Kazoku Ramen

Ever since I had to say goodbye to the love of my life (i.e. gluten), I’ve had to make do with poor substitutes and laughable facsimiles. The gluten free landscape has become more bountiful as of late, but the realm of wheat-free ramen has been fairly disappointing. So, when I learned that Kazoku Ramen, a restaurant close to my new place of employment, offered gluten free noodles, I was desperate to give it a try. Edmonton has been raving about its ramen restaurants for the past year and I’d automatically assumed that my allergy would exclude me from indulging myself–thankfully, I was wrong.

Kazoku is a new restaurant located in Mayfield/Meadowlark in west Edmonton. They’ve been open since October 2015 but I hadn’t heard much about them, other than from Cindy’s review on Let’s Om Nom. Of course, moving to the west end for work gave me ample reason to browse the list of restaurants in the area–thus, my first visit to Kazoku.

The restaurant is cozy but with plenty of table space and featuring an adorable wall painting of a godzilla chewing on a piece of narutomaki. The menu is brief but well-stocked, featuring a handful of traditional Japanese appetizers (think gyoza and edamame), tempura, ramen bowls, curry, and rice bowls. The server was a little quick on the draw, asking us what we wanted less than one minute after handing us the menus, but I assume that’s because lunchtime at Kazoku brings in the hoard of regulars, each one knowing exactly what they’ll have that day. We needed a little longer to decide, finally settling on the gluten-free miso ramen with pork shoulder char siu and the Japanese char siu rice bowl. (Note: the miso ramen is the only soup that’s gluten-free. While they have gluten free noodles, the soup base for most ramen bowls includes soy. Celiacs should also note that the char siu marinade may include trace amounts of gluten, so this restaurant is much more suited to those who are gluten intolerant.) 

Miso ramen noodle bowl

For only $13, you get a huge bowl filled with delicious soup, noodles, delightfully salty meat, and all the fixings: a half soft-boiled egg, shredded nori, bamboo shoots, corn, toasted sesame, green onion, and narutomaki. Kazoku prides themselves on including fresh ingredients in all of their dishes, including hand-picked pork, free range chicken, and locally grown produce–and it shows. The flavours are amazing. My miso ramen, despite having a smaller portion of noodles than normal (thanks, gluten-free), was excellent. I couldn’t help but finish the bowl, even with the possible risk of me falling asleep at my desk afterwards.

Japanese char siu rice bowl

The restaurant does, however, close on Tuesdays–holding inconsistent weekly hours is just one of the things smaller, independent restaurants tend to do. When I showed up there on a Tuesday at lunch, it was entirely my fault for not checking the hours beforehand. That still didn’t keep me from being disappointed that I wouldn’t get an excellent bowl of ramen that day (though I have learned my lesson since then).

In any case, if you’re in the area or feel like making the trek to the west end, I recommend you swing by Kazoku, say hello to the naruto-nibbling godzilla, and sit down to a steaming bowl of delicious ramen.

Kazoku Ramen
16518 100 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5Y 4Y2
(780) 483-0448

3.5/5

State and Main (Jasper Avenue)

Due to my mad panic to finish cosplays in time for Calgary Expo, it took me longer than expected to get to this post. But here it is, at last!

Gastropubs. So hot right now.

There’s something about the fusion of a welcoming pub atmosphere and a stylish menu line-up that just speaks to me. Maybe it’s the fact that I enjoy great food but don’t always feel like dressing to the nines (or paying through my teeth) just to get it.

State and Main sits somewhere between the likes of Original Joe’s and Central Social Hall. The interior is stylishly casual and friendly. The menu is the epitome of modern Canadian comfort food with a few surprising twists: steaks, wings, and pulled pork sandwiches sit amongst Korean-inspired gogi tacos, chorizo lasagna, and a Greek-esque spanako flatbread (think spinach, goat cheese, and roasted red peppers).

Media Tasting Event

Signature Caesar

Pretzel Sticks

With locations already in Windermere, Southgate, Sherwood Park, and Spruce Grove, State and Main recently took their brand to central Edmonton with a new restaurant on Jasper Avenue and 100 Street. At the media tasting event on April 12th, food writers, bloggers, and local media were treated to an extensive menu to showcase the restaurant’s favourites, along with brief speeches from State and Main staff to introduce newcomers to the brand.

Before I even get to the food, my primary impression from my very first experience at a State and Main was the level of attention and service we received. Not only were drinks ordered and dropped off efficiently, the staff were also extremely accommodating towards anyone with a food allergy or intolerance. I’ve been to several media events that provided terrible service, so the professionalism of State and Main with regards to this matter was something I truly appreciated.

