Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Party!

Wainwright Hotel, Heritage Park
1900 Heritage Drive SW

The annual work summer party was held this weekend at Heritage Park. A choice of strip loin, salmon or vegetarian was available. I had the strip loin, which I will get to in a second. First up was the salad. Leafy greens with blue cheese. Not a huge fan of blue cheese, the taste... the smell... the after taste... just uuuggghh... To keep everyone entertained between plates, prizes were given away in draws and challenges. Unfortunately, I did not win anything.

The strip loin was served with steamed vegetables and scalloped potatoes and topped with a ridiculously salty gravy. It was so salty it was bitter. The mushrooms, likely cooked with the sauce, were so bad that they couldn't be eaten on their own without chugging down a glass of water afterwards. We had the summer party here a few years now and I would say this was perhaps the worst showing. To not be a total downer, the meat was very tender and decent enough to eat without the sauce.

The dessert consisted of an apple pastry topped with ice cream and fruit. The tartness of the apple balanced the sweetness of the ice cream really well. This was, without a doubt, the tastiest of the three courses. More draws and challenges ensued as well as the fun money casino. The night was capped off with an auction with the fun money for even more prizes! I was rolling with over $500000 (If only that was real money!) but couldn't compete with the million dollars that everyone else had. I pooled my money with some friends and was able to win a gift card to Home Depot. Sweet.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Steak 4 lunch!

BR& Steak and Frites at the Bank
125 8 Ave SW

Br& is a relatively new steak house on Stephen Avenue. Located inside the historic
bank of Nova Scotia building which was designated as a provincial historic resource back in the 80s, Br& (or perhaps the previous owners) has restored the interior to house their guests. The massive skylight in the middle provides ample lighting to the interior of the 1930s built art deco structure. At the centre, a elegant chandelier hangs from the 36 foot ceiling. A grand staircase leads to additional seating on the second floor. The enormous amount of floor space the building provides has made it feel empty despite the fact that partitions were put in to try and make the dining area feel more cozy. BR& has tried to appeal to a broader customer base with high quality food at affordable prices. A steak, frites and salad cost a mere $20. A 16 oz porterhouse costs only $29 while similar sized cuts at various steakhouses around town could cost you $10-$20 dollars more. It's good to know that a meal here is not going to break the bank!

We were brought to our table shortly after we arrived. Every setting includes the following steak knife and only the steak knife. It doesn't matter if you are eating a leafy salad or a bowl of the feature soup, no other utensil is placed out with the initial setting. It probably doesn't matter; I mean look at this thing! If you, for whatever reason, encounter some stringy lettuce or something, this piece of hardware will be on hand to chop it up. No biggie. You can probably spear the food into your mouth with it.

Not that I had a soup and salad for my lunch because I definitely ordered the steak. Though I must admit, it was rather uninspiring (who would have thought eating steak for lunch would be uninspiring?). We ordered medium rare and it generally appeared to be cooked that way. Russ had the short end of the stick for that one, his was probably cooked medium to medium well. It was a little cold, likely from waiting on the flatbread that Megan and Kristel ordered. The presentation was interesting..., rather than bringing it out in slab form, they are pre-cut into more manageable pieces; Which sort of defeats the purpose of having that massive knife. It was decent overall but after the spectacular salad that I didn't take a picture of (which came free with the steak), this just wasn't enough.

And considering this is a steak place, Russ said it best: "Fail... Borderline epic fail... Saved by the fries". Because the fries were Amazing! Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, seasoned to perfection, they were simply delicious and likely fried in duck fat. I feel my arteries clogging up just thinking about it. So I'm gonna stop. And think about the service. Which was terrible. After bringing our food to us a good 45 minutes after we ordered, the waitress was MIA until we were finished and was ready to pay.

Brand Steak and Frites at the Bank on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Sushi Kawa
2204 4 St SW

Sushi Kawa is the only Japanese restaurant in Calgary that I've been to that serves the Okonomiyaki. There could be others but I haven't hit them up yet. Shout out in the comment box below if you know of others! Okonomiyaki is a Japanese style pancake made from flour, shredded cabbage and eggs mixed with various toppings and grilled in a pan or teppan. I had the seafood okonomiyaki on Thursday. The batter is mixed with octopus, squid, shrimp, pickled ginger and topped with okonomiyaki sauce, katsuobushi and aonori. This thing was pretty massive. I was done after half of it. Definitely needed an eating buddy for this one. The okonomiyaki sauce is very thick and sweet. The octopus was pretty chewy, more so than the sushi/sashimi variety. It was very delicious but way too big.

