Contact the New York Times Crossword Department…we have found a four letter word for heaven!

Tojo’s
1133 West Broadway, Vancouver
604.872.8050

 

And the word is…Tojo. To kick-off holiday dinners in Vancouver one of my closest foodie companions and I ventured out in a blizzard to Tojo’s. Dining at Tojo’s is an experience, and if you can, and the evening suits it, make a reservation for the bar so as to watch the master at work. While you can order your meal al la carte the ideal way to order at Tojo’s is – Omakase. Omakase is Japanese for “entrust” and is a meal where the chef creates a custom menu of both hot and cold Japanese dishes. They will ask if you have any dietary restrictions for which the servers will likely make funny sarcastic jokes throughout the meal (this has happened to me on more than one occasion), but they will definitely accommodate you and make a wonderful meal that meets your needs and exceeds your expectations. For those of you who have been dawdling around only ordering sushi rolls in Japanese restaurants, venturing sometimes into sashimi territory thinking that is adventurous, Omakase is a perfect way to break the cycle and enjoy other types of Japanese food, as only one of the courses is sushi. There are three set Omakase options varying in price from $60-110$ per person and in courses from four to five.

For 80$ each we enjoyed five scrumptious courses, and I will humbly only note the remarkable as best I can. The second course for me was a house smoked salmon, with a peanut sauce, served over mixed greens. I am quite particular about smoked salmon, there have only ever been three that I have loved, the first is candied and sold in Granville Island (of which I can only have petite nibbles because it is so rich), the second caught and smoked in the Queen Charlotte Islands I enjoyed many times, and the third, here, was spectacular. The most delightful course, was the third – seared white snapper served on a bed of mushrooms topped with broiled roe was a frenzy of flavour and texture that tantalized my palate. As I have a particular love of mushrooms and the chefs who prepare them well I will take a moment to note that of the fourth course I can’t remember anything except the sweet flavour and firm texture of the mushrooms. If you enjoy mushrooms you will be enchanted by the magic Tojo works with mushrooms throughout the courses. The fifth course, the sushi course was very good, and each piece was uniquely, thoughtfully, and elegantly prepared. The most interesting sushi to don our table was a scallop wrapped in thin egg paper instead of the traditional seaweed. To me the most delicious was then spicy tuna, and lastly the most beautiful was a masterpiece of colour that was wrapped in bbq salmon skin. In reflecting back on the meal it was best to have entrusted the chef, because he took me on a journey I would not have chosen for myself, but one that I am grateful for having explored.

If you love Japanese food you must try Tojo’s, you can save it for a special occasion and be sure to take with you friends and family who will appreciate the experience. Reservations recommended!

If you have been to Tojo’s share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...

A Wii snack, or even a full meal…

Nuba
1206 Seymour Street, Vancouver
778.371.3266

 

After several hours of playing Lego Starwars (this game rocks!) on my new Wii, with several more hours of play to go before a glorious dinner Nuba made the perfect afternoon snack. It is close to where I live, which is one of the many reasons I chose my neighbourhood, but even if it weren’t I would walk, jog, or drive to enjoy Lebanese food that is fresh, delicious, and tastes home made. Most often I take-out from here, they have biodegradable bamboo containers and the falafel is so portable I’ve even take it to a movie theatre with me (much better than munching down a big tub of popcorn). They have lots of options for dietary restrictions including vegan and vegetarian, but also have yummy meat dishes that include lamb for the carnivores in the crowd. Every dish comes in a variety of sizes, making it a great place to either fill up, or just grab a bite. Call ahead an order if you are in a hurry, sometimes it can take a while. But definitely stop by because for less than 10 bucks a person you can have a great meal or snack. There are two locations in Vancouver to serve you, but check out the hours online because they are different depending on location.

 

If you have been to Nuba share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (1 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...

