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Hot Ramen Facials & More in Calgary – June 2014

Another yearly trip to Calgary for some in-law visiting and good food eatin’. Some good, some bad, some disappointing, some surprising. Read on!

Sections:

This year’s trip was an interesting one. The trajectory I thought the Calgary food scene was heading took a little curve. TWO Japanese ramen places have opened up in the last 3 months. Some places that I loved before seemed to slide a bit. Some new places impressed me. The beer scene is, in some ways, bigger now (with a total of FOUR National locations in existence and new breweries such as Village Brewery and Vagabond Beerworks) but it also feels a bit less vibrant (with closing of Design District Urban Tavern and lack of locally-brewed world class beer like a Fat Tug IPA, Red Racer IPA or anything comparable to Four Winds at their best), especially when compared to Vancouver’s exploding brewpub scene. Hopefully the new chapter of CAMRA Alberta will help push things forward.

Some meals during this trip reminded me that it’s not just about food. It’s emotion, experience and the search for happiness. Sometimes the people you meet make up for average food. Sometimes shitty service spoils even the most delicious food. Whatever the price point, restaurants need to make their customers feel welcome and feel good about spending their dollars there.

I was reminded during this trip that simple food, executed perfectly, is always more satisfying than fancy, complicated food executed poorly.


Anju Pop-up at Test Kitchen

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Test Kitchen is a regular restaurant during the day and sometimes a pop-up restaurant at night, hosting different chefs and events. (read more about Test Kitchen here.) We went for the last day of the Roy Oh (Anju) 3-day pop-up dinner event. Anju closed their original downtown location a while ago and are about to open their new location on 17th Ave. some time this summer. I know of more than a few people who were saddened by Anju closing but I think it was a good move cuz the original location (not to far from Test Kitchen, ironically) was a really tough location with zero foot traffic.

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Test Kitchen also hosted another event featuring three Asian Calgary chefs:

I wasn’t in town early enough to make this event, so I was hoping for a little taste of the same excitement. ;)

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Gigantic Brewing’s Too Much Coffee Man is a strange left-field inclusion on their tap list considering the lightweight, mainstream nature of the rest of their tap list.

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We thought that maybe Anju were still testing and tweaking things for their reopening but this apparently is their final menu. Gone are some past favourites like their spicy cured blue crab.

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Korean Fried Chicken sounds like a must-order.

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More of the menu.

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Sides and social media.

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Bottle selection is pretty weak, but again, surprising inclusion of one great beer…in this case, Unibroue’s La Fine Du Monde.

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I settled for Wild Rose Electric Avenue. It’s a pale lager that’s watery, sweet, with nothing much else going for it. But I wasn’t expecting much from it anyways.

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This Korean Pear Salad with yuzu vinaigrette kicked ass. Fresh, bright and perfectly dressed.

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Side of kimchi. Wicca thought it was salty (she likes her kimchi more tangy than salty) but Sven liked it. It wasn’t under or over-fermented.

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Pork Belly Lettuce Wrap. Great dish. Love the inclusion of butter lettuce, Thai basil and chrysanthemum (?) leaves. Also on the plate: ssamjang, serrano peppers and garlic chips.

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I’ve had this dish in more traditional Korean restaurants before as “samgyeopsal”, in both boiled and grilled form. I think in this case, the pork belly has been boiled or braised then sliced and finished off on the grill. I definitely enjoy them grilled vs. plain boiled.

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A really authentic Korean way of eating, made better by the presentation and attention given to the pork.

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Anju’s take on Korean Fried Chicken served with egg, green onion cornbread and soy maple syrup. That’s $18 for a 1/4 chicken, which I guess means two pieces :/ I appreciate that it’s free-run Mountain View Poultry chicken but…

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Closeup of the green onion cornbread.

This dish really disappointed. Anju really needs to study up on Yum Yum BBQ (reviewed at the bottom on this post) for how good KFC is supposed to taste. In this case, the chicken (free-run) was quite dry and the batter wasn’t crunchy at all. Really great KFC uses a double-fried technique that keeps the batter crunchy even with sauce slathered all over it. The soy maple syrup was totally unnecessary and just confused things. Helga was especially disappointed because she’s a big fan of Yum Yum BBQ and this version was poor in comparison.

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Tofu & Foie Gras Parfait with black raspberry wine gellée, pistachios and brioche.

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Apparently this dish won Roy Oh a silver award in the Gold Medal Plates contest in Calgary. I really can’t understand why. The tofu watered down the taste of the foie, and the brioche was saturated with oil/butter. Another miss.

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Beef Tartare with Wagyu flank steak, sesame soy marinade, korean pear and wonton chips. Helga and Sven liked it. I thought that as far as tartares go, it was just ok.

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Mussels and Clams. Menu said “black garlic, serrano and soy” but all I tasted was a salty black bean flavour.

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Baguette provided for dipping but the liquid at the bottom was too salty and rich for dipping with bread. Seafood itself tasted good. But as a whole, it doesn’t come off as being particularly Korean.

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These Halibut Spring Rolls were (for me) the best dish of the night. Ironically they won’t be on the Anju menu when they open.

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A successful and delicious re-imagining of fish ‘n chips. Meaty halibut cooked perfectly with a crisp wrapping. Eating it with the “Anju tartar sauce” creates the same taste and experience of eating really good fish ‘n chips. Smart, simple, accessible…this is one dish they should definitely put back on the menu.

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Galbi Pizza. Marinated beef with mozzarella, kimchi, king oyster mushrooms and arugula on a grilled crust made of rice.

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Same idea as those Japanese rice burgers except in pizza form. Not bad. I could take or leave the arugula but the combination of mushrooms, beef and cheese is a no-brainer. Fun to eat as a group. Eating this with your hands leaves you with oily fingers, and those polyester napkins absorb dick-all.

I think Roy Oh has lost sight of authentic Korean flavours in pursuit of reaching a wider audience and making his food more “fancy”. What I love about Korean food is its robust, gutsy flavours and communal, unpretentious approach. I admire the success he’s had so far and want him to find a way to move forward without losing his roots. At least he should work on his fried chicken technique.

Test Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Anju Restaurant & Eecha Lounge on Urbanspoon


Beer Revolution

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Beer Revolution is part of the craft beer trend in Calgary that also includes places like CRAFT Beer Market, National and mayyyybe Fergus & Bix and Brewsters.

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I like those hours :)

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We were here on a Sunday night so it was pretty dead. But the service was friendly and accomodating. Fellow beer geek Setzer likes this place cuz they have decent beer and it’s near his barber. “Honey, I think I’m gonna get a colour too, so it’s gonna take a couple more hours than usual! Don’t wait for me!”

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Tap list is ok. Most are craft beers but some I would categorize as crappy craft like Mill St. and Hell’s Gate. Dieu Du Ciel seems a bit easier to get here than in Vancouver, which is good for Calgarians…not so much for Vancouverites.

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I went with Dieu Du Ciel Rosee d’Hibiscus and Deschutes Chainbreaker White. Beer Revolution serves 16, 12 and 8oz servings. 8oz pours are exactly half the price of 16oz! Fair and honest! I like it! That means I can try more beers without feeling like I’m not getting the best deal.