One important note to mention about the okonomiyaki, it take them approximately 45 minutes to make it. I ordered mine ahead of time to cut down the wait. Win!

Sushi Kawa Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hot Hot HAWT!

Mercato Foods
2224 4th Street SW

Established in 1974, Mercato is an Italian market and restaurant located in the Mission district along 4th street in the SW. Bar counters surround the open kitchen with patrons socializing with staff and strangers alike creating a lively atmosphere. Separate tables as well as an outdoor patio are also available for a slightly more intimate experience. Upon arriving at the restaurant, I was quickly seated at the bar between a group of friends and a chatting couple. My spot, off to the right (or left depending how you look at it), offered a fantastic view of how the dishes are prepared. From the initial preparation of the ingredients to the final finishing touches, I watched the dishes move through the assembly line of cooks till it reached it's final destination: My mouth!

I had the feature pasta of the day. Linguine pasta with jalapeño and
rock lobster topped with bread crumbs and roasted pine nuts. The most obvious difference between a rock lobster and a regular lobster is the lack of claws and two extremely long and thick antennas. All the ingredients are made fresh from the market next door. Despite the spicy jalapeño peppers, the lack of sauce brought out the sweet natural flavours of the rock lobster. To balance the flavours, a wedge of roasted lemon was served on the side. I thought it was better without the tartness of the lemon but that's a personal choice. Full and half size portions are available. I had the half size. It was enough to fill me up. I could have had more but I'm pretty sure a full size portion would have been too much. Assuming the full size is twice as large as the half size. Similarly priced as Olives, I would pick Mercato over Olives. There's slightly more variety on the menu, especially in the pasta section.

The couple sitting beside me had the
Bistecca alla Fiorentina. I wish I had gotten that but it was so massive, I probably wouldn't have been able to finish it. I suppose I could have saved it for dinner... and probably lunch the next day. Definitely a cool place to check out. I would go back. I guess the problem with sitting at the bar is that you see all the other delicious foods everyone else is getting... Makes you want to order everything! Probably not the best idea if you make as little as I do.

Mercato Foods on Urbanspoon

Have you been?

Bumper's Beef House
603 Banff Ave. Banff, Alberta

Dinner at Bumper's Beef House with the Fam Jam this weekend after a gut bursting brunch at the Banff Springs. Bumper's is a wood framed building located adjacent to the Bumper's Inn and Husky gas station along the main street coming into Banff. A very old west and mountain chalet-esque type decor, at the center of the dining room stands a massive 2 storey tall lumber jack. The restaurant, established in 1975, sports the slogan "If you haven't been to bumpers, you haven't been to Banff". If that's the case, I've only been to Banff twice.

I had the daily feature, garlic sauteed shrimp with prime rib. I'm pretty sure they had the same special last time I was there... All meals are served with the "all you can eat" salad bar. I can't say I'm a super huge fan of all you can eat anything. Mostly because I don't eat enough to make it worthwhile. In addition to the all you can eat salad, a choice of baked potato, fries or rice is served with the entrees along with a scoop of carrots. The rice is likely of the Uncle Ben's variety and apparently not very good. The baked potatoes came with a giant bowl of sour cream and butter. Probably enough butter to last you a year. Or two. It's crazy. The sauteed shrimps were decent. They were a little small but I guess if they were any larger, they would be called prawns? The prime rib was not flavoured with any seasoning and relied heavily on the au jus. The meat was very tender, my piece had a fairly large chunk of fat... : S Had to cut around it. The portions were pretty generous. For those who can really pack it in, you can always get more veggies from the salad bar. Overall, it was fairly decent. I've definitely had better (I also would have preferred a ribeye steak but whateves). I wouldn't make a special trip there to check it out.

On a side note, an interesting article talking about the difference between prime rib and ribeye. Have a gander if you are bored.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lonely Diner

1129 Olympic Way SE

Friday lunch at Olives... by myself. : ( I need a lunch buddy. Olives is located on the main floor of the ArriVa tower. The main dining space has an industrial yet contemporary feel to it with polished concrete floor and exposed ceiling juxtaposed with timber cladded columns and elegant glass light fixtures. The main kitchen is situated within the dining area surrounded by bar style counters a la chef's table. I chose to sit at a table by the window.

