Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wanna 'Spoon?

Aida's Mediterranean Bistro
2208 4t St SW
Night out with some ‘spooners last weekend. The original plan was to check out Calabro but someone forgot to make reservations (I swear it wasn’t my fault!). Some quick phone calls were made and we ended up going to Aida’s for dinner. 
Driving like a mad man, we arrived at Aida's in less than 5 minutes. We also scored sweet parking just steps away from the door. I'm pretty sure it was -20 something out that night so I was pretty stoked about my find. Upon arriving, we were seated at a table by the door. Every time someone entered, we were met with a brisk of cold air; Which happened quite often. Unfortunately. I guess crappy weather doesn't dissuade people from eating delicious food. There was a vestibule with a second set of doors. Except the top was open. So it didn't really do anything. 

Once settled, we were presented with the menu. We ordered a hot fragrant "tea" made from orange blossom or something to warm ourselves up. The tea was clear and had no colour to it but the flavour is very strong and sweet. One would not have expected this flavour explosion just looking at it. 

Anyway, to start, we ordered the veggie mezza which is a giant platter of stuff. What kind of stuff you might ask; Well, let me tell you! There were 3 dips - Hummus (Made with chickpeas), baba ghannouj (Made with egg plants) and mouhammara (Made with red pepper, walnuts and pomegranate juice) and an endless plate of pita bread. Of the three dips we got, my favourite was the mouhammara. I stuffed my face with pita bread smothered in the  delicious dip as we waited for our entrees to arrive stopping periodically to devour one of the many appetizers that accompanied the platter. Fatayer (Spinach filled pastry), rookaak (A spring roll looking appetizer that is filled with a blend of cheese and olives), grape leaves (Exactly what it sounds like, stuffed with rice), falafel (chickpea "patties" with tahini dip. They were more like balls) and tabbouli salad (Chopped parsley and mint leaves in a olive oil and lemon dressing). My favourite was the falafel balls, a little fluffy, a little crispy and ALLLL delicious! Wasn't a big fan of the grape leave rolls though. The leaves and rice were really gummy and sticky and a little too sour. Maybe I should have smothered it with some mouhammara. 


For my entree, I ordered the shish kabob. Speared with a cocktail stick, giant chunks of beef tenderloin alternated with wedges of green peppers and onions. The string of deliciousness is then grilled to a well done consistency (Is that the right word to use? Consistency?). The skewers is laid on a bed of rice and served with a side of roasted zucchini and potatoes; and green beans in a tomato sauce. The green beans were super mushy but really good. Very flavourful and probably my favourite part of the dish. The meat was decent. Perhaps a little too well done but I'm pretty sure that's what it's suppose to be cooked to. I don't think I've seen many blue rare shish kabobs...


I didn't order any desserts as I was stuffed (from all the pita bread I had before the meal), lost pretty much all respect from my peers. : (

Anyway, the scores:

Atmosphere - 7 out of 10. Beautiful decor. I mean check out that ceiling! Total boss. Points deducted for the open vestibule.
Service - 8 out of 10. Our server was very knowledgable of the foods.
Food - 8 out of 10. Food was really good.
Cost - 8 out of 10. Decently priced. $200 including tip for 5 of us. Appetizers, entree, dessert and wine. 
Overall - 8 out of 10.

Aida's Mediterranean Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our Little Secret

Sura Korean Restaurant
2320 4 St NW
Located in the north west community of Mount Pleasant, Sura is a quiet little restaurant serving up quality Korean dishes. Mount Pleasant is not exactly known for their partying culture. There's a pub across the street but the streets ain't hoppin' on a Saturday night. We arrived half pass noon to find 2 occupied table and no staff in sight. A few minutes go by before someone emerged from the kitchen to seat us. They then promptly returned to the kitchen to prepare the meals of the other diners. I got up to grab a menu. Service was severely lacking. A few minutes later, a frazzled woman burst through the doors. It was the waitress, I guess she was late or something. She quickly gathered herself to take our order and answered my millions of questions and giving us great advice like "You don't want that one. This is more authentic," and "The portions are pretty big so it should be enough but you can always take it home right?"
Upon placing our order, a million (slight exaggeration) banchan (side dishes) were brought out for us to nibble on. I will now attempt to give you the low down on each one.
Alright, starting with what I know -
Kimchi - A traditional fermented Korean dish. Usually consist of cabbage and pretty much used in everything. Soup, stew, rice, the whole shabang. I'm not a super huge fan on kimchi (And yet I'm eating at a Korean restaurant. It's crazy! Right?), but I had some anyway. It was okay. Not too spicy.

