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Tea: Oolong Tea House (Kensington)

Tea and a matcha smoothie from the Oolong Tea House

Tea and a matcha smoothie from the Oolong Tea House

Kensington is one of those districts that I used to practically LIVE in when I was a teenager and young adult. I loved the vibe in Kensington, loved the shops, and loved just wandering up and down the street before grabbing a coffee (back in my pre-tea days) at the corner coffee shop before hopping on the train to head home.

These days, I’m lucky to get down there once a year… you might remember that my last post about the Oolong Tea House in Kensington was all the way back in 2011! I did get down there at the end of January (to head to the last days of Kensington Art Supply’s moving sale!) and before heading home I stopped into the Oolong Tea House for a refreshment.

Tea and a matcha smoothie from the Oolong Tea House

Tea and a matcha smoothie from the Oolong Tea House

I was at first really tempted to try out a chocolate truffle flavoured black tea, but after walking around outside bundled up in winter gear, I was actually pretty warm, so opted for a matcha smoothie made with almond milk. It was super delicious, with the almond milk adding in loads of sweetness to match the slight bitterness of the matcha. My companion on the other hand opted for a lavender tea with honey, which was even better still (of course we had to trade sips!) I thought her tea tasted like perfume, and within the first few sips she decided to grab a small container to take home too.

The price… considering that the clerk doesn’t time the tea steeping for you, and the water comes out at one temperature from the hot water heater tap (and there’s no timer to let you know how to avoid over-steeping your tea) I found the price a wee bit high. (Though still comparable with your half-caff, no foam, cinnamon sprinkled latte..) To get loose leaf tea to go, they sell it in a “small, medium, or large” container – but I wasn’t sure how many grams of tea would go in each size.

While we were wandering up and down the main shopping streets in Kensington, we also noticed that Naked Leaf location was for lease.  Checking out their website, it looks like they’ve just relocated, but I didn’t see them in our wandering… I keep missing my chance to go there!

Oolong Tea House on Urbanspoon

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Posted by on January 30, 2014 in North-West Calgary, Tea & Beverages

 

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Gnocchi street food

Aglio E Olio

Aglio E Olio

Calgary’s food trucks just keep rolling, and I tried out another when it came close to where I work.

This time it was Aglio E Olio “an authentic Italian food truck, specializing in pasta”. It was a chilly winter day, which means the promise of warm comfort food was very appealing. I checked out their online site first to get an idea of what to expect from the menu, and picked out Gnocchi Bolognese, a homemade gnocchi in a spicy organic meat sauce served with garlic bread and parmesan cheese for $10.00.

The Gnocchi was delicious, though I got tired of the flavour pretty quickly I’m afraid. I found it really filling though!  The Bolognese sauce was ok, but there wasn’t very much meat in the sauce, but it had a good flavour. While the Gnocchi was good, the ‘garlic bread’ was a huge disappointment – it was really just half a crusty bun, and didn’t even appear to have any garlic butter/seasoning on it. It was also soft, as though perhaps it had been heated up in a microwave instead of being toasted.

Their other dishes include:

  • Spaghetti with anchovies, chilies and breadcrumbs
  • Penne with sausage in an arrabiata sauce
  • Linguini with seasonal vegetables in a marinara sauce
  • Fusilli in cream sauce with bacon and parmesan cheese
  • Italian sausage on a bun with marinara sauce
  • … and their menu lists that all dishes are served with parmesan cheese and that “garlic bread”.

Have you tried any of the other dishes from this food truck? Let us know what you thought in the comment field below!


Aglio E Olio

Aglio E Olio on Urbanspoon

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2014 in Downtown Calgary, Food Trucks, South-West Calgary

 

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Another meal at Vancouver’s Sushi Star

Another meal at Vancouver’s Sushi Star

After visiting the Vancouver Aquarium, I headed back to my hotel and was quite tired after a long day of walking around. Although I kept my eyes open for sushi dinner options, I opted to go for the close-to-my-hotel Sushi Star once more. Scroll back to see my recent post about my visit to Sushi Star, as well as some of my other experiences in Vancouver.

Tuna Sashimi - part two - from Sushi Star  (iPhone photo)

Tuna Sashimi – part two – from Sushi Star (iPhone photo)

This time around because timing just didn’t work out, I ended up dining at Sushi Star solo.  The space was still super cold, but I was really tired after a long day of walking around (and taking a few dozen photographs!) so I opted for a familiar place rather than look for something new. Knowing that Sushi Star was only across the street from my hotel was a big incentive!

