Date Night

Date Night! Taste of Edmonton & Capital EX

July 31, 2010

With the weekend finally here, Vince & I had the chance to finally take a break from our busy lives and have a night all to ourselves. For our date? We chose to hit up the local festivities, Taste of Edmonton at Churchill Square, and Capital EX at the Northlands exhibition grounds.


Heading out for the day!


I didn't have the chance to look up the menu for Taste of Edmonton like I had in the past, and to my dismay, most of the food available was the same as the year before. Most of the food vendors were bigger restaurants with a couple locations around the city, such as Brewsters, Hudsons, New Asian Village and the Old Spaghetti factory, but there were also some smaller, local restaurants like Urban China and Korean Village.


Cloudy, but the weather was still nice :)


Now, is it just me, or is this event getting more & more expensive with each passing year? The food sampling plates are very small, and cost around 4-5 tickets with each portion. Food tickets are priced at $1 each, so the money you bring flies out of your pocket in no time, leaving you hungry! With this realization, Vince and I chose to eat food we never tried before, or was somewhat unique in comparison to the rest of the food available. I guess it worked out in our favour that we weren't too hungry either.


Pad thai from Krua Wilai


Our first choice was the Pad Thai from locally owned restaurant, Krua Wilai. My first impression was that it should taste okay, for it had the familiar orange-coloured noodles, but I was a bit thrown off by the uncooked bean sprouts sprinkled throughout the plate. Regardless, I took a bite, and wished I had chosen something else to eat! The noodles had none of the familiar flavours pad thai has to offer, but rather tasted like ketchup mixed with noodles! Thank goodness the bean sprouts were fresh and crisp, I guess. Needless to say, I don't think I will go there anytime soon.. or ever?


Deep fried wontons from Panda Hut Express


My next choice was the deep fried wontons filled with cream cheese and crab meat from Panda Hut Express. Being Chinese, my family and relatives have always warned me not to go to this restaurant, but I've always been curious about these particular wontons advertised on the radio & advertisements in the local newspaper. I was surprised when I bit into one, because I wasn't expecting so much cream cheese to be inside! It was really interesting, and I liked the melted texture of the cream cheese. I wish that there was an abundance of crab meat in the wontons, because I was hardly able to detect their presence. The cream cheese was rich and filling though, and I liked it! Time to make use of those BOGO coupons I find for their restaurant all the time!


Chicken tika


Our last stop was at the stand for New Asian Village, where I usually go for my Indian fare. I chose this one since the food was familiar, and I had a little craving for Indian since I haven't had it in a long time! We picked up both offerings at the booth: Chicken Tika with Garlic Naan and Channa Masala with Saffron Rice. The chicken tika was new to me, as I have never tried it, and I was surprised that it was actually as spicy as it was! Good thing the garlic naan accompanied this dish to tone down the heat in my mouth as I ate the dish. The chicken was a little dry, but my favourite part to this plate was actually the onions and green peppers, because they fully absorbed the flavour of the sauce.


Channa masala :)


As for the channa masala, it was just like usual, the way I like it! Mmmm, yum :)

After taking our part in tasting Edmonton's offerings, we headed down to Northlands to check out the park grounds and meet up with some friends for some carnival games and gambling! As we arrived at the grounds, the sky was looming with grey clouds, and I hoped there wouldn't be too much rain to keep us from going outside to meet our friends later on.

Our first stop at the grounds was actually inside the newly renovated EXPO Centre, at the Sip! exhibit. Located right next to the casino, it was dimly lit, and I didn't quite know what to expect. Once we got closer though, we realized we were in a place where we could do exactly what we had done one hour earlier: buy food tickets and try out different food! The food here was a little different though, somewhat 'classier' and more exotic, as the dishes weren't items you could just find everyday. Unfortunately our stomachs weren't so accomodating and we didn't have a chance to sample any of it!

