Thursday, September 11, 2008

Benkei Noodle Shop Downtown Vancouver

Benkei ramen shop.
1741 Robson St, Vancouver
Tel: 604-688-6980

For the years I have been searching in Calgary for a simple ramen it only took me two days in vancouver to discover this little shop. I was having a hunger for some fresh noodles, but what a shock I got from picking up the menu in this normal looking japanese restaurant. It was paper thin and only had one side to it. Advertised on their menu was 3 kinds of ramen plus a cold noodle mix! Go figure, a ramen shop that only does ramen!

I personally had their miso ramen, as I am sucker for miso. Ramen is one of the few times I'll actually indulge in pork, and I don't regret it one bit! Along side of the gristly meat were green onions, bean sprouts and what I can only assume was japanese pickle. Now don't get me wrong, some people consider it a delicacy, but I would much rather try raw snail again than eat another japanese pickle. Pushing the pickles aside I had a very nice meal.

My uncle who accompanied me decided to try the cold noodle and broth bowl. It was topped with a little bit of everything! Shaved pork, shiitake, shrimp culled cucumber , pickled red pepper and then that yellow stuff (help me out people??)
But yes, I tried some of that and for a cold soup thats not borche I was happy. Both of our meal cost us 8 dollars each. With a drink and taxes we paid a little over 20$.

There must be at least 100 good japanese restaurants in Vancouver and area, but sadly I only had the time for two this trip, this happens to be one of the ones I went to, and I highly recommend that you check it out if out. Right near the sea wall and near/on some of the major streets. An average priced ramen shop with great results. A small selection, but totally unimportant in this case. Great wait staff, quick and courteous, I don't think anyone stayed for long than 40 minutes, flat. Without directly comparing this to the calgary scene I would love to give this palce a healthy 7.5/10.

Till the next!
Mata ne!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Urban Diner Edmonton Alberta 12427 102 Avenue NW

Best two weeks of my life started 5 days before the Urban Dinner incident. We had just got off a 6 hour bus ride down from Ft. Mac, capital of newfoundland and primary producer of oil in Canada. Pumping out more oil than you could dream of, and yet I still managed to be cheery. J, A and I were all pretty peckish, but two of us had never really spent any time in Edmonton. What were we to do? Well the only thing we could do, and that was trust our friend. Am I glad we did! He has spent the summer looking for hip places to eat, have coffee and occasionally hang. This was deffenitively a good find.

There were black and white photos all over the wall. We actually took a few minutes to take the walk around. Most of the pictures were of normal coffee/breakfast place items such as cups, sugar, spoons, plates etc. All well shot and carefully hung. Repetitive a little but I guess most people don't walk around.

I can't even remember what J and A were eating but I do know I had this weird wrap with beans and eggs and veggies. It came with a side of cubed breafast potatoes that were scrumptious, and two dips. One was a sour cream and the other was a sweet chili sauce. Together they were amazing.

They also made an ice tea beverage there that was kind of the specialty of the house. If you like ice tea, you might enjoy that. A and J both enjoyed it, myself not being an ice tea fan should have gone for milkshake.

Again I'm not going to rate them although I will say again that this was an awesome find. If your like me at all, I'll probably never be able to find this place again. But if your a local or know your way around Edmonton, try it out, it might suprise you.

Woods Restaurant in Canmore


Havn't really been doing too much in terms of independant stuff so far this summer which is a little bit of a bummer but I did take a lot of good pics this summer and managed to try quite a few good restaurants. I'll be posting quite a few over the next day or two. They won't be as detailed as some of the other ones, but I'll try and get my memory going as much as possible.

In the few days that I was working franticaly to get 10 good shots of misc "Calgary Heritage" for this company I took a few hour trip up to the mountains. While navigating through JV(buddy/driver) has the great idea of going a little further in the mountains to have some lunch. We get to Canmore which is this small little mountain town and sit down at the first outdoor patio we found. Right the end of the main road, where most of the shopping and activity seemed to be in town, we found the Woods and their massive patio. The main reason for our pick was for the open air. The view of the mountains that came up on every side was fantastic.

