kind of the manager on duty to offer his business card, stating that the situation could have been handled better and would call us to invite us back.  However, as kind as the sentiment was, we never received a call back.  While I was disappointed, it did not diminish my desire to try this place out.

After much delay, we finally got to go!  As we were running some errands in the Langley/Fort Langley area, we decided to stop in at the Langley location for lunch.  We made it at about two, so it wasn’t quite happy hour, but no matter.  We were going to eat here regardless.

After a quick perusal of the menu and calculation regarding our course of action, we decided on an all appetizers lunch.  We ordered the Tuna Stack, Calamari, and Ravioli + Prawn Trio (we ended up adding one so we each got two).  I, again, was starving and the kitchen was pretty quick in getting our dishes out to us.  All three appetizers came out at the same time.

The Tuna Stack was essentially a tuna poke, using ocean wise™ albacore, citrus tamari vinaigrette, nori, sesame, avocado, micro cilantro, and wonton chips on the side.  One bite and I was in love.  Maybe it was because for the last little while we had been having fairly greasy food and this fresh, citrusy dish was a bright and welcome change to what we had we been having the last few days.  Everything was well seasoned, the flavours were balanced and complimented one another beautifully.  If I could, I would eat the entire thing on my own, despite not being able to handle raw fish all that well.

The calamari was the most disappointing of the three dishes.  With ingredients like peppers and jalapenos, I had not expected much because that was pretty much the norm.  Tzatziki sauce is pretty common as an accompaniment to calamari, but the chipotle aioli was something different.  Unfortunately not a good different.  Both sauces, with their creaminess, exacerbated the deep fried oiliness of the calamari.  Most of the calamari was well cooked, but there were a few that were overcooked, dry, and hard.   I had thought that the addition of dill would have been a saving grace, but the dill did not provide any additional flavour to the overall dish.

In contrast, the Ravioli + Prawn Trio was a masterpiece.  I have never been more impressed by a pasta as I have been by this.  The ravioli was a butternut squash and mascarpone ravioli, lightly accented by a truffle butter sauce, each ravioli topped with a single sautéed jumbo prawns exquisitely seasoned and sprinkled with pine nuts.  The dish we ordered was the appetizer size, but now I know, I would gladly order the entree size and guiltlessly consume the entire dish.  Even with the price being slightly over $25 for the entree size, I would still order it.  The richness was done just right so that it wasn’t heavy and did not leave me feeling bloated or sick.

All in all, this was great experience.  The wait staff were very attentive and ready to help whenever necessary.  They didn’t act like the staff at the Calgary location we had originally gone to (haughty and snobby).  I would 100% return to this restaurant.  This was one of the best dining experiences I’ve had the pleasure to partake in.  I’d give this restaurant a 4.5/5 and would definitely recommend this place to all those who wish to indulge.

cactus club

Cactus Club Exterior

cactus club 4

Cactus Club Interior (behind)

cactus club 3

Cactus Club Interior (in front)

cactus club 2

Tuna Stack (front), Calamari (top left), and Ravioli + Prawn Trio (top right)

Restaurant Review: State and Main

Location:  129, 6455 Macleod Trail SW
Website:  https://www.stateandmain.ca/

Today was a ridiculously busy day.  In the future, I would never recommend trying to hit up three bridal shops in one day.  Before we even finished our first shop, some of us were starting to feel hungry, so by the end of the second shop we, or at least I wanted to cannibalize some of the bridal party.

We stopped at one restaurant before this one, but it couldn’t accommodate a group of seven at that time.  Since we were ravenous, we looked for the next best alternative and since we were going to be stopping at Chinook to see if we could find some wedding stuff we thought State and Main would be the best option.

As it is the holiday season, parking at the mall was scarce, but we were lucky enough to find somewhere relatively close.  Since we didn’t want to be turned away from another restaurant, we had called ahead to see if there was space and they reserved a table for us of their own accord, which I thought was really nice.  The others in our party weren’t so luck in finding a parking spot, but they eventually all made it.

We were the first of our party to arrive since we had the good fortune of finding a parking spot.  We started with an appetizer, calamari, of course.  I love calamaris that have all the “extras.”  State and Main choose to serve theirs with a medley of jalapenos, onions & bell pepper with a roasted red pepper aioli.  This is one of the better calamaris I have had, but that may be because my opinion is influenced by the fact that the jalapenos, onions, and bell peppers helped to balance the greasiness that is characteristic of fried foods.  Compared to Boston Pizza, which has pretty much the same medley, State and Main is a little more refined.

