There are certain days when you just need something warm and comforting. Maybe it’s the weather. Or maybe it’s just one of those days where you need to make yourself feel better through the comforts of food. On those days I tend to turn towards noodle soups. I’ve been craving for banh canh lately which is a Vietnamese thick noodle soup characterized by its chewy noodles. Since I didn’t have those noodles on hand I made a similar broth with pork hock however I added diced tomatoes to the broth to change up the flavor and served on top udon noodles. I always have a stash of frozen udon noodles in my freezer for my noodle cravings. They’re great for noodle soups or noodle stirfrys. I added some toppings of green onions and fried shallots to round out the flavor and viola dinner is served. What’s your favorite type of noodle soup?
I always love a quick stirfry for dinner; especially when its filled with umami and a perfect pairing with rice. Many of you probably have not tried stirfrying cucumbers before but it’s always been a favorite of mine. I love the sweetness and slight tender crispness it yields. In order to achieve that you must salt the cucumbers in advance to exude some of the liquid so your dish does not turn watery. Before I do anything else, I deseed then slice the cucumbers and place into a bowl with a heaping 1/2 tsp of kosher salt. Give it a small massage then I allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes while I prep the rest of the ingredients and my meal. Here I’ve stirfried it with ground pork, Chinese sausage, green onions, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, dark soy sauce and light soy sauce. It’s a perfect dish paired with rice.
Peaches and I were debating on whether to have ramen for lunch or go to Long’s and we both decided we wanted to spicy food. None of the staff here speak English but thankfully we were able to skate by since Peaches was able to speak some Mandarin and communicate with the server. Upon stepping foot in the restaurant, I immediately noticed how cold it was in there and Peaches commented on that too. But it’s definitely for the best because once you start eating spicy food, your body warms up and you wouldn’t want to be uncomfortably hot and sweaty.
We started off with the complimentary spicy pickles and these were perfect for whetting the appetite. The pickles were spicy and sour and had that numbing affect from the Szechuan peppercorns. I was tempted to ask for another serving.
The Cold Spicy Jelly Bean Curd Noodles ($8.95) arrived shortly thereafter. Initially, I thought the dish was on the sweet side but it got spicier as we continued to eat it. I wished the noodles were firmer though as they were a tad too soft for my liking. Overall, flavors were great – spicy, sweet, salty and a tad vinegary.
I really wanted to try the Deep Fried Chicken with Chili Peppers ($15.95) and convinced Peaches to do so even though she can’t handle as much heat as I can. All I can say is WOW! This was definitely my favorite dish! The chicken was incredibly flavorful, well seasoned and fried to a nice crisp. I’ve tried this dish before at Szechuan Restaurant but was less than impressed as the chicken was flavorless and not even spicy. Now I finally understand why this dish is made with bone-in chicken pieces. The bone-in pieces really add extra flavor that you wouldn’t get with boneless pieces. What was really interesting were the pieces of biscuits throughout it. I assume they’re put into the dish to break up the heat and I can’t put a finger on whether I like them or not. This dish was spicy but not as bad as you think because it’s more of a numbing spice. I am completely and utterly addicted to this dish and cannot stop thinking about it to this day.
The Eggplant in Soya Sauce(?) ($11.95) was another winner. The problem is I’m assuming we ordered the Eggplant in Soy Sauce and not Garlic because the translation in English does not match the Chinese description at all. This eggplant dish is cooked in a sweet bean sauce and was perfect eaten with rice. The eggplant was tender and creamy and soaked up the sauce. I will definitely be ordering this again.
We found the Steamed Sliced Pork Belly ($13.95) to be a bit disappointing considering how flavorful the other dishes were. The dish was really salty and the flavor was a bit one dimensional. I couldn’t even taste the sweetness from the mui choy. The pork belly was cooked well and was tender and the broccoli was also steamed to perfection.
We really enjoyed our meal here and I’m already trying to think of when I can come back to try more dishes. If you enjoy spicy food then be sure to check them out.
1448 17 Avenue Southwest
Calgary, AB T2T 0C8
Ever since Peaches raved about Li-Ao I’ve been dying to go try it out. However, since the restaurant is on the other side of the city I’ve just never made my way down there. Hubby and I wanted to have sushi one night and we could not agree on a place to go to. Hubby wanted to return to a restaurant that we’ve been to before cause he’s very weary of having bad sushi. I wanted to try some place new and suggested that we drive down to Li-Ao. I promised him it would be good (I have faith in Peaches recommendations) and he agreed.
