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Featured/ Restaurant Review

Favourite Calgary Food Spots

Hey guys! Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted anything! I’ve just been enjoying the summer weather and the last few months of my maternity leave. I spend every waking moment outside with my baby, either going for walks or lounging in our front yard or back deck. Suppers have been simple affairs since I hate to spend much time in the kitchen when the weather is so gorgeous out.

If some of you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen that I spent a week in Calgary in June. I love that city. If for some reason I had to move from Regina, I would probably move to Calgary. My sister lives in Calgary and she and her husband are huge foodies, so we always end up trying new restaurants and revisiting some old faves. I thought I’d share some of our new finds and and old favourites in this blog post!

Noodle World

Okay, so I obviously have to share our favourite Vietnamese place in Calgary. It’s a place called Noodle World and it’s on 17th Ave SE. It has authentic Vietnamese dishes and great pho. It also has these dinner options on the menu called “Family Dinners” and you can order them for 4 or 6 people. The “Family Dinners” are meant to be like traditional big Vietnamese family dinners where there are several different plates and a soup course, all eaten with generous servings of white rice. We always order the Family Dinners when we go to Noodle World and we all leave full and happy. The family dinners consist of a fish soup (my favourite!), a tofu and bean sprout stirfry (my sister’s favourite), a braised fish dish (my husband’s favourite) and a beef and broccoli stirfry. And you know how you know it’s good? The customers are mostly Vietnamese families!

Noodle World family dinner

Bocce Pizza

For pizza and pasta lovers, I recommend Bocce Pizza in Calgary. It is located on 4th Street SW and it offers amazing authentic Italian favourites.

To start, I highly recommend the Tallegio Friti salad. This salad is fresh, with amazing flavours and the honey truffle vinaigrette is to die for. Also, eating this salad is going to make you feel healthier and less guilty when you indulge in a couple of their delicious pizzas!

Tallegio Friti salad…yes, that is a breaded and deep fried hunk of cheese!

For pizzas, we love the Calabrese pizza with spicy fennel sausage, olives, peppers and mozzarella; the Isola with italian ham, roasted pineapples and pancetta, and the Finocchio with the chopped fennel, fennel salami and ricotta.

Wurst

There was one day where my sister volunteered to stay home and watch Baby E while she napped, so the husband and I took a stroll down 4th Street SW to have some drinks. You know you are new parents anxious for some alone time and some drinks when you’re lingering outside the pub at 10:50AM, waiting for it to open at 11AM lol! I can’t speak to the food at Wurst but they have a great drink selection and a great atmosphere to enjoy some casual drinks. My husband’s favourite beer on this trip was the Project 9 Beer by the Fernie Brewing Company. Has anyone seen this beer in Regina?

My husband loved the Project 9 beer by Fernie Brewing Co. and my delicious drink was Elderflower liquer and Prosecco! So refreshing!

Wurst – love the atmosphere!

La Boulangerie

So also on 4th Street SW is a little coffee and pastry shop called La Boulangerie. The coffee selection isn’t huge and isn’t spectacular in any way, but the pastries are to die for! My sister recommended that I order this pastry called Kouign-Amann (pronounced ‘Queen Aman’) and oh my goodness, it was divine. It’s like a puff pastry croissant with layers of butter and sugar (I know, right? How can you go wrong with layers of butter and sugar?) I’ve been here several times before and I’ve never had a bad pastry. Another favourite of mine is their chocolate croissant. Unfortunately, I devour the pastries so fast that I’ve never had a chance to take a picture!

La Boulangerie

Native Tongues Taqueria

For all you Mexican food lovers, you have to try Native Tongues Taqueria on 12 Ave SW. We went here for lunch one day and ordered a variety of tacos – confit pork, roast chicken chicken and beef brisket. They are simple, traditional tacos and are served with house made salsa verde and salsa rosa. For dessert, I recommend ordering the donas!, which are these little glazed donuts that are made in house.

 

I just love the food scene in Calgary! I can’t wait to go back in a couple months and try out some new places. Do I have any Calgary readers? What are some restaurants that I should try?

 

 

Featured/ Restaurant Review

Restaurant Review – Quan Ngon

You guys, I didn’t think this Restaurant Review thing through. A couple weeks ago, I realized that I don’t have the heart to write bad reviews. I had written up this review on a restaurant that will remain unnamed, and technically, it was a well-written, witty review of a not so good restaurant, but I just didn’t feel right publishing it. Also, the Vietnamese community in Regina is pretty small, and although I’m not involved in the Vietnamese community at all, my parents are and I don’t want to create awkward encounters for them. So I’ve decided that I will only write about restaurants that I love, so that I don’t have to write bad reviews. So by simple powers of deduction, if you don’t see a Vietnamese restaurant reviewed here on my blog it’s either because: 1) I haven’t eaten there yet (not likely); or 2) it’s not that great (this one).