Both JV and I were in a burger mood so I went with the pacific coast salmon burger(Above) and he had the mushroom mozza burger. The salmon burger had a heavy terriyaki and ginger taste(note the healthy helping of white pickled ginger). The use of spinach as greens was well recieved.I can't talk much on his but he seemed to enjoy it.

The prices were a little high mind you. I think each of these burgers came to the 12-14 range and 6 dollars a drink. All in all I was happy with the location, the food was terrific, service was alright. It may have cost a little bit more than I'm used to paying for a burger but it was worth it.
I'm not going to rate this one because it was a while ago.

Mata ne!

ps: I know it's not sushi but ... ya :P

Friday, June 6, 2008

Shibuya Izakaya Calgary Alberta Late Night Sushi and Ramen and Sake

So a while ago I noticed that the shop beside the bubblemania cafe had change owners again. A new bright sign had gone up and the hours were in the window. I had not paid much attention to it till a few weeks ago when I read a review on it by another local foody. Are you gonna eat that? tipped me off to some of the best ramen I've had yet.

We arrived just after they had opened. First to be seated that day actually. It was nice. Gave us some one on one time with the waitress and the manager. Talked sushi and talked sake. The first thing I noticed on the menu was their two page spread of import and local liquor. Their sake list took up the whole first page. We settled on trying a nigori sake which is a sweet unfiltered sake. The Takari nigori sake which was brewed by sho-chiku bai was almost thick to the palette, chunky closer to the bottom but maintained a very sweet taste and smell. The taste and burn of alcohol was a little heavy but delicious none the less. This sake was served cold and went for a modest 20$.

So I had to re write this part. But oh well. We decided since we were drinking sake that we would have the ramen first since rice + rice is usually a no go. I ordered the curry ramen and my partner in crime went with the tonkotsu. Both were plate the same with pieces of bbq pork, ginger egg and seeweed. The Tonkotsu was a beautifully rich cream broth that was a thick white color and just screamed of pork. While the curry ramen just screamed of curry. I haven’t been able to satiate my hunger for spice in a long time and this did the trick. Beware though it is not for the weak at heart. My only qualm with the ramen was the hard boiled egg. The yolk had become denatured due to cooking the egg at too high of a temperature. You’ll notice sometime that when you boil eggs the yolk will turn an off greenish color, which is easily remedied by cooking the egg just below boiling point.

Now that our sake was done we felt it was appropriate to jump right into the sushi. I was very surprised to find one item in particular on their menu that is just going out of season and that is very hard to find, especially in Calgary: torigai, or cockle clam(Which was falsely advertised as geoduck). This shellfish is easy to distinguish from other shell fish due to the fact that it has a "tail" that points almost always up and towards the body. I was pleased with the sushi although disappointed that the art of sushi is now left to "personal choice". Sometimes I wonder why people can't just go with the flow and withstand the proper amount of wasabi, but oh, I digress. The torigai how ever is a piece better served solo. No shoyu no sabi. I will comment that although getting the perfect rice is far from easy, we both found the rice to be a little undercooked.

We finished off with the house roll. The Shibuya roll was a combo of cream cheese, bbq unagi, green onions, seaweed which was then deepfried in a light tempura batter and finished with a light glazing of unagi sauce. It was an interesting combo. It had a very creamy texture with just enough crunch to offset the very soft ingredients. The taste had a nice flow to it, from unagi, to cream cheese and back again with that little hint of onion. Made for a great finally.