Celebrating after a seaside run in the cold snowy Vancouver? weather…

Raincity Grill
1193 Denman Street, Vancouver
604.685.7337

 

The perfect location to celebrate a cold and snowy run along the seawall on a Saturday morning. This is another pick I owe to Alyssa, and it is one I love to go to myself, and to pass along to friends. Raincity Grill is located in the west end with view of English bay and in the summer they have a lovely terrace, which is where we sat when we first visited. This weekend it was a chilly minus 6 outside, and surprisingly even snowy, so we enjoyed sitting inside sipping complimentary warm cider with a slice of pear and fresh croissant drizzled in warm chocolate. Our breakfasts were delicious and while I was tempted to venture into more experimental territory I stuck to the classic Benedict. My companions enjoyed the English breakfast and back bacon Benedict. We ordered a maple apple appetizer to share, which I would skip in the future. We enjoyed the mimosas though, such a civilized drink to have with breakfast. The ambiance inside is a classic restaurant with white linens and plates. Nothing witty to say about Raincity Grill, but do come and enjoy, you may pass it along to your friends as well. It was a perfect way to kick off the holidays in Vancouver and I must get back here for dinner someday. Great.

 

If you have been to Raincity Grill share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (3 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...

Calgary comes of age? # 3, supreme gracious mango god?

Mango Shiva
218 – 8th Avenue SW, Calgary
403.589.4888

 

Funky lighting from chandeliers to candles burning unattended in the bathroom hallways give this restaurant and lounge an enticing ambiance. I’m not quite sure about the name, Mango Shiva, I think Shiva means supreme god in Hinduism, and in Sanskrit it can mean gracious, so is this place Mango Supreme god or a Gracious Mango…not sure ?! This is one of the many restaurants in Calgary that boast Naan Bread – with thanks to Kanchan I will note that this is a glaring redundancy as Naan means bread. But other than this minor violation of language this restaurant is very good. And some of their food items actually fall into the “great” category including the delicate and perfectly spiced pakoras with tamarind chutney and the tandoori roasted chicken with butter sauce. The later of which are recommended on behalf of my dinner companions. Mango Shiva is modern Indian cuisine, well executed, in the heart of downtown Calgary. Pricier than the average Indian restaurant (T.I.C.This is Calgary), mains are 16-24$.

 

If you have been to Mango Shiva share your rating using the stars below.

Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (2 votes, average: 4.50 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...

Alpha Izakaya Tapas Bar

+ ALPHA
1099 Richards St. Vancouver
604.633.0355

Just a quick note so that you don’t think I only go out for brunch :) Stopped by Alpha for drinks and would go back.  The martinis are creative and yummy, and the japanense tapas okay to good.  It only gets a so-so on atmosphere as the bar and restaurant are small, but half decent place downtown to grab a drink and quick nibble without too much noise in the background.

If you have been to +ALPHA share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (1 votes, average: 3.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...

landlocked but dockside? (Calgary comes of age? #2)

big fish
112 edmonton trail ne, calgary 
403.277.3403

 

One of the great questions that remains for me about Calgary is can a place that is landlocked really get it right when it comes to seafood?  big fish has sustainable seafood, thoughtfully prepared and appropriately themed food, and is worth the drive, even in minus 30 degrees Celsius.  They did hit on two of my pet peeves today…ambiguous bathroom gender signs, and hard cooked poached eggs.  But they resolved the most important of these, hard eggs, both promptly and without question.  As for the pictures on the bathroom doors that indicate male and female washrooms, let’s just say the picture on the women’s washroom is quite masculine looking, and you might get confused too. The menu items don’t have names they just have descriptions which makes referencing them a mouthful.  I had the ‘pan fried trout rosemary hash with lemon butter and poached eggs’.  Once the eggs were replaced with soft poached this meal served in mini cast iron pan was delicious.  The trout was flavorful, delicate and melted in my mouth, while the rosemary potatoes and poached eggs made for perfect accompaniments.  The portions were a good size and around the table from the wild mushroom scramble to the smoked trout scramble the food was yummy.  Mimosa’s made with Spanish cava made this a great Sunday brunch.  I was intrigued by the ‘house coffee’ that comes with Vodka, but even I couldn’t have vodka that early!  Service was prompt and friendly.  For me big fish rates a very good, and I will try to make it back for dinner sometime, or stop by one of Dwayne and Alberta’s other restaurants – Diner Deluxe, Open Range, Vue Café, and Urban Baker.

