Restaurant Review: Ikemen Ramen Bar

>> Friday, August 28, 2015

A couple of us were talking about ramen not too long ago and one of my friends mentioned that he wasn’t able to find a good ramen place in town. I was shocked of course and wanted to hear more. This was before he reminded me that he didn’t eat pork. I forgot. Since all ramen soup bases are mainly stewed from pork bones, it was near impossible for him to find a good ramen place in town that didn’t serve a pork broth. Enter Ikemen, a new ramen bar that recently opened in Kensington close to other ramen places such as Muku and Menyatai, with the main difference in that they serve chicken based broths. I had to go check it out.

Atmosphere: Warm wooden interior surround the dining room to allow their patrons to really focus on the enjoyment of their ramen bowls.

Price Range: Mid $10s

Food: It’s really all about the chicken broth ramen here, but we also wanted to give their appetizers a try especially since the Tako Carpaccio soundly quite inviting. Thinly sliced pieces of octopus are served with a citrusy ginger yuzu dressing, radishes and onions making for a light start to our meal. It was a great way to really cleanse the palate. The octopus had a nice texture and was not chewy, a twist on the conventional carpaccio.

I also wanted to try the Spicy Salmon Roll which again was a slightly different from the normal roll. This version includes tempura crumbs and cucumber inside then topped with salmon and chili peppers. I liked the added crunch from the tempura bits, especially for those who find salmon to be a bit mushy. The addition of the chilis to the spicy mayo gives it a bit more of a kick. I love spicy food so anything to up the ante is a win in my books.

Although all their appetizers were delicious, we were definitely there to try out their ramen noodles, made with chicken broth instead of the typical pork bones, making it friendly for those who don’t eat pork. I ordered the Spicy Miso Ramen topped with a soft boiled egg, cabbage, garlic chips, sesame seeds, kale and char siu. The benefit of using chicken as a base for the broth made for a lighter soup which still had quite a bit of flavour. Although for those traditional ramen connoisseurs it may or may not stand up to their love of the pork bone soup base. I really enjoyed the taste of the char siu which was flavourful without being salty and the cook of my egg was perfect having the right amount of runniness in the yolk. I definitely preferred the soup spicy and will definitely be ordering it again this way in the future. I actually wouldn’t have minded if it was even a bit spicier!

The hubby got the Green Curry Seafood Ramen, a change from his usual miso or shio order. He liked the flavours of the coconut milk mixed in with the chicken broth and felt it was definitely different from what he was used to but in a good way. Topped with tomato, basil, lime zest, mushrooms, kale, jumbo red prawn, mussel, scallop, it was more reminiscent of a thai curry rather than a ramen noodle bowl. I had a couple bites and didn’t mind the flavours but did find that I liked my choice better.

To end the meal our server mentioned that they had Cinnamon Mochis for dessert and we didn’t look back. The mochis were soft on the inside and lightly fried for a crisp outer layer, dusted with cinnamon sugar it was like an Asian mini donut. I really enjoyed it coupled with their House Made Ice Cream, which was green tea that day. Flavours change often so be sure to ask your server!

My Pick: Spicy Miso Ramen, Cinnamon Mochi

Overall: Although I’m a huge fan of pork based ramen, I have to admit that I also quite enjoyed the chicken based broth. I found it to be lighter than the conventional ramen broth and it’ll be a great option for those who can’t eat pork, like a couple of my friends. Even though you’re there for the noodles, I highly recommend trying some of their appetizers as well and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Ikemen Ramen Bar
217 10 Street NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 452-2148

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Random Monday Thought - Travels

>> Monday, August 24, 2015

With our Japan trip lingering just around the corner. I’m madly doing all the research I can on what I need to eat (sushi, ramen, name it) to what I need to buy (everything!). However one thing that’s always on my mind is what emergency items I need to bring with me. I know there are going to be lots available while we’re there, but not being able to speak the language always has its drawbacks especially when it comes to medications and other emergency items.

Some key things to note when you’re about to travel and have plans to go off the beaten path or eat something adventurous include:

Visit a travel clinic – they’ll be able to start you off in the right direction

Get all your shots – check out this site for additional information

Pack a first aid kit – bandaids, gauze, polysporin, etc. Learn more here

Do your research – know the country or area and be aware of any new outbreaks or potential contagions

Stock up on required medication – if taking new medication remember to check all the side effects, you don’t want to be hit with unpleasant side effects in the middle of your trip. Also look for medication frequency and how well it mixes with food. If you’d like to take extra caution, sign up for patient safety alerts. You will receive recall and safety alerts on any of the medications you bring

Here’s a quick info graphic that helps lay everything out:

Although it's not usually what most people think about when traveling. It's always best to be safe when you're away from home. What are some of your concerns when packing for vacation? Let me know!


