Restaurant Review: Mister Chen's

>> Thursday, June 20, 2019

My husband and I were chatting the other day about how when we were in our early 20s (I’m dating myself here), we were always hard pressed to find places to go and things to do. It was always either a movie or hang out at each other’s places. It’s nothing like how Calgary is today with all the amazing cocktail bars, lounges and restaurants. I guess we’re sort of trying to make up for what we didn’t have and I’m glad that he’s with me in wanting to check out new places. So we were super lucky to be invited down to the new Mister Chen’s to check out their amazing new space!

Atmosphere: An asian inspired dining room with a loungey vibe.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+

Food & Drinks: I often struggle with what to order off of a menu, so I was excited when the server told us that the chef was going to put together some plates for us that evening to showcase their cuisine. We started with the Ahi Tuna Tataki with citrus and jalapenos, black sesame topped with ponzu foam. It was right up my alley because I love raw preparations and this dish was packed with flavour. I enjoyed the crust of the sesame with the spicy jalapenos. I thought the spiciness always adds a nice little punch and wouldn’t even mind a bit more of a kick.

We were also treated to an array of dumplings such as the Mushroom Wonton with a sesame emulsion. I really like the texture and flavour of the wonton, however the wrapper did fall apart a bit, which might be due to the fact that it was sitting in the sauce. The added chili oil here was a great addition. The Wild Boar Pot Stickers were a hit, they had a great crust on the outside and a lovely black vinegar dipping sauce. Overall a great bite! Lastly the “Shumai” Agnolotti with humbolt squid in a miso umami broth was another tasty dish where that miso broth was the star. We enjoyed the flavour of it so much that we kept it as a dipping sauce for the octopus that we had later.

The appetizers that we shared so far was tasty but nothing prepared us for the fabulous Pork Belly dish that came next. The dish came with 6, that’s right 6 pieces of melt in your mouth pork belly. Served with a sweet Indonesian soya and a crunchy salt and vinegar Chicharrón. My hubby couldn’t stop raving about it. The chicharron was puffed perfection and the pork belly was tender, definitely a winner. It’s a great sharing dish, if they’re nice and you’re in a sharing mood!

Next we were served the Crispy Octopus with crunchy red pork, avocado chimichurri and smashed potatoes. I enjoyed the texture of this dish, I was expecting a charred octopus, instead the octopus is deep fried giving it a crispy exterior while the interior remains tender. The avocado chimichurri and the pickled radishes worked for me as well as the smashed potatoes. The hubby enjoyed this dish with the umami broth from the agnolotti as mentioned above, either way I thought I would definitely order this again.

After all those plates we were pretty full and ended the meal with a cooling Yuzu Tart made with condensed milk and accompanied by a cultured butter cream. I did find the tart a bit sweet, but I’m not a huge fan of citrus desserts, my husband liked it. The cream on the side helped.

The cocktails were tasty that evening as well. We had the bartender surprise us and it was as if he knew us! The hubby got The Pleats made with wild turkey bourbon, cocchi storico, amaro nonino and it tasted like a lighter old fashioned, my husband’s favorite drink. I had the Don’t Blush which reminded me of a sweeter negroni featuring aperol, strawberry sake, orange bitters, prosecco and soda water. Its perfect for summer and can definitely be dangerous since it goes down so easily.

My Pick(s): Tuna Tataki, Pork Belly

Overall: We had a great time at Mister Chen’s with their tasty cocktails and some tasty dishes. The vibe was really cool and I enjoyed the look of the dining room. I’m glad my husband and I can still sneak away from the kids from time to time and check out some great places in town. At least now we get to do it in cool surroundings with delicious food and drinks!

Mister Chen’s
2004 4 St SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 764-2436


Yakima's Delicious New Menu

>> Thursday, May 23, 2019

We were on our patio pretty much the whole weekend sipping wine, which could only mean one thing…it is finally summertime in Calgary. It is my favorite season in the city, the leaves start coming out, flowers are in bloom and we commence patio season. Along with patio season also comes new menu launches from restaurants that are focusing on using seasonal ingredients and local produce! One of those places is Yakima Social Kitchen & Bar at the Marriott YYC Airport. We were lucky enough to get invited up to try some of their new dishes and all I have to say is I am still thinking of some of those dishes!

When we arrived, we were escorted into a beautiful private dining room (after valeting our car, you get free parking when you dine with Yakima, so no worries about having to find parking!). The room was set up with an amazing array of their brand-new appetizer and share dishes, along with a mini bar where their talented bartender was going to be mixing up drinks all night long.