The majority of the party ordered tacos, three ordered the Long Beach Fish Tacos with the Ginger Cilantro Slaw, and I ordered the Gogi Tacos with Fries and a dill dip.  As per my food ADD/ADHD, I love trying multiple things so Julia and I planned to swap a taco so we’d have the chance to give more than one menu item a try.  The fish tacos consisted of lightly spiced mahi mahi topped with avocado, shredded lettuce, tomato, green onion, chopped cilantro, fresh lime, and a salsa.  After eating many fish tacos, I have learned that I do not like mahi mahi.  There’s something about the taste of the fish that is off putting for me.  Besides that, this taco was rather ordinary.  It’s like every other taco you have ever had in your life.  A taco is unique only in its toppings and seasoning and these are the basic.  There was nothing special about the Long Beach Fish Tacos, but the Gogi Taco on the other hand was phenomenal.  My protein of choice has never been pork.  I’m not saying that I won’t eat it or that it can’t be prepared deliciously (ref: crispy suckling pig), but if there’s the choice of beef or chicken or sometimes even fish, I would choose them over pork.  The problem is it is usually overcooked which makes it dry and tough to eat and some places there’s either a freezer burn taste or a very strong porky taste.  You may think, what the heck, of course it tastes porky, it’s pork, but it’s not what you think.  It’s a very distinct unsavoury flavour that reminds me all too much of raw meat.  But the Gogi Tacos were nothing like that.  The meat was succulent and flavourful.  The Gogi Tacos consist of Korean inspired pork topped with ginger cilantro slaw & sriracha mayo on the side.  The sriracha mayo isn’t totally necessary, but it’s still nice to have a little for dipping since it provides a little bit of heat.  The ginger cilantro slaw, though there was very little of it (I mean, you can only fit so much into a taco), it packed a punch.  It provided the refreshing bright notes that the Long Beach Fish Tacos lacked.  Now I don’t normally rave about fries, but I think these fries were worth raving about.  They are the perfect thickness, balancing the satisfying crunch of the exterior with the smooth softness of the interior.  Paired with the dill dip elevates it to the next level.  It’s creamy, but not heavy because the dill provides that touch of zinginess to prevent it from being just another fatty mayo dip.

The others ordered a Burrito Bowl, California Chicken Wrap, and an Eggs Benedict.  I’m not sure how they liked it, but based on the fact that they finished it all, it was good.  The Burrito Bowl looked pretty big and was probably really filling.

Since we wanted to get on with shopping and save some money on the bill, we didn’t have dessert, so next time I’ll definitely have to come back for that.  Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to split the appetizer between everyone, so I ended up having to pay for the entirety of it, making my bill seem ridiculously expensive, but I guess if I took it off, it would seem pretty reasonable for a lunch.

The hostess and our server seemed a bit distant.  At the end, she didn’t even come to pay out our bills, she had another waitress come by with the machine and collect for her.  She nearly missed one of us, until we pointed it out to her.

I would certainly return for the food, but I’m not sure about the service.  I’m willing to give them another chance since it could’ve just been an off day for her, but based on my experience that day I’d have to say my rating would be 3/5, but I would recommend this place for the food for sure.

State and Main

State and Main Interior

Calamari

Calamari

Fish tacos

Long Beach Fish Tacos with Ginger Cilantro Slaw

Gogi tacos

Gogi Tacos with Fries and Dill Dip

Restaurant Review: Vin Room

Location: 2310 4 St SW (Mission Location)
Website: http://www.vinroom.com

This was the second time I had been to Vin Room Mission. The first time was some time in the last year of my undergrad, but we came primarily for drinks rather than food. The menu had intrigued me since and I finally got the chance to try it out.

After an entire summer of promising to hang out and see each other, the plan to do so finally came to fruition. Being a tapas bar, I knew that portion sizes would be small and prices would be high. We started small and ordered five dishes: wild boar gnocchi, chicken meatballs, beef carpaccio, lobster nachos, and crab cakes. The wild boar gnocchi is not quite a tapas item, it was large enough to be considered a dish on its own if you wanted. The purpose of the gnocchi was primarily to fill us up (and gnocchi is very filling since it’s essentially fluffy pillows of carbs). This is one of the best gnocchi I’ve had to date for Brae, it’s one more dish I can add to the list of things he likes to eat. The biggest surprise were the chicken meatballs. On the menu, they didn’t seem like they’d be anything special, but the chili jam that came with it elevated it to a fine dining status. The biggest disappointment for me were the crab cakes. It was my most highly anticipated dish, but it fell flat on many levels. I understand that crab cakes are inherently “crumbly,” but I just expected it to hold together much better than it did. There was a lot less curry sauce than I expected and I was only able to detect hints of the curry because there was so little of it. Of course I don’t need the cakes to be swimming in it, but enough to drizzle over the cakes or provide more than a hint of flavour was along the lines of what I was looking for. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of tatakis or carpaccios (which are essentially the same thing, save for the seasonings -one being Japanese and the other Italian). Combined with the arugula and russet potato chip that it was meant to be paired with, the delicate flavour of that particular carpaccio got lost. The lobster nachos were exactly as I expected: chopped up lobster piled on top of tortilla chips with a whole bunch of plain chips below. I found the best way to eat them was to take one chip that had been loaded with lobster and divide it between two or three other plain chips. However, there was still so much extra that I started putting the ground wild boar from the gnocchi on them and this turned out to be a great idea. Not only was it delicious, but it made sure none of the boar went to waste.

