>> Friday, August 19, 2011
Lately I’ve noticed that there has been a change in the service industry in Calgary. I’ve talked to quite a few people about it and the general consensus is that Calgary as a whole is getting better. Exciting stuff, I’ve had some pretty great experiences (wish I could share them all here), but a recent experience that really stood out for me was at Ichi Rock raku.
Atmosphere: Small homey restaurant with Japanese panache.
Price Range: Mid $10s
Food: Ichi Rock is a izakaya restaurant or what most people know as a place that serves smaller plates (Spanish tapas anyone?). So be prepared to try a bunch of different smaller fusion dishes, which was exactly what we did.
Since I love to google our restaurant menus prior to going, I saw a couple of dishes online that I wanted to try, like this one Scallop Tartare dish. However, I didn’t see it on the menu and when we asked for it, the server mentioned that they were no longer serving it. I was a little disappointed but carried on with ordering the rest of the dishes. To my surprise however, shortly afterwards, the server comes back and tells us that the she spoke to the chef and he was willing to make it especially for us. How accommodating! I was already very very pleased (What made it better was the owner of the restaurant later told us that the dish was on the house! I was flabbergasted! Totally unexpected and a really nice surprise!). The scallops had the perfect amount of dressing especially when combined with the creamy avocados and sweet red peppers. I’m not too sure what kind of chips those were. They definitely weren’t your typical tortilla chips. Delish!
The restaurant was getting quite busy at this time (always a good sign to see lots of Japanese people at a sushi restaurant), but all the dishes came out at a good pace. The Agedahi Tofu (there is two, one of them has cheese so be careful which one you order, we got the traditional version), was crispy and served with a light soy sauce. It could have used more onions and bonito flakes, but overall the taste of it was good. Our next dish was the Takoyaki, which my friend suggested that I order. I’m not usually one to order this dish, so I don’t really have much of a comparison for it. The deep fried octopus was covered in a creamy mayo dressing. I found it a bit heavy, since each ball also had a rich filling. Next up was the Okonomiyaki or what’s better known as the Japanese pancake. We ordered the seafood version and it came with a mixture of octopus, squid, shrimp, veggies all placed in a batter, pan fried and topped with cheese. I’ve had a very authentic version of okonomiyaki before and remembered it being a lot lighter since it was made at the home of a Japanese friend, so this was quite the contrast. Plus, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about the cheese. It was a bit too heavy for me so I moved on to the next dish.
We also sampled several of their house special sushi rolls, the first one being the Haru Fantasy, made with smoke salmon, orange, avocado, roe, scallops, topped with shrimp and a sweet mayo sauce. I really enjoyed this roll because the sweetness of the orange managed to balance out the flavours of the smoked salmon and buttery avocado. It added a brightness to the dish and was a nice break from the heavier dishes we ate earlier. Our second roll was the Dragon Eye consisting of salmon, tobiko, green onion, carrot all tempura battered and deep fried. Unfortunately the deep frying caused the salmon, which was wrapped closer to the outer layer, to be overcooked and a bit dry. I don’t like overcooked salmon, so this wasn’t my favourite. I probably would have preferred the roll on its own without the frying or the batter. The final roll we had a chance to taste was the Sakura Blossom, featuring the new hype in sushi rolls, mango along with avocado, scallop, roe, salmon, all topped with a sweet honey mayo. Due to the mango, it was definitely another lighter sushi roll and also a nice way to end our crazy food filled evening.
My Picks: Scallop Tartare (ask for it so they put it on the menu permanently!)
Overall: I can’t stress how much I enjoyed the service at Ichi Rock, everybody was super friendly. We got a chance to talk to the owners, who stopped by to ask us how everything was (and gave us the scallop tartare on the house!). The servers were attentive and polite, so the good food was really just a bonus. I would come back to Ichi Rock in a heartbeat and haven’t stopped raving about it since!
Ichi Rock [ra:ku] 923 6 Ave SW