I had called to make reservations but was told they don’t take any so we just took a chance in the hopes that the restaurant wouldn’t be full. Luckily, the restaurant was only about a quarter full when we arrived so we easily obtained a booth seat. For parents out there they do have high chairs but not the stand alone kind – the kind that straps onto a chair so just a heads up.
There were a lot of different things we wanted to try so why not order all of them. We could always enjoy the leftovers as a late night snack and I really don’t know when we would come here again. One thing we noticed while browsing through the menu were the prices. I couldn’t believe how reasonable everything was – why don’t we see prices like this in the NW?
A complimentary dish of Deep Fried Tuna Gyozas were brought to our table and we munched on these while waiting for our order. The gyozas were tasty – deep fried to golden with a lightly spicy filling of tuna that was barely cooked through. They sat on a bed of what I assume was an avocado sauce of sorts. Even hubby enjoyed these even though he’s not a huge fan of tuna.
We started with the Teriyaki Chicken ($5.95) and enjoyed both the sweet and savoriness of the dish. The chicken was still moist and the steak sauce was really flavorful.
I ordered the Assorted Sashimi ($18.95) as I’m always in the mood for the raw fish and was shocked at the huge platter that was placed in front of us when it arrived at our table. This was definitely a great deal! 15 pieces of assorted sashimi for only $18.95 – wow! And there was actually an assortment of seafood not just salmon and tuna. I enjoyed all of it with the exception of the tuna and salmon because I just thought they were cut too thick. It was literally like eating chunks or slabs of fish rather than silky pieces of sashimi.
I cannot go without Scallop Special Sushi ($2/pc) whenever I’m out for a sushi meal. However, Li-ao’s version fell short of my expectations. There was far too much mayo and that completely masked the sweetness of the scallop.
I also enjoyed the Seared Scallop Roll ($9.95). The scallops didn’t appear to be seared but it did have a smoky seared taste to it – perhaps they had lightly torched the tops? I was surprised that the balsamic vinegar didn’t overpower but complimented the other ingredients. I also appreciated that the roll wasn’t packed with rice but just enough to hold the filling together.
I had ordered the Teriyaki Beef Combo ($12.95) for my toddler and although the flavors of the dish was good the beef slices were really chewy and tough. That was a bit disappointing as it made impossible for our toddler to eat. Next time, I’ll order the appetizer portion with a bowl of rice for him instead.
Hubby ordered 3 rolls and could only finish half of what he ordered. Mainly because two of the rolls he ordered were of the giant variety and I was already pretty stuffed from my order so I wasn’t much help. The Spider Roll ($9.95) was pretty standard but done well. The soft shell crab was fried well and the roll was quite ‘meaty’.
The House Special Roll ($9.95) was filled with salmon, tuna, shrimp, avocado, crab meat and tobiko. Honestly, this roll isn’t very different from any other house special roll out there but the ingredients were fresh and hubby really liked the fact that the roll didn’t just fall apart as you picked it up. That seems to happen a lot with these giant rolls and makes it quite difficult to eat.
The Seared Tuna Roll ($9.95) was definitely hubby’s favorite since it had a slight kick to it from the jalapeno. The tuna was lightly seared with a smoky taste and the crab meat filling was creamy and moist. The presentation was a bit sloppy with this roll and since it wasn’t terribly busy the chef should’ve taken some extra time to ensure the pieces were arranged in a neater fashion. Sushi is a bit of an art form in my eyes and we eat as much with our eyes as we do with our mouth.
Service was pretty average, not outstanding but not bad either as the server did get us everything we needed. The prices are indeed very reasonable for the portion sizes so it’s very easy to over order but I guess that’s just an excuse to try as many menu items as possible. I only wished that this place was closer to home so we could frequent more often.
#231, 2335 162 Ave SW
Calgary, AB T2Y 4S6
Hubby and I were downtown one Sunday and looking for a place to have lunch at. Unfortunately for us, many places are not open for lunch on Sundays so as we were wandering around Briggs Restaurant and Bar came to mind so we made our way over there. Sadly, when we arrived we were informed that they were only serving their brunch menu. Bummer. But, since we walked all the way there we decided to stay. Brigg’s brunch menu is small and since I already had eggs for breakfast that morning I wasn’t in the mood for anymore even though their eggs Benedict sounded really good. The only eggless savory choice that appealed to me was the Breakfast Potato Gratin ($14.25) and it sounded pretty good so I went with that. Hubby couldn’t decide on what he wanted either but eventually settled for AAA Sirloin Steak ($18.25).
