Reader. Writer. Romantic.

Posts tagged ‘Restaurant Review’

Restaurant Review: Monki Breakfastclub & Bistro

Location: 1301 10 Avenue SW (Beltline Location)
Website: https://www.monkibistro.ca/

Monki has been on my list of restaurants to try for at least the last two years and this past weekend I finally got to try it.

After throwing several ideas on the table, Monki was the one that we finally settled on. Monki does not take reservations, but they do utilize a waitlisting system. However, one of our friends’, Sarah, sister works here, so she was able to add us to the waitlist without us having to go through the app, which was extremely convenient.

I’m usually an early riser, but I respect that not everyone is an early bird. Actually, in the last few months, I’ve noticed that I’ve begun transitioning the other way – becoming a night owl. Had I proposed I time, I probably would’ve suggested something “ridiculous” like 8:30 a.m. for brunch, but the group consensus was for 11 a.m. Given how busy my weekend was, I actually really appreciated being able to sleep in. We met up at 10 a.m. and commuted to the restaurant together, arriving at about 10:30 a.m., which was the requested time for people on the waitlist. We were promptly seated outside on the patio as we requested and discovered that we were the first to arrive on a three hour waitlist. Things were pretty quiet when we arrived, but it didn’t take long for it to pick up.

The weekend we chose to go coincided with weekend of the Calgary Pride Parade, so Monki was offering Pride Pancake Tacos on their menu. Sarah and Alex both went with this, while I decided on a more savoury option: the Brisket Bene. Monki is actually known for their fondue, so of course we had to give that a try.

Drink wise, we all ordered coffees because starting the day without caffeine sounded like a bad idea…even if it had no effect on my body, it was an amazing full bodied flavour. Sarah got the Classic Mimosa with orange juice and Alex got the Showstopper Mimosa. Both were topped with a rainbow ribbon candy (I forgot the actual name of the candy…) in honour of pride. The Classic was delicious (I like my orange juice with pulp in it), but the alcohol was much more apparent than the Showstopper which featured their housemade strawberry lemonade. If I knew I wasn’t going to tip over, I would’ve ordered one of the Showstoppers myself.

We started with the fondue which was a variety of fruits: strawberries, blackberries, and banana, waffles and three shots of flavoured/coloured white chocolate: earl grey, matcha, and white chocolate coloured with beet juice. The problem that has already been identified by the restaurant is that shot glasses are not the best vessel to serve the chocolate in because it gets to a point where you can’t dip the fruit and especially not the waffle in anymore. I thought that the white chocolates all tasted pretty much the same; there were subtle differences if you knew what you were looking for, but otherwise, it was just the sweet of white chocolate, which is my least favourite chocolate…I don’t even consider it to be real chocolate. My suggestion would be to offer the dish with a choice of chocolate. That way, the one flavour could be fully enjoyed and the restaurant could use a larger vessel to serve it in.

The Pride Pancake Tacos consisted of banana, peanut butter, cinnamon, and strawberry jam in a banana pancake topped with whipped cream, sprinkles and white chocolate drizzle in the colour of the trans flag. (sorry if I missed anything that was in here as I forgot to note down everything and since it was a specialty item, it is no longer on their menu for me to cross check). A portion of the proceeds goes towards supporting Calgary Pride (if I’m remembering correctly). The only reason I shied away from this dish was because I will only eat bananas at a particular ripeness. Between that and how many bananas we ended up with at our table, I’m glad I didn’t go for it.

I was torn between ordering a Benny, the Monki Perogies, Pancake Breakfast Tacos, and the Not-So-Classic Huevos Rancheros, but since the Benny was one of the first things I was drawn to, I went with my heart. The Brisket Bene consisted of braised brisket, mushrooms and truffle ricotta. The eggs are served on a crostini/slice of baguette. While this is new and I haven’t ever seen it done this way, it was so small that there wasn’t much space to fit on the brisket, mushrooms, and egg and left me wanting more. I didn’t realize that there was a choice between the classic hollandaise and a pink prosecco hollandaise. Next time, if I have the chance, I will definitely try the prosecco hollandaise. The hashbrowns were well seasoned and though they’re better than a lot of hashbrowns I’ve had elsewhere, they weren’t mind-blowingly delicious. The hot sauce, Monki tears, on the other hand might’ve possibly blow up my tastebuds. I typically am good with spicy…unless it’s habanero…which it was. That said, I purchased a bottle because I really need some hot sauce at home and even though this is quite spicy, it was delicious. Next time I’m going to also get a bottle of the Monki Vampire Slayer Hot Sauce because garlic is always a good idea.

I’m glad we chose to sit outside as inside the restaurant is quite small and cramped and now I can better understand how the waitlist can get up to a 3 hour wait so quickly. If you intend on coming, either come early or add yourself to the waitlist as soon as you possibly can.

I was worried since someone else who had been here had been sorely disappointed and having waiting to come here for so long I didn’t want to be met with disappointment either. I’m pleased to report that both food and service here were amazing. I would definitely come back for the perogies, breakfast tacos, and huevos rancheros. I would rate this place 3.75/5.

Monki Logo
Monki Exterior
Patio Seating
Coffee
Classic Mimosa – Orange
Showstopper Mimosa
Chocolate Fondue
Pride Pancake Tacos
Brisket Bene

Restaurant Review: Ten Foot Henry

Location: 1209 1 Street SW
Website: https://www.tenfoothenry.com/

I have wanted to come here ever since the place opened. I heard so many good things about this place and today, I finally got the chance! I came here with a friend from high school, who I hadn’t talked to for a couple of years. It was a wonderful opportunity to catch up as well as try out a “new” restaurant.

Since moving downtown, and being relatively close to 17th Avenue, I have had plenty of restaurants mere steps away from my home. This is in stark contrast to when I was living in the middle of nowhere…a beautiful middle of nowhere, but for a foodie like me, who’s lifeblood is fine food, this was murder.

First thing to note is that the signage for the restaurant isn’t very clear. The name of the restaurant isn’t actually out front, which makes it really easy to miss. The friend I was meeting drove by several times and was unable to find it. As I was walking there, it was much easier to spot the restaurant. The sign, in fact, is their logo hanging on a circular board and their name, printed on their door.

