Awesome FollowMeFoodie Mijune – Will vlog for a great meal – Vancouver Sun

Sunday, 18 March, 2012

Full half page photo of FollowMeFoodie MiJune

(Photo credit: @CoffeeGeek)

Hello foodies, check out this Vancouver Sun article “Will vlog for a great meal” featuring the awesome Mijune (Twitter/Facebook). Here is an excerpt from  “Will vlog” (emphasis added),

“But when it comes to food vloggers — that is, bloggers who post videos — it’s the new order. Vlogging requires crazy commitment and passion. Sure, cellphones and pocket cameras can easily capture video, but scripting, shooting, editing and uploading is another thing. It takes a sizable bite out of one’s life and exquisite patience. Ouch!

One such local vlogger, Mijune Pak, of Richmond, posts on YouTube and on her blog, Follow Me Foodie. “I know the food blogging community is very saturated right now but vlogging hasn’t been touched,” she says.

Here’s the reason in a nutshell. She and her two-man crew shot for three hours, then edited for six hours to produce a 1.5 minute video. Who’s got that kind of time or expertise?

We’re doing it because we’re passionate and it’s a good way of getting exposure,” says Pak, 25. One video, The Things Foodies Say [note: see below], “went crazy,” she says. “It’s very challenging because most viewers click off after two or three minutes. To lock in a recipe in two or three minutes is very challenging.”

Also check out her FollowMeFoodie YouTube channel and this really funny 90 seconds clip. If you love food, I bet you will laugh at recognizing things you or your friends say! Enjoy.

Shit Foodies Say – Episode 1

Disclosure: I’ve known Mijune personally for years and I think she is doing some great creative work with her FollowMeFoodie site and FollowMeFoodie YouTube channel.


Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations – El Bulli

Monday, 3 October, 2011

Anthony Bourdain: No ReservationsEl Bulli (part 1, part 2, and part 3)


Inspecting the kitchens of Calgary restaurants you like

Wednesday, 13 July, 2011

Recently I did a food review and ended up visiting my online friend/tool, the Alberta Health”Calgary and Area Environmental Health Inspection Reports” database (mentioned earlier in Jan 2010).

The important and user friendly “Inspection Reports” database gives you an interesting behind-the-scene look of restaurants, bakeries, etc. If your favourite restaurants, etc are repeatedly committing critical violations (those flagged with Critical: YES), then you probably should be considering switching to cleaner establishments.

Find your favourite restaurants in the “Inspection Reports” database and see how they score in the inspection. Have fun and healthy eating!

P.S. On a serious note, a friend of minie ate some bad seafood in a supposedly great Hong Kong restaurant and was in hospital for many days. So it never hurts to be more careful with where you eat.

P.P.S. The database goes by the registered official name, so it may be slightly different from the names they put up on their stores or ads. I recommend you search by the first letter of the name of the store. And then try to find the one you are looking for using the text search on your browser.


Macleod Sushi & BBQ – Food Review

Tuesday, 12 July, 2011

Macleod Sushi & BBQ (visit 2) - pix 01 - various sushi - visit 1 - order 2

[Dec 21, 2011 Update: See additional somewhat negative remarks in the comment section at the bottom of this post.]

[Feb 16, 2013 Update: Why we stopped eating at Macleod Sushi & BBQ? We had been a long time customers even though the food quality sometimes varies. Over Christmas holiday, we went there well before closing (30-40 mins) but were told that they don’t & won’t serve us our favourite all-you-can eat sushi anymore because of a busy day. So we were greatly disappointed. And then later another time, we were told that if we need a pot of hot water (we don’t drink tea, just hot water), we would be charged a $2 per pot fee in the new year of 2013. This disappointed me greatly as it seemed so wrong a way to treat a long time repeat customer. So in 2013, I am glad to say I have stopped eating at Macleod Sushi & BBQ. Gave me an excuse to eat a few less all-you-can eat meal, which may be a good thing for me to shred a few kg! :) ]

I love food, especially reasonably priced, reasonably good food. So we were quite happy to discover Macleod Sushi & BBQ (Suite 100, 5211 Macleod Trail SW, Calgary). We went there twice already in two weeks to check out their lunch time $14.95 all-you-can-eat Japanese sushi & cooked food and Korean BBQ. After my first visit, I even spent sometime to chat with the sushi chef Ken about the food (Ken told me he is in charge of food quality).

In the following food review, you will see what I like and don’t like about Macleod Sushi & BBQ.

House Salad

Macleod Sushi & BBQ - pix 03 - House Salad

House Salad:  7/10  It tasted nice, nothing too unexpected.

[Possible improvement: put the same amount of salad dressing on each salad. Of the two house salads we ordered, one had normal amount of dressing and the other one (above photo) had too much dressing.]

