Monday, January 31, 2011

Watered Down

Pho Taurus
#311-500 Country Hills Blvd.
Checked out Pho Taurus this weekend. To be honest, I wanted to try the place next door but they weren't open yet. Rather than drive around town, I decided to give Pho Taurus a shot. The restaurant was mostly empty when we entered and remained that way for the duration of our stay. A couple of tables here and there.
We ordered the spring rolls to start. After a solid 10 - 15 minute wait, four freshly deep fried, store bought spring rolls arrived at our table. The time it took to prepare these was pretty ridiculous. At least they were mouth burning hot and not semi lukewarm. Given the lack of customers, I would have thought it'd take less time. Maybe they had to slowly heat up the deep frier. The store bought spring rolls were decent. I'm still a miffed that I paid 5 dollars for them given that I could have bought a giant bag of them for 5 dollars down the street. I guess that's the price you pay for not owning a deep frier at home. 

The house special beef noodles took even longer. Maybe they wanted to make sure I fully digested the spring rolls before bringing them out to prevent some sort of stomach cramp. Regardless of that, the flavour of the soup was pretty weak. I can't say that I was super impressed. The meat was decent. It was definitely a highlight in an otherwise mediocre meal. The beef was kinda, sorta marinated offering a little bit of flavour. The noodles had zero flavour. That's what you get for crappy soup I guess. It is also interesting to note that it came with a lemon and not a lime. I can't say that it was a good replacement. The lemon was a little sweeter and doesn't quite give you the same flavour. Also, they didn't have any basil leaves because they haven't washed them yet. I didn't throw an angry tantrum over this because I don't usually add any but really...? Are you serious? It's like ordering a burger at McDonalds and having the guy at the till ask you if it'd be ok if they just gave you the patty because they haven't taken the buns out if the bag. Fail.

Some numbers after the rant:
Atmosphere: 5 out of 10. Walls are painted a gloomy looking blue with the blinds rolled down. Not a good look. And blue is my favourite colour! 
Food: 4 out of 10. Pretty mediocre. There are better. For similar prices too.
Presentation: 7 out of 10. Only because they neatly stacked the meat atop the flavourless noodles. 
Price: 7 out of 10. Decently priced. At least they aren't charging an arm and a leg for it...
Service: 5 out of 10. Zzzzz... Took way too long. 
Overall: 5 out of 10. Meh. There are better places in the area. You just have to wait in line. Rather than wait for your food. 

Pho Taurus on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hot and Juicy

Vienna Lux
821 4 Ave. S.W.
Rolling down 4th avenue in the west side of downtown, you will no doubt notice this striking banner.

Yes. That's right. Always hot and juicy. Always. 

Jordan and I stopped in at Vienna Lux after a trip out to site this week for some lunch. I wanted the kaiser which they advertised as the "famous beef sandwich" and "came with it's own special sauce!" But unfortunately, they were sold out of it... : ( The guy (probably the owner) recommended I give the chicken paprikash a shot and told me if I didn't like it I could bring it back. Chunks of tender chicken stewed in a paprikash (pepper) cream sauce laid over a bed of spaetzel. The sauce was very flavourful. The portions were massive, came with a coleslaw salad and was very much nap inducing. I got through about 3/4 of the plate before giving up. Anymore would have put me right to sleep for an hour. Or two. And that's frowned upon at work. 

Needless to say. I didn't bring it back to the store. 

The scores:

Atmosphere: 7 out of 10. Nice looking interior. Clean. The red and orange interior walls really stood out. The banner outside got me. 
Food: 7 out of 10. Pretty good.
Presentation: 5 out of 10. But to be fair, I ordered take out so it was bouncing around the box for a good 15 - 20 minutes as I made my way back to the office. 
Price: 9 out of 10. Amazing price for what you get. 
Service: 6 out of 10. Fast food style restaurant where you order your food at the till with tables for those dining in. 
Overall: 7 out of 10. I will need to go back to try the kaiser. Or one of the schnitzels. 

