Sunday, June 28, 2015

Prairie Noodle Shop Grand Finale Pop-Up #4

After successfully hosting three ramen pop-ups over the past year, Prairie Noodle Shop held their fourth and final event last Saturday evening. I had the pleasure of attending their third pop-up back in March, which you can read about by clicking here. The experience was so exciting and memorable that I knew I wouldn't be disappointed at their grand finale event. 

Final ramen pop-up held in Ernest's at NAIT.

Prairie Noodle Shop creates ramen inspired by prairie flavours using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Flavourful broth, handmade noodles, and quality toppings showcasing authentic flavours of the prairies transform a popular Japanese dish into something that is creative and original. The final ramen pop-up was held at Ernest's Dining Room located inside NAIT with seating times at 5:00, 5:30, 6:00, 6:30, 7:00, and 7:30 PM. This time around, 150 bowls (up from 100 bowls) were served for more ramen lovers to enjoy! Just like their past pop-ups, each bowl cost $15 plus GST. Reservation tickets went live on Eventbrite a week before the event and sold out in under 5 minutes. I asked CJ to secure seats for us this time because he moves a lot quicker and manages to stay calm while constantly hitting the refresh button waiting for the link to be released on Twitter and Instagram. If you read my post about the previous pop-up, you'll know how anxious and nervous I was! The link appeared on Prairie Noodle Shop's Instagram profile first, so the moment we saw it CJ was able to get us tickets for the earliest seating time. Yay! A small victory for us. 

Arden of Prairie Noodle Shop telling us about our ramen for the evening!

Before we started eating, Arden of Prairie Noodle Shop explained that the night's feature bowl of ramen would be a classic meat and potatoes served tsukemen dipping style! An intriguing bowl very appropriate for a grand finale pop-up. Prairie Noodle Shop also believes in building and supporting our community, so it is in this spirit that they'll be donating $2 from every bowl sold to the late Constable Woodall's family via the trust fund set up at RBC. Cash donations were also accepted at the event, with the partners matching up to a total of $500 in donations. 

"Meat and Potatoes" served with a potato broth.

I was unfamiliar with dipping ramen, but thankfully Prairie Noodle Shop posted this link on their blog. This serving style known as tsukemen has the noodles and broth separated from each other, while ramen has all the components in one bowl. To eat tsukemen, you take a few noodle strands and lightly dip it into the broth. Even though that is how you typically eat tsukemen, others may prefer to eat the noodles by itself, have the broth act like a classic soup, or pour the broth over the noodles.

Noodles and toppings.
Potato broth.

Now let's talk about the details! Prairie Noodle Shop uses noodles that are fresh and locally made. These noodles were springy with a nice bite and had a certain texture that allowed it to grab onto the broth. I also liked being able to see the amount of noodles I had left in the bowl while I was eating. The dipping broth was a tangy potato broth that had a slight smokiness to it. I really enjoyed how flavourful the broth was. It was made to be dense but just thick enough to adhere to the noodles. The toppings included Alberta beef sourced from D'Arcy's Meat Market ground up "Dan dan" style, diced potatoes, pickled chilis, and an umeboshi egg. The spiciness of the ground beef was enjoyable and not too overwhelming, and I liked how the pickled chilis were added in just a small amount for an extra kick of heat. The addition of the potatoes to the ground beef reminded me of my Mom's take on a staple Filipino dish called giniling (Tagalog for "ground meat"). My Mom's giniling recipe is ground beef with diced potatoes usually accompanied by hard boiled eggs. I think it's pretty awesome how Prairie Noodle Shop's ground beef topping had me thinking of one of my all time favourite dishes to eat at home!


Prairie Noodle Shop's final pop-up bowl was amazing. All the components worked together to create a delicious eating experience. I also decided to save the umeboshi egg towards the end so when I finally tried it I was blown away by how good it tasted! Now I know why Arden described the egg as their "secret weapon". The slightly oozing yolk and soft egg whites were excellent. I also really liked how the egg was pink in colour (my favourite colour)! I totally could've eaten more than just the one in my bowl. 