I started out with more of that delicious Tuna Sashimi that I mentioned in my previous post.  This was so good! So tender, fleshy, flavourful and delicious. It took nothing to cut the generous slices in half with my chopsticks – I even could cut two at a time!

Totally delicious Butterfly roll from Sushi Star in Vancouver  (iPhone photo)

Totally delicious Butterfly roll from Sushi Star in Vancouver (iPhone photo)

Next I tried out their Butterfly Roll.  I had to take a few photos of this one to show off how pretty the presentation is! It’s a chopped scallop and fake crab roll, topped off with sockeye salmon and avocado, plus two different sauces – I couldn’t identify either one, but they were delicious! (I think one might have been a pureed mango?)

Totally delicious Butterfly roll from Sushi Star in Vancouver  (iPhone photo)

Totally delicious Butterfly roll from Sushi Star in Vancouver (iPhone photo)

A different shot of the roll above – plus in the background is my super-cute skull and roses Betsey Johnson purse!

Totally delicious Butterfly roll from Sushi Star in Vancouver  (iPhone photo)

Totally delicious Butterfly roll from Sushi Star in Vancouver (iPhone photo)

A different shot of the “Butterfly” above – so cute!

Vancouver Aquarium

I don’t want to leave you with a post about the Vancouver Aquarium without showing you some adorable photos as well, so check out the photos below.

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 22, 2014 in Out of town - BC, Sushi

 

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Jelly Modern Doughnuts

S'mores doughnut from Jelly Modern Doughnuts

S’mores doughnut from Jelly Modern Doughnuts

The other day I mentioned Kanpai Sushi on 8th Avenue S.W., so today I’ll blog about their next-door neighbour, Jelly Modern Doughnuts.

Although I do love sweet treats, I’m not much of a big doughnut fan. I was looking forward to these treats though – packing them up to share at home after a late sushi lunch. There are so many great posts about Jelly Modern on UrbanSpoon that I don’t really feel like I need to share too much more, so I’ll just share some photos to tempt your tastebuds…

Ordering at Jelly Modern Doughnuts

Ordering at Jelly Modern Doughnuts (faces blurred for privacy)

The interior is cute and perky, sweet just like pastry with hot pink paper lanterns and glossy white surfaces. I disliked the glossy white menu with the pale grey writing though.. my poor eyes strained after the dim light in the sushi restaurant! There were only a few different flavours in the display case though, which was disappointing – the menu promised flavours that just weren’t available at the time…

Jelly Modern Doughnuts interior

Jelly Modern Doughnuts interior (faces blurred for privacy)

I loved the little display of Halloween doughnuts, but they weren’t behind glass, so I presumed that they were only for display – examples of doughnuts you could order for a party.

Halloween samples at Jelly Modern Doughnuts

Halloween samples at Jelly Modern Doughnuts

I liked that they had two different sizes of doughnuts to choose from, though not all flavours were available in both sizes.  I ended up picking out a S’mores doughnut (only available in the large size – a regular plain doughnut with a very, very thin chocolate glaze on top, with a melted marshmallow in the middle and a few graham cracker crumbs on top), a Callebeaut Chocolate doughnut (a plain doughnut in the smaller size with a thicker dark chocolate glaze and a few chocolate shavings), and a Peanut Butter Cup doughnut (the smaller size plain doughnut with a chocolate glaze, and a blob of peanut butter icing in the centre, topped with two peanuts.

Three doughnuts at home from Jelly Modern Doughnuts

Three doughnuts at home from Jelly Modern Doughnuts

The doughnuts were all tasty, but not any better than good-old Tim Horton’s doughnuts in my opinion. Their website claims “We use only the finest quality ingredients in our recipes — locally sourced and organic whenever possible. A healthier artisan treat — a sophisticated update on a classic Canadian tradition” which might suggest that they might be a bit healthier than the local coffee & doughnut joint.

Jelly Modern Doughnuts
1414 8 St SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 453-2053
http://jellymoderndoughnuts.com/

Jelly Modern Doughnuts on Urbanspoon

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in South-West Calgary, Treats

 

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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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Kanpai Sushi on 8th

Sashimi roll at Kanpai Sushi with our other two rolls in the background

Sashimi roll at Kanpai Sushi with our other two rolls in the background

Driving down 8th Avenue SW in Calgary I saw a “now open” sign hanging over a sushi restaurant. When it came time for Connie and I to grab some Sunday lunch (after attending the Calyx art show) I suggested Kanpai Sushi on 8th Avenue S.W.