Vienna Lux on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sweet Tooth

Yann Haute Patisserie
329 23 Ave SW
Located just steps off the busy 4th street drag, Yann Haute Patisserie is a brightly coloured house amongst a row not quite as brightly coloured houses. The aroma of freshly baked pastries fills the air as you stroll up the steps of Yann Haute Patisserie. Walking into the home made me feel all giddy inside. Decked out in squeaky clean white walls with colourful wall decals, the interior would make every mother with small children cringe and the small children shout with glee. A counter with drool guards sat near the centre of the room. It was filled with tasty macarons and various pastries. I tried my hardest to refrain from drooling over everything.
I got 4 macarons in the little special gift box. It looked so awesome I had to get it. It was 2 little wood caps wrapped with a bark like material.

Not to be confused with macaroons, macarons are little circular cookie things that sandwich a smooth, creamy, drool-inducing filling. The 4 flavours I tried on this visit are as follows (left to right): Mint chocolate, jasmine tea, Irish cream and hazelnut. My favourite was the hazelnut but they were all equally amazing. The outside piece was slightly crispy on the outside and soft inside. The filling was... *drool*

So the whole point of this trip to Yann's was to buy a cake. Which I did! Do note that you should order in advance. A few days at least. The day before is not enough if you want a specific type of cake. We ended up getting the chocolate pear, which was super delicious. Finished with a layer of smooth chocolate, silver flakes and itty-bitty pears, the cake looked pretty amazing. Check it -

I'm not totally sure if you're suppose to eat the silver pieces. But it was on there... So I'm hoping yes. 

The scores:

Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. I'm clearly the giddy small child.
Food: 10 out of 10. *drool*
Presentation: 10 out of 10. Beautiful.
Price: 7 out of 10. Pretty steep price but worth every penny.
Service: N/A. Although the girl who helped me was very knowledgable.
Overall: 9 out of 10. I'm actually not a super huge dessert fan but it was pretty frickin' amazing.

Yann Haute Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Play in 4/4 Time

Tango Bistro
6920 Macleod Trail South

Check off another restaurant on the wish list - Tango Bistro. January's been a good month! Located on the busy Macleod Trail within the same complex as Bolero, Smuggler's Inn and Open Sesame, Tango Bistro is the most recent addition to the Smugglers Group of Restaurant. Specializing in tapas/small plates, food is brought out when it's hot and ready and sharing is encouraged with your party. So tell that friend of yours to stop hogging those watchama-call-its and thingamajigs and give you a bite or two. Portions can be revised, for a fee, to suit your party's needs.

We ordered several dishes to start. The first to arrive was the seared scallops. Four large scallops (3 in a regular order plus 1 more for 3 dollars) topped a bowl of parsnip nutmeg puree with wild mushrooms and finished off with a bunch of tastefully placed parsley in the centre. It was almost too pretty eat... 

So I captured the moment with my camera and dug in. It tasted just as good as it looked. The tops of the scallops were seared to a golden brown, the meat was fresh and the flavours were amazing. And to think that I almost didn't get this... That would have been a crime. This was by far the best dish we tried that day.

The prosciutto wrapped Halibut arrived shortly after. This was a no brainer. Prosciutto wrapped anything is good. The halibut was served in a spinach cream sauce with a side of fingerling potatoes. It was pretty good. The meat was quite firm, typical of halibuts, and the flavour was pretty light as to not dampen the clean taste of the fish.

The next dish to be brought out was the braised lamb shoulder. The lamb, not too gamey (that distinctive lamb taste, you'll know it when you taste it), is slow cooked to a tender state and served over a bed of parsnip puree. It came with a side of honey glazed fresh arugula, baby beets and crispy baby carrots. The sweet honey dressing helped cut down the gamey taste of the lamb. Deeelish.