CJ's review? "Right amount of spice. Even though how to eat it was confusing, it was manageable. It really felt like I was eating good old fashioned meat and potatoes although presented as a noodle soup." I do agree with him that eating this dish was kind of tricky, especially if you haven't mastered using chopsticks to pick up noodles. We found that we just dunked the noodles into the broth instead of lightly dipping, and doing so caused the broth to overpower the noodles. Nevertheless, we both really enjoyed trying dipping ramen for the first time - officially the fourth bowl of ramen I've had in my life!

Concept for future permanent location (sorry for the glare covering the logo)!

So what's next for Prairie Noodle Shop? They are hoping to open Edmonton's first designated ramen shop later this year! Pictured above is the concept for their future permanent location on 124 Street. I'm looking forward to having their ramen available regularly. It's been quite a journey for Prairie Noodle Shop so a big congratulations to everyone on the team for hosting four successful pop-ups! Also great job to everyone at Ernest's for providing a nice venue and excellent service! Don't forget to check out Prairie Noodle Shop's website and follow them on Twitter (@YEGNoodles) and Instagram (@yegnoodles) to stay up to date with news about their future opening!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Basha Donair & Shawarma

Do you ever have one of those days where you plan to do one thing but end up doing something completely different? That's what happened to me last Saturday. CJ and I were only planning to get shaved ice for an afternoon treat, but ended up getting donair out of all things! We decided to check out Basha Donair & Shawarma (2811 116 Street NW) located in the Blue Quill community in south Edmonton for our late lunch. This location is actually the fourth Basha Donair & Shawarma shop opened by Chef Kass Fattah, with other locations being in West Edmonton Mall, Leduc, and Nisku. The word Basha translates to mean "king" in Turkish, and that is the title Chef Kass wants his customers to feel they have when they step inside one of his restaurants. Continue reading to find out if I felt like a king at this southside eatery!

The interior.

Ever since we saw signs advertising that Basha Donair & Shawarma was now open for business, CJ would constantly tell me that we should check it out one day. Well, he got his wish granted! Basha Donair & Shawarma is tucked away in the Blue Quill strip mall, in between Blue Quill Chinese Food and Blue Quill Bar & Grill. The parking space in this area is quite large as well.

The inside of Basha Donair & Shawarma is clean and well lit from the large windows beside the entrance. There is some seating available for those who wish to dine in. 

The menu... sorry, I cut off some words!

You'll find three long panels on the wall listing the menu items when you step inside. I liked how the text size was large which made the menu more clear and easy to read. In addition to donair and shawarma, they also offer burgers, wraps, platters, salads, and some side orders.

Watching our donairs being made!

We were able to watch as our donairs were being assembled. You can choose which vegetables to add but CJ and I only went for lettuce in ours. We found that even though we ordered two different things from the menu, our donairs ended up looking exactly the same. 

Basha Little Bite.

Time to eat! Normally CJ and I would've dined in, but this time we decided to get our food to go and eat in CJ's backyard. My pick was the Basha Little Bite ($6.67) which comes with the meat, sweet sauce, your choice of vegetables, and cheese if you request it. The thinly sliced donair meat was nicely spiced and paired well with the melted cheese. I didn't really get a lot of sweet sauce which I believe is the most important feature of a donair. I also felt that there were a bit more slices of meat for just a "little bite" (but at least I got more bang for my buck!).

The Ashley Hangover.

CJ went for the regular size of The Ashley Hangover ($6.49) which was supposed to be "loaded with meat and drowned in sweet sauce" according to the menu description. Unfortunately, we both felt that there was no difference in the amount of meat and sweet sauce in our donairs. CJ's donair could've easily been my donair and vise versa. I thought his donair would be bursting with sliced meat but that wasn't the case. CJ did agree that the taste of the donair meat was quite good though. 

Regular Fries.

To accompany our donairs, we ordered a side of Regular Fries ($3). These fries look unassuming, but they were surprisingly tasty! They were seasoned well and had the perfect amount of crispiness. CJ and I both wished that we had ordered a Donair Poutine instead to get the best of both worlds!

Now how was our experience with Basha Donair & Shawarma overall? While I thought the taste of the donair meat and fries were pretty awesome, I also felt that everything was hastily put together. I wish there was more care put into assembling our donairs... it's a little disappointing when CJ and I can't even tell our orders apart! In spite of this, Chef Kass (who happened to be at this particular location) was very friendly to us and the other customers coming in. He was also the only person working at this location, so I think our donairs would've been made with more attention to the details if someone was there to help him. 