Mama’s Meatballs

Chicken Wings

Chicken Gyoza

Dragon Boat Lettuce Wraps

As for the tasting menu–that gigantic tasting menu–it’s a bit of an understatement to say that we were given a well-rounded look into the types of food the restaurant has on offer. I’d need to throw the term “smorgasbord” in there for that statement to be more accurate. In order to keep this post from getting out-of-hand in length, here are some brief notes on the courses I tried from the tasting menu:

Food

  • Chicken Wings: How on earth can you go wrong with wings? Answer: you can’t. State and Main has great wings AND they have bleu cheese dip, so I’m sold.
  • Mama’s Meatballs: These were delightful. I couldn’t eat the garlic bread (sigh), but the meatballs themselves were extremely tasty. Garlic tomato and basil sauce, melted mozzarella, and parmesan equals a great time had by all.
  • Thai Salad: I’ve tried many ‘Thai salads’ in my time and haven’t been overly impressed with any of them. This one is probably the best one I’ve ever had because the flavours work so perfectly together. Romaine and rice noodles, cilantro peanut vinaigrette, citrus marinated grilled chicken, mandarin oranges, red onions, pea shoots, and cashews all combine to make a salad that’s equal parts sweet, tart, and savoury. It’s lovely.
  • The Empire State: All I’ll say about this delectable 10 oz. New York cut is that State and Main knows their way around a damn good steak.
  • Gogi Tacos: I had the gluten-free version of these. The shredded pork was delicious! A nice little Korean-inspired treat.
  • (Also on the menu: Dragon Boat Lettuce Wraps, Pretzel Sticks, Chicken Gyoza, Alberta Bison Burger, Jalapeno Mac and Cheese, Ice Cream Sandwich): Sadly, I couldn’t try any of these, but the pretzel sticks were a fan favourite at the table. Everyone was raving about the red ale mustard sauce.)

Jalapeno Mac and Cheese

Gluten-free Gogi Tacos

The Empire State

Cocktails

  • Signature Caesar: There’s really no excuse for serving up bad caesars in this day and age. Thankfully, State and Main’s Signature Caesar is excellent. I may have had several.
  • State Mint: The gin drew me in but while this drink was tasty, it was a little too sweet for my liking. Probably better for someone who’s just easing into gin and needs a powerful mixer.

Thai Salad

Alberta Bison Burger

Gogi Tacos

All in all, I had a great time at State and Main. The food was good, the service was top notch, and the company was excellent. Price-wise, everything is mid-range and reasonable, with entrees generally sitting between the $15-25 mark. AND there’s a fairly extensive gluten-free menu, which is great. They’re also open at 7:00 a.m. on weekdays, meaning that downtown employees can stop in for breakfast before starting their workday! The only issue with this restaurant, as with many others downtown, is parking. There is, however, a large Impark lot behind the building that’s probably not too expensive if you get there after 6pm.

State and Main
10065 Jasper Avenue
Edmonton, AB
(780) 990-0907

4/5

Cured Wine Bar

A great charcuterie is a beautiful thing. And its recent popularity, Edmonton’s growing need for meat, cheese, and selected accompaniments, has stemmed additions to menus all across the city. Every aspiring restaurant, pub, and gastropub has a variation of charcuterie on offer—and the sad thing is that many of them are supremely disappointing.

I mean, sure, you can stick a few slices of salami and a chunk of cheddar on an oddly-shaped slab of wood and call it whatever you like, but a great charcuterie—a charcuterie you go 25km out of your way to enjoy—is a work of art.

Cured Wine Bar, a recent addition to south Edmonton’s Ellerslie and Summerside neighbourhood, clearly takes pride in their art. Similar to Ampersand 27 on Whyte Avenue, Cured offers a build-your-own charcuterie and cheese board, with a variety of cured and dried meats, seafood, paté, and imported and domestic cheeses to choose from. Partner that with a selection of shared plates, from simple olives and pickles to clams with double smoked bacon, squash salad, and phyllo-wrapped brie, and you’ve got a well-rounded menu to appeal to even the most pretentious self-proclaimed foodie.

The restaurant also offers an excellent wine list, including two bottles of red priced at $1000 for the big spenders and an enomatic wine system, which allows them to offer small (as tiny as 1oz) tasters of select fine red wines.

I’ve dined at Cured twice now and each time I have been wholly satisfied with their charcuterie. While Ampersand charges per item, Cured lets you choose five meats for a set price and an addition of cheese at $5 an ounce. The “small” board (1-2 people) is $32 and the “large” (approx. 3-4 people) is $46, although you can get all of the meats on one board for $125. Each board automatically comes with accompaniments such as crostinis, condiments, and dried fruit, so you don’t have to pay extra for mustard like you would at Ampersand (thankfully, since Cured’s mustard is unbelievable).

Between my two dining experiences at Cured, I’ve decided that my favourite meats were the spicy soppresata, smoked salmon, and smoked duck prosciutto. I’ve yet to try one of the patés, though, and am dying to give the rabbit and blueberry terrine a taste.

Cheese-wise, you can’t go wrong with favourites such as the smoked gouda, seven-year aged cheddar, and gorgonzola. The highlight of the cheese section, though, was the saganaki. We saw the server walk by with a sizzling, fiery pan of some kind of cheese and knew we had to try that for ourselves. It’s a beautiful addition to any charcuterie and I strongly recommend you give this cheesy Greek delicacy a try.

It should be noted, however, that Cured only takes walk-ins and the dining area is fairly small. We’ve never had any issues going before 6pm or going a bit later in the evening, but it fills up fairly quickly during peak hours, particularly on the weekend. It is a beautiful dining room, though, and the ambience is romantic, slightly bustling, and perfect for any number of occasions, from date night, to work meetings, to drinks with a close friend.

Cured Wine Bar
2307 Ellwood Drive
Edmonton, AB T6X 0A9
(780) 756-3722

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

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