Restaurant Review: Anju 2.0

I remember back when I first heard of Anju, a little hidden away restaurant just on the outskirts of downtown. Korean tapas, they said. I was intrigued and couldn’t wait to try it. After just the first outing, I was hooked. Then no before long, I heard that they were closing and I was distraught. Where else was I going to get my Oxtail Tortellini fix? Or Crispy Tofu? Luckily for us, Roy Oh, chef of Anju was out growing their space and was looking for a new location where he can truly showcase his talents. Welcome Anju 2.0. Everybody waited in anticipation. Nobody was disappointed.

Atmosphere: A nice contrast to the original Anju location which had its own unique charm, but this new stylish spot is elegant and larger mirroring the amazing dining selections on their bulked up menu.

Price Range: Mid $10 - $20+

Food & Wine: We had to start off with some of my classic Anju favorites. The Yam Fries with the addicting truffle oil and gochugaru aioli have been one of my favorites since they first opened and I’m glad to see they haven’t changed the recipe, we were so excited they were back we had to get 2 orders. Actually I believe we ordered 2 of all the favorites, the Crispy Tofu, Sunworks Chicken Wings with Gochujang glaze and the Oxtail Tortellini. For those who never tried the Oxtail Tortellini when Anju first opened, make sure not to miss them when you visit their new location. Again the truffle oil is used just perfectly here to highlight all the different notes of the pasta from the melt in your mouth oxtail to the al dente tortellini shell. It is truly one of the best bites in town.

Although I could have more than filled up on the originals, I couldn’t pass up sampling their new items and I’m definitely glad I didn’t. The Green Onion & Seafood Pancake, reminded me of the traditional Taiwanese oyster omelets, the pancakes included prawns, squid, mussels and clams served with a side of chili soy sauce for dipping. Fluffy and gooey, the pancake has just the right amount of seafood distributed throughout that every piece is juicy and just as tasty as the last.

The Mussels & Clams were another winner at our table with the flavours of the shellfish brought forward through the expert use of the black garlic. The broth enhanced the sweetness of both the clams and mussels while the toasted baguette was the perfect vessel to sop up all that deliciousness. Another great option for those looking for something soupy was the Kimchi Ramen made from pork broth featuring pieces of pork belly and kimchi. The noodles were well cooked and the broth well-seasoned, this was a pig lover’s dream dish.

It was intriguing to see Lemongrass Brussels Sprouts on the menu and since we definitely required some greens to accompany our protein heavy meal, the sprouts sounded like a delectable choice. However what we received was beyond expectations. The combination of the Chinese sausage (lap cheong) with the fried brussels sprouts was divine. The hints of fish sauce really blended well with the bitterness of the sprouts. The addition of the walnuts and lime only added to the appeal of this side dish and elevated the lowly brussel sprout.

The other side greens we ordered were equally as tasty. The Artisan Green Salad although sounding simple is anything but. Made with fuji apples, romaine hearts, dried cranberries, almonds and a tangy yuja vinaigrette. The salad was both fresh and light, which really helped break up our meal and refresh our palates for more spicy goodness.

We were extremely full at this point it was hard not to order dessert, especially when one stated that it was for adults only. The Black Sesame Punch, a sophisticated twist on your after dinner nightcap was perfectly balanced, not overly sweet or pungent served with some freshly baked gochujang chocolate cookies, made it more appealing as a dessert. The cookies were soft and chewy with a nice lingering spiciness like a hot Mexican chocolate. Take a bite, sip some punch. Repeat.

To finish we had the Apple Pie made with puff pastry and stuffed filled with roasted apples and topped with caramel ice cream. A stark contrast to the first dessert, this one was reminiscent of a childhood apple pie, warm and gooey. It’s perfect for the whole family or those who enjoy a traditional classic.

There’s a nice selection of various wines, which has increased significantly from their last offerings and I found both the Il Feduccio Cerasuolo Rose and the Rusina Cabernet Sauvignon a nice compliment to the various plates we had. The Rusina was a nice full bodied fruit forward wine that was clean on the palate and well balanced. It held up well against the spicy tanginess of the Korean flavours without overpowering them.

For those interested in cocktails, one not to be missed is their infamous Shin Ramen Ceasar, made with a mix of anju’s secret spices, the outcome tastes just like the ramen noodle cups that I remember savoring as a child. Combine it with a thirst quenching ceasar and what’s not to love?

My Picks: Crispy Tofu, Oxtail Tortellini, Mussels & Clams, Lemongrass Brussels Sprouts

Overall: It was exciting to find out that Anju took over the corner spot of 4th and 17th, a great location that was left empty for far too long. Not only does the new space look amazing, but the dishes are equally so. I couldn’t wait to order my favorites but how quickly I realized that the new dishes have gained my adoration. Welcome back the bigger and bolder Anju!

Anju Restaurant
344 17 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 460-3341

Anju Restaurant on Urbanspoon