Li-Ao Sushi

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

Li-Ao Sushi

#231, 2335 162 Ave SW
Calgary, AB T2Y 4S6

Li-Ao Sushi on Urbanspoon

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Big Fish

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Hubby’s friend C was recently in town from London, UK and we had brunch with him to catch up.  It is not easy looking for a kid friendly place to dine at on a Sunday afternoon.  A lot of the places that we go to are either not open for lunch or they don’t take reservations for brunch.  And, doesn’t it seem like everyone in Calgary is out for brunch on Sundays?  It sure seems that way when we’re left waiting for table.  That’s when Big Fish came to mind – one of the bonuses is that they take reservations and the food is good.

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I went with the Wild mushroom, truffle, basil and white cheddar scramble on Noble duck confit hash ($15).  I’ve had it before, really enjoyed it and wanted to have it again.  It was still as good as I remember although I found the portion to be a bit smaller than before – not as much duck I think. I still enjoyed it though and love the flavor combination of mushrooms and duck together.

Homemade jam and ketchup

Homemade jam and ketchup

I tried some of their homemade strawberry jam with my slice of bread and really enjoyed the intense strawberry flavor.  I love their homemade jams because they’re always packed full of fruit and not cloyingly sweet.

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The Citizen Sidewalk brioche French toast with orange curd and maple syrup ($13) was my toddler’s order since they don’t have a kids menu.  Although on the pricier side, the French toast was indeed really good.  The toast was crispy yet soft, buttery and custardy.  The orange curd was to die for…I could seriously smear that on everything and eat it!

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Hubby had the Arugula, oven dried tomato and Sheppards Dairy sheep feta omelette ($12) with a side of bison chorizo ($4).  He really enjoyed the omelette and sausage but was super stuffed after.  The chorizo was huge and he couldn’t believe the portion size. I didn’t try his dish so can’t comment on the flavors but he polished off the entire thing so that must be a good sign.

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C decided to try the Soft shell crab club sandwich with wild boar bacon and organic tomatoes with a side salad ($17).  The server was kind enough to explain what it the crab was like so he wouldn’t be surprised.  He enjoyed the soft shell crab but got tired of eating the bread with it halfway through.  I suspect because it was too hard and crunchy overall – in other words too much jaw work.  The buttery crusty bread with the deep fried crab can give your jaw a bit of a workout. I think this sandwich would almost pair better with a soft bun instead.

Service was pretty average – the server got us what we needed and refilled our waters when they ran low.  We really liked the laid back atmosphere of the place and didn’t feel rushed to finish our meal and leave so that waiting patrons could get their table.  I would definitely return for brunch and try their other offerings.  I have my eyes set on their Maple Fried Oatmeal next time.

Big Fish

1112 Edmonton Trail NE
Calgary, AB T2E 0Z2

Big Fish Dockside on Urbanspoon