When we first went in, I entered through the wrong side; the cafe rather than the restaurant. Once that was cleared up, we were promptly seated and informed that the menu was online. Given the whole COVID situation, I think this is an elegant solution to having to clean the menus every time between patrons, especially for the higher end restaurants that use unlaminated menus, printing them on paper (beautiful, high quality paper, I might add).

Before coming here, I did my research and got several recommendations from friends who had been here. Some of the dishes we were recommended included the fried potatoes, cauliflower, bucatini, and one of the steaks. Ultimately, we decided on the tomatoes, bucatini, and salmon.

As noted on their menu, the dishes are meant to be shared family style and while some of them were harder than others to eat family style (ref: the salmon), it is absolutely the way I prefer to eat, especially when I’m writing a review. After all, how can you make an assessment on a dish if you’ve never tried it, but it’s being served at the same table? For two people, our waiter recommended with order 3 dishes.

The tomatoes were recommended by our waiter who noted that it was one of the most popular items on the menu. The tomatoes had been warmed and served with feta and herbs and a side of sourdough bread. The acidity of the tomatoes paired beautifully with the rich creaminess of the feta. A word of warning, this is a messy dish. I ate this with the perpetual fear that I was going to end up with exploded tomato all over me. As perfect as this dish was, I think that it could done with a touch of salt, preferably something like fleur de sel. The tomatoes were not something I personally would’ve gone for because it’s simplicity just seemed…well, too simple. However, that’s the thing with simplicity. When done well, it is incredible. Something as simple and classic as tomatoes and feta with herbs has to be done well because with so few ingredients, any mistake will seem much more substantial.

The next dish to be served was the spring salmon. The salmon was served with grilled romaine, quick pickles, and a cashew ranch. The skin on the salmon was perfectly crisped, the flesh moist and fall away, and so delicately seasoned. I have never had grilled lettuce of any kind (to my memory), but this was incredible. The slight smoke taste enhanced and complimented the sweetness of the salmon and lettuce and provided a lovely contrast to the creaminess of the cashew ranch. Now I have had cashew mayo before and the cashew ranch is very similar to that. I wouldn’t call this a sauce as a puree. However, in this dish, that works. The fact that it had form was much more appealing to me than if it had been a ranch sauce drizzled over the fish. This dish actually really surprised me because I was apprehensive about the combination of ranch and salmon, but it actually worked so well! I felt that the quick pickles were the most disappointing part of the dish. The pickling was so mild that it felt like we were simply eating sliced baby cucumbers. Also, there was a freshness I had been expecting from the cucumbers that I just didn’t get. Despite that, I would still have to say this was my favourite dish of the three.

The final dish, the buccatini cacio e pepe, arrived while we were in the midst of eating the salmon. Normally, my issue with buccatini is that its hollow and I can’t really get it in my mouth the way I normally would with spaghetti or fettuccine because the hole would act like a straw and it’s just a bad situation. Cacio e pepe is another extremely “simple” dish. The name translates to cheese and pepper. Again, simple isn’t usually something I go for, but I figured, why not? Trying out new restaurants is about keeping an open mind. I am so glad we did. There was a creaminess with the noodles that I absolutely loved. However, it was very rich and after a generous helping, neither of us were able to finish the dish. That and because we wanted dessert.

For dessert we debated between ordering the chocolate and avocado torte and the coconut cake. We ultimately decided on the cake. I think this was a great finish to the meal as it was light, while the torte had the potential to be slightly heavier. The cake was also better suited for a lunch setting rather than the torte, which feels more like a dinner dessert. The sponge was soft and moist, the toasted coconut flakes provided great texture, the only complaint, if you could call it that was that the icing was a little bit sweet. It was for the most part fine, but near the edge of the cake where there was a little more icing, it was just a little too much.

I didn’t really notice until the end of the meal, but Ten Foot Henry has an open kitchen, which I love! The kitchen was surprisingly small, but the brigade worked together so efficiently that our meal was to our table in no time.

I was so worried that I had built up my expectations to the place, like I did with Owen’s Landing and I didn’t want to be disappointed again. I am happy to report that this is not the case! My experience here was fantastic! I think Ten Foot Henry does simple well. Their menu emphasizes the ingredients in the naming of their items and there is a sort of beauty in that. There are still so many things on the menu that I would love to try and I would 100% come back here. Considering it’s a ten minute walk from here, it would be easy to return there any time I wanted. I would rate this place a 4.25/5.

Restaurant Exterior
Restaurant Interior Bar
Restaurant Interior
Tomatoes
Spring Salmon
Buccatini Cacio e Pepe
Coconut Cake

Restaurant Review: Bookers BBQ and Crab Shack

Location: 10, 316 – 3 St SE
Website: https://bookersbbq.com/

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times we’ve driven past this place and I’ve wanted to go in and try it. Well, today, I got to as part of the YYC Food and Drink Experience.

Sitting at work, we thought perhaps we wouldn’t be able to go with our original plan of ordering the prix fixe menu, but upon sitting down, it was clear that that’s what three of the four us were going to do.

With the prix fixe menu, there were three courses: starter, main, and dessert. We would start with a soup – smoked brisket and barley, followed by a BBQ plate, and finish off with pecan tart.

I must admit, the soup was the one I was least sure of and was admittedly the best of the three course. When the dish was presented it didn’t look like much, but sometimes simplicity is the best way to showcase the natural flavours of the ingredients making it somewhat reminiscent of a well-made home cooked meal. That is to say, it had a very homey, hearty quality that I would normally reserve more for chowders than a soup like this, but this soup earned that qualification. It was well seasoned (not too salty and not bland either), with the flavours adding to and balancing one another. I always say that I can drink lava and I might as well have been. It was served (very) hot, but I personally like my soup more on the hot side. That combined with the fact that it was very cold outside, it was a great way to start off the meal.

