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Posts tagged ‘Food Review’

Restaurant Review: Raj Palace

Location: 3117-8650 112 Ave NW

Considering the number of times we’re in Royal Oak at the Chinese restaurant (Empress Palace Restaurant), the Crock-A-Doodle (with Julia), the Wal-Mart, Smashburger, and Little Caesars, you’d think I would have come here at least once considering how much I love East Indian food. But alas, today we finally got to try this place out. Typically, for lunch, Indian restaurants opt to have a buffet and reserve the a la carte stuff for dinner. However, this was not the case for Raj Palace. At Raj Palace they have lunch specials that vary in price depending on the type of protein you choose to go with. In terms of price, this is probably the most economical way to go because each lunch special comes with rice and naan. However, having to stick to just one dish is kinda boring and I, unlike some others I know, like to mix things up instead of just eating one item on the plate at a time.

We were promptly seated and decided to go with the a la carte menu instead of the lunch specials. However, it was really hard to get the waiter’s attention (he was hiding behind the counter doing something on the POS system). It seemed as though he was the only one working front of house.

When I started ordering things from the a la carte menu, the waiter became very confused. I’m sure he was just trying to recommend the best course of action, but it was one I had already considered and dismissed and therefore I was a bit annoyed at him for having questioned whether that was actually what we wanted to do for lunch. For lunch we ordered the Coconut Prawn Curry, Butter Chicken, and Baingan Bharta with Steamed Basmati Rice and Butter Naan. The Coconut Prawn Curry was prawns cooked in a thick sauce of fresh tomatoes and spices with coconut cream. It was clear that the sauce was made and the prawns added to it later as opposed to being marinated/cooked in the sauce because the flavour didn’t penetrate the meat.Butter Chicken, one of my favourite dishes, consisted of chicken cooked in a mild buttery sauce of tomato and fenugreek with cashew nut paste. The only issue I had with the Butter Chicken was that the texture of the chicken was a bit off, was a bit rubbery and bouncy and that doesn’t seem right to me. And the Baingan Bharta was eggplant roasted in tandoor, cooked with onions, fresh tomatoes, garlic and seasoned with spices. The first two are flavours I’m relatively used to, the eggplant was not, but not in a bad way. The eggplant, though oily, was well prepared and seasoned. I was surprised at how fast the food came considering how long it took to get our order in. In fact, we got our food before another table who was there before us and ordered before us. Unlike Chinese restaurants, the dishes came all at once instead of one continuous stream in which you have to learn to pace yourself. The flavour of everything was amazing. The food definitely made up for the lack of service. It had just the right amount of heat and it wasn’t spicy for the sake of being spicy (like don’t make me cry, that’s too spicy although I did bite into a pepper and that really burned the back of my throat). I’m not sure exactly how to describe the spices or the combination other than it was in perfect balance. The issue with Indian food is that it can be quite heavy because of the oil content in each of the dishes. I didn’t notice it too much in these dishes with the exception of the eggplant, but that’s probably because the eggplant had to be deep-fried before cooking so that it wouldn’t fall apart and turn to mush. I would say, if I came back, I would go for the plain naan instead of butter because the butter made the naan unnecessarily oily.

For me, the sauce, as good as it is, isn’t a big deal. I’ve been told though, that the sauce to some is like liquid gold and should never go to waste. This notion was reinforced by the waiter asking us whether we wanted to pack the sauce to go and when we said no he asked if we were sure. As delicious as it was, sauce, like carbs (rice, fries, etc.) aren’t worth packing away as leftovers.

Overall, I’d say despite the service, the food was amazing and I would definitely come back here again for lunch or dinner. However, I’d say if I were to go again, I’d like to go with a lot more people so we can try out more dishes. Generally speaking, the restaurant was pretty quiet; there was only one other table besides us in there. I wouldn’t be surprised if this place were to close down due to low turnout of customers. Based on everything today, I’d still give this place a 3.9/5.


Clockwise from top (sort of): Coconut Prawn Curry, Butter Chicken, Butter Naan, Baingan Bharta, and Steamed Basmati Rice




Restaurant Review: Ship and Anchor

Location: 534 17 Ave SW

I know Ship and Anchor isn’t exactly a restaurant and I have distinguished restaurants from cafes, so maybe I should create a category called drinking establishments since “bar/pub/tavern/club/lounge review” is just a ridiculously long name to be writing out. I mean some of them can be considered restaurants up until a certain time (like minors are allowed in until 5pm or something like that) or have a division between restaurant and bar within the same establishment.

Having been on 17th Ave more frequently now, I’ve passed by this place on more than one occasion. The establishment always was bustling and I was always curious as to the type of food they served and the atmosphere inside. Today I got to finally try it out with my cousin Yulin. When we first stepped inside, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing, luckily Yulin did and we quickly found a seat near the window. The interior of the restaurant was very dark and I’m sure sitting my the window that illuminated the back of Yulin’s head didn’t help. It didn’t take long for the server to present us with menus. Since I had already looked at the menu I already knew what I wanted.

