Cafe 100%

Disclaimer: I was formally invited and ate with the restaurant owner. The meal was paid for by Cafe 100%. The review does not include comments on service because we were obviously treated differently as invited guests as opposed to restaurant patrons. All opinions are my own and I tried my best to highlight the goods and bads. All photos (except the ‘entrance’ shot) are provided by the restaurant. 

I was honored to be invited by Cafe 100% earlier this month to visit their restaurant. Just opened about 2 months ago, Cafe 100% has quickly captured attention, particularly from young adults. Having heard my Chinese friends praising about their food, I made a mental note to try certain dishes, but never really got the chance to check it out myself. As the opportunity came along, Kev and I gladly accepted it. It’s about time to try something new!

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Nestled away in Country Hills Landing, the restaurant conveniently caters to the large Chinese population in the surrounding area. Contrary to the unnoticeable exterior, Cafe 100% has an exceptionally spacious interior. Inspired by the old industrial buildings in Hong Kong, the owner of the restaurant remodeled the space with parts dismantled from old factories to create the nostalgic feel of old Hong Kong.

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The exposed bricks blend with the wooden furniture, creating an industrial rustic look. The soft, warm glow of the light adds comforting ambiance to the dining area.

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The restaurant has plenty of private tables and wraparound booths. If you’re feeling friendly that day, there’s also a large communal table over on the other side that overlooks the kitchen. Take your pick!

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Serving up an extensive menu with over 200 items (food & drinks) to choose from, you could always find something new to try. For the most part of the day, the kitchen dishes out classic Chinese food from the main menu that caters to the taste of the older generation. After 9 pm, late night tapas are made available for younger population that seeks adventurous fusion creations.

To start off, we ordered a few signature drinks. Their super chilled milk tea ($4.95) is staggeringly popular for a reason. Chilled in a bucket of shaved ice, the bottle of HK style milk tea was strongly brewed with a well-balanced creaminess and sweetness. Instead of dumping ice cubes into the drink, the restaurant substituted with an ice bucket to prevent the melting ice from diluting the tea flavor.

For booze lovers, I highly recommended their blueberry red tea whiskey ($5.95)! I was blown away by the creativity of this beauty. The classic strong Chinese red tea had a delicate hint of smokiness, blending with the whiskey in perfect harmony. The whiskey imparted a sophisticated smoothness to the tangy wild berries.

If you prefer sweet drinks, their mango mojito ($6.5) and sangria (200 ml, $6.5) are both a good option. Those lightly sweetened,  freshly muddled drinks is a perfect way to unwind after a tough day.

(from left to right), blueberry tea whiskey, sangria, mango mojito, super chilled milk tea

(from left to right), blueberry red tea whiskey, sangria, mango mojito, super chilled milk tea

As a fusion food lover, a few fusion snacks from the late night tapas menu immediately caught my attention. Chances are, you’ve never had a Chinese-style five spice pork poutine ($6.95) before. Neither had I. The rich, aromatic five-spice gravy did its job thoroughly melting the cheese curd over top of the thick-cut fries. Cubes of pork belly had a good amount of fat, absorbing all of that delicious goodness of the marinade sauce, making every bite addictively delicious and abundantly flavorful!

Five spice pork poutine

five spice pork poutine

Pizza and Japanese grilled eel isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it is certainly satisfying. The paper-thin-crust pizza, topped with pieces of glaze-grilled eel, rice, sweet mayo, dried bonito flakes, seaweed and green onion, was tasty and somehow managed to capture the iconic flavours of unagi don. However, the crust of the unagi japza ($9.95, tapa size) was inconsistent in temperature exposure, causing a little burnt on the edges and dryness in some parts.

unagi japza

unagi japza

Satay, a popular Malaysian dish of skewered grilled meat served with peanut sauce, reminded me of my childhood (a little side note here: I grew up in Malaysia and had lived there for over 10 years. One of the food I miss the most is the satay from roadside hawker stalls). Came with an assortment of chicken, beef and lamb, the satay skewer ($4.25/$4.50/$4.95 for 3 pc of chicken/beef/ lamb respectively) was a culinary delight. Out of the 3 types of meat, Kev and I agreed indisputably that lamb stole the spotlight. Marinating with spices and grilling with housemade onion oil helped tenderize the lamb meat and gave it a juicier taste. On the contrary, beef and chicken were a bit drier and not as flavorful. In between the meaty morsels, slip in cubes of pineapples and cucumbers for a refreshing taste!

satay skewer

satay skewer (chicken, beef, lamb)

Another notable creation was the rice crepes with lobster gravy ($7.95)! The restaurant took liberties, panfrying the pillowy soft rice noodle rolls (also known as ‘cheong fun‘ in Cantonese) instead of simply steaming them, resulting in slightly crispy exteriors. The lobster gravy was a nice addition- not only did it conveyed a mouth-fulfilling savory taste, the crispy fried shallot introduced a crunchy texture and tantalizing aroma to the dish. Though the term “lobster gravy” was listed in the description, I liked how it was actually not overly saucy and creamy. Overall, a light dish- perfect for a late night snack.