In the presence of good company, it did not feel like it took the next course very long to appear. The BBQ plate consisted of half a rack of ribs, coleslaw, baked beans, and pulled pork. An issue I generally have with ribs at restaurants is that the meat is overcooked and loses its tenderness. There were parts that were overcooked and charred, but for the most part, they were tender and fell off the bone easily. My only complaint was that the seasoning on the ribs was not prominent enough. That is to say, it felt as though I was eating blackened ribs with no discernable seasoning, especially when contrasted with the pulled pork, which was moist, well-seasoned and vastly superior. The coleslaw could’ve used with a little more dressing. I could tell there was a dressing, but honestly, like the one at Owens Landing (though not nearly as bad), it felt like it was just cabbage and carrot. It could’ve done with some acidity. The third side, the baked beans, weren’t bad, but they weren’t anything special. At least they were seasoned. The fourth in our party, who opted not to order the prix fixe menu had the pulled pork sandwich sans cajun mayo and pickles, the latter of which I took. Based on my conception of the flavours, the sweetness of the pickle (as they were bread and butter pickles) and the cajun mayo would’ve been a perfect complement to the savoury pulled pork, and to top it all off, was a fried pickle spear giving the dish a much needed deep fried element. I would absolutely have ordered this if I wasn’t so “afraid” to get my hands dirty. More and more, I dislike getting my hands dirty and given the whole coronavirus situation, probably eating with utensils would be better for the time being. The pulled pork sandwich was served with a side of caesar salad.

We finished the meal off with a pecan tart. I absolutely love pecan tarts and was looking forward to this course the most. My friend Alex’s comment about it being a lot like a tarte au sucre was not inaccurate. I felt that it was more of that than a pecan tart other than the obvious fact that there were pecans on it. For me, if you’re going to serve a tart with ice cream, the tart should at least be warm. I really enjoy meals with contrast: hot and cold, sweet and savoury, as well as a variety of textures. I felt like this was a missed opportunity. That is not to say that the tart was not delicious, but it was not exactly what I was hoping for. The tart with drizzled with bourbon caramel and chocolate, but I didn’t feel like it added much to the overall dessert and I’m a huge proponent of only using that which is necessary in a dish.

Overall, I was not hugely impressed with the food we got. Perhaps they are not exactly the things on the menu I normally would’ve gone for, which is fine, as I am one who loves to try out new things, but the flavours just didn’t work for me. I would like to come back to try some of their seafood (crab cakes and calamari) as well as their fried shrimp po’boy (I have a weakness for these). However, unfortunately, I must base it on my experience today and it was not the best (though service was good). I would rate this place 2.75/5. I hope I will have the chance to come back and reassess that.

I apologize for the quality of the photos below as the restaurant was quite dark.

Restaurant Interior
Restaurant Interior
Soup: Brisket and Barley
BBQ Plate: Half rack of ribs, Pulled Pork, Baked Beans, and Coleslaw
Pecan Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream

Restaurant Review: Owens Landing

Location: 308 4 Ave SW (Jamieson Place)
Website: http://www.owenslanding.ca/

I had, have and always will consider myself a foodie, but I have to admit, my list of restaurants, cafes, eateries, pubs, etc. is very limited compared to some of the other foodies out there. Heck, the places I’ve tried compared to the ones I follow on instagram don’t even compare. Recently, the additions to my list have been informed by the numerous places I’ve booked my lawyers in for lunch at in and around downtown Calgary. I always take a peek at the menus of the places I’m booking in for and I would say that our tastes in restaurants are pretty similar.

A couple restaurants that I’ve recently added to my list include Cucina, Workshop Kitchen, Bridgette Bar, Cardinale, Hy’s, and, of course, Owens Landing. The ultimate restaurant on my list that I really hope that I can go to one day is Hy’s Steakhouse. Sure, it’s on the high end, but I think that it would be an experience of a lifetime and completely worth every cent and when I do finally get to go, you can be sure that I will be writing a full analysis of my experience.

Of the recently added restaurants, I’ve only tried Cucina and Owens Landing, which I am currently reviewing. Cucina is owned by the Teatro group and I’ve always had a good experience with them. In fact, I will be returning here on Friday. Over the course of the next couple of months, I will be checking off at least four more restaurants from my list. I can’t wait to share them all with you.

Originally, I had planned on booking in the reservation at 5 pm since I got off at 4 pm. However, at my friend’s request, we decided on 5:30 pm. I am very glad that we ended up on deciding to push the time back because I ended up having to work late and didn’t get out of the office until almost 5 pm. Owens Landing isn’t that far from my work, so it only took about 10 minutes for me to walk, making me extremely early for the reservation. As it was a Monday, the restaurant wasn’t packed and the hostess ended up seating me instead of making me wait in the lobby until my reservation.

I wasn’t seated long before our server approached me for a drink order and I indicated that I would wait until my friend’s arrival before ordering one, if that was in fact what I wanted. Our server came back an additional two times to check and make sure that I hadn’t changed my mind. While I appreciated that she was checking in frequently, I was a little more annoyed that she kept checking in so frequently. As soon as my friend arrived, barely with her coat off, the server approached again. My first thought was, “Could you not let her get settled first before you come to ambush us?” It took a few minutes for my friend to get settled before the server returned yet again. She had barely even had a chance to look at the menu, so my friend ordered a hot water with lemon and asked a few more minutes for the menu. The server acquiesced and walked away. The next time she returned was with my friend’s drink, less than a minute later and again she asked if we were ready. Again, we were not and she left for a more reasonable amount of time before returning for our order.

Since we had made it before 6pm, we still could order from the Happy Hour menu. For Happy Hour, select appetizers are only $10. We decided to only go with one, the Tuna Poke. We had previously asked our server if the items on the Happy Hour appetizer menu were of shareable size and she had indicated that the Tuna Poke was quite small and that we could each probably have our own. We decided, given the amount of food we had planned to order, that one Poke was enough.

We rounded out our meal with two entrees, the Naan Chicken Club, which I had been eyeing for a very long time, and their signature dish, a Fish and Chips. Since the Fish and Chips already came with fries, we opted for sweet potato fries for the Chicken Club.

We requested that the appetizers and mains be brought out at the same time since we were sharing everything. As we were busy catching up, I didn’t feel like the amount of time it took for our food to arrive was especially long. The Poke was not what I had expected, visually. It was be a while longer when I tried it that I realized that it was not what I expected gustatorily either.

