There is love and then there is love.
I have had the pleasure of eating at Kultura 3 times now (Dana reminds me that she has eaten there 4 times). I find it simply stunning and think it is one of the best restaurants in this city at any price range – and dollar for dollar it is so far ahead of the pack that it is silly. The decor is faultless, service wonderful, wine list is strong and the food has an honesty and originality that is complimented by flawless preparation.
It was a big birthday for my mother – we had very early reservations (6PM was the latest we could get with 24 hours notice) and were welcomed by a brutal snowfall – this later added a comfort and coziness to the warm, dark chamber that is the second story of a 19th century building on King Street East. The decor is by local company Commute Home who are gifted designers and decorators. The restaurant is charming, romantic and a wonderful balance of function and beauty. Study the long serving table that divides the room (about 40 feet) or the fact that the ice water is chilled enough to refresh the mouth but not enough to leave condensation on the bare tables you sit at.
Executive Chef Roger Mooking (yes the same as Everyday Exotic on the Food Network Canada and formerly of Canadian band Bass is Base) offers a wonderful spread of shareable tasties that make eating with company a joined experience. 4 people was a great size – more could lead to chaos and less could limit options. I would recommend 3-6 as minimum and maximum numbers. All plates are meant to be shared (single oysters on the half shell being a modest exception).
The flavors are from all around the globe – smoked trout, tandoori pork, Jamaican chicken risotto, mushroom orecchiette are examples of the tastes one may encounter. Choose 2-3 options per person and the staff will take it from there – food comes out at a pleasant place and in an order where the palette builds in a logical order. It’s kind of like choosing 10 pages from a choose your own adventure book and asking an author to put them in an order that creates a logical story.
Standout plates included:
Mushroom Orecciette with aged cheddar and truffle oil. My favorite. Pasta served in a small french onion soup bowl, topped with aged cheddar. The smell of rich truffle invaded the senses and was enough to make my mouth salivate in excitement. Rich, creamy and complimented withwonderful wild mushroom flavor. I wanted to wipe the bowl with my finger to mop all the final sauce up and was barely able to hold myself back.
Lamb crusted with dark quinoa. I think this was my mom’s favorite. A crunchy crust of quinoa donates a crunchy texture to compliment the softness of the meat without stealing the flavor profile like a pepper crust would do with lamb. Again, cooked to perfection.
Tandoor Chinese Pork. This may have been dad’s favourite. Pork can be so readily overlooked. The preparation was flawless and stunning. Visually stunning and served with raw daikon “noodles” and small squares of raw pear (we could not figure out what they were). Beautiful combination of the meat combined with the texture of the fruit/radish.
Parmesan crusted butternut squash risotto. We ate every piece of risotto in the bowl with chopsticks and were able to hold back from breaking the plate into small consumable pieces of delight. This was full-flavored and next door to spicy – the heat caught us off guard at first but it was accessible even to those who shy from spice.
The meal ended with a great cheese selection and a compliment of a treat I had not had in 3 or 4 years: a glass of Barolo Chinato. It’s like a desert wine on a date with a can of Brio Chinotto (only it’s actually quite good).
Price is a factor here – wine, dessert, plenty of food and a round of cooffee it’s about $75 a head. That’s much more than our typical dinner – and worth every penny. If you haven’t tried Kultura, get there as soon as you can and enjoy!