We saw a crowd in the distance, forming infront of a stage where two world renowned mixologists were giving a presentation. Gavin MacMillan and David Jennings gave a 40 minute presentation on how to make a couple different drinks. They focused mainly on the Caesar, which was first made in none other than our very own Calgary. Apparently, in the last year, over 343 million Caesars were made in Canada, equating to over 3 caesars per person in the country.. hm, I wonder who is drinking all the alcohol to accomodate the numbers of minors in the country?? Anyways, they made a bacon caesar and a dill pickle caesar.. super interesting! They said that in order to make it, you would have to make dill pickle and bacon infused vodka. They told the audience how to make it.. but it didn't sound too appetizing, especially when it came to putting bacon fat into vodka!


Very entertaining mixologists


After the presentation, we headed over to the Candyland exhibit, which showcased the different methods of making different Candy over the years. There was information on Jelly Bellys, Chocolate, Pez, Skittles.. you name it! It was fascinating to learn all the different facts out there about candy. For example, did you know it takes an average of 21 days to make one jelly belly? Or that candy corn isn't just for Halloween? They customize the colours for different occasions throughout the year, like red & green for christmas!


jelly belly galore!!


At the end of the exhibit was a chance to indulge and buy all the candy you read about. There were collectible Pez dispensers, and chocolates, but I headed straight for the Jelly Belly bar. All the flavours they had were in bulk containers for you to choose what flavours you wanted to buy. I was most interested in the 7-Up flavour, but I also picked up Red Apple, Cantaloupe, Margarita, and Berry Blue just to name a few. It was so hard not to pick every one they had, but I knew if I bought too many, I'd end up seeing the dentist for massive cavaties I would get!

From then on, we looked outside and the sky was ANGRY, pouring down sheets of rain. I felt bad for the people waiting outside at the Telus Stage, holding onto their good spots and waiting for Metric to come out and play their set. Then, we decided that if we couldn't go outside to play the carnival gambling games, we would head to the casino and play the slots! In the Casino they had Over/Under, which was nice, but just wasn't as thrilling as playing outdoors because the host was not very enthusiastic. Do you ever find that you tend to win more when the host is actually fun? You have a better time and end up winning more! I swear.

We decided to wander around the slot machines after having some bad luck with Over/Under, and I spotted my dream game: Sex and the City slot machines!!!! I first encountered the machines when I was in Las Vegas in May, and didn't have the chance to play since I am still underage (only 19!). I saw Vince's cousin playing and having so much fun (she won a lot, too!) and was so jealous that I couldn't play! There was one seat open and I took my seat, inserting a $5 bill. About 30 seconds later, I was up to $65! WHAT LUCK! It was so exciting, so I took a couple more spins, lost some money, and cashed out with my voucher! I left that machine with $50 in hand to use on anything I wanted!


FIFTY DOLLAAAA ;)


It seems like from that point on, the night turned around, because the rain had stopped and Metric was going to play on the Telus Stage as scheduled. Vince and I headed out to the grounds, looking for some games to play, and he won me my little Domokun plushie :) All in all, a great time again this year at Capital Ex!


Go baby go!



Another one to add to the collection :)

dinner

Basil Leaves are Great.. Not Only For Cooking! [CLOSED]

July 29, 2010

Yesterday, after studying at the library, I met up with one of my good friends, Dan, for dinner. We originally planned to try out Samurai Bistro located downtown, but to our dismay, the restaurant was closed when we got there! So instead, we headed around the corner to a Vietnamese restaurant called Basil Leaf.


Basil Leaf Restaurant


Basil Leaf has been open for a while now I believe, as Vince and I had made a prior visit sometime in March of this year. It's located where the old Chinese supermarket "shun fat" used to be (I have no idea what the English name was, because I was always told in Chinese!). That supermarket burned down twice I believe, and now this restaurant is located in one unit of the rebuilt building. The building is still empty with the exception of this one restaurant. Let's hope it doesn't burn down, cause I really like this place!

