SUSHI TRAIN

As my coworker so eloquently put it, “Chew chew! Climb aboard the Sushi Train!”

Edmonton’s newest rotation sushi bar restaurant, Sushi Train, opened its doors on July 12th in a modest location by MacEwan University on 104 Street. The premise is simple: the chef makes a variety of different kinds of sushi and places them on a conveyor belt using different coloured plates. The plates reflect the price (blue = $3.50; red = $4.50; green = $5.50; black = $6.50) and each one is placed within a time slot on the conveyor belt so that you can tell how fresh everything is–for example, if you arrived at 12:30pm, a dish situated behind the 10-20 marker will have been made between 12:10pm and 12:20pm.

It’s a unique concept for Edmonton, but kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi) is a pretty standard style of restaurant in Japan. Edmonton has seen train-style sushi restaurants before (Sakura in WEM), but they don’t seem to last. Due to the nature of how they serve food, kaiten-zushi requires a steady stream of customers during opening hours to avoid waste–too few customers, and food will have to be tossed. Too many, and the chef/kitchen will be overwhelmed.

It’s a delicate balance, much like the one between fish and rice on a perfectly made piece of sushi.

Luckily, MacEwan is home to a number of hungry students, including sushi fanatics, so Sushi Train certainly has a chance.

There aren’t many seats, since most are placed around the rotating bar, but luckily it wasn’t that busy when we arrived for lunch. It’s a really fun experience waiting to see what the chef will place on the belt next and there’s the nail-biting few minutes when you see something you want that’s just out of reach. Will it come around again? Will someone snap it up before it makes it to you?

As for taste, I was satisfied. The sushi was fresh (as we could see) and there were a number of options to choose from. Octopus balls, red snapper, crispy California rolls, gyoza, and much more. The quality isn’t quite the same as Kyoto or Mikado, but it’s still very good. A solid choice for sushi, in my opinion.

Price-wise, I could see a meal at Sushi Train getting very expensive, very quickly. For lunch, I tried five different dishes (2-4 pieces per plate, depending on what I ordered) and my total came to about $23, with no drinks other than water and green tea. A whole dinner at Sushi Train could easily get up to $50 per person, so be wary of those plates.

All in all, I’d definitely recommend this place, especially if you’ve never tried a kaiten-zushi before. The crispy California rolls are worth a visit alone!

Sushi Train
10725 104 Ave NW
Edmonton, Alberta
(587) 521-7788 

 3.5/5

HONG HUONG VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT

It’s a weekend morning. Or afternoon. You’re not quite sure because the pounding behind your eyeballs is making it difficult to focus on your cell phone. You’re feeling a bit rough (but who wouldn’t after all those shots of Belvedere and your stint as queen of Flip Cup?) and you know–you just know–you need to eat some pho.

It seems as if pho is rapidly overtaking dim sum as the most popular brunchy Asian food and, luckily for Edmontonians, there’s no shortage of places to park your butt and eat some noodle soup.

We recently decided to give Hong Huong Vietnamese Restaurant, a small place on the outskirts of Clareview, a try. To be concise, it was pretty good. It didn’t blow me away, but I did have a good, solid meal.

One of the things that I really liked about this restaurant was the amount of natural light streaming in through the restaurants windows, which covered most of the building’s facade. It makes the restaurant seem more friendly, while also setting the scene for some great food photography.

Our table may have been sticky, but the service was decent. They were reasonably fast with our orders: a 6-colour bowl for Taner and soup with rare beef, flank, and brisket for me. The bun bowl exploded with meats: pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, and meatballs, all accompanied with the usual spring rolls. The pho was less colourful but just as tasty. I generally prefer a darker, full-bodied soup for my pho (as I like my wine)–Hong Huong’s soup was much lighter but was full of flavour. The rare beef had unfortunately already cooked to well done by the time it got to my table, but I ate it with relish regardless.

The vietnamese coffee was much too sweet for either of us to drink, so that was left mostly untouched. Everything else, though, was great. We were happy with the food, content with the service, and pleased with our overall experience. As with most Vietnamese restaurants, the prices are extremely reasonable. For two meals and a coffee, our bill came under $30. Bargain!

If you live in the south or west end of the city, you probably won’t need to make the trek to Clareview for a great bowl of pho. If you’re a northsider, though, give it a shot. It’s about time that you tried something other than Namao Centre’s Pho Hoan Pasteur or 97 Street’s Pho Song Huong.

Hong Huong Vietnamese Restaurant
14425 Miller Boulevard NW
Edmonton, AB T5Y 0L4
(780) 476-3024
Sun-Thurs: 11am-9pm
Fri-Sat: 10am-9pm 

 3.5/5

2 Canteen | by Steve Munro

Guest post from local writer and blogger, Steve Munro.

When a friend texted me birthday plans for supper at Canteen, I couldn’t say no. It’s a relatively new arrival in Edmonton’s restaurant scene, has an easy to find location on 124 Street, and didn’t have a problem with a reservation for ten guests.

