Carino Japanese Bistro (Calgary, AB) – A Refreshing Take on Japanese Cuisine

We wanted something different for lunch one day while in Calgary and found Carino Japanese Bistro. Interestingly, if you are looking for sushi, you are in the wrong place. However, in the absence of sushi, Carino Japanese Bistro is one of the 2013 Best New Restaurants for Enroute, Air Canada’s inflight Magazine.

Located in the foodie haven of Edmonton Trail, Carino Japanese competes with the likes of Diner Deluxe and OEB for the lunch crowd.

Carino Japanese Bistro

The interior of the restaurant is modern with black chandeliers and a prominent bar in the backend.

Carino Japanese Bistro Interior

Perusing the menu, the Flavored Mimosa caught my wife’s eyes. With Yuzu as an option, my wife ordered it.

Carino Japanese Bistro - Flavored Mimosa

My wife thought it tasted wonderful and already confirmed a repeat order in the future.

We were each offered a Complimentary Salad to start.

Carino Japanese Bistro - Complimentary Salad

The Complimentary Salad was tossed in a balsamic vinegrette. It was tasty and wetted our appetite.
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Thap Ba (Red Deer, AB) – Deep Fried Quail and the Usual Yummy Dishes

Is it any surprise that I am once again blogging about Thap Ba? There should be none as we are regulars.

Thap Ba Vietnamese Restaurant

We wanted our usual dishes, but my wife decided to try the Deep Fried Quail (she cares about my blog and is always patient while I spent forever photographing our meals).

Thap Ba Vietnamese Restaurant - Deep Fried Quail

The Deep Fried Quail arrived split with both sides facing up. The skin was fried golden brown. Indeed, it was as crispy as it looked. Quail meat is all dark meat though the breast area can still be a little dry. Here, the quail meat was quite juicy and moist with no hint of dryness over the thicker sides. Still, I would prefer a chicken wing over the quail as chicken wing meat is still far superior. However, if you want to try a popular dish in Asia, the deep fried quail is a relatively safe dish to attempt.
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Joey South Common (Edmonton, AB) – A Meal of Tuna Everything

While visiting Edmonton, I saw Joey South Common and a bit of nostalgia hit me. I fondly remembered my first visit to Joey’s in Coquitlam, BC where I had some awesome fries.

Joey South Common

Like their competitiors, the interior of Joey South Common was modern, cozy, and inviting. I gotta hand it to these chain restaurants for their effort in interior design.

Joey South Common Interior

My wife and I decided to start with the Ahi Tuna Tacos which were described as seared rare ahi tuna with toasted sesame, ginger coleslaw, and wasabi aioli.

Joey South Common - Ahi Tuna Tacos

The Ahi Tuna arrived upright in the ever-popular taco rack. The ratio of ahi tuna to taco was very generous. The ahi tuna tasted fresh with a nice sear all around the outer edges. The softness of the tuna contrasted well with the crunchy texture of the ginger coleslaw. Moreover, the acid in the coleslaw lightened the fatty tuna.
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Vietnamese Garden Restaurant (Red Deer, AB) – Vermicelli Bowl and Not-So-Traditional Bun bo Hue

We noticed Vietnamese Garden Restaurant’s sign for a while and have actually driven into the plaza parking lot on several occasions only to see that it had yet to open. Well, it finally did and thanks to radio advertising about the opening, we made a trip there for dinner.

Vietnamese Garden Restaurant is located in a plaza adjacent to Master Rim’s World TaeKwonDo Academy. The parking lot is almost always full during evenings, likely due to the popularity of the martial arts academy.

Vietnamese Garden Restaurant

Inside, the restaurant is painted in 3 colors: green, orange, and yellow. It was clean and spacious. For some reason, it reminded me of the Pita Pit.

Vietnamese Garden Restaurant Interior

We sat against the wall shared between the restaurant and Master Rim’s World TaeKwonDo Academy which resulted in the occasional random bump and thud throughout the meal. Once we realized the source, it didn’t bother us.

My wife saw Hue Spicy Beef which is also known as Bún Bò Huế and wanted to see how authentic it was. She inquired with the waitress and seemingly satisfied, ordered it. One thing she inquired about, cubes of congealed pig’s blood, which are traditionally part of Bún bò Huế, were not available. I pointed out that given the limited population of Vietnamese in Red Deer, the restaurant had to keep their demographics in mind when crafting their menu.