From the outside, you would not get the impression that the restaurant would look the way it does on the inside. The decor is very well done. It's modern, and of all things, this restaurant also features a sports bar! When we arrived though, the place was relatively slow, so we didn't get to see whether or not there was a dinner rush.

So as we sat talking about the past and present, the waiter was very eager to take our order, likely due to the fact that there was not much business and he was a little bored! Dan ended up ordering the pho dac biet, while I got pho bo vien (?), the one with just beef balls, because there was no tripe option! Boo!


My pho with beef balls



Dan's pho dac biet


However, once our dishes arrived, I was more than pleased! It was one of the best pho soups I've come across lately, and I personally think it could rival the broth at Tau Bay. The soup was flavourful, and not overloaded with msg since I wasn't really thirsty after the meal. The noodles were cooked perfectly, not too hard and not too soggy, while the beef balls were chewy and seasoned well. Dan also agreed with me on the soup, so everyone go check out this restaurant!

The prices are very reasonable for what you get, as the bowls are much larger than those at pho hoa, and are priced around $7.50. They also have an assortment of vermicelli bowls, spicy soups, and rice offerings as well. The only thing that really bothers me is the area the restaurant is located in. It's right by the Hope Mission, so there are some questionable people in the neighborhood. Be careful when you go :)

Basil Leaf Kitchen & Sports Lounge
10023 107 Avenue NW
Edmonton AB
Basil Leaf Kitchen & Sports Lounge on Urbanspoon

Chinatown

Urban China

July 28, 2010

I had some relatives from Vancouver come up to Edmonton for a surprise visit this past week, and for my family, that meant going out for dinner. The Chinese cuisine in Edmonton isn't all that great, so it was hard choosing a place that would be appropriate to bring our guests out to. To my surprise, my mom and aunt decided to pick Urban China - very surprising since neither of them had been there before! Their reasoning was that dinner on a Monday night would be much better than on the weekend. Less business = better service = better food! They're smart.

I had heard and read from others' experiences that this restaurant was a little more on the expensive side for Chinese food, and taste of the food was a hit or miss. As a family, we chose to order their Peking Duck set meal for $208 - not bad, since it was meant to feed around 10 people, or 11 in our case.


Settings at the table


Most set meals in Chinese cuisine feature the same type of food, so I won't be explaining every single course in the meal we ordered, but rather I will describe some of the dishes I thought were cooked very well, or had some degree of difference or unique quality to them.


Pork Stomach and Pickled Mustard Soup


In most Chinese set dinners, it begins with a soup. The soup accompanying this meal was a "Chiu Chau" style soup, made with pork stomach and pickled mustard. I'm definitely not a fan of pork stomach, but pickled mustard on the other hand.. yes please! The soup was lovely, the seasoning to the soup was great to cover the usual prominent taste of pork in the soup, and the light broth was great to start off the meal.


Peking Duck Wrap



Toppings for the wraps - including honeydew and cantaloupe!


Our first course was BBQ duck, and it would be served through two different dishes. The first dish we had was the traditional peking duck wraps. Normally this dish is garnished using carrots, cucumbers and green onion. Here at this restaurant, we were given the choice of cucumbers, onion, cantaloupe and honeydew! It was so unique, and surprisingly, the sweetness of the melon was a great pairing for this dish to offset the saltiness of the hoi sin sauce.


Duck & Jellyfish


The second duck offering was presented as a duck meat and jellyfish mixed together. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, as the jellyfish was cut into thick strips, and cooked perfectly to maintain the elasticity of the jellyfish. And while I talk about this - is jellyfish considered to be a seafood? I really don't know..


mmm Lobster!


Our dinner also included a lobster course. This one here was really interesting - instead of the normal cream-based sauce and noodles, this one was cooked with a completely different sauce. It tasted almost like a satay-based sauce, and was very delicious. I don't even like lobster and I thought this dish tasted very good.