We ordered honey garlic chicken wings to start, Yulin ordered the grilled cheese with house salad and I had the baked mac and cheese. Honey garlic, I must say is my favourite flavouring on wings. I mean what is there not to love about its sweet, sticky, garlicky deliciousness? Unfortunately, I’d have to say I was slightly disappointed that these wings were mostly honey as opposed to a balance of honey and garlic. This didn’t really make too much of a difference, but I would have preferred if the garlic taste was a little more pronounced. We had barely gotten halfway through the wings when our mains came. It’s commendable how fast food was coming out, but of course there wasn’t much of a lunch crowd. Typically mains should not be served so quickly, but again, not a restaurant, so it’s excusable. Besides, I enjoy a variance of flavours in a meal otherwise I’d get bored.

I was unfortunately very disappointed by the baked mac and cheese. While it’s true that it’s hard to find a mac and cheese in a restaurant that I can confidently say I love (FARM’s mac and cheese was pretty close to being one of the best I’ve had), this was pretty hard to get through (even though I did get through it because I was hungry). The cheese sauce was much too soupy, the jalapenos impossible to find, the bacon was not worth fishing out of the cheese soup, and overall the taste didn’t scream delicious. Though I didn’t try it, Yulin’s grilled cheese looked like any other grilled cheese and she said it tasted like an ordinary grilled cheese so I didn’t think it was necessary to give that a try. The house salad looked just like any other, but I could tell as she got to the bottom of the salad, some of the greens had been soaked in way too much dressing (obviously because the dressing settled at the bottom).

Overall, the server was super nice and checked in with us frequently (but not to frequent), however, the food wasn’t to die for or anything worth raving about. I suppose if you came for the alcohol, the food wouldn’t really be the focus or centre of attention. Based on this experience I’d have to give it a 2.2/5.

*I apologize for the quality of the photos. The lighting and my camera didn’t work well together.

Chicken wings.jpg

Honey Garlic Wings

mac and cheese.jpg

Baked Mac and Cheese

Grilled Cheese.jpg

Grilled Cheese with House Salad

Restaurant Review: Cafe 100%

Location: #110 – 30 Country Hills Landing NW

This restaurant is one of the many Hong Kong style restaurants (T.Pot, Pebble Street, Forbidden City) owned by the Taste of Asia Group Inc. Overall, these restaurants are very successful because they serve some of the most unique and delicious food anywhere in Calgary. As a person who loves appetizers, Hong Kong style cafes are the among my favourite places to eat out at. In line with Hong Kong’s postcolonial identity, the food reflects a fusion-esque blending of its two most influential cultures.

Unlike Chinese restaurants who give you a pot of tea and tiny tea cups, Hong Kong cafes usually give you a large glass full of hot or cold tea depending on the place, here it was hot. At cafes like these, tea is the equivalent of being started off with a glass of water at western restaurants. My sister and dad were the only two who ordered drinks: yinyang and cold almond milk. For those who don’t know what ying yang is, it is a drink that can be served hot or cold and is a combination of milk tea and coffee; my dad chose to have it hot. The cold almond milk was served in a bottle with ice, contributing to the rustic charm of the place.

For our “starter” we ordered the XO Fried Turnip Cakes with a Sweet Soya Sauce Finish. XO sauce is one of my favourite sauces which can be used in nearly everything from fried noodles to stir fried green beans to turnip cakes. It is a spicy seafood sauce that contains dried shrimp. Though I don’t particularly like eating the dried shrimp, it provides amazing depth of flavour and is among my favourite ingredients in a chili oil as a unique flavouring (many restaurants and individuals try to make their chili oil stand out from the rest by adding things like dried shrimp, garlic, sichuan peppers, etc.) . But back to the turnip cakes. Fried turnip cakes are a staple at dim sum and as a starter, it is very filling. I suppose the heading it was under was technically snacks as Hong Kong Cafes are known to be open really late and great places for late night snacks. Personally, I’ve never found XO sauce to be very spicy, but it has a complex savoury flavour about it, in part due to the dried shrimp. However, this dish was different in that it contained sweet soy sauce. The addition of the sweet soy sauce was a really nice touch because the more flavour profiles it fills, the more rounded the dish is. This dish is spicy, salty, and sweet, which are my flavours of preference.

