Monday, June 4, 2012

Recap: Around the World in 80 bites

For those of you who missed it, Around the World in 80 bites was a taste tour on May 16th put on by the North Edge Business Association. Thanks to Sharon (and apparently many other participants who found out about this through her blog), I was lucky enough to be a part of this event!

The taste tour included three restaurants: Pho Huong/Mama Pizza, African Safari and Fat Jakk's. The tour started at Pho Huong/Mama Pizza (10531-107 Avenue). I've been to this restaurant before with my sister as part of our 'pho' adventure, courtesy of the seemingly now defunct food review blog, Good Pho You. We both agreed that it was very good, but the beef was definitely on the fatty side. However, including it in the tour this time gave me a second chance to try this restaurant again. 

Amy Wilson, Executive Director of North Edge Business Association

Amy Wilson, the Executive Director of the NEBA, was busy greeting attendees and curious cameramen from CTV. She first welcomed everyone to the event and introduced our first restaurant of the tour. Beside her was the restaurant's owner's daughter (who's name I forgot). She briefly introduced the meals being that were going to be served and a little bit of the restaurant's history. Pho Huong/Mama Pizza have been open for about two years and are a family-owned business. They have two parts to the restaurant-Vietnamese Pho and Pizza! An unusual combination, these two prove to be quite popular (who doesn't like pho and pizza?)

A good sized crowd.

 We were first served with a popular appetizer found in most Oriental restaurants-fried green onion cakes. They were very generous with their portions. For a table of about 8-10 people, two large plates full of green onion cakes were piled on. Accompanied with Sambal Olek hot sauce, this tasty appetizer sure hits the spot! After eating more green onion cakes than I probably should have, we were all served with a full-sized bowl of pho. I was actually quite surprised that we were served such large portions. Initially, I had thought we were only going to be served with small plates as we were going to three different restaurants. With that being said, the house special beef pho was delicious! Aside from the beef still being a bit too fatty for my liking, the taste of the broth was perfect and piping hot. I would definitely come back here for it. If all that food wasn't enough--the waitress indicates that there is still dessert! Coffee roll cake -- it was moist and yummy, but my friend and I had to split it. The only problem now was to leave enough room in our stomachs for our next restaurant stop!

Pho Huong house special beef noodle soup.

Owner Lisa saying a few words.
It was quite interesting walking down 107 avenue; I have always driven down it and during my younger years, my family and I would come here a lot to Tau Bay when it was in it's old location (now Acajutla). 107 Avenue is part of the revitalization project for the City of Edmonton, to help sustain and develop local restaurants and businesses in less-fortunate neighbourhoods. En-route to our next restaurant, African Safari, we were able to catch a glimpse of the developing LRT route to NAIT. 

Inside African Skies.
Our next stop was African Safari-a Somalian restaurant (10610-105 Street). I have driven by this restaurant several times and never considered to stop by-until tonight! The owner of the restaurant made us wait for a few minutes as we arrived early, but were seated less than 5 minutes later. The set up for this particular restaurant was a buffet style. The owner (whose name I didn't catch) explained the different types of food that we were going to try tonight. He even passed around a take-out box  (stuffed full of food) where you can feed about two people for dinner at a bargain for $12!

The owner explaining the food.

A sample of a $12 plate for dinner or for take-out.
I wasn't sure what kind of food to expect from this restaurant. The only time I've tried African food was Ethiopian at Langano Skies just off of 99 Street and Whyte Avenue several years ago. I was quite surprised at how tasty it was. We first started with a spicy noodle soup. To me, it sort of looked like chicken noodle soup with spices, but when I tasted it, it had a pungent garlic taste with a slight taste of cumin. The soup was tasty! 

Next up was the buffet. There was tossed salad with Italian Dressing (to cater to us Westerners), beef and goat suqar, chicken drumsticks and camel. I was a bit hesitant to try the camel so my friend and I split a piece. To my surprise, the camel was probably the best tasting meat of them all! The beef and goat suqar reminded me of certain curries I have had in the past, but not as spicy. The camel was surprisingly tender and moist, it reminded me of beef stew. I will keep this place in mind whenever I need a cheap, last minute dinner solution!

My plate.

Our third and final stop was Fat Jakk's, a Filipino restaurant (10128-107 Avenue). By the time we arrived, my friend and I (and probably everyone else in the group) was so full from everything else, that we couldn't even think of eating more food! Surprisingly, I had a bit more room in my stomach for food. 

Inside Fat Jakk's.
 The owner was very generous with his portions; we first started off with spring rolls. Then we had pork kabobs marinated in what my friend and I described as "jerky" seasoning: a very sweet and savoury sticky sauce that made the pork almost jerky like. We then were served with a plate piled high with pansit (or pan-friend rice noodles with vegetables). Lastly, we were served with a cassava dessert and coconut pudding square. We were able to doggy bag some of the leftovers for lunch the next day!

The owner of Fat Jakk's.

Spring rolls as appetizers.

Overflowing plate of pansit.

My plate of food.


Names were drawn at the end of each dinner for prizes. This lucky winner won a fleece!
I can't wait for the next food tour organized by Amy Wilson of the NEBA. She mentioned that it wouldn't be until August that another food tour would happen, but could potentially happen a lot sooner as the demand seems to be increasing.

If you are interested in learning more about these food tours, head over to their website for updates.