Stir fried beef with bell peppers & king mushroom


Another interesting dish in our meal was a beef dish, in which the beef was stir fried in a spicy sauce with bell peppers and king mushroom pieces. The coolest part of this dish was the king mushroom - it looked like tofu, but once you bit into it, it had a very interesting texture. The outside was a little tough, but the inside was soft and chewy. It was a nice contrast in texture when compared with the tender beef, and crisp peppers.


Second soup for the night :)


A second soup in our meal was a fish based broth, which included snow pea tips, grass mushrooms, wood ear fungus, snow ear fungus, and bamboo. It was a nice twist on the usual snow pea tips with abalone mushrooms in broth!


Steamed fish with glass noodles


And onto one of my favourite dishes from the night - steamed fish fillets served on top of glass noodles. This dish was one of my favourites because it was flavourful, and a very unique way to present the fish. The noodles were al dente, and the salted vegetables garnishing the fish gave the perfect saltiness to the dish.

All in all, the meal was great! I will be back again for sure in the future :)

Urban China
10604 101 St NW
Edmonton AB
Urban China on Urbanspoon

dinner

Phobulous Eats

July 24, 2010

After our usual Friday pre-dinner drinks with co-workes at O'Byrnes, I had a ridiculous craving for pho despite the heat of the summer sun. The closest pho place we could think of was Phobulous - so we headed there since we haven't been in a long time.

When we arrived it seemed as if the restaurant was closed since the parking lot was nearly empty, and the neon light of the open sign didn't seem to be shining. I was hoping not to look like a fool by pulling on the door, and sure enough the door swung open! I guess the open sign didn't seem to be on due to the bright summer sun shining right back at it.

Once the door opened, I could smell the fragrant scent of the beef broth being boiled, and we were seated promptly by a new waitress. One thing I have noticed about this restaurant is the constant changing of staff running the restaurant. I swear I never see a familiar face each time I walk in there! Nonetheless, the waitress was very friendly and seated the two of us promptly while the other waitress brought us our water - all in the timespan of 30 seconds.

The thing I really love about this restaurant is their creativity in their play on words. Practically all of their pho offerings include the word pho, such as the 'mother pho', 'pho real' and 'pho shizzle'. Besides the change in staff, I also noticed the recent change in decor. The restaurant used to feature scenic portraits and more modern looking furniture, but now there are paintings and photographs taken by local artists hung up on the walls, available for purchase. It's great to see that this restaurant supports local talent!


Such a creative name :)


While perusing menu (I already knew what I wanted) I noticed a new forest-green coloured piece of paper stuck to the inside of the menu, advertising some weekend specials, which included a northern Vietnam spicy noodle soup. Despite being adventurous, Vince was unable to order the dish since they didn't consider Friday as a weekend day (but they consider Monday??? So weird. I'm guessing it is possibly since there may be leftover items from the weekend available!)

I ended up ordering the 'phonomenon', which is pho with rare beef & beef balls, while the waitress recommended a sate hu tieu bowl to Vince. Hu tieu is a little different from traditional pho, where a pork broth garnished with chives and crisp fried shallots is used instead of beef broth. Service was great, so we didn't have
to wait long before our orders arrived steaming hot!


Phonomenon - pho with rare beef & beef balls


My pho bowl was 'phonomenal' as usual, with the tender beef slices and chewy beef balls (I wish there was tripe!), and seemed to be a much bigger portion than normal. Maybe it's due to the fact that I am too used to seeing the dinky portions being offered at other Vietnamese restaurants in Edmonton! What I was most interested in, however, was Vince's hu tieu sate.


Hu Tieu Sate served in two separate bowls


As the waitress brought over his food, it was served in two separate bowls. The large bowl contained the noodles topped with fried sate chicken, chives, shallots and vegetables, and filled with very little soup. This was accompanied by a smaller bowl of the pork based broth on the side. She said that normally the dish is served as one, but she felt that having the two separate really brought out the flavour of the sate.


Let's get a little closer..


