Restaurant Review: Wurst Restaurant and Beerhall

>> Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pickled Vegetables

Lately I’ve been daydreaming about Europe again (this happens a lot..the daydreaming and thinking of Europe). I’m really itching to book my next European vacation and so it goes that I’ve started to reminisce about the times I’ve been there in the past. My husband likes to bring up certain parts of our trips especially ones that happened during Oktoberfest. Those who have heard these stories know exactly what I’m talking about, I’ll keep those to myself for now since I don’t need more people privy to these instances (maybe if you ask me in person I’ll tell you one day). Of course there are other memories of Oktoberfest that were amazing, such as the thousand among thousands of happy drunken people from all over the world crowded in to the enormous drinking tents all over the grounds. The delicious pretzels, schnitzels and beer served or the remarkable costumes worn by most of all people roaming the grounds. So you could imagine how excited I was when I realized there was a much needed new Bavarian restaurant opening up in Calgary. The best part, they have a beerhall, I wonder if anybody will show up in a lederhosen?

Atmosphere: Dependent on where you’re situated at Wurst the ambiance could be quite contrary. The spacious upstairs dining room provides a homey woodsy interior with large trees and lots of natural light reminisce of dining on a patio, which is truly refreshing and great for families. Downstairs is the beerhall, with long wooden tables evocative of European pubs and perfect for groups looking for a more casual dining experience.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+

Food and Wine (and Beer): Since I was so excited about the food (I’ve been waiting for a Bavarian restaurant in Calgary for a long time now), I already had a good idea what I wanted to eat (thank you internet!). It was just a matter of getting our drinks and menus first. I guess in hindsight I probably could have done without the menu (that’s how excited I was).

Lowenbrau Bier
My husband and I both started with a German beer. He opted for a draft Konig Ludwig Weissbier (on tap! What?), a honey color, it’s a nice light wheat beer with a clean malt taste. I decided on the Lowenbrau, a classic German beer from Munich. It’s a light pale yellow lager, pretty mild with hints of grassiness. My only wish was that they had this beer on tap like the Konig, which always makes the beer smoother.

All the tables have a little bowl of pickled veggies (beets, carrots, radishes) for the guests to nibble on while they wait for their meals, a great appetizer in itself, with a perfect balance between sour and sweet. We both really enjoyed them and the best part was they will refill them when you’re out (if you ask nicely)! After we ordered, they also brought out some complimentary rye bread with salted butter and olive oil. At this point I seriously thought this restaurant was after my own heart. The bread was moist with a slight sweetness contrasting the salty butter and oil. It was great that I could choose to spread the butter or just dip the bread in to the olive oil.

Fratzl's Mixed Grill
When our meal came, the Frantlz’s Mixed Grill did not disappoint. The platter came with all of the following items – Kassler Pork Loin, House Made Sausages, Cured Pork Belly, Hand Carved Prime Rib, Smoked Pork Hock, Sauerkraut, Spatzle, Fresh Shredded Horseradish, German Fried Potatoes and hot mustard. Phew, I’m tired just listing everything. Initially we were debating between the seafood platter and the meat platter, but we’re glad we ended up with the meat, since it is a grill restaurant, hot food all the way!

After trying a bit of each item, there were several that I found I kept going back to. My favourite was the pork chop, surprising since a lot of restaurants normally provide dry chops, but this was the best pork chop I’ve had…ever. It was succulent, moist, juicy and full of flavour. I probably would have been happy just eating the pork chop all night. Ok, the spatzle was equally as amazing. Perfectly salted and cooked just right, they were a great compliment to the platter. My husband enjoyed the crispy skin on the pork hock and how moist the meat remained. The prime rib was also very tender and juicy, cooked to a perfect medium rare.

Apple Strudel
Everything went well with the hot mustard that was provided, which had a nice sweetness and was full of spices, not hot at all. I can see how Wurst will be bringing mustard back! The only slight disappointment was the sausages, which ended up being a bit dry although it did look very juicy, it just lacked a bit of fat. One of the sausages also looked and tasted suspiciously like a hot dog, which I thought was a bit random. I was surprised when my husband actually said that the pork belly was a bit fattier than he’d like, since he loves bacon. So I took his word for it and went back to the pork chop instead (wish this was a dish on the menu).