We ordered an extra dish of gnocchi as we were still hungry after our initial three tapas. Topped with two strips of crispy pancetta and long beans, the handmade gnocchi is served with a tomatoey sauce. The doughy gnocchi was soft and squishy and contrasted the crispy pancetta. Despite their different textures, the two complimented each other really well. 

The restaurant was pretty quiet for lunch. I had a choice of parking in the lot, unlike the time I went to Bolero for dinner and I had to park a bazillion blocks away. The decor was simple and clean. Nothing too fancy. The food was anything but. The usage of each ingredient in the dishes was well thought-out and the presentation was top notch. 

As always, please find below my numerical rating in the following categories - Atmosphere, food, presentation, price, service and overall score. Does anyone read the rest of the post? Or do you guys just scroll to the bottom? I know I would.

Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. Simple and clean atmosphere. Spacious.
Food: 10 out of 10. The seared scallops were pretty amazing. I highly recommend it. Unless you are allergic to shell fish. Then maybe don't try it...
Presentation: 8 out of 10. Dishes were very vibrant with the use of various colourful ingredients.
Price: 8 out of 10. Decently priced. Each small plate range from low to mid 'teens.
Service: 8 out of 10. Attentive service. Our server was knowledgable of the menu.
Overall: 8 out of 10. Pretty neat experience. Great for groups of people as you can try many different things. 

Tango Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Century Club

Blink Restaurant & Bar
111 8 Ave SW
Post number 100! Hooray! To celebrate this "significant" milestone, I went out with one of my followers, Megan, for lunch last Friday. There was suppose to be more people but they all ditched. Awww... : ( But Megan's a trooper and still showed up. And that's why she's my favourite follower!
We, more like I, decided to check out Blink. It's been on my wishlist for a while now and it's about time I crossed it off. Located on Stephen Avenue, Blink was a recent winner of the people's choice award for best restaurant in Calgary by Avenue magazine. You don't win the people's choice award by sucking. And they did not disappoint.

Upon arriving, I was quickly seated at a table near the middle-ish part of the restaurant. Megan arrived shortly after. We browsed the menu as our server prepared our drink order - two glasses of still water. We're definitely going all out for this one! Just kidding. I ordered the slow cooked crispy duck. We nibbled on the complimentary bread as our food was prepared. A single right thigh arrived served over a red cabbage and raisin salad and hash browns. Marinated and slow cooked to perfection, the meat was so insanely tender and succulent and separated from the bone effortlessly. It was not at all fatty. My only complaint was that it was not very crispy... The hash browns were crispier. But I'm willing to overlook that given the tenderness of the meat. 

I recently got the new iPhone (Telus sucks, just throwing it out there) and this is the first photo, the picture is a little (Read: Extremely) fuzzy because of the low light and the colour and sharpness had to be adjusted. Still working out all the kinks. If someone has tips on how to mitigate this problem, give me a shout in the comments below or send me an email. The scores -

Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. Exposed brick work with modern furnishings gives it a contemporary yet rustic feel.
Food: 8 out of 10. The duck was really good. Very tender. 
Presentation: 8 out of 10. Despite what the picture depicts, the presentation was not too shabby.
Price: 7 out of 10. Not exactly cheap but well worth it. 
Service: 7 out of 10. Decent service.
Overall: 8 out of 10. Excellent overall. I wish I had more time to order a few more dishes but I had to get back to work.

