Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Miga Korean Cuisine


Miga is a relatively new Korean restaurant on the southside (34 Ave and 93 St) right next to Ginseng Korean BBQ. The place has a more modern and refined ambiance compared to other Korean restaurants like B-Bim-Baab, but it's also much smaller with limited seating.


The meal starts with complimentary banchan, Korean side dishes to be enjoyed with rice and the main meal. But I found myself picking away at them while waiting for the entrees to arrive.


The topokki with cheese in hot plate ($32) seems to be the most popular dish here. It comes with two bowls of rice, so it's enough to feed two people or to share with a larger party. The fried wontons with minced meat filling and fried vegetable fritters made great appetizers. The topokki (rice cake) was cooked with fish cake, cabbage, and glass noodles in Korean spicy sauce in the traditional method. But in a modern twist, the rice cake could be eaten with egg and melted cheese served on the side of the hot plate. Just make sure you let the egg cook first!

Look at that gooey, stringy cheese!

So I forgot to take a picture of the bi-bim-bap before I mixed it up with hot sauce. Can you blame me? I was too busy stuffing my face with the topokki cheese dish. Anyway this is the mountain vegetables with beef, egg and rice bi-bim-bap ($14). It's also available in a hot stone bowl for an extra $2. After the topokki dish, this tasted pretty mild and didn't have much flavour. I probably wouldn't order this again.


Recommended Dishes:
- topokki with cheese in hot plate

Miga Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Co Do Hue - Best Spicy Wings


Co Do Hue is a Vietnamese restaurant with 3 locations in Edmonton. I dined at the West End location and realized it was a self-service establishment. Customers need to order at the counter and get their own water, cutlery, and sauces.


The best dish here, in my opinion, is the spicy crispy chicken wings ($10.95). If you can only order one item, get this one! The seasoning is what makes these wings so addictive. It's served with sauteed onions, peppers and spices, and the level of spiciness is just right — enough to give a good kick but not so much that it kills your taste buds.


The shrimp salad rolls ($8.75) were huge but mostly stuffed with vermicelli and lettuce, so it was quite bland since the shrimp to other fillings ratio was way off. The shrimp also did not have any flavour. I value quality over quantity, so I'd take the salad rolls at Grain of Rice over these anytime.


The special beef noodle soup / pho ($11.95) was pretty standard, and I liked how the beef was served pink. The broth was also quite savoury and comforting.


Hue's spicy noodle soup / bun bo hue ($11.95) was served with a generous amount of shredded cabbage on top which I found a bit strange, but good for my daily vegetable intake. There was also a lot of beef brisket, pork sausage and meatballs to go with it. Compared to other bun bo hue, this broth was a bit weaker and didn't have the intense piquant flavour I was expecting.


Recommended Dishes:
- spicy crispy chicken wings

Cô Dô Hue Dine in & Take Out Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Grain of Rice - Modern Asian Cuisine


Grain of Rice is an Asian restaurant, but differs from other Asian restaurants in that it is a no tipping establishment (just like Cafe Linnea), and it has a very limited menu of less than 10 items in order to ensure quality.


Instead of getting the full order of YinYang rolls which includes both deep fried spring rolls and salad rolls, I wanted only the salad rolls ($7) stuffed with sweet and juicy prawn. These were seriously the best prawn salad rolls I've ever tasted. I could tell they were made fresh to order, and everything from the translucent wrapper to the crisp lettuce and soft vermicelli was just perfect. The best part was that there was no skimping! Each roll was fully stuffed with two big and meaty prawns — the freshest I've ever seen in any salad roll.


Beef and rice noodles ($15) is a very common Cantonese dish, so I was curious to see how this unconventional Asian restaurant would execute it. Surprisingly, it was prepared in a very traditional method. The noodles were cooked well, and the dish had a lot of "wok hei". "Wok hei" is a term in Cantonese literally translated as "breath of the wok". By stir-frying over high heat and stirring constantly, the wok imparts a unique flavour to the dish by lightly charring the ingredients. Unfortunately the thinly sliced beef was not tender, but this may be due to the cut of beef, as flank steak is usually rather tough.