At this point, we were beyond full, but once our server mentioned that the dessert of the day was Apple strudel with vanilla bean ice cream, I was doomed. When it arrived, I asked for extra ice cream. Since one scoop of vanilla ice cream is never enough ice cream for the dessert that it accompanies. The crust of the strudel was a bit tough and needed to be a bit flakier, the apples were nice, since they were not overly sweet. However the vanilla bean ice cream was scrumptious (went well with the espresso)! I couldn’t stop eating it and left most of the strudel for my husband.

We ended up switching over to wine to accommodate our protein heavy meal. We stuck with a European wine and went with the San Jacupo Chianti 2008. It was a bit tarter than the Chianti’s that I’m used to with a nice light ruby red color. However it did add a pleasant acidity to our meal. It was very well priced as well.

My Picks: Frantzl’s Mixed Grill (specifically the spatzle and pork chop)

Overall: We had an amazing time at Wurst and ended up staying the entire evening. The service we received was amazing. Our server was warm and friendly. She reminded me of all the great people that we met at Oktoberfest while we were in Germany and made me miss Europe even more. At least for now, I know I can always go to Wurst for a quick European pick me up, when needed. Who knows, maybe somebody will show up in a lederhosen one day, hopefully it’s not me.

Wurst Restaurant and Beerhall
2437 4th Street SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 245-2345

WURST Restaurant and Beer Hall on Urbanspoon


Chili Kebabs

>> Tuesday, June 28, 2011


A few of the girls I know are pregnant right now and its interesting listening in on their conversations of pregnancy, especially the ones that are food related. Little naïve me was apparently completely oblivious to the amount of things you couldn’t eat, drink or stand next to (ok, so I threw the last one in because if I knew I couldn’t touch it and was only a foot away from it, it’d be consumed before…oh what? It’s gone.). Then there’s nursing and that’s a whole other bag of worms which I won’t even attempt to get in to.

There are those items that are more apparent like alcohol (bye bye wine), sushi (bye bye tuna) and caffeinated beverages (bye bye I’m getting myself depressed just thinking about it all). However what shocked me most was the rare beef, soft cheeses and alfalfa sprouts! Poor little sprouts never meant to hurt nobody..but apparently they do since they’re on the bad list.

So after hearing all these things, I think it’ll be a long while before I can even think about having kids. As much as I’d love to think that the cuteness of them would make me change my mind, I’m one for immediate gratification and there really isn’t anything more immediate then downing a delicious meal. Objective complete! Ok, maybe ask me the same question a couple years from now and my answer might be a bit different, but for the time being I’m going to be enjoying my rare steaks and red wine. What can I say? I’m a foodie number 1 and definitely a future parent number 1,237,285,375.

I dedicate the following recipe to all those courageous women out there who are mom to bes, I truly commend you and your willpower! This recipe can be made to order, if you are going to be using steak, make sure to get a cut of beef that can withstand the heat without losing its tenderness.

Based on a food network recipe.
Ingredients:2 pounds of top sirloin steak or chicken thighs
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh chopped thyme
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 cup water or chicken broth
Any type of grilling vegetables, Eg. Peppers, zucchinis, mushrooms, onions, etc.

Preparation:Cut the steak or chicken thighs in to cubes and place in a mixing bowl.

Add in chili powder, sugar, salt, thyme, pepper and water / broth. Mix thoroughly and let the marinade sit overnight, if possible or at least 2 hours.

When ready to cook preheat the BBQ, presoak some wooden skewers (to prevent them from burning), alternate the meat with the vegetables on the skewer and place on the grill.

Baste the kebabs after 5 minutes with left over marinade.

Grill for roughly 10-12 minutes for medium rare to rare steak kebabs, additional 5 minutes for well done kebabs. Remember that the meat will continue to cook a bit after you remove it from the grill and since they're smaller pieces of meat, it cooks much faster than normal.

Grill for 15-20 minutes for chicken kebabs.


Restaurant Review: Tyn Lounge - The Yellow Nectarine

>> Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Quinoa Salad

Summer has finally hit the city and it’s a refreshing change from all the rain we’ve been getting the past 2 months. The sun is starting to shine, summer breeze in the air. Refreshing indeed. Sort of like this new restaurant that I recently came across which utilized a certain summer ingredient in all its dishes. Once I read about that I couldn't run fast enough to book a reservation for the opening weekend.

