Restaurant Review – Jasmine Restaurant

20 Dec

Jasmine Restaurant
(306) 244-9956
3-510 Circle Dr E
Saskatoon, SK

If I was to use one word to describe Jasmine Restaurant, I think that YUM would suffice. My fiance and I dinned at Jasmine the other day and had an excellent meal! This is our second time dinning here, and I think the best so far.

I love the flavours of Asia! I’ve had a few go-to Vietnamese and Thai restaurants over the years. Each one has gone downhill in the end. For quite some time, Saigon Rose was, I feel, the best Vietnamese in the city. Their soup broths were unreal and the sate dishes were rich, concentrated, and heavenly. As of late it’s been junk since Rose is not involved. Another tasty choice used to be Pho’s Shanghai Kitchen on Idylwyld Drive. Their Pho was excellent! From their sate to tom yum, each soup was perfect. It also included a side of bean sprouts, cilantro, lime, and fresh chili peppers. Rarely do you ever find a restaurant that serves their Pho with traditional sides. Sadly, Pho’s closed a couple of years ago. The last place for guaranteed eats was Saskatoon Asian Restaurant. The last couple of times have been very disappointing. Their spring rolls have changed for the worse, noodle bowls changed, and soup broths taste like the cooks use a packaged MSG powdered broth mix (the ones you pay 25 cents for at the import store). On the search for a new go-to joint, we stumbled across Jasmine.

I have heard nothing but great things about Jasmine over the years. It baffles me why it took so long to try it. I’m glad I did because it is our (at least my) new place for awesome Asian style food! I’m pretty sure my fiance agrees with my Jasmine stance. The restaurant has a very simple, unassuming appearance. There is next to no kitschy wall adornments or ornaments. Their food doesn’t have to hide behind any fancy dancy dress. The building smelled excellent (some places have a fowl, rotten fryer oil smell), and the booths, tables and chairs were very clean. I was also impressed by their fresh and sparkling clean washrooms. They even lacked the common poopy aroma! Also, the staff were very friendly and prompt with service.

My fiance and I have visited Jasmine only two times since friends suggested we try it. It’s one of those places where we seem to forget about when discussing where we should go to eat. It baffles me why we don’t think of it. I usually judge a place by how good their sate noodle soup is. When we first visited Jasmine I was not impressed by their sate pho broth. It was bland, and the bowl lacked vegetables and meat. Since I have heard from so many people how the food is, I thought it was worth giving it a second chance.

For this visit we started with an order of the spring rolls and cold rolls. These were AWESOME!!! Like our first visit, the deep fried rolls were very good. The rice paper was very crispy and the filling was meaty, properly seasoned, and fresh tasting. One thing that struck me was the clean taste of the fryer oil. It’s pretty common, I’ve found, that fryer oil is old, unfiltered, and borderline rancid in many Saskatoon Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai restaurants. The cold rolls were very good as wall. The rice paper skin was soft and tender, and the pork inside the rolls was very well seasoned and tender. I recommend both the fried and fresh rolls as an appetizer.

And now the pièce de résistance! The curry chicken soup was very good! It was a mild yellow Thai curry with a rich and creamy broth of coconut milk and accented by fish sauce. Though the soup was super good, the only things that were missing was cilantro and lime. These are traditional ingredients when working with Thai flavours. The richness of the soup broth needed a slight boost of freshness from a lime wedge and a few cilantro leaves to properly balance it out. The soup came with two pieces of slow cooked chicken. The thigh and drumstick were extremely flavourful and tender! It was evident that it was marinaded for a a while before cooking. The inclusion of whole pieces of chicken was impressive and a point scorer. Generally it is rare for whole pieces to be served in Asian style restaurants in Saskatoon. The curry chicken soup is far superior to the sate noodle soup I tried on an earlier visit.

I look forward to visiting Jasmine Restaurant again and again to try their other soups and noodle dishes. If you have not been, you must try. Though it may be a little out of the way for most, it is well worth the trip!

