Friday, December 30, 2011

Beef Kabab Wrap

Beef Kabab Wrap by raise my voice
Beef Kabab Wrap, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Lynnwood Mediterranean Grill and Cafe (87 Avenue and 150 Street) opened up just after Christmas. It's a small, clean, bright space with eat-in, take-out, and delivery.

I checked it out today for lunch. My beef kebab wrap was excellent. The meat was grilled to perfection, and the parsley, tahini sauce, pickled, pickled turnip, and tomatoes gave the wrap a very fresh flavour. It was also inexpensive, at around $7.

The place also has burgers, chicken fingers, donairs, and other Middle Eastern chicken and beef dishes and salads.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Pho Files: Vegetarian Rice Noodle Soup

Rice Noodle Soup by raise my voice
Rice Noodle Soup, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Veggie Garden Restaurant on 105 Avenue and 100 Street fills a gap in Chinatown in a number of ways. First, it replaces another Vietnamese restaurant that came before and second, it steps into the place that Oriental Veggie House left when it closed as the only fully vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown.

I ordered a rice noodle soup with tofu, mushrooms, dried bean curd, veggie ham, and veggie chicken. It was basically a vegetarian version of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) with the works. The large bowl was full of noodles, different kinds of mushrooms, and the various proteins. The veggie ham was definitely the winner - it looked and tasted similar to the real thing. The veggie chicken had a chicken-like taste, with a texture similar to skin. The few cubes of tofu were fried and the bean curd was chewy and sweet.

The broth is not as rich as its meat counterpart, and tasted as though it got most of its flavour from mushrooms. However, the result is much lighter and without greasy residue on one's lips.

As well, the soup here is a bargain at only $7 a bowl (most of the other menu items are less than $10).

Cilantro Cakes

Cilantro Cakes by raise my voice
Cilantro Cakes, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Veggie Garden Restaurant is a new Vietnamese/Chinese vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown (10582 100 Street).

We had an appetizer of cilantro cakes. They were like green onion cakes, but with cilantro instead of the onion. The flavour of the cilantro was not as bold as green onion, but the cakes were delightfully crispy and served with a rather interesting pink sweet sauce. It almost looked radioactive.

Boba Island

Boba Island by raise my voice
Boba Island, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I love bubble tea, and was thrilled to discover Boba Island (10588 100 Street).

Formerly known as The Tea Cottage, the new owner has made a radical transformation of the space. It is much brighter than before (with many different sets of lights), very clean, and has a small seating area.

Of course, the main reason to come to Boba Island is the drinks. There is a selection of bubble milk with flavours and sago (tapioca pearls), as well as ones made with fresh fruit. Most drinks are under $5, and there is a small menu of snacks on the wall, like onion cakes and pork balls.

I had a fresh avocado bubble milk ("boba," by the way, is another term for bubble tea). Often, the drink is ruined by using avocados that are over-ripe. I was happy to discover that my drink tasted fresh and perfect. Even the tapioca balls had a fresh, sweet taste to them (they are often flavourless and sometimes soggy).

If you love bubble tea, get to Boba Island. It's a delicious value.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Pho Files: Special Beef Noodle Soup

Special Beef Soup by raise my voice
Special Beef Soup, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

A late lunch of pho was in order yesterday. As I was in the Jasper Avenue area, Doan's was really my only option.

Doan's is quite popular but in my opinion is somewhat overrated. You're paying more for the same kind of food you can get in Chinatown, without much extra quality or portion size. I think it is the atmosphere which sells the place. Doan's has the ambiance of a fine dining restaurant.

All of the soups are grouped together under the same category on the menu, with only one or two basic pho options (as opposed to satay or other kinds of broth or cooking styles). I could only find one pho with beef, and it was the Special Beef Noodle Soup.

What made it special? It had four kinds of beef: medium, well-done, brisket, and beef balls. I would have preferred more of a choice in the matter, as I detest beef balls and they ended up being removed by my soup as soon as possible. Beef balls tend to be very chewy and full of gristle, and I simply cannot handle the texture. These were no exception.

The medium beef was served almost raw, but thankfully cooked quickly. As for the well-done beef - I would have skipped this too, as it is always fatty. Each slice had a huge strip of fat that made me feel like I was playing either doctor or butcher to remove.

Surprisingly, the brisket was the star of the bowl. It was well-done, had a rich flavour, and was reasonably lean. I would have been happy with this as the only kind of meat in the soup.