Atmosphere: A laid back lounge vibe, living true to its name. Glowing lights bring on a cool ambiance, great place for that after work drink with the possibly of staying well in to the evening when the DJ starts spinning.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s

Food and Wine: The menu is fairly easy to peruse, highlighting several dishes in each appetizer, salad, sandwich and entrée category. It didn’t take us long to decide what we were going to try (at least one item from each of the above, if not more). One interesting concept at Tyn was that all their dishes either included nectarines or were infused with them, which is a different twist. They were truly living up to their name as The Yellow Nectarine.

Sauteed Prawns
We started off with an the Sauteed Prawn appetizer, which featured large saffron buttered prawns topped with shallots, garlic, lemongrass and nectarine cocktail sauce. The prawns were juicy and cooked well. I couldn’t taste really taste the saffron or the lemongrass, but the nectarine infusion really came through in the cocktail sauce and gave it a different tanginess. Next up was the deconstructed Quinoa Salad composed of quinoa and chickpeas served in a butterleaf cup. The dried nectarines, snowpeas and blood oranges were served on the side with a slice of roasted radicchio. I enjoyed the textural contrast between the quinoa and chickpeas, but there wasn’t enough vinaigrette and the radicchio sort of overcame the other ingredients.

For our mains we ordered two pizzas and an entrée dish. The dishes took a little while to arrive but it was worth the wait because they were all scrumptious. The Duck Confit Pizza had (you guessed it) duck confit with caramelized onions, brie cheese, spinach, nectarines and drizzled with garlic oil on top. The Tomato & Herb Pizza was equally light and amazing with roasted garlic cloves, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, artichokes and parmesan cheese. Both pizzas were roughly 8 inches round and came with a crunchy thin crust. I'd say the duck confit pizza was more savoury whereas the tomato and herb pizza was sharp and zesty, both are good options if you're looking for a sharing dish. Our entrée selection of the Duck Breast was seared to a perfect medium rare and served as thin slices (there were quite a few slices, good portion size). It was accompanied by seasonal vegetables, a creamy celeriac mash and lots of nectarine infused duck jus.

By this time we were all ready for dessert and our server mentioned that the daily selection was a choice between a Chocolate Torte or the Nectarine Sorbet served with a side of cookies. We opted for the Chocolate Torte and after tasting it, truly glad that we did. It came as another deconstructed plate, with the torte off to one side, the chocolate ice cream and toffee bits off to the other. The ice cream was a bit suspect and not the best plating design (a lump of chocolate on a plate..use your imagination), but once you got around it and tasted it, it was decadent without overwhelming the chocolate torte. My favourite part of the dish was the chocolate torte itself. Nice creamy dark chocolate reminiscent of truffles. Great way to end the evening.

Duck Breast
The wine list at Tyn Lounge, similar to the food menu is simple and straight forward. We decided to try a simple bottle of the Beaulieu Vinyard Coastal Estates 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Nappa Valley. Cab Sauvs from Nappa never disappoint and that continues to be true. Medium bodied, fruity and light. The best part was the price of the bottle. I highly recommend it to those who are looking for something not too intense to start off their evening.

My Pick: Duck Confit Pizza

Overall: Like the idea of infusing all their dishes with the summery goodness of nectarines. The menu is refreshing and a nice new take on some of the old favourites. With its smaller menu, it’ll be interesting to see how each season will be highlighted. Can’t wait to go back to check it out and possibly stay later in to the evening and enjoy a bit of the music as well.

Tyn Lounge - The Yellow Nectarine
100 815 8 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 984-9184

TYN Lounge on Urbanspoon


Tabbouleh Recipe

>> Saturday, June 18, 2011


The weekends are usually when I get all my groceries for the upcoming week. I almost always plan what I’m going to be having for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday for the next five days or so. Since variety is key to my diet, we’ll go from eating a Mediterranean meal one day to a Vietnamese meal the next. Steaks to vegetarian can be found on the menu, we’re not picky. So I often it find it very hard to get all my ingredients at one supermarket and end up driving from end to end in the city to get all the ingredients that I require.

However, the other weekend I was able to go to superstore and find everything I needed to make a traditional tabbouleh salad to go with the chicken shawarma I was prepping that evening along with the other meals of the week. I was ecstatic (so much so that I had to write a whole blog about it)! I’m sure those of you who do shop at superstore understand exactly how I feel. More often then not they’ll be out of the herbs I need or the veggies don’t exactly scream fresh. So one would ask why I go there all the time, easy:

1) Its 5 minutes from my house, I enjoy saving time (that way I can cook more)
2) To an extent, I am a creature of habit (zombie mode comes out now and again)
3) There is a wide variety of items not carried at other supermarkets (eg. Chinese veggies, trying hard for the one stop shop here)

You can imagine my shock when I realized they had both fresh parsley and mint that day. It was almost like the vegetable gods were pleading for me to make tabbouleh. So I did.

