I Came For The Food - calgary restaurant review

By: I Came For The Food  09-12-2011
Keywords: Restaurant, Beef

Life as a food writer means that I’m living most people’s dreams (including my own!): I get paid to eat. Since I live to eat, this works out well.

Shiraz's eggplant dip topped with whey made the top 75!

I — along with notable Calgary food critics , among others — contributed some favourite eats. Where editor Laura Pellerine and staff writers Dan Leahul and Alison Onyett filled in the rest. Dare I so flagrantly admit that we all have great taste?

You might recognize some of my previous posts on the rich ,  the indulgent , or the pitch-perfect . Can you guess my other picks? (Hint: They include #19, 33, 57, 61 and 69).

Please eat some extra portions on my behalf. And enjoy
- Anh Chu

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5. FOOD: 5 / 5. VALUE: 4 / 5. AMBIANCE: 4.5 / 5

I started with the seasonal soup creation, a roasted cauliflower and yellow zucchini with scallion oil ($10). The soup was comforting and gourmet. At $10 bucks a pop, it’d better be good, and believe me (cheap-ass that I am), it was well worth the price.

Pureed soup at a nice restaurant is one of my favourite things in the world.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5. FOOD: 4 / 5. VALUE: 3.5 / 5. AMBIANCE: 4 / 5

At Juree’s Thai Place, the service is personal, the food is fragrant and the atmosphere is zen-like.

We shared a Tom Khaa Kai Soup ($8) with coconut milk, chicken and mushrooms. The tangy soup flavoured with kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and galangal left a slightly pasty residue on the palate. Also, I found the small bits of lemongrass (which has a tough texture) difficult to manage. I’m particularly picky with this soup because I make a kick ass version of it that is bold yet complex. Here, it tasted predominantly of coconut milk and fish sauce.

The Tom Khaa Kai soup can be described as very "bitty."

Overall rating: 4 out of 5. FOOD: 4 / 5. VALUE: 3.5 / 5. AMBIANCE: 4 / 5

To start, lamb merguez (sausage) with grainy mustard and baguette ($5) whet our appetites.

The sausage was piping hot, balanced by an acidic, grainy mustard.

My friend ordered the quiche of the day which was goat cheese ($16). The quiche was rich but boasted a superbly light, airy and fluffy texture. Read my , or continue for the expanded version…

Overall rating: 4 out of 5. FOOD: 4 / 5. VALUE: 3.5 / 5. AMBIANCE: 4 / 5

The recently opened Blue Star Diner in Bridgeland, from the owners of , is working from a proven and popular concept of a solid lineup of breakfast and lunch dishes. While there are some Dairy Lane repeats like the , new offerings abound as well. Read my , or continue for the expanded version…

We ate a grilled cheese sandwich with slices of Granny Smith apple, sautéed onions and Sylvan Star Gruyere ($12.95) with skinny fries and baked beans. The thin apple slices served primarily to add texture rather than enhance flavour. Everything tasted fresh, but the neutral colour palette lacked “oomph” presentation-wise.

If not for the pickle and a few pokey apple slices, this plate would make the colour beige jealous.

Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5. FOOD: 3.5 / 5. VALUE: 3.5 / 5. AMBIANCE: 4 / 5

It’s a quirky place, as every table features a deck of cards or small board game. The front of the restaurant features a massage chair, which I’m still confused about (are massages given by staff or is it a decorative accent?). Our server was almost so casual that I wasn’t sure if she worked there or if she had just wandered into the restaurant mid-jog.

Good thing the food looked promising. The menu is easy to read and organized into various levels of hungriness. And the dishes are named as affirmative statements. “I am thrilled” was our sushi appetizer with quinoa, basil pecans and avocado ($9). We liked the nuttiness, but the too-tightly packed rice made the dish dense.

The overcooked rice made this dish heavy. Sushi should never feel heavy.

Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5. FOOD: 3 out of 5. VALUE: 4 out of 5. AMBIANCE: 4 out of 5

Ichi Rock is a Japanese Izakaya and Sushi restaurant in Calgary’s downtown west end. Izakaya refers to Japanese small plates (like tapas) traditionally eaten with sake.