Going in a clockwise direction, we have Gaeran Mari (I'm not totally sure of these names, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong in the comments below). A rolled omelette with green onion and ham grilled to a golden brown colour and cut into the half inch wide wedges. Super tasty. It's a shame there was only two of these.




Next up, we have Kongnamul which is soybean sprouts. And some seasoning. Annnnnd that's it. Simple but delicious. Not spicy. Thumbs up to that.



Continuing on, we have the marinated fish cake. I have no idea what this is called. In fact, I didn't even know what it was until I asked our knowledgable waitress. I'm glad I did because I probably would have described it as "some marinated strips of stuff with green onion sprinkled on top" (Mad street cred would have been lost! Probably go into the negative). It didn't taste like chicken that's for sure. The fish cake was quite soft and squishy. Very flavourful.
On a side note, does anyone know what fish cake is made out of? It's probably something along the lines of 2% fish, 8% fish parts and 90% other stuff. Did I mention it was tasty? Because it was extremely tasty. Not to discourage anyone with all that talk of fish parts or anything. Just sayin'.
Next up, we have the sigumchi namul which is seasoned spinach. Nothing too fancy about this dish.
Mu namul is julienned daikon or white radish in a sweet vinegar sauce. It is then seasoned with some cucumbers and black sesame seeds. The daikon was really crispy. A little vinegary but pretty tasty.




Oh man... I can't believe I'm only on side dish number 6. I feel like I've been typing for an eternity. Alright, number 7. Myulchi Bokkeum. This little dish consisted of dried anchovy seasoned to perfection with sesame seeds sprinkled on top. Super crispy. Very flavourful. Probably one of my favourites out of the gazillion side dishes we got.




And to round out the side dishes, we have this bean type dish (More street cred lost). I'm not too sure what type of bean this is. Despite being fairly hard, it was pretty decent. The sauce was very flavourful.




So there you have it! All the side dishes we got to try. It's almost like a full meal right there. By the time I was done taking picture of all the banchan, the main dishes began to arrive. Here is a shot of everything with our seaweed soup. The soup was pretty amazing. Very light, refreshing. The wakame didn't have the nasty taste of the sea to it. There was two token mussels for additional flavouring for the soup. It is interesting to note that the soup came out in a very shallow bowl. It was really difficult to scoop up every last drop of this delicious soup.




The first official entree to arrive was the seafood pa jeon. Pa jeon is a Korean style pancake made from an egg, flour and green onion batter. Our pa jeon had giant chunks of seafood (Shrimp and squid? Or maybe octopus). Grilled to perfection, the aroma of green onions filled the air when it was brought out. Super crispy with a spicy dip for that extra kick. Sooooo delicious. And massive too, about the same size as a medium pizza. 




This was followed quickly by the dolsot bibimbap. This put the wannabe bibimbap I had at Cafe HK to shame. The rice was sizzling in the intense heat of the stone bowl. The rice is topped with zucchinis, carrots, mushrooms, soybean sprouts, spinach, marinated beef and onions placed in equal "quadrants" (Yes I'm aware there are 7 things) with a sunny side up egg in the middle. Depending on how crispy you want your rice, you can either eat it right away for a softer texture or wait till it gets super crispy. I mixed a little bit of everything together along with a small dab of hot sauce. Soooo amazing! The light flavours of all the toppings complimented each other really well. The rice was crispy on the outside and soft inside.
There's also a complimentary soup which I did not get a picture of (The seaweed soup was better). There was so much food but we were still managed to finish most of it. Only half a pa jeon left by the time we were finished which we got packed up (Those who know me will know this is a big deal as I hardly get leftovers packed up, but it was amazing!). Our waitress was impressed. But not impressed enough to offer us a free meal unfortunately. Not that it was super expensive anyway. In fact, I thought it was a pretty amazing deal. We normally spent almost twice that for lunch. Wicked deal!
The scores:
Service - 6 out of 10. Service was pretty slow initially. For the longest time there was only the lone chef in the back cooking and bringing the food out. 
Atmosphere - 9 out of 10. Lots of room. Very spacious. Unlike Seoul Korean BBQ. 
Food - 10 out of 10. AMAZING!
Cost - 9 out of 10. Only $37 + Tip. I had to double check my bill just to make sure I didn't read it wrong.
Overall - 8 out of 10. Don't be telling everyone. This is our little secret. 

