...Carino Japanese Bistro (Calgary)

Overall - 9/10
Food - 9/10
Service - 9/10
Ambiance - 8.5/10
Carino Japanese Bistro + Wine on Urbanspoon

Very recently my brother and sister-in-law were back in town for a visit. Not only are they as into food and trying new restaurants as we are, but their limited time in Calgary means they really did their homework into the best spots in town to dine. When they suggested Carino, I was at first a bit reluctant since we've not had the best of experiences with Asian/European fusion.  Sometimes the flavours can be a bit confused and instead of the getting the best of each culture, you end up with the worst. However, after dining at Carino, I can definitely say that they have thoroughly proven me wrong!

We started off with the 'French Kiss' and the agedashi mozzarella. The 'French Kiss' is essentially a heaping serving of thinly sliced organic beef tongue served with olive oil, lemon and arugula. Before you get grossed out, beef tongue is really one of the most flavourful cuts of beef and when cooked well like it was here, is super tender. (And let's remember the tongue is a muscle, just like any other cut of meat).  The agedashi mozzarella is a riff on the classic agedashi tofu which is essentially a battered and deep fried piece of tofu (mozzarella in this case) which was served with a deliciously tangy salted plum sauce and basil tempura.

Following these two starters, we also shared the ramen salad. This dish is a Japanese take on the classic Caprese salad. As you would expect, the tomatoes, bocconcini cheese and proscuitto ham are all there, but the cooked ramen noodles and shiso pesto add an awesome Japanese twist that surprisingly isn't out of place at all!

Here are the mains that we sampled that night. Each dish was innovative and had all of us trying to put our fingers on the unique flavours that permeated each dish. Even the ketchup that came with the Kobe burger seemed to have been spiked with what we thought was yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit juice). Highlights included the moist and flavourful Kobe burger served with fried rice cakes instead of a bun, and the vegetarian polenta lasagne that was stuffed with loads of Japanese mushrooms and organic gouda cheese. 
Stuffed Veal Karaage with risotto
Polenta Lasagne 
Duck! Duck!! Duck!!! (Duck confit, foie gras and consumé)
Kobe burger with Fred rice cakes
For dessert we chose the strawberry cheese cake and the Yuzu tart. The tart was by far our favourite as it had the perfect balance of sweetness to tartness and the flavour of the citrus yuzu fruit was really unique. Japanese cheesecake on the other hands seems a bit different from what we expect here in North America. Instead of the creamy texture of New York style cheesecake, this one was more gelatinous and firm. Overall though, we were really satisfied with our meal here and are definitely going to be back to checkout the other menu items we missed out on this time!


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