Various Nigiri Sushi and Rolls (over two visits and multiple orders)

Macleod Sushi & BBQ - pix 04 - various sushi

General comment: These sushi and rolls were all quite nice, not your typical “all-you-can-eat” stuff. Some years ago, one restaurant used a machine to form the sushi rice, that was horrible. Fortunately, they aren’t in business anymore. And some all-you-can eat places put way too much rice on the sushi, as if to try to stuff you full first. Now the following are my ratings for the Nigiri sushi and rolls.

Tuna: 8/10, Salmon: 8/10, California roll: 7.5/10, Chopped Scallop: 9/10

The chopped scallop got a 9/10 because the scallop was fresh and sauce was nice. And the seaweed was crunchy if I eat it right away. This is nice attention to detail. note: of course, if you leave the Chopped Scallop uneaten for too long, the seaweed will soften and it won’t taste as nice in terms of having a crunchy and smooth taste in your mouth.

Macleod Sushi & BBQ (visit 2) - pix 01 - various sushi - visit 1 - order 2Macleod Sushi & BBQ (visit 2) - pix 09 - variious sushi

The above pictures of sushi and rolls were taken from our second visit. I want to bring out an important point that the food have to be consistently good. The food’s taste and presentation should be consistent over multiple visits. [July 26 update: We recently had our third visit. And I am happy to say, the food is still consistently good plus they even improved some of the dishes. e.g. I will rate the Shrimp Tempura: 8/10 now.]

You see, there was one restaurant that we visited once, it wasn’t even able to send out consistent dishes from the kitchen on the same day when we ordered the same thing!

As you may notice in the photo on the right, we ordered some rolls to try. We ordered Spicy BC Roll and Dynamite Roll, I think thats their names. Anyway, they are the ones that have BBQ salmon skin in them. When done well, the salmon skin should be crunchy and mixed well with the rest of the roll. In this case, the salmon skin was too hard and tough to chew. I ended up eating the rest of the rolls and picked out the salmon skin (the roll’s main ingredient).

Spicy BC Roll and Dynamite Roll: 2/10 (Macleod needs to fix this asap)

Baked Oysters

Macleod Sushi & BBQ - pix 06 - baked oyster - visit 1 - order 1

The oyster Read the rest of this entry »


Durian fruit for $6

Saturday, 7 August, 2010

English (英文): Bought our first Durian yesterday for less than $6 at Superstore. (Never opened up one of these monsters myself before.) It tasted like fresh ice cream as hoped. We plastic wrapped those we couldn’t finished and put them in the fridge. Ha ha, unfortunately, the plastic wrap is no match for the strong smell of the Durian and its smell is now all over the fridge.

中文 (Chinese): 昨天第一次自己買了榴蓮開來吃(只要五元多)。好吃得像雪糕。吃不完的放進雪櫃,但紙包不住火,保鮮紙也包不住榴蓮的氣味。哈哈。

Durian (榴蓮)

Shells of Durian (榴蓮)

P1290232


Sushi Kai Calgary – All you can taste buffet review

Friday, 16 July, 2010

P1280909

To attract people to its new Kensington area to try its food, Sushi Kai Calgary created an “All you can taste buffet” (note: it is still an “All you can eat buffet“). The food at Sushi Kai’s old Chinatown location were reasonably good so I decided to give the new location’s buffet a try and review them at the same time.

[July 29, 2011 Update: Check out “Macleod Sushi & BBQ – Food Review” which I have gone back to eat again a few times!]

Deep fried shrimp (3/10) & oyster (8/10):

Sushi Kai Calgary review - pix 1

The batter for the deep fried shrimp wasn’t the fluffy tempura batter I had expected so I was disappointed. But the deep fried oysters used a lighter tempura batter which I liked more and it was quite tasty. Unfortunately, when I ordered some more deep fried oysters later, the chef (or a different chef?) decided to use different batter which I didn’t like at all.

Second batch of deep fried oysters (3/10) (they looked and tasted different from the first batch):

Sushi Kai Calgary review - pix 13

Sushi (8/10):

Sushi Kai Calgary review - pix 2

The presentation and taste of the first dish of sushi were pretty good. I particularly like the Mackerel and BBQ Eel (which were warmed up by the chef).

Now, what I can’t understand is why the second batch looked and tasted different? You can’t see it but the BBQ Eel were cold (the chef should have warmed them up like the first batch) and the Mackerel didn’t have the cuts and burn-marks like the first batch (see following photo).

Sushi Kai Calgary review - pix 11

Consistent presentation and taste of food over different days (let alone on the same night) should be a minimum requirement of any self-respecting restaurant. Most customers won’t go back after a bad food experience at a new restaurant.