Since this location is the newest, it's understandable that there are still some kinks to work out. Did I feel like a king when I visited? Hmmm... not quite lol! But all the props to Chef Kass for providing good customer service and some tasty food for us! Basha Donair & Shawarma is a nice southside option if you're craving donair but I must add that the fries are quite delicious as well. Check them out on Facebook too

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Next Act

Now that it's officially summer, I've been thinking more about places in Edmonton with awesome patios for dining out. Enjoying the warm sunshine with delicious food always leads to a great time in my opinion. With that being said, I thought I'd share my first patio lunch of the season at The Next Act (8224 104 Street NW)! 

Located just north of Whyte Ave on 104 Street, The Next Act is a pub that offers snacks, soups, salads, sandwiches, and burgers. The Next Act is very well known for serving up some of the best burgers in town - in fact, they landed first place in Avenue Edmonton's list of Best Burgers in Edmonton in their Best Restaurants 2015 issue. I knew I needed to try one of their burgers to see if they were really deserving of that title. 

The menu.

June and I arrived around noon on a Wednesday, stepping inside a bustling pub. Luckily, a table out on the patio opened up for us so we decided to take our lunch date outdoors. It wasn't too hot outside and there was a gentle breeze. Shade from a nearby tree and the clouds blocking the sun every now and then allowed for beautiful, soft lighting which is something I seek whenever I'm taking my food photos. 

Spinach Dip.

To start off our lunch, June ordered the Spinach Dip ($12) to share with me. Baked spinach and hearts of palm blended with cream cheese and garlic make up the dip, which I found to be absolutely delicious. The dip was warm, comforting, and full of flavour. It reminded me of the time when my group in Foods class back in junior high made a simple spinach dip, which was my first time trying the snack. Paired with the soft naan bread and crispy tortilla chips, this snack was a hit at our table. 

Our lunch.

Now onto our main courses! Our food was a little slow to arrive but understandable because of the lunch rush. 

MEAT Brisket Donair.

June decided on the MEAT Brisket Donair ($15) for her lunch. The capitalized MEAT in the name refers to The Next Act's sister restaurant MEAT which is just next door. You can read about my adventure at MEAT by clicking here. Wrapped inside the naan bread are smoked brisket, feta cheese, sweet donair sauce, red onion, sliced tomatoes, and lettuce. June offered me a bite which I took (hehe)... I thought the brisket was tasty but the real standout was that donair sauce which was nice and sweet and prominent in my bite. 

The Class Act.

It's finally time to talk about my lunch pick: The Class Act ($16) burger which comes with bacon, cheddar, an over easy egg, and all the groceries. You have to assemble the burger yourself since the buns are separated at first, but that made it easier for me to pick off the pickle and one tomato slice since I don't really like too many vegetables. Just putting the burger together was enough to make the egg yolk softly ooze out on the side of my burger. My first thoughts? This burger is hugeeeee! Cutting the burger into super tiny pieces was a necessity for me. Now how about the taste? The patty was juicy and quite thick, while the bun was soft, pillowy, and lightly toasted. The vegetables tasted fresh, but the best parts of the burger for me were definitely the egg and bacon. I didn't really get a lot of cheddar though. The house cut fries served alongside our food was just okay but nothing really special about them. 

So did I think this was the best burger in Edmonton? No. I personally thought the size of the burger was too big and overwhelming for me. When it arrived at our table I instantly wished CJ was with me to help me finish my food. I would've enjoyed my burger more if both the patty and bun weren't so thick. 

View from the patio.

I think the burger I had was okay overall, but it definitely was not the best burger I've had (or am yet to have) in Edmonton. I tend to like smaller sizes that are more manageable to eat when it comes to burgers. We all have our own preferences. I know many people enjoy The Next Act's burgers, such as the The Critic or their PB&J which are two crowd favourites. 

The next time you're craving a burger, I would still recommend giving The Next Act a shot even though my first experience wasn't as amazing as I'd hoped. After all, they scored first place in the Best Burgers category for a reason! So do give it a try if you're in the neighbourhood. I enjoyed the Spinach Dip a lot more though and would love to come back just for that. Check out The Next Act on Facebook, Twitter (@NextActPub), and Instagram (@nextactpub).