lobster crispy riceroll

rice crepes with lobster gravy

For hot summer nights, Viet style beef tataki ($8.95) is a particularly refreshing option. This Vietnamese-inspired salad dish called for a lot of ingredients that are typically found in Vietnamese cuisine. Thin slices of raw beef topped with a mixture of basil, onion, fish sauce, lime juice and crispy fried shallots, delivering a clean, refreshing taste. The only thing that left me unsatisfied was the slightly frozen beef which couldn’t absorb much of the flavors from the sauce.

vietname style beef tataki

Viet style beef tataki

Roasted quail is commonly served in restaurants throughout the streets of Hong Kong, but it could rarely be found in Calgary. Now you get to experience it Asian-style! Cooked with a smoke-then-deep-fry method, the deep fried quail ($2.95 per piece) acquired a roast-like glaze and sweet honey flavor while retaining tender and juicy.

deep-fried quail

deep fried quail

Chinese are notorious for consuming every body parts of an animal, not wasting a single bit. While eating chicken feet might gross out those from other cultures, chicken cartilages tend to be less intimidating for them. Besides the fun of crunching on them, we, Chinese, eat cartilages to get some of the “alleged” nutritional benefits. We believe these collagen-rich chicken cartilages are good for joint health. Regardless of your reason for enjoying them, you can get your fix with szechuan style chili chicken knee ($6.95). The crunchy yet pliant texture was dangerously addictive. Mixed with szechuan peppercorns, the dish created an intense tingling, numbing sensation.
szechuan style deep fried chicken knee

szechuan style chili chicken knee

If you prefer traditional Chinese food, I would suggest checking out their main menu. Try the fried noodles with black pepper beef on hot plate ($12.95). The portion was huge and could easily feed at least 4 people. Pouring the black pepper beef sauce over top of the tower of HK style crispy noodles in a sizzling plate was surely an eye-catching presentation. The egg noodles instantly absorbed all the flavours of the gravy-like black pepper beef sauce while remaining incredibly crispy. We were contented with its close resemblance to the crispy pan-fried noodles in Hong Kong! Another variation of the dish comes with creamy seafood sauce.

black pepper beef noodle

fried noodles with black pepper beef on hot plate

Stir fried seafood orzo & green onion in XO sauce ($13.95) is another dish that is reconstructed to suit the Chinese palate. Subbing out the rice for the orzo, the restaurant presented a delicious twist to traditional Chinese fried rice. The plump, chewy grains merged with the flavors of onion and garlic and infused a rich, savory flavor from the XO sauce. The resulting dish was hearty and fulfilling.

XO sauce stir fried Orzo

stir fried seafood orzo & green onion in XO sauce

Seeing char siu ramen with tonkatsu base ($12.50) being offered on the menu surprised me and got me wondered how well a Chinese restaurant could’ve mastered such a difficult specialty. The ramen noodles were distinctively chewy, but the broth was overly seasoned with salt, overshadowing the richness of the collagen laden broth. The char siu was prepared in Chinese style, giving it a chewy outer rind and firm texture. Didn’t exactly meet my expectation for a bowl of authentic Japanese ramen, but nice to know the option was there.

Ramen

char siu ramen with tonkatsu base

For spicy food addicts, the szechuan style noodle with peanut sauce in chili soup ($9.5, full size) is a tantalizing option. Though the heat was toned down a notch, the soup did not fail to create the familiar Szechuan tongue-numbing kick. But it was obviously not spicy enough for me. I would bring a bottle of chili oil to adjust to the appropriate level 😉

Szechuan noodle in chili soup

Szechuan noodle in chili soup

Dessert anyone? The honey toast cinnamon zing ($5.95, tapa size) is to-die-for. Cubes of honey-drenched toast coated with cinnamon sugar and drizzled with luscious caramel on top were sinfully delicious. A few drops of fresh lemon juice added a refreshing zing to the dessert.

honey toast cinnamon zing

honey toast cinnamon zing

If you like french toast, you’d love the ice cream HK french toast with chocolate ($5.95, tapa size). Stuffed with butter, coated with eggs then fried until golden, the toast was unbelievably crispy on the surface. With the sweet toppings (strawberry, whipped cream, ice cream), it was like biting into a little slice of heaven!

ice cream HK french toast with chocolate

ice cream HK french toast with chocolate

There you have a general overview of the offerings at Cafe 100% from their main and late night tapas menus. As a young, adventurous Chinese, I was impressed by their bold attempts to inject elements of different culinary traditions into Chinese cuisine. As a part of the Taste of Asia group (which includes Sun’s BBQ and T. Pot China Bistro), it is not surprisingly that they are able to make authentic Chinese food for the most discerning palates. It is a place where I would bring my parents to for a proper Chinese meal and invite my non-Chinese friends to for social gatherings.

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