Sunday, July 31, 2011

Visible Improvement

Home Tasting Room
110 - 8th Ave S.W.
My first visit to Home at the beginning of the year did not not produce the most favourable review, with flavours and colours lacking in the dishes that I tried. The dishes that I ordered this time around were much more vibrant in colour and significantly more flavourful; But not a "I need to drink a gallon of water because I just ate a spoonful of salt" flavourful. Definitely a step up from the subtle, "blink and you’ll miss it" taste from last time. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The restaurant was literally empty when we arrived. Everyone was seated in the patio. We ordered a few tasting plates to start. I wanted to try the rock lobster ravioli, but unfortunately, they ran out. Crushed, we quickly found a replacement dish. The first to arrive is the albacore tuna Niçoise salad. Originating from the Côte d'Azur, the salad features anchovies and tuna with heirloom tomatoes, fingerling potatoes and pickled asparagus and a perfectly cooked hard boiled egg on the side. The golden yellow egg yolk had just solidified and melted in your mouth. The tuna was seared to a golden brown around the edges, so tasty. The salad is finished off with an olive vinaigrette.

The next dish to arrive was the scallops. Seared to a golden brown, the scallops were served with a cauliflower purée and anchovy paste. The scallops were so succulent and sweet, a nice contrast to the crispy cured bacon. Despite the "just woke up in the morning" look, this was probably one of my favorite dishes of the day.

My single west coast oyster arrived next. Served in a half shelf over a bed of coarse salt, the oyster was firm with a sweet taste. Not quite as tasty as the ones I had in Sydney but considering Calgary is landlocked, this may be the next best thing.

The remaining dishes were brought out for us. The first of which was the high country bison tartare. Slices of baguettes with a truffle aioli spread was arranged like a flower around the jar of tartare spread. The tartare, made with minced raw bison meat and onions, was very flavourful. The dish features an excellent bread to sauce ratio. For a while, I thought I was going to run out of bread. Though, my last piece was smothered with a mountain of delicious tartare. The mushy bison tartare contrasted the tough baguette slices.

The last dish we ordered was the Salt Spring Island mussels. The tasty shellfish were served in a delicious white wine sauce. From the get go, it was quite evident that the two slices of baguette the dish came with was not sufficient to absorb the all the sauce. Despite being really tasty, I was not about to sacrifice the bread from the bison tartare for it.

So what did I think of it the second time?
Atmosphere: 8 out of 10. I had the opportunity to sit back and enjoy my surrounding this time rather than shoveling my food down like I normally do. The interior was quite nice. Gone were the Christmas decorations and replaced with tasteful western trimmings in the spirit of the Stampede (This post is probably 3 weeks old...).
Food: 8.5 out of 10. The dishes were much more flavourful than my previous experience.
Presentation: 8 out of 10. Colourful dishes were presented. Looks much more appetizing (Not that it was bad last time), but the white on white didn't do it for me.
Price: 7 out of 10. Prices are similar to other tapas type places around town.
Service: 6.5 out of 10. Average service.
Overall: 8 out of 10. Signifiant improvements have been made to the dishes. I thoroughly enjoyed the dishes we ordered.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Bubblemania Cafe
459 16th Ave NE

Met up with my friend Angela a few weekends ago at Bubblemania Cafe. It's been a while since my last visit, gone are the comfy couches and coffee tables and are replaced with real tables and chairs. We arrived shorty after they open (actually, Angela arrived before they opened and I arrived fashionably late) and a few tables were already occupied. More people trickled in as the night went on and the place was really hopping by the time we left.

To start, we ordered a couple of appetizers to share. I had the Asian style calamari. Stir fried with pepper and onions, the squid is topped with various spicy herbs and spices. Very tangy.

Angela ordered the deep fried wontons. Each order came with five crispy golden wontons. Angela stole one before I got a picture. We're still friends though.

I was pretty hungry that day so I decided to order the chicken cutlet with instant noodles while Angela watched me eat it. The chicken was fairly tenderish and the broth was flavourful.