The vermicelli bowl ($15) is the most popular item here. I'm not too crazy about Vietnamese style vermicelli, so I rarely order it. I got it this time since the menu was so limited, and I'm glad I did because I really enjoyed it. The vermicelli was served slightly warm with fresh lettuce and cucumber, and extremely fragrant lemongrass chicken. For those of you who are health conscious, you'll be happy to know that this is free range chicken breast meat.


Grain of Rice is open for both lunch and dinner, but please be aware that dinner prices are slightly higher. They do post promotions on Instagram, so keep an eye out for that @grainofriceyeg.
Current specials are:
Tuesday night - $10 beef and rice noodles (with drink purchase)
Wednesday night - $10 pho (with drink purchase)

Recommended Dishes:
- vermicelli bowl
- salad rolls

Grain of Rice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Bündok - Seasonal Small Plates


Bündok is a restaurant specializing in local cuisine with a focus on seasonal small plates. It's a great place to enjoy a few drinks and share a variety of dishes with your dining partners. I only had hot water on my visit, which was refilled promptly throughout the meal. Service was excellent and I was offered lemon with my water. Unfortunately the lemon wedge was dry and not fresh at all.


We started with pommes dauphine ($8) — gooey gruyere balls with a crispy shell. Surprisingly they were not too greasy with an almost liquid cheese filling.


The beef tartare ($14) was lightly seasoned and didn't have too strong of a flavour, but the meat was very fresh and tender. I found the side of toasted bread a bit too dry and crusty. It kind of poked my gums when I was trying to bite into it. Personally would have preferred slightly softer bread, but I suppose the crunchy bread was supposed to complement the texture of the beef.


The roasted cauliflower ($9) was my favourite dish. It was topped with crispy bread crumbs and creamy creme fraiche. This dish was pretty heavy with quite a bit of oil, but there was a refreshing lemon flavour to balance it out.


The fried chicken skins ($8) was another heavy dish. I could feel the oil bursting out as I bit into the crispy batter and the layers of skin and fat inside. While the taste of fat was satisfyingly delicious, this is definitely not for the faint of heart.


I would highly recommend the citrus posset ($9) to finish off the meal. This is such a great choice to refresh your palate after all those heavy dishes. It is a silky smooth cream pudding with a refreshing citrus flavour, topped with apple cubes and earl grey syrup.


I actually stayed at the restaurant for almost 3 hours. I didn't have a lot of food, but I found the environment very relaxing and comfortable for chatting and eating slowly, and service was great throughout. I would definitely come back again to try out other dishes.

Recommended Dishes:
- roasted cauliflower
- citrus posset

Bündok Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

BlackBall - Taiwanese Shaved Ice Dessert


BlackBall is a bubble tea and dessert chain from Taiwan that has just opened its first Canadian location in Edmonton this month. This is a self-service establishment where you order at the counter and seat yourself, so expect to stand around waiting for a table to free up when it's busy. You can also order take-out, but it would be difficult to do that with shaved ice.


The menu consists of a variety of bubble teas and grass jelly and/or shaved ice desserts. I didn't try the bubble tea, but instead went for their signature grass jelly which is basically Chinese jello with a herbal flavour. I think it's a bit of an acquired taste for first-timers. Most of the desserts are $8.99 a bowl, and you can get extra toppings for an additional charge. Both bowls below are $8.99 and all of the toppings are already included in the price.


On the left is the matcha series #2, served with tapioca, sweet taro (since they ran out of red bean), sweet potato balls, and matcha pudding. This is a very refreshing choice for a hot summer day, and I particularly enjoyed the shaved ice infused with matcha and condensed milk.