The portion size was average with a large bowl in most pho establishments, and the broth was rich and flavourful, if not a bit too salty.

Would I have this again? Yes. Would I go out of my way to Doan's for it? No.

Breakfast for Lunch: Bananas Foster French Toast Skillet

This edition of Breakfast for Lunch should actually be Breakfast for Supper, but who's keeping track? Not me! Anyways, I was pressured into going to Denny's yesterday evening. It's amazing the power someone has over me when they are the ones doing the driving.

While he gulped down his turkey dinner, I opted for something lighter, as I had a very late lunch. The Bananas Foster French Toast Skillet appeared to be exactly what I was looking for - more like a dessert. The French toast was indeed very sweet as it was cooked in a buttery caramel sauce, and topped with cooked bananas (which were a tad over-ripe). However, the meal also came with two eggs and a choice of bacon or sausage - I opted for turkey bacon, and ended up with sausage also (which my companion happily took from me).

In the future I would get the French Toast Grand Slam instead, as I found the caramel sauce just too sweet (tasty, but too sweet). This is assuming I get dragged to Denny's again, of course.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fudge Cake

Fudge Cake by raise my voice
Fudge Cake, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I saved my chocolates from my Festive Special at Swiss Chalet, because I wanted to leave room for dessert - just barely! Swiss Chalet has many dessert selections for less than five dollars. I had a slice of fudge cake. The best part for me was the layers of fudge in between the layers of chocolate cake. I really need to hit the gym some time soon!

Chicken Spring Rolls at Swiss Chalet

Chicken Spring Rolls by raise my voice
Chicken Spring Rolls, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I tried the chicken spring rolls at Swiss Chalet for the first time when I dined there earlier this week. I was mostly curious, but was surprised at how different these were from other spring rolls. They are literally packed with chicken. It's a great starter or light lunch.

Guilty Pleasures: Festive Special at Swiss Chalet

Festive Special by raise my voice
Festive Special, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Forgive me, but I love Swiss Chalet. I know it's technically fast food, but it's Canadian. And, it's a darn good chicken dinner at a reasonable price. It's that time of year again for the festive special, so I went for it. The stuffing and cranberry sauce really does make the meal seem festive. I saved my chocolates for later.

Ricky's Christmas Menu: Turkey Pot Pie

Turkey Pot Pie by raise my voice
Turkey Pot Pie, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Ricky's All Day Grill introduced their Christmas menu this week. My friend and I were the first to try it at the St. Albert location.His turkey reuben sandwich was thick with turkey, corned beef, and sauerkraut, accompanied by a mountain of fries. He was happy.

I had the turkey pot pie. It was served in a ramekin, topped with filo pastry. I was surprised there was stuffing under the pastry. Although the combination of pieces of turkey, vegetables, and potato in a creamy broth was nothing to complain about, the portion was a bit on the small side. The side of salad or soup was also diminutive. I opted for the soup, which that day was bream of potato - it went well with the pie's stuffing.

At. $8.99 it's not a bad value - just don't be overly hungry.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chicken Crispers

Chicken Crispers by raise my voice
Chicken Crispers, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

When I ordered Chicken Crispers as my main at Chili's last night, I thought they would be the restaurant's version of chicken fingers (which happens to be my favourite comfort food). What was presented before me was five large chunks of white, juicy breast meat in a beer batter. It was like eating fish and chips, except this was chicken instead of fish. The huge portion of fries and coleslaw only increased my need to share the meal with my date. I found the fries average, but the coleslaw was superb - I like it fresh! Chicken Crispers takes chicken fingers to the next level.

Chicken Chile Soup - At Chili's

Chicken Chile Soup by raise my voice
Chicken Chile Soup, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I visited the north end Chili's last night (93 Street and 137 Avenue) and tried the newest soup creation on the menu. The server said it was her favourite soup ever, but that it was a bit spicy - a bit indeed! Maybe I am a wimp but my eyes were watering from the green chilis! I am glad the lime and avocado were there to cool things down. I have to say that the abundance of rice in the soup made it more like a stew. The tomatoes added colour and flavour. This is a bold soup for bold people - it was hot in more ways than one!

