Restaurant Review: Shibuya Izakaya

>> Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kiwi Paradise - Red Forest Rolls

Calgary is a relatively small city in comparison to the major metropolitan centres around the world, but its growing and changing. I’m actually quite shocked at times of how many different types of food one can sample in and around the city being as it’s not that great in size. There are always the neighbourhood diners and restaurants that might are local gems, especially when it comes to ethnic foods. So when I heard of a sushi restaurant that I’ve never visited before, I had to put it on my list of things to try and try it I did! Several times!

Grilled Black Cod
Atmosphere: Quaint sushi restaurant open late for those who like their Japanese food at all times of the day.

Price Range: Mid $10s-$20s

Maki Sushi Combo
Food: I’ve heard of Shibuya a couple of times but never had the chance to stop by, so when we were looking for a place for Japanese food, I was not surprised that I chose it but was surprised that my cousin quickly agreed. Since she’s been there more than I had she suggested that we try the grilled black cod and I’m glad we did and realized why she didn’t mind coming here in the first place. The fish was flavourful without having an overwhelming fishy taste which could happen with cod, but since it was nicely grilled and glazed, the flavours were perfect. Next we tried several of their special sushi rolls (Kiwi paradise, Salmon Isobe, Red Forest) which were different and used unique ingredients that I’ve never seen before, especially Kimchi from the Red Forest roll. We also tried the Maki Sushi combo, which featured a spicy tuna roll, dynamite roll and California roll. I really enjoyed the spicy tuna and will definitely be ordering that again in the future.

Salmon Isobe Roll
My Picks: Grilled Black Cod and Spicy Tuna Roll

Overall: I’ve been back to Shibuya a couple of times now and although their ingenuity impresses me, I’ve also experienced some misses. That however should not put anybody off from going there and maybe you will find some hidden dish on the menu that I’m unaware of, in which case I do hope you’d share.

Shibuya Izakaya453 16 Avenue NE
Calgary, AB
(403) 277-8823

Shibuya Izakaya on Urbanspoon


Chinese Steamed Bun Recipe (Mantous)

>> Friday, July 23, 2010

Chinese Mantou - Scrumptiously Fit Food
Growing up I’ve always had unconventional breakfasts, its most likely due to the fact that I’m Chinese and my parents didn’t really believe in eating bacon, eggs and toast in the morning. Instead I would get some sort of rice product, whether it be noodles, congee, steamed BBQ buns or rice itself, it was a guarantee that I wasn’t going to sit down at the table one day and find in front of me a bowl of cereal and some milk. I guess it makes sense as to why I still don’t drink milk to this day. Although over the many years my parents have shifted their ways and slowly adopted the North American breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast (we’re still working on the bacon part, but I don’t think my mom recognizes that as being healthy in anyway).

So it’s not a surprise that sometimes I wake up stare at in my pantry or fridge and literally stand there for hours and just stare as if everything sitting in those shelves is nothing that I consider food that early in the morning. Therefore everybody here shouldn’t be surprised that I decided instead to pull out some flour, surf the internet and find my little slice of breakfast heaven by making some steamed BBQ pork buns of my own and while I was at it, why not some Mantous or what’s better known as steamed buns with no filling. Yup, that’s right, no filling of any sort. Nothing but pure warm fluffy floured goodness at 9 am on a Saturday morning and all I can say is thanks mom and dad for never wavering when you saw all the other parents serving their kids cold cereals or fatty bacon.

Chinese Steamed Pork Bun
Normal Chinese BBQ pork buns and Mantous are white due to the all-purpose flour or white bread flour used to make them. I wanted to add a little more fibre to my dough and decided to add a bit of whole wheat flour, if you’d prefer not to use whole wheat flour, just replace it with all-purpose flour.

2 cups of whole wheat flour
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of water
1 tbsp sugar
1 packet of active dry yeast

In a small bowl, measure out the 1/2 cup of water and add in the yeast and sugar. Set aside to allow the yeast to revive.

In a large bowl, add in the flour and make a small well in the middle, pour in 1 cup of water and slowly mix the flour in to the water. Add in the yeast mixture and keep folding the dough until all the water is taken up. If the dough is a little dry add a bit of water until the dough no longer crumbles.

Place plastic wrap over the dough and let rest until it doubles in size.

At this point you can make any type of filling you prefer to be wrapped in your bun or you can just make mantous which have no filling, which is what the following preparation will detail.

After the dough has doubled, flour the countertop and roll the dough until it’s roughly 1 inch thick. Pick up one end and slowly roll it towards the other end like a cinnamon roll. Once the dough is rolled up, cut in to desired width (roughly 2-3 inches) and allow each piece to sit until it doubles in size again.

If making individual steamed buns you can roll out each piece, stuff it and wrap it. Remember to allow for the double to rise again before steaming.

When ready to serve, place in a steamer for 15 mins.