I found his dish to be very flavourful as well, and a nice change to the usual beef soup. The hu tieu broth is markedly different, capturing the true flavour of pork, and a little saltier than the usual pho soup. Either way, it was a delicious meal and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The next time I go, maybe I'll be seeing some familiar faces again.. at least I hope so :)

Phobulous
8701 109 Street
Edmonton AB
Phobulous on Urbanspoon

dinner

Lee House + Tasty Choice = Fun With Friends

July 10, 2010

Last Thursday, I desperately needed the motivation to help me study for MCAT, so Andrew & I met up once again at the library to study.. only this time, David wasn't around to surpervise us ;) While studying, Andrew's amazing eyesight caught glimpse of this book:


Let's Find Pokemon!



Can you find them? Hahaha


So cute & fun, and it brought back childhood memories trying to find the pokemon in the midst of all the colour on the page!

For dinner, we met up with Crystal and headed over to one of my favourite Korean joints, Lee House. With the heat wave hitting the city, it was impossible to order my favourite jjam pong without feeling like an absolute fool! Therefore, we agreed to order some other classic Korean foods - jap chae, gam poong ki, kal bi and something different, mul nam yeong.


Banchan side dishes on left, followed by jap chae and gam poong ki


Traditionally, Korean restaurants and typical Korean families serve small side dishes with their meals to accompany the food, or to be paired with rice. On this particular night, Lee House chose to serve kimchi radish, kimchi cabbage, and a seaweed salad. All three were great, and I love that they were bottomless! The jap chae at Lee House is my favourite in our city, because it has a unique flavour to it. It's almost like they use a lot of ground black pepper in it to give the noodles some heat, and the noodles never get dry, sticky and clumped together like the jap chae found at other restaurants. Definitely a keeper! Gam poong ki (technically kung pao chicken) is also very unique to lee house. The chicken here is formed into a ball and deep fried before being tossed in the sauce. It's the perfect combination of sweet, salty and sour - but if you ever order this dish, make sure to have a couple people with you because the portion is quite big!


Kal bi - BBQ Short Ribs


Kal bi, otherwise known as BBQ beef short ribs is another favourite of mine when it comes to Korean food. The beef is nice and tender, and I'm a big fan of the tendon/connective tissue that is found right around the bone (I know it might sound gross, but hey, I'm Asian :P). The ones at Lee house are good, but in my opinion definitely not worth the price! After cutting up the pieces according to the number of bones, we counted a total of 8 pieces for $17.00 - I'd rather buy my own and fire up the barbeque at home!


Mul Nam Yeong


And last of all, we ordered Mul nam yeong from Lee House's summer menu (available from June - August). This dish was basically buckwheat noodles served with pickled radish, egg, and beef slices in an ice cold beef broth. This was PERFECT for the summer heat! It wasn't spicy at all, but rather refreshing and cleansing to the palate. The buckwheat noodles remained nice and chewy since they were sitting in a cold broth, preventing them from being cooked any further. Yummy!


Lemonade, HK Style milk tea, lemon tea


To finish off the night, we picked up some drinks from Tasty Choice on the way home. Great night!


Andrew with his stack of chairs @ Tasty Choice!

Chinatown

Pholicious Eats

July 09, 2010

One thing I love about the end of a work day? Having the time to eat away troubles that happen at work (aka the craziness kids put me through!) Despite the summer heat, Vince & I chose to stop by our favourite pho joint, Pho Tau Bay, to have a delicious bowl of beef noodles!

such a nice summer day :)


The only way to keep cool while eating the noodles was of course by ordering my favourite jackfruit shake :) I find that the jackfruit shake at Tau Bay is quite different from the others found around the city. The one here is mostly just jackfruit blended with ice, almost into a slush-like consistency. Other places such as Pho Hoa make a smoothie-based jackfruit shake, with less (and more chunky) jackfruit content and milk/cream in it. Either way, it's still jackfruit & I'll take it anyday! Yum yum.

best pho in Edmonton!


