Monday, February 28, 2011

Choo Choo Train

Sushi House
304 Caribou Street

After a tough day of carving the slopes (by carving, I mean tumbling violently down the hill) at Louise, my friends and I headed over to the Sushi House in Banff for some food before driving back home. Located just off the main drag that is known as Banff Avenue (The Vegas Strip of Banff), Sushi House Banff is a little fast food style Japanese restaurant. Patrons sit around a bar where the sushi chefs (itamae) prepare various types of sushi and hot food items. These are then placed on a moving train that travel around said bar to be snagged up by hungry diners. Not exactly my style (bad experiences) but I figured I'd give it a try. You can also order specific items that the chef is not making at the moment. Prices are based on the colour of the plate. 

Right off the bat, I grabbed a plate of tuna sushi. I was hungry. Bad idea. The dish came with a lid. This should have been my first hint to stay away. The tuna was a little crusty on the edges. : S Not a good thing.

Lesson one on fast food sushi: Always wait for the fresh stuff. No matter how hungry you are. If you didn't personally see the item in question being placed onto the train (or boat), it is safe to assume that it has been sitting there for three hours. Three hour old sushi is not good sushi. 

Having learnt my lesson, I waited for some fresh salmon nigiri. My favorite fish. Much better. The meat was fairly firm. Not too mushy. Things are looking up. I'm pretty sure I had two of these.

Fresh plates of dynamite rolls were placed on the train shortly after. The tempura prawns were super crispy with hardly any rice wrapped around the nori. Perfect! Don't want to fill up too quickly on rice!

Next up, I had some masago. This dish basically consisted of fish eggs on rice with a strip of nori wrapped around. This is to prevent all the tasty fish eggs from falling out. That and it taste good.

This was followed by a short lull in our feasting as we waited for fresh plates to be placed on the train. It was at this time that I noticed there was a feature board on the wall. At the bottom corner it said baby octopus! I took a glance at the kitchen staff and it was almost as if we made a mental connection because the guy immediately placed a single plate of baby octopus on the train. Since we sat at the opposite end of the bar, I watched nervously as the dish made its way around. As it approached me, I quickly grabbed the plate, fist pumped like a champ and devoured the crispy battered baby octopus. They looked so cute. And tasted even better with a hint of lemon juice. So good. Om nom nom nom! 

Another lull as the sushi chefs prepared dish after dish of California rolls or something. I finally decide to flag down the hostess (Read: Hazel finally flagged down the hostess for me) and put in an order of scallops, octopus of the non baby variety (I would have been all over that if there had been) and hamachi/yellowtail, my new love. And literally EVERYONE was staring at me like I was gonna bring the house down with my crazy insane cool taste in sushi. They were probably all tripping cause they wanted more California rolls. Quit drinking the Hatorade. The itamae promptly busted out the goods and prepared 2 slices of each for me. The meat was pretty fresh and I thoroughly enjoyed every last piece. He then promptly returned the remaining slabs of fish and tentacles to storage. I guess it's not a local favorite. Shame. Y'all should try it. Won't regret it. Probably change your life. 

And then I was done.

The scores:

Atmosphere: 6 out of 10. Small little place. Felt a little cramped when people were walking past to get in and out. 
Food: 7.5 out of 10. Fish was decently fresh. Not too shabby for a fast food type place.
Presentation: 6.5 out of 10. Average presentation. Rolls were decently made. The ball of rice under the nigiri did not crumble when you try to pick it up. Seriously, it's annoying as hell when that happens. Especially when it just falls into the soya sauce. 
Price: 8 out of 10. Decently priced. I think I mostly got the blue plates which was the more expensive stuff. But 4.95 or whatever for two piece is not too bad. Especially hamachi.
Service: 0 out of 10! They didn't take my plates away! Just kidding! 8 out of 10. Special orders were prepared almost as soon as they are ordered. Though not always what I wanted, the train was always full (which was pretty impressive since it was pretty busy while we were there) and my tea was consistently topped up.
Overall: 7 out of 10. I may have to adjust my attitude towards fast food styled sushi. 

