Joey’s Global Grill & Lounge – Edmonton, AB


Joey’s Global Grill & Lounge
9911 19 Avenue NW
Edmonton, AB T6N 1M4
(780) 465-1880

Joey’s South Common is the upscale version of the more common Joey Tomato’s found throughout this and other cities.  Taking advantage of a beautiful summer day in Edmonton, we slid out of the office a good half-hour before noon to ensure we could grab a table on the outdoor patio.  Good thing we did, as most of the tables were already filled by the time we got there – although this could have been due to the sunny Friday afternoon in which we chose to visit this establishment.  The outdoor patio is equipped with a full bar, water features, shade umbrellas, and plenty of staff to keep drinks refilled, and the plates moving.

After perusing the “world-inspired” menu, the ‘Baja Fish Tacos’ caught my attention.  My lunch companions ordered the ‘Tandoori Chicken Flatbread’, and ‘Viva Salad’.  We shared a laugh when we got to reminiscing about a lunch at this same restaurant years ago, when I ordered this same salad — but distinctly recall it being called the ‘DIVA Salad’ (as I had to endure quite the verbal onslaught from my friends at the table that afternoon).  Maybe other customers shared this experience, resulting in the name change?  Who knows!?

The service on this day was very quick – replacing drinks just as they crossed the half-way point – and the food arrived surprisingly quick considering how busy the patio was.

My trio of tacos arrived on a clever taco stand, with a plentiful side dish of Mexican hot sauce (which was actually mild, even for my low heat tolerance).  Flavor of the tacos was quite tame — which made the sauce a must.  Overall – not the worst fish tacos I’ve ever had; however, the biggest drawback to my meal was the unfortunate luck of sitting downwind of my companion’s tandoori chicken.  Don’t get me wrong – I am an Indian food junkie — but if 75% of what we perceive as taste actually comes from the olfactory receptors – I was smelling Indian food, while putting Mexican on the actual tastebuds…

Baja Fish Taco

Baja Fish Taco

The tandoori chicken flatbread looked great, and as mentioned – smelled great.  The server commented that this was her choice of the trio, but two of our group didn’t find it all that exciting.  Comparing this to your average Indian restaurant, I would have to say this falls short.  Maybe to those who haven’t experienced really good Indian food – this might suffice as a nice introduction to the cuisine?

Tandoori Chicken Flatbread

Tandoori Chicken Flatbread

Last, but certainly not least is the ‘Viva Salad’.  I’ve been a big fan of this salad (as far as meal-worthy salads go).  The apples add a nice sour note, the Craisins provide a nice sweetness, and the roasted chicken is tender and seems to absorb just the right amount of the balsamic dressing.  Maybe it was the heat, but the lettuce was a bit on the wilty side, but still within a tolerable state.

Viva Salad

Viva Salad

I find my experience(s) at Joey’s most fun when the intention is to go for a few drinks and a couple bites.   Every experience I’ve had for lunch or dinner, has resulted in at least one individual who was a little let down with their meal, while another is satisfied.  Maybe this is due to their attempt to bring such a variety of world influences to a single menu – which makes them the restaurant equivalent of a “Jack of all trades, and a master of none”.

Joey's Global Grill (SouthEd Common) on Urbanspoon

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Café Mumbai – Vancouver, BC


Café Mumbai
2893 West Broadway (@ Bayswater Street)
Vancouver, BC
(604) 737 2500

In my past travels through India, I have never been able to make it to the west coast mega-city of Mubami (ex-Bombay) much to my dismay. Though I am aware that it is the centre of the country’s business and entertainment institutions, and the metropolis attracts people from all over India to work and live.

Café Mumbai seemingly picked up on this, and claimed to cover the diverse range of cooking and styles of cuisine of the nation.  In an almost-direct rebuttal to the Indian-influenced creations at the city’s best known “Indian” restaurant Vij’s, Café Mumbai states they focus on tradition and there is “no confusion by fusion”.

To me, the dine-in menu seemed to be represented more by staples from the north such as samosas and tandoori, with a few smatterings of those from the south such as pakoras.  With owners originally from the western state of Gujarat, the menu also featured a good number of vegetarian choices.  Though not photographed, the Daal Makhni (black lentils cooked with onions and tomatoes) was unfortunately bland in flavour and disappointing.

Lacking a full out buffet as it common at many Indian restaurants in town, for lunch there are some set specials, including the pictured above non-veg mini meal that included two pieces of tandoori chicken, a choice of lamb curry or butter chicken, the day’s vegetable, rice and naan.  It was just fine, not outstanding nor horribly bad, and portion-wise good for a solo diner.  The butter chicken was a touch on the tart side, so for those who like it sweeter, keep this in mind.

Though in a high pedestrian traffic stretch of West Broadway, it seems Café Mumbai suffers from poor curb appeal.  This visit was on a Saturday lunch, and no other customers were there besides our table, though I could see through the front windows many people passing by and some stopping at the dark , heavy door but not entering.  From the outside looking in, the contrast from the brightness outside to the darkness indoors was striking, and perhaps adding to the lack of enticement to come in.

If it were me, I’d open up those windows and the door to allow more flow and air inside.  As well, if I were the lone manager/server who was there that day, I’d get rid of the spread out newspaper and not sit there at the front table while your diners are eating, as it didn’t seem that professional to me – after all this is a place of business and not your living room.

Cafe Mumbai on Urbanspoon

Taj Mahal Club – Kowloon, HK


Taj Mahal Club
B4, 3/F, Block B, Chung King Mansion
36-44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

Kowloon, Hong Kong
+852 2722 5454

There are some cuisines that for some reason or another just seem more conducive and better appreciated in a group environment.  For me, Indian is one of those.  Perhaps is the still relative niche-ness and lack of true understanding of the diversity of this country’s food culture by many North Americans that leads one to want to share with others – perhaps out of fear of making a disappointing decision while ordering the unknown. Others might suggest that its just simply wanting to try a little of everything on the usually large menus of such restaurants – which in and of itself is not a bad thing for someone that is continually trying to broaden their perspectives and knowledge.

While in Hong Kong recently, it dawned on me that there might be a hypothesis worth testing.  Does the lack of great familiarity with Indian cuisine also work hand-in-hand when dining in a group where most people don’t know each other well?  A double dose of hesitation, uncertainty and tentativeness so to speak.   I decided to have an actual experiment and our group’s decision to share a meal together in a strange country (no native Hong Kongers in our posse), with non-native cuisine and in a location (the restaurant was inside an actual residential complex) that was slightly intimidating, even further complicated matters.

Located on the third floor, and with a group of ten members, we opted to take the stairs up to the Taj Mahal Club restaurant, despite the existence of an elevator.  In hindsight, I am not sure that was the wisest decision, as the halls were darkly lit and dingy, with all sorts of local residents (all apparently Indians) sitting in the stairwell passing time with friends, and it felt like we were invading someone’s private space.  I swear I also saw smears of red on the walls which did not look like paint at all, and made me think this place has a sketchy past.  But once you get to the front door, you are welcomed by a brightly lit display, complete with press coverage dutifully collected and shown on the wall – including both local and foreign media.

Despite the relatively uneasy start to our night, the meal itself was an excellent example of the ability to get authentic ethnic cuisine in a country not native to that type of food.  The various curries we ordered included some staple chicken and lamb for those more timid, as well as more pure vegetarian options (yes, those people still do exist!).   The lamb version that I sampled had an ample amount of spice and was flavorful and the hot kick from it certainly made the bowl of rice and plates of fresh naan go all the more faster.  The coconut milk-based curries on our table were a bit sweeter and thus satisfied those for whom high levels of spice was not appreciated.  Simply put, our folks with various preferences meshed well with the curry menu and it enabled everyone to get at least one that they enjoyed, thus not leaving anyone out.

Tandoori chicken is always a catch-22 for me.  As much as I enjoy it, too many times I’ve been let down by it being overcooked and a dry, flaky mess of meat.  Thankfully, Taj Mahal Club does an amazing job with this.  The meat was tender and juicy, and the marinade had held up incredibly well through the cooking process.   An assortment of other dishes were on our table, but given the size of our row, I was unable to get other images.  But judging from the loud conversations and general jovial mood and rapidly depleting plates and bowls, I could tell that things were just as tasty at other sections of our row.

So how would I conclude my tested idea?  I would say that whenever great food can be had, it certainly helps to relax the mood on a night out with people who are meeting for the very first time.  The diversity of Indian cuisine, even in just the well known curry dishes alone, work well to meet the personal tastes and needs of everyone at the table, from carnivores to vegetarians, lovers of spice and those who are not.  When people are not really comfortable with a type of cuisine, I think that even works to help break the ice and enable those who are slightly more familiar to share what they know, and engage others in conversation.  A sort of exploration as a team occurs, with everyone anxious to give their thoughts and opinions on each dish, knowing that its a safe environment with nobody really standing out as a true expert on the cuisine so their impressions won’t be smashed to smithereens.

I’m sure the cold pints of Kingfisher didn’t have anything to do with it either…

Dunbar Pizza and Grill – Vancouver, BC


Dunbar Pizza & Grill
3348 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 732-4999
Hours: Mon-Thu, 11am to 11pm; Fri-Sat, 11am to midnight; Sun, 4pm to 11pm
Delivery: Free within 7 kms on orders over $20; 7% off on pickup orders over $20

Sometimes the cultural mosaic that makes up this great nation of Canada brings with it some interesting and eye-catching combinations, especially when it pertains to food, and at times must surely be seen as blasphemy back in the native countries where the cuisine originates. Sure, there are the occasional experiments with fusion cuisine that often marries two opposing styles of cultural techniques and ingredients (East meets West, Ming Tsai-style comes to mind here) into a single restaurant entity. At other times, it is a primitive headbutt of cuisines that arises, presumably due to the hand-off of a food serving establishment to an entirely different person of another cultural background who then has the difficult task of having to maintain the original theme of the business to retain the existing client base, but who also wants to implant their own mark on their new found enterprise by injecting some of their own cooking methods and food knowledge.

I found a great example of this recently in the Dunbar neighborhood of Vancouver. A very homey, somewhat eclectic street (but no where near the level of say Vancouver’s Main Street or Commercial Drive), that flies under the radar for most of the city’s residents, is home to several restaurants with most of them being of the casual variety. With a relatively close proximity to the University of British Columbia campus, I am sure the numerous pizza, coffee and pubs that abound, make for some convenient pickings for students on the evening prowl. Just off the corner from 16th Avenue turning onto Dunbar, I immediately spotted two pizza joints. Having no idea which one was better, I simply went with the one that was easier to park nearby and I could see someone inside of. Through this unscientific decision process, Dunbar Pizza & Grill was the selection on this night.

Returning to the culinary crisscross that I was describing earlier, this place which first appeared to be specializing in only pizza, had a twist. The generic menu board posted on the wall inside clearly showed that samosas, roti, and curries were available as well. How strange I thought, until seeing the Indian proprietor behind the counter. A friendly chap, who seemed to be enjoying his television program on the nearby set, while another employee was gathering some boxes for an apparent delivery order. Small, medium, and large pizza pies could be had with any three toppings for $9.99, $11.99, and $13.99, respectively. As well, sixteen signature pizza options were listed as well.

Here’s where I thought I’d take a chance. A mix between an Italian and Indian place all in one was too much to pass up. As such, the Tandoori Chicken Special Pizza was my call; with part of me even thinking of by-passing pizza all together and going all-Indian with a Lamb Vindaloo or a Daal Amrtisari. It took maybe 15-20 minutes before it was ready to take home, and upon opening the box, I must say it didn’t look too bad. A good spread of toppings such as green peppers and onions, with pieces of the chicken peaking out from beneath the layer of cheese, and finished off with slices of fresh tomatoes.

Taking a slice out and examining the cross section, it was neither too think or too thin a base either. The edge crust was just fine as well, nice and crispy but not overly so. Taking a bite, all the flavors envisioned from the toppings were there, although the anticipated taste of the tanodoori chicken was not there. I was expecting much more stronger flavors in the chunks of meat. Could it have been a poor tandoori to begin with, or not a suitable topping for pizza and got masked by the cooking process in the oven or blanketed by the cheese too much, I am not fully sure. Lastly, I felt that the bottom base of the pizza was a bit overcooked for my liking. It had that slightly brittle consistency that is a clear sign it was in the oven for a few minutes too long.

So I’d say this particular experiment of melding two cuisines was not a rousing success. Frankly, the tandoori chicken could have just been chunks of regular chicken breast meat. For all the anticipation I had built up in my own mind as to what this match up would be like, I felt left down. It’s all my fault though. I clearly got overly excited with my imagination. Now if they had swapped out the tomato sauce for say a curry flavored paste, etc. then perhaps it would have really been something I’d never had before. I’ll try not to let my imagination get the best of me, the next time I see a culinary cultural collision such as this one at Dunbar Pizza & Grill.