Overall our meal was… ok.  While there wasn’t anything distinctly wrong with anything at Kanpai, nothing really stood out for me to recommend you check them out, or to encourage me to return again.

Service

First off, the service was ok. The food came out quickly, and as it was ready (rather than all at once which is good) but when we needed things, it was hard to get our server’s attention.

Decor & atmosphere

The interior was quite nice actually (and the restrooms were clean and nicely styled too – not a huge thing when it’s right, but its definitely better than when it’s wrong...

Then there’s the music… There was a weird mix on ranging from Alanis Morrisette to John Mayer (or one of those other male crooners…) which I found all just kind of annoying. Perhaps it was a matter of volume, or perhaps it was just that the music didn’t really suit the restaurant at all.  Either way it was just a bad, disjointed fit.

Sashimi roll at Kanpai Sushi

Sashimi roll at Kanpai Sushi

Our selections

Tuna & Salmon sashimi – $12.95

There were a number of rolls that we both wanted to try, so we agreed to split two rolls, and then we ordered individual items for ourselves.  Connie had a plate of tuna and salmon sashimi along with a scallop (they didn’t carry her favourite Saba/Mackerel) while my individual item was a sashimi roll.

Sashimi roll – $9.95

The Sashimi Roll is listed as “tuna and salmon sashimi wrapped in rice paper with house special sweet sauce” – I’ve tried a rice-paper roll once before and didn’t like it because the rice paper was really thick and chewy- but this was perfect rice paper, and I’d have it on a roll again. However, I wouldn’t have THIS roll again.  Missing the rice was fantastic, but the menu forgot to mention that the roll also included avocado and cucumber.  The cucumber completely overwhelmed the delicate flavour of the sashimi, and the pieces were so small that it was hard to get any of the flavour other than cucumber.

Alpine Delight roll from Kanpai Sushi

Alpine Delight roll from Kanpai Sushi (with the Lotus Blast roll in the background)

Alpine Delight – $14.50

The first roll that we split was the Alpine Delight roll (or at least it was the first one I had!) which is listed as “fresh tuna, salmon, mango, cucumber, tomato, dill & red tobiko served with mango creamy sauce”. This roll, like much of the experience at Kanpai was ‘ok’. It wasn’t exceptional in any way… the mango wasn’t flavourful (although the drizzle of sauce on the plate was, I later found out when Connie urged me to try it) the tomato was without flavour, and there was far too little dill to get a dill taste to the roll.  Ultimately the roll was underwhelming and forgettable.

Lotus Blast roll from Kanpai

Lotus Blast roll from Kanpai

Lotus Blast – $13.50

The second roll we split was Connie’s choice, the Lotus Blast. This is a “lightly battered crispy tuna, salmon cream cheese roll topped with spicy crab meat, (and a) lotus root chip served with teriyaki sauce”. Connie commented that she couldn’t really taste much flavour in the sauce, and I agreed.  The spicy crab meat was tasty, and the lotus root chip was cute (but not really flavourful).  The whole roll was battered (and fried) and served warm. It was interesting, but not something I’d order again.

Menu

I noticed a few things about the menu – first off there were a number of price corrections on it. I understand that suppliers change, and that when a new business starts it takes some time to work out the kinks, but it just looked bad to see SO many adjustments to their pricing.

I also noticed that a lot of the specialty rolls were similar to some of the other well-known sushi places in Calgary. Yet, there were a lot of things that were new to us which was great – though made it hard to decide! 🙂 I took a few photos of the menu – if you want to get a sneak peek of what you might want to order, click the photo for a larger version.


You can also see their full menu on their website.

Your thoughts?

Have you been to Kanpai? Let us know what you think (what are the stand-out best dishes and which ones to avoid…) in the comments below!

Kanpai Sushi on 8th
110, 1414 8th St SW
Calgary, AB T2R1R7
(403) 460-6303
Kanpai Sushi on 8th on Urbanspoon

teaser photo from Twitter

teaser photo from Twitter

If you follow me or Happy Sushi Belly on Twitter, you might recognize this little teaser that I tweeted!

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2014 in South-West Calgary, Sushi

 

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Vancouver: The Elbow Room

Vancouver: The Elbow Room
BC Benny from The Elbow Room in Vancouver, BC.

