Koto not my Goto

Grilled Halibut

Grilled Halibut

Thanks to the drop in oil price, I had to curb my spending on eating out. Hence the reason why I haven’t blogged much about food lately – sorry! After not eating Japanese food for awhile, I finally broke down and bought a Groupon to try out Koto, a Japanese restaurant and bar. The place is nice with Terra Cotta warriors in the front, seating against the window, a drinks bar, dining room and sushi bar in the back.

The hostess decided to seat us in the back where the sushi bar was behind us and we had a clear picture of who sat at the bar and what drinks they were having. I can see this how outside visitors staying across the street (at the Westin) could come here for a night cap.

We decided to order an entree each and share. I chose the steak and my wife chose the Grilled Halibut. I enjoyed my steak but the halibut was not good at all. For some reason, we both had expected the halibut to be a slice rather than filet. It didn’t look like halibut and the taste wasn’t good either. It was warm, not hot. And stiff. Was it basa?

There were plenty of veggies that came with both entrees and the fried ball actually contained fried rice which was a pleasant surprise. I initially thought it was a large potato tater.

Koto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Top Disappointment Shanghai Restaurant

Chicken Balls in Spicy Sauce

Chicken Balls in Spicy Sauce

After an enjoyable round at Green Acres Golf Course in Richmond, BC, we asked our playing partners for their restaurant picks. The first restaurant they recommended to us was the Top Shanghai Restaurant on No. 3 Road in Richmond. I couldn’t help but to ask Sylvia Wong for her favourite dishes. I told her we have tried many Shanghai restaurants in Vancouver but we always order the same old thing. The dumplings of course, is standard Shanghai but they are almost the same wherever we go. Sylvia insisted that we order that if we were to go to that restaurant. Along with that, she recommended us to order a roasted duck or whatever duck was on the menu. I asked about a fish dish and she didn’t advise anything special.

When we arrived at the restaurant, it was jam packed. Everyone in Richmond was there. I found the atmosphere almost deafening. There was laughing and loud conversations going on several tables by the wall. When the menu landed on our table, I was impressed. Did I tell you that I love restaurants with huge menus? The menu was like a large coffee table book with pictures. Oh, I love menus with pictures, especially when I don’t read Chinese.

We went through the menu and decided to find the duck that Sylvia had recommended. Instead of a crispy chicken dish, we found a crispy duck dish. We ordered it. Then came the chicken. The name intrigued me. It was something like Chicken balls in spicy sauce.

Out of tradition, we ordered the Shanghai dumplings, even though they were dim sum items. When the food came, no rice was served so we ordered two bowls of it. The chicken balls was a disappointment. First of all, they weren’t ball shaped. I don’t know where we went wrong. The crispy duck was a disappointment too. It was salty, very salty and it reminded me of wax duck that I had when I was a kid. FYI, wax duck is preserved in salt and smoked.

Overall, the dinner was ok. And for the menu, we found out most of the dishes are obsolete and they don’t serve it anymore.

Sushi BBQ – Cold Rice, Bad Service

Sushi BBQ

Sushi BBQ

I’m guilty of not trying new things out but after my experience last Monday, I see why. I had an eye appointment with Dr. F. Adatia in the SE and decided to give Sushi BBQ a try. What a mistake!

The All-U-Can-Eat lunch special is a decent $15 per person price. Nigiri sushi includes salmon, tuna, shrimp, masago and tamago (or egg). Kitchen dishes include chicken teriyaki, agedashi tofu, chicken karage, salmon teriyaki, etc. And they have pizza bites too. A slice of salmon on top of spicy shrimp on a fried rice ball. (It was not as good as it looked and it didn’t look so hot either)

Sad to say, the nigiri rice was cold. And the fried eel maki had a taste of moldy bread in it. When I complained to the waiter, he brought it in to the sushi chef for examination then he came back and told me it was fine. Did the chef try it himself? I doubt he did.

They also had a Korean cooktop and Korean meat for you to cook your own. If you decide to order that, make sure you give yourself plenty of time because you are allotted 1.5 hours to eat and get out.