Vegetarian Ramen at Meguro Ramen

Vegetarian Ramen by raise my voice
Vegetarian Ramen, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Meguro Ramen (106 Avenue and 87 Street) is where vegan restaurant Padmanadi used to be. Ironically, there seems to be only one vegetarian item on the menu, which is what I had. I loved the consistency of the noodles, which stayed firm yet chewy throughout, and the veggie ham added realistic flavour. Real ramen is so much different than the freeze-dried stuff that costs a couple of dollars per bowl or package, and Meguro Ramen does it well.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Beef and Carrot Stew, Vietnamese Style

Beef and Carrot Stew by raise my voice
Beef and Carrot Stew, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

A menu item I find quite frequently on the menus of Vietnamese pho restaurants is a beef and carrot stew. Since stew is usually considered a western meal, I am guessing this has something to do with the influence of the French.

Today, I returned to Pho Binh with a co-worker and I opted for the stew instead of my usual bowl of pho. The stew is almost like another form of soup. The noodles, hunks of well-done beef, and carrots are in a deeply flavourful broth that is almost like pho, with a rich, meaty flavour. One can opt for bread instead of noodles - again, this seems French to me.

I found the stew to be a hearty, delicious alternative to pho and vermicelli. The pieces of meat are quite large and I had to use a fork to navigate my way through them. There weren't many carrots, but the ones that were there were still firm.

Just be careful not to splash any of that broth on yourself or you will have orange stains on your clothes for the rest of the day. Trust me.

Onion Cake at Pho Binh

Onion Cake by raise my voice
Onion Cake, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Like the soup, the appetizers at Pho Binh are very reasonably priced. I ordered an onion cake to enjoy with my pho. The cake was nicely done - crispy enough on the outside and enough salt and green onion inside - but it would have been a bit easier to eat it if was cut into segments. Instead, it was cut in half, and not even all the way through. The sweet and sour sauce was a nice accompaniment.

The Pho Files: Pho Tai at Pho Binh

Pho Tai by raise my voice
Pho Tai, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Pho Binh is a Vietnamese restaurant in west Edmonton (at the Jasper Gates shopping area along Stony Plain Road and 150 Street) and one of my favourite pho haunts when I am not in Chinatown. The broth is quite lovely, although the portion of meat tends to be a bit skimpy and chewy. Still, there is a lot of great value here - a large bowl is only 30 cents larger than a regular.

Coffee Art: Latte at Credo Coffee

Latte at Credo Coffee by raise my voice
Latte at Credo Coffee, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Credo Coffee is one of my favourite independent coffee shops in downtown Edmonton. I especially love their rich and smooth lattes. Here is the one I had yesterday!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bourbon St. Grill

Combo Platter by raise my voice
Combo Platter, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Today I discovered the Bourbon St. Grill in West Edmonton Mall. No, it isn't on Bourbon Street - it is in the Phase One food court. This fast food kiosk is Cajun meets Chinese, and makes for an interesting and unique food experience.

Basically, the food is in hot trays and you pick your own combo. Combos consist of rice (chicken fries or gumbo), pasta, or mashed potatoes; one or two veggies; and one or two meats - meats meaning choosing from the many different kinds of chicken or the grilled fish.

I went with the chicken fried rice (excellent), glazed carrots (fresh and sweet), bourbon chicken (grilled chicken cut into small pieces and served in a sweet bourbon sauce), and mango chicken (similar to lemon chicken, but with a slightly different flavour).

The bourbon chicken was the best I have had - there are other Chinese fast food mall places that sell something similar, and this had the freshest taste. The portion overall was huge and at $9 it wasn't cheap, but wasn't unreasonable either.

I highly recommend Bourbon St. Grill to anyone who wants a different kind of food court experience.

The Pho Files - Pho Ga at Pho Huong

Pho Ga (Chicken) by raise my voice
Pho Ga (Chicken), a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

When I say I will be back, I mean it. I returned to Pho Huong yesterday for a late lunch of Pho Ga (chicken pho). Once again, I was amazed. The broth was pure chicken (it is served in beef broth in many other places), light and flavourful. The chicken was freshly pulled from the bone and plentiful. I can typically do without the fried bits of onion, which tend to dominate the aromatics in the broth. But in general, this was a hearty and satisfying bowl of pho.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Breakfast for Lunch: Big Breakfast at Blue Plate Diner

Big Breakfast by raise my voice
Big Breakfast, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Blue Plate Diner is one of my favourite places for brunch. It has an artsy atmosphere and great food - both things that I enjoy!