So let’s get started with a glowing review. Quan Ngon is a small Vietnamese restaurant located at 227 Victoria Ave here in Regina. My mom and my sister, the two biggest Vietnamese culinary snobs ever, have raved about this restaurant so I’ve been so anxious to try it out.

Unlike many other Vietnamese restaurants, Quan Ngon has a very small menu, but I’ve heard that every item on their menu is carefully prepared and quite tasty. It’s also the only Vietnamese restaurant that I know of in Regina that does the “add-on” concept. With an order of a main dish, you can “add on” a pop, a fresh roll or a spring roll for $1. It’s an interesting concept and makes for a very economical meal.

Quan Ngon’s main course menu

The restaurant itself is quite small, maybe a dozen tables or so. My mom has eaten there numerous times, and she said that the first few times she went when it first opened, there were only a couple tables of customers. When we were there a few days ago, there were 4-5 tables of customers, so I think the good word is spreading around! Also, the majority of the customers were Asian. That’s how you know a Vietnamese restaurant is good, by the way, when the customers themselves are Vietnamese (especially if they are older Vietnamese women or Vietnamese families).

My husband and I went with my parents, and we all ordered pho (beef noodle soup) with fresh roll add-ons. My husband and I both ordered Pho Tai Bo Vien, which is Pho with Sliced Rare Beef and Beef Balls. Quan Ngon doesn’t have any size options for pho and the portions were quite small, which is understandable considering the cheap price of $8.95. My husband and I were still somewhat hungry after our fresh rolls and pho, so next time I would add on a side of extra beef or extra beef balls for $3.95 to make it a more fulfilling meal.

Pho Tai Bo Vien (Pho with Sliced Beef and Beef Balls)

You guys, the pho was the best restaurant pho in Regina. The flavours were authentic, the broth was rich and aromatic, and the beef thinly sliced and fresh. I found my pho to be slightly salty, but my mom said it must be a one-off, because this is the first time where she’s found it to be too salty. Anyways, it was nothing that a squeeze of fresh lime didn’t remedy. The pho came with a plate of proper accompaniments, including crisp bean sprouts, sliced jalapeño, lime wedges, and Thai basil. Making pho properly requires a lot of time, effort, and lots of expensive ingredients (brisket, various cuts of beef, beef bones for the broth, etc) and my mom only makes it on special occasions. Quan Ngon’s pho is so good that it is now my go-to place for pho when I’m having a craving and my mom isn’t making pho anytime soon.

Pho Accompaniments

The pho was great, but I was blown away by the fresh rolls. My mom and sister had raved about the fresh rolls, but I was like, “Come on, fresh rolls are fresh rolls, how great can they be?” Man, was I ever surprised. This is the only restaurant in Regina that I know of that has cucumber and bean sprouts in their fresh rolls (in addition to the noodles, lettuce, shrimp and pork). The addition of the cucumber and bean sprouts added a fresh crunchy texture to the fresh rolls. I was definitely inspired and I might start adding cucumber and bean sprouts to my own fresh rolls now! Fresh rolls may seem simple to make, but it’s the quality of ingredients that really set fresh rolls apart. Quan Ngon used big black tiger shrimp, crisp bean sprouts, fresh cucumber, and even the romaine lettuce in the fresh rolls were nice and crisp. I can’t speak highly enough of them, my mouth is watering as I’m typing this.

The best fresh rolls ever!

I can’t wait to eat here again. I want to try some of the other items on their small menu. I saw that they have a salted fish fried rice, and I’m curious to see if it’s as good as the one that I’ve written about from Peking House.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not involved in the Vietnamese community at all, so I’m not writing this glowing review because I know the owners of this restaurant or anything like that. The owner greeted us when my husband and I arrived, and she didn’t even know I was Vietnamese until my parents arrived. And the owners likely won’t even know this review exists (unless one of you guys tell them about it!). This is a completely unbiased, uninfluenced review and you can trust me when I say that this is Regina’s hidden Vietnamese gem!

With their limited but focused menu, Quan Ngon is able to deliver well-prepared, well-executed, authentic  Vietnamese dishes at an excellent price point. If you haven’t already, give this restaurant a try!