Blink Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 17, 2011


4611 Bowness Road NW
I went out for dinner this week with my good friend Darcie from high school. We decided to check out NOtaBLE despite the fact that we were informed it would be a first come first serve basis since a certain someone didn't make reservations in time... We sure were glad we did though. Arriving shortly after 6, we were seated at one of the few remaining tables. I would highly recommend making reservations... maybe even a couple of days in advance because you don't want to miss out on this. Street parking is available out front. I scored a sweet spot right outside the front doors. Amazing start to the evening!
We started the night with a house blend mango ice tea. Flavours were fairly light with a hint of mango. Not too sweet but very refreshing. Upon browsing through the menu, we found there were several items (Pretty much all of them) that made me drool all over the place (Classy, I know). We finally decided to go with the house cured duck prosciutto to start. It came with several slices of crispy golden crostini, a small bunch of watercress leaves and a rhubarb compoteThe flavours were fairly light but complemented each other very well. Very tasty to say the least. Portions weren't insanely large but there was a modest ratio of two paper thin slices of duck prosciutto to one slice of crostini. 

For my main, I had the ravioli. Sandwiched between the two thin layers of pasta dough were confit chicken, roasted mushrooms and boursin cheese. It is then finished with a light cream sauce, grated cheese and vegetables. Not gonna lie, it was pretty amazing. The ravioli squares were very flavourful, the stuffing melted in my mouth. The accompanying vegetables were also very tender.  

We capped off the evening with a caramelized apple tart. The pastry bottom was super flaky and topped with sweet caramelized apples and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. Sooooo good. I scraped my plate clean, trying to get every last drip and crumb. Despite the cold weather, I still really enjoyed the ice cream. That and the heat was turned up. You can see it slowly melting on the plate there. 

This was a pretty amazing meal to start off the new year (I do realize this is number 4 or 5 but whatever)! The bar is set pretty high, this will be tough to beat. Definitely adding it to one of my favourites. 

Atmosphere: 9 out of 10. Really nice decor. Nice warm, cozy atmosphere. It was a little dark so my pics are all fuzzy since I have a toy camera. 
Food: 10 out of 10. A-frickin'-MAZING food! I'm so glad we decided to check it out instead of going to McDonalds. Seriously. Really good. It's going on my "The Favs" page.
Presentation: 7 out of 10. Decent presentation. 
Price: 9 out of 10. Pretty average price. But the quality is not compromised. 
Service: 7.5 out of 10. Good service. 
Overall: 9 out of 10. Really good experience. Amazing food. Annnd it's in the northwest! Say Whhhaat?! Check it out. NOtaBLE.

NOtaBLE on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 10, 2011

Good Things Come in Small Packages

1301 10 Ave SW
I totally ripped that line from someone else's blog but it's so fitting and I couldn't resist. Located on 10 Ave across the street from the Community Natural Foods store, Petite is an aptly named bistro as it is very tiny. I think there were maybe 9 tables plus the bar? Seriously. It was small. But that's ok. Way more intimate atmosphere. Reservations are a must if you are a big group. Or in general. Don't want to be showing up and being disappointed because they are full. We went on Saturday in a blizzard and they were over half full. Or half empty if you're a pessimist. Or it's twice the size it needs to be if you're an engineer. It's also important to note the entrance is around the side (Not facing the streets) and maybe somewhat difficult to open. Or I might be a tool and can't open doors properly. Likely the latter. 

So anyway, we arrived pretty early and had a choice of seats. Upon being seated by the window, we were promptly shown the menu and had our drink orders taken. When our server returned with our warm lattes, we were informed of the feature sandwich (Veal), soup (Tomato with veal and sausage), pasta (Hare(?) with penne) and fish catch (Snapper). 

It was a toss up between the feature pasta and the chicken fricassee. I was really intrigued by the possibility of eating bunny rabbits for lunch and brag to everyone about it after (By brag I mean gross out). But I decided not to because I can buy it at T & T. Not that I can't buy chicken at T & T. So long story short, I had the chicken fricassee. It's basically a meat pie without... the pie. Just the smooth, creamy filling in a bowl. And the filling was fantabulastic, it's like fabulous and fantastic but together (Yeah I make up my own words, ain't no thang). The chicken was super amazingly tender and mixed with diced veggies like carrots, peppers and celery in a creamy veloute (Read: Sauce). Really flavourful. This bowl of deliciousness is then topped with a toasted garlic brioche (Read: Bread). Let the drooling on the keyboard commence. 

