Chaya, Banff

There is this teeny tiny restaurant in Banff called Chaya. Run by Japanese, they serve a small variety of ramen, rice, udon and soba dishes. The food is rather simple, but it is satisfying. Seating is limited – if the restaurant is full you will have to wait. They are open from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (although don’t quote me on that as my memory is swiss cheese and I didn’t jot it down). Menus are in both Japanese and English.

Chaya

Chaya

Their rice balls come with your choice of salmon, tuna or umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums). I ordered a salmon filled rice ball to try. (I’ve had umeboshi before but I think it’s one of those foods that I’d rather pass on.)

salmon rice ball

salmon rice ball

The rice is unseasoned, but the filling was actual chunks of cooked, seasoned salmon instead of just some canned fish stuffed into the rice. My only complaint was that either the rice could have used some seasoning or that it would have been nice to have more salmon included, as I found the rice to be somewhat bland on it’s own. The salmon tasted very flavourful.

inside of salmon rice ball

inside of salmon rice ball

The chicken teriyaki don came with many pieces of very tender chicken, plenty of sauce, and some pickled ginger on the side. It was a very large bowl and was more than enough for one person. Could probably feed two if you only wanted a small meal.

chicken teriyaki don

chicken teriyaki don

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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

Mmm… ramen

Saw this trailer today and couldn’t stop thinking about ramen.

And no, this isn’t the freeze dried Mr. Noodles stuff that I’m talking about. Proper ramen is filled with rich stock, fresh veggies, and tender meat. I wish there was somewhere here that made it, but the only place I’ve had it was at this tiny little shop in Banff called Chaya. Eating real ramen was a revelation after only having ever had the freeze dried stuff (albeit they were the better tasting Chinese, Japanese and Korean kinds).

I’ve heard there are some ramen shops in Calgary, so next time I’m over there I may have to hunt some down. And Vancouver has tonnes. Other than a change of planes in the airport on my way to and back from Hong Kong, I haven’t been to Vancouver since 2005. I need a Vancouver foodie trip. 😦

Edited to add: I just realized that Mr. Noodles is a Canadian brand and that no one else might know what I’m talking about! Think Lipton instant soup mixed with instant noodles. I found a photo too.