Featured/ Restaurant Review

Peking House

Peking House

One of the questions I get asked a lot, even before I started this blog, is “What’s the best Vietnamese restaurant in Regina?” My answer always is “My mom’s house”. See, the thing is, I really didn’t know what the best Vietnamese restaurant was in Regina because I never went to Vietnamese restaurants. If I was ever craving any specific Vietnamese dish, my mom would make it. And my parents NEVER took us to Vietnamese restaurants. My mom is a huge Vietnamese culinary snob and she judges Vietnamese cooking hard. She always said that it was a waste of money going to Vietnamese restaurants when she can make everything way better.

However, now that my mom is older and my dad is retired, I’ve noticed that they are beginning to enjoy going out to eat more. They like to try out all the new Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants that are popping up all over the city, and they even have their favourite spots that they frequent! So I’ve decided to start a new category on this blog called “Restaurant Review” where I will review new Vietnamese restaurants and feature some of my old favourites in the city. I will take my parents out to these restaurants, glean some expert input from my mom, and write about our experiences.

The first restaurant to be featured on my blog will be Peking House. Peking House is a Chinese restaurant located in downtown Regina on 1850 Rose Street, and it is one of my family’s favourites. I always take my parents out for dinner on their birthdays, and they usually request to go to Peking House.  We always order the same handful of dishes – and these are the handful of dishes that my mom concedes that this restaurant can make better than she can.

Hot and Sour Soup

We always start off our meal with the small order of the hot and sour soup. The small order is enough for the four of us (my husband and I, and my parents) to each have two servings. Peking House nails this soup with just the perfect balance of sour and spicy. I crave this soup often and my mom has made it quite a few times for me, but even she will admit that Peking House does it better.

Hot and Sour Soup

Shrimp Balls Hot Pot with Noodles

My husband’s favourite dish at this restaurant is the Shrimp Balls Hot Pot with Noodles. It comes out piping hot in a little pot and the shrimp balls are coated in a deliciously rich sauce. Now the trick is when you order it, to order it “with noodles”. If you just order it off the menu, it does not come with the noodles on the bottom of the pot. My husband’s favourite part of this dish is the noodles underneath the shrimp balls. One time we went here without my parents and ordered the dish off the menu, and it didn’t have the noodles on the bottom. He was so disappointed, and my mom had to explain to us that “with noodles” is a special request when ordering.

Shrimp Ball Hot Pot with noodles

Remember to order it “with noodles”

Salted Fish Fried Rice

Okay, so here’s the deal. Some restaurants have “secret” menu items. These items are not shown on the English menu, but are available on the Chinese menu. Now my parents don’t speak or read Chinese, but somehow my mom found out about this secret menu item – the salted fish fried rice. For those of you who are tired of the basic Chinese fried rice with frozen vegetables and chicken, you need to give this try. There are no frozen peas and carrots in this bad boy, just deliciously salty pieces of salted fish. It is completely different than your every day Chinese fried rice, and it is definitely worth trying. My mom has tried to make this at home once, but with a small piece of salted fish costing over $20 at the Asian food store, she says it’s just more economical to order this at Peking House.  You won’t see this on the English menu, but just order “salted fish fried rice” and they’ll know what you want.

Salted Fish Fried Rice

“Secret” menu item – salted fish fried rice

Ginger Beef

So we go from secret menu item to most basic menu item ever! This is always the dish that I order when we go. Sometimes a girl just needs a simple Chinese dish! Peking House does a mean ginger beef though. Some restaurants make their ginger beef super spicy to compensate for lack of flavour. Peking House’s ginger beef is not overly spicy but has all the familiar flavours that hit the spot.

Ginger Beef

Special Chow Mein

And finally, my mom always orders the Special Chow Mein which comes with all the veg, pork, shrimp, squid and scallops.  There’s nothing overly spectacular about this dish, other than it is a familiar Chinese comfort dish, and it is way more economical to order it at a restaurant than make it at home, especially with all the seafood in it. I always make fun of my mom for ordering this basic dish and she chastises me for ordering the ginger beef, but we always order them!

Special Chow Mein

And that’s it. The five dishes that we ALWAYS order whenever we go to Peking House. We have never strayed from these items, and although we always pore over the menu that hasn’t changed in decades, we end up just rattling off an order of these same five dishes.

The same handful of dishes that we always order

My mom’s birthday was actually this week and we are going out later this week for her birthday supper. However, this year, she has requested a new Vietnamese pho restaurant that just opened up on Quance Street. Stay tuned for that review!