I ordered a linguine with tomato sauce served with smoked mozzarella stuffed meat ball. While I watched my meal being prepared from a far, the waitress brought over a dish of olives. I can't really comment on the taste as I didn't have any. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of olives. Not sure why I went to a restaurant called Olives...? Thank god not all the dishes had olives in it.

The pasta arrived shortly after. There was 3 decently sized meatballs (Giuseppe's has bigger ones). As I cut the meatball up to smaller bite size pieces, the juice was dripping from within. The gooey smoked mozzarella hardened as it cooled to room temperature. The grounded meat and cheese was very flavourful. The tomato sauce was made with chunks of tomatoes and thus very tomatoey and it contrasted the rich taste of the meatballs. It was a decent dish. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes olives. They've got 4 or 5 different types to choose from.

Olives Restaurant, Deli & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Praise the Lord...!

Holy Grill
827 10 Ave SW

Went to Holy Grill with Jordan for lunch on Wednesday. Jordan is leaving for California for 3 weeks. Lame. Holy grill is 9 blocks away from the office but the walk was totally worth it. The line was relatively short when we arrived but was quickly growing as we waited for our food. I had the ranch burger. 2 patties made from naturally raised, hormone-free Alberta beef, topped with bacon, cheddar cheese, tomato, onions, mustard and bbq sauce on a whole wheat bun. The burger was very filling but for a small extra, you can add some crispy and delicious fries.

Jesus gives it a thumbs up.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Deja Vu?

Sukiyaki House
#130 207 - 9th Avenue SW

It's my grandma's birthday next week and family from near and far are coming into town to celebrate. To kick things off, we went to Sukiyaki House. I realize I've had my little spiel on this classy Japanese restaurant already but we ordered so many different items that I couldn't resist snapping a picture of it all! The presentation of the food at Sukiyaki House is top notch to go along with incredible taste.

First up, Tako
Carpaccio, the thinly sliced octopus meat is top with various seasoning, baby arugula and potato shavings and served with a yuzu sauce. The yuzu sauce gives it a tangy citrus flavour. I was amazed at how incredibly thin they shaved the potato fries. loungeburger should take note for their skinny fries. This was probably one of my favorite dish of the night.

Next up was the Beef
Tataki. The tenderloin is seared on the outside and sliced into paper thin pieces. It is then topped with a daikon paste, garlic chips and a vinaigrette. The beef was so tender, it just melts in your mouth. I was a little skeptical when I first tried beef tataki a few years ago, but it's actually not bad... It's like eating blue rare steak.

Agedashi Tofu was next. Dipped in a batter and deep fried till the outside is golden brown, the tofu is then served with finely chopped scallions, daikon and a broth made of dashi. The tofu was very firm so it did not crumble when you try to pick it up with the chopsticks. I personally prefer the soft kind but it was delicious nonetheless.

The organic miso soup was brought out next. Unlike the miso soup that is served with the entrees, this particular bowl is cooked with three types of mushrooms (not sure which kind but I know it's not
white, crimini or portobello. Possibly enoki, king oyster and beech mushrooms?), tofu, seaweed and organic miso. You can add mussels for an extra $8 but they ran out of mussels. Lame. I honestly couldn't tell the different but the flavour is apparently suppose to be more natural, from the seaweed and mushroom, rather than salt.

At this point, the food began piling on the table. I was having difficulties taking pictures and eating at the same time as the
tempura arrived shortly after. Asparagus, avocado, yams and prawns were battered up and deep fried and served with tentsuyu sauce. Nothing too spectacular with this particular dish. I will note though, grated daikon and matcha were available to mix with the tentsuyu sauce.

The first roll to arrive was the California roll. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of the California roll but under the recommendation of the owner, we gave it a try. Apparently real snow crab meat is used for the roll. It is then coated with
Masago, followed by a sheet of rice paper. It was definitely interesting. A+ for effort and presentation but I'm still trying to get over the fact that I paid $9.50 for a California roll.

Unlike most other sushi restaurants, each roll arrived in it's own plate. Next up, the Mango roll. Another recommendation. I can't say I am a huge fan of mangos mixed into foods but it was decent. Basically, it is a dragon roll with mango and cream cheese.

Unfortunately for us, I didn't realize the mango roll was the dragon roll with mangos. Dragon roll consisted of tempura and
tobiko wrapped inside nori and sushi rice, topped with unagi. The unagi was very flavourful so soya sauce was not even needed.

Beef tenderloin arrived next. The beef was cooked to a delicious medium rare and served with rice and veggies. The presentation was a lot better than what you see in the picture. It was slightly ruined while we tried to rearrange the plates on the table. After the beef tataki, this was not even close.