All in all I have to say I had a great time at Shibuya, ate contently and was privy to some amazing ramen and a sake list I will go back to. on the flip side I will probably not order more sushi unless I see another piece of interest on the list, and this time I will have to ask that the chef do what he will with the piece, and serve it as he sees fit. The rest of the food looked brilliant too. Worth going back to for sure. Prices were right, everyone was friendly and the decor and location were good. To top it off this has to be one of the only places that are open late nights, so it's a perfect spot for a late night drink and soup. Food, now theres something most bars don't have past a certain time. I think I'll give this place 8/10.

Shibuya sushi is located on 16th ave and 4th st NE address is 453 and you can reach them for reservations at 277-8823.

Keep those chopsticks sharp, Mata ne!!!

Monday, May 26, 2008

A list of sushi by seasons : Whats in Season Now

Well all it's getting close to actually being summer here in calgary even though it feels like Vancouver these days. So with the change of weather, the wanting to go out and the students actually having money I thought it would be a good idea to let you all know whats in season. And no I'm not just going to tell you whats available over the summer but all the seasons. Here it goes.

Whats Available all year?

Toro (Tuna)
Bincho (albacore)
Chu-Toro (Medium tuna)
Akami maguro (Red meat tuna)
Karei (Halibut, lemon sole, type of flounder) Rare
Aji (Horse mackerel) Type of small/shiny fish
Ebi (Black tiger shrimp) Cooked
Botan ebi (Spot prawn)
Ama ebi(Sweet shrimp)
Hotategai (Scallop)
Ankimo (Monkfish liver) Easy to aquire but might not be on the menu. Ask your chef about it.
Unagi (Fresh water eel bbq)
Ika (squid)
Uni (Sea urchin) Spiky fish that only the ovaries are edible
Tako (Octopus)
Inari (Tofu pouch filled with rice)
Ikura (salmon roe) Because of the pickling process it's available outside of the salmons summer mating season.
Tamago (Light sweet omelete)
Tobbiko, Tobioo-noko (Flying fish roe)
Masay (Smelt Roe)

The pieces that I've just listed make up the majority of what I usually see on the menu in Calgary. Don't let that get you down though, always remember that even if you don't see it on the menu it never hurts to ask the chef about it.

Summer (June - August)
Kan Pachi (Amberjack)
Shima Aji (Yellow jack)
Suzuki (Sea Bass)
Hiramasa (King fish) This piece is very similar to yellowtail thats best in the winter months
Kohada (Gizzard shad)
Shakko (Mantis shrimp) This is a rare piece. If you manage to find it over the summer you will be happy because they will be filled with eggs.
Anago (Sea eel, Canger eel)

Next, Fall (September - November)
Shine Saba (Pickled makerel) Fall - Winter months
Tairagai (Razor Clam) Also good in spring
Sake (Salmon)

Winter (December - February)
Otoro (Really fatty tuna) the cold makes these fish fattier than normal
Hamachi, buti, inada ( Yellowtail) available all year but best in the winter
Madai (Red snapper) Winter to spring months
Hirame (Sole/flounder) Winter to spring months fatter and bigger though hard to find
Akagai (red clam) winter to spring
Hokkigai (Surf Clam) Winter to spring
Torigay (Cockle) Winter to spring
Matsubaguni, zuwai gani (Snow Crab) If your having a california roll this is probably the type of crab used (If not imitation)
Kuzunoko (Herring roe)

Spring (March-May)
Mirugai(Geoduck, horse neck clam or giant clam) February to June
Katsuo (Bonito) Easier to find on the west coast outside of Japan. Also best from February to June

Tarako (cod,pollock roe) Looks like a tongue and is not very popular outside of japan.
Komochi konbu, kazunoko konbu, komo chi wakame (Herring roe on kelp and seaweed) Delicacy in japan but rare in North America
Soft shell or blue crab. This type of crab is hard to find outside of North America
Dungeness Crab. Mainly found on the Pacific coast of North America
Awabi (Abalone) Protected shellfish thats cultured. This is the type of clam that produces pearls.