Sushi House on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 26, 2011

No Standards

Ten Peaks Food Court
Box 5, 1 Whitehorn Road
Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
It was the long weekend last week, I headed out to Louise with my best friends Hazel and Harley for some snowboarding. The weather was amazing! When we first arrived at the hill, the gondola was closed for service. As a result, there was a massive lineup going up the remaining chairlift. It turned out to be not too bad as a lot of people left because of it. 
Never been known for bringing my lunch (anywhere), I stopped by one of the food kiosk for some eats. Starving from having spend all morning tumbling down the hill, I ordered a burger with cheese and bacon. The portion, though average in size, was a lot bigger than what I anticipated. A relatively cooked beef patty was topped with a slice of kraft singles cheddar cheese and a couple strips of crispy, greasy bacon. All this was sandwiched between a sesame seed bun with some lettuce that was cut for a salad, two slices of tomato and pickles and onions. As you can see in the picture, I have already begun picking out all the pieces of onions and pickles. Can't say that I'm a huge fan. Maybe if the onions were cooked... But definitely not pickles. 

The bar was set pretty low for this burger. I was definitely not expecting some fancy meat filet with condiments that cost more than my life savings. But it was pretty decent. Prices were not too bad either. It's no 99¢ everyday deal at McDonald's that's for sure but it didn't cost an arm and a leg either. Just an arm.
No ratings for this entry as 90% of the categories do not apply. I guess you guys will just have to read it straight up. Awwww... How about this nice picture of the mountains as a substitute?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Kickers Smoked Meat & Deli
1215 1 St SW

Wandering near my work last week, I discovered a new eatery. Hooray! I gathered the troops from the office and headed back the next day. Kickers is the name of the place and Montreal smoked meat is the name of the game. Located in a former coat room, the owner has done a fabulous job of renovating the space while maintaining some of the existing fixtures. Like this chandelier. That was one fancy coat room I tell ya! 
The little shop was manned by two staff, including the owner. They could have used another guy or two during the lunch hour rush. There was a huge back log of orders when we arrived. It didn't help that the other guy made the wrong things. 

I wanted a poutine with a regular cut Montreal smoked meat sandwich and it just so happened he made an extra poutine just as I was about to order... Perfect! The poutine was super fresh. The crispy fries were drenched in gravy and smothered with cheese curds. So amazing! The portions were decent and I would have been super stuffed had I tried to devour the whole thing but Jordan came to my rescue with his plastic fork. Those fries stood no chance.

Our numbers were called some time after and we picked up our sandwiches. It came with a side of soup or salad. I chose the soup. The feature of the day changed to the Santa Fe Tortilla as we ordered. It was pretty flavourful and likely pre made and came in some sort of can or tub. No matter. It was not bad. The Montreal smoked meat was really good. Not too fatty. The regular cut featured a pretty impressive stack of the tender and flavourful meat sandwiched between two slices of rye bread with a house mustard spread. Pretty excellent overall and very much nap inducing. Nothing a Starbucks can't fix. There's one conveniently located across the street. You know what they say - "Location, location, location"

The scores:
Atmosphere: 7 out of 10. The interior was really nice. Bonus points for restoring the vintage chandelier.
Food: 7 out of 10. Pretty decent food. Good portions.
Presentation: 6 out of 10. Typical deli sandwich presentation. Plastic basket with checkered paper. It's the classic look.
Price: 7 out of 10. Decently priced, on par with similar places.
Service: 8 out of 10. The owner was very sociable. Even brought out the sandwiches for the people when it was slow. Checked in on everyone to make sure everything was great. Not something you would expect at similar establishments.
Overall: 8 out of 10. Thumbs up for Kickers Smoked Meat & Deli!

Kickers Smoked Meat & Deli on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 21, 2011

OC Bound

Artisan Bistro
809 1 Ave NE
Checked out Artisan Bistro just before heading out to the OC last week. Located in Bridgeland, Artisan Bistro is a family run restaurant serving up tasty Spanish and French fusion cuisine. The place had a look that was everything that I ever imagined a bistro would be, from the dusty chalk board that featured the specials of the day to the double table cloth and fresh flower table decorations, the atmosphere exudes an sense of coziness. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful. 
For lunch, I had the Artisano sandwich. It came with a bowl of soup and a garden salad. Shortly after placing my order, a steaming bowl of hearty soup arrived in front of me. The feature soup of the day was the seafood chowder. Chunks of shrimp and clam were blended in with a medley of potatoes, vegetables and chopped onions. So tasty. 

My sandwich arrived shortly after. In fact, I was still sipping on my soup whilst playing Angry Birds. Chunks of marinated beef were sandwiched between a slightly toasted bun with lettuce, tomatoes and an avocado puree. I liked how it was chunks of beef and not a patty made of cow parts. Not that I’m super picky with what I stuff in my mouth. 

It was a pretty sweet day overall. I met the whole gang from the OC and got this sweet group photo of them. Check it out! They said they loved my blog and asked for my autograph. So flattering. 