On the right is the grass jelly series #2, served with sweet taro, taro Q, and yam Q. The grass jelly series is available at 4 different temperatures: iced, cold, warm, and hot. (The one shown in the pic is cold.) Taiwanese people use the word "Q" to describe food that's chewy and bouncy, basically like the texture of the tapioca (pearls) in bubble teas. I'm not sure what exactly the taro and yam Q are made of, but they have this "Q" texture with taro and yam flavours respectively. Again I think this is an acquired taste, and some of you may find it strange.

This place has only been open for a few weeks, but it already has a steady stream of customers, probably due in part to its location close to West Edmonton Mall. It's definitely worth a try if you're in the area. But keep in mind that unless you are already familiar with Taiwanese desserts, you will most likely find the flavour/texture of the toppings a bit strange and very different from the desserts you are used to.

BlackBall Taiwanese Dessert Edmonton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Splash Poke - Hawaiian Poke Bowl


I have been waiting for Splash Poke to open for some time now, having seen their storefront on Jasper and 109 St with a "Coming Soon" sign for several months. I didn't plan on attending their grand opening on Tuesday night, but somehow I found myself in a line that snaked around the corner of the block and lasted for 3 hours that night.

For those who don't know, a poke bowl is a rice bowl topped with raw fish chunks tossed with various toppings and sauces. It originated in Hawaii where poke means "to cut into pieces", and it's basically a chopped up and dressed up version of Japanese chirashi.

First let's take a look at the menu. The concept of Splash Poke is very similar to Subway, where you can customize your order to your liking. To make it simple, pricing is based on scoops of protein. I would recommend ordering the double or triple splash (2 or 3 scoops).


For those who don't want to bother with customizing, there are 4 "Splash Favourites" to choose from. These cost the same as the double splash since they all have 2 scoops of protein each.


The setup in the store is the same as Subway as well. All of the available ingredients are displayed behind the counter. Customers can pick and choose, and watch their food being prepared. As I approached the front of the line, the first guy took my order and scooped the rice into the bowl. Then the next guy mixed my choice of protein with sauces and mix-ins, and finally the last person added toppings and garnish. The whole process took several minutes, and was further complicated by the fact that the tall glass partition between us was rather soundproof and the staff and I could barely hear each other above the background noise. We basically had to yell, and my order was heard wrong several times. Hopefully this will not be a problem in the future when things quiet down and there are less customers in the store. (EDIT: Splash Poke let me know that they will be replacing the glass partition, so this should no longer be a problem!)


At the end of the lineup was the cashier, who accepted payment and kindly asked if I was interested in dessert. Currently the only dessert option is ice cream mochi. Beside the cashier was a glass display case that housed drinks and grab-and-go orders that had already been prepared ahead of time. I don't think many people went for grab-and-go that night after waiting 3 hours in line, but I'm sure it will be a popular option for the lunch crowd in the future. Speaking of, I'm not even sure if Splash Poke is open for lunch. Try as I might, I could not find their opening hours anywhere. If anyone knows their hours, please let me know. (EDIT: Hours are now posted on Splash Poke's Facebook page.)


So after an excruciatingly long wait, I finally got my hands on a customized poke bowl. Since there was a 15% discount on opening night, I splurged and got a triple splash with salmon, scallop, and ahi tuna which was an extra $1. But oh my goodness, it was so worth it. The ahi tuna had a much firmer texture than the regular tuna, and a much more distinct flavour as well. The raw seafood was really fresh, and all of those sauces and toppings just brought everything together so well. Call me crazy, but I almost felt like the wait was worth it as I inhaled my bowl in a matter of minutes.


One issue I noticed was that the rice and the protein were not apportioned equally among different bowls. The rice was not measured in any way and the staff was just eyeballing it. From what I observed, some bowls had less rice and some had way more. As for the protein, the staff used a scoop to measure, but some scoops were not full and some were more than full. I think this is something that needs to be addressed in the future. But in any case, Splash Poke is definitely worth trying and I already have a craving for another tasty poke bowl.