Hand cone & Sushi Rolls –

Toro hand cone (7/10), mango paradise (8.5/10):

Sushi Kai Calgary review - pix 12

Naraku roll (7/10):

Sushi Kai Calgary review - pix 9

Deep fried shrimp roll (Age sushi) (1/10):

Sushi Kai Calgary review - pix 8

The novelty factor of the deep fried shrimp roll ended badly after the first bite. Bad job in deep frying the shrimp roll. The Naraku roll was ok, not something I would order again. I enjoyed the Mango Paradise rolls and did order it again and still enjoyed it the second time. Other restaurant uses a thin slice of real mango but I found the mango sauce was an cheaper but still ok substitute. The Toro hand cone was ok, the distribution of the toro was a bit uneven as there were no fish left in the last bite.

Deep fried squid legs (6.5/10)

Sushi Kai Calgary review - pix 10

The two same sauces are used here. And the chef might have forgot to add a tiny little bit of salt to the dish.

Mixed veg tempura (7/10)

Sushi Kai Calgary review - pix 7

I’ve had better tempura, they were ok.

Steak & Chicken (1/10 & 3/10)

Sushi Kai Calgary review - pix 5

Sushi Kai Calgary review - pix 6

The steak was so tough and chewy, Sushi Kai needs to buy a slightly better cut of beef or prepare them better. The chicken was barely ok as I can cook better chicken than this.

Octopus balls (7/10)

Sushi Kai Calgary review - pix 3

For someone who likes octopus balls (essentially a ball of starch with a tiny bit of octopus in the middle), it was ok so I leave it as a 7/10. For me, I never like it and this one hasn’t changed my mind.

Grill squid (8/10)

Sushi Kai Calgary review - pix 4

Other than the sauces (more on this later), the grill squid was tasty.

Sauces

Sushi Kai seems to sprinkle the same two sauces on most of their dishes. Why? They should really spend a little bit of time to create appropriate sauces for each dish. There is no point in using the same sauces over and over and over again as it shows a serious lack of love of food.

Presentation & plates

Except the first dish, every other dishes were put on a cheap round glass plate. Why? Food presentation should be pleasing to the eyes and the big round plates do take up way too much space on the table. And have I said they look ugly?!

Final Comments

I want to give this restaurant another chance but given some of the poorly made dishes (simple stuff like beef, chicken) and the inconsistency of the food (the first vs the second batch of sushi), I don’t know if I will give it another chance.

P.S. Website

These days, every restaurant should have a proper website. And failing that, a simple basic site with basic information, including the hours of operation, should be posted. (note the word “Hours” is on the site but without the actual hours of operation).

Home page of SushiKaiCalgary.com

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NOTE: All food review ratings are based on the initial date of review. Food quality may improve or deteriorate over time. Feel free to share your personal experience (respectfully) in the comments section.


Chef Lau interview – In pursuit of excellent Dim Sum at Calgary Buddha’s Veggie (and more)

Thursday, 11 March, 2010

April 6 update: Please see further comments posted on April 6, 2011.

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I believe money can be made in the restaurant business, good food at a reasonable price and service, how hard can it be? But many restaurateurs just want to make their quick bucks and don’t want to put much care nor attention into the quality of the food they serve. As a result, Chinese restaurants that serve good Dim Sum is very hard to find in Calgary (especially in Calgary South).

Well, this past Sunday I had a great Dim Sum lunch at Chef Lau’s Buddha’s Veggie (its Chinese name: Fusion 菜) and I can now say there is a good Dim Sum restaurant in Calgary South that I can enjoy. And it is quite convenient (close to Chinook Centre).

Chef Lau (劉師父), Buddha's Veggie (Fusion 菜)

We had one vegetarian and 6 meat/seafood dim sum dishes. Following are the snapshots of the names & prices on the menu and pictures of the dishes we had this Sunday.

Buddha's Veggie (Fusion 菜) - Dim Sum list - pg 1Buddha's Veggie (Fusion 菜) - Dim Sum list - pg 2

Veggie Shrimp Dumplings (Dim Sum by Chef Lau)
Comment: The ingredients are finely chopped and the results is a very tasty creation.

Veggie Shrimp Dumplings (Dim Sum by Chef Lau)

Shanghai-style Soup Buns
Comment: Like Chef Lau said, the tiny “buns” are very juicy by design. And the skins are thin and you have to be careful when you pick it up. I was extremely careful but still manage to break a few of them. (Tip: take one and put it into your bowl and then add the red vinegar.) Very tasty.

Shanghai-style Soup Buns (Dim Sum by Chef Lau)

Honey Comb Tofu
Comment: This is a must have. I love this dish the most. The tofu is quite soft in the centre. And the skin is “honey comb” textured. Very tasty.

Honey Comb Tofu ( (Dim Sum by Chef Lau))

Fish Roe Siu Mai
Comment: A nice “siu mai”. Love the texture and the mixture of ingredients. And like the touch of adding fish roes on top after the steaming process.