Alberta Beef and Canadian Rye Whisky - What a Combo

>> Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The first thing people think about when you mention beef in Alberta is steak. Although steak is quite delectable and one of my favorites, there is more versatility to Alberta beef products than your typical steak. To showcase this Alberta Beef hosted a dinner to really highlight the different cuts of beef. If that wasn't exciting enough they paired the entire meal with various selections of Alberta whisky from Highwood Distillers. Quite the Alberta feast indeed!

Shortly after we were seated the amuse was served. The one bite Flat Iron Steak Skewer were made with medium rare steak with a semi sun dried tomato and topped with chimichurri sauce, an Argentinian garlicky herb sauce packed with a nice tangy zing. It was a really great way to wake up the taste buds for our upcoming meal.

Our first course was the Lengua Tacos. Lengua is Spanish for tongue and braised alberta beef tongue was used for the preparation. For those who have never tried lengua, although scary sounding, the flavours are truly sublime. Coupled with tomatillo salsa, queso fresco, pickled red onion and dashes of hot sauce, it had amazing bursts of flavour. A must for any taco or Mexican food lover! Paired with the tacos was the White Owl Whisky, the world’s first clear Canadian rye whisky. Aged for 10 years and charcoal filtered to produce a sweet citrus taste that’s clean and crisp. Perfect for the spicy tacos.

What’s a showcase of beef without a bit of tartare? The Alberta Beef Tartare was made with flank steak, pickled ramps, grainy mustard, micro greens topped with a runny egg yolk and side of kettle chips to scoop up all that deliciousness. The beef was creamy and soft without being chewy. I really enjoyed the subtle hints of tangy mustard and pickled ramps. With this course we were given the Centennial 10 Year Old Rye Whisky made mostly from wheat alcohol producing a smoother rye with hints of honey notes.

The use of beef was ingenious in the Romaine Wedge Salad instead of your typical bacon, dried Alberta beef bresaola was used instead. It still gave the salad the briny flavour enhanced by the blue cheese, mint and cranberries. The fig vinaigrette was slightly sweet and helped mellow out the pungent cheese and provided additional levels of flavour. We had my favorite rye of the evening with this course. The White Owl Spiced Whisky contained a mixture of vanilla, clove, ginger and nutmeg flavours formulating a smooth aftertaste with trails of warm spice and lingering butterscotch. This would be a dangerous whisky to have on hand at home.

The showstopper that evening was the Heritage Angus Pastrami made with wagyu corned alberta beef. It was probably one of the best pastramis I’ve ever had and probably the first wagyu version. I did find it a bit overseasoned, but the texture of the beef was outstanding. Served with sides of carrot, apple and cabbage sauerkraut and toasted sourdough, all I wanted to do was to form it in to a reuben sandwich. I am secretly hoping that it’s available in that form. The Ninety 20 Year Old Whisky was poured to accompany this course. The oldest Canadian rye whisky with lots of oak and cedar notes to stand up to the hearty flavours of the pastrami and the lingering of orange peel to really clean the palate.

As a finale to our fabulous meal we were presented with the Gooseberry Crumble with a savoury Alberta beef jerky crumble base, gooseberry compote and topped with vanilla bean ice cream. I’ve never been a huge fan of salty and sweet, but the combination here was perfectly balanced. The strong flavours of the gooseberry stood up well against the saltiness of the jerky and the bit of salt that I did taste only elevated the dessert overall. I was quite full at this point but I had to finish the whole crumble. It was too good not to. The crowd favorite of the evening, the Sweet Sippin Maple Whisky was given as an ode to the dessert wine. In this version, rye whisky is combined with pure Canadian maple syrup to produce a lovely warm woodsy rye with a nice sweetness that is perfect for dessert. A warm Mint Tea and velvety Earl Grey Truffles were provided to all the guests to wrap up our amazing dinner as a symbol of thanks; similar to various cultures around the world which offer the drink to welcome them to their home and thank them for their time.

We truly ended our evening on a high of Alberta beef which probably had something to do with all the whisky we consumed, but in all seriousness I really enjoyed all the amazing techniques used by Chef Brett McDermott who conceptualized all the spectacular dishes, you can visit him at Our Daily Brett on 14 St SW. Plus a special thanks to both Alberta Beef and Highwood Distillers for a wonderful evening and showing me that rye and beef truly are made for each other and where else to do it than in Alberta!

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