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Tool Shed Star Cheek IPA. Syrupy malt character with butterscotch quality. Meh.

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Setzer got a Lighthouse Brewing Race Rocks Amber. He detected a smoky malt quality that’s really strange for an amber ale. I hadn’t drank Race Rocks for years. In fact, it was one of my early go-to craft beers. I remember it being really pleasant and accessible while still having more flavour than mass market swill. But I definitely didn’t remember it having a smoky quality. We suspected that they mis-poured and served us Brewsters Crusader Smoked Marzen by mistake, so they graciously and courteously gave us samples of each to compare. I can’t even remember which is which in the photo cuz the colours are so close. The flavours though were definitely different. The Race Rocks had more of a smoked malt/chocolate quality while the Crusader Smoked Marzen had a smoky tobacco/cigar quality. Damn, it was fun to compare the two beers!

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Finishing off with a BC beer, Phillips Electric Unicorn White IPA. Gorgeous clarity, extreme citrus/tropical fruit hops but with a clean finish. I would guess Mosaic hops. I described this in my notes as a “caricature beer” cuz of the extreme fruity quality of the hops.

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Another shot of that unicorn. It’s always fun to geek out over beers with Setzer. I would totally come back to Beer Revolution next year and try some of their pizza with beer.

Beer Revolution Craft Beer and Pizza Bar on Urbanspoon


Beers from Oak & Vine

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I stumbled across Oak & Vine while escorting my in-laws to a doctor’s appointment. They have a great curated selection of craft beer and the owner John seems like a great guy. I was really happy to see stuff by Evil Twin, La Trou du Diable, Maine Beer Company, Mikkeller and Jolly Pumpkin. Some of this you can get in Vancouver if you’re quick and committed :P but it was really nice to be able to buy bottles like this while on vacation.

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Coronado Brewing Orange Avenue Wit. Tastes like how you’d imagine.

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A great bottle to kick off my vacation with. Quaffable, easy, full of flavour.

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I bought some “Caribbean Style Peanuts” from T&T Organettes (jump to that section here) and paired them with a Duvel. The pairing was ok. Not magical but workable. Duvel is a classic Belgian beer. Effervescent, funky and dangerously drinkable for 8.5% ABV. I couldn’t figure out what made the peanuts “Caribbean Style” though…they were just salty nuts.

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Evil Twin Hop Flood. Lots of floaty dandruff-like bits. I should pour this one more carefully next time ;) Peach, passionfruit, pineapple, touch of candy cane. Sweet malt profile but less cloying than I thought it would be, but it’s still a sticky sweet beer. Long, intense, piney, bitter aftertaste that sits on the back of the tongue. Good to try but not totally loving it as a sipping beer. Might work better with the right food.

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Nice little story on the label. I later paired this beer with President’s Choice Banana Split Ice Cream. The crappy, super sweet ice cream toned down the malty syrupiness in the beer, so it was more enjoyable…but then there wasn’t much else in the beer after the sweetness was masked by ice cream. I have two more bottles of this that I’m in no hurry to finish…

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Sven toasting up some smelly Korean dried squid. Great beer snack.

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Le Trou Du Diable’s pilsner, La Pitoune. It’s got that typical pilsnery smell. Fresh and crisp with a dry bitterness. Creamy head that I don’t remember seeing with other pils.

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Pretty good beer but mostly sticks to the traditional pils profile. I got an enjoyable hint of lemon as it warmed up.

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Back of the label.

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Jolly Pumpkin Calabaza Blanca White Ale. Most (all?) of Jolly Pumpkin’s beers are sour beers, although they don’t say it outright on the label unless you read the descriptions carefully. So no matter what style is written on the label, expect an extra sour element!

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I’m growing to love these sour beers. They’re really great for sipping but also work with lots of different foods.

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My first and only drain-pour of the trip: Alley Kat Summer Squeeze Grapefruit Ale. Somehow they brewed a 5% beer that has most of the flavour squeezed out of it. Watery, bland, could be so much better. If you had to have grapefruit juice in your beer, I’d recommend the 3.5% (!) Parallel 49 Tricycle Radler that has actual grapegruit juice blended with beer. That one actually tastes good.

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My first Maine Beer Company beer, the Peeper Ale. A hoppy pale ale with a fruity hop aroma but more of a dry bitterness in taste. Light malt body makes it easy to chug. Great beer! Totally washed away the anger and disappointment of the Alley Kat grapefruit beer.


Burger 320

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We came across this interesting standalone building just a block away from Shiki Menya in Bridgeland. They’re called Burger 320 and I think they’ve replaced Clive Burger as my favourite fast casual burger in Calgary.

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They also have a truck?

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I’ve never seen use of exterior signage like this before.

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All the social media details.

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I can feel it.

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It’s a really small space inside. Just a counter on the left with seating for 2-3 people, so most people get the burgers to go or eat them at the single picnic table outside.

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Full menu and more here.

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They also have a gelato business crammed in there.

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Antique dough-portioner for making buns. They make their own buns here too, using more modern methods. ;)

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Seasonings.

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And sauces.

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Let’s try a cheeseburger!

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Today we felt like garlic aioli and cheese curds.

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I LOVE the cattle branded stamp on top of the bun!

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Gorgeous melty curds.

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The beef-to-bun ratio is perfect! The bun itself is crusty but easy to bite through. I used to be all about soft, squishy hamburger buns but this bun changed my mind. I’ve never had a hamburger experience like this before. The fresh in-house ground patty is perhaps lacking a bit of salt, but you can easily rectify that with the provided seasonings, to your own taste. I loved the natural beef flavour. This burger was cooked to well-done but they will gladly do medium-rare if you wish. The yellow and orange cherry tomatoes were A+. Burger 320 definitely thought their burger through and came up with the perfect eating experience. I would definitely drive out to Bridgeland again just for this burger.

Burger 320 on Urbanspoon


Chicken Roti from T&T Organettes + Alfajores from Coco Karamel

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I’m a bit crazy for Caribbean food. We hit this place right after landing at the airport. Trinidad & Tobago Organettes is a social club (and steel drum band) that also sells food. I remember enjoying their food a few years ago and thought I’d try them again.

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They only had Chicken Roti available. I much prefer goat.

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Gah! Way too dry. Flavour itself was nice in that mild Caribbean curry kind of way but it definitely needed more sauce. I should’ve asked for it “wet“. On the plus side, the roti wrapping was soft, stretchy and delicious. And that hot sauce is SUPER HOT. I only used half the container.

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Beside T&T Organettes is this Argentinian alfajores store called Coco Karamel. Wicca has a thing for baked goods, so I was happy to let her browse.

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If you’re wondering, “alfajor” is pronounced “alpha-whore” :P

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Delicate biscuit with a sweet dulce de leche filling.

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They also sell dulce de leche in jars.

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Quince jam.

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They also do deluxe alfajores for celebrations.

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We bought a few to have at home.

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Delicate crumbly biscuit, dulce de leche inside and coconut all around.

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Here’s the chocolate one. What a treat!