There you go. Hope this helps you on your quest of expanding your sushi experience.
Mata ne!

Information found in this post was published.
Sources Sited

Suetsugu, Bobby. Samurai Sushi:A Field Guide To Identifying And Appreciating The World's 4Most Unique Wraps, Rolls, And Sashimi. becker&mayer! Books. Washington. 2005

Friday, May 9, 2008

Sushi Hikari Calgary 320 16th Avenue NW

I almost hesitate to let such an awesome new restaurant be truly discovered. But it's the least I could do for the exemplary service and beautiful fresh array of foods. Hikari is located on 16th ave and 2nd st NW in Calgary, Where Mamas Italian restaurant used to reside. The interior transformation makes for an odd fusion. Classic pillars and fireplaces, European cabinets and stone floors right beside rice paper doors, katana swords and lanterns. More impressive than their use of the space is their huge menu. Their menu is comprised of a multitude of both Japanese and Korean dishes. For a new restaurant I was surprised to see how large their menu was.

I was again shocked when we were served a marvelous arrangement of appetizers, free of charge. There was a little starter bonito broth and rice noodles, mashed potatoes, fried fish in sauce and sesame seeds, potato pancakes and lightly boiled kelp with spicy sauce. It was all amazing. The mashed was light and chunky with vegetables. The Broth was also very light but tasty none the less, it was a nice balance between soy, bonito and kelp. The seaweed was a little rubbery but I didn't mind it, the spicy sauce that went with it also gave a real zing.

Lately I have been compiling lists of what is in season when and I ask when I go out if they have some of these specialty items. The reason for this is sometimes the special pieces aren't on the menu and you have to ask the chef for it. Remember though when asking do not ask what is freshest, ask what is in season or what is the specialty. Asking about freshness implies that it's not all fresh and thats an insult. Sadly I haven't been able to find most of what I'm looking for. Instead we went with some red maguru (red medium fatty tuna) Hamachi(yellow tail) a piece of tamago for myself and a tuna roll. Their tamago was surprisingly good. It was nearly gray which is weird because most places have the off yellow tamago. It also was not overly sweet which was nice. As a bonus I didn't have to ask for wasabi on my pieces.

To mix it up a little we figured we would try their signature roll called the Hibiki Roll. It was a layered delicacy with flying fish roe on top of thinly sliced avocado with shrimp tempura and cucumber in the middle. The mix between crunchy, poppy and smooth worked out very well. The textures flowed well from one to the next. This was also the first time I had a crunchy unagi maki which is simply bbq eel with cucumber and sesame seeds on the outside. The bbq sauced eel was very tasty and not overpowered by cucumber nor by the seeds.

And when we were stuffed and near finished we were suprised yet again by desert! Can you believe it? It was a simple orange, fancyfully cut and presented. We ate it up happily.

To just reiterate quickly. Amazing service, bonus dishes, great food, awesome atmosphere, good location, unbeatable selection, very agreeable pricing ,etc. I can't actually think of any complaints for this place so I'm going to give Sushi Hikari a straight 10 out of 10!

I hope you enjoyed this, Mata ne! Keep those chop sticks sharp!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Back to sushi zeal again and again calgary alberta

Yes thats right I have returned not once but twice in two weeks to this quaint sushi shop thats parked right in the middle of Kensington in Calgary. This was more of a meal than a review and I've already done that. They rate pretty high in my books right now. I definitivly prefer them over globe fish. so here are a few shots.

They have this one piece (the middle one) crispy salmon, amazing. A little bit of sauce and cooked salmon. The top right one is a piece of squid I think it was. If you can see the chef has sliced the piece into small cubes almost (outside only) and this helps tenderize the squid. Interesting and chewy.

It has been a while since I had a cone. This one in particular was sweetened omelet(tamago) and Bbq eel (unagi) also very tasty.

A well adorned veggie roll

Hope you enjoyed the pictures and sorry about lack of updates XD