We were off to a good start when the servers took our coats for us at the front door before showing us to our long table with a leather cushioned bench seat at one side. Behind us, the bar was circled with hand-crafted metal bar stools with contoured steel backs. Once settled in, the birthday girl ordered herself a Bee’s Knees: a gin and honey drink that she enjoyed. I opted for a simple Americano coffee.

Unfortunately, my coffee was delivered in a mug that needed another run through the dishwasher, but our server quickly took it away and brought me a fresh brew in a new mug. The coffee itself had a strong, bitter aroma, but went down surprisingly smooth without leaving an aftertaste.

Our group decided to try almost one of everything off their “Small Stuff” menu, which seemed to be an alternative to the standard appetizer menu. I was very surprised by the pea falafel and spicy yogurt dip. The falafel was made with sweeter green peas rather than the typical chickpeas, but still maintained the same consistency, crunchy exterior, and texture. The spicy yogurt was fantastic. It had a smooth start and a gradual build to the spice delivery. The spicy flavor mixed very well with the sweeter green peas, and didn’t linger too long after the appetizer.

I also sampled one of the corn fritters with smoky maple syrup and seriously wondered which was better. I still haven’t made up my mind.

Most of our table ordered the Korean beef striploin. My medium-rare steak was excellent. The meat was just tender and juicy enough behind a firm cooked outer layer. It was served with a kimchi cake and yam puree that was surprisingly sweet. The kimchi cake was cut into triangles and cooked with a crispy outer skin to conceal a smoother mousse-like interior. There was an unfortunate mix up between two orders and a rare striploin ended up going to someone who ordered a medium-rare.

Another guest in our group decided to have some fun with her order and asked for all three of their dessert selections as her meal. Somewhere along the way, this order wasn’t processed with the rest of the group’s orders. It wasn’t until we checked on the progress of the dessert-as-supper order that our server realized the mistake.

As far as the desserts go, I loved the dark chocolate ganache – a rich, dense slab of smooth dark chocolate presented in a tart berry sauce. The portion size looks small but is so satisfying that a larger piece would only be a waste. When our friend who asked for all the desserts finally received her order, the only one she reported an issue with was the Poached Pear Verrine, which came across as a bit bland.

If you’re planning on visiting Canteen with a large group of people, say, more than four, you may have a few problems hearing each other. The modern layout and décor takes the form of textured concrete walls and concealed indirect lighting. The restaurant itself is long and narrow, and this tends to create a noticeable echo, which makes a conversation across ten people nearly impossible to participate in. The service staff seemed friendly and courteous enough but, at the same time, unsure and hesitant with a lack of confidence.

Overall, if you’re in no rush, can be patient with your order, and don’t mind the background noise, the menu itself is worth a try!

Canteen
10522 124 Street
Edmonton, AB T5N 1R9
(780) 485-6125
Tues – Fri: 11:30am-10:00pm
Sat – Sun: 10:00am-10:00pm

3.5/5

Canteen | by Steve Munro

Guest post from local writer and blogger, Steve Munro.

When a friend texted me birthday plans for supper at Canteen, I couldn’t say no. It’s a relatively new arrival in Edmonton’s restaurant scene, has an easy to find location on 124 Street, and didn’t have a problem with a reservation for ten guests.

We were off to a good start when the servers took our coats for us at the front door before showing us to our long table with a leather cushioned bench seat at one side. Behind us, the bar was circled with hand-crafted metal bar stools with contoured steel backs. Once settled in, the birthday girl ordered herself a Bee’s Knees: a gin and honey drink that she enjoyed. I opted for a simple Americano coffee.

Unfortunately, my coffee was delivered in a mug that needed another run through the dishwasher, but our server quickly took it away and brought me a fresh brew in a new mug. The coffee itself had a strong, bitter aroma, but went down surprisingly smooth without leaving an aftertaste.

Our group decided to try almost one of everything off their “Small Stuff” menu, which seemed to be an alternative to the standard appetizer menu. I was very surprised by the pea falafel and spicy yogurt dip. The falafel was made with sweeter green peas rather than the typical chickpeas, but still maintained the same consistency, crunchy exterior, and texture. The spicy yogurt was fantastic. It had a smooth start and a gradual build to the spice delivery. The spicy flavor mixed very well with the sweeter green peas, and didn’t linger too long after the appetizer.

I also sampled one of the corn fritters with smoky maple syrup and seriously wondered which was better. I still haven’t made up my mind.

Most of our table ordered the Korean beef striploin. My medium-rare steak was excellent. The meat was just tender and juicy enough behind a firm cooked outer layer. It was served with a kimchi cake and yam puree that was surprisingly sweet. The kimchi cake was cut into triangles and cooked with a crispy outer skin to conceal a smoother mousse-like interior. There was an unfortunate mix up between two orders and a rare striploin ended up going to someone who ordered a medium-rare.