The decor is run down and dirty. I was surprised not to see a cockroach here and there. The service was horrible and they wouldn’t serve you a free cup of hot water. Instead they gave us an excuse that they don’t have hot water on the premise. Interesting. They do serve hot tea, don’t they?

My advice: stay away.

Lava not Flowing

Lava Souffle

Lava Souffle

It’s no comparison between Joey’s at Barlow and Roy’s Restaurant when it comes to their lava souffle. The one at Joey’s, is like an upside down cupcake that tastes like a brownie. It is served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and raspberry coulis but it’s nowhere near the quality and taste of the Lava Cake at Roy’s.

When you poke your spoon into Roy’s Lava Cake, the chocolate (lava) oozes out. Not here at Joey’s.

A Burst of Flavour?

Steak and Sushi

Steak and Sushi

When you talk about steak houses in Calgary, you don’t normally think of Joey’s at Barlow. But we made a mistake of booking a dinner reservation there last week and hoping for something else.

I haven’t been to Joey’s for some time but I used to order their ‘Burst’, a nice refreshing concoction made up of 7-up or Sprite and a scoop of blended fruit. It used to contain more chunks of fruit in it but now, it’s thin out like a lemonade. They give a free refill but after that, you have to buy a new drink. Be careful with that one. It’s not written anywhere and they assume you know.

The menu had changed over the years and the jambalaya that we had grown to love is now gone. In place of some fantastic dishes is now sushi. I usually don’t order Japanese food in a non-Japanese cuisine restaurant but I made an exception. I ordered the Steak and Sushi entree for $25, hoping it would fill my empty stomach but I am sorry to say that I was still hungry after the meal. The sushi was ok but I was really disappointed when I saw the steak. It was small to begin with but they served it sliced up. Perhaps if they left it whole, it might have lasted longer. When it’s cut up for you, it’s easy to count the number of pieces with just one hand.

JOEY Barlow on Urbanspoon

Not a Milestone

Prime Rib

Prime Rib

Lobster Jambalaya

Lobster Jambalaya

After eating out three days in a roll, I am cooking dinner at home tonight. Last night, we ate at Milestone’s at Market Mall and was again, disappointed. As entrees, I had to try their new menu item, the ‘Lobster Jambalaya’ ($26) and the ‘Prime Rib’ dinner.

The jambalaya was dry and uninteresting. I found 2-3 shrimps in it and 1 piece of lobster, a small section of the claw. It was the size of two ice cream scoops with 4 slices of grilled pita bread. The rice was overcooked and dry. Definitely, not worth the money.

The prime rib was dry as well. The edges were very tasty from the seasoning but not on the inside. It was served on top of some veggies and came with a baked potato. There were fried onions alongside like you would see at Outback but nothing like their blooming onion.
Milestones Grill + Bar on Urbanspoon

 

 

Koreans Serving Pho

Spicy Squid on Rice

Spicy Squid on Rice

I haven’t seen Huong for a long, long time. He used to visit our table on a frequent basis when we dined at the ‘Pho Huong Viet’ restaurant on Bow Trail but when he moved to 17th Avenue, we no longer ran into him. I think his family is running it for him so if you see him, tell him I said ‘Hi’.

His brother used to run the second location, next to the 7-11 on 37th Street between 16th and 17th Ave where I would see him in the kitchen sometimes.

But there was a time last year when they ran out of the soup stock. That went on for a number of weeks and I couldn’t really understand that. They were serving everything else but the bread and butter which for a Vietnamese restaurant, was the PHO.

Now in 2014, it is under new management. The first thing you will notice when you walk in, is the new expanded menu. The same noodle dishes and subs are available on the right side of the menu but now, there are Korean dishes. We ordered two dishes, Spicy Squid on Rice (pictured) and Sate Beef Noodle in Soup. The Spicy Squid was delicious and very Korean. However, I was disappointed with the Sate Beef Noodle in Soup. I found it to be more Korean than Vietnamese because it lacked the cardamon/ cinammon flavoured beef soup that usually comes with Pho. Also, the pho was replaced with very thin vermicelli instead of the flat thin noodles that I have grown accustom to liking.