 

If you have been to big fish share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (2 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...

Calgary comes of age? First down…and thinking enRoute might have something here…

Mercato
2224 – 4th Street S.W.
Calgary
403.263.5535

 

The first stop on the enRoute mission is Mercato. “Exciting, imaginative expression of Italian classics…”. Mercato is a restaurant with a mix of an Italian grocery store. It has a striking open kitchen and a mix of classic tables and long bar height tables. The restaurant has a loud buzz and is comfortably lit. The menu is just the right length, appropriately themed, and has an interesting assortment of side dishes. We ordered an antipasto platter as an appetizer, main courses, and a side dish. Too much food, but great to try it all. The side dish was Funghi, which was “great!”. The gnocchi was homemade, soft and supple, avoiding the common gnocchi plague of being over worked and therefore tough. The ricotta on my Fettuccini was divine and the pasta was al dente. Masculan Pinot Nero felt like a big hug from an Italian mother as it mingled with the dinner. However, crack open the check book because this is what those in the know call a “negative per diem day”, and the rest of you who are sane call a $$$ meal. Mains are reasonably priced in the $16 range for pastas (more for meat/seafood), but it’s the extras that add to the price, but also the experience. Mercato gets a Very Good (borderline Great).

If you have been to Mercato share your rating using the stars below Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (3 votes, average: 4.67 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...

enRoute Magazine – This is a Paid Advertisement

Last week I was sitting on the plane and looked across the aisle to see one of the passengers reading an article from the enRoute magazine entitled “Calgary’s dining scene comes of age”. Shocked I scoured my copy for the article. Having been staffed in Calgary for a year, I must say that in general I feel at best deprived from culinary culture. I’ve got a few generalities about restaurants in Calgary including:

  1. It is hard to find good food at a reasonable price, and often you find pricy food that’s not great
  2. They thoughtless and excessively use premium ingredients
  3. Fusion cuisine was mistranslated here and ended up being ‘con’fusion cuisine

So when I read the article’s small print and saw that it was sponsored by Tourism Calgary I was not surprised, these folks have some serious incentive to convince folks that food in Calgary has taken a turn for the better. The article claims that Calgary has “blossom[ed]…to rival…Toronto and Vancouver”. Really? Are you kidding me? Well the article lists a handful of restaurants in its defense, and I am optimistically going to try many of them to report back to you whether or not the Calgary Tourism board has it right. Has Calgary’s dining scene come of age? Stay posted we will figure it out…

There is a link in the article for a contest, but they got the link wrong, so here’s the link: http://enroutepromo.com/tourismcalgary/ 

Let’s hope that’s all they got wrong, because I’ve got about 20 meals ahead of me on this one…

Tall and Narrow – 7 days a week

Wild Rice
117 West Pender St.
Vancouver
604.642.2882
 
If you’re looking for a good place to grab a cocktail or eat a solid Asian fusion meal this stop at the edge of Chinatown is your place. I owe this suggestion to Alyssa (she has some of the best restaurant picks!). The atmosphere here is good for a date or meeting up with friends. High ceilings, bar height tables, and modern furnishings give this place a contemporary feel that matches the food on the menu. When here a couple of weekends ago we shared a couple of dishes including the spicy kung po chicken with twice cooked peanuts (substituted tofu) – spicy, yummy, and such a large portion we shared it among three.  The food can be eaten family style, but those with food restrictions can find suitable options to eat alone. I love the use of mushrooms in dishes like the wild rice steam buns (a vegetarian option as well) and if you want to expand your vegetable portfolio try the gai lan & crisped shallots. They have an extensive and delicious martini menu and some great liquor on the bar including premium vodkas and tequilas (favs of mine). Open for lunch, dinner until late you’ll find this is a good place to put into your back pocket. I think it gets somewhere between a Very Okay and Very Good.
 

If you have been to Wild Rice share your rating using the stars below.

Not OKJust OKVery OKVery GoodGreat (1 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...