Trinidad and Tobago Organettes on Urbanspoon


Clive Burger

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I was craving the simple, satisfying taste of Clive Burger.

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Beer list is kinda crappy, like last time. But at least the Village Brewery beers are passable.

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They had the Village Blonde (Golden Ale) and Maiden (ISA).

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I opted out of beer and got a fabulous chocolate custard shake instead. These are amazing and I love them to death. I have milkshakes maybe once a year, and I don’t mind having Clive Burger’s version as my once-a-year!

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Super cute graphics all around the place.

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Love these coasters/pagers that light up and buzz when your food is ready.

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I remember the fries being pretty good last time…

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Fries weren’t as good as I remembered. Some pieces were good but most were tough and cardboardy on the outside. Ah well.

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Hamburger with lettuce, tomato, pickle, relish, ketchup and mustard.

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I probably shouldn’t have got relish. Combined with the pickle, it really overwhelmed the beef. My fault. The patty size seems a bit smaller than I remember too. A bit too much bun overhang. Also missing the char on the patty that really accentuates the taste of the beef. Otherwise it was a good burger. I’d probably go for a double bacon cheeseburger next time to REALLY get the taste of the meat!

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Wicca got a cheeseburger. The patty seemed even smaller than mine.

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I think Clive Burger has slipped from being “really great” to merely being “good”. My visit the Burger 320 after this really cemented it for me.

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Next time I’ll go for a cherry chocolate shake with bourbon!

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Too cute.

Clive Burger on Urbanspoon


Dessert House

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It’s Dessert House in Chinatown.

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Be aware that the last time we were in Calgary, we got here around 1:00pm and they weren’t open. They told us they weren’t ready and to come back later. It’s more of an evening hangout kind of place.

This place feels really dingy, stark and ghetto, and the service is terse and mean. But in this case, the food makes up for it. Just keep in mind that whether you order hot or cold, the service is guaranteed to be cold! ;)

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Pistachio Milkshake with Pearl. Just enough pistachio so you can tell that it’s pistachio rather than almond or some other nut. Pearls are good. Soft and chewy but could be a little sweeter. We’d get this again.

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Lovely whipped foam texture.

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Sweet Potato Soup (served hot) with taro and tapioca. Not too sweet/sweet enough, if you know what I mean. The “sweet potato” is actually yam.

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Steamed Egg and Milk with black sesame.

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Texture reminds me of my mom’s steamed savoury egg dish that we ate with rice, except in this case it’s a sweet dessert. It’s almost like a Chinese crème brûlée!

This dish also reminded me of this scalded milk, egg and sugar concoction that I used to have when I was a kid. Ahhh, nostalgia.

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Pig Skin with satay. This is basically boiled pork rinds with a really really good satay sauce over top. The rinds didn’t have much flavour because they were boiled, so most of the flavour came from the rockin’ satay sauce.

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We liked how everything wasn’t too sweet. Wicca liked (in order of preference) the milkshake, steamed egg, sweet potato soup, then pig skin. We’ll tolerate the gruff service to get food this good.

The Dessert House on Urbanspoon


FARM

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I can’t pinpoint the reason why but my solo visit to FARM was, in a word, uncomfortable. Awkward hostess, shaky server that disappeared on me, mac ‘n cheese that took FOREVER to come out even though they were only 1/4 full. I had an amazing cheese flight here a few years ago but each subsequent visit (for their other food) has left me feeling less and less enthusiastic. Maybe I should’ve just stuck with their cheese flights.

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Signboards were a little bit funny but I got none of that humour in their service.

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I hope so.

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I told the hostess that I was eating solo and she asked me if a seat at the counter was ok and I said “yes”. She said that she’d have to clean/set up the seat but the place was almost dead, so I thought that was a bit strange. I told her I was going to use the washroom while she set up the seat. I also checked out their cheese shop, Janice Beaton, located in the back of the restaurant while I was at it.

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I was almost going to buy some of these tomatoes but couldn’t figure out a way to work it into my eating schedule.

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Another thing I must try some other time.

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The staff in the cheese shop are pretty friendly. Usually, I’m a cheesemongers dream because price is really a secondary concern for me. I’m more focused on getting the best cheese experience to suit my mood. But on this particular trip, I noticed that cheese prices here (and perhaps all of Alberta?) are $1-2 more per 100 grams than back in Vancouver. Good cheeses were at least $6/100g, Manchego was $9.29/100g and Cashel Blue was $10.69/100g! I’m sure there’s a good reason for this…perhaps the market in AB, perhaps provincial taxes, I’m not sure. But any way you slice it (heh), eating cheese in Canada is an expensive proposition compared to the States or Europe. At least we can still get my favourite Extra Aged Mimolette!! (It’s banned in the US.)

I think next time I’m in Calgary, I’ll make it a point of having an all-Alberta cheese flight, matched with all-Alberta charcuterie. That’s the kind of thing that FARM does best.

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After some heavy eating the previous days, I felt like having the FARM Salad…

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…followed by a rich Mac & Cheese, of course!

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FARM’s beer list is ok but usually contains a couple surprises. I had Dieu Du Ciel Rosee d’Hibiscus for the first time here many years ago that made a strong impression on me. I think the impression was: “They know how to pour beer, they have really intelligent cheese & accompaniment pairings…I really like this place!”

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They still know how to properly pour beer. The Half Pints Little Scrapper IPA was decent but the citrus hops seemed a little subdued. Could be a bit more fragrant. Maybe it was an old bottle and the aromatic hops died down a bit.

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FARM Salad with kale, red cabbage, shaved parmesan and pickled onions. FANTASTIC SALAD! Perfectly dressed. I loved the sweetness and tanginess of the pickled onions…really worked with the rest of the salad. Red cabbage was good, not like the tasteless red cabbage you find in most supermarkets. The kale was soft and crunchy, not tough or too thick. The herb crumb added extra texture. This salad made the beer taste better! Really woke up the palate.

Now, this was a pretty large salad that’s really meant to be shared between two people. I put it aside to nibble on later once my mac ‘n cheese arrived. But…I waited quite a long time… Did they expect me to finish this massive thing before bringing out the mac ‘n cheese?? My irritation got to the point where I almost said something but I went to the washroom instead and when I came back, the mac ‘n cheese was sitting there.

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This mac ‘n cheese is also available in the cheese shop to-go. I ordered it with smoked pork shoulder. They put a some of it on top where it got a bit crispy (nice!) but most of it is underneath:

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Excellent alternative to bacon! Bacon seems oversmoked and salty in comparison. The smoked shoulder almost had a ham-like quality to it…like pulled ham instead of pulled pork. Great stuff.

The mac ‘n cheese part though was more on the creamy side than the cheesy side. The cheese taste was mild and could’ve used more of a cheesy, salty kick. It’s not a “decadent” mac ‘n cheese but it’s fairly well done. My preference would be to dial back the cream and jack up the cheese. Tasted great with the beer though!

I wanted to like eating at FARM more than I did. I came away with a bit of an uncomfortable feeling like it didn’t matter to them if I spent my time and money there or not. They basically left me alone, which can be a good or bad thing I guess (gave me a chance to catch up on some reading), but in this case I felt ignored. The sloooow arrival of my mac ‘n cheese, the disappearance of my original server, the cook saying out loud “It’s dead in here!”, it all added up to an odd, awkward brunch. But damn that salad was good.