Where’s Bobby?

Beef Chunks

Beef Chunks

The best dish in the house is clearly, Beef Chunks with Bobby Chao’s Special Sauce. The restaurant is Bobby Chao Pho House and it is located on 53rd Street in Edgemont. The food is tasty and the prices are reasonable but their service sucks!

This was our second visit in two weeks and we were disappointed with the service or lack of. On our first visit, we ordered bubble tea and dinner for four. After a half an hour, half of our bubble tea order came but no food. After 45 minutes, the first dish arrived and it was the BBQ Pork. Not knowing when the other dishes were going to arrive, we asked for some white rice. After another 15 minutes, the other bubble teas came but we told them we were still waiting for the rice. Another 10 minutes passed and finally, the waitress almost threw the rice container at us. She was in a hurry to get to another table. When every table around us were fully into their meal, the second dish we ordered was served. It would take over two hours to have our dinner.

Our second visit wasn’t much better. We decided to go for an early supper and sat down at 4:30pm. The restaurant was empty at the time as we put in an order for bubble tea and about three dishes including the Beef Chunks with the special sauce. Again, the bubble teas took about half an hour. Another couple sat down behind us and ordered. Twenty minutes later, their order was served as we sat disgusted. We inquired about our order and they said it was coming. After another twenty minutes, the couple who came in after us had finished their meal and left the restaurant. We flagged the waitress down and inquired about our dishes. She kept saying it was coming but there was sign of any food coming out of the kitchen. “Where’s Bobby?”, we asked. She just shrugged her shoulders.
Bobby Chao's on Urbanspoon

Why Not? Too Salty.

Linguini alla Vongole

Linguini alla Vongole

I’ve always liked the pasta at Why Not Italian Restaurant in Strathcona. After the waiter served us with a few glasses of water, he brought us a basket of dinner rolls. I had forgotten how tasty dinner rolls can be, especially when they are served warm.

I had ordered my favourite, Linguini alla Vongole or Linguini with Red Clam Sauce. They make the White Clam Sauce as well but I like the tomato version as oppose to the white wine. They’re equally tasty but I have always enjoyed the red marinara sauce here.

When it arrived, I was quite surprised to see how small the dish was. I seem to recall that they used to give you a big heap of linguini. And now, it looks like it’s about half the size of what it used to be. Either my memory is failing me or I have a bigger appetite or both.

Tonight’s red clam sauce was too salty for me to give it a thumbs up. I normally enjoy this dish here but when the sauce is salty, it’s ruined.

I’ll have to look for another Italian restaurant in Calgary. Any suggestions? If so, please leave me a comment.

Burger Week

Little Hamburger

Little Hamburger

If you’re craving for a burger then this is the week to have one because it’s ‘Burger Week’ in Calgary. From May 3 – 10, 16 restaurants have prepared their best burger for you to test out. After eating it, go to YYC Burger Week and submit your vote. Most of the participants are downtown with a few on the outskirts such as one on 37th Street at Murdoch’s Bar & Grill, in Bowness at NOtable – The Restaurant, in Inglewood at The Fine Diner and in Ogden at Naina’s Kitchen.

Unfortunately, none of the fast food joints like McDonald’s, A&W, Harvey’s or Five Guys are in the race for the best burger.

My first encounter with Five Guys when I was in Thousand Oaks, California. At its Grand Opening, they had a line-up that wrapped around the block. There was so much hype in the papers, on the radio, word of mouth – everywhere. When I finally tried it, I found it nice and juicy. The first thing that impressed me was the amount of free toppings that you can get with your burger. Aside from the typical condiments, you can get jalapeno peppers, green peppers, mushrooms, grilled onions, tomato and lettuce.

Compared to the one on Macleod Trail SW, they could be more generous with the fries. In the states when you order the ‘little fries’, you get a heaping mound of fries that they have to bag for you to walk away with. Here, you’re lucky to find 10 more sticks in the bag. The burgers are freshly grilled but not as juicy as I remembered them to be. And the prices? What can I say, more money here as always.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon