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The One Sushi (AYCE)

Oysters from The One Sushi

Oysters from The One Sushi

Unfortunately I don’t have much in the way for new posts for you right now, but in the meantime, here are two photos from The One Sushi, one of my new favourite AYCE sushi places in Calgary – largely because along with sushi they also have a wide variety of other dishes too – really excellent for when going out with folks who don’t love sushi.

Roll and garnish from The One Sushi

Roll and garnish from The One Sushi

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2015 in South-East Calgary, Sushi, Uncategorized

 

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 32,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Private for Happy Sushi Belly contributors: Click here to see the complete report.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The fate of Red Lobster

Delicious scallop from Sushi House Banff

Delicious scallop from Sushi House Banff

The other day I shared my unexpected happy surprise with the flavour and texture of gyoza at Joey’s Seafood.  While writing that post, I also happened to be looking at my news feed – and saw that another popular seafood chain is totally re-vamping their menu in order to focus more on seafood… to get their customers back and increase dwindling sales.  The thought is that people are opting not to  visit Red Lobster because they no longer seem to specialize in the seafood people used to go there for.  News reports also indicated that they’ll also be reducing the discounted prices for BOGO meals, and plating their meals differently moving forward with these changes…

My last experience with Red Lobster wasn’t a good one.  In fact, it turned me and my companion off returning. Was it the plating? No. Was it whether or not the food was on top of the rice or beside the rice? No. Was it the cost of the meal – nope.. not that either.

It was the service, and the food.  Both weren’t great.  There weren’t enough servers/staff, and the food came out cold, overcooked, and underwhelming.

Other than the biscuits – the biscuits were still great.. but who goes to Red Lobster just for the free biscuits?

It kind of reminds me of another restaurant – where they keep tweaking things, changing menus, changing the decor.. but at the end of the day, I don’t go because 3/4 meals I’ve had there have been bad.  (Oh, and in one of those menu changes, they took off the 1/4 that was ok…)

So what do you think?

Have you been to Red Lobster recently? Will a more seafood-heavy menu bring you back if not? (or are you just going back for those biscuits?)

Want to read more about these changes? Check out this article on WTVR.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Are you a culinary traveler?

Juno Sushi in Vancouver   (iPhone photo) Vancouver made #8 in Travelocity's top-ten list of top destinations for foodies

Juno Sushi in Vancouver (iPhone photo) Vancouver made #8 in Travelocity’s top-ten list of top destinations for foodies

Are you a culinary traveler? Do you explore exciting destinations with all of your senses – including your tastebuds?

Travelocity just published a top 10 list of amazing places to visit – based largely on the cuisine they’re known for!

So… who made the list?

Top 10 travel destinations for amazing food: (According to Travelocity)

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Fine dining – babies welcome?

Buffet Lunch along the Aura River

We’re safe from babies at a wine bar!

A while back on our Facebook page there was a bit of a discussion about children (specifically babies) in fine-dining establishments. This was brought about by an article on NBC news when a chef at a high-end exclusive restaurant tweeted a question if babies should be in an establishment where the price tag starts at $200 per person.

There was a lot of debate about the topic on Twitter, and a few comments on our Facebook page as well (click the link to join in).

While everyone can probably understand the frustration of finding a reliable sitter even if they don’t have a child, there are certain times and places where a screaming infant, tantrum-throwing toddler, or teething tot. Romantic dinners, catching up with long-unseen friends over coffee, or sharing a meal with soon-to-be in-laws comes to mind just for starters.

What do you think? When you go to “family restaurants” it’s natural to expect a variety of kids there, but what about when you want to go out for a really nice meal? Do you ask your hostess for a table in the the “no children zone”?

Let us know in the comments below or join us on Facebook!

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Ranked #38

Avocado salad from Blue Circle Sushi (Seattle)

Avocado salad from Blue Circle Sushi (Seattle)

As most of our Happy Sushi Belly readers know, one of the first websites we linked to was UrbanSpoon. I used UrbanSpoon ALL THE TIME when looking for someplace new to eat, or even when just trying to figure out if the place I was thinking of has the menu/hours/etc I want.

With that in mind, we’re currently ranked #38 on UrbanSpoon, and here’s my little push to ask you to help us increase that number to get even more exposure for Happy Sushi Belly.

Happy Sushi Belly Calgary restaurants

If, like me, you love UrbanSpoon, and have a profile there, consider visiting our profile on there, and clicking “Follow“. Then, when you see we’ve posted something new on UrbanSpoon (if you see it there first!) follow the link on UrbanSpoon to read more! The more traffic we see from UrbanSpoon, the higher our ranking will go! (And subsequently, the more people that will see our posts!)

Of course, you can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter or Google Plus too!

Of course, to stay in touch you can also follow us on Twitter, or join our Facebook page!

Screenshot from day one!

Screenshot from day one!

Want a little more light reading? There’s an interesting (and kind of confusing to me at least) blog post about the “hotness factor” of blog posts and UrbanSpoon rankings from 2009 on Food near Snellville.

On the other hand “Your Resturaunt Sucks” really could care less about UrbanSpoon rankings.  (And a much more light-hearted post for sure!)

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Thoughts on tipping

Our receipt from Sushi Star

Our receipt from Sushi Star

In my previous post about absolutely terrible service at Schanks Athletic Club, I mentioned that before someone finally came over to give me my bill, I was considering leaving the minimum amount of money in cash to pay for my meal before leaving. Then when I finally got my bill, I did not leave any tip, and got a snarl from the server in response.

The experience made me chat with a few friends not long ago about tipping your server.

To ensure prompt service

Now, the idea of “Tips” being a acronym for ‘To Ensure (or mis-spelled, Insure) Prompt Service” is actually a myth (check out the Snopes article here: http://www.snopes.com/language/acronyms/tip.asp) but really, “gratuity” is probably a better word, with a better history – being a ‘free gift’ or additional money ‘freely given‘ as a thank-you for good service.

Of course, tipping isn’t always ‘freely given’, or even related to good service. (I’m thinking of those places where they automatically add a tip onto your bill, or the places that add it on automatically when you’re with a group of people.) Likewise, tipping is a social custom that doesn’t exist everywhere – in fact in some areas it’s actually illegal to tip (as it might be considered a bribe I guess…) and in some areas servers and restaurant owners would actually be offended to receive a tip. The amount of gratuity is also varied in different places. While in some places a patron might consider 10-20% to be a good tip, in other places the average is closer to 5%, and in others a patron might just not ask for change – so on an 18$ bill for service, leaving a 20$ note would give the server a 2$ ‘tip’ but the same person might leave a 20$ note for a bill that came to 19.99$.

Some arguments for tipping

  • “If you can’t afford to tip, don’t go out to eat”
  • Servers make very little money for their wage, so need tips to survive
  • You received very good service, and the server deserves a tip

My counter-argument….

Our bill at at Sakura

Our bill at at Sakura

The idea that if you can’t afford to tip, you shouldn’t go out to eat seems a bit forced to me – after all, the amount of money I pay for a meal not only pays for the server’s time, but also for the chef, the busser, the hostess.. not to mention the cost of food, rent, advertising, telephone, website, etc.. If everyone who didn’t really want to tip (but could afford to go out to eat) simply stopped going out to eat, it’s not only the server who would be missing out on the business.

Unfortunately it’s true (in Canada) that servers generally don’t make high wages – they typically make minimum wage and are expected to provide good service to earn tips to compensate for those low wages.  I have a few problems with this as practice…

  • First, there are a lot of people who work for minimum wage who do not earn tips.  The cashier at the corner store for instance spends as much time on his or her feet, and still only takes home minimum wage for his or her efforts. I’ve had a share of retail and service-oriented jobs, and being on your feet for 8 hours is hard either way…
  • Second, that same cashier has to report 100% of his income for tax purposes. I do as well. Although those who are receive tips for their work are supposed to declare all of their income and pay taxes on it, it’s possible to under-declare tips given in cash.
  • Third, if restaurant owners and managers expect their staff to be paid in tips, this means that they can underpay their staff. The same server who works a morning shift would receive the same minimum wage for his or her time…. but likely wouldn’t receive tips for serving breakfast the way that the server working the evening shift does for serving beers. If the breakfast server can survive with no (or far less) tips, how come the evening server can’t?

Finally addressing the idea that good service deserves a tip – a reward. Again I’d point out that a lot of people work very hard in their jobs, and are not eligible for additional payment for their good service.  While some people can work overtime or get bonus incentives, this isn’t true across the board.  We just do our job and get paid the amount we negotiated when we took the job. We’re expected to do a good job or we loose our jobs.. we don’t get bonus money for doing the job that we were hired for.