We each decided to order our own mains, but with the intention of sharing. My sister had the Tender Beef with Handmade Noodles in Soup, I ordered the Shrimp Mentaiko Udon, my dad had the Fish Filet with Eggplant, and my mom had the Beef with Ginger and Green Onion. My parents meals came with steamed rice, soup and steamed lettuce with oyster sauce. I believe they had a choice of different kinds of soup, but my dad ordered what they called white soup. White soup is a cream based soup, a chowder of sorts containing bacon, and corn. Unlike most starter soups I’ve come across, the portion size could almost be considered meal sized at some restaurants. The Beef with Ginger and Green Onion was really something, the onions in the dish were huge, but in combination with the ginger, provided good flavour to the beef. I myself am don’t particularly like ginger because of how it tastes, but also because of the particular way it burns my throat, which is why I don’t eat ginger with my sushi either (although ginger in that case is suppose to be used as a palate cleanser, but that’s for a different time). My dad’s Fish Filet with Eggplant and ground pork is not unlike the hot pot dish at other restaurants or one of the choices at T&T for their 3 for $25 meals. It is good, but it’s nothing special and it is one of the greasiest dishes because the fish filet and eggplant are both fried before they are put into the hot pot. The Mentaiko Udon as the name suggests is a Japanese style dish. It was advertised as one of its specialty dishes so I decided to give it a try. I was sorely disappointed. The udon noodles were nice and chewy as they should be, but that’s about all they got right. The shrimp was overcooked, the scallops looked as though they had been sliced in half (as to save money by “stretching” the use of that ingredient), and the fish roe was cooked almost all the way through and was very salty. The bonito fish flakes and seaweed garnish weren’t bad, but it gave it an unappealing fishy smell and taste. And pooled at the bottom of my dish was an unsavoury amount of oil. That certainly didn’t help my appetite. My sister’s dish was also quite ordinary. Though the beef was cooked beautifully (it was so tender and melt in your mouth), the soup was bland and the noodles softer than I expected.

Overall, I’d say I liked this restaurant and would like to come back and try some of the snack/appetizer items on their menu, which I feel is probably what they’re known for and would excel at. Service was a bit slow and my dad had to stop a waiter to find out what was taking so long (though they didn’t really answer or acknowledge that they had heard him even). To give an idea of how long it too: my sister’s dish came out and she finished eating the entire thing and our dishes still hadn’t come out. Other menu items I’d like to try are their unagi fried rice, fried noodle and seafood in cream sauce, and calamari. Based on this experience I’d rank my experience as 3/5.

Cafe interior 2

Cafe Interior

Cafe interior

Cafe Interior

Turnip Cakes with xo sauce

XO Fried Turnip Cakes with Sweet Soya Sauce Finish

White Soup

White Soup

Stewed Beef and Handmade noodles 2

Tender Beef with Handmade Noodles in Soup

Beef and Ginger 2

Beef with Ginger and Green Onion

Fish Filet with Eggplant

Fish Filet with Eggplant and Ground Pork

Shrimp Mentaiko Udon

Shrimp Mentaiko Udon

Restaurant Review: Ringo Sushi

I found these reviews saved to a USB when I was clearing out some old files and decided I might as well post them. These reviews, you could say, are where I got started originally. They’re not as detailed as I do them now, so take them with a grain of salt. Also, no location is included for this one because apparently, it’s closed down now.

After a long day on the road, all I wanted when I got to the hotel was dinner. In Vancouver, it’s easier to walk somewhere than to drive, so we decided to see if there was any place close for dinner. We walked down Denman and Robson Streets in search for a good place for dinner. We settled on Ringo’s Sushi, the menu in the window looked good and the price, reasonable. When we walked in, the service was immediate, so they made a good impression on me. We were seated in the inner room with a bunch of noisy teenagers (grade 9 and 10 kids) and the table next to us (who was also slightly noisy and knocking over glasses and not caring about making a mess), which was a disappointment to me. I just wanted to enjoy a quiet meal. After a few minutes the waitress returned with our water, in tea cups…I looked around at the other tables and everyone got full sized cups but us, which I thought was a bit weird, not to mention impractical, considering how thirsty soy sauce makes me. We decided on Party Tray C ($30.95), the Super Spicy Roll ($7.95), the Chicken Box ($6.75), and a Green Salad ($3.00). The Party Tray C consisted of 2 Tuna Nigiri, 2 Salmon Nigiri, 2 Ebi Nigiri, 2 Inari Nigiri, 2 Tamago, one Kappa Maki (6 pieces), one Tuna Maki (6 pieces), 1 California Roll (6 pieces), and one BC roll (6 pieces). The chicken box had chicken teriyaki, 4 pieces of California Roll, tempura and green salad. And the Super spicy roll was spicy tuna and spicy salmon with masago. The chicken box came first, but the waitress forgot my miso soup and then when she brought the soup, she forgot to get the tempura sauce. It took a good five minutes before the green salad came out, it was a salad! How long does a salad take to make? Anyways, then it was another ten minutes or more before the party tray came out. I was actually almost full so I had a couple pieces of California roll even though I had a couple pieces myself and one piece of Inari Nigiri. All this waiting was making me crazy, I was almost full, but I really wanted to try the spicy roll. Usually in Calgary, the spicy roll is my favourite. This roll was pretty large since there was salmon and tuna in it, but I was able to fit the entire thing into my mouth. The waiting for me was the downside to this restaurant, but the price was excellent. The taste wasn’t bad either, but I prefer the spicy creamy Japanese salad dressing on the salad though. However, for a restaurant run by only four people, I would say that service wasn’t TOO bad. So out of 5, I would give this restaurant a 4 out of 5.