I’ve posted previously a quinoa tabbouli (tabbouleh, which ever way you prefer to spell it) recipe, but this one is a little more rustic and closer to what can be found at your local shawarma shop. With nothing more then parsley, mint, onions and a little bit of spices, it makes for a great accompaniment for any Middle Eastern meal. It’s a great way to add a bit more greenery in to an already amazing and healthy dinner (never hurts to up the fibre intake either).

So here is my take on it, hope you all enjoy (and can find all the required veggies at a local store near you)! Recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz’s blog.

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
3 sprigs of green onion or 1/2 sweet white onion, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 tsp cinnamon – I like a bit more cinnamon in my salad
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp ground pepper
1/2 lemon, squeezed
Salt to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Chop all the parsley, mint leaves, green onions (or onions if you want to give the tabbouleh a bit more kick) and tomatoes.

Combine them all in a bowl and add in the cinnamon, allspice, pepper and lemon juice.

Mix and add in the salt to taste. Once everything is incorporated, pour in the olive oil.

Enjoy it straight away or you can let it sit overnight for the flavours to infuse. Place it in the fridge with a bit of saran wrap.

Recipe equates to roughly 4 servings.


Restaurant Review: Vintage Chophouse & Tavern

>> Tuesday, June 14, 2011


A couple of weeks ago I met a girl that followed an extremely strict raw vegan diet. I was flabbergasted since I have no idea what I would be able to eat if I was to follow such a diet. This led me to google what the actual requirements were in order to follow this diet in the first place. Essentially you have to eat everything as close to its natural form as possible, which would be a ‘raw’ part of the term. Nothing cooked, all natural. Next would be the ‘vegan’ part and with so many celebrities following the vegan diet it wasn’t as foreign. Basically nothing animal related. I seriously admire the willpower of those that can follow such a strict diet and make it work for them. However, I myself am a true Albertan through and through when it comes to it. Nothing can beat a perfectly done steak in my opinion. So to those who are on a special diet, I can truly appreciate it and salute you. As for me, I continue forging ahead with all the great steakhouses in Calgary, which brought me to Vintage Chophouse. To each their own right?

Atmosphere: Elegant and classic, catering well to the business crowd but versatile enough for the romantic couple.

Beef Tartare
Price Range: Mid $10s - $40+

Food and Wine: After perusing the menu, it was very tough to decide on what we would like to try since everything looked amazing. Finally we opted to each choose a starter and went with the Escargot, Beef Tartare and Oysters.

The kitchen was very good at having all our appetizers arrive at the same time. The buttery escargots were served in a creamy white wine sauce over crispy foccacia croutons. It was nice and garlicky and the texture of the croutons was a nice contrast. The sauce was very rich, so it worked for us since we were sharing the dish. The beef tartare consisted of tenderloin, a fried egg and truffle vinaigrette. It was served with 5 pieces of fried rye crostinis. The rye texture was very reminiscent of French fries and went well with the creamy beef tartare. Last but not least, we had the oysters, which are seasonal. They were served with a nice black pepper mignonette, we asked for some tobasco sauce as well (you can never eat oysters without it).

It was hard to pass up ordering the 34 oz Bone-in Rib Chop, so we didn’t and decided to order it. The rib chop was served on a platter family style with a variety of different sauces including the Vintage Steak Sauce, Creamy Peppercorn, Bearnaise and Chimichurri. We all voted to like the creamy peppercorn the best. It also came with a choice of two sides. We ended up with the Roasted Beets and the Broccolini. The beets were very sweet and flavourful; it was a nice change from our meat heavy meal. The sautéed broccolini had a nice buttery taste as well. Overall the steak itself was very tender and juicy. It was presented with a perfect seared crust while still remaining rare inside, which is how I normally enjoy my steaks, especially if when it’s a nice cut of beef. It was definitely a lot of steak even though the bone was still attached, 34 oz is no joke!