I started with the Fish and Chips as they were right in front of me. The fish had a good crunch, the batter to fish ratio was balanced, and well cooked. However, I was not impressed that when I bit into it, a little bit of oil gushed out and dribbled down my chin. The dish was presented with a grilled lemon, which I squeezed over the fish, but as that wasn’t enough, I supplemented with malt vinegar. It was also accompanied by a tartar sauce, but the sauce was a disappointment. Growing up in a household where your dad was a chef at one point and made my favourite version of a tartar sauce, this one didn’t even come close to comparison. The best way I could describe it is that it’s simply mayonnaise. My friend went so far as to say that she preferred the tartar sauce that is served on McDonald’s Filet O’ Fish and that’s saying something. I found that the fries were over-salted and the oil used tasted like gone bad or like stale or was like reused old oil. It was more apparent with some of the fries than others. The only thing I liked were that some of the fries had really crisped up, which I like. My friend hadn’t started with the Fish and Chips and said that by the time she had, the batter on the fish was no longer crisp and was rather soggy. In fact, when she removed the fish from the bed of fries it was sitting on, I could see puddles of grease, some of which had been soaked into the fries below. That was unpleasant. For those who know me, I’m obsessed with coleslaw. This could not be called a coleslaw. It was carrots and cabbage in a bowl. The dressing was practically negligible and completely flavourless. If this was their signature dish, the best on their menu, I was honestly scared of what was to come.

I decided that I would dig into the Tuna Poke. I was confused at first. The menu described the dish as being sushi grade tuna, cucumber, scallions, pickled ginger, chilies and avocado crema. In my experience, the avocado crema has been drizzled over or a thin layer spread across the bottom of the plate. Often times I find that I am left craving more. That was not the case here. It looked more like a dip more than anything. The wonton chip did not have the strength or integrity to be able to pick up the tuna let alone the crema. Besides that, the wontons were extremely oily. I did not detect any ginger or chilies in the dish and the tuna could’ve used with some seasoning from something like soy sauce (although there might’ve been some of that…at least that’s what we figured the pooling brown stuff was, but it didn’t have much flavour so we weren’t sure). The crema had a strange aftertaste and really tasted more like a smoothie than anything else. To top it all off, we found a hair in the dish. Neither of us are really that queasy so we just removed it and kinda just ate around it. I mean, I’m not usually the type to complain, so I don’t know if I would’ve said anything in the first place, but this was the first time I actually considered mentioning it to our server. The only other reason we decided not to say anything was that our server was nowhere to be found.

The last dish, the Naan Chicken Club, was the one I was most excited about. I’ve always been the type to save the best for last. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The chicken was overcooked, dry, and underseasoned. The raita did very little to help the situation. Most of it had settled to the bottom of the sandwich (the folded part of the naan). Since we had fries with the fish and chips, we opted to go with sweet potato fries. Like the fries in the fish and chips, the sweet potato fries were also oversalted. However, it was a little less noticeable as the sweetness helped to counteract the saltiness and provide a nice sweet-savoury balance. The chipotle dipping sauce was as you might expect anywhere. There was nothing special about it and tasted like every chipotle aioli out there (so it was most likely commercially purchased rather than made in house).

As I hadn’t seen this friend in a while and I knew I was doing a review, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do dessert as well. I always say I’ll just look, but when I’m doing a review, I like to have the full experience. We chose the Chocolate Lava Cake, which was another one of their signature dishes. I am so used to lava cakes being served with ice cream or a sour fruit compote of some sort. This was not that, so I was pretty excited about it. Given my love for cherries, I was actually looking forward to this despite my earlier disappointments. Unfortunately, the cassis spiced cherries weren’t exactly what I had expected. They didn’t have the “spice” as promised and the cherries, having been soaked in the cassis had lost much of its integrity and natural cherry flavour. When eaten with the lava cake, it didn’t provide the contrast of flavour that I had expected from it. It simply got lost on the plate and made me wonder if it even had a point of being there at all. I am also the sort of person who enjoys an espresso or macchiato with my desserts. The bitterness is often a great contrast to the sweetness of the dessert, providing a balance when there isn’t an acidic element on the plate to provide that contrast. The lava cake itself left me feeling divided. On the one hand, I was glad that it did not have crispy edges, but I would’ve liked the cake to be more lava-y than it was. I suppose there are worse things than a flatter and bigger than usual lava cake not oozing enough chocolate from the centre.

As our server had disappeared, the other servers picked up the slack and helped to clear away our dishes and fill up our glasses. This last server even helped to take our dessert order. However, as soon as we had ordered the dessert, she walked away in the middle of me about to order an espresso. We had to get her attention again and have her come back, which I must say, leaves me less than impressed.

I came here because my lawyer had been here on more than one occasion so I figured that it couldn’t be all that bad if he kept coming back. Perhaps it was simply who he was that resulted in a different experience. This is why I like going to restaurants as me rather than as a food blogger or restaurant reviewer. I don’t want that special treatment because I don’t get a real experience of what the restaurant is like. Nothing is worse than me saying how great a restaurant is only to have someone go in and have the worst experience in the world because the restaurant decided that I was a marketing opportunity and therefore, they had to make a better impression on me.

I always give restaurants more than one chance, but I think it will have to be some time before I ever return here. I was very disappointed by the food and the service. Don’t get me wrong, there were some redeeming qualities about this place (sorta): the atmosphere, the fact that the food was edible, and the restaurant interior was beautiful, but truth be told, if I’m going to spend my hard earned money eating out, you better make it worth my while. Based on this experience, I’d give this place a 2/5.

Restaurant Interior
Our table
Restaurant Interior
Pretty lights (I swear I’m not a moth)
Fish and Chips
Naan Chicken Club with Sweet Potato Fries
Espresso
Chocolate Lava Cake

Restaurant Review: The Nash

Location: 925 11 St SE
Website: https://thenashyyc.com/

I had first heard about this place from one of my cousins who had suggested this place for brunch. Ever since she put the idea in my head, some four years ago, this place has been on my list. I would still love to try their brunch, but this evening, we came for their dinner.

The Nash is built in a historic building that was once a hotel and saloon. Over the years, it evolved into the place it is now. My first impression upon entering was that it was a lovely, cozy place for friends to gather after work for drinks, but it was clearly a place that catered to the more affluent members of society. As we didn’t have a reservation, we were seated under the condition that we would have to leave by 8:30. Given that it was around 5:30 pm, we figured it would be plenty of time. By the time we finished, it was actually a little past 7 pm.

We were quickly seated and handed menus that were bound in what appeared to be soft leather. I couldn’t really tell if it was real or not (probably not). Having not known that we would be coming here, I had no idea what I wanted to get. Some of the items I wanted to order were outrageously expensive. I ended up settling on the entree size of one of the appetizers, the Confit Chicken Ravioli, while my sister settled on the Charcoal-Roasted BC Salmon and my dad had the Braised Alberta Lamb Shank.

