Restaurant Review: Goro + Gun

>> Thursday, April 24, 2014

 

For the past couple of months I’ve walked by the location of the former West Restaurant & Bar observing all the construction that was happening. I wondered for a long time what sort of restaurant would replace that coveted spot. Never would I have had imagined that a ramen noodle house was to occupy that space. My husband and I are both huge fans of ramen and can never get enough (he would say he wins the noodle war between the two of us). So when Goro + Gun opened recently I couldn’t wait to order myself a bowl or two of noodles.

Atmosphere: A marriage of traditional design and modern artistic décor, all with a funky twist. Dining area features long tables perfect for large groups or select a table near the open kitchen to observe the spectacles.

Price Range: Mid $10s

Food & Wine: Aside from the ramen, we also wanted to try some of their appetizers and sushi. We decided on the Soy marinated Short Rib served with a side of tangy citrus dipping sauce as a starter. I did find the short ribs a bit salty and thought the dipping sauce help to mild out the flavours. When I ordered the dish I imagined it as a short rib taco or was served on a steamed bun. Thinking back, I probably should have asked to clarify, however it was still good on its own, but would probably be delicious on a steamed bun too!


The Sockeye Salmon Sashimi jumped out at us, since normally at sushi restaurant it’s typically fatty salmon so we decided to give it a try. I found it had a stronger salmon taste and different texture than the usual salmon. Since its leaner, the sashimi was also denser. None the less it was nice seeing something different available.

We also ordered two rolls to start, the Spicy Tuna Roll and the Seared Yellowtail. They had a really interesting presentation. The rolls themselves were similar to a kappa roll, with cucumber and avocado, and then topped with chopped tuna and a slice of serrano pepper. I really liked the addition of the fresh serrano pepper. It provided a different type of spiciness different from other usual spicy rolls that uses siracha or a spicy mayo and it really added a great kick. We enjoyed it so much, we had to order the spicy salmon roll as well.


The Spicy Salmon Roll was a similar presentation but topped with chopped salmon instead of tuna and the fresh serrano pepper. I found that I still enjoyed the tuna more. It could be because I normally prefer the spicy tuna rolls over salmon rolls. I really enjoy the texture of salmon on its own and prefer to eat it as sashimi rather than being chopped and incorporated in to a roll.

The Seared Yellowtail roll had a similar look with the roll composed of cucumber with ground radish and then topped with slices of yellowtail, served with citrus sauce. I thought that the sauce really brought out the taste of the yellowtail. The fish itself tasted fresh and again I thought the presentation was very unique.

Now for the main reason why we were at Goro + Gun, the ramen! The Shio Ramen came with bbq pork, kikurage mushrooms, red ginger, green onions and shio. The broth was amazing consisting of different levels of flavour all melded together, a true testament to the hours it took to pull the essence out of the pork bones. The ramen noodles themselves had a nice chewy texture and stood up well against the broth. I really enjoyed the bbq pork with its perfect marbling of the fat to meat ratio. Every bite of the ramen was to be savoured.


If you’re interested in a drink to accompany your meal, they serve really interesting saki inspired cocktails and a nice condensed wine list as well. I ordered the Vega Moragona tempranillo because I was looking for something a bit spicier to compliment the sushi rolls. Normally I would have stayed with a pinot but due to the serrano peppers, decided to go a bit bolder. The tempranillo was smooth, full bodied with a long lingering finish. It definitely cleansed my palate every sip to allow me to differentiate the taste of each roll.

My Picks: Spicy Tuna Roll, Shio Ramen

Overall: After months of anticipation of a new ramen noodle soup shop, especially being in the middle of downtown Calgary and so easily accessible during work, Goro + Gun did not disappoint. The noodle bowl was delicious and the sushi was inspired. Move aside shopping, I might be going to the mall for other reasons during lunch, to get my fill of ramen!

Goro + Gun
225 7 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 237-5596
Website: http://goroandgun.ca

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A different type of cocktail - The Negroni at Cilantro

>> Sunday, April 20, 2014

 
Being a wine drinker I’ve always found certain cocktails, especially the fruity ones, to be a bit too sugary. So I’ve tended to shy away from the cocktails list except for a couple ceasars or mojitos every now and again. However there seems to be a cocktail revolution lately and traditional drinks like the Manhattan or Old Fashion are starting to make a comeback on restaurant menus. I definitely find them more enjoyable because they’re drinks you sip and savour, due to the use of bourbon they pack quite the punch and the flavours tend to linger long after the sip.


My usual go to spirit is gin. I was pretty excited to hear that Cliantro has created a list of cocktails they’ve referred to as ‘Negronis’ which uses gin for the base flavour profile. A lot of individuals I’ve spoken to in the past find that gin is acquired taste, but I personally find gin smoother than vodka when mixed with the right proportions. So it wasn’t a surprise that I quite enjoyed the Negronis. One of my favorites from the list being the Count Negroni, made with equal parts gin, carpano antico vermouth, campari and a dash of orange bitters. It reminded me of a manhattan or old fashion but without the bitter bourbon aftertaste. This drink transports me to a time when characters like Don Draper from Mad Men would be real. I can see a group of business men congregating at a round table smoking cigars and drinking glasses of the Count Negroni (doesn’t mean women weren’t drinking it too).