Sura Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Update: We went again this week for dinner and it was just as amazing! Check out these sweet pics!


First up with have the beef hot pot.



Bulgogi (Korean BBQ) Trio- A combo of beef ribs, chicken and pork.


Ginseng Chicken.







Saturday, November 20, 2010

You Going for Seconds?



Home Food Inn
5222 Macleod Trail S
Went to Home Food Inn for lunch last Friday. After giving Super Nat a hard time about her driving the whole trip down from the office;
"What's up with the gap between the car? You can parallel park 3 cars in there!"
"That's my reaction time!"
"That's your reaction time? I'm gonna need another seat belt for this!"
"You guys wanna listen to some Michael Jackson?"
"Hey! Both hands on the steering wheel! Eyes on the road!"
We finally came to a complete stop at the parking lot shortly after noon. In one piece too!
Upon arriving, we were quickly seated in the dinning area. No "party room" for us. Once settled, we headed to the buffet area. A decent selection of "Chinese" food sat in heated pans. I checked out all the counters before making my selections. Starting at the dim sum, I lifted the lid over the preserved meats with sticky rice. A vile stench filled the air. I nearly vomited in my mouth. I quickly placed the lid back over the untouched rice dish. Noooo thank you! I then moved on to grab some noodles. Three different types. The stir fry beef ho fen, Singapore noodles and e-foo noodles. I then topped off this mountain of noodles with some calamari, mushrooms, dry ribs, stir fry string beans with beef and bean sprouts for my daily veggie intake. 
The food was mediocre at best. Lets start at the peak of my all you can eat mountain - Bean sprouts. Decent. A little bland but that's okay. The stir fry string beans with beef was super greasy. Very flavourful though. Probably one of the better items I picked that day. Stir fry mushrooms and dry ribs were decent. But the dry ribs had massive bones. Pretty sure the meat to bone ratio was something along the lines of 1 to 10. That's not a good ratio. My calamari was lukewarm. The batter was a little soggy from sitting under the light and the meat was hard and stale. E-foo noodles were a little tasteless. Singapore noodles were leaning to the cold side of lukewarm. Very flavourful though. The stir fry beef ho fen was just plain bad. The noodles were hard and tasted like leftovers from 2 weeks ago. I didn't even bother eating it. Sick.
We made our way back to the buffet counters to check out the desserts. An decent selection of ice cream, jiggly jello, fruits and pastries. Two passes around the counters was in vain. Nothing appealed to my (apparently) snobby taste. Maybe it was the floors. Because they were super sticky. It's like they mopped it with sticky glue. Maybe to provide better grip for their patrons. Don't want to be dropping your plates now do you? 


The Scores:
Service - 5 out of 10. It's a buffet. I gotta get my own damn food.
Atmosphere - 5 out of 10. The "party room" was already taken.
Food - 3 out of 10. The preserved meat with sticky rice killed it. 
Cost - 7 out of 10. If you don't care what your food taste like then this is a sweet deal!
Overall - 4 out of 10. I guess I got a sweet review out of it. Sooo...
Home Food Inn also offers recipes on their website for some classic Asian dishes such as wonton soup! It looks pretty simple to make with 3 ingredients - boiling water, vegetables and pre-made broth. 
What? 
That's right ladies and gentlemen. Wonton soup does not in fact include wontons. Common misconception. 