Anyway, the scores:
Atmosphere: 7.5 out of 10. Such a cute little bistro. 
Food: 7 out of 10. The food was really good. Ingredients were fresh. Portions were a little on the small side.
Presentation: 7 out of 10. Good presentation. 
Price: 5 out of 10. Despite offering a soup and salad as a side, it is still pretty pricey for what you get. 
Service: 7 out of 10. Decent service.
Overall: 7 out of 10. Pretty good experience overall. 
Artisan Bistro on Urbanspoon

PS The OC I’m talking about is probably not the OC you are thinking about. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Green Eggs and Ham

AKA Winebar
709 Edmonton Trail NE
Another weekend, another blog entry (That I meant to finish last week). I went out with my good friend Darcie again. This time for brunch at AKA Winebar. Located just before the massive hill before downtown (or just after if you are heading north), AKA Winebar is a itty-bitty restaurant with as many tables crammed into it as possible. I felt like a lab rat navigating through a labyrinth to reach a piece of delicious cheese.
The restaurant was not super busy when we arrived so we had a choice of seats. Not so much for the people who arrived 15 minutes later. Upon reviewing the menu, which slightly differs from the one online (FYI), I realized only one of the two item that I've been eyeing was available. So I ended up getting the truffled omelet. 
It was an excellent choice. A simple omelet made with mushrooms, scallions and truffles served over a bed of potato hash and topped with grilled tomatoes, a slice of pork belly and gouda cheese. The combination was heavenly. So flavourful. It was like a party in my mouth. The omelet also came with two pieces of toast with a homemade jam which I forget what kind it was but it was super tasty. 

Here’s what I thought of it, 
Atmosphere - 7 out of 10. Nice decor but perhaps a little too crowded. 
Food - 8 out of 10. Amazing food. The jam is amazing. I could get toast all day with it.
Presentation - 7 out of 10. Decent presentation
Price - 6.5 out of 10. Modestly priced.
Service - 7 out of 10. Decent Service
Overall - 7 out of 10. Fancy brunch spot that uses more exquisite ingredients. 

AKA Winebar on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 7, 2011

An Apple A Day

Another recipe! This time an apple caramel dip. Special thanks to my friends Tammy and Ryan for sharing this with me.
This is an amazingly easy to make dessert slash appetizer slash eat whenever the hell you want dish. It’s awesome. Just listen to these testimonials.
"I want to make sweet love to your apple dip" - AK
"This is so good. You're so talented!" - Anonymous
No, anonymous friend, as you will see, this dish requires no skills whatsoever. You basically dump everything in a dish and BAM! You’re done. But thank you. You are too kind. 
The ingredients:
1 Block of Cream Cheese
1 Pack of Caramel Dip (6 little cups)
1 Bag of Skor chips
Apples. Lots of Apples.

Step one, what you want to do is grab a dish and plop the cream cheese in there. I usually use the regular kind. Sometimes the light, if I'm vegging out on the couch on a Sunday afternoon. Take a spoon or pie knife or whatever you can scour in your kitchen and smear that cream cheese evenly in the dish.

Step two, scoop the caramel and spread it over the cream cheese. I usually get the kind in the produce department. They normally come in a 6 pack. Like my abs. 
Step three, pop open that bag of Skor chips and sprinkle over top. Skor chips can be found in the baking aisle right beside the chocolate chips. 

Step four, slice up some apples. I usually use granny smiths as they are more tart and goes really well with the sweet caramel and Skor chips. To prevent the apples from browning, you can soak them in lemon juice. You can decorate it around the plate as I have done here or plop them in another bowl. 

And there you have it! Super easy to do. Make it once and you’ll be invited to all the hottest parties. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

White Man's Dim Sum

1314 17 Ave SW
I went out for dinner with some friends this week to celebrate an early birthday, a belated birthday and a 'it was your birthday three weeks ago?'. As the self appointed restaurant chooser of the group, I decided we should check out JAROblue for some tapas. Located on the trendy 17th ave, JAROblue is a comfy tapas lounge with a cute little patio that would be great to people watch on a friday afternoon in the summertime. Unfortunately for us, it was a Monday in the middle of winter. And as such, we opted to push some tables together in the lounge for our fine gathering. A soft velvety couch and coffee table was available but after a heated discussion, we decided the tables would better facilitate the shoveling of food into our mouths. The interior featured several large photographs of horses. I'm not sure if there's a special meaning behind it but it was really cool.