Next on the list was the No Speak Americano. A mix of Black tea and star anise syrup with Punte e Mes vermouth, aperol and rhubarb bitters. Like a long island iced tea, it’s light and refreshing, something that is perfect for the summer patio season. It reminds me a lot of a long island iced tea, but with more of a kick. I can definitely see this being my go to during a sunny hot day. They’re so drinkable it’s dangerous.


The Crime in Vatican City Negroni isn’t what you’d expect. Contrastingly different from the other cocktails on the list, this particular negroni has lighter notes of vermouth, cointreau and gin. When it arrived I noticed how pretty it was. Served in a martini glass and topped with fragrant spices, it’s a very unique concoction. I was surprised to taste the creaminess in the drink due to the use of egg whites giving it a unique texture. There are very slight hints of each liquor making it a nice negroni to start a meal or the evening.

I found the “Pop Shoppe” Negroni the most fun to drink, reminding me of the 1950s era and introduction of diners to North America. Made with gin, campari and vermouth with blood orange, ginger, dandelion bitters and sparkling water to give it that pop, this negroni reminded me of a soda, bubbly and fun to drink. I was surprised to find that it wasn’t overly too sweet, which is easy to do in a soda like drink. I really enjoyed the presentation with it arriving at the table in a beautiful glass bottle reminiscent of old soda bottles. Pour it out and enjoy the taste and savour the moment.


I didn’t quite make it down the whole list, two of the negronis eluding me that evening, Poseidon’s Trident, a combination of aquavit, cynar and manzanilla sherry with peach bitters and the Di Dieri, a champagne cocktail with hints of campari and cinzano. I was told that the Poseidon’s Trident is true to its name and the strongest one on the list and the Di Dieri sounds very intriguing with the use of cinzano (I love cinnamon anything). I know it’s only a matter of time before I head back to Cilantro to try them as well.


I highly recommend a few small bites if you’re going to be sampling the negronis, gin is known to sneak up on a person. I found the Smoked Salmon platter to be perfect. The salmon itself was a nice salty contrast to the sweet and bitterness of the drinks. My favorite was the vanilla citrus cream, instead of the use of plain cream cheese, couple it with the pickled onions on a pumpernickel crotini and you have a winning combination. Another great sharing dish is the Mussels, cooked in a chorizo clam broth. The brininess of the broth coupled with the spicy sausage again complimented the taste of the cocktails. I enjoyed dipping the crostinis in to the broth just to sop up all the extra flavour.

No longer is the cocktail just a sweet syrupy drink, it is more stylish and much more refined. With all the amazing cocktails to choose from, I might just have to venture outside my wine comfort zone and see what other types of libations are being created (starting with the other two negronis!).

 
Cilantro
338 17 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 229-1177
Website: www.crmr.com/cilantro/

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Restaurant Review: Sabroso

>> Wednesday, April 9, 2014



In my current day life I interface with a lot of Spanish speaking individuals due to the projects that are occurring right now with my company in Mexico. For that reason I’ve had to start taking Spanish lessons, which I’m enjoying a great deal. It’s an interesting language with the unique segregation between masculine and feminine words plus the conjugations of the verbs, none of the current languages I speak require me to have that knowledge. So needless to say it’s been quite the journey, but I’m really intrigued by the challenges that it poses. The language also reminds me a great deal of our trip to South America, making me miss the culture and especially the food down there. Luckily for me, Calgary is such a diverse city that I was able to get a bit of Latin culture and cuisine here in town. So it wasn’t long before I found myself reserving a table at Sabroso, a Latin inspired restaurant just off of 17th Ave downtown.

Atmosphere: Latin inspired dining room with splashes of color brightening up the space. Get a feel for the Latin vibe during their live music performances on the weekends.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+

 
Food & Wine: We knew we were going to be ordering a meat heavy entree and wanted to begin with some seafood appetizers to balance out our meal. We ended up ordering the Albacore Tuna Tiradito, the tuna marinated with a sweet soy sesame glaze and topped with pickled vegetables. The tuna itself was fresh and the portion size was decent for an appetizer. I enjoyed the soy glaze but did find that it somewhat masked the tuna flavour, but it could be due to the quantity of sauce on the plate. If it was used with a lighter hand the dish would be nicely balanced.

We also sampled the Calamari which had a crispy breaded coating and served with a wasabi mayo. I enjoyed the batter on the calamari because it was light and didn’t absorb too much of the oil during the frying process. The calamari was tender and well seasoned and perfect with the creamy mayo and a zing of the tangy lime.


Our entrée was the Parrilla para dos – a grill for two which includes grilled flank steak, prawns, chorizo, chicken drumsticks, vegetables and crispy potatoes on the side. The parrilla is famous in Argentina and this sample platter is perfect if you’re undecided on a particular entrée meal. It provides you a little taste of each item. My favorite was the flank steak. It was extremely tender and full of flavour. Topped with lots of crispy onions and the soy glaze, it was truly spectacular. I really liked the potatoes that were served on the side. I appreciated that they were separated from the rest of the platter, allowing them to maintain their crispiness. They were nicely seasoned and really reminded me of home fries, very dangerous!