BC Benny from The Elbow Room in Vancouver, BC.

Years ago a friend took me to The Elbow Room for a late lunch, and during our visit to Vancouver in December, I added it to my ‘must visit’ list to show Connie as well. (Especially since it was just a few blocks from our hotel!)

The food at The Elbow Room is good, with a varied menu, but it’s really the atmosphere or attitude that makes the diner stand out. With a list of ‘common sense’ rules listed on the blackboard (as well as the menu) it’s good for a chuckle when you are picking out what to order or standing in line to get in.

(Luckily, due to an unanticipated bit of snow, The Elbow Room wasn’t terribly busy while we were there, so we didn’t have to wait at all!)

BC Benny from The Elbow Room in Vancouver, BC.

BC Benny from The Elbow Room in Vancouver, BC.

At The Elbow Room they have assortment of “rules” (including one that insists that quick service is important, and as long as they’re finished chatting they’ll be quick to take your order…) which make for a funny, different experience. The staff are chatty and opinionated, but it’s all in good fun – go with an upbeat and easy-going attitude and you’ll have a good time. If you’re in a hurry, feeling irritated, sensitive, easily offended, or are having a bad day, skip the Elbow Room and check out one of the dozen other places to eat within spitting distance.

I had the BC Benny – “Two large poached eggs, smoked salmon, cream cheese and fresh chives on an everything bagel and smothered in hollandaise.” Though of course I had to pick off the chives. (No substitutions is one of their rules too…)

Have you been to The Elbow Room? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter! 

The Elbow Room
560 Davie St (Yaletown)
Vancouver, BC

The Elbow Room Cafe on Urbanspoon

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Out of town - BC

 

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Sushi Motto

Chopped scallop roll from Sushi Motto

Chopped scallop roll from Sushi Motto

Sushi Motto is a friend’s favourite sushi place, and I stopped in with a friend a week ago.

Located just off 17th Avenue on 14th Street SW, Sushi Motto is close to a few other sushi places. In fact, the first time I visited was after walking out of another sushi place but still craving sushi. When I mentioned it, a friend said that Sushi Motto was one of her favourite places, so when I returned again, I had high expectations!

Gyoza from Sushi Motto

Gyoza from Sushi Motto

We started off with an order of gyoza (dumplings). These were a bit disappointing – they were fried, although not as crispy as the usual fried gyoza that I really don’t like. However, the filling really could have used more flavour – but I did get the feeling that they were made in-house, since they didn’t have the same flavour as a lot of the other gyoza that places serve. (Which I suspect probably is made out of house and cooked from frozen.)

After the gyoza, my companion had a mixed plate of salmon and tuna sashimi, while I went for just the tuna sashimi myself. I’ve had some really bad salmon sashimi lately and it has kind of turned me off salmon for a while. My companion said it was really good though, but I was happy with my tuna for sure!

Tuna sashimi from Sushi Motto

Tuna sashimi from Sushi Motto

After the sashimi, my companion had the Tiger Eye roll, which is a deep fried roll with panko breading.  It’s filled with tuna, smoked salmon, green onion, and crab meat and topped with tobiko.  I had one piece and wasn’t really fond of it. The tempura outside was ok – it wasn’t too thick, but the roll itself was too big to eat in one piece.  I liked the crab and the salmon, but I really didn’t like the sauce that was all over the roll. It was kind of annoying that the flavour of the roll was so heavily influenced by the sauce, and the sauce wasn’t mentioned in the menu.

Tiger Eye roll  from Sushi Motto

Tiger Eye roll from Sushi Motto

While my companion enjoyed the Tiger Eye roll, I had a chopped scallop roll.  Normally I don’t like it when cucumber is included in the roll (and less so when the menu doesn’t mention the cucumber) because I find the flavour of the cucumber (as mild as it is) tends to take over the very delicate flavour of the scallops.  This time however it was really good, so although looking at the roll at first had me hesitate – I was actually really happy with the roll!

Chopped scallop roll from Sushi Motto

Chopped scallop roll from Sushi Motto

One nice addition at Sushi Motto – they offer free WiFi while you dine! Of course, this meant out came my iPhone – with which I took all of these photos!
Sushi Motto
1604 – 14 Street SW
Calgary, AB
Sushi Motto on Urbanspoon
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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in South-West Calgary, Sushi

 

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