Shokunin, Calgary, 6/17/23

exterior – 2016 4 St SW, Calgary, AB T2S 1W3, Canada

Shokunin is a 50-seat Japanese Izakaya-style (informal place for drinking and snacks) restaurant serving charred yakitori and other small shared plates. On the 100 Best Restaurants of Canada, they ranked at #82.   They have a seasonal menu for the room as well as a full bar and lots of bottles of sake.  There are 4 seats at the bar in front of the cooking area that are reserved for the Shokunin Yakitori Omakase tasting.  It also has optional drink pairings and an additional course of 45-day aged beeswax-wrapped wagyu.  It is not A-5 from Japan but rather a Wagyu from Australia.  One item on the menu, the chicken ass (tail), is only available to those having the omakase.  The place was packed and service was well-paced and friendly.  I was surprised by how little interaction there was between the 4 guests and those in the kitchen, but that was affected by plexiglass between us and the grilled area.  It felt a bit impersonal with slight explanations of courses and a rushed feel.  Some of the food was outstanding and others were just so-so.  The tasting was a good way to get to know the place if you’re a one-time visitor. Continue reading

Hankki, Banff, 6/16/23

exterior – 206 Buffalo St, Banff, AB T1L 1E4, Canada

Hankki means one meal in Korean and this meal is modeled after Korean street food.  They sell bowls or cupbop, and Korean hot dogs on a stick. The bowls are a stir-fry of different ingredients.  Cheap, quick and filling options which are a novelty in the tourist-laden Banff.  All the bowls contain Veggie Mandu which is edamame, sweet corn, lettuce, pickled carrot, sesame seeds and egg garnish along with some pan-fried veggie dumplings.  They are on a base of rice with sauce and then you pick your level of spiciness.  We both chose ‘hot’.  The Chee Bop bowl contained Korean-style crispy fried chicken and the Korean B.B.Q bowl contained sweet and savory marinated grilled pork, lettuce.  There were basic similarities but the flavoring was fairly different.  Both were quite tasty and best when all the stuff was mixed around.  Hot was a nice level of heat.  If you need a quick snack this is for you.  I saw some little kids getting and enjoying the hot dogs which are much less food, but we didn’t try one. Continue reading

River Cafe, Calgary, 6/15/23

entrance – 25 Prince’s Island Park, SW, Calgary, AB T2P 0R1, Canada

River Cafe dates back to 1991 when it started as a full-service café on Calgary’s Prince Island for the summer only.  In 1995 they enclosed the space and began operating year-round.  The desire was to create a restaurant space that would blend into the Bow River setting and they ranked at #22 on the 2023 100 Best In Canada.  Attempting to serve cuisine from local areas was also part of the plan.  To this day there is no access to the place except to walk there across the pedestrian bridge and through the friendly geese.  It’s a fairly large space with bare wood tables set with towel-shaped napkins, faint music in the background and decorated with a fishing/nautical motif.  An open kitchen is part of the rambling room as is a long bar.  They are open 7 days a week and serve lunch/brunch as well as dinner. At dinner, they offer a Chef’s Tasting menu as well as an a la carte menu.  We chose the tasting and they were willing to give me a copy of the night’s menu, but the dessert listed was not accurate. Service was friendly but the pacing was off and the food was good but not outstanding.  It’s such a pretty spot, though I would recommend you try it. Continue reading

Meat & Bread, Calgary, 6/15/23

building – Grain Exchange Building, 821 1 St SW, Calgary, AB T2P 7N2, Canada

Meat and Bread started in Vancouver and now has a number of locations in Canada but this one is in the old grain exchange building and opened in 2017.  Stylishly designed and decorated they make everything themselves.  They prided themselves on the simplicity of their products  – offer just a few things but use the highest quality ingredients and make it yourselves.  That simplicity is seen in the efficient layout of the space.  You enter and immediately see the porchetta roast and some sandwiches being assembled for to-go orders.  The menu is on a blackboard-like surface above the long prep area and the sides and drinks are arranged so you can see and pick.  You can watch your sandwich being made as you pay for it and then they’ll call your number when it’s ready.  We were there when they first opened, so no line, but my understanding is that it can have long lines however they move quickly.  The staff were super friendly and loved showing off a whole roast ready to go to the slicer.  This is a wonderful place and I hope I get to eat their sandwiches again. Continue reading

D.O.P., Calgary, 6/14/23

exterior – 1005A 1 St SW, Calgary, AB T2R 0T8, Canada

D.O.P. is a small place that merited the number 23 spot on the 2023 list of Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants.  In the next few months, around Sept. they are moving a couple blocks away to the Grain Exchange Building because their current building is being demolished.  This will allow them to have a bigger kitchen and add about 10 seats.  The name roughly translates to “Protected Designation of Origin” meaning that its products are locally grown or made, as much as possible.  The narrow place had small tables running the length of the room opposite the bar/counter seating.  The end with the entrance had windows to the street and a couple of side-by-side tables and the other end houses the 6′ x 8′ kitchen.  The server said they have a room downstairs for some prep work and storage but this was about the smallest kitchen ever.   The room’s long wall is decorated with posters and art, has a high ceiling, music in the background and the small bare wood tables are set with cloth napkins.  It filled up quickly and was quite noisy, with reservations being a must unless you’re a singleton for the bar seating.  Service was friendly and helpful and the food started with a flourish but then fizzled slightly. Continue reading

Silver Dragon Restaurant, Calgary, 6/14/23

exterior – 106 3 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2G 0B6, Canada

The Silver Dragon Restaurant is located in the heart of Chinatown in Calgary.  They offer over 200 Chinese dishes as well as brunch dim sum cart service daily (till 2:30).  It’s a fairly large place on the second floor of the building that has been successful enough to now have a second location in Banff.  The tables were well-spaced but not set with pepper oil, soy sauce or vinegar.  It’s old-school Chinese food and service was friendly and fast with lots of carts coming to your table at any time.  However, if you didn’t see what you wanted on a cart they would get it for you if it was presently being served.  If it wasn’t they would only serve it if you had 2 orders of it.  That made it tough since there were just the two of us but there was plenty of selection to choose from.  They did bring us a tray with a bit of hot oil and some vinegar, but the hot oil was gone quickly.  Some items came with sauce and then I saw others asking for soy, etc. and they cut most items when served.   I would not call it outstanding but it was perfectly satisfying, just not extraordinary. The only specialty item worth commenting on was the ginger beef – a dish invented in Calgary.  It’s a fried strip of beef in a sweet/spicy sauce.  Fun to try something new. Continue reading

Major Tom, Calgary, 6/13/23

view from the restaurant – Scotia Centre, 700 2 St SW #4000, Calgary, AB T2P 2W3, Canada

Major Tom is a restaurant and bar on the 40th floor of Stephen Avenue Place in downtown Calgary.  It is the only restaurant in Alberta to be ranked in the top 20 of Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants for 2023, claiming #13.  Opening in the summer of 2021 it offers spectacular views of downtown (and further depending on the weather) with a menu that is heavy on steakhouse fare.  While they offer other dining options, the menu highlights their beef selections which are all broiled at 1800º and brushed with Major Tom butter.  It’s a large place and very popular, judging by the crowd and reservation options.  The attractive interior is nicely lit by the walls of windows on the perimeter.  Music is in the background, as well as much conversational noise and a full bar is available.  Service is excellent and very friendly, with our great server Raven willing to pace out our meal and offer guidance on how much to order.  Fortunately, the food matched the wonderful views and it was a fantastic evening.  I recommend you include this one when you visit Calgary. Continue reading