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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Good Buddy Restaurant, Edmonton

I don’t write a lot about Chinese restaurants in Edmonton – not because I don’t go to them, but because they’re usually… well… average.

There are two Good Buddy restaurants in Edmonton; one in the north and one in the south. I have never been to the south location so I can’t comment on that one. I have a love/hate relationship with the north side location. I love that they’re convenient and that going there means I don’t have to drive all the way to Chinatown. I love that they have a decent selection of dishes, and that the food is tolerable.

I hate their customer service with a passion. Their servers are barely present, and once in a while downright surly. Even just trying to find someone to flag down for the bill can be a huge effort. I dislike their service so much that I have avoided going there if there was another viable option.

So why am I writing about them now? Well I was there recently for dim sum and, while most of the meal varied from okay to barely tolerable, there was one stand out dish that made me go wow. So much so that I ordered a second helping.

shrimp stuffed eggplant

shrimp stuffed eggplant

Shrimp stuffed eggplant is a common dish found at dim sum restaurants. This dish is often soggy and limp. This magical dish, however, was particularly notable because of the large piece of eggplant, large chunk of shrimp, and the high level of crispyness of the shrimp. It’s almost enough to make me want to go back to this restaurant more often. Almost.

Good Buddy Restaurant (north)
Northgate Centre Mall
9499 137 Avenue, Edmonton

Good Buddy (North - By Safeway) Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Café Ba Ba Reeba, Las Vegas

I needed a good place on the strip for a (relatively inexpensive) group dinner. A buffet would have been the easy choice, but I wanted something different. Armed with recommendations (thanks H. Peter!) and with a pre-purchased gift certificate from Restaurant.com that I picked up at a high discount, I made a reservation for Café Ba Ba Reeba and got ready to enjoy some Spanish tapas.

Café Ba Ba Reeba

Café Ba Ba Reeba

The restaurant is located inside Fashion Show Mall but confusingly, you cannot enter the restaurant through the mall. Their entrance faces Las Vegas Boulevard, and has a relatively large patio. The inside is split between the bar and restaurant seating.

I was the first one to arrive and right away ordered a half pitcher of black raspberry sangria. It was served with a generous amount of diced apples as well as lemon and orange peel. It wasn’t too sweet and it wasn’t too dry, but I did feel there could have been a stronger berry taste, as the majority of it came from some Skyy infusion raspberry vodka. Some actual raspberry juice might have boosted the drink another level. They had interesting looking peach sangrias being served at the next table; if I ever go back to Vegas anytime soon I may have to give that one a try.

I was cautious about ordering too much because I wasn’t sure how many people would be drinking. In hind sight, I wish I had ordered a full pitcher because five of us ended up drinking my poor tiny half pitcher. I probably should have insisted that they order their own and leave my sangria alone!

Black raspberry sangria

Black raspberry sangria

To whet our appetites, we were served slices of fresh bread with olive oil. Some balsamic vinegar did show up a little later, but I had already eaten my share of bread. The bread itself was decent, but not extraordinary.

bread and olive oil, sans balsamic vinegar

bread and olive oil, sans balsamic vinegar

As a group we decided to order a number of tapas dishes and a few servings of paella to share. We ordered:

Spanish meatballs (beef) with tomato sauce – slightly spicy and big, couldn’t see what was really Spanish about it though
Crispy calamari with tomato salsa – not bad, but not memorable
Seared sea scallops with raisins, couscous and pine nuts – probably one of the best of the entire meal, warmed all the way through but seared so fast that the insides were on the cusp of being raw, not for those who dislike sushi, everyone except for one person loved it and we ended up ordering an additional plate
Serrano, salchichon & chorizo sliced meats with manchego cheese (a.k.a. The House Plate, although it didn’t say that on the menu we had) – came with teeny tiny olives and small triangles of bread, was tasty but the quantity served probably wasn’t worth the price charged
Bacon-wrapped dates with an apple vinaigrette – was the other star dish of the night, a warm dish that was soft and salty and sweet all rolled into one, wasn’t to everyone’s taste but those who enjoyed it really loved the flavour
Roasted salmon – can’t remember what was on it, and the online menus aren’t identical to what we saw in the restaurant, tasted fine but wasn’t memorable
Seafood paella with gulf shrimp, sea scallops & green beans – served with generous amounts of seafood, a tiny bit too salty for some people, while wasn’t soggy it was almost the texture of a risotto and had no crispy bits that you would expect from the bottom of the pan
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Tropika, Edmonton

I recently stopped at Tropika for a meal, and picked a few things off their menu to share.

Unlike in Malaysia, these portions are quite large. An order of Singapore laksa (made with what looks like a red curry as opposed to a yellow curry) can feed 2-4 people. The flavour of it was good but it was disappointing to find that the majority of the bowl was made up of noodles. It would have been nice to have more sliced of fish cake, tofu puffs, shrimp and bean sprouts.

Singapore laksa

Singapore laksa

Their roti canai is light and fluffy; I would say lighter and fluffier than the ones I ate in Malaysia. The accompanying curry sauce is, like their laksa, more of a red curry than yellow. Their satays (chicken and lamb pictured here) are seasoned well and come with a dish of spicy peanut sauce, pineapple and cucumber. The peanut sauce is probably the best part of this dish.

roti canai and satay

roti canai and satay

Tropika is pretty much the only Malaysian restaurant in Edmonton. I wish there were more choices, but you make due with what you’ve got! I tend to stick to a few specific dishes such as the ones I ordered, or perhaps picking up some mee goreng instead of a laksa. Their pineapple fried rice, served in half of a pineapple, is a great dish for kids or for adults who are looking for something without heat. If you want to try Malaysian food, I would suggest going to Tropika (and staying away from the Thai dishes as there are better places to have Thai food in Edmonton), or try the handful of Malaysian dishes over at Matahari on 124 st.

Tropika
6004-104 Street
Edmonton, AB
or
14921 Stony Plain Road
Edmonton, AB
www.tropikagroup.com

Tropika (South) Malaysian Cuisine on Urbanspoon