My first patio lunch of the season was great. It was nice to get some food with a friend while enjoying the warm weather. I'm looking forward to more patio adventures this summer! 

My first photo submission to Gastropost!

P.S. Later that evening, I found out the week's Gastropost mission was "Just Dip It" and immediately thought that the Spinach Dip I had earlier would be perfect to submit. I submitted my first photo to Gastropost Edmonton to complete the weekly mission, patiently waiting for the following week to see if my photo would end up in the Edmonton Journal. And it did! Thank you Gastropost for featuring my photo in the paper! Also thanks to June since she's the one who paid for that dip and made it possible for me to complete the mission! 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Bar Bricco

Last weekend, my friends and I had a celebration for all the June birthdays in our group. We decided to check out Bar Bricco (10347 Jasper Avenue), an Italian wine and spuntini bar owned by the acclaimed Chef Daniel Costa. Located in between his hugely popular modern Italian restaurant Corso 32 and the future home of a currently unnamed 80 seat trattoria, Bar Bricco is the place to wind down with a light snack and a glass of wine. 

Bar Bricco.

I have never been to Corso 32 yet, but I am aware of the need to reserve well in advance if you want to dine there. Contrasting this, Bar Bricco does not take reservations which suggests a more casual atmosphere. 

The bar.
The menu (it's different from the one currently on their website!)

Bar Bricco has a fairly small space (smaller than what I had expected), with only three tables that seat four people each and a long, wooden bar for about 15-18 people. CJ and I arrived when they opened at 5 PM, so we ended up grabbing seats at the bar with the window behind us while waiting for our friends. 

In the meantime, I got a chance to admire the interior. The sleek octagonal tile which curve from the ceiling to the floor make the space appear modern and intimate. If I had to describe Bar Bricco with one word it would be minimalist, highlighted by its small space, small menu, and as you will see, small plates. 

Fonduta Agnolotti Dal Plin with Sage Butter and Parmigiano.

Our group decided to order our own dishes and then share one of Bar Bricco's tasting plates. The first to arrive was June's pick: Fonduta Agnolotti Dal Plin with Sage Butter and Parmigiano ($16). The small ravioli are pinched to form its rectangular shape. To eat it simply pick one up, dip in the sage butter, and then the Parmigiano. I didn't try one, but I can imagine these to be a nice, light bite and super fun to eat. This plate also appears to be great for sharing! 

Egg Yolk Raviolo.

I've heard many wonderful things about Bar Bricco's Egg Yolk Raviolo ($15), so I knew this snack had to be my pick for the evening. Enclosed in the pasta is a rich and creamy ricotta and a beautiful egg yolk that softly oozes out the moment you cut into it. Paired with sage leaves, brown butter, and grated Parmigiano cheese, I seriously can't get over how amazing this pasta dish tasted. The only problem with the raviolo is that I wish there was more... it was that good. 

Culatello served with Grissini, House-Made Focaccia, and Warm Bread.
Culatello "Heart of the Prosciutto".
House-Made Focaccia and Warm Bread.
Grissini Breadsticks.

CJ's pick came from one of the many options listed in the Salumi (cured meats) section of the menu. He ended up going with the Culatello "Heart of the Prosciutto" ($13) which is served with grissini breadsticks, house-made focaccia, and warm bread. The word culatello translates to "little backside", which comes from the fact that the meat is made from the muscle mass in the back leg of the pig. The culatello CJ received was aged for 1 year and imported from Emilia Romagna. CJ enjoyed the thin slices of culatello paired with the crisp bread, which he found to be surprisingly filling. I also had a lot of fun with the grissini breadsticks, which I thought was simply decoration when I first saw it. These crisp, dry breadsticks had CJ thinking of Pocky but without the chocolate. 

Grilled Cheese.

Our server told us that they had one additional offering that wasn't on their menu, and that was their Grilled Cheese ($15). Unfortunately I don't remember the specific components of this dish, but Hamna decided to try it. She liked the extent to which the bread was toasted, but wished there was more cheese in it. There was also an added sweetness and richness with each bite. Personally, Hamna didn't care for this dish but others may find it more enjoyable! 

Rye & Speck Crostini, Ricotta, Cabbage, & Pink Lady Apple.