I had my usual, pho tai sach, loaded with the raw beef & tripe. It was delicious as usual, served in the nice clear broth. Can't wait til I hit it up again!!

Pho Tau Bay
10660 98 Street NW
Edmonton AB

Edmonton food

Vietnamese Japanese Fusion: Maki Maki

July 01, 2010

Yesterday to boost my motivation to study for MCAT, I booked a lunch & study date with Andrew - Our choice for lunch? Maki Maki! Vince and I had visited this location for lunch once before, but we were definitely on the fence about this one..

"Maki maki means roll roll" as quoted from their menu, and right they were. They had approximately 60 different options for sushi rolls ranging from your everyday california roll to the ecstacy roll (which Vince did not enjoy on our first visit), and a locally named Oilers roll. We met up Vince to have lunch and give this mix of Vietnamese and Chinese food a second try.

For lunchtime, they had some specials, like bento boxes ranging from $8 - $11, filled with various sushi rolls and sashimi options. I myself opted for the lunch special pho, which was a HUGE bowl of pho dac diet (and yes, I picked out everything except the beef & tripe.. mmm)

For me, beef tataki is a must, so we obviously ordered that, and gave their dragon eyes a try as well. Andrew chose the tuna bowl, and a yam roll, while Vince like his usual self tried to be adventurous, but settled on the BC roll and the spicy scallop roll.

Pho Dac Biet

The pho itself was GINORMOUS. I felt like it was an extra (extra extra, perhaps?) large bowl of pho, loaded with the works that you usually find in the pho dac biet. The meat offered inside was mediocre, in some bites I felt the beef was a bit on the tough side, but otherwise it was good, especially for the lunch special price of $7.25. Of course, it's pretty difficult to find very good pho in this city, especially when Tau Bay downtown is one of my favourites :)

Beef Tataki

For the beef tataki, we ordered the small plate at $8.95 rather than the large for $18.95 because we had no idea what we were getting into. However, the beef tataki was a decent size, and could almost be argued to be my favourite dish from this meal! The beef was nice and tender, not hard to chew, and there was a more than generous amount of seaweed and onion to compliment the beef in the ponzu sauce.

Dragon Eyes

Dragon Eyes, another one of my favourite sushi dishes was a big disappointment for me here at Maki Maki. Perhaps it is because it has been so perfected by Mikado that it's untouchable? Does anyone know anywhere else that makes Dragon Eyes in this city? Let me know! Anyways, the salmon in the Dragon Eyes was way overcooked, and very dry. If it weren't for the big bowl of sauce served with the Dragon eyes to compensate for the dryness, I don't think we would've been able to finish this sushi dish.

I guess I'm interesting when it comes to sushi.. I love the raw beef tataki, and tobiko and masago (fish roe) I would eat anyday, anytime, anywhere. But when it comes to raw fish? Gross! No thanks! So I had to leave it up to Vince & Andrew to review the raw seafood sushi for me.

Tuna Bowl

The tuna bowl came with 5 big chunks of tuna sitting on top of rice. Thats it. Just 5 pieces of tuna and rice. For the price point of $10.95, you're better off ordering the tuna nigiri priced at $1.60 each so you're not forcing yourself to eat all that rice!

6 pc BC Roll

Like the Dragon Eyes, Vince's BC roll had overcooked salmon, making the sushi extremely dry. The boys didn't complain about the spicy scallop or yam rolls, so I'm guessing those were pretty tasty! All in all, it was a decent lunch, but not somewhere I would prefer to go for sushi or pho by themselves.. but it's always a fun place to go when you have people in your group craving either or!

Yam Roll


Spicy Scallop Roll


After hitting up the local Second Cup in Riverbend, Andrew and I studied for MCAT at the library.. or did we? Ask David.

Hi David - thanks for supervising us at the library over skype :)


Maki Maki Japanese & Vietnamese Restaurant
8109 101 Street NW
Edmonton, Alberta
Maki Maki Japanese & Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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