I adore churros and had to have an order of the Cinnamon Churros. When they came, they were accompanied with a side of hot chocolate dipping sauce. The churros themselves were crunchy and lightly dusted with cinnamon and sugar. When you bite in to them they were airy and not dense, which is characteristic of a good churro. There is nothing better than dipping churros in to chocolate sauce. The match was truly made in heaven.


Sabroso offers a nice selection of Latin wines to choose from. We opted to stay with the reds that evening due to our main but I’ve heard that their cocktails are also quite delicious. They offer pisco on their menu and I highly recommend trying it because it can usually only be found in Peru or Chile. It’s a brandy type liquor made from grapes. I really enjoyed it in South America and have been looking for it in Calgary since and am glad to see it served here.

My Picks: Parrilla para dos - specifically for the Flank Steak, Cinnamon Churros

Overall: Nothing beats a good Argentinian grill and it was refreshing to see it on the menu at Sabroso. Couple that with some great churros for dessert and it’s a perfect reminder of Latin America. I can’t wait until my next trip down South but in the meantime there’s always a quick trip to Sabroso to quell my food cravings. Maybe I can practice my Spanish the next time I visit!
 

Sabroso
1504 16 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(587) 350-2679
Website: http://www.sabrosos.ca/

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Lightened Up Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

>> Friday, April 4, 2014


Growing up in a traditional Chinese family meant that desserts usually consisted of a sweet soup made from different type of beans (red bean, mung bean, etc) or something quite light like tofu. It doesn’t sound appetizing on paper, but it’s wonderful and will always be a favorite of mine. I always look forward to a nice bowl after dinner. Even if I’m super full, there’s always room for a bit of mango tapioca or mung bean soup.

Asians don’t usually make sugary desserts nor do they want something heavy to end off the meal. Even our baked goods are lighter and less sweet, utilizing egg whites to provide the fluffiness of a cake rather than using lots of butter which results in a brownie type texture. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a nice chewy cookie or the decadence of a chocolate cake, but sometimes I can find it a bit sweet. This has led me to reduce a lot of the sugar in most of my desserts and for the most part, I haven’t really noticed a difference in taste or texture.


I decided to experiment one weekend to see if I could make a red velvet whoopie pie less dense and maybe even slightly healthier while maintaining the luscious chocolate flavour. I was hoping that a lighter cake sandwiched with a fluffy cream cheese filling will still create a satisfying dessert. Since my husband is a sugar fiend, he’s usually my guinea pig when it comes to testing out dessert recipes that require me to reduce my use of sugar. When I got the big nod because he was too busy chowing down on the whoopie pies, I knew it had worked.

These whoopie pies are a nice blend of luxurious cocoa with hints of sweetness from the creamy filling, a perfect balance of healthy indulgence or at least healthier. Maybe I’ll serve this next time after a big Chinese dinner at my house instead!

Recipe adapted from the here.


Whoopie Pie Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 cup butter, softened (I prefer baking with salted butter, if you’re using unsalted add in 1 tsp salt)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp red food coloring


Whoopie Pie Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the greek yogurt and vinegar / lemon juice. It will start to curdle but that’s ok.

In a medium mixing bowl, cream the butter for 2 minutes.

Beat in the brown sugar until mixture becomes fluffy.

Add in the egg and vanilla, mix until well incorporated.

Now add the flour mixture and the greek yogurt in 3 separate stages, alternating between the flour and yogurt. This step prevents the dough from becoming lumpy.

Slowly stir in the red food coloring. Be careful not to splash the food coloring when mixing.

Using a large spoon, scoop out the dough evenly, it should form roughly 24 balls depending on how big you make them. Always make even numbers so they’re all paired at the end.

Place them on the baking sheet and leave roughly 1 inch between each ball.

Using your finger, lightly tap down the dough balls until they’re more disc like. They will rise in the oven so you don’t want them to be too round or else it will be hard to sandwich at the end.

Bake them 8-10 minutes, or until the tops set or begin to crack.

Remove from the oven and let them cool before filling.

While the whoopie pies are cooling, go ahead and prepare the filling.


Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients:

1 8oz package of cream cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Cream Cheese Preparation:

Beat the cream cheese and butter on high for roughly 3 minutes.

Add in the vanilla extract, mix until full incorporated.

Slowly sift in the powdered sugar. You can add more or less sugar depending on your preference. I like my icing not as sweet and didn’t actually use the full 1/2 cup, but it’s really up to you.

Cover the icing with plastic wrap until the whoopie pies are ready for assembling. Don’t place the icing in the fridge or else it’ll get hard. Only do that once the whoopie pies have already been assembled.


Whoopie Pie Assembly:

To assemble the whoopie pies, spread icing on one of the red velvet cookies and top with another.

Repeat for all of the cookies. Place the whoopie pies in the fridge until you’re ready to serve them.

Recipe makes approximately 24 whoopie pies.

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