Restaurant Review: Han Chao

*Sorry no pictures for this review*

Location: 108 – 306 Aspen Glen Landing S.W

I had no idea what to expect when my parents pulled up in front of this restaurant. The name suggested Chinese to my mom, but my sister and I had somehow gotten it into our heads that it was Vietnamese food. That may have been something my dad had mentioned earlier, but I’m not sure if it was even related to his intention to take us here because when we went in, he seemed surprised that it was a Vietnamese restaurant.

My first impression of the menu was that it was very confused. One page featured Vietnamese fare, while the subsequent pages had Thai and Chinese options. Since I was planning on having Vietnamese food the next day with a friend, I decided to go for the Thai option. The Chinese options looked too much like food that could be had at any food court in the mall. In perusing the menu, we decided that the best option was to each choose one item off the menu and share it family style. I chose the Original Pad Thai with chicken, my sister decided on the Han Chao Sate Bowl, my mom picked a Green Curry with chicken, and my dad went with the Traditional Thai noodles with beef. I’m not sure why my dad decided to go with the Traditional Thai noodles because that dish turned out almost exactly the same as the Pad Thai.

When the dishes arrived, I remembered thinking that the presentation was very nice, but impractical. Some of the plates were fairly large (the Pad Thai and Traditional Thai noodles), but the Green Curry and Sate Bowl weren’t that large but still took up a lot of space because they decided to put it on a “saucer” plate. They were going to pull a second table over for us, but my dad put a stop to it. I was slightly annoyed because it would have been so much more spacious and relaxing to eat if I was able to eat without the fear of knocking something over. The Traditional Thai noodles and the Pad Thai came with a small dish of chili oil, peanuts, and lime. The first one I tried was the Traditional Thai noodles which reminded me of the Chinese Beef Chow Fun Noodles (乾炒牛河 pronounced gon chow ngau haw in Cantonese) but with a Thai twist on it. My only complaint was how coarsely chopped the green onions were; in short, they were huge and mostly raw. The Pad Thai had the same problem with the onions, so I essentially just picked them out and set them aside. When I had first read the menu’s description, I thought that the Pad Thai would be like the one we had at Wendel’s: egg, prawns, and a choice of a third meat. I should have read it more carefully. It said that the original one is made with prawns, but we can substitute it out for beef, chicken, or mixed veggies. I think it would have been so much better with the prawns, but overall, not a bad dish. My favourite would have to be the Green Curry my mom chose. She decided on coconut rice over plain rice and I was very happy with it. The rice was so fragrant and the coconut not overpowering in any way. In fact, the slight sweetness of the coconut rice gives it the depth it needs. The curry itself isn’t too spicy, but there is a detectable heat to it. My sister’s choice, I’d have to say, was the most disappointing dish of the evening. It couldn’t even pass for a good bún, let alone being sate anything. It wasn’t spicy or flavourful in any way. I’d have to say the bún served by the fast food place at the university put it to shame.

So, this place wasn’t too bad, but it also isn’t the best places I’ve been too. There were some good and some bad dishes, but all in all the experience wasn’t unpleasant. I’d most likely return, but maybe not for their bún. Based on this experience, I’d give it a 3/5.

Restaurant Review: The Beltliner

Location: 243 12th Ave SW

I first heard about this restaurant on the CBC Calgary Eyeopener with David Gray and Angela Knight. It sounded interesting so that night I came home and checked out the menu. It looked pretty decent so I made plans to go for a birthday brunch with my sister and cousin. Today, we finally got the chance to go.

When we arrived, the place was already pretty packed and I wasn’t sure that we’d be able to get in. However, the hostess took down our phone number on an iPad and said that it should only be another 15-20 minutes before we could get a table. Now, I’ve been to tonnes of restaurants that tell me 10-15 minutes and it’s more like an hour or longer, so I took that with a grain of salt. But true to her word, about fifteen minutes later, she came to outside to call us in and seat us. She was really cheery and upbeat and made me feel welcome and excited to try out this place. We were seated at a table that was clearly meant for two people, so it was a bit tight. I didn’t mind since where we were seated was in the direct path of a cool breeze coming through the open doors of the patio. We sat, perusing the menu, me still caught between ordering the Chicken and Waffles and the Mushroom Benedict and waited for our waitress. It was a while before she showed up and asked what we wanted to drink. She didn’t seem all that happy or excited like our hostess had been, but that was okay. We ordered our drinks and she headed off for a long time. When she returned, one of our party had gone to wash up and the waitress asked if we knew what she wanted, but when we didn’t know exactly how she wanted the eggs, the waitress seemed rather annoyed. She seemed more interested in helping out her other tables than helping us out, which I found to be a bit rude.