Restaurant Review: BR& Steak.Frites

>> Saturday, July 17, 2010

BR& Steak.Frites

Calgary is a pretty young city when you look back in history, even Canada as a whole has nothing on Asia and Europe, so it’s always a treat when you see the city trying to preserve the historical buildings that we do have in and around the city. One particular building recently renovated was the old Nova Scotia Bank on Stephen Avenue. Built in the early 1900s, the building use to house the old Nova Scotia Bank or what we know as Scotiabank today, it briefly turned in to The Bank nightclub and was a restaurant once before, but today it’s known as BR& Steak.Frites aka Brand at the Bank.

Atmosphere: The impressive dining area highlighted by the amazing majestic staircase is the perfect setting for any grand event.

Price Range: Mid $20s-$30s+

Food and Wine: Looking at the selection on the menu it was hard to resist ordering the platters for two, where you can choose from different preparation styles and cuts of steak. Starting from your modest French sized portions of a 16oz tenderloin to a whopping American 40oz porterhouse, BR& ensures that all guests are well covered. We decided that we’ll stay on the more conservative side and ordered the Argentinean style 22oz flat iron steak with fried plantains and chimichurri sauce. While we waited we expected the waiters to serve us our bread, typical of restaurants these days but to my surprise we were served popovers instead, which I thought was a nice treat and a great way to start the meal. When our platter did come, which didn't take long the steak was done perfectly to order and since I enjoy a nice rare piece of meat, I was very pleased with the outcome, although I’d have to say that the plantains weren’t as crunchy as I would have hoped, but that truly didn’t stop me from consuming them all. However the frites were sadly neglected because I enjoy my fries super crunchy and these were less appealing than the plantains.

Argentinean Platter

The best part about our meal was actually ordering the sides, where you can pick and choose a different number of sides for only $1.99! Sounds like a fast food commercial but is far from anything fast food tasting, the crowd favourite was the crab lollipop, which sadly didn’t look anything lollipop like, but was more so a crab cake but it was the flavor of it that was impressive and for that price you can’t go wrong. If you choose to order a steak instead of the platters, you can also try different sauces, potatoes and frites sauces as well, the Banana Ketchup and the Dijon Truffle Honey was unique, definitely wasn’t what we were expecting.

Crab Lollipop

We couldn’t end the night without trying one of BR&’s signature desserts, especially the Deal Closer, a plate fully loaded with chocolate mousse and whipped cream, the menu states that it’s good for 2 people but you can definitely share it between more than that. The Profiterole, which reminded me of an apple fritter was amazing when paired with vanilla ice cream (I don’t think you can ever go wrong pairing anything with vanilla ice cream!), the warm cinnamon dough was a great way to top off the evening.

I was amazed with BR&’s wine selection, not because they had a good variety of different red wines (which I prefer) but the fact that they had 50 wines under $50! Since BR& is a steakhouse, you’ll find that their white wine selection is definitely not as big as their red wines, but for those who rarely venture in to the red wine realm, what better place than to try it now!


My Picks: Crab Lollipop Side and The Deal Closer

Overall: It’s nice to see the old become new again and the amazing scenery accompanied by some fantastic food.

BR& Steak.Frites
125 8th Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 263-4789

Brand Steak and Frites at the Bank on Urbanspoon


Low Fat Cappuccino Cheesecake

>> Monday, July 12, 2010

Cappuccino Cheesecake - Scrumptiously Fit Food

It’s that time again, every year people from all over the world flood in to Calgary for nothing other than the Stampede. Cowboys riding their crazy horses at the rodeos, kids going crazy over the carnival rides and the games but for me, I scream for ice cream, well also for corn dogs, mini donuts, pulled pork sandwiches…the list goes on.

Nothing says stampede food like things fried, you can find anything fried at the grounds and I remember the first time I ate a deep fried cheesecake. Who knew you could deep fry cheesecake, but again apparently you can deep fry anything. I was a skeptic at first, looking at this big piece of deep fried dough, how could it possibly taste anything like cheesecake. Well I was wrong, the cheesecake inside was delicious! Of course I found myself ripping off the batter and eating the cheesecake itself, yes I know it seems wrong but the cheesecake they had hidden in all that batter was the best part, so in honor of stampede and all the cheesecake purists out there, I figured it would be a good time to share my cheesecake recipe.

The best part about this version is it low in fat without sacrificing any of the taste and I guess if you really wanted to you could deep fry it in honor of stampede, just make sure you make the non flavoured version…deep fried cappuccino cheesecake just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Crust - Scrumptiously Fit Food

Ingredients (adapted from here):
For Crust
1 cup Oreo cracker crumbs
1 /4 cup sugar
3 tbsp melted butter

For Filling1 1/2 tbsp coffee flavoured liquor (I used espresso flavoured vodka, but kahlua works just as well)
1 tbsp instant coffee powder
2 (8oz) packages low fat cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs (or to lower the fat even more use 1 egg and 2 egg whites)

For Crust
Preheat oven to 325ºF.