Jasmine Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Review – New Island Sushi

30 Nov

Locations:
2036 Quebec Ave
Saskatoon, SK S7K

and

240 22nd St E
Saskatoon, SK S7K

http://newislandsushi.com/

Prices:
Lunch – $14.99
Dinner – $24.99
A-la-cart – Who cares

Well, what can I say about New Island Sushi? It definitely is NOT authentic Japanese food. It is typical Canadian sushi and noodles… very dumbed-down and bastardized. That said, it has some OK flavours at times and shwackloads of bang for your buck if you like rolls. I have tried both locations and I think the Circle Drive location is superior.

Expect fish and sauces cholk-full salt and MSG. The flavour is evident in their raw fish, soy dip, and tempura dip. Though spiking fish and sauces with MSG is weird and wrong in my opinion, I suspect a business would do that to cover up sub-par ingredients, and make you bloated and full faster. I suspected something was up after we left the restaurant. I felt like I ate a 10 piece bucket of K-Fry even though I used almost no soy sauce for dipping.

What to order:

Tempura Shrimp
Tempura Vegetable
Salmon Sushi
Deep Fried Curry Chicken Cutlet
Teriyaki Salmon Belly
Seafood Fried Udon
Dynamite Roll

What NOT to order:

Most generic rolls
Udon soups (Mmmm, MSG flavour!)

Here are some pictures:

New Island has a no waste food policy. If there is any left over food at the table they will charge you per individual piece. Because of that, DO NOT over order! If you do, the food keeps coming out and coming out! Our second last visit was traumatizing. We decided to try the downtown location this time. We ended up ordering too much and the food kept being served. We were getting extremely full and they kept bring us plates. We did not want to pay extra for wasted food so we kept eating. I was getting so sick I literally contemplated emptying my contents in the washroom and then continue, but I refrained. The only thing that really bothered us (besides being too full) was the wait staff. They were standing right by us making sure we did not waste food. It was embarrassing. Needless to say we have not returned to that location.

I give it 2 stars out of 5.

New Island Sushi - Northend on Urbanspoon

Long Time No See

13 Nov

Wow, it’s been a very long time since I’ve made a post on my blog! A lot has happened since I last posted! August was a crazy month… we were away more than we were home. Then, September came and it was back to work. Hence it is November and I am just now adding a post.

The biggest thing this summer was I proposed to the most wonderful and amazing women I’ve ever met!!! I asked her in her hometown of Moose Jaw Saskatchewan in August. She said yes!

The summer consisted of yard work and travel. We went to the lake numerous times, Moose Jaw, and Edmonton Alberta. We were in Edmonton for the Sonic Boom Festival
. This was so awesome! The day was topped off by an amazing show by Weezer!!! My fiance is the biggest Weezer fan ever and have both never seen them live, so it was so cool to share that special moment with her. Here are a few pics from that day:

So… I’m going to try and update this blog more often with reviews and food related stuff. I’ve been asked why there hasn’t been any new posts as of late by a few people. They seem to find it interesting so may be I should keep it up.

See you soon.

Restaurant Review – Weczeria Food and Wine

4 Aug

Weczeria Food and Wine –  616 10th Street E, Saskatoon, SK, Canada  –  306.933.9600

http://www.weczeriarestaurant.ca/

A week ago, my girlfriend Alison and I realized there was a special day coming up on the weekend and were looking for something very special to do. We thought why not try Weczeria Food and Wine. We have heard many good things about this restaurant and decided to give it a go. Their philosophy behind food is refreshing and sustainable. They only (when ever possible) source ingredients from Saskatchewan and/or Canadian farmers. Also, which I found cool, the menu changes daily.

We arrived early for our 6pm reservation and met the Chef and his wife (both are co-owners) outside getting some fresh air. Though they didn’t seem open yet, they were willing to bring us in and feed us. Not wanting to take away from their last few minutes of free time, we opted to take a few steps away to Starbucks to get a coffee fix until 6. We finished our drinks and began our 50ft journey back to the restaurant.