Oh and it came with a garden salad. Whatever.

My mom had the feature sandwich with the soup. The soup, though small, was really hearty and tasty with large chunks of meat and vegetables. It is finished with various herbs and parmesan cheese. The veal for the sandwich was really tender and finished with melted cheese and tomato sauce. 

Here's what I thought in numerical form and a Coles Notes blurb:

Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. Though small, it felt really cozy and not cramped. The exposed brick work is really nice. Kind of rustic. I wonder if it's single or double wythe...
Food: 10 out of 10. The chicken fricassee was sooooooo amazing! 
Presentation: 7 out of 10. Simple presentation but colours are vibrant.
Price: 7 out of 10. Definitely not a bargain, portions are not significant but filling.
Service: 8 out 10. Good service. Our server or THE server, as there was only one, was very knowledgable of the dishes and our water was constantly topped up. 
Overall: 9 out of 10. Good things do come in small packages.

Petite on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Where Dem Focaccia At?

CHARCUT Roast House
899 Centre St S

Yet another post on CHARCUT. Click here, here and here for previous "reviews". Everyone knows by now there're two things I love about CHARCUT: 

     1. Raggedy towel
     2. Memory Foam Focaccia Bread

However, this time around, I decided to not get the lunch all at once (It was the tuna melt again). Or a sandwich for that matter. I know some of you are like WHHHHAAAATT?!?!?! But how can you enjoy the spongy focaccia bread if you don't order a sandwich? 

Well... I didn't. Don't remind me.

What I did order was the grilled Spring Creek steak salad, which was just as great. Medium rare-ish done steak overlaid a bed of arugula leaves with a buttercream vinaigrette. It is then finished with a very generous sprinkle of crispy fried onions. The steak was so so so so tender. The arugula was young and therefore not super bitter. The more mature it gets, the more bitter it becomes. Slivers of pickled peppers were hidden within the greens providing some surprising flavours. I was a little skeptical about the buttercream dressing at first but it turned out to be really light and didn't taste like a blob of wedding cake on my salad. So tasty. Portions were decent. Definitely not as filling as the lunch all at once but still great nonetheless. 

Chris and David got the country sausage. It was an interesting presentation... But apparently if you look past that and give it a try, it was pretty good. You know the old saying Don't judge a book by its cover? Similar deal. Don't judge a sausage by its girth and length. 

Also, special belated birthday shout out to Sheryl! Happy belated birthday! Wooot!

Once again, my arbitrary rankings:
Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. We sat at the bar table this time. The table was super high. Natalie needed a stepping stool to get up.
Food: 9 out of 10. My steak salad was delicious but I was sad that I didn't have any focaccia bread. Can't win them all I guess. 
Presentation: 7 out of 10. Fairly standard presentation. Maybe except the country sausages.
Price: 8 out of 10. Decently priced. Lunch all at once is definitely the better deal.
Overall: 9 out of 10. If you haven't been to CHARCUT yet, check it out. It's great. If you're not a follower. Click on the "follow" button on the right. Just sayin'. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The New King?

Il Gallo Nero
211 - 17th Ave SE
An old post from last year that I forgot to post. The shame!
Christmas lunch with work. Traditionally, we celebrate at the King and I by stuffing ourselves with various dishes in the King's Feast. This year we decided to check out Il Gallo Nero. The food is just as good plus when it's minus 20-some out, those 10 blocks is mighty far. Just sayin'.
Unlike our first experience, the place was bustling this time around with several other work functions going on. We socialized amongst ourselves and suddenly food magically appeared before us. Here's a picture of the salad we had from last time. For all intents and purposes, it was the same as last time. The prawns were tasty. They clearly didn't read my blog because I wanted more prawns! Oh well. Russ, being allergic to shellfish, definitely got the short end of the stick for this one. A full plate of fresh greens for him. 