Fish Roe Siu Mai (Dim Sum by Chef Lau)

Supreme Shrimp Dumplings
Comments: The shrimps are quite big. Very tasty. Because I was quite hungry and tried to take out a dumpling while it was hot and the skin still very soft, I broke the skin of the dumpling. May be the skin were a little bit too thin this day? Or the stick together?

Supreme Shrimp Dumplings (Dim Sum by Chef Lau)

Chiuchau Fangor
Comment: Very tasty. Another favourite of mine.

Chiuchau Fangor (Dim Sum by Chef Lau)

Mayonnaise Crispy Rice Rolls
Comments: One of the most pleasantly surprising and yummy dish. Very light and tasty. Highly recommended.

Mayonnaise Crispy Rice Rolls (Dim Sum by Chef Lau)

The above dishes not only look great but they are very tasty as well, highly recommended. Now, let me say a few words about the English names of the dishes. To be honest, the English names of the dishes can be a bit cryptic (e.g. “Chiuchau Fangor”) to people who haven’t have a lot of dim sum. I’ve written about translating names of Chinese dishes into English in this previous blog entry and Chef Lau can take a look in updating the names for future if he wishes.

A few more words about naming. Chef Lau explained to me Buddha’s Veggie is an established brand name in Calgary which is why he wishes to keep it even he has extended the menu to add meat and seafood dishes.

I think Chef Lau has to solve this dilemma in the long run, and I am afraid name change will likely be required. Will see. Now, articles like this will help people to know more about this fine restaurant but it is still confusing when the menu has been extended.

The reason I decided to put a spotlight on this fine restaurant is because it is good quality and value Chinese Dim Sum is hard to find in Calgary (especially Calgary South). And I want this restaurant to be successful so that it will continue to thrive and I will have one more place to eat.

If you do decide to visit Buddha’s Veggie, I hope you like the dim sum dishes. And to keep Chef Lau working hard, tell him if you enjoy the food or tell him if you think the dishes can be impoved.

The following is my English interview with Chef Lau talking about Buddha’s Veggie, his experiences as a chef and the 7 types of dim sum we had this past week.

Chef Lau's restaurant Buddha's Veggie (Fusion 菜) info

Calgary Herald’s review, “Buddha’s Veggie Restaurant“.

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May 22, 2010 Update: Had a great dim sum lunch at chef Lau’s restaurant again today. Repeated some of our favourites we tried and loved last time like Supreme Shrimp Dumplings, Fish Roe Siu Mai, Honey Comb Tofu, Chiuchau Fangor, and Mayonnaise Crispy Rice Rolls. We also tried chef Lau’s new creation: Abalone Siu Mai. I am happy to see chef Lau creating and trying new recipes. The sight of a whole (very tiny) abalone sitting on top of a Siu Mai is quite pleasing to the eyes. (sorry, I didn’t bring a camera) At the same time, the tasty but more chewy texture of an abalone is tough to mix well with Siu Mai. So I look forward to chef Lau creating more dishes over time, and adding some of the really good ones to the regular menu over time.

When I saw Chef Lau put his heart into his creations, it reminded me of the similar steps taken by the likes of Gordon Ramsay as expressed in his book “Three-star Chef” which I borrowed from the Calgary Public Library.

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NOTE: All food review ratings are based on the initial date of review. Food quality may improve or deteriorate over time. Feel free to share your personal experience (respectfully) in the comments section.


Calgary’s Nellie’s fined $61,780 – Easy online tool to check restaurant’s health code violations

Sunday, 17 January, 2010

Many Calgarians (including this reporter) were shocked to hear the popular chain of Nellie’s restaurants and its owner have been fined a total of $61,780 for 30+ Public Health Act violations! And the even more disturbing thing is that some of those violations dated back to 1997, over 12 years ago!

CTV Calgary reported “Nellie’s fined for health code violations” (emphasis added),

Roxanne Taylor-King admitted there were 43 violations in her five restaurants: Nellie’s Cosmic Cafe, Nellie’s Kitchen, Nellie’s on 4th, Nellie’s on 90th and Nellie’s on Kensington.

Some of the violations include mouse droppings found on food in the kitchen; perishable food not being kept at a proper temperature; food not being handled safely by staff; and utensils not being cleaned and sanitized properly.

According to Calgary Herald report “Calgary’s Nellie’s restaurants fined for public health violations“,

[…] “Failure to meet the minimum standard of care is a serious concern,” said the judge [Provincial court Judge Barbara Veldhuis]. “It is for the protection of the public. Compliance is needed to protect the health and safety of society.””

[…] “A tearful Taylor-King said outside court she was devastated by the charges and that it was difficult for her, a single mother, to keep proper monitoring of all the locations.”

More on the “tearful” out of court “rationalizing” later.

This reporter was surprised that something was missing in a CBC radio report and the above two media reports. You see, a very important online consumers tool was NOT mentioned. The powerful and comprehensive online “Calgary and Area Environmental Health Inspection Reports” tool was launched over 18 months ago to allow all Albertans to see the latest health inspection reports of restaurants in Alberta. Yes, Albertans can check to see if the restaurants we go to have “mouse droppings” as one of their problems!

