Monday, September 28, 2009

Celebrating an Indian Wedding at Taj Mahal Calgary

We had the pleasure of attending a wonderful East Indian wedding of our friends Paul and Aman last weekend. It was our second experience of the traditional ceremony at temple and of course, the amazing food. We're not well versed in all the do's and don'ts, but the celebration is always colourful and spirited, and we certainly appreciate how friendly and welcoming everyone is. We had to cover our heads and remove our shoes as we entered the temple, and men and women were seated separately. This particular temple in NE Calgary also had projectors translating the entire ceremony, allowing us to understand the blessings and prayers by the gurus. Ceremonies at the temple included a snack in the morning - delicious mixed pakora and veggie samosas and a buffet lunch...yum!

We were invited to join a smaller group for dinner at the Taj Mahal in Calgary. The restaurant has been around for 38 years, and I only recall driving past the giant Taj Mahal facade on the front and never thought to try it - always seemed so cheeseball! I still can't tell you much about what the restaurant looks like inside because the reception was held in a small event space on the third floor...but I can tell you that the food was absolutely wonderful!

Fish pakora with hot mint jelly - I think I could have hot mint jelly with everything and I just love fish pakora.
Crisps with chick pea salsa, yogurt and tamarind sauce - a unique snack that I had not had before, thankfully there was someone to show me the way. The crisps reminded me of the crisps we put in our congee :P

Saffron rice/naan
Goat curry - this was my first time having goat curry and my favourite dish of the night.
Chicken makhni (butter chicken) - if you have never had butter chicken you are missing out on one of my all time favourite dishes, it is boneless chicken simmered in a rich butter/tomato sauce.
Gulnar paneer (Indian cheese) - was delicious and served with yet another flavourful sauce.

Although our gracious hosts tried to appeal to everyone by offering both an Indian buffet and a "North American" one that boasted roast beef and vegetables, it was of course the Indian buffet that was lined up and enjoyed by all. Tony and I were stuffed and found it hard to prevent ourselves from refilling again and again because we could simply fit no more of the delicious food in our stomach.
Indian weddings are a wonderful experience - a unique celebration embraced by the entire family, young and old, and celebrated through food, music and dance. We were happy to be a part of our friend's wedding and have the opportunity to indulge in such amazing food.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Seafood Galore at Adega Portugese Restaurant

One of the greatest things about living in Toronto is the variety of ethnic food. From Little Italy, Greek Town to Korea Town, there are plenty of authentic coves of food to be found. We have driven through Little Portugal many times but bewildered by the number of restaurants, never made the stop to indulge. On a whim, I looked up Portuguese food in the city tonight, and was surprised to find that there was a restaurant just off Yonge on Elm Street that seemed promising.

There is a cute row of restaurants on Elm Street, including the famous Barbarian's steak house, mostly targeted to tourists. We must have walked by Adega many times and never noticed that it served Portuguese cuisine. As a seafood lover, the menu was heaven! We started with a seafood bisque that perfectly hit the spot and an octopus carpaccio served with mild chili sauce. I was more interested in our neighbour's amazing looking squid time I suppose! For mains, we had a seafood saffron risotto, which was surprisingly light for a pasta. I was expecting a bit more flavour, but found it delicious nonetheless. I was pleasantly surprised by the Cataplana Fish Stew, a rich spicy tomato broth with a generous amount of fish, shell fish and other seafood and vegetables served in a brass pot. Yum! Although stuffed, I found some room for dessert, a unique lychee creme brulee with mango sorbet - the lychee was understated complimented by the flavourful mango sorbet.

Adega doesn't compare to some of our best Portuguese food experiences in other cities, but was sufficient to satisfy my craving for flavourful seafood. I think we still need to make our way to Little Portugal, but in the meantime, am happy to have something close to home. There are definitely some other items on the menu I'd like to try, and the specials, including lobster, tenderloin and grouper, were all tempting as well - overall, a solid restaurant, and a worthwhile try for something a little different.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Good Pub Food: Three Brewers

The Three Brewers opened several months ago near Dundas Square and we didn't have a chance to check it out until this weekend. Our friends Denis and Abby has recommended it as a good place originating from Quebec. Actually, Denis had referred to it in French, les 3 brasseurs, and I "heard" 3 a result, for months, I have been telling people to go try "Three Brothers."

Regardless, we went with friends visiting from the West this weekend, hoping to catch-up over some good food and watch tennis. The good part is that the food was excellent and the place is much bigger than it looks (4 floors) so we had no trouble getting a table. The bad part is that they were unable to change selected tv's to tennis - not sure why watching a random screen saver was better than the US open at a PUB....but whatever.