I noticed that the table next to us was seated before us but had their order taken after us. And while their order came out first, she delivered the wrong order to him. She asked him if he’d be okay to take it or if she should take it back and have his actual order made. He chose to keep the mixed up ordered item and I mean I would too. There was no point to waste any food.

I was the only person who ordered a hot drink, a mocha. My sister had a blue raspberry soda and my cousin had a veggie smoothie. The veggie smoothie had kale, apple, cucumber, ginger, pineapple, yogurt, but I kept tasting banana. Not sure why, but I kept thinking it was in there. Nothing else was really noticeable in taste, but my sister insisted she could taste the kale overpowering everything.

We started with an appetizer, the molded yolks and caviar. It was unlike anything I had ever tried. The yolks had been sous vide, molded into mango looking cubes, sprinkled with some salt flakes and served with caraway crackers and a small spoon of Canadian sturgeon caviar. The portion size of the caviar was slightly disappointing. It was clear that the caviar’s salinity was meant to be paired with the sous vide yolk because the  yolks were flavourless. Unlike masago or tobiko, sturgeon caviar is much fishier in its taste, so I wasn’t able to really eat all that much. The caraway crackers were really an interesting pairing to the yolk and caviar. The yolky taste wasn’t all that noticeable, but the texture was creamier than usual. For the price of this appetizer, I expected it to be a little bigger and with a little bit more caviar.

For our mains, my cousin ordered the classic 2x2x2, my sister had the steak and eggs, and I myself finally decided on the chicken and waffles. The classic 2x2x2 is the typical breakfast that one would find at home: two eggs, two sausages (or bacon as it was in this case), and two pieces of toast. A small dipper of berry jam was provided on the side if you wanted some jam to go with your buttered toast. In my cousin’s opinion, the jam was too sweet. In my sister’s opinion, it was just right. And in my opinion, it was a bit tart. My sister’s steak and eggs were a bit of a weird one. She asked for her steak to be done medium rare and for the most part it was, except for one section of it, which was rare. Also, scrambled eggs? Yeah, not something that I’d normally request to have with my steak, but it really didn’t look like three eggs had been used. Her dish also came with toast and hash browns. The hash browns were glazed in sugar, giving it a crunchy exterior and they were triangle shaped, but when you cut into them, you could see the individual layers, like when you pile a bunch of scalloped potatoes on top of one another. Then came mine. The Chicken and Waffles. In my opinion, it was huge. I shared the majority of it with my sister and cousin and still couldn’t finish it off. They give you a full buttermilk waffle covered in white gravy and several pieces of crispy fried chicken thighs. At first I thought the pieces were to big not to contain bones, but they had been deboned prior to battering and frying. My biggest complaint about the chicken was how much of each piece of chicken was batter. And the batter was so heavy that dousing it in hot sauce was the best option since the tartness and heat of the hot sauce really helped to cut through the grease. I would have preferred if they had pounded a chicken breast flat, breaded it, and fried it instead of having these hard to eat, hard to cut chunks. I did like the slight sweetness of the waffle that contrasted with the saltiness of the gravy and chicken, but like many of the other dishes here, there was way too much salt in the batter, in the gravy, and on the steak.

To top it all off, when the bills came, they were separated. I was going to ask for her to do that, but she did that for us already. Only problem was, was that she mixed up everything for everyone. My cousin’s bill ended up with my mocha, her main, and the entire appetizer while my sister’s ended up with her drink, my cousin’s drink, and her main and mine was just my main.

Poor service, order and bill mix ups and over salted food have made me think about ever returning to this restaurant. Maybe I’ll give it a couple years before I come back, but based on today’s experience I’d have to rate it a 1.75/5.

The Beltliner Exterior

The Beltliner Exterior

The Beltliner Interior

The Beltliner Interior

The Beltliner Interior

The Beltliner Interior

The Beltliner Interior

The Beltliner Interior

Molded Yolks and Caviar

Molded Yolks and Caviar

Classic 2x2x2

Classic 2x2x2

Steak and Eggs

Steak and Eggs

Chicken and Waffles

Chicken and Waffles

Restaurant Review: Chili’s

Location: 1632 14 Ave NW

Chili’s is a fun restaurant to go to with friends or family. Most of the food is great, but it’s not a restaurant that you’d want to keep going to again and again. It’s more like a restaurant you’d go to once a year. I’ve been there with my family many times and they’re food isn’t too pricy, especially the 2 for $25 or 2 for $30 deals.

