Restaurant Review: Muku Japanese Ramen

>> Friday, December 19, 2014


We’ve had a pretty warm and snow free winter so far, but somehow this hasn’t stopped me from craving warm and comforting dishes. I suppose it’s just that time of year where I just want all things soothing, which is why I’ve been finding myself eating more warm soupy meals lately. Ramen is definitely up there on my list when I think of something warm and comforting.

Atmosphere: A tiny cozy noodle house meant for smaller groups of diners. Be sure to arrive early to avoid lineups.

Price Range: Mid $10s

Food: When you first enter Muku you’re reminded that you’re at a restaurant specializing in ramen noodles and ramen alone. They don’t serve sushi here. They do however have some small bites to start off your meal while you’re still waiting for your noodle bowl and we did just that. Starting with some crispy Deep Fried Squid served with mayo for dipping. The squid were crunchy and lightly battered. It went nicely with the mayo which is my dip of choice. However, I did find that they were a bit oily but since it was only a snack sized portion it wasn’t too overwhelming.


I was super excited for my Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen with pork (chashu), fresh green onion, baby corn, Japanese fish cake (Naruto) in a thick savory pork bone and soy based broth topped with a dollop of hot sauce. Before I even dug in I admired the cloudiness and aromas coming off of the broth, both signifying a great tonkotsu bowl. I really enjoyed the broth used, you could really taste the depth of flavour and how they’ve been able to extract the essence of the pork bones. There weren’t too many toppings included but the noodles themselves had a really nice texture. They were chewy, not gummy and held up well against the broth. I liked the added spice to the soup. It wasn’t too hot but just a touch of lingering spice at the end of the bite.

The hubby ordered the Miso Ramen with chashu slices, green onion, corn kernels, boiled bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, carrots and dried seaweed all in a chicken and fish broth with miso paste for flavouring. Again the noodles were perfectly cooked in his bowl of ramen. The broth was still hearty, with lots of nutty sweetness even though it’s made with the use of chicken and fish instead of pork bones. If you like your chashu aka slices of pork then you’ll like this option. The pork at Muku is much leaner than what we’re used to but it’s also perfect for those that aren’t a fan of the fatty pork, but the flavour of the pork itself is still very good. My husband did find the portion sizes a bit smaller than other ramen places we’ve visited, so for those that have a larger appetite make sure to let your servers know so they can suggest either additional noodles or toppings so you don’t leave feeling unsatisfied.


My Pick: Tonkotsu Ramen (regular or spicy)

Overall: Specializing in ramen means they do it well. The noodles are perfectly cooked and the broth is hearty and flavourful. Personally I enjoy more toppings on my ramen, there is an option to add additional items to your bowl so feel free to experiment and I hope you all keep warm during this season especially with some ramen in your stomach!

Muku Japanese Ramen
326 14 Street NW
Calgary, AB

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Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

>> Wednesday, December 10, 2014


When cooking, rarely do I ever measure out the exact amounts of each ingredient that I’m using, which can make it difficult to share my recipes. A lot of what I cook is based on estimation depending on how much broth I’m cooking or how big the roast is. Everything is done by feel and taste since I don’t always knows the exact weight of all the drumsticks or the pork chops, although I’m getting a lot better now, especially knowing that I need to capture the quantities I’ve used in order to share it with all my readers.

When it comes to baking you can’t use that same approach. Baking is much more methodic and requires exact measurements to ensure that the results achieved are exactly as intended. So when I find a good recipe I tend to adhere to it pretty closely, changing it only slightly to make it more of my own. Sometimes I might lower the amount of sugar used because I personally find it a bit sweet or change the type of flour or sugar used to accommodate what I have at home. However, the recipe that I used for this year’s Food Blogger Bake sale sounded perfect and therefore I really didn’t change the amount or type of ingredients, but instead I altered the preparation and cooking time for a chewier cookie. You can find the original recipe here. Let me know what you guys think!

Nutritional Tidbit: It seems a bit of a stretch to call a cookie healthy but these do have some nutritional benefits with the use of dark unsweetened chocolate. Dark chocolate has been shown to contain antioxidants which protect our bodies from harmful free radicals. It also has a good amount of minerals required by your body. Although sources say that it may lower LDL and cardiovascular risk, we should still remember that chocolate is a treat and like all other foods, eaten in moderation.



Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter
4 oz dark unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsps vanilla extract 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips



Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 325ºF and line two baking trays with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and spices. You can choose to use the ones suggested or add in additional flavours like nutmeg or cardamom. Feel free to experiment.

In a microwave safe bowl heat up the butter and unsweetened dark chocolate for 30 secs at a time until melted, stir the mixture each time until they’re well blended. I know a lot of recipes call for unsalted butter but I prefer to use salted butter and just remove the salt from the recipe, if you’re using unsalted butter just add in 1/2 tsp of salt!

In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla. Pour in the chocolate mixture and stir until all the ingredients are well blended together.

Slowly fold in the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon. This may take a bit of elbow grease but I prefer to do it by hand to avoid over mixing.

Add in the chocolate chips and continue to fold the batter until they are evenly distributed throughout.