I haven't been to the Blue Plate in ages so I went there for lunch today and had the Big Breakfast: two eggs, a thick piece of multigrain toast, pan fried potatoes, and house-made vegetarian sausage.

The eggs are from Hutterite free-range chickens, and are huge! They also taste better than the factory farmed stuff - having been eating a lot of egg dishes out lately, I really noticed that. I've always enjoyed the pan-fried potatoes, even if some of them are a little on the dry side.

The veggie sausage could have been a little bigger but the cranberry and other ingredients create a unique flavour.

If you want a unique brunch with local ingredients, head for Blue Plate Diner.

Penne and Meatballs

Penne and Meatballs by raise my voice
Penne and Meatballs, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Calling Boston Pizza Italian Food is one step worse than Olive Garden. Not that the food at either establishment is bad - it's just aimed at the tastes of the masses.

Boston Pizza (the Westmount location on 113 Street and Groat Road) is where I ended up for supper tonight. I went for a build my own pasta with penne, pomadoro sauce, and meatballs. No complaints - the portion was hearty. I especially like the meatballs.

Call this a guilty pleasure.

Coffee Art: Three Bananas

Coffee Butterfly by raise my voice
Coffee Butterfly, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

This butterfly was drawn into my latte at Three Bananas (Churchill Square). I've had a lot of hearts and trees in my time, but this was probably my first butterfly.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Pho Files: Pho Huong

One of the best bowls of pho I have had recently, the steak was tender and the brisket was lean. As for the broth, it was seasoned perfectly with just the right amount of noodles. I had a small bowl, and it was packed. With food like this, Pho Huong is going to become a must-visit for pho fans.

Onion Cakes at Pho Huong

Onion Cakes by raise my voice
Onion Cakes, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

When I got these onion cakes as an appetizer at the newly-renovated Pho Huong (10531-107 Avenue), I knew that the rest of the meal would likely be excellent. The cakes were light, fluffy, and full of flavour without being overly greasy. They also came before the rest of our food hit the table, which doesn't always happen in Vietnamese restaurants.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Building My Own Pizza at Boston Pizza

Build My Own Pizza by raise my voice
Build My Own Pizza, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Boston Pizza is one of my favourite chain pizza restaurants. I find the pizza to be consistent and tasty, especially the crust which tends to be light and crispy.

At a friend's urging we went to the 170 Street location of BPs and I had a small (ten inch) Build Your Own Pizza which I had loaded up with mushrooms, black olives, and chicken.

I was not disappointed in the amount of toppings, but I may forget about the mushrooms next time as their flavour seemed to be overtaken by the other ingredients, including the abundance of cheese and sauce.

Breakfast for Lunch: Two Eggs My Way at Early Bird Cafe

Two Eggs My Way by raise my voice
Two Eggs My Way, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Getting to Early Bird Cafe (102 Avenue and 97 Street) in time to order off their breakfast menu is a challange for me during the week, but not so on a Saturday when the menu is available until 2 p.m. (the lunch menu is available as well).

I wanted eggs, and that is exactly what I got: two eggs "my way" (which means over-easy), hash browns, and toast - for a mere $4.50. I could have gotten another eggo for another dollar. Another dollor or two would have gotten me some bacon.

No complaints - the eggs were perfect. The hash browns were the cubed variety and very nicely seasoned. The toast was, well, toast.

The breakfast menu is huge and has a lot of variety and low prices. Early Bird may very well become my regular Saturday brunch destination.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Pho Files: Extra Large Steak and Brisket

I headed back to Pho Tau Bay today, and decided to join the big leagues. I ordered an extra large size of my favourite combination, steak and brisket. The amount of meat seemed to be the same as the regular size, with more noodles and broth. I especially liked the cubes of brisket today, finding them very meaty and flavourful.

Bourbon Chicken and Rice

I tend to stay away from food court Chinese places. They load everything up with MSG and oyster sauce. However, I make an exception for Famous Wok in City Centre (lower level in the former Eaton Centre side). Their bourbon chicken is incredible. It is so simple, yet so delicious: tender pieces of dark meat in a sweet bourbon sauce. It goes perfectly with fried rice. Pictured here is the two item plate. It is an inexpensive and filling lunch.

Chopped Leaf: Do It Yourself Starter Salad

I finally made it to The Chopped Leaf yesterday. Despite the plethora of chef created salads, I opted to do it myself with spinach, walnuts, pecans, mushrooms, avocado, balsamic vinegar, and a protein of smoked tofu (for an additional $3 charge).