The last dish to arrive was Jeline's: Rye & Speck Crostini with Ricotta, Cabbage, and Pink Lady Apple ($15). On top of each crostini piece (4 served in total) is a spread of ricotta cheese topped with Speck (smoked prosciutto) and a refreshing mix of cabbage and apple. Jeline noted a good balance of sour from the dressing and a creaminess from the ricotta. Overall, a tasty dish. 

Formaggi Tasting Plate.
5 different cheeses.
Truffle & Black Pepper Honey and House-Made Pear Marmelatta.
House-Made Focaccia and Warm Bread.

A group of 5 people calls for one of Bar Bricco's tasting plates which are perfect for sharing. Our group decided to try the Formaggi Tasting Plate ($28) which comes with 5 different cheeses, grissini breadsticks, focaccia, warm bread, and two condiments. Moving clockwise starting from the 12 o'clock position in my second picture of the cheeses, we received Pecorino Toscano Fresco Aged 3 Months, Black Truffle Moliterno Aged 18 Months, Pecorino Toscano Stagionato Aged 6 Months, Taleggio, and finally Ricotta cheese in the centre. Please correct me if I am wrong about the cheeses - this is only from my memory! 

I really enjoyed trying the cheeses with different combinations of condiments and bread. Each cheese had its own unique taste and sharpness, but I think my personal favourite was the Pecorino Toscano Fresco which was one of the more mild options on the platter. CJ's favourite? The strong, earthy taste of the Black Truffle Moliterno, which is made by infusing a black truffle paste after the moliterno has aged. The truffle and black pepper honey added a nice sweetness to the bread and cheese, and the pear marmelatta was an equally delicious condiment as well. Overall, this tasting plate was excellent and quite filling. I recommend getting this or the Salumi Tasting Plate (which I want to try next!) if you're visiting Bar Bricco with a group of friends. 

Oooo... fancy glass of white wine.

Overall, I would say that my experience at Bar Bricco was pretty awesome. The food I tried tasted absolutely delicious, especially the Egg Yolk Raviolo. Our server/bartender was also really knowledgeable about the menu and wine pairings. I guess one of the few downsides is that the room can get a little loud, and parties consisting of more than 4 people will end up sitting at the bar (since the tables only seat 4) which make it difficult to have good conversation with the entire group. Personally, I felt a bit uncomfortable with a whole row of people at the bar looking at me whenever I snapped a food photo (lol).

Thank you Chef Daniel Costa and your team at Bar Bricco for the wonderful experience! Now I'm even more excited to try out Corso 32 one day. Bar Bricco was voted the best place in Edmonton for small plates and ranked 2nd in best new restaurants in Avenue Edmonton's Best Restaurants 2015 issue - and they definitely deserve these rankings! Hang your belongings on the hooks underneath the bar, kick back with some small bites and a glass of wine from the extensive wine menu, and make some good conversation with your loved ones. Bar Bricco is open Tuesday to Saturday starting from 5 PM - I recommend dropping by early to grab a seat (especially if you're with a group) as the room does fill up fairly quickly. It is also quite easy to get to Bar Bricco by public transportation... just get off the LRT at Bay/Enterprise Square station and take the 104 Street exit south of Jasper Ave. Check out Bar Bricco on Facebook and follow them on Twitter (@BarBricco)! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Brooklyn Tomato

After exploring the newest and biggest Canadian Tire in Canada (and maybe even the world?) located in South Edmonton Common last Friday afternoon with CJ, a lunch break was much needed. Walking around in a massive store with two floors is tiring after all. The night before I had learned of the grand opening of a restaurant named Brooklyn Tomato (104 - 2920 Calgary Trailwhich relocated to Calgary Trail from their former establishment in Bonnie Doon. I will happily welcome any new food business that opens up in the southside! 

Brooklyn Tomato Modern Vietnamese Restaurant.
Business Hours.

Brooklyn Tomato is located in the same building as Tasty Choice although it is a bit further inwards from the main road. That being said, there is plenty of parking space available. And I know what you're thinking... why is a modern Vietnamese restaurant named Brooklyn Tomato... that doesn't seem fitting! The name doesn't bother me in particular... in fact, I think Brooklyn Tomato is kind of cool to say! 

The interior.
The interior... really big space!