It was hard to pick and choose what to try first since everything looked so appetizing. One of my first and favorite bites the whole entire evening was the Maple & Soy Cured Smoked Salmon with acadian seaweed salad and pea shoots. I can’t even begin to describe the flavour explosion that hits you along with the fabulous melt in your mouth texture that they’ve managed to achieve with the salmon. Chef Forsythe mentioned that it was achieved through a slow smoking process that allowed the salmon to reach that level of tenderness. I can and will probably eat multiple orders of this as long as they have it on their menu! Fingers crossed it’s something they keep on their menu!

Another favorite was their Smoked Alberta Brisket Sliders with creamy horseradish mayo, caramelized onions and arugula. Also a result of slow smoking, the brisket were falling apart delicious. I loved that they were in slider form because it’s the perfect size. Some people could find that brisket is a heavy cut of beef so it was perfectly portioned, but if you want more no worries…you can always eat another one. The Pork Belly Egg Noodle featuring cured pork belly, vegetables and sweet soy glazed noodles. One of their Asian inspired dishes, the pork belly and noodles make for a nice combination.

On the flip side, if you’re looking for something lighter and refreshing, there’s the Tuna Poke which is fresh ahi tuna with sushi rice, avocado, mango, beans, pickled carrots and topped with sriracha mayo. It’s refreshing and healthy, a nice choice for those looking for a lighter meal option. There are also their wonderful salads such as the Yakima Harvest Salad featuring sumac roasted squash and roasted hazelnuts in a wild berry dressing or the Foraged Mushroom Salad with arugula, baby kale, aged gouda dressed with a maple vinaigrette. Both were tasty and fresh.

Aside from the wonderful bites on display, we were also treated to specially selected dishes throughout the evening directly from the kitchen such as the Three Sister Lentil Stew reminds me of comfort food, flavourful and hearty with squash, corn, spinach and wild rice pilaf. The Pork Chop Bear & Flower Farm served with corn and potato hash, bacon and apple jam. I really liked the presentation with the bone-in, which gives it that extra flavour.

If you’re looking for something more substantial there’s the Canadian Rangeland Bison Ribeye, a 10oz steak with roasted fingerling potatoes, vegetables, wild mushroom and a red wine jus. It was extremely tender and succulent. I’ve had bison before but definitely never like this, it was another standout dish for me. The Alberta AAA Beef Filet is another option if you’re looking for good ol Alberta beef. The aging process gives it more depth of flavour and it comes with confit potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a marsala wine sauce.

The food alone was amazing but the fantastic cocktails really brought the meal to a whole new level. Yakima has a new cocktail feature every month and this month is the Strawberry in the Fields. The drink uses elderflower liqueur, tequila, and strawberry hibiscus tea making it taste like summer in a glass. Another one of their unique drinks is the Year of the Butterfly. A gin based cocktail which literally changes color when the lemonade is added in at the end going from a blue to a brilliant purple, amping up that wow factor. Don’t let the size of it fool you, it definitely packs a punch and should be enjoyed slowly to pick up the nuances of the drink. We couldn’t not try their smoked Cardamom Old Fashioned. Unique due to the added cardamom in the simple syrup as well as having the entire drink served under a smoke dome. The found the cardamom added an extra spice flavour to the old fashioned and I quite enjoyed it.

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Those cocktails definitely put us in a summer mood. I’m super excited for all the warm weather ahead and all the amazing summery dishes. Yakima perfectly blends the flavours of Acadian and Asian without losing focus on freshness and flavour. It’s a perfect way to celebrate the upcoming season and I know I’ll definitely be stopping in again soon for their new menu. Smoked salmon anyone?


Restaurant Review: Bar Modern

>> Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Summer is around the corner again and all the patios are opening up in and around the city. None of which as exciting as the new Bar Modern Rooftop patio! Not only is Bar Modern new along Stephen Ave (they just opened up in Jan) but they’re also opening up a new rooftop patio this year. It’s such a great location and I was literally giddy with excitement when I heard what their plans were. I had to pop in to check them out asap.

Atmosphere: Striking dining area in a beautifully refurbished room showcasing the historical sandstone walls and gorgeous architecture.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s

Food & Wine: I literally wanted to eat everything off of the menu. Starters, first courses, second courses, steaks, bring them all! Sadly, my stomach is only so large so we decided to go with our favorites but first and foremost the Home Made Cast Iron Tray Buns with melted garlic butter. You can never go wrong with chewy warm bread smothered in garlic butter to start a meal. It was exactly as I imagined, fluffy little pillows of joy and definitely a pleasure to eat. I probably could have had the whole tray to myself and contemplated doing so. Luckily for me, my cousin has more reason then I do and told me that there was a lot more food coming.

