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.