There’s been a lot of change in the strip malls down Calgary Trail – with new restaurants and renovations popping up this year along the right-hand (west) side of the street as you drive south towards Whitemud.
There are a number of new Asian restaurants, and one my favourite escape game companies – Escape City – is also nestled in the same strip.
The area is quickly becoming a contender for a spot to meet up with friends and hang out. Grab some bubble tea or skewers before or after a round of Escape City, maybe hit up the strip on the way to the your next thing (or after your first thing). I’m sure the new restaurants are a welcome addition for those who work in the area too! If I still worked at Global Edmonton (which is located just minutes away from these particular strip malls), I’d be making more stops in these businesses too.
I reviewed LET’S GRILL at 5926 104 Street back in the summer. It’s a small place that specializes in northeastern style Chinese cooking with an emphasis on meat kebabs, though they also have other small, tasty dishes including the sliced pork with smashed garlic pictured above. Think Chinese tapas (small plates) where you pay small amounts of money per order (kind of dim sum-y in terms of pricing system).
Mike and I both enjoy LET’S GRILL, and were excited to try out some other new additions to the strip a few weeks ago – when we joined our friend Nic at Yumioca Bubble Tea (5940 104 Street) and Shun (5728 104 Street).
Yumioca could be the best bubble tea spot in town. They’ve only been open over a month, and perhaps their stand-out feature is the coolest jelly slices I’ve ever encountered! Personally, I prefer my bubble tea bubble (boba)-less. The sticky tapioca is just not my preference (anywhere), so for years and years I’ve always substituted my boba balls for jelly slices. Imagine my delight when I saw I could get mango-flavoured teddy bear-shaped jelly at Yumioca. TEDDY BEAR JELLY!
Co-owner Rebecca saw the special jelly when visiting distributors (they also do strawberry-flavoured heart-shaped jelly) and thought, she’d never seen them in Edmonton before, and wanted to make sure she brought the unique pieces here! I’m thrilled she did.
Yumioca also specializes in shaved ice desserts that feature milk, ice, beans and fruit – delicious. They also offer homemade cheesecake and special soya bean puddings.
The atmosphere is nice – it’s a very clean, slick looking place, that along with your typical tables (and cool light fixtures and couches), also has tables, board games and magazines to encourage just a very casual hang-out spot while sipping on some bubble tea. I thought carpet was an odd choice to furnish the place, especially considering how dirty it can get with our Edmonton winters, but it does give it a nice look. Also in case you’re wondering, yes, Yumioca does mean to stand for: Yummy Tapioca. Too cute!
Shun is an interesting place because the whole business is based around grab-and-go-basket food items on skewers. At Shun, you head up to the front counter, pick up a plastic basket, and grab various skewers (different meats, meat balls, seafood and vegetables) and then hand them over so they get sauced and spiced up and deep-fried. All items (whether meat or vegetable) are $1.25 per skewer. They also have a small separate menu where you can order other items like noodle bowls and appetizers like green onion cakes and gyoza.
They’ve been open for about a year, and while the concept may seem a bit unusual for Edmontonians, we’re told it’s quite common in the Hunan province of China. The owner told us in his home town, you used to come across various meat skewers packed into containers on bicycles parked out on the streets. You picked what you wanted and they’d fry it up for you right then and there.
Shun isn’t really a dinner spot – it’s more of a for-the-late-night-crowd, grab a beer and some skewer snacks, and just hang out.
Mike really liked Shun and powered through a bunch of skewers. I personally preferred the un-sauced/un-spiced skewers (I’d recommend getting them cooked without sauce), but Mike really enjoyed the sauced/spiced ones. There was just a spice they use that I can’t quite make out, that I just didn’t like. It’s not necessarily too spicy (though if your spice tolerance is low I’d recommend you get it without their spice/sauce concoction anyway), just something about it I didn’t like as much as the plain skewers.
Overall though, we had fun trying both Shun and Yumioca. I would say Yumioca was the stand-out of the night. There are also a bunch of other spots on the strip we’d love to get back to (I haven’t been to Tropika in years, and it’s right there too – in fact, the co-owners of Yumioca also own Tropika! (Tasty Malaysian dishes).
I always think it’s interesting going out with our friend Nic because he generally goes to a lot of very Asian places that aren’t necessarily “mainstream” (yet). The restaurants are fairly well-visited by international students or the general Chinese/Korean/Japanese community, but they haven’t penetrated the rest of the city. I think some places never do (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing), but some places – like Yumioca – I think can easily become a “mainstream,” popular spot for bubble tea in Edmonton.
So have you been to Yumioca or Shun? Try any other restaurants along that Calgary Trail strip mall area? What did you think?!
Disclaimer: I will always provide my 100% honest opinion on this blog. I was invited to Shun and Yumioca as a guest. This has no impact on opinions stated in this post.