Bone in Rib Chop
We finally decided to pack in the leftovers and move instead to dessert (no matter how full, you have to have dessert). Especially when we noticed the Chocolate Souffle on the menu, we also decided to add the Apple and Pear Pie as well. The soufflé came a la mode with vanilla ice cream, how they should all be served and fluffy Chantilly cream, which wasn’t overly sweet and a nice compliment. The pie was paired with an amaretto ice cream and caramel sauce. I really enjoy amaretto and the almond notes went well with the pear. However I think the soufflé was the clear winner that eveing.

The wine that night was a bottle of the Poggerino Chianti Classico 2007. Like other chiantis it had medium acidity and tannins. The fruit notes paired well with the meat heavy meal. Vintage has been given the “best of excellence” award for the last 6 years and you can be confident that they’ll have a good bottle of wine located in their vast cellar. The wine list itself reads like a novel with a table of contents, if you’re lost, feel free to consult with their in-house sommelier for any recommendations they may have for your meal and preferences.

Chocolate Souffle
My Picks: Bone-in Rib Chop

Overall: As appetizers go, everything we tried at Vintage was delicious. There have been dishes that I’ve had elsewhere that was equally as good, but the escargot and tartare can definitely stand up on their own. The rib chop was also done very well and the portion was an extremely decent size (can probably feed two grown men). You definitely can’t leave Vintage without ordering what they’re best known for, that is their steaks and I’m sure you won’t leave disappointed.

Apple Pear Pie
Vintage Chophouse & Tavern320 11 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 262-7262

Vintage Chophouse & Tavern on Urbanspoon


Roasted Chickpeas

>> Saturday, June 11, 2011

Roasted Chickpeas

Often times I’ll get an urge to clean and when I do, I literally clean everything, starting from the washrooms, bedrooms and kitchen all the way down to the banisters and baseboards. Even the appliances that aren’t used very often can’t seem to get away from me. Everything needs to be at a certain level of shininess before I succumb to exhaustion.

Just the other week I started this crazy cleaning ritual of mine bright and early in the day, but then got side tracked. How? Well I started rumbling around the pantry, organizing the different items and boxes in there when I came upon an unopened can of chick peas (see this is why you should always clean the kitchen last when you’re a foodie with a short attention span) and realized that I had a sudden urge to eat them.

I put down the vacuum and started to think about garlicky hummus with pita or a warm chick pea salad. That’s when I realized that I haven’t ever tried making roasted chick peas before. It’s been something that I’ve been meaning to do since I love salty crunchy snacks (chips, corn nuts, list goes on). This would be a much healthier version because I’m going to be roasting them myself and can control what I wanted to put on them. Starting with a healthy ingredient like chickpeas doesn’t hurt either.

Nutritional Tidbit: Chickpeas aka Garbanzo beans has very high fiber content. Two cups of these delicious legumes provides the total daily value of fiber required in a regular diet. Two cups might seem like a lot, but if you use chickpeas as a dip, spread and roasted snack, it can all add up pretty quickly. Fiber is important because it keeps us full longer and also prevents the spiking of insulin, which helps control hunger and satiety signals from the brain.

As my poor cleaning supplies were now left neglected in the far corner of my house, I started to pull out all the different ingredients needed for the recipe. Lucky for me, it really didn’t take too long to pull everything together and before I knew it I was back to cleaning as my chickpeas were roasting away in the oven. Although I did get sidetracked for a bit, I did end up getting back to the cleaning fairly soon. The best part was I also had something to munch on while I was doing it!

chickpeas aka garbanzo beans
Adapted from here

Ingredients:1 can Chickpeas
1 tbsp Cajun spice (recipe below) I used more spice then the original recipe because I enjoy more flavour on the chickpeas
1 tbsp Brown sugar
Olive or canola oil

Preparation:Preheat the oven to 450ºF.

Open the chickpeas and rinse in a colander. .Drain all the liquid from the chickpeas and dry them with paper towels. Getting them as dry as possible, which will create a better crunch once they’re roasted.

Once the chickepeas are dry, spread them over a flat sheet pan. Drizzle on the olive or canola oil. Make sure each chickpea is lightly coated then sprinkle the Cajun spice or any other spices you’d like to try (I think next time I’d like to try Chinese five spice) and brown sugar over top.

Respread the chickpeas so there is only one layer of them on the sheet pan.

Place the pan in the oven for 20-30 mins. Make sure to keep an eye on them nearing the end of the 30 mins since they can quickly brown. If you like them a little more crunchy then leave them in the oven for an extra 5-10 mins.

