Blue Star Diner (Calgary, AB) – Refined Diner Food

We found ourselves in Calgary in the late afternoon with no lunch plans and our stomachs growling. I recalled that Avenue Calgary magazine featured Black Pig Bistro so we headed there. It was just after 3 PM when we walked through the door and was immediately informed that the kitchen was closed for the break between lunch and dinner. Disappointed, we drove around and spotted Blue Star Diner.

Blue Star Diner is located among some dashing stars such as Black Pig Bistro and Burger 320. Despite the late afternoon visit, there was a line at the door.

Blue Star Diner

Inside, the atmosphere was trendy and modern.

Blue Star Diner Interior

Blue Star Diner Interior 2

My wife ordered a Mimosa off the drink menu. She thought it tasted decent. I stuck with water.

Blue Star Diner - Mimosa

My wife, inspired by the diner that we were in, wanted a breakfast/brunch dish. Looking over the menu, she chose the Breakfast Flatbread which was described as sweet onions, asparagus, soft chevre, arugula, chopped bacon, fresh chives, and BSD hashbrown potatoes along with 2 sunny farm fresh eggs.

Blue Star Diner - Breakfast Flatbread

The Breakfast Flatbread arrived beautifully plated with deliciousness in every corner. Overall, the colors and ingredients evoke freshness.
Read More

Sushi Maru (Red Deer, AB) – Must Have Ultra Crispy Pork Cutlet and Delicious Spicy Sashimi Bibimbab

After my wonderful experience last time, I wanted to bring my wife to try Sushi Maru and meet the nice people behind the business.

Upon entering, the owners and the other chef remembered me and greeted me warmly. I quickly introduced my wife and the owner/wife showed me to my table.

My wife wanted a sushi cone-style roll (temaki) to start and inquired about the difference between the Chopped Scallop Temaki and the Golden Scallop Temaki. The owner advised us that the golden scallop temaki had a yellow sauce (hence, “golden”). My wife decided to go with the traditional Chopped Scallop Temaki.

Sushi Maru - Chopped Scallop Temaki

Because it was a quiet night and likely due to their new presence in the area, the Chopped Scallop Temaki arrived quickly (as did the other dishes with the exception of the last one) in a commonly used Japanese Temaki holder. Our eyes were drawn to the esthetically pleasing cluster of bright red tobiki on top of the cone. I also liked how clean and temaki was rolled. It conveyed the attention to detail and care the chef put into his “work of art”. The chopped scallops appeared abundant though as we ate, we found that the scallops did not transverse all the way to the tip. Thus, do not eat the cone in two big bites or you would find the last bite to be rice and seaweed only. Taste-wise, the chopped scallop and mayonnaise mixture was well-balanced. This is a mild sushi roll and, in fact, was the second sushi that I tried after being comfortable with the California roll.
Read More

Redstone Grill and Wine Bar (Red Deer, AB) – Great Burger, but Bone in the Wrap disappointed

I love supporting local restaurants by drawing attention to their businesses because I know that they may not have the ability to advertise themselves to the community. With that in mind, I decided to make use of one of my lunch breaks to visit Redstone Grill and Wine Bar.

Redstone Grill and Wine Bar is located at the edge of downtown Red Deer with plenty of parking. The actual front of the restaurants faces a small street instead of the nearby Gaetz Avenue.

Redstone Grill and Wine Bar

Walking inside, it projected fine dining with a cozy, dark atmosphere. Tables were nicely spaced out to ensure privacy for every table.

Redstone Grill and Wine Bar Interior

Looking over the menu, I decided to go with my burger test to see how Redstone Grill and Wine Bar stacked up against their competitors. I went with the Double Smoked Bacon and Cheddar Burger. All burgers are made with 8 oz of 100% Ground AAA Alberta beef and served with lettuce, red onion, and pickles in a pretzel bun. All burgers also come with a choice of hand-cut fries, house salad, daily soup, or caesar salad. I went with hand-cut fries.

Redstone Grill and Wine Bar - Double Smoked Bacon and Cheddar Burger

The Double Smoked Bacon and Cheddar Burger arrived open-faced which showed off the vibrant layers of the burger.
Read More

Indian Flame and Pizza (Red Deer, AB) – Finally made it back for Pizza!

After a wonderful meal during our last visit, we returned to try the pizza menu as originally recommended by my co-worker.

I appreciated the effort in the place setting. It was a nice touch and showed that the business cared about the small details.

Indian Flame and Pizza - Utensils

We decided to order a safe bet in case we ended up disappointed with the pizzas and chose the Lamb Curry again (see last visit’s blog post). It was described as lamb cooked in traditional flavored gravy.

Indian Flame and Pizza - Lamb Curry

The Lamb Curry was hearty with a rich gravy and plentiful of lamb chunks. Like our last visit, there were no fatty parts attached. The lamb pieces were tender and paired perfectly with the curry sauce which helped mask any hints of gaminess.
Read More

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.
Read More

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.
Read More

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.
Read More

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.
Read More

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.
Read More

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.
Read More