Next item to arrive was the roasted wild
sockeye salmon. Sockeye salmons are redder than their Atlantic cousins and are generally better for you, not so much your wallet, as they are not usually farmed and thus more expensive. The meat was pretty tender despite the fact that it was a little overcooked. I would have preferred if it was raw but it was decent. The salmon filet was served over mushrooms and veggies and topped with a teriyaki sauce. I was really impressed with how the mushrooms stayed in the cake shape. Boggles the mind, you would think it would just fall apart.

The sashimi dinner combo was brought out next. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the way Sukiyaki House prepares the sashimi. Unlike most places where the fish is sliced into multiple pieces and served straight up with soya sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger, Sukiyaki House adds a little twist to it... For example, the amaebi is served with a salsa, the salmon is lightly seared and topped with a mango sauce, the scallops,
saba and tuna is served in a similar manner. I think if you just order the pieces from the sheet, you might get it served the traditional way.

Up next was the
Chirashi. The presentation was different than the first time I had it. I think it looked much better then.

The last thing to arrive was the toro. We thought they had forgotten about it as it didn't come with the rest of sashimi. For some strange reason they decided to sear half of it... Weird. If anyone decides to check out the place, you should tell the server how you want it. It would not be cool if you wanted it raw and got tataki style sashimi. Or vice versa. The toro was so fresh, it just melts in your mouth! So good! Mmmmm...

Sukiyaki House on Urbanspoon


Buzzards Restaurant & Bar
140 10 Ave SW

Friday lunch with the work crew at Buzzards a.k.a. Bottlescrew Bills. I had the bison ravioli. It was decent. Made in house with ground bison meat, had the menu not say that it was bison, I would not have been able to tell. The ravioli was served with a creamy four cheese alfredo sauce and topped with diced tomatoes and basil leaves. I was a little hungry Friday and 4 relatively large ravioli was definitely not enough to fill me up! I probably needed 4 more.

On another note, apparently Monday and Tuesday nights is "All you can Eat Steak Night" at Buzzards for $24.95. That's right, you can have all the steak your stomach can handle while getting crunk off beers from around the world! Sounds like a pretty sweet deal... Until you think about it. Yeah. That's what I thought.

Buzzards Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 12, 2010


1306 1st Street SW

I had the sub*atomic bomb from *atomic for lunch today. Served on a toasted baguette, it is loaded with tandoori chicken and sate beef and topped with carrots, lettuce, cucumbers and cilantro. I can't say that I'm a huge cilantro fan but it was actually not too bad. Unlike other sub places like Thi Thi, Bake Chef or Thai Tai, they put everything on unless you say otherwise. The meat was a little tough and the sate wasn't as spicy as I thought. In fact, I wish I hadn't ordered it without the hot sauce. It's definitely no Thi Thi or Bake Chef, but I would rank this higher than Thai Tai though. What's up with Thai Tai's name anyway? The subs are Vietnamese and not Thai? Hmmm...

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Crepe Escape

Sunterra Market
Bankers Hall +15 level, 855-2 Street SW

Went to Sunterra for lunch today. I ordered the smoked salmon brie crepe. I'm pretty certain the cashier charged me the wrong price because there was no way it cost only 4 dollars. You can't even get a happy meal at McDonalds for 4 dollars. Oh well! The crepe was decent. Wrapped with a paper thin crepe are strips of smoked salmon meat and brie. Nothing too spectacular. It is finished off with caper, onions and a scoop of roasted vegetables. The veggies were over roasted and likely been sitting in the pan for a week or so. Look at that zucchini! It looks like a frickin' mushroom! And the broccoli... Sick!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Feast Fit for a King

The Highwood
1301 - 16th Avenue NW

Went to the Highwood at SAIT for a 5 course dinner last Wednesday with Steve, Alana, Harley and Andrea. I've heard mostly good things from friends and coworkers so the bar was set pretty high. It was an interesting experience... with proper setting which none of us knew was what. The food was mostly hit and miss. For Andrea, it was mostly misses. Poor girl, ordered all the wrong things. Since the food was cooked and served by students, I suppose it should have been expected. And as a F-log for Thought first, I will be grading each dish.