Home Food Inn on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It's a Business Lunch.

Taste Restaurant
1210 1 St SW
Got an email from my old coworker Joel the other day, rubbing in our faces that he had the day off while the rest of us slaved away at the office. He wanted to meet up for lunch. Jordan and Russ couldn't make it because they didn't want to skip the ab destroyer routine at yoga that day. That's leaves only me and Joel to go on our business lunch. Or as Joel likes to call them, man-dates.

We met up at the lobby and headed over to Taste for lunch. I ordered the feature soup and sandwich while Joel debated back and forth between a sissy salad or a delicious sandwich which came with a sissy salad. The feature soup was a sunchoke puree with a canola oil drizzle. Sunchoke is a root vegetable that is a cross between a potato and rutabaga. The soup was sweet. It was not pureed to a smoothie paste, maintaining a slight grainy texture. 

Feature sandwich of the day was the Philly cheese steak sandwich. It was served on a toasted roll. Thinly sliced pieces of steak was topped with sauteed onions, red peppers and melted cheese. Eating the sandwich while maintaining my classy composure proved to be a difficult task. The delicious filling was overflowing from the side of the bun and dripping everywhere! The bread was super flakey. Crumbs were flying every which way as I took little bites from this gargantuan beast. There was probably enough crumbs on the table for Hansel and Gretel to leave a trail to the cake house, make a detour to the gym to burn off the extra calories and then go home.



Two complementary mini cupcakes (or muffins?) arrived to sugary-coat the bill. These miniature bite size goodness were topped with a strawberry or raspberry icing (Thus cupcakes?). Soft and scrumptious. Not too sweet. Mmmm... 

From my trusty sources (the internet), cupcake is what you call your wife when she's young. "When she is older with a double chin, you call her muffin." No? Post your thought in the comments below.


We also got this invite to their sausage party... Sausage party? No thank you. Maybe a clam party. 


The score, by popular demand, will be broken down into the following randomly chosen categories:

Service - 9 out of 10. My fancy tap water was constantly topped up. Free cupcakes.
Atmosphere - 8 out of 10. Beautiful decor. Perfect for man-dates or business lunches. 
Food - 7 out of 10. Tasty. Decent portions.   
Cost - 8 out of 10. Decent price. I've definitely paid more for a soup and sandwich before. 
Overall - 8 out of 10. Our server lacked some self confidence. You are NOT "just a waiter". You are the most bad ass waiter. EVER. Say it with me: Most bad ass waiter EVER! Hooah

Friday, November 12, 2010

I Got This Gift Card...

Caffe Artigiano
100-332 6 Ave SW
So I was waiting at the crosswalk on my way to work last week. Out the corner of my eye, I noticed there was a group of people in matching outfits (Jackets and scarfs). Tourist, I thought. I looked over to meet the eyes of one of the girls. She was cute. I coolly looked away as she began to walk over. 
"Hey how's it going?" She asked. 
"Good" I replied, "how are you?" 
She was apparently doing "great" and was in town to promote the city of Regina. While I waited for the light to change, we went through a quick slideshow on her iPad on how great Regina is and how thousands of jobs are currently being created. The light finally changed after what felt like an eternity, she thanked me for my time and gave me a gift card to Caffe Artigiano to enjoy a free coffee (No number written on the back. Damn). 
Gift card in hand, I decided to check out the coffee shop a couple days later. Originating from the city of Vancouver, Caffe Artigiano made the treacherous trek across the mountains to open up a new store in Calgary back in 2008. Located on the main floor of Centrum Place on 6th avenue (It's the slanted building. Can't miss it), Caffe Artigiano has a reputation of serving some of the world's finest specialty coffee and gourmet sandwiches. 
Scanning the giant menu on the wall, there wasn't too many options available. Prices appear to be in line with other coffee shops, big names and locals. I prayed the gift card will cover at least the cost of my drink. I ordered a Spanish latte. Apparently it is combination of sweetened condensed milk and whole milk (Please correct me if I'm wrong) with expresso. Decent, not too sweet. 