My first thought stepping inside the restaurant: "This place is soooo big!". The photo above shows only one side of the restaurant which is to the left when walking in... there is still an area to the right that is just as spacious (and clean)! Definitely no shortage of seating here! Given the big space I would say that Brooklyn Tomato is a great choice for larger group outings. 

The menu... sorry about the glare!
Menu: Appetizers | Soup | Beef Noodle Soup (Pho) | Chicken Noodle Soup.
Menu: Vermicelli | Grilled Meat Steamed Rice | Wok Fried Rice Dish | Sizzling Plate - Seafood.
Menu: Sizzling Plate continued - Beef & Chicken | Stir Fried Noodle | Wok Fried - Seafood & Beef.
Menu: Wok Fried continued - Chicken & Pork | Vegetarian | Desserts.

There is a lot of selection on the menu at Brooklyn Tomato, but it is fairly easy to understand given the descriptions and pictures provided for some food items. I initially only wanted to share a dessert with CJ but after wandering around Canadian Tire for a good hour or so, we both wanted something more filling. 

Grilled Chicken with Steamed Rice.

We both had our eye on the choices under Grilled Meat Steamed Rice ($12.95). I told CJ to say which meat he wanted on the dish and I would do the same at the count of 3. "1... 2... 3... Chicken!" was what we both said. Lol, we really are meant to be! Accompanying the meat and rice are two wok fried eggs, shredded lettuce and marinated carrot, tomato and cucumber. The chicken and rice are also topped with green onion. This dish tasted exactly like how it looked. No surprising flavours, no questionable textures. A simple, classic rice dish with perfectly cooked chicken, eggs to bring the flavours up a notch, and vegetables to refresh the palate. The portion size was great for sharing with CJ since I don't tend to eat that much anyways. Apparently CJ found that there was more meat compared to the rice we were given but I felt the opposite... in fact, the amount of rice I had was perfect since I find that other restaurants serve smaller portions of rice than what I would prefer. 

Grilled Pineapple and Banana.

CJ and I came here for dessert so of course we had to order one. I chose their Grilled Pineapple and Banana ($4.95) which is served with a creamy coconut sauce and vanilla ice cream. Since I tend to go for desserts with chocolate, this dessert consisting of fruit was a nice change. I absolutely loved the warm, grilled banana and pineapple topped with nuts paired with the contrasting cold ice cream. My favourite part was the creamy coconut sauce which had small tapioca pearls in it... so yummy! Both CJ and I really enjoyed this dessert. I would love to recreate this at home. 

Our experience at Brooklyn Tomato was very positive. Because it was only CJ and I in one quiet corner of the restaurant, I felt relaxed and free to take my food photos and eat at my own leisurely pace. Our server was friendly and attentive, with our food arriving fairly quick too. I recommend checking out Brooklyn Tomato if you're in the mood for modern Vietnamese cuisine - you'll also be supporting a new, local restaurant as well. I wish Brooklyn Tomato all the best at their new south Edmonton location. Don't forget to check them out on Facebook


Last Tuesday, the love of my life turned another year older! Happy birthday CJ! To celebrate, his parents treated him to a birthday dinner and he even let me choose where we would eat (yay!). CJ agreed to check out Nomiya, a Japanese restaurant that has been on my list of places to dine at for awhile now.

Nomiya has two locations: one on Calgary Trail (Unit 646, 3803 Calgary Trail) and one on Ellerslie Road (11160 Ellerslie Road). We decided to go to their Ellerslie Road location since it was closer to us.

The interior.
Sorry, this photo turned out blurry :(

Nomiya has a fairly small space, with about 8 tables to seat guests and some seating at their bar. When we arrived around 6:30 PM without a reservation, we were immediately seated at their last open table for 4 right beside the window. Excellent... we scored the window seat! 

Dinner Menu: Appetizers & Salads | Nomiya's Original Rolls.
Dinner Menu: Sashimi | Sushi Combo | Donburi | Teppanyaki | Tempura.
Dinner Menu: Ishi-Yaki | Nabemono | Shabu Shabu | Robata.
Dinner Menu: Teishoku Set Dinners.
Udon (left) and Ramen (right).

In addition to being bright and colourful, the menus at Nomiya feature pictures of all the food items they offer. CJ has told me a few times in the past that it's easier for him to decide what to eat if he sees a picture of it. Descriptions aren't always enough, he says. In that case, Nomiya's menus are right up his alley!

