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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Daravara - Occam's Razor

Daravara nudged itself onto the corner of 124 Street and 107 Avenue a few months ago with nary a squeak, tweet, or chirp. This is quite the contrast to the usual onslaught of social media marketing, in an age where enigmatic tweets and cryptic instagram photos routinely precede grand openings. No; Daravara just opened. Period. Like they used to.

How, then, does Daravara's voice rise above this pervasive yet necessary virtual din? The answer, quite simply, lies in their strict adherence to the Principle of Parsimony - also known as Occam's Razor. This paradigm espouses simplicity and shuns complexity for complexity's sake. This Principle dictates a balance between too many and too few parameters in an equation or model and states that, among a series of competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest parameters ought to be selected. In the words of Albert Einstein, one must strive to make things "as simple as possible, but no simpler."


The burden of proof lies within Daravara's seamless ability to create dishes that are as simple as possible, but no simpler. Beer nuts, for example, encircle whole hazelnuts with coarse, crunchy salt and generous lashings of maple sugar. The latter presents as spicy and exciting, thereby offsetting the hazelnuts' dark, woodsy oeuvres.


Hush Puppies are gloriously, unabashedly deep-fried oblate spheroids. Neither too greasy nor too dry, these crispy-steamy creations bask in the company of a creamy, buttermilk dip that evokes a certain nostalgia for sour cream and onion potato chips.


Finally, Chicken Tacos encompass a duet of toothsome tortillas crowned with large shreds of fowl and several jaunty hillocks of shredded radish. Decisively charred edges bespeak the grill, and an intermediary of wilted kale salad invokes a hearty dose of greens.

All of these dishes could have been - unnecessarily - more complicated. But they aren't, and they don't need to be.


Daravara on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Serenity at Miki Sushi Express

Sushi imparts serenity. Unless one is extremely adept with chopsticks, one cannot wolf down sushi as one might with a burger, or inhale maki as one might with a sandwich, or massacre sashimi as one might with French fries. No; the very act of sushi consumption insists upon serenity.

This is why every neighbourhood deserves a good little sushi spot. For the longest time, Edmonton's north east conspicuously lacked an independent sushi restaurant. Enter Miki Sushi Express on Victoria Trail. This bright and tidy spot fills a vacant niche concurrent with a providing a healthy dose of serenity.


Miki's menu is lengthy, and one orders by checking off the desired items and handing it back to a staff member. Shrimp Spicy Roll, to begin, isn't especially spicy, but the accompanying red pepper dip packs a punch. Minus the dip, the rolls impart a pleasing combination of tempura shrimp, shredded carrots, and - unexpectedly - leaf lettuce.


Hawaii Roll whips together minced crab and shrimp with velvety avocado and interjections of vibrant mango. Lettuce makes an encore appearance, lending a crispy edge to traditionally soft, interstitial nori. An outer nebula of tobiko adds piscine pop with each mouthful.


Sunrise Roll caps off the evening with a smoky exchange of cold-smoked salmon wrapped around grilled egg, crab stick, and wedges of chartreuse avocado. Each ingredient insists on thoughtful contemplation, rather than mindless gobbling. Miki Sushi Express doesn't reinvent the wheel with respect to sushi, but more than provides a placid pocket of serenity in an otherwise mundane strip mall.


Miki Sushi Express on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

True to Form at Bodega Tapas & Wine Bar

Words come and go. Their tenure might last for decades, or even centuries, but words can and will fall out of favour more rapidly than they accrued widespread usage. Remember when people used to say that things were "rad"? Or "far out"? Slang terms in particular, once their era has trundled across the landscape, merged with the distance horizon and gone the way of the VCR, the Edsel, and the chasmosaurus, sound almost laughably quaint.

Culinary terms, in a textbook example of parallel evolution, vacillate through epochs of fashion and repose. The word "tapas" constitutes a case study. Few terms, as of late, have been splashed across menus with such self-assured verve, as if widespread usage will ensure longevity. Traditionally, "tapas" refers to a specific genre of snacks prevalent within Latin-Mediterranean cultures. This word spiked in popularity over the past decade or so, and now one needn't look far for items served "tapas-style." A consequence of this ephemeral popularity, though, is that true tapas - like one might encounter on the Iberian peninsula - are hard to find.


Bodega Wine Bar and Tapas fills this niche just in time. Bodega inhabits the ground floor space of downtown stalwart Sabor Divino. It occupies a laid-back, rustic space replete with bricks, wood, and a traditional Portuguese rooster. True-to-form tapas live here. An alliterative name is just part of Piri Piri Prawns' appeal. Here, an impossibly plump trio of shrimp sport charred tails, the smoke of which weaves together mild flesh and fiery piri-piri chili-laced aioli.


Braised Pork Belly presents a perfect porcine cube. Strata of unctuously crispy fat alternate with seamlessly fragrant meat. It is an unabashed swine sandwich in all the best ways possible.


Patatas Bravas (foreground) and Piri-Piri Chicken (background) further the evening's theme of traditional Iberian-Lusitanian fare. Patatas Bravas are fingerling potatoes that veritably pop with taut, crisp skins to expose steaming, mealy mash. Very little dressing is required to adorn the spuds' innate and gentle flavour. Piri-Piri Chicken pairs zippy and torrid pepper aioli with fowl; delicious and perfectly cooked, though the sauce paired better with the aforementioned prawns.


Grilled Eggplant is a beautiful little package. A supple eggplant envelope cradles a mantle of tomato and an inner core of vibrant chevre. Pine nuts orbit nearby. It is compact, but does not compromise flavour in favour of portability.

Loose-handed application of the term "tapas" to anything small will eventually fade from the common consciousness, as is the inevitable fate of any trendy term. Fortunately, the deeper, original meaning of this descriptor will remain intact via the culinary craftwork of little spots like Bodega.


Bodega Tapas and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

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