Tonight I went with my cousin and sister who I consider more as friends than family. As usual we started with an appetizer: the triple play. The three appetizers we chose were: the boneless buffalo wings, the jalapeno poppers, and the crispy chicken crispers. Despite it’s odd name, the crispy chicken crispers was by far my favourite of the trio with it’s honey mustard dipping sauce. Unlike most honey mustard dipping sauces, this one was heavier on the honey and only a hint of the mustard was detectable, but enough so that you knew it was there. The chicken was well breaded (by that I mean that the breading was not heavy and oil, but crisp as the name entailed) and very moist on the inside. As per usual, the buffalo wings (aka the hot sauce on them) was sour enough to choke you up upon inhalation. It’s typical paring with a blue cheese/gorgonzola ranch dip made it an ordinary dish. The jalapeno poppers were also quite average, although they were very crunchy and the inside gooey as it should be, I could taste very little of the spicy of the diced jalapenos inside. We also decided on a second appetizer, a quesadilla explosion salad. I must say, this is one of the better salads I’ve had. I’m not usually one to order salads unless it’s a side to my main course. Though it is not even in the same league as the Asian Steak Salad at Milestones, but it has its strong points. We decided to go with steak since the triple play already had chicken we didn’t want to have another chicken dish. It was a good choice. The tartness of the balsamic vinegar really stimulated our appetites and the balance was so perfect that there was no one element overpowering another. My only complaint about the dish was that I got a charred piece of steak and I’m talking completely blackened and tasted awful, but that was really minor.

For our mains, I ordered the Spicy Grilled Shrimp Tacos, my sister had the Sweet and Smokey Burger and my cousin had the Bacon Ranch Chicken Quesadilla. In the past I’ve had horrible experiences with shrimp tacos. Most of the time they are dreadfully underseasoned so I was wary of trying a shrimp taco, but as there was already chicken in the appetizer I didn’t want to get chicken tacos. Plus I get more than enough chicken at home…My main was three tortillas topped with zesty coleslaw, pico de gallo, sautéed garlic chili shrimp & fresh sliced avocado. Served with chipotle rice and beans. It also came with a spicy sauce on the side. It was the most amazing sauce I’ve ever tasted. I want that sauce on everything. They were great on the tacos, but even better on the fries. There was an actual kick to it. It actually made my throat burn, but in a good way. The rice was dry and hard to swallow while the beans were wet and tasted too salty and strange to me. For me the Sweet and Smokey Burger was nothing special. It advertised that there was a mango infused BBQ sauce, but the mango taste didn’t really come through, nor was there any BBQ sauce on the side. I think they mistakenly gave us a chipotle sauce instead. The Bacon Ranch Chicken Quesadilla wasn’t anything special either. I mean I’ve never had bacon in a quesadilla, but they’re all pretty flat and don’t have much filling.

Of course at this point everyone is stuffed, but nope, gotta get dessert. The waitress recommended we get the Skillet Toffee Fudge Brownie and my sister really wanted it so we ended up getting it. It was very sweet…good for satisfying my craving for chocolate and sweets, but not something could eat by myself.

As the menu has changed slightly from the last time I was there, I can’t remember which burger I had, but it was huge. I could not finish the entire thing. Even half of it killed me.

Overall the prices are quite reasonable and the servers are super friendly. The server we had tonight was super awesome and it’s too bad the receipt she gave us doesn’t have the survey code cause I would have praised her for her excellent service. Ah well, can’t have everything you want. As this is not a restaurant I would return to on a regular basis I would rate it a 3.5/5.

Triple Play: Jalapeno Poppers, Boneless Buffalo Chicken Wings and Crispy Chicken Crispers

Triple Play: Jalapeno Poppers, Boneless Buffalo Chicken Wings and Crispy Chicken Crispers

Quesadilla Explosion Salad

Quesadilla Explosion Salad

Sweet and Smokey Burger

Sweet and Smokey Burger

Spicy Grilled Shrimp Tacos

Spicy Grilled Shrimp Tacos

Bacon Ranch Chicken Quesadilla

Bacon Ranch Chicken Quesadilla

Skillet Toffee Fudge Brownie

Skillet Toffee Fudge Brownie

Cafe Review: Higher Ground

Location: 1126 Kensington Rd NW

The first time I went to Higher Ground I was drawn in by their atmosphere and extensive menu. Though I didn’t order any food, the pot of lucky dragon green tea was cheap and great for sharing, but I can’t say that it was my one of my favourite teas. This cafe is very cozy and makes me feel right at home as a writer. I could spend hours just sitting there drinking tea and coffee and working away at my novel. And that is what I did today.

Today I returned there with my sister and cousin for lunch. I’ve, for some reason, taken it upon myself to try every caprese panini in the world. Although it isn’t called a caprese panini here, the mozzarella panini is essentially that: ball mozzarella, thick cut tomatoes, basil pesto and a balsamic dressing. This is one of the better paninis I’ve had and I think it’s absolutely brilliant that they decided to use pesto rather than whole basil leaves because the most frustrating thing is biting into the sandwich and having the entire leaf of basil come out into your mouth. It sounded so good that my sister ordered the exact same thing. The only thing that differed was our sides. Mine came with a butternut squash soup and hers came with a B.L.A.T. salad. Now you may think B.L.A.T., what’s that? Or what the heck is a B.L.A.T.?! But it is honest to goodness the best tasting salad ever! I would go back just to have that salad. Now everyone knows what a B.L.T. is, just add avocado to that. It is heaven paired with the lemon black pepper aioli. On the flip side, the butternut squash soup was a bit of a disappointment for me. I’ve had butternut squash soup at Vendome’s and that one is amazing. I enjoy that at Vendome’s there is a bit of cream added to increase the smoothness and richness of the soup, where as at Higher Ground there is a bit more acidity and unfortunately I had lumps of squash floating around in my soup. After the sandwiches we got two desserts. The first was a strawberry rhubarb pie. The piece was fairly large, but we had to ask them to warm it up twice and even then the pie wasn’t even warm. The second dessert looked somewhat like a tuxedo cake, but I’m not entirely sure, since I wasn’t the one who ordered it. That one was much better, though there really was a lot of cream. It was rich as chocolate cake should be and it left me wanting more.