Of course, why would anyone go to Bubblemania without ordering a bubble tea? Bubblemania gives all their drinks a special name. Which may or may not be a good thing. It sounds cool but you need to do some extra reading before you figure out what's in it. I think I had the house special with mixed fruit. I wasn't a super huge fan. The fruit mixture had a funny taste to it. But decent nonetheless.

Atmosphere: 6 out of 10. Simple clean interior. Minimalistic style furniture. Probably from Ikea.
Food: 6 out of 10. Average food.
Presentation: 6 out of 10. Presentation was nothing to write home about.
Price: 6 out of 10. May be a tad on the high side for Asian pub fare.
Service: 6 out of 10. Service did not stand out as being exceptional.
Overall: 6 out of 10. It's like the Asian version of a pub but less beer and more Asian people.

Bubblemania Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fire Burning

Canada Dosa Corner 
1715 52nd Street SE
After reading review after review of how great this place is, I finally decided to check out Canada Dosa Corner with some friends earlier this week. Located on 52nd street and 17th avenue SE, Canada Dosa Corner is a mom and pop shop specializing in authentic South Indian and Sri Lankan dishes.
We arrived at the restaurant shortly after 7 and was greeted by a potent aroma of spices. Upon being seated, we browsed through the menu and found that we had no idea what 90% of the items were despite having pretty pictures along the side of the menu. Everyone busted out their smart phones and began to Google and Wikipedia what everything was.
The menu features a nice selection of dosa as well as other Indian dishes (One notable item we did not get a chance to try was 'Chicken 65'). Dosa are crepes made from rice batter and black lentil. It is generally served hot and rolled up like a wrap. An Indian burrito if you will. A variety of stuffing is available in addition to the plain variety. I knew I wanted to try one of these, but which one?! Plain? Goat? Chicken? Onion? I can't make these tough decisions on an empty stomach so we ordered some appetizers while we pondered.
We ordered a helping of papadum with mango chutney and medhu vada to start. Papadum is an Indian flatbread that is typically served with some sort of dip. Fried when you order, the papadum was crispy and light. The mango chutney was super tasty. 

The second appetizer we ordered was the medhu vada, which is a savory donut. Small pieces of onions are mixed into the dough and deep fried to a crispy golden brown. Also made to order, the vada were mouth-burningly hot. It also could have been the spices. My mouth felt like it was on fire. A prelude to what's to come.

For my entree, I decided to go with the palak paneer dosa which featured spinach and Indian cottage cheese. It sounds relatively mild but don't be fooled! It was hella spicy, or I have a ridiculously low tolerance for spicy food. Likely the latter. But it was really delicious! We were sweating like crazy (also due to the lack of AC) but we couldn't stop stuffing our faces! I did find out later (much later) that you can order the dishes less spicy but you would be looked down upon, no doubt. The dosa came with three dips - Sambar, coconut(?) and tomato(?) chutney. They were equally delicious. I wish I took a better photo of the dosa. It was humongous, extending far beyond the edges of the picture. I swear it could have fed a family of 4. The dosa crepe was light and fluffy and stuffed with the tasty spinach filling. So good! It didn't even matter than my mouth was on fire. No amount of water will put out this blaze.

Atmosphere: 6 out 10. Hole in the wall with interesting decor. The entrance features a garden arch. Nuff said.
Food: 8 out of 10. The food is made fresh when you order.
Presentation: 6 out of 10. Average presentation.
Price: 10 out of 10. Appetizer + entree for less than $20! WTF?! Of all the reviews I've done, this place might offer the best bang for the buck!
Service: 7 out of 10. Friendly service. The owner was very patient with our lack of knowledge on the dishes. Perhaps a little slow on the preparations as not all the main dishes were brought out at the same time since the dosa had to be made separately. And apparently they close at 9 on Wednesdays... We were there till at least 9:30... My apologies.
Overall: 7 out of 10. Authentic South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine in the hood. Bring your bullet proof vest.