Even for the entree size, I thought the ravioli was quite small. I had chosen to have my ravioli with their wood-fired garlic focaccia. There is something about wood-firing that enhances the flavour of the dish for me. It adds a complexity to the dish that would not be present otherwise. Despite its size, I was very happy with the ravioli. It’s probably one of the better ones I’ve had. I enjoyed the pairing with the peas that gave it both a fresh pop of colour and flavour. I strongly believe that everything on the plate should be there for a reason. Its purpose on the plate should not be purely ornamental. The overall flavours of the dish were well balanced, the pasta was not overcooked or too doughy, and in the end, the small portion size was just perfect. The salmon on the other hand got some mixed reviews. The Nash cooks their salmon to medium, which Val was fine with, and it was accompanied by wild rice, swiss chard, and a microgreen salad. Unfortunately, the swiss chard was far too salty for her and prevented her from finishing her meal. My dad’s lamb shank was the biggest surprise. Normally, I shy away from lamb because of its gamey flavour, but it was virtually undetectable. I loved that it had been braised until it was melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. It was well seasoned and not overly salty like a portion of Val’s dish had been. I think if the microgreens had been slightly more acidic, it might’ve helped, but there is nothing more unpleasant than a dish ruined by over-salting one element. The lamb shank came with andouille sausage and smoked cheddar grits. I’m not sure if they made the sausage in house, but it was delicious! The side I had been most excited for were the grits and when it was presented in the form it was in, a giant block, it completely threw me off and I failed to recognize what it was, even when I was eating it. I didn’t clue in until Val had mentioned that that was what the menu had listed as a side. The grits were good, but I had never had it in this way before and I’m not sure if I would again.

A meal is not complete without dessert. For dessert we ordered the Dark Chocolate Pâté. First off, I love dark chocolate. I’ve had chocolate pâtés before and have always loved them. They’re the perfect level of richness and the bitterness of the dark chocolate provides the perfect counterbalance to the richness of the pâté. It was paired with a sour cherry sauce, amaretti, and salted caramel gelato. Let me tell you, that sour cherry sauce is no joke. It certainly lives up to its name. While the sauce does add another level of complexity and balance to the richness of the chocolate, I think it was too much for me. I generally don’t do that well with sour. However, Val absolutely loved it and didn’t find it to be too sour, but then again, Val eats lemons, so what do I know. I honestly think that salted caramel is totally overrated. I love sweet and savoury pairings, but I don’t think that salted caramel is the best thing in the world. I prefer so many other pairings over that one. That is not to say that a well made salted caramel dessert is not delicious, but it doesn’t deserve all the fanfare it’s getting. That said, this is one of the better salted caramel gelatos I’ve had. It isn’t too overpowering which makes it a nice accompaniment to the chocolate. The amaretti tasted a little off to me, but if it hadn’t, I might’ve enjoyed it more as it provided the much needed crunch. Overall, this dessert was very satisfying from both a flavour and texture perspective.

The dinner menu is not cheap. I would definitely still want to come back and try a full three course meal sometime and of course, come back for their brunch, but only on very special occasions. This type of food is definitely my kind of food.

In terms of service, our server was very friendly, if not a little scattered when reading out the specials for the evening. Had I been able to afford it, I probably would’ve wanted to go with the dinner for two (or as he said it, dinner for three as it was a 40 oz bone-in cut of prime rib).

Based on this experience, I would give this restaurant a 4.25/5.

Restaurant Interior
Embossed and debossed newspaper page in the washroom
Washroom
Confit Chicken Ravioli with Wood-fired garlic focaccia
Braised Alberta Lamb Shank with Cheddar Grits and Broccolini
Charcoal-Roasted BC Salmon
Dark Chocolate Pâté

Restaurant Review: Cattle Baron

Location: 3340 26 Street NE (Royal Oak)
Website: http://www.cattlebaroncalgary.com

This restaurant has been around for a while, but the Royal Oak location is new. My dad has been talking about this restaurant for god knows how long so I’m glad to finally have the chance to try this place out.

I must admit, I do love a well cooked steak. Depending on the day, I prefer my steak anywhere from well done (no this does not mean over cooked charcoal) to medium rare.

We were promptly seated and as we perused the menu, I noticed that they had turned the lights down for ambience. Now, I have mixed feelings about this. I get that they need to establish a particular mood, but I don’t appreciate the restaurants who turn the lights down so low that I can no longer read the menu. Thankfully, Cattle Baron did not do that.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, I love appetizers and everything on their appetizer portion of their menu looks fantastic. This evening Val chose the appetizer of the evening, the short dry ribs, as it was listed as a house specialty. These dry ribs are like nothing I’ve ever had before. Sure, they were a little tough and messy and hot (burned my fingers a couple times) to eat, but they are absolutely the most delicious dry ribs I’ve had to date. It didn’t take us long to demolish them all. I’m not entirely certain what the seasoning/sauce mix was for them, but I’m pretty sure that it was soy based. The addition of the provided lemon wedge added a lovely overall freshness and acidity to the dish that it would have sorely lacked without.

For our mains, Val and my dad had the prime rib, I had the Steak Neptune, and my mom had the Fresh Salmon Filet. Val chose to have a double baked potato while my dad had the regular baked potato. I chose to go with their Caesar salad. The salmon came with rice and all the mains came with steamed fresh vegetables.  The prime rib was probably the largest of the three dishes (it was a lot of meat, definitely more than enough for me, but would be great for a carnivore).  The double baked potato, a Cattle Baron specialty, was probably one of the best sides I’ve ever had.  I mean, what’s not to love about a potato that has been baked, taken out, its contents mashed and topped with cheese and baked again.  If I have the chance to come back, I would love to have a whole thing to myself instead of just one bite.  That’s not to say I regret my choice in getting the Caesar salad because that was one of the better Caesars I’ve eaten.  It is a bit more garlicky than most other Caesars I’ve had, but that’s what makes it so good.  I come for the garlic!  The salmon came with a plentiful helping of rice.  It wasn’t anything special, but it was well seasoned and not overcooked; the perfect accompaniment to the salmon.  I think any of the other sides they have on their menu would’ve overpowered the delicate salmon, which was topped with a lemon butter sauce.  My Steak Neptune consisted of a cut of filet mignon topped with asparagus and shrimp dressed with hollandaise.  This has got to be one of the best Steak Neptunes I’ve ever had.  If I could afford to only eat filet mignons, I would.  All the dishes came with a side of steamed seasonal vegetables.  In the context of this review, where I’m saying that everything was great, sometimes it feels like the meaning of “great” is lost, but honestly, I had little to no complaints about the food or service.