In terms of drinks, we went through a lot in the five hours we were there (or at least that’s how it felt). We started with a Kyoto Cherry Green Tea. It was more fragrant than it tasted. Though it was very mild, it was a very good tea. Perhaps I’m not seasoned enough to discern the subtle notes of the tea, but it was hard to taste the cherry, in fact it was even hard to taste the green tea. After that we got an Irish Breakfast. I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect it to taste so much like English Breakfast. We had about three pots of that before the tea became to diluted. My cousin got a cappuccino after that. It was pretty bitter and had a lot of foam. After she added in some honey I found it to be just right, while she thought it was way too sweet and my sister still found it too bitter.

I will definitely be returning here with friends or even just with my cousin again to work on my novel. It is just the perfect environment to get my creativity flowing.

The drinks are cheap as we can constantly get the teapot refilled, but food, especially the desserts are a bit on the expensive side. However, taking everything into consideration, I would not consider it a turn off.

I would rate it 4.5/5, vying for the top position of my favourite cafe with Vendome.

soup and sandwich

Mozzarella Panini with Butternut Squash Soup

sandwich and salad

Mozzarella Panini with B.L.A.T. Salad and Lemon Pepper Aioli on the side


Tuxedo cake?

Restaurant Review: Boston Pizza

Location: 232 – 6455 Macleod Trail SW, Calgary, AB T2H 0K8

Boston Pizza has been one of the staple restaurants I find myself returning to again and again. Like Milestones, the food and service has been consistently good. Unlike Milestones, it has more of family friendly atmosphere. Milestones would be a restaurant I’d recommend for a girl’s night out or dinner with friends, while Boston Pizza could be for the same purpose, I find it better as a place to go with family or very close friends. Having said that, i’m about to contradict myself by saying that the Chinook location is a little different. Perhaps due to its location in a mall, its lighting is a little darker providing a less family friendly environment and making it seem a little more “grown up.”

Over the past few years I’ve had almost everything off their menu with the exception of soups. When I used to go in junior high, one of my biggest complaints was the sodium content in the food. That hasn’t changed and is till one of my biggest complaints. I find the sodium problem to be more prominent in their sandwiches and burgers, but some of their pastas on occasion are also too salty.

Today I went with my sister and surprised myself and the waitress with how much I could really eat. We ordered two appetizers: calamari and a spinach and artichoke dip and two entrees: a Jalapeno and Crispy Onion Prime Rib Burger and a Double Bacon BBQ Burger. Past dishes we have ordered are (or at least what I think we have ordered): BP’s Pizza Spring Rolls, the Boston Brute, the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich, Jambalaya Fettuccine, Seafood Fettuccine, Pesto Chicken Penne, Bacon Wrapped Steak Skewers, and Chicken Parmesan.

Unlike most calamari dishes, the one was served with breaded and fried banana peppers and a chili lime mayo. It was nice for once not to have it served with tzatziki sauce. The banana peppers provided a bit of heat, which I always love. However, the chili lime mayo was pretty flavourless. I couldn’t taste any chili or lime in it. Though the breading on the fried banana peppers was light and delicious, the same could not be said about the actual calamari. The breading was constantly falling off and the calamari was so tough that I couldn’t get my fork through it and kept losing it in the dip. Thank goodness for the two wedges of lemon that were included. Without those I think the oiliness of the calamari would have been too much for me. The second appetizer, a spinach and artichoke dip was different from most dips I’ve had. First, it was served with pizza bread rather than pita, but they both had about the same consistency. This dip was topped with BP’s own bruschetta mix. As my sister pointed out, it wasn’t really a bruschetta, more of canned or stewed tomatoes that had been seasoned and added as a garnish on top of the dip. Regardless of that, I like it on top, especially with the pizza mozzarella because seriously, pizza mozzarella is the best cheese out there when it comes to melting because it is so stringy!

