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Posts tagged ‘Downtown’

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

Light hanging at entrance

appies

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

miso-and-salad

Miso Soup and Salad

seaweed-soup-and-salad

Seaweed Soup and Salad

better-meat

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

 

cooking-meat

Cooking the Meat

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Restaurant Review: Charcut

Location: 101, 899 Centre Street SW
Website: http://www.charcut.com

After nearly four years of talking about it, my best friend and I finally got around to going to Charcut. We first heard about Charcut while watching competitor Connie Desousa compete on Top Chef Canada. I really wanted her to win and considering her skills in the kitchen, I’d say she was, at least in my books.

My sister and a friend of hers went a couple days earlier and got the $25 and the $15 Lunch all at Once respectively. The $25 option included a mixed green salad (she said it was arugula) with house vinaigrette, daily rotisserie “spit-roasted and smoked” (she said it was pork), parmesan fries and a bag of warm cookies (two cookies) and a coffee to go (she got an Earl Gray Tea). Her friend had the Charcut daily soup (my sister can’t remember what it was but said it sounded weird but tasted good), a crostini, the daily sandwich on focaccia (again, she didn’t know what kind of sandwich), kitchen pickles, parm fries and a bag of warm cookies. The dishes were served on a wooden board, giving it a really rustic feel. And from what I gleaned about Connie from Top Chef, I’d say that was consistant with who she was as a person (also the website said they were aiming for rustic, so I guess they’re spot on).

Seeing these dishes reinforced my want to go there and try out the food. So today, on my day off in the middle of a week for the first time in a long time. We arrived at about 11:45 am and asked if we had reservations, which we did not. They responded that the main restaurant was full so we had the choice of sitting at the bar or in the hotel lounge. Neither option sounded all that appealing, but I figured the lounge would be more comfortable than the bar, but I let my friend decide. She ultimately chose the lounge, which worked out for me. I normally don’t like sitting at the bar because the bar stools are oddly uncomfortable and I have a tendency to fall off or do something stupid. We were seated in the lounge with random hotel guests milling about, sitting around us while we perused the menu. Being the indecisive person I am, I looked over the menu before hand and decided on a roasted garlic meatball sandwich with Quebec cheese curds, Sunday gravy and parm fries. Even after previewing the menu, my friend still had no idea what she wanted, but at last minute decided on the country sausage, slow cooked served with caramelized onions and a fresh baked brioche. It was one of the options that I had been considering so I couldn’t wait to see and taste it. When she ordered it, the waiter said that the sausage was a bit hot and I wondered what to expect.

The wait time was not unreasonable, but sitting in the hotel lounge was a bit odd. We had a lot of natural light and could see the Calgary tower relatively unobstructed from where we were seated, but the table height wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t cross my legs (probably shouldn’t anyways), my napkin was pinned to my lap, and had to bend over substantially to eat. My first thought when I saw my sandwich was, “how the heck do I eat this?” Then I looked up and saw my friend’s lunch and thought, “What the heck is that?!” We both stared at it for a good minute before the waiter came over and was about to ask how everything was when he saw her plate and was like “Wow…what is-I’ve never seen this before.” We all had a good laugh.

My first impression of my sandwich was that I wanted it to be more garlicky, but I feel like that may be more to do with my liking for garlicky foods than anything. I can understand why they wouldn’t want it to be more garlicky (bad breath mainly). After a few more bites, I found that it needed more Sunday gravy and figured that’s why they gave me a whole bowl of it to dip into if I needed more. The Quebec cheese curds didn’t squeak, which was disappointing, but they were so beautifully stringy and chewy that it didn’t even matter. The parm fries were simply that: fries with grated parmesan sprinkled over it. I had expected something closer to poutine or at least melting the parmesan and drizzling them on. They went great with the tomato jam, a great alternative to ketchup. It was sweeter than ketchup in someways, but the seasoning was spot on. And the kitchen pickle was really good too. But overall, I felt as though everything had a sweet undertone that eventually became unbearable. The more I ate of my sandwich, the heavier it felt and I would have really like to have had something a little bit more acidic to contrast and balance out the meal. In the last quarter of my sandwich I just took out the insides and ate them. I would not recommend this sandwich to anyone who is going out for lunch with their boss. It is very messy. I got gravy stuck under my nails somehow and that was a pain to get out. Surprisingly I finished everything else resulting in me being full until dinner and not really eating much because I was still full.