Farm on Urbanspoon


Goro + Gun

Now contrast the uncomfortable service at FARM with the comparatively joyous service we got at Goro + Gun:

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Goro + Gun is a positively huge restaurant located on the 2nd level of Scotia Centre in downtown Calgary. Parking is a pain downtown, so it was easiest for us to park at the CORE Shopping Centre and walk through the mall to Scotia Centre. Confusingly, they call the 2nd floor “+15 Level”.

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They do slammin’ business during weekday lunch but dinner service and weekends are dead because downtown becomes like a ghost town outside regular business hours. Needless to say, we had no problems getting a table the couple times we were there. ;)

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Several comfy booths plus two long tables. And a sake cellar!

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View of the open kitchen. Some counter seating plus more booths and two-tops.

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Big round corner booth. I have no idea what that says.

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More counter seating at the bar plus more booths right at the entrance.

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Yet another space with adorable seafoamy chairs and huge but clean logo.

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Another view. This place looks fantastic. Clean, modern, but not cheesy or trying too hard.

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A view of the long table. It was so refreshing to see a spacious ramen place like this. All ramen places in Vancouver are cramped in comparison.

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Happy hour in Alberta has been legal for ages. Vancouver just got happy hour a couple weeks ago.

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Finally, some decent (even great) beer on tap at a ramen place! Hooray!!!

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I like their clean, consistent branding.

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Black, white, red and wood.

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Baird on tap!! Lost Coast! That Rogue Morimoto Pils is ok…

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Hitachino Nest!!! Dieu Du Ciel! Even Portland’s Hopworks makes an appearance.

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They do tonkotsu style ramen here.

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They do the ramen burger thing here too. But alas we couldn’t fit it in…so, next time…

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Never had spicy lamb ramen before, so I had to try it!

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Smoked egg?! Gotta add that to my spicy lamb ramen.

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Wicca chose yakisoba(!). You can read the full menu on their website.

I know what you’re thinking…how can a place that does so much be any good at ramen? They do tempura, okonomiyaki, ramen burgers, teppanyaki, yakisoba, sushi(!) AND ramen, so how can they possibly be good at it all? Read on…

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Baird Red Rose Amber (6%). Tart aroma. Taste of caramel with slightly smoky malts. Smoky/oaky. Mild but accessible beer. Solid good but not quite my style.

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Wicca’s Yakisoba. Tons of bonito flakes! See it in motion:

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It’s the bonito flake dance!

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Wicca always asks for no (green) onions. Yakisoba came with grilled pork belly.

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Yakisoba after mixing and chomping on the egg. The toothsome noodles had good “wok hei”. Singed bits on the cabbage. Grilled pork belly was good but a touch too firm for Wicca’s liking. Otherwise it was the best yakisoba she’s ever had in any Japanese restaurant. Impressive for a place that does ramen.

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House Made Chili Sauce. It’s like a super-spicy sriracha. Should satisfy ANY chili-heads out there. Very fresh-tasting and sharp.

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My Spicy Lamb Ramen with added smoked egg.

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Here’s your HUGE serving of hot ramen facial! I always get hot ‘n sweaty, hunched over a bowl of steaming ramen. Add any form of capsaicin and I sweat like a mofo. Even through my scalp! The ramen here uses that cloudy tonkotsu style broth. Broth was flavourful and acceptably salty. Most tonkotsu broths I’ve had in Vancouver are firmly salty, even if you order the “less salt” option, like at Ramen Santouka. I would rank this as being a bit less salty than Santouka. Chunks of lamb and slivers of crunchy wood ear fungus taste great together.

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I love the trays that they use to bring you the ramen. There’s a slot for those great wooden ramen soup spoons.

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According to this blog post, Goro + Gun uses the same ramen noodle supplier as Ramen Santouka. While I can’t say that they’re exactly the same specs as Santouka’s noodles, the noodles in this lamb ramen are the same thinner kind that Santouka uses, with almost an angel hair pasta-like quality, with less “bite” to them than other, thicker, more robust ramen noodles. But they still held up fairly well even though I took my sweet time eating the bowl. If you like your noodles on the firmer side, I’m sure you can ask for your noodles to be cooked firm (as I do when I’m at Ramen Santouka).

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The smoked eggs are killer! The waitress said it was like a 2 or 3 day process to make these eggs. I asked what they used to smoke the eggs but my notes failed me, so you’ll have to ask yourself if you’re wondering what kind of wood they use to smoke these. Firm but not overcooked whites with a precious gooey yolk. The smoke level is perfect…not too subtle but not too overpowering either.

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The broth itself is a solid “good”, with a decent amount of dissolved solids. Flavour and depth is good without being too salty. But Shiki Menya’s broth is on a whole other level. Ultimately, this is a solid bowl of ramen that won’t leave you disappointed.

So that was our first visit. We had excellent service from Rachel, who was super nice and knowledgeable about the menu. Every restaurant should have such passionate and well-trained staff as Goro + Gun. She even introduced us to the chef, Tomo from Osaka, because he loves talking to people about the food. Keep in mind that they had no idea that I was a food blogger — they just really appreciate people who appreciate food. The food was solid but the service made us come back for more.

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On our second visit, head chef Tomo himself surprised us with an amuse of Lobster Corndog, which was a lobster/shrimp cake coated in tempura-style beer batter and deep fried. It’s his take on a corndog and he created it as a special Calgary Stampede menu. On top was a tomatoey sauce and a creamy sauce made with crushed lobster heads(!). Tomo’s Osaka accent made it really hard to understand what this dish was. It sounded like “condon” but we finally made him write it out and then realized he meant “corndog”! I really appreciate that the management seems to let Tomo experiment and try out different things, like for their Monday $10 noodle specials, which in the past have included Oxtail Curry Ramen (so sad I missed that one) and Handmade Tempura Udon (which he admits that he’s still learning and perfecting). Anyways, the lobster/shrimp corndog was a much-appreciated guesture and it tasted pretty good!

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Beer for our second visit: Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale. Grainy and sweet. Red/yellow hued. Hops are low. The slight nuttiness from the red rice melds well with the malt. Good if you’re in the mood for a slightly off-centre malt-forward beer.

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Back label.

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Wicca got one of their “dry sodas”. Really nice drink that’s less sweet, and thus way more refreshing than conventional sodas.

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It was a Monday night, so the special ramen was Spicy Garlic Miso, but we begged Tomo to cook us a Monday night special from a few weeks ago called Champon, which is a Nagasaki-style ramen which features a mish-mash of vegetables and seafood.

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This Champon has thicker noodles than what I had in the spicy lamb ramen. The bowl comes off as a nice, milder yet still flavourful, mushroomy kind of ramen. It was chock-full of ingredients like quail egg, pork belly cubes, squid, shrimp, scallops, pickled ginger, cabbage and mushrooms. If that sounds good to you, I’d recommend you check it out next time it’s on their Monday specials. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter to see what the upcoming specials are. I wish more places in Vancouver would have creative, limited-time specials like this. It would add a bit more excitement to what I think has become a somewhat stale ramen scene.

