CAFE KOI in on 1st St SW near 10th, around the corner from Vicious Circle. It was, for a sad stretch, a gay bar -resto called Solar Cafe, a place that could not decide if was a coffeehouse, bar, dance club, cabaret, crystal meth discount sales centre, or what, and it died a lingering death.
The new space is a dramatic change, with echoes of The Coup (not surprising as the chef and half-owner used to cook there) and, with a large communal table in the centre, The Siding Cafe. The menu isn't veg a la Coup but is varied and creative, with brekkie and lunch items (lunch features a huge raft of interesting sandwiches, sort of like Vue Cafe at much better prices); currenr hours are just until 5.
But I didn't actually eat there- I was more interested in the coffee, which is Big Mountain and I'd already heard that the baristas are especially well trained (this might be another Coup holdover- if you are an espresso fan you must try The Coup, they sell Oso Negro from Nelson and quite possibly the best espresso on 17th but I digress). So I got a cappuccino, w/ homo, and it was indeed beautifully prepared. I did not try a straight shot because I hadn't had a speck of food and it was past noon so this was to hold me over for lunch per se (more on that below). Anyway, I suspect this will become one of my fave hangouts. I look forward to eating there, but I was in the mood for sushi...
So I hit Sushi Sen, across the street on the EAST side of 1st. It's in the Bromley Square Bldg (and you can get your methadone there too!), in a nice two-level space. I'd been there once and liked it but had ordered too much. Today I had two spicy tuna rolls and one house special, which is julienned cuke with unagi draped on the outside. I really loved the spicy tuna- it has a pretty drop of spicy mayo (made with that japanese cayenne powder) on each piece and a very subtle sprinkling of tempura batter mixed in- no clots of mayo, no overwhelming sambal, and thank G-d no corn flakes. Rice was stellar. So I like this place too. Chef is from Japan (Tokyo) and his parents run a sushi place there, so you have some real expertise there; he worked at a sushi resto on Banff for 10 yrs before opening this place in Calgary about a year ago (maybe a bit more; I don't work downtown so these get away from me sometimes).
So the options expand on 1st SW, anticipating the thousand or so new residents at Chocalate and Colours and other massive condo developments and the transition away from a bar strip. Good to witness!