Dunbar Pizza & Grill on Urbanspoon

Bukhara – New Delhi, IN


[As with all of our posts, please click on any image for an enlarged view]

Bukhara
ITC Hotel Mauraya Sheraton & Towers
Diplomatic Enclave, Sardar Patel Marg
New Delhi, India
Open seven days a week
Lunch: 12:30pm to 2:45pm
Dinner: 7:00pm to 11:45pm

What could be better than a meal that is comprised largely of slow cooked, tender meats brought to life with exotic spices and flavorings, and where the service staff recommends that you eat with just your hands?

That’s the kind of amazing experience that is in store for you at Bukhara.

Now in its thirtieth year of business, Bukhara has proven that staying with the tried, tested and true does pay dividends, as it has maintained the exact same menu as when they first opened its doors back in 1978.  Restaurant Magazine has listed Bukhara among its selection of the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” (which began in 2002), a total of five times (missing out on the list in only 2005 and 2008). In 2007, it was the only Asian restaurant that made the top fifty list!

Prior to heading off on my first ever visit to India, I was told by a few of my Indian friends to definitely check this place out, no matter how busy I was, and I am glad I listened.  It is located within one of the high end hotels of New Delhi, which no doubt benefits tremendously from the reputation of their flagship restaurant.  Entering inside, there is a smallish waiting area adorned with a multitude of trophies and plaques from awards won, where many people were mingling about and having drinks before their reservation (a must here!).  The main dining area could be summed up as being very welcoming, a little on the dark side, at-home like with its creative use of a mixure of stone, wood, and bronze metals as construction materials.  The place feels almost like a well-decked out cave dwelling for some mystical genie, with all the colorful cushions and rugs spread out all over the place – very comfy!

The menu (which came as an inch thick, wooden painter’s pallet) featured a non-vegetarian list (11 items) on one side, with vegetarian (7 items) on the other.  There was also a section for the breads and a couple of desserts.  Clearly, the most popular items are the array of kebabs, all grilled to order in the restaurant’s large open kitchen which is visible from the seating area – which further adds to the rugged and rustic appeal of the place.  If you can, definitely get a closer look at the action taking place inside, as you will be bewildered by the pace and furry of activity between the team of chefs and the wait staff on standby to carry out each dish to customers.  Hanging from the ceiling, waiting to be handled by the well trained kitchen staff, are rows of long metal skewers that are taken down individually, dipped in some baths of marinade before being plunged into the tandoor to be grilled.

An apron is provided as you eat with your hands (no utensils here!), to prevent you from getting it all over you, including the potential for spraying sauces or junks of flying meat/veg from your nearby dining companions – as this food can truly bring out the caveman in you.  For the eight of us at the table, the feast featured some of the Dal Bukahara (a blend of black lentils, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, finished with cream and a dallop of unsalted butter), Tandoori Phool (florets of cauliflower seasoned with yellow chili and spices, that were deep fried, skewered and chargrilled), Peshawari Kabab (boneless cubes of leg of lamb seasoned and marinated in chili powder, cumin, yoghurt, ginger-garlic paste and malt vinegar), Seekh Kabab (minced lamb mixed with ginger, green chillies, coriander, cumin and safron), Kastoori Kabab (boneless chicken marinated in ginger and garlic, spiced with black peppercorn), Sikandari Raan (whole leg of spring lamb, braised in a marinade of malt vinegar, cinnamon, black cumin, and red chili paste) and Murgh Makhani (tandoori chicken cooked in tomatoes, cream, butter, cashew nuts, ginger-garlic paste and served with green chili).  Thrown in the out-of-this-world sized Naan Bukahara (I swear it was the size of a small table!), and you can see it was quite the dinner.  Everything tasted incredible, aside from perhaps the cubes of lamb which were a bit overcooked for my liking and too dried out.  After this meal, I had a greater appreciation for the complexity and depth of flavor of dal dishes – on a subsequent trip to India that’s pretty much all I ate!

With its exclusive prices, wide spread popularity both in India and outside the country, and reputation for hosting the world’s VIPs, it surely ranks as a place for a special occassion and a fat wallet.  But for a once in a lifetime opportunity, make a reservation, and share the experience with friends – its definitely worth the price of admission.

Just remember to wash your hands.