Taste-wise, I had nothing to complain about. It was good. It also was not enough for a lunch. I am assuming if I got a full-sized salad, it would have filled me up. Still, $8.50 for a starter salad is a bit high. If I really, really wanted a salad and nothing else, I would head again to Chopped Leaf without hesitation.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Shepherd's Pie at High Level Diner

Shepherd's Pie by raise my voice
Shepherd's Pie, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I don't get to High Level Diner nearly often enough. I made it here this evening though, and had the best shepherd's pie I have ever had.

First of all, the portion size was huge. The dish was filled to the brim with fresh mashed potatoes and organic ground beef that had just enough seasoning and some veggies (corn and peas).

I chose the house-made fries as my side because I cannot resist them. I also cannot resist the house-made ketchup that is so thick and tangy, it almost borders on salsa.

Shepherd's pie is known as comfort food, but I was uncomfortably full afterwards. I was happy though.

The Pho Files: Northern Vietnamese Soup

Thanh Thanh is on 107 Avenue and 101 Street and is a very popular place for Vietnamese food. The decor is upscale as far as Asian restaurants go, and the prices are slightly higher - then again, the service is much more attentive and the food is excellent.

One of my favourite dishes at Thanh Thanh is, of course, the pho. But the pho I order here is unlike any other - it's the Northern Vietnamese Soup featuring a medley of well done beef, medium beef, and chicken. It is a feast in a bowl.

My only problem consuming it was the fact that the meat was under the noodles (instead of above as it usually is in pho) and I could not find the medium beef until the broth had cooled downn. The beef was all clumped together and after I separated it, it was still pink and did not have a chance to cook fully. Note to self: fully excavate all meat while the broth is still piping hot.

Otherwise, this is a bowl of soup that packed a punch - it doesn't look huge, but that is deceptive.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ensenada Chicken

Ensenada Chicken by raise my voice
Ensenada Chicken, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

The Oliver Square location of Red Robin is where I had supper Saturday evening. I opted for the Ensenada Chicken which is two breasts with a savoury/tangy run served up alongside salad and two dips: salsa and lime sour cream. I decided to be naughty and have their famous french fries instead of the salad.

The breasts were done to perfection and I enjoy how the rub is seasoned and flavourful without being overly hot. I actually used the dips more on my fries than the chicken, which I found flavourful enough without them. Portion size is excellent.

I know Red Robin is known for their burgers (which I have never found to be that big of a deal), but I'm glad there is some variety on the menu.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Pho Files: Pho Ga at Ninh Kieu

Pho Ga by raise my voice
Pho Ga, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Ninh Kieu on 98 Street and 107 Avenue is one of my go-to places for pho. The brother is always well seasoned, the noodles plentiful, and the meat tender.

Today, I decided to go for a bowl of Pho Ga, which is chicken (instead of my usual medium rare sliced beef). The broth was great as always, the noodles were plentiful as always, and the bowl was full of sliced white chicken meat.

I had beef salad rolls as an appetizer instead of my usual onion cake. The grilled beef was fantastic, and the rolls were packed with noodles, cilantro, and lettuce. They were served with peanut sauce for dipping.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tsuke Ramen

Tsuke Ramen by raise my voice
Tsuke Ramen, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Noodle Maker is the best little ramen house in Edmonton. The menu recently expanded with even more variety of ramen dishes, rice bowls, fusion dishes.

I was pleased with the addition of more vegetarian meals. I tried the Tsuke Ramen which is a mountain of boiled ramen noodles in a light soy broth, topped with tofu, wheat gluten, and sprouts. The portion was huge and the flavours were savoury. The ramen maintained a firm consistency.

Overall, this was a very interesting dish.

One of the Best - Onion Cake at Noodle Maker

Onion Cake by raise my voice
Onion Cake, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

The man behind Noodle Maker is an experienced restauranteur who is masterful when it comes to Asian fusion cuisine.

For example, the place has one of the best onion cakes in Edmonton. It is likely the most flavourful of the flat variety (as opposed to the ones shaped like doughnuts) that I have ever eaten. Packed with onions and delightfully salty, the malt vinegar served alongside is the perfect accompaniment.