Walking into the restaurant I felt a warmth (no because it was REALLY hot in there) and hominess to it. For fine dining, the décor was refreshingly modest and unpretentious. The floors were aged wood, and the walls were adorned with pictures of the farmers the Chef sources food from. There was also a wholesome and complex food smell coming from the kitchen. The hostess was genuinely friendly and bubbly when we were met at the front door. When we were sat, we did not wait long at all to be met by our server (which happened to be the owner/wife of the chef). She was so warm and genuine in her welcome to us. She began to explain to us the whole concept of their food vision. Instead of menus, Weczeria uses smaller chalkboards at the table to display their items. This makes sense if the menu is changed daily.

All of the items on the menu looked so tasty! Labeled was the protein, and 4 or 5 other ingredients. There were no fancy, and wordy explanations to make their food seem more important… just simple list of ingredients. We were torn by which items to order, but finally decided on the following:

_______________

Starters

Gnocchi with asparagus, bacon and Parmesan cream sauce (there is no picture available because we ate it all before we could photograph it)

Trout rillette with crustini

Entre

Wild Boar topped with apricots, on a bed of wild rice, and surrounded by carrot, asparagus, spiced walnuts, and chive oil

Dessert

Fig and blue cheese bread pudding, topped with homemade vanilla ice cream.

Raspberry chocolate cake

Wine

Inniskillin Cabernet Sauvignon

_____________

The Trout Rillette (pate type spread) was unreal! Alison does not like fish that is too ‘fishy’, so I think she was a little weary when I ordered it. The first taste proved to be perfect for her. It was mild and very fresh. The Rillette came in a mini pickle type jar with crustini and rhubarb compote. The trout was great by itself on the crustini, but was really good with the added rubarb. The sweet/sour of the rubarb cut through the fattiness of the rillette.

Though the Rillette was great, I wish I ordered the Gnocchi that Alison ordered. It was unreal! If you are unfamiliar with Gnocchi, it is a potato dumpling pasta. The sauce was very rich and went well with the sautéed pasta. The Gnocchi was very tender and fluffy, and the asparagus was perfectly tender. It was quite literally one of the best things I have ever tasted!

For our entre, we both ordered the Wild Boar. The meat was perfectly cooked medium rare and extremely tender and juicy. Roasted apricots, asparagus, garden carrot, wild rice, spiced walnuts, and chive oil accompanied the boar. The vegetables were so tender and fresh, and the walnuts were an unreal combination with the boar. The only issue I had with the dish, and it is purely a personal opinion, was the apricots. Though correctly prepared, they did not work well with the boar. I am not the biggest fan of apricots, and I think that peaches or nectarines would have gone better.

For dessert we both chose an item to share (the dishes look messy because we had already dug into them before we could take a picture). Alison ordered the flourless chocolate cake, and I chose the fig and blue cheese bread pudding. Both items were excellent, with the winner going to the bread pudding! The cake was VERY rich and ultra chocolaty. It was a very dense flourless cake with the raspberries baked into it. The only dish that could even attempt to beat out the Gnocchi was the bread pudding. I have never had anything like it! The cheese was subtle and salty, and was balanced by a yummy sweet fig flavour. The pudding was topped with two fig halves, and an incredibly creamy homemade vanilla ice cream. In addition to dessert we had an good cup of coffee. I really like the service of the coffee at Weczeria… it came in a single cup french press. The flavour from the press was excellent.

I would urge you to try this wonderful find! Though a little expensive (not that expensive for fine dining in Saskatoon ), it is worth it, and is a great place to spend a special time. The food was so good, and ingredients so fresh, I would say Weczeria is the best restaurant in the whole of Saskatoon.

Weczeria Food & Wine on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Review – Saba’s African Cuisine

23 Jul

Saba’s African Cuisine –  901A – 22nd Street West, Saskatoon, SK  –  306-933-4447  –  Hours (Tuesday to Sunday — 4:30pm to 10:30pm)

http://www.whattodoinsaskatoon.com/ads/pages/saba/default.htm

My girlfriend and I have heard so much about Saba’s from our good friends Doug and Darla. In fact, I think it’s their favorite restaurant. We have wanted to go for a long time but it has never worked out that we could go. So last night we were able to check it out!