In addition to the latte, I also had the chicken with brie panini. It came with a side of bland pasta salad. The panini was decent. Strips of chicken with lettuce and melted brie sandwiched between a toasted panini with a fig jam or something. Nothing too spectacular. Can't say that I'm falling head over heels for their sandwiches. 


6 stars out of 10. The gift card was worth $2.50. That's about half a cup of coffee. Her number would have been worth more to me. I should have asked her out for a coffee date and used the gift card she gave me. 

Damn.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hold the Salt


Sugo Caffe Italia
1214 9 Ave SE
Sugo has been on my little wish list for the longest time. I was finally able to check it out last week. Hurray! Check that sucker off. Located in the historic community of Inglewood, Sugo prepares their meals from the finest and freshest local ingredients available. As dishes are made to order, there is a minor wait. Rather than twiddling your thumbs as your meal is prepared, take the opportunity to check out the unique decor. Fancy chandeliers, giant abstract paintings and decorative skateboards decks are just some of the neat things you will find between the dining room and lounge space. It's a potpourri of traditional and new school decor.






I ordered the chicken breast milanese with sauteed mushrooms. Milanese is a style of Italian cooking where the meat (or whatever your little heart desires) is coated with flour or bread crumbs and cooked in hot oil or butter. The chicken was really good. The meat was tender and very flavourful. It is laid over a bed of sauteed mushrooms and topped with diced tomatoes and lettuce. Everything was really good. Except the frisée (The curly things sandwiching the chicken). Typically they are really bitter. Not today. I don't know if it was the dressing or something but they were so salty that they weren't even bitter anymore. It was almost as if I shovelled a box of salt into my mouth. I felt so dehydrated after. Chugging down my ice tea and water.  
Aside from the frisée let down (Pretty sure I exceeded the recommended sodium intake for the next week or so). Everything else was done really well. I will have to give it a try another time. 6.5 stars out of 10.



Sugo Caffe Italia on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Imagine...

Manuel Latruwe Belgian Patisserie & Bread Shop
1333 1 St SE
Having left slightly disappointed last time because some hungry tourists stole my delicious quiche, I returned last week to recover what is rightfully mine. Sort of. I ended up getting a different one. Spinach and bacon. The cashier asked if it was to stay or to go. I should have said to stay and let them throw it in the oven for me. Unfortunately, I left my camera at the office and had to get it to go. The cashier then proceeded to provide oven baking instructions. I inquired about microwaving instructions. A look of disgust flashed across her face. "5 minutes" she said. I thanked her and quickly left before further embarrassing myself. 
Back at the office, I set the quiche on 3 or 4 layers of Bounty paper towels and placed it in the microwave. Set the timer to 5 minutes and went back to my desk to avoid any awkward conversations. I'm sure some of the more environmentally conscious folks at the office probably had a heart attack (or two) when they saw me unroll so many squares of paper towel in the kitchen and was ready to give me a stern talk on environmental conservation.
With an eye on the microwave from my desk to make sure no one tries to steal my quiche (again), I brought it back to my work station when it was hot and ready to eat. An fresh aroma of pastry and bacon filled the air as I opened the door. I grabbed some additional squares of paper towel to avoid leaving greasy stains on my desk. Despite having to heat it up in the microwave, the crust was still crispy and very flaky. Loaded up with plenty of bacon and spinach, the filling was very flavourful. I can't even imagine how much more amazing it would have been had I cooked it in an oven. Or eaten it fresh. I should stop though because I'm drooling uncontrollably over my keyboard. Sparks are flying. I just got this thing. 7.5 stars out of 10. Gotta put in some overtime now to pay it off. : (


Burnt

Ristorante Pulcinella

1147 Kensington Crescent NW
Oh Pulcinella... with your sparkly white decor, oversized black and white photos and your authentic neapolitan pizza, how I <3 thee. Made with love, you provide delicious food to fill my stomach. After scoring a wicked parking spot directly in front of the restaurant (No it wasn't a handicapped stall...), we were quickly seated in the main dinning area when we entered. It was a quiet morning. Only 3 or 4 tables being occupied. Trying to beat the rush, we quickly ordered some food. 