I’ve been craving a burger for a week and oftentimes when i go out to a restaurant, my go to protein has always been chicken. Today I refused to do that and ordered the jalapeno and crispy onion prime rib burger. The patty was thick and juicy and the pickle, red onions and pickled jalapenos cut through the richness of the burger. However, the “crispy onions” were not crispy at all. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if there were onions there. It felt and tasted like a mushed up patty of breading on top of the patty. As a side I had their caesar salad. I was first off disappointed by the portion size. It was probably the size of my fist…which isn’t very big. And secondly, the salad was so over dressed that I could feel myself gaining at least five pounds just eating it. The salad wasn’t about the salad; it was about the dressing. Of the Double Bacon BBQ Burger, I had one bite. I’m not a huge fan of bacon, so I don’t think I would have ever been able to finish the burger. It wasn’t bad at all. What I could discern from one bite was that it was very balanced. The smoked flavour of the bacon and BBQ sauce didn’t over power the burger. The yam fries that the Bacon BBQ Burger was served with was like many other restaurants, though a bit lanky and limp looking.

Normally, I wouldn’t order pasta from Boston Pizza except for on Pasta Tuesdays. My dad usually brings home a box, so I’ve tried a lot of pastas without ever having gone on Tuesdays. My favourite are the pennes because they are easier to eat than the fettuccines. I’m not saying that the pennes are any better than the fettuccines, but when you’re getting sauce all over your face, it’s going to affect how you perceive the “taste” of the dish. Convenience for me is number one. I would never order long noodle style pastas if I ever had to eat out with my boss or date because there will be sauce every where and if I have a tomato sauce…well dinner might just turn out looking like a crime scene. The most cost effect pasta I can think of (maybe because my dad has said it like three dozen times) is the seafood fettuccine because of the amount of seafood that is put into the pasta. The jambalaya is a close second. I enjoy this one much more because I love spicy and putting in slices of spicy Italian sausage in there is the best thing ever! The only concern with this one is the amount of oil that is left in a puddle at the bottom of the dish once you’re done.

Normally I like pulled pork sandwiches, the one at Montana’s is a great example of a delicious pulled pork sandwiches (wait…I haven’t done a review for Montana’s…that’s coming or will be coming eventually). However, what BP does to them, I do not like. Balsamic vinegar reductions are usually delicious because they bring out the inherent sweetness of the vinegar itself…BP decides it doesn’t want to do that. So I got nicely smoked pulled pork doused in “raw” vinegar. That is the grossest taste I have ever had the misfortune of putting in my mouth. It isn’t as sour as white vinegar, but it just doesn’t sit will with the pulled pork.

The only other times I had an appetizer was when I went with my cousin for lunch and with my mom and sister for dinner. Whe I went with my cousin, we had the bacon wrapped steak. The bacon was cooked so crispily that I had a hard time trying to bite through it and get it in the same mouthful as the steak. Not only that, it was next to impossible to get the steak off the skewer and I swore that I almost sent one flying across the restaurant and I had no idea that I had that kind of strength in me. The second appetizer, the pizza spring rolls, I ordered in hopes of fulfilling my craving for Beer Revolution’s pizza spring rolls. I was sorely disappointed. BP’s pizza spring rolls are no comparison to Beer Revolution’s. Beer Revolution uses the spring roll wraps that we are used to seeing on Vietnamese Spring Rolls making them crisp, light and delicious. BP used the old style Chinese egg roll wraps making them heavy and incredibly oily. I will not be eating those ever again.

My experience with the service has mostly been good. However, this is the only restaurant in which I’ve ever had anything spilled on me. The only unfortunate incidents I have had the misfortune of experiencing is getting a drink spilled on me or watching the waitress spill the drink on someone else at my table and finding a large piece of plastic wrap on my chicken parmesan. The first one is understandable because the serving tray is honest not the best thing to be carrying drinks on, especially once you start removing drinks because the balance has been thrown off and if you don’t work fast, well…you get a nice cold alcoholic slush shrewn across your lap or a glass of ice cold water sitting on your lap. The waitress was nice enough to take the drink off our bill for her mistake and offered to move us to another, less wet table. I didn’t think it was too big of a deal and definitely felt that we didn’t have to be moved to another table. And the incident with the plastic wrap? Well I didn’t care so much about finding plastic wrap in my food. I never have been one to get fussy over finding things in my food…well ok, if I found a bug in it, I would freak out, so thank goodness I’ve never had to deal with that. Besides if I did that would be a clear indicator of the condition of the kitchen: not clean enough to been health and safety standards.

Despite a couple mishaps, Boston Pizza is a place I would return to time and time again especially with my family. It is a place I can go to kick back and relax with those who are closest to me. The prices aren’t ridiculous and is one of the more affordable restaurants. However, if compared to Milestones, I would prefer Milestones over Boston Pizza solely because of the atmosphere. In part, I don’t think the family friendly environment will be one that will be applicable to me any time soon, not unless I find a boyfriend in the next few weeks, get engaged and married in the next few months and have a child in the next year. Because of some of the above mentioned issues I’ve had with the restaurant, I would rate this place a 4/5.


Background: Spinach and Artichoke Dip Foreground: Calamari


Background: Double Bacon BBQ Burger with Yam Fries Foreground: Jalapeno and Crispy Onion Prime Rib Burger and Caesar Salad

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