For the country sausage, I have no words. The skinny longness of it is not really that aesthetically appealing. Especially since it kinda curled under the plate. And then the brioche looked like a tiny, out of place pyramid in contrast to the length of the sausage. Caramelized onions are always delicious so I’m not gonna say anything about that, but the “hot” sausage was not hot at all and it was a lot drier than I expected, but maybe because I was thinking of the normally oily, fat saturated breakfast sausages and this was not what it was.

We didn’t end up getting dessert because I wasn’t really interested in getting cookies or any of the other desserts they offered (cheese cake and pudding).

Overall, this restaurant did not disappoint. However, though initially I complained about things being a little too sweet, it turns out that there was a lot of salt used too since I was constantly thirsty afterwards. I know now that this palate isn’t really to my taste. I’m not saying it’s bad in anyway, but I prefer something less rustic. Our waiter was very attentive and that was reflected in his tip. I’m happy to say that this place has had much better service than a lot of the places I’ve been to, so I’d have to rate it 3.5/5

Charcut exterior

Charcut exterior

Charcut Restaurant Interior

Charcut Restaurant Interior (sister)

Charcut Interior-Hotel Lounge

Charcut Interior-Hotel Lounge

Cream Soda (sister's trip)

Cream Soda (sister)

Black Cherry Cola

Black Cherry Cola

Charcut 15

Charcut 15 (sister)

Charcut 25

Charcut 25 (sister)

Country sausage

Country sausage

Roasted Garlic Meatball sandwich

Roasted Garlic Meatball sandwich

Restaurant Review: Holy Grill

Location: 827 10 Ave SW, Calgary, Alberta

Website: http://www.holygrill.ca/

When I was first introduced to this restaurant, I was a bit hesitant. The menu didn’t look particularly appetizing, but since I had never been in downtown Calgary before, I thought I’d give it a try. It was a small restaurant on the corner of 8th St and 10th Ave. I nearly missed it the first time as I was being distracted by the stationary store on the corner. I’m usually a savory sandwich kind of person, so even though it was still early, I decided to order a panini. It was not what I expected. First off, it was a wrap, a pita wrap put into a panini press. I shrugged, why not? The first bites of the Sicilian weren’t too bad, but it was entirely vegetarian, so it didn’t take long for me to get bored. If it had been seasoned a little bit better I probably could have finished, but it wasn’t so I took home half of it.

A year or so later I decided to give it a second chance. This time I went for the Mr. Chicken Panini and what a difference! I was genuinely impressed and really enjoyed it. My sister had one of their burgers, which was also excellent, if not also very messy (but in a good way). Their sea salt fries weren’t bad, but it’s unfortunately that we have to pay $3.75 to add them. Also, the sweet potato chips were a bit of an odd choice to pair with a burger and not totally worth it.

Today I returned with my sister for a nice de-stressing breakfast. I decided to order a South Beach Benedict because my friend had had one last time and it looked delicious. She had had it with a hot chocolate and I decided I would do that same. The hot chocolate came out and made me frown for time I went with my friend for breakfast, she had ordered a steamed hot chocolate and had a cup and a carton of extra hot chocolate in it. This time I did not. I already knew that it was going to be a disappointment when the cashier forgot to even give me my change and required me to prompt her for it. Even then, she gave me the incorrect change. It was too much a hassle to go back and bug her for it, so I just sat down and hoped that my Benedict would blow me away. It did not.   Yes, it looked beautiful, but this time the side portion of fruits had shrunk. When I cut into the egg, the yolk oozed out, as expected, but it was not the beautiful golden yellow I had expected, but a faded pale yellow that got lost in my hollandaise sauce. Actually, there wasn’t much hollandaise sauce to begin with and it was thin and runny. My sister on the other hand, had a ranch burger and I really wanted to eat hers instead of mine. I wish I had ordered a burger instead of a Benedict.

Despite everything, I would still recommend this restaurant, but only for the lunch. Unless you like runny hollandaise sauce on an English muffin that had a bit of a weird consistency, I probably wouldn’t’ suggest breakfast. However, this place is a bit on the pricier side and all sides (fries, dip, etc.) have an extra cost. Unfortunately because of this particularly bad experience I’d have to give it 3/5 stars.

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Eggs Benedict

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Mr. Chicken with Sea Salt Fries

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Ranch Burger with Sea Salt Fries

South Beach Benedict

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