Mix Oreo crumbs, sugar and melted margarine, press on to the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie pan.

Bake in oven for 10 mins.

For Filling
Measure out the liqueur and dissolve in the coffee powder and set aside.

Beat cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla together with electric mixture until blended.

Add in one egg at a time and slowly fold in with a spatula.

Pour in the coffee mixture and mix gently.

Pour in to crust and bake at 325ºF for 50-60 mins.

Refrigerate until the cheesecake is fully cool (around 3-4 hours), best if left overnight.

Prebake Cheesecake - Scrumptiously Fit Food


Restaurant Review: Taste

>> Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Foie Gras

Tapas, which means “to cover” in Spanish was developed when the Spanish had to cover their drinks to prevent them flies and other buggers. Eventually the cover held little bites which patrons would often munch on while they were enjoying their drinks, slowly over the years tapas has evolved to what we know today as mini plates or appetizers. In North America, this phenomenon has taken hold and with it many new restaurants have entered the culinary food scene and truly brought tapas to a whole new level.

Mushroom Truffle Gnocchi
Atmosphere: A quaint small tapas restaurant with a pub like feel giving it a boisterous trendy quality, a great alternative to your neighbourhood pub.

Price Range: Broken down to $5, $10, $15, $20 increments

Beef Short Ribs
Food and Wine: The small plate phenomenon has exploded here in Calgary and I'm finding more and more places that are catering to people who are looking for more of a hangout rather than just a fast meal. Taste would definitely fall in that category along with many new restaurants that have been popping up all around the city. The great thing about tapas is the fact you can try a wide range if food without feeling restricted to a certain entree category and we did just that. Starting with the Mushroom Truffles Gnocchi, which was delicious but definitely a tapas serving with the gnocchi being perfectly cooked, next was the Beef short ribs and Foie Gras, both were flavourful, the foie gras was served with a refreshing blackberry compote and Leslie Stowe like crackers but if I was to compare I've had a more unique short rib before. Our flavour journey wasn't over yet though and things greatly turned around with the Tomato Salad, where the tomatoes tasted extremely fresh and were little bursts of flavour (it was also a big seller as well)! Plus the artichoke dip was light even with all the cheese that was baked in to it, the chef’s managed to give it more of a soufflé feel with its nice texture.

Tomato Salad
As for the wine, Taste changes its wine list on a monthly base to focus on different regions or areas in the world. We were there when it was on the Loire Valley. The selection was good with both reds and whites progressing from lighter to fuller bodied, although with the pricing of each it might make you think twice about wanting to follow the whole list.

Artichoke Dip
My Picks: Tomato Salad

Overall: Located on a newly renovated block on 1st SW, Taste is a great little place for an after work gathering, just make sure you get there early to get a seat at one of the few coveted tables!

Taste Restaurant
1210 1st Street SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 233-7730

Taste restaurant on Urbanspoon


Cooling Watermelon Cucumber Salad Recipe

>> Friday, July 2, 2010

Watermelon Cucumber Salad - Scrumptiously Fit Food
Long weekends are always cherished in my books because of how fast they go by, especially when camping trips or mini vacations are planned. It’s the perfect time to take advantage of our proximity to the Rocky Mountains and we’re usually out there the first chance we get. Unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts this year, we’re still waiting to head out for our first camping trip of the year, so as not to let the long weekend completely be a miss, I’ve decided it would be just as fun to turn up the grill and make a few dishes that truly brings out summer. So as to combat the recent heat that we’ve been experiencing, I figured a nice refreshing salad was in order.

This watermelon cucumber salad pairs well with anything from the grill whether it be a juicy burger or a messy hot dog, this definitely brings out the essence of summer, nothing says cooling and refreshing like watermelon on a nice summer day.

Nutritional Tidbit: Watermelon is low in calories and high in vitamins and lycopene (which is also found in tomatoes), which makes it a great treat after meals in lieu of dessert. Just be aware that it is rated high on the GI index due to it's high carbohydrate content, but since normally speaking people won't sit there and eat a whole watermelon (I would hope), most people should be ok, just watch the serving sizes.

Since this salad is so quick and easy to prepare, you can also make it in advance and bring it with you on that aforementioned camping trip!

Watermelon Cucumber Salad Recipe - Scrumptiously Fit Food
3 cups watermelon cubed
3 cups cucumbers, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup mint chopped
1 lime juiced
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 clove of garlic chopped
1 tsp pepper

Combine the lime juice, vinegar, garlic and pepper, set aside.

In a large bowl, add in the cubed watermelon, cucumbers and mint. Pour in the lime mixture and gently toss until all the watermelon and cucumbers are well covered.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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