First up, the appetizers. Steve and I had the
Albacore tuna. It was pretty good. The tuna is seared on the outside and served in slices topped with lychee, fresno pepper, cilantro and lemon grass gelee. I have to say the lychee tasted kind of funny. I'm pretty sure they did something to it because it's not suppose to look or taste like that. The texture was really weird. If I was to grade it, it would get a solid B. The presentation was ok. I personally think it would have looked better if the tuna was layered over each other rather than sitting side by side and the "toppings" thrown on top.

I had a small taste of Andrea's appetizer so I'll include a little blurb on that as well. She had the ricotta, spinach
terrine. It was... not very good. At all. It had almost no taste to it. Fail. The Thai scented scallop that everyone else got was apparently really good.

Up next was the soup. I had the cauliflower and sweet garlic soup with curry oil. It was really good. The soup was pureed with pieces of cauliflower. The aroma of the curry oil was really strong and the soup was very flavourful. B+. I think the server was a little shaky when he was pouring the soup because there was some spillage. Note the drops of soup on the plate at the bottom.

The salad followed shortly after. I had the beetroot salad. I had envisioned an actual salad, like one with leafy greens WITH beetroot, instead of a salad consisted of only beetroot. That was a shocker. Served in a fancy leaf looking plate, while the other salads came in a regular plate, it looked like it was trying to over compensate for something... The salad was topped with apple shavings, endives and blue cheese. There was no flavour to the beetroot, apples or endives. When you combine it with the blue cheese, the taste overpowers the flavours of everything else. So it's like eating a block of blue cheese and calling it a salad. I didn't think it was very good. I give it a D. I would rank it lower but I don't really like beetroot so it might have affected the taste a little.

For my entree, I had the seared
venison. The deer meat was drizzled in a blueberry chocolate sauce. I know. It sounds weird. It wasn't super chocolaty or sweet or anything like that so it was definitely interesting. The meat was a little tougher than that of beef but it was decent. Not too gamey. Maybe it was grain fed? It was a little over cooked for my liking. Not that they even asked how I wanted it done... It came with a brussel sprouts salad (perhaps trying to redeem themselves) and a gouda souffle, neither of which was very spectacular. I'd give this a B-.

Andrea hit rock bottom with the entree. She had the Oyster Mushroom which tasted like an Hawaiian pizza and a cheddar
polenta which tasted like a block of plastic. For the longest time, we thought it was a Japanese sweet egg omelet. Until we tasted it. I'm not sure if it was the sauce but there was a weird sour taste to the oyster mushroom... We're still alive and kicking so it must have been alright. Fail.

The desserts was buffet style. Free for all. But by the time we were finished, most of the goodies have already been eaten so we had to make do with what's left. 3 cake choices were available; Mocha, Carrot and
Charlotte Royal and a small "assortment" of fruit. No pictures here because it was just a pile of leftover cakes. I had the mocha cake and the Charlotte Royal. I'm pretty sure that is what it's called. It's basically a cake with whipped cream filling and slices of jelly roll cake to form the shell. Neither of the cakes were that spectacular. The mocha cake was very dense, likely from sitting on the counter all night. A solid B. Apparently the carrot cake was really good. Relatively speaking.

The experience was pretty good overall. It definitely had its ups and downs. Highly dependent on whether you have the cream of the crop or the guy who is barely passing cooking your meal. Reservations are a must and call a couple weeks in advance if it is a big group. I would recommend going as early as possible to make sure the dessert choices are still there. And fresh. We went at 7 and was probably one of the last tables to be seated. So I guess the title of this entry is a little misleading because it's not really a feast fit for a king. Unless the king is about to be overthrown by an angry mob.

Highwood (Sait Campus) on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Key is to Pre-Order...

Cafe Koi
#100, 1011 - 1st Street SW

The first time I went to Koi, I sat at the bar counter for a good 45 minutes before I received my take out order. It was such a terrible experience that I vowed would never happen again. To be fair, there was two people ahead of me. But still! Is there only one chef? And really? How long does it take to make a salad?

The second time around I pre-ordered my food and was told it would be ready in 15 minutes. I got the
tiger claw bowl. The deep aroma of the coconut curry violated the first rule of the office kitchen. At least it wasn't a fish smell right? The prawns (6 in total) was topped with fresh seasonal veggies. It was pretty good. I was glad I gave it a second try. I also had several compliments from co-workers telling me how good it smells. Most ingredients are organic and probably of the fair trade variety, which is reflected in the price.

I should also note that Koi supports the local music and art industry and it's not uncommon to have DJs and bands playing in the evenings while you chow down on one of their signature bowls or munching on their yam wedges. Special events are usually posted on their website.

Cafe Koi on Urbanspoon