Makes about 1½ cups.

Cajun Spice Mix:2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I add a bit more than that since I enjoy the mix a bit spicier)
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground mustard

Mix all the above in a jar. Keep it sealed and you can put it on anything from fish, poultry to chickpeas!


Restaurant Review: Craftsteak Las Vegas

>> Monday, June 6, 2011

Waygu Tartare
I love watching the food network. Whenever the TV is on at my house, it’s usually on the food network channel, I often wonder why I even need a remote control in the first place since I never need to change the channels (ok, maybe for the volume and power controls…but you know what I mean). It’s gotten to the point where my husband makes it a priority to watch other TV channels when I’m not at home. Apparently I overtake the tube when I’m home. One of my favourite shows on the food network is Top Chef, whether it’s Top Chef Canada, Masters or the original Top Chef. So you could imagine how excited I was when I found out that Tom Colicchio had a restaurant in Vegas and literally across the street from my hotel called Craftsteak at the MGM Grand.

Atmosphere: Edgy and modern with a simple rustic sophistication. The color palette creates a comfortable and warm dining area, where one can settle for the entire evening.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $40+

Food and Wine: Right after I made the reservations online, I proceeded to ogle over the menu at Craftsteak, so it really didn’t take too long to decide what I was going to have for the evening. Since my companions also decided on the same entrée as me, we figured it would be best to share everything again (story of the trip). I have to mention the delicious sweet buns that were offered to start the meal. They were served in a group of 6, with each glazed and shining under the restaurant lights. The bread was fluffy and doughy, delicious with butter or even on its own.

We decided on the Hand Cut Waygu Tartare Crostini as our appetizer, which was a lightly seasoned creamy beef tartare served with crispy baguette slices. Waygu beef is cattle that’s been raised to have a higher than average percentage of unsaturated fat, which provided the dish with additional flavour. Since we all know that fat = flavour. So this tartare was creamier than what I’m accustomed to, the only suggestion would have been to add a bit more acid to enhance the flavour contrast and cut through that fattiness.

As our entrees we all shared the Surf and Turf and the Colorado Rack of Lamb with sides of Crispy Sunchokes and Mushroom Risotto. The Surf and Turf Entrée came with a 6oz filet mignon and a choice of a Half Maine Lobster or Diver Sea Scallops. We decided on the Scallops, however, since the waiter got our order wrong we were complimented the scallops as well and I’m glad because we all preferred the scallops over the half lobster. Each scallop was seared perfectly (they came in 3’s), where the inside is still slightly raw and topped with a light buttery sauce. The lobster wasn’t bad by any means, it was nice and juicy, but we all agreed that the scallops were better flavoured. The turf portion of the plate was equally amazing. We ordered the steak rare and I’m glad we did, each bite was tender, juicy and moist. There wasn’t much chewing required and the roasted garlic on the side was a very nice touch.

Our lamb was cooked to a medium rare and came with a pleasant vinegar based sauce with juniper berries (I believe). However, I found the lamb itself to lack flavour. It was tender, but when compared to the steak it didn’t stand out in anyway. For those that enjoy the gaminess of lamb meat, there wasn’t much in this dish (not like I’m complaining since I’m not a fan of gaminess). I would pass if I had to choice to order it again and instead look more towards the braised short ribs or veal shank.

Both my companions really enjoyed the crispy sunchokes, but found them to be a bit over salted. We seemed to have solved the problem after mixing the dish around a bit to even out the salt sprinkled over the top. The sunchokes reminded me of a lighter version of potato hashbrowns. The risotto was a bit disappointing. There was a good amount of mushroom flavour, but the rice was overcooked. Even though the risotto was creamy the mushiness of the rice took away from the overall texture of the dish which was disappointing because if you watched last season of Top Chef you’ll know why (they let two people go because of bad risotto).

We couldn’t end the evening without a bit of dessert and after seeing the Cinnamon Monkey Bread online for the last couple of months, I couldn’t wait to try it. I was definitely not disappointed. The monkey bread was like little tiny bites of cinnamon buns smothered in a gooey pecan toffee sauce coupled with cinnamon ice cream. Even though the pecan toffee sauce sounds really rich and decadent it wasn’t. It wasn’t overly sweet, but instead gave the chewy little dough balls an extra oomph (that’s really the only word I can think of) that they craved. Ice cream never hurt a dessert either.