Vietnamese Garden Restaurant - Hue Spicy Beef

The Hue Spicy Beef arrived in a sizeable portion. My wife happily remarked that it had the traditional aroma of Bun bo Hue. Bean sprouts, chilli peppers, and basil were served on the side.
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Hyoga Japanese Cuisine (Vancouver, BC) – Sushi by Real Japanese

A friend of mine suggested that we try Hyoga Japanese Cuisine as it had Japanese owners unlike the overwhelming sea of Chinese-, Korean-, and Vietnamese-owned sushi restaurants in Greater Vancouver. It’s not that I have an issue with those restaurants. In fact, the affordability of those places allows me to have a regular night of sushi whenever I want. However, there’s something about the way authentic Japanese restaurants run their restaurants, including the politeness and cleanliness.

Hyoga Japanese Cuisine is located on Kingsway, not too far from Burnaby. We had trouble locating the restaurant as the signage was “unique”. FinestDish also joined us for the night.

Hyoga Japanese Cuisine

We started with the Negitoro Tartare which was described as chopped toro with green onions, sesame seeds, and Hyoga’s seaweed sauce. It was one of three dishes listed under Hyoga’s Special (we ended up ordering all three specials).

Hyoga Japanese Cuisine - Negitoro Tartare

The Negitoro Tartare arrived with some intriguing surprises. The first thing that I spotted was the prawn crackers. It was a happy surprise as I grew up grabbing every piece that I can reach. The other surprise was the rice wrapped neatly with nori. The plating here is definitely a stand-out compared to the run-of-the-mill sushi restaurants in town.
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Yum Yum Chicken (Airdrie, AB) – Fried Chicken Korean-Style with a Friendly Owner

My friends have been telling me there’s this awesome fried chicken place in Airdrie. Yes, Ardrie. So on a trip back to Red Deer, I took the last exit to Airdrie with my hungry stomach. My destination: Yum Yum Chicken. Word on the street was that it served korean style fried chicken and hurricane potato.

So when I finally arrived at the storefront, I was shocked to see a closed sign along with a handwritten sign that stated they were out of chicken.

It took a while before I finally made a return trip, having been disappointed and stuck driving back to Red Deer hungry. When I finally deicded to give them another try, I called ahead to ensure they were open.

The signage for Yum Yum Chicken represents the fun nature of the owner. You’ll see what I mean when you meet him.

Yum Yum Chicken

Inside, the restaurant feels fast-casual: clean and open with big windows to let in the bright sunlight. The kitchen and the order counter was in the back. Korean music videos were playing on the flat screen tv which will keep you entertained as it takes a bit of time for them to fresh fry every order.

Yum Yum Chicken Interior

Yum Yum Chicken Interior 2

There were 4 flavors of fried chicken to choose from: Yum Yum, Shallot, Spicy, and Regular. My wife and I wanted to try a combination, but there were no options. When prompted by the owner, we explained our dilemma. He was extremely friendly and honest, telling us that as a big eater, he can only a “whole” serving which consisted of 6 pieces. He then asked us which flavors we were interested in, telling us that Yum Yum and Shallot were the customer favorites. We told him that we were thinking of Yum Yum, Shallot, and Spicy. He then offered to put all 3 combinations together so that we would have the opportunity to try a variety. What a great guy! This is why I love supporting the Mom-and-Pop stores as they will always bend over backwards to make their customers happy.

I also mentioned that the last time I tried to eat here, they were closed with a funny explanation. He told us that he gets his chicken regularly to maintain freshness so sometimes the delivery truck fails to make it on the scheduled day and they have to close. He rather use fresh chicken then stock up and freeze. This is again why we all must support these little guys. Plus, the food’s good too!

As every order is fresh fried, we had ot wait around for approx. 20 mins.

Yum Yum Chicken - Box Top

The box that held the fried chicken followed the whimsical signage. If you look closer, you can see that they were printed in Korea as there was no English anywhere on the box.
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Mango Shiva (Calgary, AB) – Replication of Vij’s Famous Lamb Popsicle Dish?