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Closeup of aformentioned pork belly cubes in the Champon. Up until now, I’ve only seen pictures of Champon online, and it always looked like a Chinese-style stir-fry of miscellaneous vegetables and meat served on ramen. Now that I’ve had this take on Champon, I’m growing to appreciate the quite wide-reaching styles of ramen that we only see a small part of in Western Canada. Vancouver is dominated with Japanese chains that stick to their corporate recipes. It would be good to push outside the boundaries of the usual tonkotsu-style ramen once in a while…maybe even create indigenous ramen!

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House-blended soy sauce and rayu (chili oil). I was intrigued that Tomo does his own personal blends, so…

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…I ordered some Lamb Gyoza!

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The chili sesame sauce that comes with the gyoza is a bit tangy, slightly creamy and goes well with the lamb.

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Soft filling and really thin, delicate wrapping. Good except for the burnt, bitter edges :( I love that browned, crispy layer in really good gyoza, but the cooking on this batch was a bit wonky. Otherwise good though!

I also tried the gyoza with the house-blended soy sauce and rayu. The soy sauce is mild and not salty. The rayu is mild as well. Really tasty stuff when eaten with the gyoza.

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I  HAD to try a bit of yellowtail/hamachi sashimi, JUST to see if a ramen place could pull it off. I think they somewhat succeeded. I think the itamae is licensed to prepare fugu so the skills are there. I think the fish wasn’t the best quality though, coming off as a bit dull and tired instead of glistening and fresh. On par with the majority of “Japanese” restaurants in Vancouver, but not up there with the best.

I used the house-blended soy sauce on this sashimi and it tasted a bit…different. While the soy sauce tasted great with the gyoza, using it with the sashimi just emphasized how different the house soy is from say Yamasa brand soy sauce, which is more commonly seen in sushi places. Tomo blends his soy with kombu stock and bonito, among other things, and the effect this has when eaten with the sashimi is that you’re dipping your sashimi in zaru soba dipping sauce. Kinda weird experience for me. But since the emphasis here is on ramen and fancy sushi rolls, I don’t think the majority of the clientele here would notice the difference.

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Finishing off with an intense 9.5% imperial black saison from Dieu du Ciel called Isseki Nicho, which means “one stone, two birds”. Coffee overtones, sticky, syrupy, really strong. The usual delicate saison qualities are masked by the intense, sticky roasted malt. Probably the worst beer to pair with sashimi, but me being the foolish indulger, I had to try this beer once I saw it on the menu. Probably better matched with a spicy miso ramen or the teppanyaki.

Final (extended) thoughts: I think Goro + Gun is great for Calgary. They do good food with hints of greatness. I was skeptical of their expansive menu but I walked away pleasantly surprised at their competency. Their strengths though are in their wonderful staff and talented head chef Tomo, who has a great future doing much more than just ramen.

As a fun little guesture, Wicca asked her mom to make Vietnamese Bun Bo Hue (spicy pig’s foot noodle soup) so that we could let Chef Tomo try, because he loves bun bo hue, but also to give him some as inspiration for a future ramen special.

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To be honest, Wicca’s mom has made better bun bo hue and I felt a bit embarrassed to serve this to Tomo. But we were in a rush to deliver this before flying back home…so…I hope he liked it!

Us food bloggers aren’t just assholes, we care about food a lot and want to share it with people who appreciate good food!

Goro + Gun on Urbanspoon


Home Cookin’

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Mother-in-law’s homemade pho. Yeah, it’s rustic-looking. Who has a meat slicer at home? Doesn’t matter cuz it’s full of love. Asian families express their love through food instead of physical or verbal affection. “Have you eaten yet?”

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This is the way you’re supposed to use hoisin and srirachi when you eat pho — in a little dish as a side dip. Don’t shit all over that wonderful broth by squeezing hoisin right into your pho, turning it into a murky mess. Please. Public service announcement over.

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Handrolled rice flour dumpings/noodles in a crab meat gravy. These were ok. It reminded me of the ones my grandmother used to make, which were the Chinese style that are thinner and more chewy. I remember helping her make them by taking bits of dough and rolling them between my palms to create little noodles.

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Another Vietnamese dish of pork cooked with bamboo (?).

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Original Rice Krispies aren’t actually gluten-free??! They had to make a seperate gluten-free version?

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These don’t look like brown rice to me. Goes to show how processed breakfast cereals are. Original Rice Krispies actually contain malted barley (also used in beer!), so technically aren’t gluten-free.

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Can you guess which one is gluten-free and which is the original? Here’s the answer in white text (select it with your mouse to see the answer — might show up already on mobile devices): Original Rice Krispies on the left, Gluten-Free on the right!

I’m proud to say that in a blind taste test, I was able to identify which was which. The gluten-free version was admirably close but still lacking in the fuller, nuttier taste and stronger texture of the original. Still, I haven’t eaten cereal regularly for years cuz it’s processed and fortified to within an inch of its life. I’d rather eat, you know, real food. Like this:

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Balut (duck fetus eggs). Pretty popular in the Philippines and Vietnam.

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Yup, kids love it. No biggie.

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Essential accompaniments of rau ram, mint and lime. Bit of salt would be good too.

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Wicca’s mom made this tea out of this strange fruit (?). Quite medicinal. Wicca liked it. I didn’t care for it. I have no idea what these are. Do you? They felt like ping pong balls.

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Those dried fruits are sold in plastic sleeves. I have no idea what they are.

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Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Spicy Pig’s Foot Noodle Soup). Wicca’s mom has made better, but it was still good. The broth could’ve used a bit more reducing to intensify the flavours. I think we rushed her a bit because we wanted to give some to Chef Tomo at Goro + Gun to try before we flew back home. I love the springy, chewy rice noodles. They’re rounder and thicker than the usual pho noodles. Tender chunks of pig’s feet and beef. Squeeze of lime, plenty of fresh veggies and Vietnamese herbs, and you’re good to go!


Lloyd’s Patty Plus

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I longed for those awesome Jamaican patties from Toronto, so I found a place near Forest Lawn area called Lloyd’s Patty Plus.

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SUPER busy place. Pretty constant lineups of people getting takeout and bags ‘n bagsful of Jamaican patties to go.

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They sell mostly patties but on weekends they have jerk chicken and oxtail curry.

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The usual pop and Ting. But…what’s that ginger beer there?

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Holy shit this was good! The BEST ginger beer I’ve ever had. Not fizzy, carbonated and over-sweetened like soda-style ginger beer. This was more just a luscious ginger juice that had a fresh, gentle, enveloping ginger flavour that was at once refreshing and exciting. I wish we bought a few bottles of these to take home.

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Dozen cold patties to go. You can buy them hot ‘n ready to eat, or cold to reheat at home. They fit pretty well in toasters if you have one that accepts thicker slices of bread.

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I’d call this a classic, prototypical Jamaican patty. The filling is like a meat slurry…kinda goopy, kinda gravy-like, not a whole lot of meaty texture. But the flavour is classic Jamaican patty and the pastry part is one of the most flaky and delicious that I’ve ever had.