The space was quaint and simple… nothing fancy and pretentious here folks. The restaurant was clean and full of light, and the washrooms were sanitary and didn’t smell foul (which is rare for most places here). The walls were adorned with traditional pieces and knickknacks from their home country. There was no indication on the menu what country they were from, but from some research into the dishes and sauces, it is most likely Ethiopia.

The first thing that really struck me when entering Saba’s was the smell. IT WAS AWESOME! I could smell warming spices and MEAT! My mouth began to water profusely. I was excited for what was to come.

Since we were not familiar with the menu our friends ordered for us. They ordered the meat combination (they also have an extensive selection of vegetarian dishes), which excited me. The food took quite a while to come out, but that is to be expected for homemade dishes I think. The wait was well worth it!

Injera roll for eating

The first thing to come out was the Injera. Injera is a very yeasty sourdough flat bread with the texture and appearance of a crepe. By itself, the taste was not my cup of tea, but was assured that it would taste great with the food. The whole point of the Injera was to use it as the utensil. This was cool because I’ve never eaten like this before. The food came out soon after the Injera. It looked simple and smelt really good. I could smell chiles, allspice, and coriander. All selections were on top of a large round of Injera. All items on the platter tasted really good. The flavours were balanced and not that spicy hot. The only item that was somewhat hot was the chicken and egg in the middle of the plate. The platter included:

Meat Combination

Sega Tibsi / Kulwa (Mild): Tender cubed beef sautéed with onions, rosemary, tomato and jalapeno, served with salad (or Alcha or Rice) and spicy awaze sauce on the side.
Tsebhi Sega (Meat) (Medium): Tender cubed beef seasoned with fresh onions, garlic and ginger, sauced with butter and berbere sauce.
Tsebhi Derho (Chicken) (Hot): Tender chicken sautéed in butter and seasoned with garlic and soaked in berbere (hot red powder pepper) served with boiled eggs.
Alcha: Mixed vegetables, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, cumin, tumeric and some spices.
Alcha Birsen: Yellow split peas cooked in specially flavored mild sauce.

The hot sauce we asked for. Completely homemade and very unique.

The service was good but minimal. We were given a jug of water at the table at the beginning. Our friends ordered a beer at the start, but they were not asked if they wanted another one. What really impressed me was when Saba (Chef and owner) came out and asked us what we liked best and that she would bring us out more if we were not full. Now that is how you treat guests!!! We didn’t take advantage of her generosity, but did order two small sides of the cabbage and spicy beef.

All in all, Saba’s is a great little hidden gem. I look forward to going again and trying some other items off the menu. I urge you to try this great restaurant. Please be prepared to wait for your food, but don’t let that turn you off.

Please visit Saba's African Cuisine on Urbanspoon for more reviews.

Hot Sauce Review: Droolin’ Devil’s Liquid Sin

19 Jul

Ahhh, Droolin’ Devil! I was so excited when I found out we had a store that only sold hot sauces and spicy products a few years back. Most of their stock was hot sauces from around the globe, but showcased their own sauce. The shop was owned and operated by Craig “Uncle Big” and Lorien Lowenberg. They had two different lines of sauce… Droolin’ Devil and Uncle Big’s. Droolin’ Devil has more of a gormet edge to it, while Uncle Big’s is pure hellish heat with awesome flavour. I will review the Uncle Big’s products in the future.

But in true Saskatchewan fashion, we could not support a store with such a niche market, thus they went out of business last year. Hark, don’t fret people, they still sell their signature brands, and many other brands online at Droolin’ Devil Fiery Foods!!!

A couple of months ago I went to their online market and stocked up my supplies. I ended up buying like 8 different types of sauce. One sauce included in my purchase was Droolin’ Devil’s Liquid Sin.I actually got 2 bottles. Their sauces are a little more money than most are used to, but that is to be expected when you’re buying craft made sauce.

I’ve been using this sauce since I used to get it from their Saskatoon store. It is by far my favorite hot sauce to use. The taste is SOOOO good and is really hot. Check out Liquid sin here.