The lunch specials provide remarkable value for the downtown core. I went with the teriyaki beef special with rice and salad ($8.95).

The teriyaki beef usurps the tiny (by comparison) bowl of rice. Fine by me!

The rice was too soft; however, there was a surprising amount of beef. Soft rice is sacrilegious. I was reprimanded once for making soggy jasmine rice as a teenager (never again!). Sushi chefs in Japan can train for years, yes years, on how to cook rice properly and this dedication is apparent when you eat rice in Japan.

My friend ate the spicy chicken rice bowl with a fried egg on top ($6.50), including miso soup and salad . There is no photo because the brown-ness of the dish was not visually appealing. Again the rice was too soft, but for $6.50, can’t complain too much.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5. FOOD: 4 out of 5. VALUE: 5 out of 5. AMBIANCE: 3 out of 5

Do not come here on a hungry stomach or you’ll leave 10 pounds more buttery. As soon as you walk into Eclair de Lune, you experience strong wafts of butter along with memories of daily stops at the local Parisian bakery around the corner of your hostel when you were 23. Moving on…

Read my , or continue for the expanded version…

My companion and I were surprised to see a lunch combo for just $6.50, which includes your choice of a savoury pastry (turnovers, croissant, quiches), dessert (mini fruit tarts, cookies, meringues) and drink (ginger ale, water, tea, coffee). It’s a three-course meal for less than what you’d pay for one sub-par dessert at a restaurant.

My combo included two turnovers; one filled with spinach and feta cheese and the other with mushroom and cream cheese.

I would turn over for these turnovers. I don't even know what that means.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5. FOOD: 4 out of 5. VALUE: 5 out of 5. AMBIANCE: 2.5 out of 5

Just a few minutes off International Avenue (17th Ave. S.E.) is Song Huong, a tucked away restaurant serving specialties from central Vietnam, especially from former imperial city Hue, along with more familiar Vietnamese cuisine like beef noodle soup (pho). Read my , or continue on for the expanded version.

We started with steamed pork and shrimp tapioca dumplings ($6.25).

Pork and shrimp tapioca dumpings with nuoc mam dipping sauce.

The earthy minced pork and shrimp filling was nicely balanced by the gelatinous dough and infused with banana leaf. There are 9, count ‘em, 9 dumplings! For those who eat dim sum, the texture is reminiscent of the a mushier version of har gow, those clear shrimp dumplings you must eat with hot sauce.

We continued with bun bo hue ($6.95), a special noodle soup dish with rounded rice noodles and an orangey broth, typically made with beef bones, lemongrass and chili. The version here is topped with Vietnamese sausage, beef shank and cubes of pig blood jelly (mmm, blood-flavoured jello).

Bun bo hue. Noobs take note, "hue" sounds more like "way" than "Hugh."

Basil Ultimate Pho & Fine Vietnamese Cuisine is a casual and spacious restaurant with  modern decor. Although the shiny interior makes it seem too polished (read: not “real”), the food is quite authentic, as it should be — Basil is the creation of Pho Dau Bo’s (on International Avenue) former owners.

The restaurant was nearly full but we arrived at the tail-end of the lunch hour and were seated right away. Anybody else notice that Calgarians like to eat lunch right at noon? No other city seems so dedicated to eating on the clock, everyday. Knowing this, I always try to time my lunches for right before noon, or 12:45 p.m.

We started with delicious grilled beef summer rolls: vermicelli noodles, lettuce and grilled beef wrapped in rice paper (3 for $6.25). When I was a teenager, we’d go to my friend’s house to roll our own version of these. I always meant to keep track of how many of these I could stuff my face with, but would invariably forget midway through the bliss. Basil’s beef salad rolls remind me of those times.

These kind of look like caterpillars. Delicious, beef-filled "caterpillars" at that.

The information in this article was current at 06 Dec 2011

Keywords: Beef, Restaurant

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