For me, I still long for the more meaty, zingy, robust patties that I’ve had in Toronto, like from Caribbean Queen of Patties:

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Caribbean Queen of Patties – Toronto 2010. Her patties contained a GENEROUS amount of filling. Rich and flavourful. I miss them.

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Lloyd’s Patty Plus’ Oxtail and Jerk Chicken Combo with Rice and Peas. The jerk chicken had great smoked jerk taste but was a little dry (which I think is the classic way of doing jerk chicken) but tasted better when eaten with the sauce at the bottom of the tray.

The star was the oxtail though! Probably the best oxtail that we’ve ever had. Rich and flavourful without being salty.

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Tender, unctuous, falling-off-the-bone, absolutely delicious hunks of oxtail meat. We got 2 orders of just Oxtail on Rice to go.

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We also got 3 pounds of Jerk Chicken (cold) to supplement a family bbq later on.

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The jerk chicken came with a tub of wonderful sauce. Cuz the chicken was on the dry side, I think the sauce was essential. Some people thought the sauce was a bit salty but I loved it with both the chicken and the oxtail.

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Oxtail with Rice and Peas. The standout, must-have dish from Lloyd’s Patty Plus. It hits you RIGHT THERE!

Lloyd's Patty Plus on Urbanspoon


Model Milk

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Back at Model Milk. I had a mind-blowing rare burger here last year and wanted to experience more of their bar snacks instead of full-on entrees.

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It’s the Alberta spirit in a nutshell.

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Some good stuff on their beer list. The server insisted that everything was on their website, but I noticed some discrepancies so took photos of the menu anyways ;)

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Wicca was feeling full from Dessert House so I basically ordered for myself! Ham & Cheese Tater Tots and Fried Rabbit Mortadella Sandwiches sound good!

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Elk Tartare! Gotta try that!

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Their big meals for two are kinda spendy but I don’t doubt the quality. Maybe someday…

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Their menu always changes. Keeps things interesting, which I like…but don’t like cuz they got rid of their fabulous Country Fried Chicken Skins that we had last year :(

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Village Brewery Maiden India Session Ale. Fruity, grapefruit hop aroma. Light body. Gently bitter finish. Not deep or complex but does the job. Served a bit too cold imho.

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Fried Rabbit Mortadella Sandwiches. Awesome! Even the brioche is good, not too sweet, but the sweetness that is there works with the rabbit meat and spicing in the mortadella.

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If you’ve eaten rabbit before, you might be able to identify that it’s rabbit. But if you haven’t eaten rabbit before, you might not even notice that it’s not pork. Soft ‘n delicious little bundles!

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Ham & Cheese Tater Tots.

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Potato, chive and cheese in a light, crispy breadcrumb coating. Like a fun croquette.

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Puffed Taleggio Cheezies. I love how the food at Model Milk is sophisticated yet fun, relaxed and accessible. These “cheezies” exemplify the “fun” part. They totally reminded me of Chinese shrimp chips that are usually served with crispy skin fried chicken. Cheese flavour was subtle but so fun to eat and a natural with beer.

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Elk Tartare with toasted brioche. Onion flowers and wild watercress on top. There’s an avocado and goat cheese emulsion inside the elk tartare. I usually hate brioche and find its sweetness off-putting in most dishes that use it (like burgers) but in this case the sweetness was low and didn’t interfere with the tartare.

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Great stuff! Elk meat was buttery, silky, mild. Avocado and goat cheese emulsion taking the place of the usual egg yolk. Fantastically balanced and executed dish. THIS is what tartare should be.

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Donut Ice Cream Sammies looked interesting and indulgent but alas no room. Still haven’t tried their famous Fat Kid Cake, which is now in it’s third iteration.

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Finishing off with a Duchesse de Bourgogne, a classic Flanders red ale. Black cherries, plums, red grapes. Sour and funky aroma. That winey, fermented finish is just awesome. A great sipping beer for more adventurous and sophisticated beer geeks.

Model Milk on Urbanspoon


Shiki Menya

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New dedicated ramen place in Bridgeland called Shiki Menya, which is an offshot of Shikiji (across from Central Grand Chinese Restauant on Hwy 1 and Centre St., which serves sushi, noodles, donburi).

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I love tsukemen (ramen served dry with a dipping sauce on the side) but I couldn’t fit it in, unfortunately. I was more interested in trying new ramen styles that I haven’t tried back at home.

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Bit of an awkward entrance situation but I think they’ve made it work with this:

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They love Wu Tang.

Can you guess what my t-shirt says?

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Write your name, current time and number of people on the clipboard and they call out your name when you’re next. Simple.

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Great little space! Love the guy’s tight 80s jeans. Wowsers. He reminds me of Twin Shadow or Jai Paul. Cool.

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Nice.

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They only make 150 bowls a day. Once they sell out, they’re out. Just like Pizzeria Farina! They also play non-stop hip hop, which was refreshing and totally awesome. See also: “purple drank”.

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After eating here a couple times, I’m convinced that they actually do follow the principle of kodawari.

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You can see their full menu online.

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Extras and other details.

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They also have Japanese cold teas.

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Since I was driving, I stuck to water :(

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Read this. They put kombu bits into their housemade noodles! Because of their devotion to kodawari, they pursue perfection by paying attention to the smallest details, like this:

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Free tissues for customers!

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Tonkotsu Classic without negi (green onions). The broth is deep, flavourful, not salty. Pork-based but I swear there’s more to it than that, and they probably won’t ever tell anyone what else is in there because on subsequent visits, and also in comparison with Goro + Gun, this broth is on a whole other level. Masterful and magical. I don’t remember encountering ramen broths this subtle yet multi-layered back in Vancouver. Double-plus good.

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Tonkotsu Black. I assume it’s the same as the Tonkotsu Classic, with the addition of black garlic oil and a seasoning ball (tare) of squid ink garlic. I know technically tare are the liquid seasonings they put into the bowl before they add the broth, but I’ve seen special seasoning powders put in ramen also called tare, so I’m just gonna call any extra non-broth seasoning tare anyways. Feel free to correct me in the comments, with links cuz I couldn’t Google any answers worth a damn.

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Closeup of the squid ink garlic tare. I tasted a bit straight and it was intensely garlicky with a touch of brininess.

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Shot of the Tonkotsu Black after mixing in the tare. Pork is so good. Love the grill marks. If you’re a garlic fiend, this ramen is for you.

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Kara Miso Garlic. Another tare that you mix in before eating. Wicca loved this one. Rich, punchy, spicy. The miso, garlic and spiciness meld together into a powerful whole that is less sharp in garlic taste than the Tonkotsu Black.

If you look at the noodles, you’ll see flecks of kombu, which they add for extra “umami”. These noodles are excellent, with a full taste. They’ve got this body and firmness that is impressive for a housemade noodle, and shows their skill. They also stand up well to sitting in the soup, staying firm all the way to the end, even if you’re a slow eater (like me).

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Goma Mazemen, which is ramen with a concentrated soup. You mix it all up and eat it. I’ve been wanting to eat this style of ramen since forever. I can’t find anywhere in Vancouver that does this style.

Aside: G-Men in Richmond has a ramen called “Ae Soba” which they call “soupless” but which actually has MORE soup than you see in the mazemen above.

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All ramen places should do extra grilling on their pork. So good.

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Mazemen after mixing.

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Luscious yolk. The egg isn’t marinated in soy sauce like places in Vancouver, but it was still great in the context of the whole dish. The intensified broth is strong and salty, so you won’t be drinking the whole bowl like you could with the Tonkotsu Classic, but it flavours the noodles nicely. A very different ramen experience you might like!

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They also have sides like edamame.

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Everyone likes edamame!

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Char Siu Tacos with pineapple salsa. Dunno why they spell it “char siu” on the menu, since that’s the more common Chinese spelling rather than the typical Japanese spelling of “chashu”. Whatever. Double corn tortillas, wedge of lime on the side, cilantro, red onions, salsa…this looks like it might be a killer taco but all the ingredients and the double tortilla overwhelmed the otherwise tasty pork. To make this dish work, they’ll need to double the amount of pork and/or intensify the taste of the pork. A miss for me.

Overall, Shiki Menya is a standout ramen place, even by Vancouver standards. Their standards and attention to detail are admirable. For a restaurant that’s only been open 3 months (as of this writing), it’s remarkable and impressive. Vancouver, watch your back!

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Speaking of back, here’s the back of the baseball shirt I bought from them. The cotton’s a bit rough, but it’s such a cool shirt I couldn’t resist.

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The front.

Shiki Menya on Urbanspoon


Village Ice Cream

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Village Ice Cream located on the east edge of downtown. It’s like a Calgary version of Earnest Ice Cream or Rain or Shine.

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It was a warm Monday night and they were BUSY.

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Le menu.

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We got two scoops in a handmade waffle cone: Cardamom on top and Maple Pecan on the bottom. Waffle cone (which was thin, crispy, fresh) was filled all the way to the bottom! Generous chunks of pecans. The ice cream itself is fresh and creamy-tasting, like Earnest Ice Cream, but the flavours are milder and less punchy than Earnest. On the other hand, the ice cream here was a touch less sweet than Earnest, so in the end it’s a matter of preference. We liked it and would love to come back.

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Not to be confused with Village Brewery.

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Pints to go.

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We would totally come back to Village Ice Cream. It’s great that Calgary has its own artisanal ice cream now and it’s pretty fun to be around this weird little building at the end of a commercial/industrial dead-end street on the edge of downtown, eating ice cream with all sorts of people.

Village Ice Cream on Urbanspoon


Without Papers Pizza

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I’ve been meaning to try Without Papers in Inglewood since they opened a few years ago. I saw their food truck downtown last year but didn’t have a chance to try it. I rounded up a few friends and tried it out.

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This place has a bit of a following. Lots of people we spoke to during our trip recommended it.

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Only a few worthy beers on their list. Good for them for stocking Brooklyn Brown Ale.

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Kitchen area with a bit of counter seating.

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Phillips Hop Circle IPA. Good IPA but it’s from Victoria. I wish there were more local Alberta beers other than Wild Rose or Big Rock.

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Micheleangelo’s beef and pork meatballs. Small/medium-sized meatballs in a tomato sauce with shaved parmesan.

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Texture was firm and a touch rubbery. Not what I look for in a meatball.

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Hutch ($21) containing tomato sauce, calabrese salami, genoa salami, pepperonata, mozzarella. There were warnings that this pizza was spicy, but it’s really only a medium spicy at best.

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Pizza the Hut ($19) with tomato sauce, wild boar pepperoni, mushrooms, mozzarella, fontina. I liked this one best.

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Shrooom ($22) with roasted garlic truffle panna, wild mushrooms, arugula, truffle oil.

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Upskirt shot of the Pizza the Hut. This place doesn’t try to be Neapolitan style.

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Dried chili flakes are a must!

The pizza was ok. Crust just doesn’t have the same crispness and chewiness that I enjoy back home (especially at Pizzeria Farina). The toppings were generous and flavourful but…I think I might prefer Una Pizza on 17th overall if I had to choose a Calgary place.

Without Papers on Urbanspoon


Yann Haute Patisserie

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We’re back at our favourite patisserie in Calgary, Yann Haute Patisserie (Yann Boutique). Everything we’ve had here ranks up there with (and maybe even surpassing?) the big places back in Vancouver, like Beaucoup, Thierry, Thomas Haas, Faubourg

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We don’t get tired of seeing this sign.

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They expanded their macaron display since last year. Too bad a stampede came in here and ate up more than half their stock ;)

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We’ll have one of these…

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…and one of these…

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Mmmm…maybe next time.

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We bought one of these on our second visit.

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We also got a couple “Moelleux Financiers” as well.

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These desserts are a little spendy but well worth it for the quality, taste and amount of work they put into these.

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This one contained a surprise, which we discovered later…

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Finally, something for me. I got one of those nicely baked baguettes.

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Impossible to choose. The Habanero & Chocolate enticed me.

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Closeup of the Habanero & Chocolate macarons.

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Some other flavours.

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We’ve always been happy with Yann’s macarons.

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Great price! They were constantly busy with people streaming in and out buying macarons. It gets a little crowded in that small shop, sometimes it feels like a macaron feeding frenzy!

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Habanero & Chocolate Macaron. Big, rich chocolate flavour with a mild spiciness that builds gently after your first bite.

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Almond Croissant with coconut almond filling.

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Everything you’d want in an almond croissant. Generous coconut filling. Lighter texture than almond croissants that we’ve had back home.

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I satisfied myself with some baguette. A solid baguette with a good carmelized crust.

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Looks like a Pain au Chocolat

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…but it was actually a Pain au Chocolat with coconut!

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Wicca loved the Almond Croissant with coconut, but this Pain au Chocolat with coconut was even better! Tasted like a Pain au Chocolat crossed with a Chinese cocktail bun, so the effect is like the most delicious Bounty bar you’ve had in a laminated pastry form. A+++!

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Pistachio Cherry dessert.

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Layers of goodness.

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Waaaaait a minute! That’s not a cherry on top! It’s marzipan and the stem was made of chocolate! Nice work, guys!

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Back for more on a second visit :) I had to try this macaron, of course.

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I usually don’t go for sweet stuff, but I thought a Chocolate Hazelnut Beignet (donut) would be good to pair with a beer!

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Trying another dessert: Exotic Tart.

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We’ll be taking you home…

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Matcha Black Sesame and Beer macarons.

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Yann made this beer-flavoured macaron to celebrate Canada Day. The beer flavour was pretty subtle, mostly a gentle “lager” kind of flavour. Good to try once. The matcha black sesame one was a bit disappointing cuz the matcha flavour didn’t really come through. But as a macaron, they were both technically great.

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Pistachio & Cherry Gateau Basque on the left, two Moelleux Financiers on the right.

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Really moist and flavourful. Not too sweet.

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Exotic Tart with a mini-macaron on top.

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The “Riz Imperatrice” listed on the sign is actually like a rice pudding in the middle of the dessert. Yann makes really great desserts with many layers and interesting flavours that work well with each other.

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Chocolat Hazelnut Beignet. Love the sugar coating the bottom.

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Paired with Maine Beer Company’s Mean Old Tom stout aged on vanilla beans.

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A bit lighter texture than your average donut. Love the hazelnut cream inside. Went perfectly with my stout! Vanilla, coffee, chocolate, hazelnuts, sugar, all blending together deliciously.

Yann Haute Patisserie on Urbanspoon


Yum Yum BBQ (Korean Fried Chicken)

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People used to drive from Calgary to Airdrie to get Korean fried chicken from Yum Yum BBQ before they opened up a location in Calgary. This newish location just opened earlier this year (I believe) and is located near Hwy 1 and 49th St NW, where the Safeway and Dairy Queen are.

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Click to embiggen menu! They have a few variations of Korean fried chicken. One with sauce, rest without sauce. I came to try their Yum Yum Chicken (coated with Korean gochujang-based sweet and spicy sauce) and Shallot Chicken (no sauce). They also have a basic Fried Chicken and a Spicy Fried Chicken, both without sauce.

The place was pretty busy. Most people seemed to have phoned-in their orders ahead of time and just came to pay and pick up. I had to wait 30 minutes for my chicken. But damn it was worth it! They really do cook the chicken to order, and it makes a difference.

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Crinkle-cut fries if you’re desperate or adventurous. Those crinkle-cut fries scream out pre-made/pre-frozen, but might be pretty good with those Korean-style toppings. In retrospect, those might be great while under the influence ;)

I saw the Korean kid working the deep fryer in the back. He was wearing Beats by Dr. Dre headphones the whole time. I thought it was funny. Frying up a storm while listening to K-pop (I assume) and occasionally answering his cell phone while moving chicken around.

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Ahhhh, got the chicken back to home base safely after a long wait and ever-increasing hunger. The car smells like fried chicken now!

So much chicken that they have to tape the lid down! Or maybe just give it some air so it doesn’t get soggy…

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Korean pickled radish comes standard. A must when eating Korean fried chicken. Helps cut the grease and cleanse the palate.

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Half-order of Shallot Chicken. Not totally clear on how the “shallot” thing factors into this chicken. Visually, it looks the same as their basic Fried Chicken except with a ton of sliced green onion on top. I heard that actual shallots are worked into the batter, but I’m not 100% sure. Do they call green onions “shallots”?

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Half-order of Yum Yum Chicken with sweet ‘n spicy Korean gochujang-based sauce. The girl at the restaurant kept on saying “yarm yarm chicken“, which threw me for a loop. I repeated back “yum yum chicken” just to make sure the order was correct ;) Ah, the Korean accent… :)

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This was the last restaurant meal of our Calgary trip and it was an immensely satisfying and joyous one.

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The best Korean fried chicken uses the proper double-frying technique to get a crunchy coating that stays crunchy even after sitting in sauce. Yum Yum BBQ’s chicken stayed crunchy after a long ride home and me taking a ton of pictures, so this made me really happy. They’ve got the frying technique down.

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The sauce is syrupy but not too cloying. Certainly way less sweet than I’ve had previously at other places in Vancouver. Looks like they add a bit of carrot to the sauce.

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Thin yet crispy/crunchy batter. Chicken meat is flavourful, so I’m guessing they marinade it or something.

I started eating this fried chicken with Alley Kat Summer Squeeze Grapefruit Ale (described above) but was so disgusted by its limp flavour that I poured it down the drain and moved onto Maine Beer Co. Peeper Ale (also described above) which really took this meal into the statosphere. It was making me so happy that I had to put on some music and dance in my chair:

 

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Shallot Chicken. We ditched the massive pile of sliced green onions and ate the chicken as-is. The batter is SO GOOD!

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I dunno if I can accurately describe the batter…hint of black pepper, sweetness, carmelized-ness, garlic(?), shallots(?)…but I didn’t taste the prototypical shallot flavour. The batter isn’t salty. Some might say it needs more salt, but I loved the subtlety and depth. Whatever they put in this batter, it’s frickin’ delicious! All these subtle flavours melded together into a mysterious and enticing whole.

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It’s funny that the packaging that doesn’t quite match the actual restaurant. The boxes don’t say Yum Yum BBQ anywhere. But rest assured, it IS high quality chicken!

I’m so happy that our trip ended on a massive high, with a simple meal of takeout fried chicken and an awesome beer. The best Korean fried chicken I’ve ever had…in Calgary of all places! I’ll miss it.

Yum Yum Chicken & BBQ Korean Cuisine on Urbanspoon


Like the city itself (with its never-ending construction), the food scene in Calgary is always changing and evolving. Just when I think I’m getting bored, something pops up and reignites my appreciation for Cow Town.

9 thoughts on “Hot Ramen Facials & More in Calgary – June 2014”

  1. Looks like you hit some of the hot spots on 17th Ave SW, and immediately surrounding my establishment, but unfortunately we didn’t get the opportunity to serve you. Next time you are in the area, please drop by Crepes & Cravings and say hello. Lots of gelato, made in house from scratch…and we have a pretty extensive menu of savoury and sweet crepes as well.

    Thanks for the work you put into your blog. It’s a great read and resource.

  2. I’ll second Crepes and Cravings :) (hi Brian!).

    One thing: Downtown isn’t a ghost town at night or weekends anymore- especially summers. You saw that at Village and you’d see it up and down Stephen Avenue. Goro and Gun is in Scotia Plaza which has not managed to keep up with The Core and I’ll be that many people don’t even know it exists, ergo its post-workday deadness- but with the opening of the new National upstairs from it, hopefully evening business will improve. But please stop repeating this myth about Calgary’s downtown- I live here, I know it’s not true. We have an excellent downtown with gorgeous new architecture, a seven-nights-a-week cultural menu, and great restaurants as well we thousands- yes thousands- of residential units under construction. Every city has dead CBD areas in evenings, even Vancouver, but Calgary has come a very, very long way.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment John. I remember you from the Western Canada Chowhound board and you always had a great perspective on things. Point taken about downtown Calgary. Things are definitely improving from when I first visited 15+ years ago! I welcome the increased density and hope it has a positive effect on the dining scene in the downtown core.

      Quite a few Calgarians I talked to still have this impression of downtown though, that it’s impossible to drive through during the day and really dead at night…plus they haven’t dined downtown in years since moving out to the suburbs. I told them that there’s more than Murrieta’s, CHARCUT and Catch now :P

  3. Great post! Stumbled in your blog researching my trio to Calgary this upcoming week, will definitely be checking out quite a few of these spots.

    One question though, which shop did you find Maine Beer Co.? I’ve got Willow Park, Zyn.ca, Kensignton and a trip up to Sherbrooke Liquors planned.

    1. Thanks for reading! I found the Maine Beer Co. beers at Oak & Vine (http://www.oakandvine.ca/) located at 1030 16th Ave NW. That’s the corner of Hwy 1 and 10th St NW, near SAIT. The guy there, John, is nice, knowledgeable and helpful. Enjoy your trip!

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