Splash Poke Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Monday, March 27, 2017

Cafe Linnea - High Tea


After years of waiting, there is finally a new high tea place in Edmonton! Cafe Linnea, a recent addition in the same strip mall as Duchess Atelier (Duchess Bake Shop's cooking school), offers high tea every Sunday with two seatings at 3 pm and 3:30 pm. Walk-ins are not accepted and high tea tickets need to be purchased in advance on their website for the hefty price of $55/person. The good news is that this price includes GST and gratuities already. In fact, Cafe Linnea is a no tipping establishment.

I arrived shortly before 3 pm and the doors were locked. They open right on the dot, so don't bother going early or you'll be sitting in your car or standing outside waiting for the doors to open. The restaurant was very bright and open, thanks to high ceilings and large skylights and windows.


The menu listed the offerings of the day including a pot of tea, an amuse-bouche, 5 savoury items and 10 dessert items.


Tea and free refills are already included with the high tea. Other drinks and add-ons are available for a surcharge.


The amuse-bouche was a warm, thick and creamy Gruyere soup. It basically tasted like gooey melted cheese with the added zest of red pepper oil.


Tea arrived shortly after with milk, cream and sugar served on the side. Everyone had their own individual teapot with the tea of their choice. The staff actually steeped the loose leaf tea ahead of time and served the tea at the correct strength with no tea leaves left inside the pot. That does take away the customers' ability to make the tea stronger or weaker to their liking, but I found it a nice touch as I didn't have to worry about removing the tea leaves myself.


I loved the modern presentation of the staggered tiers instead of the traditional tower with round plates.


The picture below shows the portion for one person. It doesn't look like a lot, but it's very filling!


Overall the desserts were all spectacular and impressive. From the top tier from left to right:
1) raspberry pate de fruit - very tart and fruity, tasted more like blackcurrant to me
2) shortbread - soft and crumbly with a light buttery taste
3) macaron - light brown one had banana cream filling, pink one had cream filling with a jam centre
4) blueberry banana tart - who knew banana and blueberries could go so well together?
5) marshmallows - coconut and strawberry, very sweet with delicate flavours
6) French pastry - basically a piece of puff pastry, can't go wrong with that
7) scone - flaky with white chocolate chunks but not too sweet
8) jam and creme fraiche - went well with the scone
9) madeleine - bite-size (too tiny!), moist and fluffy with a light and refreshing lemon flavour
10) eclair - chocolate-covered with a matcha cream filling

The savoury items on the bottom tier were not as consistent in quality. From left to right:
1)  spiced beans on sourdough
This was the worst item of the lot. It tasted like an Indian curry that was too spicy and too greasy. I got yellow oil all over my mouth from eating this. I noticed that all three customers sitting at the table beside mine left this item almost completely untouched. They packed other leftovers to take home, but left this on their plates.
2) foie gras cinnamon bun
I'm not sure who came up with the idea to pair foie gras with cinnamon bun, and while it may sound innovative in concept, it did not do well in execution. The creamy foie gras was lightly seasoned with salt and tasted great by itself, but the flavour and texture really did not go well with the large chunk of hard and slightly stale cinnamon bun on the bottom.
3) shrimp cocktail
This was actually one of the best items on this tier along with the devilled egg. The piquant cocktail sauce complemented the shrimp well. Honestly I would've preferred a larger portion of the shrimp and less fois gras and spiced beans. In fact, I wouldn't mind skipping the spiced beans completely...
4) devilled egg, house bacon, sprouts
Though a bit hard in texture, the bacon was very meaty and flavourful and went well with the egg.
5) cucumber, Comte, brioche
I expected the brioche bread to be soft, but it was actually a dry and crunchy piece of toast. Apart from that, this was just your average cucumber and cheese open-faced sandwich.

In conclusion, I enjoyed all of the dessert items and about half of the savoury items. Service was top-notch and surpassed the service I've received at the Fairmont Macdonald afternoon tea. My server provided a great introduction and explanation of the menu, and was also very attentive to my needs. The seating was comfortable and the environment was suitable for a relaxing afternoon chat with family or friends. In my opinion, this high tea experience was worth the price paid and would be a good option for a special occasion.

Café Linnea Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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