Next came our PEI Mussels with saffron cream, tomatoes and grilled in house baguette (yup more carbs...theme of the evening!). The mussels were juicy and perfectly cooked. I enjoyed the saffron cream, it wasn’t overly heavy as not to take away from the taste of the mussels but just perfect for dipping with the toasted baguette. The Foie Gras Mousse is something I always order when I see it on the menu and this was no different. Served with challah bread and a blackberry jam, the mousse was smooth and decadent. The blackberry jam provided that hint of sweetness that helps cut through the richness of the foie. The challah was more carb deliciousness providing a perfect vessel to transport the mousse off the plate and in to my mouth. Another winner in my books.

Last but certainly not least was the Modern Steak Tartare. Classic with cornichons, capers and yolk. A twist with the truffle oil and served with crispy gaufrette potato chips on the side. This one is for all the truffle lovers out there, yet it doesn’t overpower the taste of the steak. The chips adding that texture element which is needed in a tartare.

We ordered a bottle of the Mirabeau Rose because who doesn’t love a good rose any day, not just during the summer. It’s a crisp fruit forward rose that paired perfectly with our dishes that evening. The best part is Bar Modern has half price wine on all their bottles Thursday night, so it was definitely a steal and a great way to celebrate the (almost) end of the week.

My Pick(s): Home Made Cast Iron Tray Buns, Modern Steak Tartare

Overall: The atmosphere is amazing. It’s perfect for a evening out or drinks and eats with friends. The food and the service was fabulous as well. I could have eaten a couple more trays of those garlic buns, so needless to say I will have to be back. Especially because they will be opening up their rooftop patio soon! I can’t wait to see the view and enjoy a couple glasses of rose up there. Just a reminder that it is 18+ only unfortunately, so leave the kiddos at home and make a night out of it!

Bar Modern
100 8 Avenue SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 244-3600


Restaurant Review: Waalflower

>> Saturday, March 30, 2019

The weather is warming up and spring has finally arrived. After the deep freeze we experienced in February of this year, I am extremely excited for sunny skies and plus double digit temperatures. Nothing celebrates warm weather more then spritzy fresh cocktails like some of the ones we were treated to by JD Darnes at the newly opened Waalflower. We were super excited when we got invited down to try out their menu and delicious libations.

Atmosphere: Relaxed dining area looking in to the open bar or the open kitchen surrounded by accents from the original historical De Waal building.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+

Food & Cocktails: It was a chef’s tasting menu that night, so every course was a surprise coupled with delicious house crafted cocktails. To start we had the Chickpea Socca with labneh, raisins and smoked salt. I wasn’t expecting a middle eastern flare and was genuinely excited. The combination of the tangy yogurt with the sweet and salty aspects of the dish worked very nicely together. At the same time we were also served Olives sourced from Greece, Sicily and Turkey with citrus coriander chilies. Both dishes worked well in getting our appetites kicked up to high gear. The Gardener’s Tonic was the drink pairing made with herbs from the garden as you can guess from the name, a linger taste of fresh peas shoots really comes through especially when paired with the appies we were eating. Plus, the color of the drink is so bright and beautiful, perfect for summer.

The next set of dishes were heartier with Lamb Meatballs in a charred tomato sauce with artichoke, goat feta and parsley. The meatballs were full of flavour and not at all gamey, which was exciting for me because I’m not a huge fan of the gamey taste of lamb. I think the combination of the charred tomatoes and the parsley really helped. The Eggs and Sausage dish is the quintessential breakfast for dinner plate with beef merguez, dates and tomatoes. A bit salty, a little bit sweet from the dates, made for a knockout plate, this is how breakfast for dinner should be done. We were treated to the Dead Ahead Irish Red Ale by Caravel Craft Brewery as the pairing for this course. It was smooth with notes of honey and caramel which played nicely with the meaty dishes we were eating. The crispness of the beer also cleansed my palate and readied me for the next couple dishes.

This was probably my favorite course of the night because I love raw fish preparations and here we were served the Ahi Tuna Crudo with grapefruit and pepperoncini and the Steelhead Trout Gravlax with fennel, tomatoes and cucumber. Both dishes were extremely fresh and exciting (not to mention oceanwise), especially with ingredients such as tangy grapefruit and refreshing cucumber you can’t go wrong with either of these plates. If that wasn’t enough to evoke spring and warm weather thoughts, our cocktail pairing was the Bon Vivant – a champagne sangria which tasted literally like summer in a glass. Champagne as a Sangria? You can’t go wrong with that ever! My husband thought it tasted like gummy bears and how is that ever a bad thing?