Roll the dough in to roughly 1 1/2 inch balls, place on the parchment about 1 inch apart. Slightly press down the batter since the dough itself doesn’t spread much while baking.

Put in the oven for roughly 8-10 mins depending on how chewy you like your cookies. I prefer to mine half-baked so I take them out closer to 8 mins.

When you remove the cookies from the oven, remove them from the baking tray and allow to fully cool. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week (if they last that long).

Recipe makes about 2 dozen.

Enjoy!


A group of food bloggers around Calgary also thought it would be a great chance for us to share our holiday baking recipes with the Sweet Holiday Blog Hop. Check out these delicious recipes for your Christmas baking!

Food Mamma - Candy Cane Bark
Bakers Beans - Orange Gingerbread Cookies
Dish N The Kitchen - Salted Pistachio Sablés
Julie Van Rosendaal - Sticky Toffee Pudding
Because I Like Chocolate - Vegan Nanaimo Bars
Heathers Eats - Butter Tarts
Miss Foodie's Gourmet Adventures - Hazelnut Shortbread
Merry About Town - Nutella Pretzel Cranberry No Bake Cookies

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Restaurant Review: Barcelona Tavern

>> Friday, December 5, 2014


A couple of my friends recently returned from Spain and was telling me all about the amazing tapas they had while they were there. It has been a couple years since I visited Barcelona but I can still remember the taste of the amazing food and more so the atmosphere of the crowds all gathering in a little restaurant sampling the tapas specialty of the evening. Recently as I was wandering to the mall, I noticed that there was a new restaurant called Barcelona Tavern where the old Belgo used to be and thought to myself that I’m in luck. It seems Barcelona has come to me!

Atmosphere: Redesigned open dining area with splashes of art featured in sections of the restaurant showcasing local artists and their talent. A second floor is also available for those looking for a bit more privacy.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+


Food & Wine: With so many different options on the menu, it was really hard to decide what we wanted to try since everything sounded amazing. Luckily we were craving tapas that night so we kept our focus on the sharing menu (it was tough, our eyes kept wandering!). We ended up going down the list and ordered based on a whim. Starting with one of my favorite appetizer dishes, the Patatas Bravas, you really can’t go wrong with tiny deep fried potatoes right? These ones were served with an artichoke lemon aioli, housemade sriracha and grated duck eggs. A bit spicy and a bit savory they’re a good change from fries. Since you get the whole potato you also get a bit more of the fleshy interior making it a bit more substantial. Although they do offer fries as well if you’ve got a hankering for them.

I’m also a huge fan of Calamari, the ones served at Barcelona Tavern have a thicker batter and served with two sauces, an avocado salsa verde and a romesco - tomato based - sauce. It was nice to have the contrasting sauces especially when sharing to allow for different preferences. The salsa verde was creamier while the romesco had a slight tang, but each went well with the calamari alone or you can even mix them together for a different flavor combination.

 
Their version of a braised pork slider called the Spanish Slammer was topped with an apple slaw, the aforementioned avocado salsa verde, all sandwiched between a sweet brioche bun. The pork was tender and well-seasoned plus all the fixings on top made for a melt in your mouth experience. I would definitely order these again.

Our last tapas plate was the Ahi Tuna Crudo recommended by our server. It was light and refreshing, a nice contrast to the other dishes we’ve had so far. The plate arrives deconstructed and is meant for the diner to put together before consuming. If you only taste one or two components of the dish alone, it will feel a bit off, make sure to get a bit of the aioli, wasabi, the soy all on top before taking a bite. I did find the wonton a bit tough and therefore stuck with the tuna crudo with just the fixings, which some might feel would be lacking the texture component, but I didn’t mind.


To ensure we had a well-rounded meal we had also tried some of the sides. The Roasted Cremini and Portobello Mushrooms were creamy, flavourful and just plain delicious. Some might find it a bit heavy, but since there was a good selection of other dishes it helped to cut through the heaviness. We also ordered the slow roasted Truffled Beets. I never would have thought of putting truffle oil on beets, but it works. Since beets are sweet and hearty, they held well against the strong pungent flavours of the truffle.

For dessert, it was hard not to order the Spanish Coffee Sticky Toffee Sticky Date Pudding. It just sounded so decadent and it was. This is definitely a dessert for those with a sweet tooth. With the salted brandy caramel, creamy kahlua gelato from Fiasco (we also added a scoop of vanilla) and the rum soaked raisins, it culminated in to big sugary bite. I would recommend trying it with a coffee, since the flavours definitely play well together.


One thing that caught my eye was the Gin & Tonic menu. It seems they’re trying to bring back the gin and yes please! I didn’t get a chance to sample their selections that evening, but I definitely made a mental note to come back and try it. With amazing drinks like Kiwi and Cucumber, Strawberry and Basil, I can see it being the start of one of those nights.

My Picks: Spanish Slammer, Roasted Mushrooms, Truffled Beets

Overall: We can always use more Latin and Spanish inspired cuisine in town and I’m really happy to see one open right in downtown. Although the delivery of the food is slightly different from the cramped quarters of the little pubs in Spain, I still love tapas and anything that is meant for sharing family style is a winner in my books.


Barcelona Tavern
501 8 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 265-6555
Website: barcelonatavern.com

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