Of course, the end to a perfect meal comes in the form of a crème brûlée.  I have to say, this is the only part of the meal I was disappointed by.  We order the Irish Créme Brûlée which sounded amazing and had the potential to be amazing, but unfortunately, it was ruined by the prevalent bitterness of burnt sugar.  After having that on my palate, it was very hard to taste, let alone enjoy the flavours of the dessert.  I mean, these things happen, so I’m not terribly upset and I do hope that this was just a one off.  Next time I want to try Chocolate Utopia. 

Overall, I was very impressed with this meal.  I would definitely recommend this restaurant and would return without question.  After all, I haven’t tried all their items on their appetizer menu yet! Based on this experience I would give this place a 4.5/5.

Short Dry Ribs
Fresh Salmon Filet
Prime Rib with Double Baked Potato
Steak Neptune
Irish Crème Brûlée

Restaurant Review: Noodle World

Location: 4909 17 Ave SE
Website: https://www.noodleworldcalgary.com/

I’ve been going to this restaurant ever since I was a kid, so I thought why not write a review. Noodle World is one of the last few places that still serves Cambodian clear noodles, better known as glass noodles. I’m not really sure how they came to be known as Cambodian noodles in the first place and haven’t really been able to find an answer, so if anyone out there knows, please leave a comment.

At Noodle World, they offer this dish with a choice of Cambodian noodle or egg noodles. In my opinion, egg noodles are the standard and really nothing special, so I go for the clear noodles, but also, I love their chewy texture. When I order this, I always ask for the soup on the side so that the noodles don’t get overcooked and soft from sitting in the soup. I, then add a little bit of the soup in so that the noodles aren’t sticking together and make it a little easier to eat. This dish is a very porky dish. There’s sliced pork, pork liver, and ground pork. There are also shrimps and a quail’s egg. It comes with an assortment of vegetables, usually green onion, bean sprouts, and Chinese celery. Noodle World tosses in a bit of soy sauce to the dry noodles, but not the soup version of this dish, which is great because the pork is largely unseasoned so it provides it isn’t completely bland. When I have this, I like to throw in some chili oil (not so much the oil as the pepper pulp…not sure what to call it really).

Of course, my dad has to order a starter and since we usually get a noodle soup, the logical ones to order are either the salad rolls or the spring rolls. Generally speaking, if I order vermicelli (bun), I will never get salad rolls because they’re pretty much the same thing. The salad rolls are my way of letting me have both noodle soup and vermicelli without overeating or having too many leftovers.

We used to go to Giang Nam (11-222 Centre Street NE) for this all the time. I’ve gone so much that the restaurant owner came to know us. Unfortunately, it’s since closed down and I’m really sad that I won’t get to share my love for this place with other people anymore. The other place that has these glass noodles is a place called Dong Khanh (2066 18 Avenue NE). While Dong Khanh’s liver is fresher and they include heart and kidney, I prefer Noodle World’s preparation.

I absolutely love this place and if I came here more I’d try more of their menu, but because we come so infrequently, I go with my go-to dish every single time.

I’ve always had a good experience here and I will always come back here. I would rate this place a 4/5.

Spring Rolls
Cambodian Clear Noodles with Soup on the Side

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: Mulligan’s at Valley Ridge

Location: 11618 Valley Ridge Park NW
Website: http://www.valleyridgegolf.com/restaurant-info-menus/

Unbelievably, having lived in this community for the last 22 years, I have never been to this restaurant located in the Valley Ridge Golf Club.

I came here on September 28 with a friend from my undergrad at the University of Calgary, Patricia. It was great catching up with her over a simple, but good meal. That is not to say I didn’t have my issues, but generally speaking, it was a pretty good experience.

I ordered the steak sandwich with yam fries and Patricia had the Cobb salad. Because I was doing a review, I also got a creme brulee for dessert.

Under advisement, I ordered the yam fries extra crispy and that was a very good decision. I love my fries more on the crunchy side rather than soft. When I first sliced into my steak, the temperature was perfect, but as I progressed to the middle of the steak (and the thickest part of the steak), it got to a point where it was too rare for me to eat. The seasoning was simple, but delicious and I like to see the grill lines my meat (or a nice sear/crust). While the steak looks small in the picture, it was definitely more than enough for me with the onion rings, yam fries, and garlic bread. I really enjoyed the compound butter, but because it was so long ago and the menu has changed on their website now, I can’t remember exactly everything that was in it.

Unlike at Van Gogh, the other restaurant in our community, Patricia was happy with her salad. While I didn’t taste it, it looked a lot better than what I had been told that the salads at Van Gogh had devolved into: lettuce and tomatoes sliced as though it were meant for tacos. I’m extremely disappointed that this is what Van Gogh has become as it had once been one of my favourite restaurants to go to (and it was conveniently located within walking distance from my house).

The creme brulee was a little disappointing. I went to go break through the sugar crust on the top, but it was literally just floating on top and kinda just caved into the custard below when I went for it. Flavour wise, it was pretty standard for a creme brulee, although there was a lot of whipped cream.

In terms of close restaurants within walking distance, this place is significantly better than Van Gogh (though i would like to go try again and see where they’re at now. I haven’t been there for several years), but still not the best that I’ve had.

My big problem is the service. There were maybe two other tables of people and yet my water glass sat empty for the majority of the meal. This only bothered me so much because my throat started to hurt from all the talking I was doing and the server kept walking past our table and not topping up our waters until asked. I don’t know if it’s unreasonable to be holding golf courses to a higher standard, but that’s exactly how I feel when I walk into a golf and country club. But also, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to expect the waitstaff to fill my glass when it’s empty, especially when there are almost no other people in the restaurant.

Clearly there were issues and a big one for me is the service. If that’s not good, it really affects how I feel about going back to the restaurant. Of course, the food has too be good too and I think it was just okay. Based on this experience, I probably won’t be going back. However, given that there are two choices for restaurants in this community, I’d probably take this one over Van Gogh. I’d rate this place 2/5.

Steak Sandwich with Yam Fries
Cobb Salad
Creme Brulee

Restaurant Review: Caltons Chinese Restaurant

Location: 14, 5010 – 4 St NE
Website: https://www.caltonschineserestaurant.com/

A lot of time has passed since we were actually here. Unfortunately, I’ve just been too mentally exhausted to be able to get to reviewing this restaurant until now.