It was very quiet that afternoon with only one other table occupied in the restaurant while we were there while most of the small patio was full. I was admiring the space while waiting for our food and I could already tell that this place must be pretty busy and lively in the evenings. The place is filled with banquette seats, bar seating by the window and a bar situated in the middle of it all. There are several flat screen TVs on the wall airing sports which is sure to attract a crowd and perhaps make it easier for ladies to drag their man out for a meal.
The food took longer than expected to arrive and when the server placed our meals down she explained why. It turns out the kitchen had to re-cook hubby’s steak twice because it was not cooked to his liking; he had asked for it to be rare. The dish itself was quite stunning to look at with the crispy potato pancake on the bottom and then layered with the steak, eggs and hollandaise sauce. However, when he had cut into his steak it was still not cooked to his liking. It was more medium to medium-rare. The star of this dish was the potato pancake though – gloriously crispy and so good! I had a taste of it and seriously – they should just put the potato pancake on the menu by itself. It is that good.
My dish was not quite what I had expected. The potatoes were roasted well but there was a huge pool of oil at the bottom of the cast iron dish. Perhaps because they had roasted the potatoes in it but it was a bit off-putting and too greasy for my liking. The pork belly was crispy but there were only a few pieces of it and there were quite small. The kale was slightly charred and I probably enjoyed it more just because it helped to cut the greasy potatoes. Overall, I found this dish to be disappointing and underwhelming. I really expected a lot more from this dish.
We opted for dessert just because I needed something to rid the grease. Their dessert menu is quite small with only 3 items to choose from. I settled for the Lemon Pie ($8) since I’m a huge lemon fan and the meringue topping set it apart from other lemon pies that I’ve had. Although the concept of it was unique I did find the pie itself underwhelming. The pastry was slightly soggy and the curd was dry – to me that’s a sign of a pie that was made a while ago and has been sitting in the fridge. Eating all three components together did make for a very interesting mouth feel and it really does taste best if you eat all three components together.
Service was pretty attentive and the servers actually do their job rather than chit-chat with each other. I noticed many of them were restocking/cleaning since it was a quiet day. I’m still interested in trying their regular menu so I’ll be back to do that but I would pass on the brunch menu.
317 10 Ave Southwest
Calgary, AB T2R 0A5
“I have a small house but a big heart.” – Sebastian (Owner and Pastry Chef of Ohh La La Patisser)
That’s a very true statement from the incredibly kind and humble chef and owner of Ohh La La Patisser, Sebastian. I was one of the lucky few who were invited to a dessert tasting last week to preview some of their upcoming desserts from the Fall/Winter menu. The Fall/Winter desserts are heavier to suit the season so just a forewarning that there are lots of chocolate items ahead. I’m still recovering from my dessert hangover but I tell you it was worth every gram of fat and sugar that I consumed that night.
This is not the first time I’ve been to Ohh La La Patisser – I’ve been lucky enough to try their marvelous croissants before and love their maple and coconut ones! I’ve also tasted their macarons and a lemon tart before so I was pretty excited for the tasting that night. I also got to meet some fellow foodies and put a face to their twitter/instagram feeds.
Sebastian was not kidding when he said he had a small house. His kitchen is indeed quite cozy but that’s perfectly fine with me as long as he can still churn out those mouth watering desserts. It turns out Sebastian is actually from Argentina but fell in love with French pastries during his youth.
We started off with the heaviest dessert, the Rocher. This is a take on the famous chocolate confectionery and it certainly lives up to the name. The hazelnut flavor shines and the best part was the hazelnut crunch on the inside of the cake. I enjoyed it but it was a bit too sweet and rich for my taste.
The Ohh La La Peanut Butter will be sure to satisfy all those peanut butter and jelly fanatics out there. I really enjoyed this as it was not as sweet and quite a bit lighter than the previous dessert. The banana ganache was smooth and creamy and the honey roasted peanuts added that nice crunch factor. The raspberry jelly in the center that was quite firm, almost like the texture of gummi bears but melted very nicely on the tongue. Overall, I found the dessert to be well balanced and if there was one thing I would change it would be to add a hint of salt for the sweet and salty combination.