Surf and Turf and Side
To cleanse our palettes we also ordered a duo of the Grapefruit Prosecco and Cucumber Mint Sorbets. The grapefruit was very light and the fizzy prosecco complimented it well, definitely cleansed our palates between the bites of monkey bread. The cucumber mint however tasted a bit artificial. You could taste the cucumber, which was refreshing but the mint tasted simulated, add to that too much sugar and the sorbet just fell flat with us, instead we just dug back in to the monkey bread.

After some hard decisions on the wine (it took a while for me to flip through the wine novel provided) we ended up with the Vignamaggio 2006 Chianti Classico. It was a medium bodied red with very light berry tones. Since we were having both steak and seafood, it was hard to pick something that wouldn’t overwhelm the seafood dishes. On the whole the bottle went fairly well with the meal; the surprise was it complimented the lamb very well. I would definitely order this bottle again if I was having another lamb dish.

My Picks: Surf and Turf Entrée, Cinnamon Monkey Bread

Overall: It was a treat being able to say that I’ve had a meal at one of the “Top Chef’s” kitchens. Experiencing the concept for each dish was a pleasure and I greatly enjoyed the food we sampled at Craftsteak. I would even go as far as to say it was probably the best meal we had during our whole trip and I did until I found that we had some issues afterwards. All three of us experienced stomach ‘pains’ afterwards and it sadly affected our final evaluation of the restaurant. However, it wouldn’t stop me from paying Craftsteak another visit the next time I’m in Vegas, but maybe I’ll stay away from the tartare.

MGM Grand
3799 Las Vegas Boulevard S
Las Vegas, 89109
(702) 891-7318

Craftsteak (MGM Grand) on Urbanspoon


Restaurant List

>> Friday, June 3, 2011

I've recently realized that it was difficult to navigate the site looking for restaurant spotlights I've written about in the past. It was an exciting and scary thought to me at the same time, since it meant I've been able to try an array of amazing food throughout Calgary and other cities, scary because I've been sampling way too much food. I figured it was time that I created an easier page to help everybody navigate through the reviews and hopefully my two cents will assist in your foodie experience!

1918 Tap and Table
A Ladybug Bakery and Cafe
Aida’s Mediterranean Bistro
Alforno Bakery and Cafe
Anejo Restaurant
Anju Restaurant
Arch Persian Lounge
Avec Bistro
Avenue Deli
Azzurri Pizzeria
Barcelona Tavern
Big T's BBQ - Banff Trail
Bistro Rouge
The Block Kitchen and Lounge
Bonterra Trattoria
Bridgette Bar
Briggs Kitchen and Bar
Blink Restaurant and Bar
Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant
Brasserie Kensington
Buttermilk Fine Waffles
Carver's Steakhouse
Cafe Momoko
Cassis Bistro
Charcut Roast House
Charpop - Temporary Popup Restaurant
Clive Burger
Craft Beer Market
Cucina Market Bistro
Deane House
The Derrick Gin Mill & Kitchen
Diner Deluxe
Divino Wine & Cheese Bistro
Dolce Sapori
Donna Mac
Double Zero Pizza
Euphoria Cafe
Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria - 4th Street
Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria - Country Hills
Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria - MacKenzie Towne
Frenchie Winebar
Foreign Concept
Galaxie Diner
Globefish Sushi and Izakaya
Goro + Gun
The Guild
Hapa Izakaya
Haru Sushi and Grill
Hayden Block Smoke & Whiskey
Holy Grill
Hy's Steakhouse
Ichi Rock [ra:ku]
Ikemen Ramen Bar
Involtini Ristorante
Jinya Ramen Bar
Klein Harris
Koto Sushi Lounge
La Boulangerie
Laurier Lounge
LDV Pizza Bar
The Living Room Restaurant
Market Restaurant
Manuel Latruwe Belgium Patisserie & Bake Shop
Mercato Italian Gourmet Cultura - 4th Street
Mercato West - Aspen
Menyatai Japanese Noodles
Misato Sushi & Grill
Model Milk
Modern Steak
MONKI Breakfastclub & Bistro
Moxie's - Downtown
Muku Japanese Ramen
The Keg - 4th Avenue Downtown
The Nash
Next Door Wine & Appetizers
Niko's Bistro
OEB Breakfast Co.
Open Range
Ox and Angela
Pfanntastic Pannenkoek Haus
Posto Pizzeria and Bar
Purple Perk Coffee Market
Q Haute Cuisine
Raw Bar
Red Ember
River Café
Rodney's Oyster House
Royale Brasserie
San Remo - McKenzie Towne
Shibuya Izakaya
Shikiji Japanese Noodles and Sushi
Shiraz Persian Cuisine
Sugo Caffe Italia
Sushi Kimu
Suzette Bistro
Ruth's Chris Steakhouse
Tango Bistro
Teatro Restaurant
Ten Foot Henry
Two Penny
Una Pizza and Wine
Vero Bistro Moderne
Vendome Cafe
Vin Room
Vin Room West
Vintage Chophouse &Tavern
Without Papers
Workshop Kitchen Culture
Wurst Restaurant and Beerhall - Review 2
Via Cibo Coventry
Yellow Door Bistro