Canada Dosa Corner on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 15, 2011

10 Days of Yeeehaw!

Calgary Stampede
1410 Olympic Way SE
Stampede 2011 is here and F-Log For Thought is on hand to taste the all delicious “food”. Just like last year, I hit the grounds solo because I have no friends. : (
For those that have been in years past, you'd know what to expect - sketchy rides, impossible-to-win prizes, country music galore, drunk people stumbling around town regardless of time of day, angry animal rights activists making a big fuss about how the animals are treated and, of course, over priced foods. There is a mystical obsession with things on a stick. It's ridiculous. Pizza on a stick, bacon on a stick; You can put anything on a stick and people will buy it for a premium. Bananas - 59 cents per pound at your local grocery store. On a stick? $4. But the talk of the town this year is the donut burger.
Having no regard for my personal health, I decided to give the donut burger a try. The vendor is located beside the Pizza on a Stick shop near the Lammle's Western Wear tent. 

Sandwiched between a glazed donut (The burger is made from a single donut that is sliced in half and not 2 donuts as I was lead to believe), is a juicy beef patty, bacon and processed cheddar cheese (I paid an extra $1 for each of these items, $10 total). It was interesting. It's sweet until you hit the burger part. Then it's savory. Kinda like chocolate cover pretzels but with a donut and a burger. 

A weird combination for sure. It sounds really disgusting but it's surprisingly edible. Plus you get this sweet sticker. That's right, I survived the Donut Burger. But I'm pretty sure my life expectancy went down by at least 5 years.

Just down the way is La Poutinerie where I got the Steak Poutine. For a whopping $12. These guys have a pretty confusing setup. So basically you order from the inconspicuous side window AND then pick up your order from the front window with the giant lineup. There's no signs or anything. You just gotta know... So the steak poutine was pretty decent. Crispy fries, cheese curds and small pieces of cooked steak filled a Chinese takeout container and is finished with a gravy. The steak was pretty tender, maybe a tad on the soggy side. It came from a giant tub in the back. Don't expect it to be grilled when you order it.

After a short break, I headed over to another vendor to get some deep fried Oreos. For a modest $5, you get a tray of 4 Oreos. Battered and deep fried, the cookies are finished with a rather generous sprinkle of icing sugar. A word of warning, do not eat this while walking into the wind. Inhaling icing sugar is not exactly the most pleasant feeling. The Oreos were all melted and gooey (Read: Soggy). Kind of like a s'more but deep fried. This marks the first time I've had something that is deep fried that is not crispy and crunchy.

To wash it all down, I had a lemonade which I also had last year. It was really refreshing. A small was only $3.
I walked around aimlessly for a bit and finished off the day with a berry blast slushy. It's like Jugo Juice but with a different name. It was super hot and anything made with ice would have tasted amazing. I'm sure if they some how put it on a stick, they could sell it for an extra $5.

I opted to not go on any crazy rides as I'm fairly certain the donut burger-poutine-deep fried Oreo combo would not have sat well in my stomach. But I probably deserved that one. So thank you Calgary Stampede for yet another 10 days filled with tasty "food" and scantly clad women. Till next year!

Also, I've got some great ideas for snacks next year like deep fried potato sticks. Or deep fried hot dog on a stick. Wait a minute...

Friday, July 8, 2011

How much Sodium?

You've all heard of it. 

Seen it on TV. 

The KFC Double Down. 

Two pieces of boneless chicken filet sandwiching crispy strips of bacon, two slices of monterey jack cheese and Colonel's special sauce. What about the buns? Buns are for sissies. So how much sodium is in a KFC Double Down? About 60% of an individual's daily intake. That's like eating a spoon full of salt. Straight up. What's more? This meat sandwich features 540 calories and 32 grams of fat. No big deal.
Despite having such stellar 'nutrition' values, I finally decided to give this beast a try at lunch today. A couple of days ago now. It actually didn't taste as salty as I had envisioned. In fact, I might even say that it tasted... Good. It was super greasy. Wasn't surprised there and it was really small. Seriously, you're watching the commercial on TV and it looks massive! Enough to feed a family of 4. But when you pop open the container, it's tiny for something that cost $7. I probably could have eaten five of these. But I probably would have had a heart attack, so it's probably for the best... But so what if it cost $7? The chicken was crispy, the cheese was all melted and delicious. And although I'm almost certain the Colonel's special sauce is just fat, I'm not going to be a closet Double Down fan. Loud and proud baby! I had a Double Down and I enjoyed it!