Alberta Health Services has added a lot more inspection reports to the online database since its June 2008 launch. And all Albertans and Calgarians should use this tool at least once to look at the reports of their favourite restaurants. When this reporter tried the tool in 2008, as expected, most restaurants came out passing all inspections. But to this reporter’s surprises, some restaurants that were thought to be clean were not at all and with repeat unresolved problems. And then some restaurants that were thought to be “dirty” turned out to have a long list of clean inspection reports.

Customer loyalties and business reputations like Nellie’s restaurants can only be built over time and over many many years. What happened at Nellie’s should serve as a warning and example for all restaurants in Alberta that they should pay attention to the welfare and health of the customers and not simply focusing on the money making side of their restaurant businesses. The simple fact is that customer loyalties take years to build up and sometime take days to destroy. Of course, in the case of Nellie’s, when the violations span over 12 years, one can’t really say the reputations and loyalties were destroyed over days, it was done slowly over 12 years.

Finally, if someone is running a restaurant, there is simply NO excuse of having repeated and unresolved health code violations spanning YEARS! If the owners are unable or unwilling to correct health code violations (because of personal or whatever reasons), then may be the restaurants should be closed until minimum health code standards can be met. Restaurant owners should realize customers, especially the young and old customers, can get seriously sick from bad food. And the long term health consequences are to be paid by unsuspecting customers.

Try the online “Calgary and Area Environmental Health Inspection Reports” tool and see the results yourself. Use the online tool at least once for the restaurants you love, to see if you still want to go there. And use it on restaurants that you are thinking of visiting.

P.S. To me, Nellie’s was always busy, buzzing and had been a well-loved Calgary institution. A Lovemark to me until this sad turn of event (unknown to customers, spanning over 12 years)!


My Valentine’s Day home-cooked dinner @ Esquire – How Men Eat

Monday, 17 August, 2009

Home-cooked Valentine's Day Steak Dinner by you.

I am excited to see my “Home-cooked Valentine’s Day Steak Dinner” featured in “How Men Eat” in Esquire.com (see picture #11 or a screen capture here).

When one receive a sweet message from Esquire.com saying,

“In addition to credit and a link, you’ll get our undying devotion and respect, plus the ability to brag that you’ve got a photo up on Esquire.com and all the attention that comes with it.

It is definitely an offer one can’t refuse! :)

P.S. Special thanks to Ms. E. from Esquire.com for loving my photo and calling it an “incredible image”.

P.P.S. In our household, Schweppes Cream Soda is our Champagne. :)


Dim Sum & Money @ Ginger Beef

Wednesday, 5 August, 2009

Dim Sum @ Ginger BeefOver the weekend, my better half and I tried the dim sum at Ginger Beef. They just had added dim sum to their lunch menu (a lot more varieties of dim sum than their usual lunch buffet.) Amongst the five things we tried, we liked this and this the most, this one is nice, and this and this less so.

Because dim sum is something new for them that they are trying out, they are also doing surveys to see what items customers like best and least, and also finding out what suggestions customers may have. So we will definitely give Ginger Beef another try as there are not many dim sum options in Calgary South and I like their attitude of trying to improve things.

Sep 2011 Update: Ginger Beef has stopped offerring dim sum in the weekends and has gone back to offerring all you can eat buffet.


Carriage House Sunday Brunch – A food review

Tuesday, 10 February, 2009

After my previous horrible Chinese buffet experience, I was very pleasantly surprised by the nicely prepared food at the Carriage House Sunday Brunch this past Sunday. At about $21 per adult, the price-value is there. Love their nicely prepared salmon (both smoked ones and cooked ones). And their cakes and pastries were quite nice too.

I will likely visit it again and take some pictures. If the food stay consistent, I will write a positive review. You see, a few years ago, we went to the Carriage House Sunday Brunch and wasn’t impressed with the food much so we never went back again. I am happy they’ve changed for the better.

To me, the name of the game is good and consistent quality food for the price you pay. Oh, and clean dishes too. :)

I hope you have enjoyed this new entry in my food review series.

P.S. I actually noticed a few tiny tiny dirty spots on two or three clean plates and I put them aside in hope the staff or management would notice the unclean plates and let the cleaning staff know.

I wonder if their dish washing machine was overloaded? Or simply wasn’t doing its job?


Asian Buffet Calgary – A food & dirty dishes review

Tuesday, 10 February, 2009

The food at Asian Buffet Calgary was half-decent for a $9.95 weekday lunch. But my absolutely horrible experience was due to the disgustingly dirty plates! I hope you will enjoy this new entry in my food review series.

How dirty can “clean” plates be at Asian Buffet Calgary?

