>> Thursday, July 28, 2011
Living in a city like Calgary, I often it find it a challenge to actually go for a walk. I’ve heard this many times from the people that I know that have moved to Calgary from other more walk friendly cities. Aside from having to contend with the ever changing weather patterns, Calgary just isn’t built for walking. There aren’t really many food grocery stores in the downtown core (all on the west end). Most of the shopping malls can only be accessed via car or transit (since the core shopping centre has much shorter hours). Plus most people don’t live downtown. So I usually try to take advantage of any situation that would allow me to walk, Eg. Going out after work. What better way to get in a bit of a walk then to your dinner destination? So you can see how excited I was to find out that we were going to Anju, which is exactly opposite from where work downtown, but of course it wasn’t only the walking part that got me all energized. I knew there would be some delicious food waiting for me there as well!
Atmosphere: A restored two storey residence with relaxed modern panache, great for small plate styled eats.
Price Range: Mid $10 - $20s
Food and Wine: Prior to dinner I had a few recommendations from previous Anju patrons and the reoccurring theme were - get the fries, get the tofu. So when it came time to order those were the first two items on our list, among the whole plethora of other dishes. The first to arrive was Truffled Yam Fries (with great anticipation I might add) and they did not disappoint. I can see why Anju boasts that they are the best in the city. I really enjoyed the gochugaru aioli, which is Korean spiced mayo. It has a bit of heat, but not too much and compliments the sweet yam fries very nicely.
The Spicy Salmon Tacos were next, which had salmon tartare, light asian slaw all served in a crispy wonton shell. They were a bit messy to eat, but that’s part of the fun. The salmon had lots of flavour and wasn’t overwhelmed by the slaw. The highly recommended Crispy Tofu was served over top sautéed kimchi and citrus aioli. I couldn’t taste the lemon flavour too much, but that was ok since the tofu was the star of this dish. I was amazed at how well the breading stuck to the tofu and you got a good even crunch every bite. The kimchi gave the tofu an additional kick, making for a great dish.
For a larger entrée we decided on the Beef Short Rib Lettuce Wrap, which came with thai basil, samjang (spicy paste), rice, butter leaf lettuce and of course the short ribs. You’re meant to take a bit of each item and wrap it in the lettuce before consuming to get a nice contrast of flavours and textures. The only difficulty we found was the short ribs were a bit chewy, this could be due to the sinew that is normally found with short ribs, especially when they’re grilled. They were well seasoned and had a hint of sweetness to them which was welcomed.
At this point, we were debating if we wanted to move on to dessert or maybe sample a few more plates off the menu (since there are so many different choices). The latter won and ordered the Pork Belly Stuffed Mini Sliders (also because I saw steamed buns and that was the end of me). I love sliders, love pork and love steamed buns. This was a winner. Very well flavoured and the soft fluffy buns were a great vessel.
Our final dish of the evening was the Lamp Chop with Salad. The lamb was seared a nice medium rare (the way all lamb should be served) and came with a perfectly dressed side salad. Everyone agreed that everything tasted great, however the portion of the lamb was truly indeed a small bite, so keep that in mind if you’re thinking lamb rack, it’s a chop, singular. Order the entrée size if you’re looking for a larger meal.
Although I’m not usually one to pair wine with Asian cuisine, this was more of a fusion event and we opted to go with the Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon. The normal wine suggested to go with spicy asian meals is the Gewurztraminer, however we didn’t feel like having a white wine that evening and I found the cab sauv that we ordered quite a good fit. It had a light peppery fruitiness with a long smooth finish and complimented the meat dishes well. A nice change to the usual sweetness of a white wine. Anju also offers soju, which is a Korean liquor so if you're planning to stay a bit later in to the evening. I'd definitely suggest trying it!
My Picks: Truffled Yam Fries, Crispy Tofu, Spicy Salmon Tacos
Overall: The food at Anju is definitely worth the trek and if you’re not as enthused about walking as I am, then definitely drive on over because nobody should miss those delicious yam fries. I mean nobody.
Anju Restaurant and Eecha Lounge
507 10 Street SW