For our mains we were treated to the whole roasted Barramundi with a caponata sauce. Since the concept is family style, I enjoyed the presentation of the whole fish, which is how I’ve grown up eating fish. Barramundi is hugely popular in Australia, so I was excited to hear that they are now raising them locally here in Alberta. If you haven’t tried it, you’re in for a treat because its super flaky and buttery. The other dish was the Rossdown Farms Chicken with oregano spinach lemon potatoes and garlic tzatziki. Again, I really liked the Mediterranean take on this dish. The chicken was flavourful and tender, perfectly cooked, which could be hard to do at times with white meat. We were served the Waalflower cocktail with this course, made with Drambuie and Japanese yuzu, rose petal liquor with a whole skinned lemon. It had a nice citrus overtone, but it didn’t dominate the cocktail. The citrus notes played well off the tangy flavours of both dishes and helped cleanse the palette.

To end our evening, we were treated to some housemade sugar cookies to finish everything on a sweet note.

My Pick(s): Steelhead Trout Gravlax, Ahi Tuna Crudo

Overall: The menu by Chef JP Comte has a unique mix of Canadiana, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern. I enjoyed the dishes that had a bit of everything and it made me want to go back to try the ones that we didn’t get to taste that evening. Not to mention the tasty and creative hand crafted cocktails that elicit the flavours of summer and exotic getaways – here’s eyeing “The Zombie” drink!

24 4 St NE
Calgary, AB
(587) 349-9008


Hoopla Donuts by Phil & Sebastian

>> Wednesday, March 6, 2019

People often ask me if I miss work now that I’m on maternity leave. To be honest – yes and no. I don’t think anybody misses work, even people who enjoy and love what they do on a daily basis need a break. That’s what I’ve enjoyed most about being on mat leave, the be away from the stress of work replaced by other stresses of course (baby..enough said). However, I do miss certain aspects of work, I miss my friends, being an adult and having adult conversations, but probably most of all having great conversations over coffee.

So how jealous was I when I found out that Phil and Sebastian opened up a new café in the +15s right by my office! My old stomping grounds! And not just any coffee shop, but a new donut shop. Donuts…and coffee…! Not your run of the mill donuts either, no they were fun and creative with flavours like Passionfruit and Brownie Cheesecake, flavours that rotate differently everyday. It’s like they were just teasing me.

Luckily, I was invited down to try out some of their amazing creations, so I strapped in my bubs and we headed for downtown! The café is located in the perfect +15 location right by the Metropolitan Center between 5th and 6th Avenue by 3rd Street SW. When we arrived, there was quite the line up already and it was only a little past 9 am. The donuts are baked fresh daily so being their early is key to avoid them running out.

There are close to 20 flavours to choose from and it was hard to pick since I wanted to try them all! We ended up narrowing it down to the Lychee Vanilla, Rootbeer Float, Churros and Passionfruit Lime. I couldn’t wait to dig in, especially after I got handed my americano to clear up the sleep deprivation.

The Lychee Vanilla was their daily vanilla feature and is a glazed donut. It wasn’t overly sugary and tasted like a bubbletea. Super unique, how often do you see lychee donuts? The Rootbeer Float was also a glazed donut but with a dollop of vanilla whipped cream on top to represent the ice cream in a traditional float. I never thought to put whipped cream on a donut and really liked it (going to put that one in my back pocket for later use =)).

Next was my favorite the Churros, it looks like a simple cinnamon sugar donut on the outside, but don’t let that fool you. On the inside was a dulche sour cream filling. Imagine eating a churros inside out, that’s what it felt like. Then we finished with the Passionfruit Lime, it had a zingy lime glaze topped with a sugared lime, but it was the filling that was amazing. Silky passionfruit crème in the middle perfectly balanced out the tarte lime. It’s perfect for those that love their citrus desserts. It also made me curious about the pure Passionfruit donut that’s also on the menu but only available on Mondays and Fridays.

Not only were the toppings exceptional but the base of the donut itself was delicious. It was soft and doughy with a nice chew and texture. The perfect vessel to get all that wonderful flavour in to your mouth. The menu at Hoopla rotates everyday, I was there on a Wednesday and already I’m curious about the other flavours that are only available other days of the week.

Since I’m going to be away from work for a bit longer, I need to convince my husband to bring me back donuts until I am back downtown again. So now when people ask me if I miss work, I’m going to say I definitely miss the coffee and donuts! Can you bring me some?

Hoopla Donuts
414 3 Street SW
Calgary, AB T2P 1R2
(403) 453-2162

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