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Exploring and critiquing Calgary food through the eyes of three dysfunctional engineers
Kent and I decided to meet a few friends for dinner before a movie one cold winter evening, so we rushed on over to Shikiji after work. We showed up promptly at 5pm to a completely deserted restaurant – but trendsetters that we are, soon found ourselves leading the evening charge to fill up on noodles and sushi. By the time we left, the place was about as full as you could expect for a Wednesday night – a busy restaurant is a sign of a good restaurant! (though I did recently experience one exception to this rule…)
The décor is pleasant, if pretty typical for Japanese restaurants in Calgary – though they have some interesting table elements like garlic chips for snacking/garnishing and sesame seeds that you can grind up into a powder yourself. Another unique touch is the use of reusable laminated order forms where you us a dry-erase marker to record your sushi order, rather than the typical pencil-and-paper system – I’m not sure if this actually benefits the environment in any appreciable manner, but their heart is in the right place!
As we perused the menu, the waiter cheerfully informed us that they also offered a special seafood ramen that was not listed on any of the menus. I wasn’t in the mood for ramen that day, but it did sound rather intriguing – more the reason to come back in the future! No, my attention was fully focused on the unagi don (rice bowl with BBQ eel) – nine solid ounces of sweet, succulent eel! I absolutely love unagi sushi, so I couldn’t go wrong with the unagi don, right?
The don came out in a rather unassuming bento box, but when the lid was removed the entire eel was displayed in its char-grilled glory. Unfortunately, it does seem like there is such a thing as too much of a good thing – while the eel was relatively smooth in texture, it was a lot firmer and chewier than I was expecting and I soon tired of it after eating a little over half of it. 9oz was definitely overkill for me – it probably would have been better to share it rather than eat it as a singular dish.
That being said, the rest of the food ordered for the table was pretty awesome – from the “autumn roll special” sushi (salmon and tempura sweet potato) to the gargantuan, steaming bowls of chilli-goma ramen. Perhaps it’s because we got there before there was much of a crowd, but most of the food came out really fast (save for the unagi-don, which as the menu warns, takes 15 minutes to prepare). While they do some decent sushi, Shikiji’s really best known for their ramen, so Kent’s got more the say on the noodle situation below.
Sure, you can make yourself a bowl of instant noodles for about sixty cents, but that requires intense physical work. You actually have to get water from the tap, put it in the kettle, and wait for at least 3-5 minutes! Pretty outrageous if you ask me. Luckily, there are a few places around town that serve a big cozy bowl of ramen or udon.
Shikiji is priced at the higher end as far as noodle soups go. The chili goma ramen weighs in at almost $15. But in return, the ramen comes with pork, bamboo shoots, and shitake in a chili sesame soup broth. Oh and it has noodles. It is actually quite big, and is fine as its own meal. The spoon is a big wooden ladle, which is also pretty neat. As for the taste, I like. The chili sesame broth is flavourful, rich and salty, which was perfect for surviving the sub zero temperatures that evening. Some might not like the salty broth, but I slurped up half the bowl after the main contents were consumed. Hello high blood pressure. The noodles were fine, not soggy or mushy. People don’t typically get blown away by good noodles (especially when you really just taste the broth and other things), but when they suck people notice. So they were fine.
The only other ramen place (in Calgary anyway) I can compare is Muku on 14th Street. Muku is definitely cheaper, but it is not as flavourful or as enjoyable as Shikiji. And they don’t give you a big wooden ladle either. The Calgary ramen/udon community needs to step it up and catch up with the five bajillion Vietnamese pho houses in the city. I didn’t try the sushi, but it looked nice. I’ll come back.
Ok, so it isn’t Japan where you can get a bowl of delicious ramen for $2, but in Japan they don’t usually serve you eels the size of your forearm or a bowl of noodles weighing as much as a small baby. Shikiji delivers some pretty creative and reasonably sized takes on a variety of Japanese dishes, and is definitely worth a visit if you’ve got a hankering for some ramen and some cash to spare.
|Overall||28.5/36 = 79%||28.5/36 = 79%|