Uncle Big prides himself in using many complex flavour and  fresh ingredients when making his sauces. The ingredients for this sauce are: Red Savina ® Habanero, Peri Peri, Red Jalapeno Peppers, Fresno Peppers, Roasted Red Peppers, Garlic, Onions, Lemon, Lime and Blood Orange juice, Salt, Honey, Spices, Vinegar. Any one who knows chili peppers knows that the trademarked Red Savina pepper is the hottest Habanero pepper out there. It has been genetically bred for heat!!! Actually, Liquid Sin won 2nd place at Chili Magazine’s Fiery Food challenge.

Generally, hot sauces are very sour. I usually dislike a hot sauce that uses too much vinegar (ie Franks Red Hot). Vinegar has its place, but can easily be over used. This is why I love Liquid Sin so much! Some may feel it is too sweet, which it is, but it fits my taste buds just right. The sweetness comes from the honey and citrus juice. Though these ingredients might seem weird for a hot sauce, they work very well. The flavour of Liquid Sin is very complex and balanced. You can taste the honey, garlic and Habanero first, and the citrus and vinegar comes in at the end. The heat attacks the back of the throat first, which is typical of chiles like the Habanero.

If you like hot sauce, I urge you to visit Droolin’ Devil’s Fiery Foods and order yourself up some of their sauces.

More reviews on their sauces to come!

Image taken from:  http://droolindevil.com/ecomm/

Homemade Hot Sauce… Why Not?

15 Jul

Mmmmmm, I love hot sauce! Furthermore, I LOVE chili peppers! I love the taste, smell, and hellish heat. I while back I decided to make some homemade hot sauce. I’ve made homemade BBQ sauce many times, but I have not done a sauce with chiles. I picked up 4 varieties of fresh chili and two of dried. I used Habanero, Naga Jolokia (now the hottest pepper on the planet), Jalapeno, and a red chili I found, but I’m not sure of its name. The dried peppers I used were Pasilla Negro and Chile de Arbol. I didn’t follow a recipe (I very rarely ever do except for baking). I kinda just went with it… hence the lack of a recipe for the blog.

I treated each fresh chili a little different. The Jalapeno peppers I cut and cleaned out the seeds and membrane (the membrane, not the seeds, is where the majority of the heat is). The seeds of the Jalapeno pepper tend to taste bitter when cooked. The remaining fresh chiles I left everything in because I wanted as much heat as possible. I ended up using an extra large ziplock bag full of fresh peppers. I cut the peppers in half and roasted them in the oven to soften and release some of the hot oils. Once roasted, I placed them in a food processor and buzzed them until they were as liquefied as possible. This process led to a nice texture of very small specs of chili flesh.

I sometimes have a difficult time finding dried chiles in Saskatoon. Sobey’s used to carry them years ago, and EE Buritos market on 22nd Street have some varieties as well. Believe it or not, I found them at the Co-op grocery store on 8th Street. They have a GREAT selection! I love dried chili peppers! I love the dark, caramel colour they produce when hydrated and the slightly raisin like flavour. To prepare these peppers, I broke them open and emptied out the seeds. I then broke them up into smaller pieces and hydrated them in some simmering water. After they simmered for a couple of minutes, I let them sit with the lid on for an hour or so with the heat off. I then strained them (reserving some of the flavourful liquid) and buzzed them in the food processor until it turned into a paste.

In  a large pot, I put in the roasted peppers and all juice collected. I brought it to a simmer and added some tomato paste. I used that for texture and thickness… a lot of gourmet hot sauces use some tomato as a base. I added the chili paste and some of the water I reserved from soaking the chiles. I cooked the loose mixture for quite some time until thickened. During this time I added cider vinigar, sugar, and a variety of spices. I added things in small quantities at a time and tasted as I went. When it was finished cooking, I added it to some sterilized mason jars so it will keep for a long time.

This sauce is actually really good. Thanks to the Naga and Habanero peppers, it’s really hot. I have given some away and it has had a favorable response.

So why make your own hot sauce? Why spend the time? Because making things yourself  is fun! It’s a good way to get a custom taste and to ensure that the food doesn’t have junk ingredients. If after you make some and the sauce tastes like garbage, don’t stress. It’s not a big deal… try again.