  • I found left-over spots of rice on “clean” plates (like 5 or 6 dirty plates on a stack of 15 or so plates). Now, I wonder if this is a health violation?
  • I found left-over bones on “clean” plate. Yes, f**king bones other customers chewed and left on the plate. Again, I wonder if this is another health violation?
  • And because I found the plates came out cold from the back. I wonder if the plates were washed in cold water! Now, I wonder if this is a health violation in itself?

You see, we are all humans and I accept sometime mistakes happen. But in this case I actually took the time to tell a staff multiple times (actually THREE times! twice during the meal, one last time when I left) and the plates were still dirty or cold after this staff checked with the person washing the dishes.

A restaurant with horrible cleanliness is totally unacceptable. I went to Asian Buffet Calgary late January 2009 and I have no idea if their cleanliness have been improved at all but I have no desire to go back to this restaurant. For someone who love to eat, it is terribly sad to see the dirty dishes have killed my appetite to ever go back to Asian Buffet Calgary again.

I don’t know if people get sick from eating at Asian Buffet Calgary but I wonder why people would take such risk?


Nobu, what do you think?

Thursday, 31 July, 2008
Nobu West and Nobu Now

Nobu West and Nobu Now

If you have taken a look of Nobu Matsuhisa‘s Nobu Now or Nobu West, then you know how much of a food genius he must be. The food photos are simply beautifully done, see some examples here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Of course, the problem was that the genius of Nobu as a food artist did not translate to a good Nobu Hong Kong when it opened last year. I have been secretly hopping the likes of food critic Chua Lam (also known in Japan as a judge on the show Iron Chef) would have revisited Nobu Hong Kong again to give it another go but then when he is reviewing so many interesting eateries like this (sub required and in Chinese) (great and inexpensive food that makes you forget about the non-existing service), this, and this one, why would he go back to Nobu Hong Kong?

If you love Japanese food and have eaten at Nobu, please share your experiences. I am most interested to find out if the Hong Kong branch has improved compared to what it was before during its grand opening?


Are your favourite Alberta restaurants clean?

Sunday, 29 June, 2008

Starting July 1st, you can check to see if your favourite Alberta restaurants are clean or not by checking the Restaurants Inspection Reports online. No more need to eat at unclean restaurants unknowingly.

[via CBC and Calgary Herald]


The Highwood: Searching for Excellence

Saturday, 19 January, 2008

Early this year, a group of us 11 friends found an excuse to dine at The Highwood, a restaurant staffed by SAIT’s own Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management students.

Overall, we had some great experiences and will definitely go there again to eat.

Believing honest opinions are the best tool to teach and help these SAIT students to learn, I have taken some time to review all the dishes I had and also share some of my friends’ views. We actually did some around-the-table reviews of the dishes right after we had them so I wrote my review here with aid from those immediate impressions.

Of course, as in any reviews, it is ultimately my personal takes on things. I am no expert in food but I do write restaurants reviews as if I know something about food. (smile) Feel free to check out my recent reviews of Calgary’s “Open Sesame” and “Globefish at Kensington (with an interview of master chef and co-owner Masa Ota“.

Here is the menu and my “Pretty woman” moment. (smile)

Following are some pictures of the various creations with my reviews (accessible by clicking on the photos).

Here are two desserts,

As I said, we all had a wonderful experience at The Highwood and would go there again for sure. But does it mean that there are no room for improvement? Absolutely not. In fact, I have been quite justifiably harsh on some of the creations. And in fact my main course was sent back to the kitchen.

But you know what? Customers that care enough to complain are the ones that a restaurant needs to treasure because these customers are the necessary helpers for a restaurant to get on its own journey of “Relentless Pursuit of Excellence“ (best showcased by my all time favourite — the one and only one “Yung Kee” in the world).

It should be noted that I don’t have a bias of food from different cultures, it is “Yung Kee”‘s desire and insistence in its “Relentless Pursuit of Excellence“ that earned its special place in my heart.

I wish the SAIT Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management students all the best and I look forward to my next excuse to visit there and may be do some more behind the scenes reporting inside the kitchen and chats with the student chefs.

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Jan 9th, 2013 update: With regrets, I am afraid “Yung Kee” is not same in recent years since the owner (and especially the owners’ son) struck it rich with the real estate that the restaurant now is located. My foodie friend in HK has stopped going there and I have also stopped making a special trip to it when I visit HK.


Calgary’s Open Sesame – When I can cook better than the chef

Friday, 28 December, 2007

I recently wrote a great review of the Japanese restaurant Globefish at Kensington. Just so you know I don’t do good reviews only, and to warn you from making the same mistake as my friend and I did, here is my review of Calgary’s Open Sesame based on the experience my friend and I had last night.