Pizza with Mushrooms and Black Olives

Tony's Pizza Palace (96 Street and 111 Avenue) is always busy - and for good reason. The place is one of the oldest places in Edmonton serving authentic, thin-crust pizzas - and one of the best.

The organization for which I work hosted a volunteer appreciation event at Tony's last night. We had 30 volunteers (and family members) enjoying a variety of pizzas. As for me, I like to keep it simple and shared a two-topping, extra-large pizza with mushrooms and black olives.

This was definitely a "knife and fork" pizza, as there was so much topping part of the bottom crust would have given way if picked up. I loved how it was loaded with black olives, providing a tart, salty flavour.

Everyone else seemed to be enjoying their pizzas as well. Thank you Tony's for having us!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Pho Files: Pho with Medium Beef and Brisket at Pho Huong

Pho was calling my name for lunch today - and I answered. I headed over to Pho Huong, which replaced the Hoang Long on 107 Avenue and 98 Street a while back.

I ordered my pho with medium sliced beef and beef brisket. I decided against ordering onion cakes, thinking two of them would be a bit much to eat. I made the right call. The bowl of pho was huge - possibly the largest regular-sized pho I have ever experienced. The broth was delicious and intensley flavourful, while the sliced beef was tender.

Unfortunately, the brisket was a disappointment. Mostly gristle, my enjoyment of my soup was constnatly interrupted by search and destroy missions against the offending morsels.

I will definitely head to Pho Huong again, but stick with the medium beef.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Chicken Breast - Euro Taste

Chicken Breast by raise my voice
Chicken Breast, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Euro Taste is a great little spot in Little Italy (108 Avenue and 95 Street) that used to be a sports bar but is now a cafe specializing in Eastern European meaty delights, particularly Balkan.

I find the place's grilled meat to be superb. It always tastes nicely charred without being dried out. I had a chicken breast for a weekend supper and it was perfectly done as always. It was served with a few grilled vegetables and some rice pilaf - the pilaf was new. Previously, this meal has been served with roasted potatoes. The rice was very flavourful, and was probably cooked in stock.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Penne with Meat Sauce

Penne with Meat Sauce by raise my voice
Penne with Meat Sauce, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

The pasta at Santo's (108 Avenue and 95 Street) is hearty. I especially enjoy their sauces, which are fresh and flavourful.

I had a full serving of penne with meat sauce for supper yesterday evening. It was hard to go wrong with it. The penne was cooked perfectly al dente and the sauce was rich and meaty.

Santo's may not be the prettiest place in the world, but the food is excellent.

A Mixed Lunch: Steak Sandwich at Early Bird

Steak Sandwich by raise my voice
Steak Sandwich, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

The steak sandwich on the menu of the Early Bird Cafe (102 Avenue and 97 Street) was listed as one of the diner's (it really was more of a diner than a cafe, with an open kitchen) signature dishes. I went for it, and was impressed with the portion size. The sauteed vegetabled in particular stood out - they were freshly prepared. The fries were crispy and nicely seasoned, and the three large onion rings atop the steak were a hearty garnish.

The steak itself was average. It was a seven ounce piece of broiled meat which could have done with a bit more seasoning to bring out the flavour. I also asked for well done, and it was closer to medium well in some spots. I am also not sure how fresh the bread was which was used for the garlic toast.

The menu variety and reasonable prices would bring me to Early Bird again, but Ia m not sure I would order this. I would try to come extra early to have a breakfast item, which is what I understand the place really shines at.

Starters: Chicken Barley Soup

Chicken Barley Soup by raise my voice
Chicken Barley Soup, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

When I ordered lunch at Early Bird Cafe yesterday (102 Avenue and 97 Street), I did not expect that it came with a starter. What a pleasant surprise: this chicken barley soup tasted absolutely made from scratch, with a rich broth, flavourful barley, and lots of chicken. It was one of the highlights of my meal.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Udon with Tempura - Ichiban

Udon with Tempura by raise my voice
Udon with Tempura, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I was really hungry, so I decided to order a second of Ichiban's lunch specials - the udon soup with tempura (I requested veggie tempura only - no seafood). Piping hot and full of chewy noodles, the udon really hit the spot. The tempura is not served on the soup, which is probably a good thing since it would get soggy.