The menu featured a variety of mouth watering small plates for us to savor. From vegetarian friendly spicy bok choy to not-so-vegetarian-friendly roast pork tenderloin, there was something for everyone. They even had frog legs for the slightly more adventurous people. There were so many choices that we were having a tough time deciding what we wanted to try so we went with the sharing platter. 
The sharing platter consisted of three to four courses of whatever the talented chef in the back felt like making with whatever ingredients he could scour in the kitchen. Every sharing platter is unique and varied between tables, making the experience more exclusive. 
The first course consisted of a variety of appetizers. Thinly sliced memory foam-esque rye bread and crispy banana bread chips piled on a rectangular plate, while tuna tataki, salmon tartar, roasted nuts and olives each took up a quadrant of another. The salmon tartar was very light and complimented the rye bread really well. My favourite was the banana bread chips. They weren't super sweet but I really liked how they were prepared. A refreshing twist to the classic loaf style variety. Out of our group of six, Steve was the only person that didn't look at the medley of marinated olives with disgust and thus designated the olives eater. 

The second course, which I've dubbed the 'appetizers that didn't fit on the first plate', arrived shorty after we devoured everything. Everything except the olives. This course consisted of flat bread, deep fried broccolini and carpaccio topped with goat cheese. It came with a blueberry mustard emulsion and a red coloured dip not called ketchup. The broccolini were deep fried similar to that of tempura. It was super tasty, especially with the blueberry mustard emulsion. The highlight of this course for me was the carpaccio. Biting into the mushy raw meat made me feel like a man's man. It felt like I just slaughtered the poor cow at the farm with my bare hands and I'm taking a giant bite out of it's tender thighs or something. Steve agrees. I'm sure all the vegetarian readers out there just vomited. Don't hate till you try it.

Course number three was ravioli. And... more ravioli. Ravioli one consisted of crab meat filling. It is served with a cream sauce and topped with fennel. Ravioli two was stuffed with a filling made with strawberries and topped with a butternut squash puree and finished off with shrimp chips. The flavour was a little sweeter than the first one. They were both delicious but I liked the crab meat ravioli better. The dough was silky smooth. At first, I thought it was maybe the sauce but upon closer inspection, it was definitely the dough. So good!

Course number four was not for vegetarians. The final course offered a generous helping (For a tapas lounge anyway) of pork couscous; Lamb chops with purple pear and wild rice; Arctic char with endive salad and baby back ribs. The ribs were so tender and the meat separated from the bone with ease. The lamb chops were also pretty amazing. The meat was very flavourful and didn't have a gamey taste to it. The purple pear and wild rice that accompanied the lamb complimented the dish really well. That was probably one of my favourite dish of the night. 

I was initially skeptical about the portions of the tapas and doubted myself as to whether it will be enough food. But to my surprise, the portions were significant enough that we were all full at the end. In fact, there were still leftovers. In the form of olives. The sharing platter did not include dessert, but after being informed what the feature burlee was, I decided that I could squeeze a little bit more in my ever expanding stomach. The feature burlee was apple flavoured with a side of sugar cookies. A layer of sugar was caramelized over the apple flavoured custard with a blowtorch. Sooooooo good, despite of this, I shared my dessert with the rest of my friends so that I didn't feel like such a pig.

It is interesting to note that JAROblue does not take reservations but apparently Monday nights are the slowest (It was very quiet, we were the only table there for the longest time). So if you are concerned about getting a table or comfy couch, then Monday night is where it's at. Maybe I shouldn't be sharing this information over the internet... It could go viral and everybody be going on Mondays and making youtube videos out of it. Fo' real.

Anyway, here's my arbitrary ranking in 5 randomly chosen categories -

Atmosphere: 9 out of 10. Beautiful interiors. The oversized monochromatic photographs of the horses were random but pretty neat. My favourite was the one where it only showed the top of the horses. Reminds me of a lost cat flyer.
Food: 9 out of 10. Food was pretty amazing. Lots of variety. You could tell that a lot of thought was put into each plate; What went well with what. I highly recommend getting the sharing platter.
Presentation: 8 out of 10. Presentation could have been better.
Price: 8.5 out of 10. I thought it was a decent deal for all the food that we got.
Service: 10 out of 10. Amazing service. Our server explained what everything was, tables were cleaned after every course and drinks were consistently topped up. It could be because we were the only ones there for a majority of the night. 
Overall: 9 out of 10. Really amazing overall. The coolest thing about tapas is that you can try a billion things and people wouldn't look at you all weird. Great for groups.

JAROBlue on Urbanspoon