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Open Sesame – When I can cook better than the chef

The place looks hip and buzzing with customers. Our server was really cute and charming. Too bad the food sucks based on how the three dishes we ordered off the menu tasted like. :(

IMHO, most restaurants in Calgary China town offers much better prepared food than Open Sesame. The crispy stir fry noodles were not crispy on the edges (actually quite oily and soggy). The flat wide rice noodles looked like they were chopped/cooked into hundreds of pieces (they should be whole and looked like a flat white ribbon). And the salt and pepper calamari was probably one of the worst prepared S&P calamari I had tasted in some time, where some of the batter in a few of the pieces weren’t even cooked through.

If you view lunches/dinners as social gatherings, and don’t really care about the food, then Open Sesame may be an OK choice.

If you care about how the food actually taste, then I think there are much better offerings almost anywhere else.

I will give it a 1 out of 5.

P.S. Open Sesame is owned by the same owner that operates Smugglers’ Inn. I wrote a short paragraph on how I eventually gave up on Smugglers’ Inn in this blog posting a while back.


Review of Globefish at Kensington (Calgary)

Thursday, 13 December, 2007

I love good food and good companies, so I am happy to say that a recent Christmas Party at Globefish @ Kensington (Calgary) worked great on both fronts.

One thing I love to do is to write little restaurant reviews about places I’ve visited (or place worth special mention). Here is a list of sample entries,

  1. Sunday Brunch at Delta Calgary South
  2. Death by Chocolate at Fairmont Palliser
  3. What’s Atomic Tea taste like?
  4. Calgary Farmers’ Market
  5. Roast goose at Yung Kee (Hong Kong)
  6. Review of NOBU Hong Kong (translated from a Chinese review by a former Iron Chef Judge).

Now, let me shared with you my experience at Globefish @ Kensington,

  1. We knew Globefish is a busy place so three of us arrived ahead of time (at 7pm) to try to get a table at 7:30pm. It still takes us about 7:45pm to get a table for 9 of us. (note: the guy taking care of assigning tables was really nice and tried his best to accommodate us and other waiting customers)
  2. Once we sit down, it didn’t take the server long to take our order and for the food to arrive.
  3. Both my sushi (Flames Roll Combo) and tempura were very tasty and made just right. And I particular like the tempura zucchini (crunchy on the outside, really soft inside).
  4. And I had a small bite of my friend’s Sashimi Salad. The fishes were fresh and tasty and a nice mix with the house dressing.
  5. All in all, a great experience even with the long wait.
  6. In future, I probably will try to go at 8pm or even 8:30pm (perfect timing for after a movie or something) to avoid the long wait (yes, these people are waiting outside the restaurant).

After a great evening of chat with my friends, I stayed behind and look for the chef and owner of the restaurant to chat. We ended up spending 15-20 minutes just talking about food (including what I learned from the Review of NOBU Hong Kong).

Without further delay, here is my chat with Masa Ota, chef and co-owner of Globefish at Kensington, about Globefish, his training in Japan, his favourite dish, etc. I hope you enjoy it as much as I in conducting the interview with Masa.

When I talked to Masa, I sensed a chef that is listening carefully and he also showed his care and love of food from talking about the smallest details. I remember asking Masa, what is the magic behind his great sushi. He answered “nothing special”.

In some sense, his art and his attention to details may be “nothing special” to him. But to another chef that is more interested in cranking out another dish as quickly as he/she can to make another fast buck, that “nothing special” makes ALL the differences in the world. In my time in Calgary, I have seen far too many once-upon-a-time-decent restaurants dropped their quality to such a bad/horrible state that I ultimately stop going there.

As an aside, I have yet seen a restaurant remotely matching the high standard of my childhood favourite restaurant Yung Kee (world famous for its roast goose). May be you can ask yourself this — how often do you see the offering of one dish (Yung Kee’s roast goose) make the headlines of multiple major newspapers? It is Yung Kee’s “Relentless Pursuit of Excellence” that puts it on a totally different playing field when compare to other restaurants.

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Sept 27, 2008 Update: I heard from friends that Globefish at Kensington has moved to a new and bigger location. I hope they are able to keep their previous high standard in food or it will be a shame to see a restaurant expand and than the quality dropped because of lack of attention to details.


Cilantro Calgary: Service, what service?

Tuesday, 7 August, 2007

Cilantro (Calgary) is a part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts chain of restaurants and supposed to be a high-end restaurant. Unfortunately, a good friend of mine and her girl friends’ recent dinning experience seemed to show otherwise. In fact, their experience was bad enough that I am blogging about it here. My hope is that other restaurants may learn something from their story here. Of course, just to be fair. Other Cilantro customers may have different experience at different time.

With permission, I am quoting the following review of Cilantro (with edits for brevity) to give you a sense of what happened. If you find it long, you can skip to the final bit shocking exchange between the server/manager and the dinners. I’ve changed all the names, added my own emphasis and comments to share with you my 2 cents. Note: all my comments inside the review are quoted within “[K:” and “]”.