Another guest in our group decided to have some fun with her order and asked for all three of their dessert selections as her meal. Somewhere along the way, this order wasn’t processed with the rest of the group’s orders. It wasn’t until we checked on the progress of the dessert-as-supper order that our server realized the mistake.

As far as the desserts go, I loved the dark chocolate ganache – a rich, dense slab of smooth dark chocolate presented in a tart berry sauce. The portion size looks small but is so satisfying that a larger piece would only be a waste. When our friend who asked for all the desserts finally received her order, the only one she reported an issue with was the Poached Pear Verrine, which came across as a bit bland.

If you’re planning on visiting Canteen with a large group of people, say, more than four, you may have a few problems hearing each other. The modern layout and décor takes the form of textured concrete walls and concealed indirect lighting. The restaurant itself is long and narrow, and this tends to create a noticeable echo, which makes a conversation across ten people nearly impossible to participate in. The service staff seemed friendly and courteous enough but, at the same time, unsure and hesitant with a lack of confidence.

Overall, if you’re in no rush, can be patient with your order, and don’t mind the background noise, the menu itself is worth a try!

Canteen
10522 124 Street
Edmonton, AB T5N 1R9
(780) 485-6125
Tues – Fri: 11:30am-10:00pm
Sat – Sun: 10:00am-10:00pm

3.5/5

DYNASTY CENTURY PALACE

Dynasty’s dim sum isn’t bad, but the main selling point is the low, low cost. If you’ve never had dim sum at a large-scale Chinese restaurant before, you’re in for an experience. It’s Good Buddy times five. Dearly-deceased Noodle

CRAFT BEER MARKET

A review of the food and drink at CRAFT’s pre-opening event on December 18th, 2013. I’ve already written about the history, foundation, and philosophy of CRAFT Beer Market, so this post will strictly cover the food and drink I (and a few friends)

ALL HAPPY FAMILY RESTAURANT

For years, Chinatown’s Garden Bakery was my go-to Chinese food hotspot. The dishes were delicious, the service prompt, and the bakery downstairs always sold my favourite curry puffs and peanut balls.

Dining there recently was a huge shock. I don’t expect to be eating food cooked by a Red Seal chef, but I do expect that my noodles will be fresh and al dente, rather than microwaved into a gelatinous blob reminiscent of an antagonist in a 1958 horror film.

When a restaurant goes downhill to this extent, it’s time to take up shop elsewhere. In my case, I moved my loyalties next door to All Happy Family Restaurant.

All Happy is best known as the place to go after a wild, drunken night at the bar. They’re open till 4am, allowing you to fill your junk food cravings after spending the night dancing and drinking your face off at Knoxville’s or Central Social Hall. It’s cheap, the food is served within minutes, and it’s a delicious alternative to a packed McDonald’s drive-thru.

However, unlike many of my friends, I also like to eat in Chinatown during the day whilst still moderately sober. I visited All Happy for a dinner with my friend Amanda–my usual date for a Garden Bakery romp–and we were sold. The noodles were as good as the Garden Bakery’s used to be and had all of the flavour that its next-door neighbour appears to have lost.

Amanda and I are purists when it comes to our Chinatown dinners: we order the same two things each time (but don’t worry–as a halfer, I’ve tried a variety of Cantonese cuisine and a smorgasbord of Mandarin delicacies throughout my life).

The Seafood Chow Mein was beautiful. Crispy, fresh noodles served as a bed for a mound of crunchy gai lan, tender scallops, shrimp, carrots, and squid. The sauce, which can turn to jelly if old, left sitting on a counter, or microwaved, had a perfectly thick consistency and was full of savoury seafood flavour.

The Beef Chow Fun with Gai Lan–my personal favourite–was so fresh and hot that I burnt my mouth slightly in my haste to devour it. This version of Beef Chow Fun is the ‘wet version’ (something you should mention if you order it in a restaurant), which differs from the usual ‘dry version’ that is stir fried in spices. I prefer the sauce on my noodles, which is why I order this version. It’s tasty and a nice change from the usual if you’re feeling only slightly adventurous. Gai lan is my favourite of all Chinese vegetables; known as ‘Chinese broccoli,’ it’s crunchy and has a distinct flavour similar to kale.

I also ordered a Litchi (lychee) Cooler, a refreshingly sweet drink full of litchis, which are great as an impromptu after-dinner dessert.

Dinner for two at All Happy came to under $25–a bargain and perfect for those who love a cheap and cheerful Chinatown snack. If you haven’t managed to stumble into this restaurant in the wee hours of the morning yet, give it a shot. Maybe even try it during the day. You might just like it.

P.S. They deliver! Just make sure to order an hour in advance.

All Happy Family Restaurant
10011 106 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5H v2S1
(780) 421-8297
Open 11am to 4am daily

3.5/5