So.. on tipping…

  • When service is good, I tip.
  • When service is “above and beyond” my expectations, I tip well.
  • When there is no additional service (for instance for counter-service at a fast-food restaurant or coffee shop) I don’t tip.
  • When service is bad, I don’t tip (or only tip up to the next rounded dollar figure).
  • When the server (or kitchen… why is it always the kitchen’s fault huh?) makes mistakes, but works to rectify them in a way that doesn’t interrupt my enjoyment of the meal, I tip.
Our bill from UBU Lounge

Our bill from UBU Lounge

A little disclaimer…

I’ve never worked in the food-service industry. I have worked in commission sales however, which also relates performance to income, but I have never been a server in a restaurant. I am aware that people who choose to work in the food-service industry probably have many reasons for being pro-tipping (from both the servers side and from the business-owner side.) Additionally, my perspective is from a Canadian point of view – not an American point of view. I’m aware that in the USA many servers receive an hourly wage that is less than the minimum wage as it’s expected that tips will make up the difference.

A little light reading

All you can eat from Sushi Ichiban

All you can eat from Sushi Ichiban

Check out Natasha’s blog – she shares that her hourly wage is $2.83/hour (ouch!) but after taxes she generally makes between $5-10/hour. She also has some funny stories to share about her job as a server.

This post from the Kellogg School of Management Operations Room evaluated an article talking about how eliminating tipping actually improved the food and the service in a restaurant. While the cost of service was still passed along to the customer, the article theorized that because so much of successful service relies on teamwork, having no competition for tips helped both the kitchen staff and front-end staff work together for a better customer experience.

Steve writes that “Tipping is stupid” in his blog, and then backs that up with a graph illustrating the correlation between tipping and corruption, plus some statements discussing that tipping is not an effective incentive for performance in servers and that it perpetuates racism, age discrimination, and sexual harassment.

Heather, a fellow Canadian has some more insight (having worked in the food-service industry) is annoyed by ‘automatic tipping’ and found a kindred spirit in “Mr. Pink” when he ranted about not tipping.  She also has a list of places around the world where tipping is not customary, and a number of good points about not tipping.

In “Why you don’t deserve a tip” a blogger (with nearly a decade of experience in the food-service industry, and a Canadian to boot) discusses when she does tip… and when she doesn’t think a server deserves a tip.  Not knowing your menu, taking too long to serve the customer, not being able to deal with criticism, and not actually really working are just a few of the examples she’s experienced.

So… what do you think?

What do you think about tipping (in Canada… or wherever you are from)? Do you think it’s just a general cost of going out and that even if the service is deplorable you’re still going to tip 20%? Do you think that some servers just deserve more money from customers because they’re chowing down on steak instead of hamburger? Do you tip better when your server is hot? Do you think that restaurants should do away with tipping entirely and pay their staff a living wage (and fire them when they aren’t good at their jobs)? Let us know in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 21,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Google +

Tropical roll  from Sushi Hanami

Tropical roll from Sushi Hanami

Inspired by today’s Weekly Writing Challenge, I thought I’d tell you a little about what I did on my lunch break today – tried to figure out Google Plus!

A while back I set up a Google Plus (G+) profile for Happy Sushi Belly, (you might remember my frustrated post about Google Plus?) and now that WordPress has made syncing between our WordPress blog and Google Plus automatic, I’ve set up automatic posts from Happy Sushi Belly on WordPress to Happy Sushi Belly on Google Plus!

It’s been up and running, accepting posts for a while now – but in a frustrating bit of Googlefulessness (Google-fu-less-ness) I couldn’t figure out how to get the posts to go PUBLIC. They kept showing up as ‘private’. I changed a bunch of settings, and I THINK that it’s up and running now, but this post will test that theory! (I sure hated having to go in regularly, delete all of the private posts, and re-post the same things for the public!)

Like our Tumblr account, I won’t be spending too much time on G+, but if you’re using G+ to stay on top of everything you love, consider following Happy Sushi Belly there too!

Come join Happy Sushi Belly on Google Plus!

On that note, you might notice a little visual addition to our side —-> I’ve added in the graphic for the Post-A-Week challenge. I might not always post on the suggested challenge topic, but I’m going to aim to post to Happy Sushi Belly at least once a week. Stay tuned and see how I do!