What? Do I want fries with that? Let me think about that one... Hells no! Those packets of salt over there are free!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Morning Tea

Garden City Hot Pot
8788 McKim Way, RIchmond, British Colombia
It was a beautiful sunny morning in Vancouver, perfect for sleeping in and doing nothing. Unfortunately, I was woken up in the wee hours of the morning (9 am) so that we could go out for dim sum. Ridiculous!
We arrived at Garden City Hot Pot (新鏞記火鍋) sometime around 10:30 or something. Contrary to what the name of the restaurant suggest, Garden City Hot Pot does indeed serve dim sum in addition to hot pots. But what sets these guys apart from your typical dim sum places is the tea. While most places serve tea in a giant teapot at your table, pre-brewed and ready to be consumed, Garden City serves you tea leaves in a separate dish and a pot of hot water on an induction cooker attached to the table.

So basically, you add the amount of leaves you desire into your cup (more leaves for a stronger tea and less if that's not your thing). Pour a bit of water to wash them and dump the wash water (not the leaves) into a separate bowl. Next, fill your cup with more hot water. Steep the tea to your desire strength. Next is the tricky part, transferring the scalding hot tea from the steeping cup to the drinking cup without burning yourself. See how the pros do it in this video:

Person with the messiest area pays the bill!

Moving on. The first dim sum to arrive was the steamed beef balls. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of beef balls. In general... But they were actually decent at Garden City. It almost always have chenpi mashed into the meat but I couldn't really taste it here so that was definitely a surprise. It's served with a broth and kip zap on the side. Definitely not a fan of kip zap.

The induction cooker noted above is also used to keep the congee (rice porridge) and noodle soups piping hot. A plain congee is brought out with the ingredients laid out on a separate dish. We had the pork liver congee with Chinese oil stick (deep fried dough). The innards were chewy (good chewy because soggy innards is just plain gross) and the Chinese oil stick was crispy and fresh. So good.

The sticky rice was the next to arrive. Wrapped in lotus leaves and steamed, it is stuffed with minced meat, mushrooms, sticky rice and various asian garnishes. Cutting open the lotus leaves reveals the moist centre. We devoured it like a pack of hungry hyenas.

The steam shrimp dumplings arrived shortly after. I quickly snapped a picture before they were all gone.

Next up, we had the pan fried rice crepe in XO sauce. Probably my favorite dish. XO sauce is a spicy seafood sauce. It's so good. The rice crepe was super smooth and silky. This indicates that it is good sh*t. I'm pretty certain we ordered 4 plates of it. Because it was uber tasty and the portions were not large. Om nom nom nom.

My other favorite dim sum dish, the pork dumplings, finally arrived. Top with fish roe, the pork dumplings were so juicy.

We were pretty full at this point but the food kept arriving... Check out these sweet pictures of the Asian calamari, stuffed eggplant and tofu and spring rolls sitting on top of the kettle. They were pretty average. Nothing too special.

Atmosphere: 5 out 10. Average decor. There is no signal in the restaurant so you might want to put your phone in airplane mode so that it doesn't drain your battery.
Food: 6.5 out of 10. Good food. Steeping my own tea has it's ups and downs. Makes me feel like a connoisseur of sorts. But sometimes I just want a drink now. Not now. Right now!
Presentation: 5 out of 10. Average presentation.
Price: 7 out of 10. Prices are lower if you go early in the morning.
Services: 5 out of 10. Average service. Plates were generally cleared in a timely manner.
Overall: 6 out of 10. Pretty good overall. Points for the tea experience. It almost justifies the extra fee they charge.