Maple Leaf Grille & Lounge

Tapas Restaurant
TroUgh Dining Co.

Los Angeles
Craft LA

New York
Mesa Grill
Nobu 57

The Pig



Restaurant Review: Koi Vegas

Black Cod

If I haven’t yet mentioned as to why I found myself in Vegas then I guess a lot of my stories would probably not make much sense. So I better explain the back story. Simply put, I was in Vegas for a very good girlfriend’s stagette, her last send off as a single lady (since a certain someone was smart enough to put a ring on it). Firstly, since it was her party and she suggested Vegas, Vegas bound we headed. Secondly, she loves sushi and so we pulled up our chairs to the tables of Planet Hollywood’s Koi.

Atmosphere: Classy Asian inspired dining area and lounge with a contrasting serene and scintillating ambiance.

Price: Mid $10s - $30s

Sushi and Mains: There was a rather large group of us, so it did take a bit for everyone to get settled, drinks to be ordered and food to be decided on. A companion and I decided to share so we could both sample a bit more of the menu (my favourite way to dine).

Since everyone else ordered individual portions our meal ended up arriving all at once. It was a bit of a wait between ordering and receiving our meals, but again, there were some who decided on appetizers and drinks had to be served up so it wasn’t too bad. Plus the servers weren’t that bad to look at, only to pass the time of course.

Sauteed Shrimp Roll
The first dish we tried was the Miso Bronzed Black Cod served over a medley of vegetables. I found the cod to be a bit over done and saltier than I would have liked. I’ve had black cod several times before at other sushi establishments and was really hoping for the buttery melt in your mouth feel of the cod. This one didn’t quite do it for me. It was far from being a bad dish, but definitely not the best.

Next up were our sushi orders, we decided to try two of the Koi Signature Sushi Rolls. The first being the Sauteed Shrimp Roll, which is composed of baby shrimp, asparagus and mushrooms in a light soy based sauce served over top a simple California roll. It was definitely different with the contrasting warmth of the shrimp over the cold California roll. Again I found it to be a bit over salted and started to question my palate at this point since my companion found everything to be ok. I push forward.

The second signature roll we sampled was the Baked Lobster Roll. The roll came in 6 pieces with slices of baked lobster on top of each and a creamy rice paper roll underneath. When I first bit in to the roll I was amazed at how well balanced the creaminess was between the baked lobster and the mayo sauce in the rice roll. The flavours melded together amazingly well and were perfectly seasoned. It was definitely unique and stood out amongst all the other dishes we’ve had so far. My only complaint was there wasn’t more than 6 pieces per order.

Baked Lobster Roll
We also tried the Spicy Tuna Roll, which wasn’t really all that spicy and didn’t taste all that different from any other sushi place I’ve ordered it from before. The Sauteed Asparagus and Mushroom side reminded me of the sautéed shrimp on top of our California rolls (in both look and flavour) and again wasn’t much of a stand out, but it did provide us with much needed fiber and vegetables in a grain and protein heavy meal.

My Pick: Baked Lobster Roll

Overall: The most important thing was the bachelorette had fun and enjoyed herself at Koi. The next pretty important thing would be the lobster roll. Sitting here I can still taste the creamy texture and flavour of that roll and would definitely go back to order nothing but it. However, with that I can imagine that there were lots of other delicious items on the menu that still needs to be tasted and I’ll gladly go back to sample them, plus gazing at the servers was pretty fun too. We had to past the time somehow! So anybody else having a stagette in Vegas soon?

Planet Hollywood
3667 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 454-4555

Koi (Planet Hollywood) on Urbanspoon

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