While talking about favorite restaurants in Vancouver to some of our Calgary friends, I spoke about Vij’s which is so popular that we usually have to wait 1.5 to 2 hours for a table. Upon hearing this, one friend told us that a restaurant in Calgary serves a similar dish to the famous lamb popsicle dish at Vij’s. I was so shocked and excited to hear this. Thus, my wife and I made plans to visit Mango Shiva the next time we headed to Calgary.

Mango Shiva is located in Downtown Calgary so expect to circle for parking or head to the nearest parking lot.

Mango Shiva

Inside, the restaurant was dark though lit in a way to maintain a sense of warmth -think fireplace setting.

Mango Shiva Interior

We were given some Complimentary Papadums (thin, crisy chips made from black gram).

Mango Shiva - Complimentary Papadums

The Complimentary Papadums didn’t have much flavor, but were very airy and crispy. They paired well with the accompanied sauce which provided all the flavor.
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Pho Thuy Dong (Red Deer, AB) – Catering to the Mass

Working in Downtown Red Deer, I often see coworkers ordering takeout from Pho Thuy Dong though usually it consisted of egg rolls (aka spring rolls) or dried ribs which technically does not to speak to the calibre of its traditional Vietnamese cuisine fare.

Judging by the crowded, double- and triple-parked parking lot, Pho Thuy Dong is quite popular at lunch (this photo was not taken during peak lunch hours).

Pho Thuy Dong

Inside, the restaurant appeared more Western than Asian other than the random assortment of Asian décor.

Pho Thuy Dong Interior

My wife’s co-workers claimed that the pho was delicious here so she was curious to see how it compared to their competition which included restaurants that we have tried before, Thap Ba and Little Star Vietnamese Cuisine. My wife ordered the Pho Dac Biet which was a traditional Vietnamese rice noodle soup containing beef, tendon, tripe, brisket and beef meatballs. There is an option to order a medium or large which was odd as it left out small, but I suppose this was a business tactic to suggest a larger portion when ordering the smaller version. My wife went with the medium size.

The waitress served my wife with the wrong dish at first. We believe the incorrect dish was Bun Bo Hue as it looked like it and the dish was listed right below Pho Dac Biet on the menu.

Pho Thuy Dong - Bun Bo Hue

We notified the waitress and she took it away.
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Hawksworth Restaurant (Vancouver, BC) – Fine Dining Highs

I had an eye on Hawksworth ever since PhoneixWright kept posting photos of his meals there and raving about them. On a trip to Vancouver, I insisted that we eat at Hawksworth when we met up. On this occasion, we were joined by FinestDish and GVBlack.

Inside, the restaurant was bright and detailed which reflected the plating style of the dishes to come.

Hawksworth Restaurant Interior

My wife ordered an alcholic drink which I sadly cannot remember. It looked beautiful.

Hawksworth Restaurant - Drink

Perusing the menu, my wife and I decided to start with the Ancho Glazed Pork Belly which was served with heart of palm, yucca, jicama, and lime.

Hawksworth Restaurant - Ancho Glazed Pork Belly

Like the dishes in PhoneixWright’s photos, the Ancho Glazed Pork Belly was beautifully plated. In fact, all the dishes were esthetically exceptional.
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Tony Roma’s (Lethbridge, AB) – No Ribs, but Burger instead

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Tony Roma’s is ribs. I grew up making the connection between Tony Roma’s and ribs, yet I honestly don’t remember visiting the restaurant chain much. This was probably because my family seldom ate ribs and those times when we did, they were homemade.

Once again, I found myself in Lethbridge and having lunch with a relative. She suggested Tony Roma’s as it was nearby.

She decided to have the Caesar Salad which was described as fresh romaine lettuce tossed in Caesar dressing and topped with an italian cheese blend and croutons. She decided to add a 5 oz Chicken Breast to make the starter salad her main course.

Tony Roma's - Caesar Salad with 5 oz Chicken Breast

The Caesar Salad arrived quickly topped with a sliced chicken breast. The chicken breast had light grill marks and was neither dry nor moist. The warmth was a nice contrast to the cool Caesar salad. The romaine lettuce had a good crunch with each piece of lettuce thoroughly coated in the delicious Caesar dressing. The cheese blend was minimal and more would have been appreciated. The croutons didn’t appear to made in-house which would have helped make this salad a standout. My relative was satisfied with the meal.
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