Ginseng Restaurant, Edmonton

Last month, a group of friends and I headed out for some Korean BBQ. Ginseng Restaurant specializes in an all-you-can-eat, cook-it-yourself BBQ buffet.

buffet table

buffet table

About half of the buffet has a variety of marinated raw chicken, beef and pork, as well as seafood such as shrimp, mussels, clams and squid. The other half has cooked food such as rice, noodles, tempura, kimchee,  tofu stir-fry, etc.

pre-cooked food and fruit

pre-cooked food and fruit

Each table has a built-in grill set in the middle. You’re given tongs to use to cook your food, and away you go! The metal grill plate gets covered with blackened fats quite quickly, and a waitress came by often to replace our grill plate with a clean, newly oiled version.

grill and raw food

grill and raw food

I was happy with the variety that Ginseng offers on their buffet table. The marinated meats ranged from mild to spicy, and the cuts weren’t too bad. I liked that they cut up vegetables for the grill as well.

If you go, go early as the place fills up quickly. Also, be aware that you will walk out of the place reeking of meat and smoke. There are giant vents over each table (like those that you would find over a stove), but it didn’t seem like the restaurant actually turned them on. The room had a visible haze of cooking smoke by the end of our meal. It also probably didn’t help that the table behind us kept burning their food. All of us smelled like meat for the rest of the evening.

The buffet costs $29 per person and  includes non-alcoholic drinks, but not dessert other than the fruit that is on the buffet table. The restaurant also has a regular menu, but everyone there seemed to eat from the buffet.

Ginseng Restaurant
9261 – 34 Avenue
Edmonton, AB

Ginseng Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Abeno, London

Minutes from the British Museum is a little Japanese restaurant called Abeno, which specializes in okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake/omelette made with egg and flour, and can be mixed with a variety of ingredients including grated yam, cabbage, meat, seafood and dashi.

Abeno

Abeno

This is a really small, and busy restaurant. I arrived early and was able to beg my way in for a quick dinner, but reservations are highly recommended – many people were turned away while I ate my meal.

Each table has a built-in gas flat top grill on which the server cooks your okonomiyaki. My order would soon be busily cooking under that lid. The large spatulas were for cooking, and the mini one was for me to use to cut and serve my food.

Abeno table and grill

Abeno table and grill

I ordered a small Inaka Mix, which includes pork, konnyaku (a.k.a. konjac) and corn. My server mixed everything in a bowl at table-side. He added a dollop of oil onto the grill, then plopped the mixture onto the hot surface, and quickly formed it into a pancake shape.

cooking the okonomiyaki

cooking the okonomiyaki

He then put the lid on top of the whole thing to distribute the heat through the whole okonomiyaki. About half way thorough the cooking process he came back and flipped the whole thing over, and placed the lid back on for further grilling.

part way through the cooking process

part way through the cooking process

And then the whole thing was flipped over again so that the toppings could be added. Look at those pork strips! (No they weren’t streaky bacon, but actually thin slices of pork. Not sure if they were back bacon.)

Almost done!

Almost done!

I told my server that I wanted all the toppings – okonomiyaki sauce (close to a bbq sauce), Kewpie mayonnaise, aonori (seaweed) and bonito flakes. They leave you with bottles of the sauces as well as a bottle of hot sauce in case you want a little more to go with your meal.

Okonomiyaki - ready for eating!

Okonomiyaki - ready for eating!

Ok now the really neat part. (Be warned though, I am easily amused. I’m quite pathetic, really.) I had to take a video of this because it’s something that you have to really see to believe. Watch what happens in reaction to the high heat of the grill. It’s short, so you may have to watch it more than once.

To eat the okonomiyaki, I ended up cutting it up into slices like a pizza. Taste-wise, I have to say that okonomiyaki make a tasty and filling eggy/salty meal. The food, and the restaurant, are perfect for a casual dinner and conversation.

Okonomiyaki aren’t the only thing you can order here –  teppanyaki and a small selection of onigiri, sashimi, gyoza, etc. are also available.

Abeno has two locations – the original Abeno near the British Museum and Abeno Too, located in Leicester Square. The second location isn’t big either, but I find it has more windows and light, and as a result feels a little bigger and less crowded.

Abeno
47 Museum Street, London

Abeno Too
17-18 Great Newport Street, London

www.abeno.co.uk

Abeno on Urbanspoon

Williams-Sonoma Marketplace, Tea Zone and Café Koraku, Primm

About a 40 minute drive south on the I-15 from the strip, over on Exit 1, is the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas. This place is a shopping mecca of discounted clothes, purses and shoes. It’s large, air-conditioned and relatively crowd-free (unlike another good, but very crowded and outdoor Las Vegas outlet mall that I went to).

And bonus, it has a Williams-Sonoma outlet. Just look at this pretty, pretty photo!

Williams-Sonoma Marketplace - Le Creuset sale

Williams-Sonoma Marketplace - Le Creuset sale

Too bad I made a promise not to try to fit one of those in my luggage. They had quite a few deals in there, and in particular I was looking for a set of round cookie cutters with scalloped edges that I had seen in their Calgary store, but unfortunately they were sold out already.

And then I saw this.

Williams-Sonoma Marketplace - vanilla

Williams-Sonoma Marketplace - vanilla

At half price, each box contained 3 different 2 fl oz bottles of vanilla extract, and the following description:

Like fine wine, premium vanilla springs from a combination of soil, climate and expert processing – an art practiced by Nielsen-Massey since 1907. Our special set combines three of the world’s finest single-origin vanillas: intense Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, a favorite for ice cream and chocolate; floral Tahitian vanilla, which brings out the best in fruit-based desserts; and earthy, sensual Mexican vanilla, the original vanilla sent home to Spain by the explorer Cortez and a perfect complement to cinnamon and spicy, savory dishes like chili.

Even better – the bottles were small enough to fall under the liquid amounts that you could carry on the plane, so they travelled in my purse with my lip balm. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them just yet, so please let me know if you have ideas. Continue reading

Free pork

Despite the cold wind and the potential rain/snow, I decided to trudge over to the Legislature for a free pulled pork sandwich, courtesy of the Alberta pork industry.

There was a surprisingly long line. And they ran out of food, but they quickly had more delivered. I arrived late enough to miss the speeches (on purpose), but they were still promoting pork by sticking Canadian pork – porc Canadien stickers on people’s jackets and handing out recipe books. I would have preferred free pork chops, but I guess we all can’t get what we want. A free sandwich and a drink is still a pretty good freebie.

The pulled pork was catered by the Sawmill and was doused with a basic bbq sauce.

pulled pork

pulled pork

And just to be clear, people are catching H1N1 (a.k.a. the swine flu) from other people, not from eating pork. Just ’cause it has “swine” in the name  doesn’t mean it comes from pigs.

News and links

News and links

Chinese parties

A friend asked for ideas about Chinese food her family could order for her mom’s big birthday bash. My suggestions that are under consideration:

  • crispy roast pork, possibly a whole pig instead of just chopped pieces (siu yook)
  • bbq duck
  • from T&T – cold appetizers like pickled daikon radish and carrots, spicy deep fried tofu, jellyfish and jai (Buddha’s Delight)
  • spring rolls
  • Chicken and pineapple fried rice, fried noodles, and vegetable dishes from Double Greetings
  • a cake and red bean buns from Garden Bakery or Hong Kong Bakery
  • fresh made deep fried tofu and maybe some dessert tofu from Ying Fat
  • almond cookies

Dang it, now I’m hungry.