We had tried to stick around until happy hour as the oysters would be offered at a discounted price. In an attempt to prolong our visit, we ordered a calamari. Calamari is typically my favourite and this one didn’t live up to its potential. While the dipping sauce and breading were well done, the calamari itself was a little problematic. The first bite was normal, but as you continued to chew, a sort of liquid started seeping out, leaving a rather unpleasant aftertaste in your mouth.

For a Friday night I found it to be quieter than I expected. Perhaps it was because we had an “early” dinner (the reservation was at 7pm, but regardless). I’m guessing that most of the patrons were seated on the patio to enjoy the last days of summer. As we found out later, their patio is dog friendly and two of the friends I went with had dogs so one of the waitresses gave them each a small doggy bag with treats to take home, inviting us to bring the dogs next time we visited. We were served by two waitresses and one of them seemed like she was a location owner or at the very least a manager as she was dressed differently from everyone else. According to Brae, the waitress that was the first to help us grew increasing irritable by the end of the night. I didn’t quite understand why she wanted us out of there so quickly. I mean there were plenty of empty tables and we were still kind of ordering food.

Despite those minor hiccups, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time here. Taking everything into consideration, I would rate this place a 3.5/4. I would return here, but probably not in the recent future as the price is expensive and the menu has not changed much since I was here the first time.

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Chicken Meatballs

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Crab Cakes

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Wild Boar Gnocchi

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Lobster Nachos

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Lobster Nachos

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Beef Carpaccio

Restaurant Review: Nick’s Steakhouse & Pizza

Location: 2430 Crowchild Trail NW
Website: http://nickssteakandpizza.com/

After a mixed feeling kind of day, we finally got to try out Nick’s.  Brae had been planning on bringing me here when we just first started dating. Tonight we finally got that chance.  The restaurant wasn’t dead, but it wasn’t super busy either, but it was a Tuesday, so I didn’t expect it to be too busy anyways.

We were promptly seated in what I assumed to be the bar/lounge area and given just enough time to peruse the menu.  I had already looked at the menu before, but still didn’t exactly know what I wanted.  I know Brae wanted me to try the pizza since that was once of the things they were known for, but wanted to try their steaks, which is the other thing they specialize in (I mean, duh, look at their name).  After looking at the prices, I decided I’d stick to a pizza this time and come back another time to try some other items on their menu because a lot of it sounded really good.  Me being me wanted to order an appetizer and guess what, we ordered the calamari.  As most of you will know by now, this is my go to appetizer.

Like the kind of day I had been having, I had a mixed opinion about the calamari.  Having had so many varieties of calamari, I’d have to say that the batter could have been lighter.  At first, it isn’t so bad, but after about half or more of it, it starts to feel very greasy and heavy.  There are two solutions for that: sharing that with more people or make a lighter batter.  However, the tzatziki is one of the best I’ve ever had. It’s not the kind that has an overbearing amount of garlic, but just the right amount for me (I do love my garlic, but I know that sometimes the quantity that I like is often too much).  The pizzas followed shortly after we finished the calamari.

Brae got his favourite: Hawaiian and I tried the Sweet Chili Chicken. I was torn between the Sweet Chili Chicken and Chicken Carbonara, but Brae helped me choose.  I think that was a great choice because it satisfied all the tastes one craves for and chicken carbonara has the potential to be very heavy and rich.  The first thing that struck me was the stringy mozzarella cheese. Mozzarella is one of my favourite cheeses simply because of how well it melts and the slightly chewy texture it has after it’s been melted.  The pizza was simply blanketed in cheese.  Now, some may say that that is too much cheese, but for me, there’s no such thing.  In fact, when our waitress offered us some parmesan, I jumped at the chance to have more melty cheese on my pizza. While it was annoying that the pizza toppings kept slipping off the pizza while it was hot, it tasted so much better that way.  The crust itself tasted almost buttery.  It’s one of the better pizzas I’ve had, but the thickness of the crust and the doughiness are somewhat off-putting.