Fire Cracker Maki.

To start off our dinner, CJ ordered their Fire Cracker Maki ($14.50) to share between us and his parents. Tempura unagi and a seaweed salad are found inside each roll with salmon, green onion, spicy sauce, and tempura crumbs placed on top. This maki was delicious. The salmon on top tasted fresh and the seaweed salad was surprisingly tasty and provided interesting texture. The best part of this roll was the sauce... perfect amount of spiciness that made each bite well rounded and more flavourful. I would come back just for this.

Katsu Don.

CJ's birthday dinner pick for himself: Katsu Don ($12.95), a bowl of rice topped with deep fried pork cutlet, egg, condiments, and onion. This dish comes with a choice of soup or salad as well. I'll admit that CJ chose to get this because of an anime that we watch together called Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma. In Episode 7 titled "A Quiet Don, an Eloquent Don", Soma (the main character) has to create a donburi dish with meat as the main ingredient in a Shokugeki (or 'challenge') against Ikumi Mito, nicknamed Meat Master because of her expertise with meat dishes. In the anime, the characters talked about how every component of the dish needs to complement one another. And that's exactly what it felt like when CJ let me try a bit of his katsu don. The pork, egg, and rice together made for a hearty dish with delicious flavours that were new to me. So good! 

Shio Ramen.

I've heard many good things about Nomiya's ramen... a lot of people have mentioned on social media that it is one of the best in the city. So I obviously needed to try one for myself! I ordered their Shio Ramen ($11.50), with this bowl officially being my third bowl of ramen in my life (1st bowl from Ninja Club - yes I promise I'll create a blog post about that, and 2nd bowl from the Prairie Noodle Shop Pop-Up #3). I'm no expert on ramen, but some quick research tells me that the primary components of ramen are its broth, seasoning, noodles, and toppings. My bowl of ramen consists of tonkotsu or pork bone broth seasoned with homemade Shio (sea salt) flavour. The noodles were thin and straight, perfect for slurping. The toppings included thinly sliced pork, corn, onion, nori (dried seaweed sheet), a soft boiled egg, narutomaki (the spiral shaped topping in my photo), and some other toppings. The light and creamy soup was seasoned well and perfectly balanced, while the sliced pork was also tender and succulent. I was disappointed that I didn't enjoy the egg too much... it had a sharp, salty flavour that threw me off (is that how it's supposed to taste?). Apart from that, I can finally see why many people enjoy Nomiya's ramen: the soup had its own complexity, the noodles were chewy and seemed to have no end, and overall the bowl was bursting with warm and hearty flavours. 

CJ's parents also ordered ramen, specifically the Spicy Miso Ramen ($12) and Seafood Ramen ($14.50). CJ's dad seemed to enjoy his bowl of spicy miso ramen, considering he finished the entire thing! CJ's mom also liked her seafood ramen, but found that the seafood itself was not as fresh as it should've been. 

Mochi Ice Cream.

I was so excited when CJ said we'd order dessert! CJ and I shared the Mochi Ice Cream ($7.95) which comes with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, two Pocky sticks, and red beans. Sadly, the mochi ice cream didn't taste good. The mochi itself had a weird, crumbly texture and both the green tea and black sesame ice cream tasted like it had been in the freezer for too long. Bleh. At least the Pocky was okay. But this wasn't worth the money because the ice cream (which is supposed to be the star of this dessert dish) wasn't up to par with mine and CJ's expectations. 

Tempura Ice Cream.

CJ's parents shared the Tempura Ice Cream ($7.95) which is served with chocolate syrup and mango slices on the side. I'm pretty sure this was more enjoyable since I didn't hear any complaints from CJ's parents. The mango slices were also a nice touch! 

Thank you to CJ's parents for treating us to this special birthday dinner! Overall, the food I had was amazing although it did fall short on the dessert. Our server was friendly, quick, and attentive despite the groups of people coming in for dinner. I'm glad I finally got to try ramen from Nomiya... with every ramen bowl I try I learn more about why this Japanese dish is so popular. I recommend checking out Nomiya for good Japanese eats and tasty ramen bowls... with a lot of selection on their menu, there is something for everyone. Check out Nomiya on Facebook and follow them on Instagram (@nomiya_yeg)!