Tony had a tasting of 4 beers, which seemed to be pretty popular. I had the blonde ale, which was perfect for a hot summer day. Food, as I mentioned, was delicious. I had the house special, a beer braised pork shank, served with sauerkraut (surprisingly yummy!) and a large baked potato...more than enough food for me and was seriously satisfying. Tony had a flam, think pizza on a super thin crust - almost pita like. We were also happy the poutine had good cheese curds. We're happy to have tried this great casual and inexpensive dining spot so close to home - the menu has a wide variety of options and comes quick! The vibe is good - nicer than a typical pub, but casual enough to stop by on any given night. The front windows also open like garage doors so you have the option of enjoying patio- like weather right on Yonge. If you're ever in the core and want something quick, casual, yet GOOD....Three Brewers is a good choice.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sushi in the Prairies at Zipang

Sushi Bar Zipang is one of few good Japanese restaurants in Calgary, a place we frequented when we still lived in the city. It's located just off Edmonton trail in up and coming Bridgeland neighbourhood. It offers a good mix of small cooked dishes and sushi/sashimi. Some of our favourites in addition to their fresh sashimi include gyu tataki (beef), cold soba with seaweed, miso paste on grilled eggplant, and salmon belly. The special menu often has exotic items worth trying. Last night, we went to celebrate my friend's birthday - lucky we had a reservation as it was packed, no surprise for a Friday night! We tried the squid with spicy cod roe for the first time, and the red tuna sashimi with quail egg. The squid was crisp and fresh, the tuna was a bit bland. Zipang also offers one of my favourite drinks, Calpico! I literally drank litres of it while we were in Japan, so I am always happy to have it whenever we indulge in good sushi.

Zipang is a worthwhile experience with good cooked dishes and traditional fresh fish. They offer an assortment for the adventurous or conservative, and some good value set meals as well. If you are in Calgary and crave good Japanese food, I think Zipang is a good bet.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Gastronomic Heaven at Colborne Lane

We've had many amazing food experiences in Toronto, from affordable cultural fare to phenomenal fine dining. One of our favourite places to splurge is Colborne Lane; in fact, it's not nearly as expensive as say Susur or Rain ever was, but the food is truly outstanding. We had decided to stop in last year after reading about it in Toronto Life's best new restaurant list, an excellent source for foodies for any of you who don't follow/subscribe but live in the city!

Colborne Street itself is a quaint location, almost secretly tucked near King and Church, a cute brick strip with oldish charm. On one of our first visits, we saw a wedding party doing photos outside - I can definitely see the attraction. We've had nothing but great service at Colborne Lane, and luckily, we've also walked in and taken a seat at the bar before - does not take away from the amazing food experience at all. On a previous visit with my friend Surina, we were spoiled with delicious food, drinks and even some complementary ice wine as we waited for our dessert (apparently it was a slightly long wait, but our dessert actually arrived as the wine did). Tony says it's a benefit reserved for ladies dining out - whatever the case, I appreciated the effort!

All the food at Colborne Lane is complemented with clean and simple sauces/drizzles - while these are typically visual embellishments, sauces here are a critical part of the meal. We would try to maximize the different accompaniments on each small morsel of food. We had 4 tapas to start, with our favourites being a delicious scallop with a selection of light sweet sauces and fruit that I can't name but can still taste in my mouth. We also tried the prawn ceviche, much better than we expected and accompanied by dabs of butternut squash/roasted red pepper/black squid ink sauce.

For mains, we had miso glazed black cod with sesame panna cotta. On the weekend, I had not-so-eloquently described to Amber that panna cotta was "a white custard-like thing"....not quite right and doesn't do it justice; but truly, I have had different iterations of panna cotta at different restaurants so I really couldn't say for sure how it would be served! The point here is that the sesame panna cotta was delicious - and the best I have had - uniquely served as a part of the main course! It sort of looked like tofu, but a fairly firm texture, and not overpowering in taste, and of course very complementary to the black cod. The lamb loin was no less amazing, exceptionally tender and served with quinoa. We were ecstatic about our all our savoury dishes so far, but more was to come!

The highlight of the night was dessert: warm doughnut + nitro creme fraiche + pineapple. The experience started with the manager bringing a giant mixing bowl table-side flowing with liquid nitrogen (really!) . Next, he mixed in fresh made cream with no preservatives or even eggs and other blenders. We couldn't see what was going on IN the bowl, but as the liquid nitrogen evaporated we eventually saw the cream start to turn into ice cream, looked something like cookie dough. He invited us to dig our spoons in - it was SOO AMAZING! I'm not even one to typically like whipped cream, cookie dough etc, but THIS...heavenly! It was light and fresh, truly a taste like no other. The dessert is delicate and time sensitive - a warm doughnut (think fluffy fried sugar doughnut ball) was the main served with the ice cream, which quickly started to melt as it cools to room temperature. Not to worry, we didn't waste anytime inhaling the doughnut and the cream! This was a splurge worth every penny!

Colborne Lane is on both our top 3 lists in Toronto. Tonight we were out on a mini celebration, so I couldn't have been happier to make a visit. Looking back at the pictures, I wish the restaurant had more light so I could have fully appreciated how beautiful the food was!