Chicken Teriyaki - Ichiban

Chicken Teriyaki by raise my voice
Chicken Teriyaki, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Yesterday for lunch I was craving Ichiban's (149 Street and 88 Avenue) chicken teriyaki. The restaurant put a lot of strips of breaded, fried chicken (dark and white meat) over a mountain of rice in a sweet teriyaki sauce. Crunchy and wonderful!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Breakfast for Lunch: Omelette With Lox and Mushrooms

Today's "Breakfast for Lunch" is my most decadent yet: a fluffy four-egg omelette from New York Bagel Cafe (84 Avenue and Gateway Boulevard) with house-made hash browns, fresh fruit, and a bagel. I opted for multigrain.

Omelettes come with a choice of two fillings, and I went with mushrooms and lox. You can never go wrong with lox and eggs. The mushrooms were sliced portobellos - fresh ingredients really do make all the difference.

Add a house coffee (which is like a latte, except you pour in the steamed milk yourself), and you have one happy and full Paula.

An important note: this is a small cafe that gets very busy on weekends. There is usually a lineup, and once you get a table, quite a wait for the food, which is one reason a handout explaining the concept of "slow food" is given along with the menu. I waited close to an hour for my meal but was prepared with a book and writing materials. Nor was I in a hurry to get anywhere else after. Be patient - the food is worth waiting for.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Breakfast for Lunch: Vegetable Omelette

Vegetable Omelette by raise my voice
Vegetable Omelette, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I hereby declare Route 99 Diner's vegetable omelette to be the best "breakfast for lunch" I have had as of yet, and certainly the best veggie omelette in the city. It is huge! It really reminds me of omlettes my parents used to make at home. The mountain of home made hash browns is formidable (and delicious). Great good, great value, and lots of character in the place.

Breakfast for Lunch: Two Eggs, Toast, Hash Browns

I've done the "two eggs, any style" thing (and variations thereof) at numerous places, and the other day it was Ricky's turn. Yes, I know I already ate there another time this week, but I happened to be near another location of the chain and the person I was with decided that Ricky's was exactly what he wanted. Simple and inexpensive, this is a dish that is difficult to be disappointed by.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Breakfast for Lunch: Smoked Brisket Eggs Benedict

I went back to Ricky's All Day Grill on 170 Street with the expectation of having a simple lunch of eggs, hash browns, and toast. Instead, I was greeted with a featured menu of new items to try and vote for. The items with the most votes will be integrated into the regular menu.

The Eggs Benedict with Smoked Brisket caught my eye. I went for it, with the hollandaise to the side. My eggs were hard cooked, as per my instructions, but it was the brisket that blew me away. Thinly slicked, crispy, and perfectly marbled, at first glance I thought I had mistakenly been served bacon. The smoky taste was reminiscent of bacon as well. Along with the sauteed peppers and onions underneath, it was a great flavour combination.

The hash browns were a bit on the greasy side, but plentiful, and the fruit was more like a garnish, but overall this was a great meal. I hope it makes it to the regular menu, because I would love to have it again.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie by raise my voice
Chicken Pot Pie, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

My main course at ABC Country Restaurant was much better than the appetizer. The chicken pot pie was flaky and full of chicken and vegetables in a creamy, but not overpowering, sauce.

I made a bad choice for my side dish. ABC's fries are of the wedge variety, huge and starchy. I could only eat a few of them before I was defeated. A salad or soup would have gone with the meal better.

Beer Battered Onion Rings

I went to ABC Country Restaurant (108 Avenue and 170 Street) over the weekend for supper. Before readers cry "Oh no - another chain restaurant" - take a few deep breaths. This one is Canadian, at least, based in B.C. and Alberta.

As my appetizer, I opted for the beer battered onion rings. Our server mentioned he had tried them, and did not like them. I had onion rings as a side order with a recent burger, and remembered them as thick and flavourful, the batter bursting with beer flavour. He insisted these were different.

He was right. The coating was crunchy and grainy, and tasted mostly from the oil in which it was cooked. The onion part was nice and sweet, but I would definitely not order these again. Fortunately, the onion rings served as a side dish are still the previous kind.

Coffee Buzz: Cappuccino at Italian Centre

Cappuccino by raise my voice
Cappuccino, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

The Italian Centre Shop on 109 Avenue and 95 Street has a cool vibe. It's a great local place to do grocery shopping, and the Bar Italia area is a wonderful place to hang out and enjoy some fresh pastries and espresso drinks.

I go for the lattes, straight espresso shots, and cappucino (pictured). It's strong, foamy, hot, and delicious.