The Fantasy was one of my favorites of the night – it was incredibly light and mousse-like. Although it looks like the mango flavor is dominant in this dessert; it’s actually quite light with mainly the mango gel in the center acting on that flavor profile. The main flavor of this one is definitely the vanilla and white chocolate mousse which is fine with me since I’m a fan of mousse desserts anyways.
The White Chocolate Cheesecake was one of the lightest baked cheesecakes I’ve ever tasted. The cheesecake was very light and airy – as I dug into the dessert I could see pockets of air bubbles throughout it. The texture almost reminded me of silken dessert tofu. The crust was quite moist but it worked with the cheesecake as a harder crust would probably ruin the overall mouth feel of the silky cheesecake filling. Again, this dessert was quite enjoyable and not overly sweet.
The Chocolaticius Tart was probably my least favorite of the night and mainly because at this point I was done with having heavy desserts. The tart crust was quite firm, most definitely reminiscent of a tart crust. The salted caramel custard was quite sweet but I did enjoy the pears and chocolate combo. For some reason, I had tasted banana on my first bite even though there was none in it.
My other favorite of was The Passionate Earl Grey. I was really surprised at how well the Earl Grey tea and passion fruit paired together. The spices from the Earl Grey tea complimented the tartness of the passion fruit. And as you know, I’m a huge fan of passion fruit! The Earl Grey flavor came across loud and clear yet it was balanced by the lightness of the dessert. I don’t think I would’ve liked this as much if it was heavier but everything about this was well balanced and definitely well thought out. No wonder this is Sebastian’s favorite.
As the evening drew to an end, Sebastian surprised all of us with a box of macarons to take home. Ohh La La’s macarons are the most expensive in the city at $2.15 per macaron (or $2 each if you purchase a dozen). These confectioneries are also the most painstakingly difficult to make with at least 20% of them not turning out. I wish I got one of the Raspberry flavors as they actually go through all the trouble of making raspberry jam just to make that specific macaron. Oh well, it’s just another excuse for me to pay them a visit again for more treats. I shared my macarons with Hubby who really enjoyed them and commented on how fresh they tasted.
I had a fantastic evening tasting all the new desserts from Ohh La La and am so happy to meet such a nice and humble pastry chef. Sebastian is really passionate about his pastries and it really showed that night. If you haven’t had a chance to try them, do so soon because it’s definitely worth the drive out to Aspen.
#3118 8561 8a Ave Southwest
Calgary, AB T3H 0V5
In the past years, I’ve become somewhat infatuated with truffles. No, not the chocolate kind but the fungus variety. I remember my first taste of truffle popcorn at Muse Restaurant and I was hooked. Nowadays, I like to add truffle oil, butter and salt to whatever I can get my hands on – popcorn, roasted vegetables, aioli, pasta, pizza, drizzled on steak – you get the point. My latest creation is this truffle gnocchi with cremini mushrooms and peas. Unfortunately, I did not have time to make my own gnocchi but found some really good ones at the local Italian market. The smell of truffle wafted through the packaging and I was surprised at how the truffle flavor remained strong and dominant even after cooking the gnocchi. I’ve included the recipe for making the gnocchi below. Let me know if you do end up making them cause I’d love to hear how they turn out.
Truffle Gnocchi with Cremini Mushrooms and Peas (adapted from Saveur)
- 1 lb russet potatoes (about 2), unpeeled
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp good-quality truffle oil
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 12 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup peas
- salt and pepper
- To make the gnocchi: boil the potatoes in a medium saucepan with salted water until tender, about 20 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes very well, let cool slightly and peel. Put the potatoes through a food mill or a ricer onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle the flour and salt over the potatoes and mix together with your hands. Form a mound and create a well in the center and add the truffle oil and egg. Gently bring the dough together and knead until just combined, adding a little bit of flour if it starts to stick. Do not add too much flour or gnocchi will turn out tough.
- Lightly flour a parchment lined baking sheet and set aside. Using a rolling pin, roll to a 1/2″ thickness. Cut that into 1/2″ wide strips. Roll each strip between your hands or on the counter to form ropes. Cut each rope into 1″ portions and roll onto the back of a fork to create the ridges. Transfer gnocchi to the floured baking sheet, cover with a towel and refrigerate.
- For the sauce: bring a large pot of water to boil and add salt.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally until light brown, about 5 minutes. Add in cream and peas and cook until cream reduces to about half. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Boil gnocchi in salted water until they float, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to sauce and toss to combine. Adjust seasoning as required.
- Serve hot.