We dined here on September 8 for dim sum and September 9 for my mom’s birthday dinner.

For dim sum we ordered the siu mai, shrimp stuffed eggplant, turnip cake cubes in XO sauce, gailan with braised beef, shrimp rice crepes, beef tripe, har gow, fried noodles, Chinese doughnuts wrapped in rice crepe, bean curd wrapped rolls in soup, and the congee on special that had bean curd, preserved duck egg (or century egg), and pork (that was like $2 (?) because we had reached a specific dollar amount with our other others. I can’t the price exactly remember since it was so long ago, but I know it was cheap).

The congee was the first to come. It was a decent size and within the first few bites, I felt my heart and insides warming up (ginger will do that). Now, I’m not the kind of person who really likes congee because at home that’s what we have when we’re going on a “cleanse” or when we’re sick, so the memories of it are not the greatest. I don’t know if it’s part of getting older, but some days I find myself craving congee now. However, there’s a difference between the ones made in restaurants compared to the ones we make at home. For one, the ones in the restaurants are more heavily seasoned than when we make it at home. We shared this congee between the four of us (because that’s usually how Chinese meals are eaten, but also we had a lot more dishes coming and no one wanted to just fill up on congee), but this portion size could easily have been consumed by one person. The congee was well seasoned and not overpowered by the ginger, as is often the issue I have with ginger. Ginger is such a strong flavour that a little goes a long way. This congee was unique in that it had bean curd in it. That’s not something I’ve ever seen, but then again, my go to congee if we eat out is the century and pork. I mean, this is essentially the same, but the bean curd (because it’s tightly rolled up into a two bite package) provides a different, more hearty and meaty texture that you normally wouldn’t get from ground pork or a century egg.

Next came the siu mai. These are pretty typical in terms of taste, which is a good thing. When you go to dim sum, there is an expectation for things to taste a certain way. While restaurants do typically put their own spin on things, they have to be careful not to deviate too far from the recognizable image and flavours of the siu mai. Caltons did not put their own spin on it, flavour-wise, but size wise, I felt like these were slightly larger than the average siu mai. What I like from a siu mai, when I bite into is that the meat is firm. This tells me that they didn’t cheap out cut the pork with fat. I’m not saying that there’s no fat in there (I mean, have you seen the things?!) , but there has to be a good balance. Too much fat and it leaves the mouth feeling like it’s been coated in fat, too little and the siu mai is dried out in the steaming process.

The shrimp stuffed eggplants followed. This is one of my all time favourite dim sum dishes and probably one of these least healthy. Generally speaking, eating out isn’t known for being healthy, but these are especially. The shrimp paste is stuff inside of slices of eggplant and deep fried, then it is drizzled with a black bean sauce that is also swimming with oil. The perfect eggplant is one that has a little bit of crisping around the edges, a little bit of chew in the skin and tender fall away flesh. The shrimp should have a little spring in it when you bite into it and the sauce should be balanced to provide that perfect amount of umami flavour to round out the bite.

The turnip cake cubes in XO sauce is another favourite, especially with my sister. She already loves turnip cakes, but this variation, that emerged quite recently, I feel (maybe within the last 5-8 years), is something else. In case it wasn’t clear, it’s not actually turnip, but daikon. The cake itself isn’t 100% daikon, but it is cut with rice flour to make it more of a “cake” consistency. It is often mixed with dried shrimp and chinese sausage to add flavour. This dish is much of the same except that the cake has been cut into cubes, each pan-fried to give it that wonderful crispy exterior and smooth, soft interior that is now bite sized. The variation in this dish is that it is then stir-fried with XO sauce which is a spicy dried shrimp and scallop sauce. XO sauce is one of my favourite sauces for food to be prepared in. Green beans and shrimp top that list.

The next dish is a favourite of my dad’s. Actually, it’s the braised beef part that he loves. We seriously cannot go a meal out at a Chinese restaurant without some kind of braised beef hot pot (though now, he will occasionally go for a different hotpot or settle for a chicken dish). Now imagine the beef from those hot pots poured over gailan, the braising sauce drizzled all over the vegetables. It’s truly an experience. This works well with gailan especially because of its hearty, firm stalks, the beef doesn’t overpower it texturally. The tender beef provides a wonderful, textural contrast to the crunch of the gailan.

I think the shrimp crepes came as the biggest surprise to us. We’re used to variations made on many dim sum dishes, especially at the high end/expensive dim sum places, but I’ve never seen it done like this. There were shimeji and wood ear mushrooms, peas, and carrots in addition to the shrimp. Usually, if the restaurant is feeling “fancy,” the most I’ll find are golden chives, so this was a welcome addition. I have to say, this is one of the best shrimp crepes I’ve ever had. I mean, I do love the traditional ones that just have shrimp, but when that’s what you expect and this is what you get, it makes it all the more special. Normally, the only “crunch” you get from this dish is the shrimp (unless the shrimp aren’t fresh or they use shrimp paste instead. I don’t know if I was clear in my previous reviews about shrimp paste, but there are two kinds. One that has a very fish smell used in sauces and the shrimp paste that is more like a meat patty or meat ball consistency. I’m talking about the latter in this context). I had never considered including wood ear mushrooms in here, but it’s absolutely genius!

The har gow and beef tripe came at the same time. The har gow were pretty standard. The wrapper was thin and slightly sticky, as it should’ve been and didn’t tear when picked up. This preparation of tripe is not my favourite, but it is a favourite of my sister’s. As many know, tripe is the stomach lining of a cow. I know that this is a very polarizing dish; some people love it and others absolutely hate it. I am definitely in the former camp. This preparation uses Sichuan peppercorns and has a thicker, darker sauce. I still love the texture and flavour of this dish (except for when I bite into a peppercorn because then my entire mouth goes numb and I can’t taste anything), but I prefer my tripe with the onion and ginger.

The fried noodles are pretty standard too. The kind we get is essentially a toss up because it’s like whatever vegetables they have get thrown in. So sometimes I’ve seen this prepared with bok choy, other times, as in this instance, there’s broccoli. The only things that are pretty standard are the sauce, shiitake mushrooms, chicken, and shrimp. Sometimes it’ll have char siu in it too. If it wasn’t clear in my other reviews (or if I haven’t mentioned it), I love noodles. These ones especially because they are fried before the sauce is poured over them and some of the edges are still crunchy. I love crunchy, but also the sauce soaked noodles are equally delicious.

For those who know me, I get easily bored aka I have the inability to stick to just one food, that’s why buffets are so great (and terrible) for me. Actually, I don’t like buffets at all, I’d rather tapas or dim sum or sushi (small plates of really good food). The whole point of eating out for me is to enjoy the entire experience: food, atmosphere, and service. Maybe I’m a bit of a snob in this way, but if I’m going to be paying money, I’d much rather pay a little more for someone to bring my food to me than for me to go get it on my own. Besides, I’m really bad when it comes to buffets because my eyes are often bigger than my stomach and I always end up with way more than I can eat and it goes to waste. The only way I’m able to eat a whole dish is if there is variety in flavours and textures. Flavour-wise, my favourites are the ones that either hit every flavour profile or are some combination of sweet and savoury. Texture-wise, there isn’t too much variation, but I cannot eat a dish that is all one texture. It just feels like too monotonous.

Lastly, we got the bean curd wrapped rolls in soup and Chinese doughnuts wrapped in rice crepe. The former is a favourite of my mom’s and the latter a favourite of my sister’s. While the bean curd rolls look healthy, they’re really not. The rolls are deep fried before they’re steamed and put in soup to keep them from falling apart during the steaming process. The rolls are often filled with pork, wood ear mushrooms, and carrots. The broth is always light, but packed with flavour. It’s also one of my favourite dishes. The Chinese doughnuts wrapped in rice crepe are a dim sum staple. Again, this plays on the textural contrast of crunchy and soft. It is often served with a thinned out peanut butter and hoisin sauces. Some restaurants will put the sweet soy sauce on the side, but others will pour it on for you before they bring it to the table. I think I’ve only seen this at one place, but they had a sesame sauce, which was different. Sesame has such a fragrant quality that lends itself well to both sweet and savoury dishes.

We returned the following day for dinner. For dinner, we had the complementary house soup (lai tong), abalone with a chicken’s foot, crispy skinned chicken (za ji gai), green beans with shrimp and chicken in XO sauce (or something similar, as I was told that was not XO sauce), a lobster hot pot, and fried oysters.

It’s always interesting to see each restaurant’s take on the complementary house soup. Sometimes it’s really good, a lot of the time it’s just meh. But sometimes, it’s downright awful. Especially when you find a vegetable in the soup that has mold growing on it. There is literally no recovering from that because the entire pot soup is now completely tainted. Luckily, that didn’t happen here. It was pretty unremarkable, but for something that is complementary, I don’t have any complaints.

The next dish was the abalone. One of the best things I’ve ever had. Abalone is a delicacy and the fact that it (and the chicken’s foot) were the only two things on the plate (we each got a plate), definitely made it feel that way. The presentation was a little odd, but the flavours were all there. The only issue is eating that giant chicken foot with a fork, knife, and chopsticks proved to be impossible. We did the best we could because the braising liquid/sauce was amazing and I’d feel bad wasting not eating something that had been so exquisitely flavoured. There was a fair amount of sauce on the plate after we were done with the chicken’s foot and abalone, but as I said, it would be a shame to waste something so delicious, so we all put some rice on the plate to soak up that sauce for us to continue enjoying.

The abalone was followed by the crispy skinned chicken that my dad loves (I told you we couldn’t get away with not having a chicken dish!). This one is pretty standard too. If it’s good, there’s not much to be said about it. The only time anyone “notices” anything is when its bad…or served with pringles (seriously, what the hell!!). The chicken was moist and the skin crispy. I think of all the chicken dishes my dad likes to order, this is probably my favourite (the contrast between moist, tender chicken and crispy skin probably has something to do with it).

The green beans and lobster hot pot came at the same time. The green beans were very similar to the XO ones I love, so I automatically loved this dish. I was really excited about the lobster hot pot because I love lobster (I prefer it to crab actually), but was unfortunately disappointed. The lobster meat had already started to break down and there was a very distinct rotting seafood taste. This hot pot had the potential to be one of the best dishes, comparable to the abalone, but alas. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much of what was in the lobster hot pot as the taste of the lobster pretty much spoiled the dish for me. I vaguely remember that there were konjac noodles…maybe?

The other dish that was surprising to me was the fried oysters. Normally, I don’t like oysters because the consistency and flavour don’t agree with me. I actually almost posted this review without mentioning this because I completely forgot we got this. The best oysters I’ve ever had. The fact that I ate them was a surprise in and of itself to my family. It’s nothing super special, but they were very fresh and didn’t have a fishy taste. It also helped that this was in an XO sauce (this one was the XO sauce dish, I believe).

The best thing about birthday dinners at Chinese restaurants (in particular my mom’s birthday because that’s generally what she wants) is that my dad splurges on quite a bit of seafood and makes it feel special with dishes we don’t normally get.

As with all Chinese restaurants, the meal ends with a complementary dessert soup too. Red bean is the most common and that was the case here as well. I used to feel like I had to eat all of everything that was put in front of me, but as I grew older, I learned I didn’t have to, so I almost never finish my dessert soup anymore. The only exception is if it’s a very good taro tapioca coconut soup. It’s got to be one of my favourite finishers for a meal.

Despite the hiccup with the lobster, we’ve always had good experience with this restaurant. It is a little far for us, but that’s the thing with my dad, he doesn’t care how far he has to go for good food, which I appreciate. Service is pretty good for a Chinese restaurant. i would definitely come back.

Based on this experience, I would give this place a 3.5/5.

Caltons Exterior
Caltons Interior
Caltons Interior
Caltons Entrance (Interior)
Interesting Lights

Dim Sum

Bean curd, century egg, and pork congee
Siu mai
Shrimp Stuffed Eggplant
Turnip Cake Cubes with XO sauce
Gailan with Braised Beef
Shrimp Rice Crepe
Front: Tripe
Back: Har gow
Chow mein
Front: Chinese doughnut wrapped in rice crepe
Back: bean curd wrapped rolls in soup

DINNER

Complementary House Soup
Abalone with Chicken’s Foot
Top going clockwise: Crispy skinned Chicken, Lobster Hot Pot, and Green Beans in “XO” sauce
Fried Oysters
Complementary Red Bean Dessert Soup

Tag Cloud