This is one of Brae’s favourite restaurants and I can see why.  I like this restaurant, it’s good for a casual night out and I would agree to come back here, especially since I would love to try some of the other items on their menu, but would I say this is the kind of restaurant I would choose if given a choice? No.  Restaurants like this aren’t usually in my wheelhouse, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy them when I do go.  It’s homey and the servers are friendly enough.  Besides, it’s one of Brae’s favourites so I can definitely see myself coming back here in the future for sure.  I would rate this place 3.75/5.

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Calamari

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Hawaiian Pizza (Brae’s)

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Sweet Chili Chicken (Mine)

Restaurant Review: Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ

Location: 100-638 6 Ave SW
Website: http://www.gyu-kaku.com/

I confess, I am not familiar with Japanese BBQ. When greeted with the phrase “Japanese cuisine,” the first item that jumps into my mind is sushi, not BBQ. For me, BBQ conjures up images of either Korean BBQ or a Southern style one (or the kind using the BBQ lol). I mean, when my sister and I were in Vancouver with friends we went to a Korean and Japanese BBQ and had some similar dishes. To be honest, after today’s experience I’m still confused as to the difference between the two. Sure the seasonings are different, but they largely use the same cuts of meat and they are prepared in much the same way.

To go out with my sister after classes again was a refreshing change from the mundane routine of school and work. It was a bit of a walk from the station and we were told that there would be a half hour wait since we didn’t have a reservation. I was starved, but we had come all this way and Valerie had spoken so highly of it, I decided to just push through the hunger pangs to try this place. As it turns out, the wait was only 4 minutes.

We were promptly seated, presented menus, and asked for our drink order. After a quick perusal of the menu on the advice of Val and the waitress we decided on two appetizers and two lunch specials. The appetizers we ordered were the fried calamari and takoyaki. We both decided on the three BBQ item lunch special and ordered Harami Miso Skirt Steak, Beef Tongue, Kalbi Short Rib Sweet Soy, Bistro Hanger Steak Miso, Filet Mignon, and Spicy Pork. The lunch special came with rice, soup and salad. Val opted to have the seaweed soup and I, the Miso. The seaweed soup was a nice surprise since I had expected the flowy, hair like seaweed that I’m used to for Chinese seaweed soup. They used the same seaweed as in the Miso and the broth was slightly saltier. The salad was dressed with a tangier, more acidic salad dressing that I’m used to having at Japanese restaurants. It reminded me more of the salads that we got at Korean restaurants. I would’ve have liked to have more salad and I probably should’ve saved some to eat with the meal since the acid would’ve helped cut through the richness of the meat.

The appetizers arrived shortly after the soup and salad. The first piece of takoyaki I dug into had a good octopus to batter ratio. Unfortunately, that cannot be said of the subsequent pieces I had. Flavour wise, the interior was standard, but I felt as though there could have been a little more sauce to give the outside a little more of that characteristic takoyaki flavour. Of course there is a difference between a slight drizzle (or more than that) and dousing it in sauce; a good balance must be found. The calamari I found to be ordinary. Nothing sets it apart from other calamari I’ve had. It certain isn’t one of the best, but it isn’t the worst either.

Besides some of the meat having already been seasoned, each table is set with three sauces: ponzu, spicy, and sweet soy. Although the ponzu sauce isn’t bad, it just isn’t my favourite of the three due to its unique tanginess. My favourite of the three is the spicy one, which wasn’t even spicy, but it was very flavourful. I found that I often didn’t need to dip my meat into the sauces, but when I did it made the meat saltier and had me reaching for my white rice.

Overall, I had no complaints. The food was really good and I would definitely go back. One thing I will say is that while it doesn’t look like all that much, the meal was very filling.

Based on my experience today, I’d give this place a 4.0/5. Our server as well as another one who appeared to be in training were great in helping us out today.

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Light hanging at entrance

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Appetizers: Fried Calamari (back), Takoyaki (front)

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Miso Soup and Salad

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Seaweed Soup and Salad

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Meat (in no particular order): Harami Miso Skirt Steak, Beef Tongue, Kalbi Short Rib Sweet Soy, Bistro Hanger Steak Miso, Filet Mignon, and Spicy Pork

 

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Cooking the Meat

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

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Asian Market

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Asian Market

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Asian Market Sauces

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Beverly and Diana’s veggies for stir-fry

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Beverly stir-fry

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Diana’s Stir-fry

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David’s Stir-fry

extra-sides

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

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Hibachi Steak

black-and-white-brownie

Black and White Brownie

ginger-creme-brulee

Ginger Creme Brulee

mango-and-coconut-snowball

Mango and Coconut Snowball

 

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