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Vancouver: Sushi Star

Vancouver: Sushi Star

The last time I was in Vancouver, I visited Sushi Star – and with good luck, I stayed close to there again – right across the street in fact! This meant that good sushi wasn’t far away, and I visited twice while in the city. (I also checked out Juno Japanese Sushi Bistro – click the link to read my review!)

On my first visit, my companion and I had a few different things at Sushi Star, including Agedashi Tofu (a battered and fried tofu in a fish-based sauce), Tuna sashimi, Salmon Sashimi, and then two rolls. We split both of the sashimi orders and the tofu, and then had the chance to try one another’s roll as well.  My companion and I also ordered a piece of Saba (Mackerel).

Salmon sashimi in Sushi Star  (iPhone photo)

Salmon sashimi in Sushi Star (iPhone photo)

We started off with the Agedashi Tofu, though the sashimi came shortly after.

The bowl of tofu was piled high – which was a great sign of quantity to come.  The tofu pieces were a good size – not too big (which made them easier to grab and eat rather than when the pieces are too big) but the tall pile meant that the tofu pieces at the top never got to sit in that delicious fish-based sauce, but the ones at the bottom were soaking in it. We quickly rotated things through, setting the top tofu on our sashimi plate to make sure each piece got to sit in a bit of sauce – but not long enough to get super soggy.

The (sockeye) salmon sashimi (pictured above as well) was good, but honestly wasn’t anything special for me. It had a decent flavour, but really didn’t stand out.  I haven’t been having ‘good salmon luck’ lately though – each time I’ve had it lately, it really seems to be unimpressive. This is the sockeye salmon that seems to be more common here on the west coast, and although it might have other benefits, I think for sushi I really do prefer the salmon that I usually have here in Calgary.

Delicious tuna sashimi from Sushi Star  (iPhone photo)

Delicious tuna sashimi from Sushi Star (iPhone photo)

The tuna on the other hand, was amazing! It was flavourful, super tender, fleshy, and delicious! I really enjoyed it, and when I returned to Sushi Star for a second time during my all-too-short visit to Vancouver, I made sure to have it again! Highly recommended!

Both of the sashimi dishes were served garnished with a large quantity of grated daikon, lemon slices, and a few slivers of cucumber – which I figure is the most vegetables I’m going to get when sushi is on my mind…

scallop-topped roll at Sushi Star  (iPhone photo)

scallop-topped roll at Sushi Star (iPhone photo)

My companion had been craving a baked scallop roll for a while, and ordered one of the rolls topped with baked scallop. However she hadn’t read the menu’s top comment, where it said that all of the rolls were topped with sauce, so when it came with spicy sauce (just sniffing it was super-spicy) she had to send it back – but quickly had the above roll which was really good!

A mouth-watering mango and avocado-topped scallop roll from Sushi Star   (iPhone photo)

A mouth-watering mango and avocado-topped scallop roll from Sushi Star (iPhone photo)

I enjoyed the Tropical Roll though (and shared a piece with my companion of course!) which is a scallop roll (with fake crab too.. see more about that below) covered with avocado and mango and a really delicious (though not identified on their menu) sauce that I really liked.

The upsides and downsides

While I really enjoyed my meal, my companion was a little less impressed I think, largely because of the mix up with her roll.  I was happy with the prices and with the food, as well as the service, but I didn’t like two things…

1) The temperature

It was super-cold inside of Sushi Star! With no double-door system, and not even a bend to break up the incoming cold winter winds, it was mighty cold inside.  This wouldn’t be nearly so much of a problem in nicer weather, but we visited during a chilly patch in mid-December, so it was pretty uncomfortable at times.

2) Pollock filler

I understand that pollock (or that fake crab stuff..) is an inexpensive fish, but I really didn’t like that they used pollock as ‘filler’ in what was advertised as a ‘scallop roll’. I would have at least expected the roll to be advertised as a ‘scallop and fake crab’ roll instead of being advertised as a scallop roll – where I expect just scallops!

Our receipt from Sushi Star

Our receipt from Sushi Star

One of the sights I went to see while in Vancouver was the Bright Nights light display on Stanley Park. So pretty!

Bright Nights light display in Stanley Park

Bright Nights light display in Stanley Park

If you’ve been to Sushi Star in Vancouver before – let us know what you thought in the comments below! If you want to see some of the other places we visited in Vancouver, make sure you follow Happy Sushi Belly on Facebook!

Sushi Star on Urbanspoon

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2014 in Out of town - BC, Sushi, Uncategorized

 

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