Next to arrive was the veal stuffed manicotti. Or was it cannelloni? If you know what the difference between the two is, please leave a comment below, that would be awesome! Ground veal oozed out of the soft crepe shell. The roll is finished with a rose sauce and parmesan cheese. I'm drooling all over my keyboard at the moment.

The entree arrived shortly after. A medley of steamed vegetables and a fried mashed potato ball accompanied a filet of chicken breast and veal in a white cream and tomato sauce respectively. The meat was very tender and flavourful. I love how the meal includes two slabs of meat. Decent sized too. I really liked the mashed potato ball... super crispy on the outside, smooth and soft inside. 

For dessert, we were presented with a slice of tiramisu with cocoa dusted around the plate.

The score for this nap inducing meal:
Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. Warm and inviting. Brick and stone walls with thick cherry wood furnishings give it a very elegant feel. 
Food: 8 out of 10. Tasty. The chef's special does not appear to vary significantly.
Presentation: 6 out of 10. Above average presentation.
Service: 7 out of 10. Good service. Friendly staff. Water and wine glasses is constantly topped up. 
Overall: 7 out of 10. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Twenty Eleven

Home Tasting Room
110 - 8th Ave SW
Happy New Year!

First post of the year. Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays! May the new year bring you tasty food from the heavens of the food god! Hooray! 
Checked out a new restaurant today - Home Tasting Room. Located on Stephen Avenue, Home opened its doors to the public late last year. The atmosphere was warm and inviting. I was greeted quickly upon arriving and seated at a table. The server stopped by shortly after to take my drink order (Good ol' fashion H2O) and offered a tasting of the feature wine, a Malbec. For some retarded reason, I thought she said bread and happily accepted. Thank goodness it was a small tasting. 
As I waited for my food to be prepared, I slowly sipped my wine. The flavour was very strong. The aroma filled my lungs before it even hits my lips. I'm definitely no wine expert so I can't tell you if it was really fruity or smokey; velvety or silky. What I can tell you is that it was wine-y? And red. The first of my order to arrive was the soup - A thick and creamy roasted butternut squash puree topped with sprinkles of toasted seeds and watercress leaves. It is finished with a decorative swirl of oil or vinaigrette. The flavours were very light with a hint of apple sauce mixed in. I've tried making butternut squash soup at home but it never seems to be as tasty. I might post my secret recipe (from the food network) the next time I make it, maybe someone can point out what I'm missing (Probably skill and talent). 

For my entree, I had the Noble Farm duck and cauliflower risotto. Made with rice of the non rooster brand variety (I'm willing to overlook that... because you don't make risotto with rooster brand rice), the dish arrived as a giant white blob. Digging into the creamy paste revealed chunks of duck meat from Noble Duck Farm and spinach leaves. Fresh greens decorated the dish to give it some much needed colour. The risotto was very thick, the rice was really starchy and sticky. Filled me right up. The duck was really tender. Not too shabby.


I'm missing something...

The cauliflower. I did not see a single chunk of cauliflower. I think it was pureed and mixed into the risotto but I couldn't really taste it. 

Here's what I thought, feel free to leave an angry comment if you disagree:

Atmosphere - 8 out of 10. Christmas decorations are still up. The creepy nutcracker was staring at me the whole time. But other than that, beautiful decor. Open kitchen for the chef to strut his stuff. 
Food - 7 out of 10. Flavours were on the light side. Both a plus and a minus. Light flavours allows you to taste the freshness of each individual ingredient. But if you're looking for that flavour explosion, maybe ask for the pepper.
Presentation - 7 out of 10. Love the free style on the soup garnishes. But the colours are somewhat lacking in the risotto. Just sayin'. 
Price - 7 out of 10. Decently priced-ish. Mid to high teens for a typical large(r) lunch plate.
Overal - 7.5 out of 10. Definitely be back to check out their tasting plates.

Home Tasting Room on Urbanspoon