Two appetizers to start. The first to arrive was the calamari. We had the calamari the last time we dined here and it was amazing so we ordered it again. Unlike other places, the batter is not very crispy. In fact, I would describe it as soggy. But it tastes so super amazing. The unique blend of herbs and spices is a little spicy. A little tangy. And all delicious. Mmmm... I can eat this all day. 



Next to arrive was the arancini. It is a ball of rice stuffed with mozzarella cheese. It is then topped with a tomato paste, more cheese (parmesan I think) and a crispy basil leave. I think the leaves were drenched in an oil, probably of the olive variety and then roasted. Or something. It was pretty neat. Crispy. Tasty. Definitely the highlight of this dish. The arancini balls were pretty good too. Very flavourful. Extremely filling. The tomato paste was very sweet. I still like the calamari better. They should just make a dish called roasted basil leaves. Win. 


Pulcinella waited until we finished all of our appetizers before making our pizza. Which was really unfortunate. Because we were saving the last arancini ball for later. The waiter finally came over and asked us if we were ready for our pizza. We said yes and off they went. We finished off the last arancini ball (there was 3) as we waited for the pizza to be hand kneaded and fired in the stone oven with an oak-wood fire. I have been to Pulcinella several times, and despite my love for them, the quality of the pizza is wildly inconsistent. Or consistently inconsistent. Sometimes the dough is too soggy. Or too burnt. Could be contributed by the difference between 60 seconds in a dying flame or 90 seconds in a raging fire. The results for our cotto e fungi today? Thoroughly cooked with minor burns. Crispy along the crust, softer towards the centre. Topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms and proscuitto cotto (Read: Common ham), it was great. There's some major flame on the 'spoon about Pulcinella using regular ham on the pizzas when it says "proscuitto". Prosciutto = Ham. Prosciutto crudo is the cured variety while proscuitto cotto is the cooked variety. Check which one you order because they use both. Capeesh?


Aside from the minor cancer inducing crust, the pizza was pretty good. Probably one of the better ones I've had in a while. 8 stars out of 10. I think the quality is better when they aren't too busy. Made with more love. At least two cups' worth. 


Ristorante Pulcinella on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This Ain't No Filet-O-Fish

loungeburger
#270, 14th Ave SE, Macleod Trail South
Lunch at loungeburger last Friday to celebrate my coworker Arvid's birthday. At a quarter to twelve, we round up the troops to head over to the restaurant. Everyone except me. I was on the phone takin' care of some biznat. When I finally got off the phone, several minutes after noon, I hauled ass over to loungeburger. Good thing I've been training for my half marathon (which is in less than 2 weeks! AHhhh!) as I was able to make it to the restaurant just as everyone was about to order. I had crept the menu earlier that morning, so I knew what I wanted. Sort of. Well... I wanted the $40 Lounger but that's not even on the menu anymore. : ( I guess there wasn't a huge demand for it. Which is really unfortunate because I REALLY wanted to try it. To the staff of loungeburger, if you are reading this, bring back the $40 lounger like Justin brought sexy back. But better. Anyway, I was deciding between the ahi tuna and the kobe beef.
The waitress took our orders in order of where we sat. But it didn't really seem to matter because when the food came out, it was like who ordered the southwest burger with waffle cut fries? My ahi tuna burger with a side of skinny fries was the last to arrive. Like the tiger shrimp burger from last time, tuna meat was turned into patty form with various herbs and spices mixed in. At first glance, I had thought the tuna had been thoroughly cooked but a monster sized bite revealed a tuna patty that is only seared on the outside. Served on a whole wheat bun, the patty is dressed with a wasabi-lime aioli, topped with slices (two) of cucumber and lettuce and drizzled with a sweet soy dressing. The resulting flavours was surprisingly fresh and light. No nasal stimulation from the wasabi-lime aioli. Delish! Nothing too fancy with the skinny fries. Russ ordered some onion rings which looked and tasted pretty amazing. Might try that next time. 8 stars out of 10.






Special birthday shout out to Arvid! Happy Birthday! Wooh!