******* Excerpt of a Cilantro review *******

I was looking forward to a night out with the girls. Trying a restaurant that I hadn’t been to but had heard good things about. I was sorely disappointed[K: To me, a first visit is so important to a restaurant. Repeat customers should be the core to a good business.]

Read the rest of this entry »


2007 Canada Day Cake – Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – Relentless Pursuit of Excellence

Wednesday, 4 July, 2007

2008 Canada Day Update: Calgary Fireworks will be hosted by the City of Calgary from the Municipal Building at dusk, about 10:30pm. For more information, click here.

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My hunch is there will be some great pastries coming from Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. I love food and I don’t give my praises easily. So, before I explain the reasonings of my praise, let me share some videos of the staff distributing the cakes with some lovely piano music in the background on that beautiful Canada Day.

Introducing the 2007 Canada Day Cake – Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

You see, my reasonings are based on a chat with Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise‘s new executive pastry chef Glenn Chang, a pastry chef trained in Holland in the European tradition and with 20+ years experiences. Here is my interview of Glenn before the cake cutting.

Here is the interview after I had a chance to taste the wonderful cake.

On top of these two interviews, Glenn and I chatted for another 5-10 minutes about food and pastry, etc. I mentioned my passion for good food and I even shared with Glenn a bit of my less than satisfied “Death by Chocolate” experience at Fairmont Palliser in Calgary.

You see, the fact that Fairmont hired Glenn, I assumed automatically that Glenn is a competent pastry chef with great qualifications and references. What separates him from others on that day during our brief chat was him telling me what were some of the areas he could improve on the cake. When everyone was enjoying his creation, Glenn was focusing on improvements for the next time. And that is a mark of what I call the “Relentless Pursuit of Excellence“. The pursuit of excellence is a journey, and I sense (hopefully rightly) that Glenn is one of those that takes the pursuit of excellence very seriously. Which is why I hope and expect great pastries from Chateau Lake Louise under the guidance and leadership of Glenn.

Note: After my “Roast goose at Yung Kee – Relentless Pursuit of Excellence” blog entry, this is my second food related blog entry with the words “Relentless Pursuit of Excellence” at the end. My plan is to reserve these words of praises to those worthy ones. I hope I made the right call in this case.

Now, Glenn, feel free to invite me and my better half to Chateau Lake Louise to sample and try out some of your various creations. (big smile, Did I just try to invite myself to some great pastries?? smile) While I can’t promise positive reviews but we will share with you our fair and honest feedback from the food lovers’ prospective.


Death by Chocolate at Fairmont Palliser

Tuesday, 8 May, 2007

To celebrate a friend’s upcoming birthday, a group of friends and my better half and I went to try the famous all-you-can-eat Death by Chocolate buffet (a “Lovemark” for many) at the Fairmont Palliser (Calgary) last night. It is always fun to be with friends and we spent a great evening.

Now, after the fun I had in translating and writing “NOBU Hong Kong – a restaurant review“, I thought it may be nice to play food and hotel critic a little and share my experience of Palliser’s Death by Chocolate. By the way, since I am no food critic, ah, I forgot to take pictures last night! Big mistakes by me as many of the deserts were really a work of art.

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Now, before I write my review of Death by Chocolate, I like to say I have been interested in hotels, food and hotel buffets for years. My parents and their friends were quite generous to us kids and weekend buffet lunches at top-rated hotels in Hong Kong happened quite frequently. Believe it or not, I live in Calgary, Alberta, “home of great beef” but I still think the roast beef I had when I was a kid in Hong Kong were much tastier than the beef I tasted here in any buffet lunch in Calgary! (smile)

Smugglers’ Inn used to do a pretty decent buffet with really good slow-cooked roast beef and a restaurant full of customers (taking up three wings of the Inn when it was in its best days). Until we started to see the quality slip and the once wonderful Sunday brunch slowly self-destruct as time goes by. And the customers went with it. A year or two ago, we ultimately stopped eating there when the roast beef was just painfully bad. Oh well, I digress.

Again, I am no expert but my love and attempt to understand great hotel services probably started over 20 years ago. I remember, one day I picked up a copy of a hotel review article talking about the unassuming five-star Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong (see Wikipedia) by pure accident. The location of the hotel was centralized (next to the Legislative Council (like our parliament) where the rich and powerful were and still are) but the hotel entrance looked plain (ok, I mean awful, the opposite from “grand” from the outside). But I remember the article went on to explain that the Mandarin’s world class services are what made it stands out and turned it into a five-star hotel (by the way, I assume it is still a five-star hotel). The attentiveness to its guests are unparalleled.

Now, having talked a little about my experiences in hotel buffets, food, and hotels in general, let me to tell you a little about Palliser, the Fairmont Hotel chain, and then my review of the Death by Chocolate buffet.

Read the rest of this entry »


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