closed as of oct 2012. Address: 1296 Gladstone Ave (Fernwood Square) Phone: (778) 430-5398 Price: $10 lunch combo, ~$20 for a main at dinner Notes: fresh and playful take on Modern Asian cuisine
When I first saw Kulu had opened in Fernwood square I had two reactions: first, devastation that Lucy's was gone and worry that Kulu wasn't quite the right fit for the neighbourhood.
I had walked by shortly after their opening to see one of the owners following a couple out welcoming them back any time, clearly excited to be open. It bills itself as "Asian Fusion" which is such a broad category that I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I'm not really sure that it's actually "fusion" but more like a take on "modern cuisine" with an Asian twist - at least at dinner time. It looks like the lunch menu is more "classic" Asian bento-box style foods.
The decor inside is simple and classic, with some nice modern asian touches. The space is the perfect size. A few dozen tables and a bar/counter that separates the service area from the dining room. Not so small that it qualifies as a hole in the wall or becomes cramped, but not so huge that you end up feeling like you are lost in a sea of anonymous diners.
In the year and a bit since Kulu has opened they have certainly made a name for themselves as a restaurant that is taking bold steps in unique and interesting twists on asian food. In chatting with one of the owners she described how their concept draws on a trend in her native Taiwan of quality over quantity and smaller menus with beautifully presented dishes. She talked a lot about how excited she and her husband are to build on their creativity as they learn what kind of dishes appeal to their customers.
Food March 2012
I have been by twice for lunch lately. The first time I had the miso chicken, but sadly my phone decided to eat the photo (Sad!). It was a nice and simple lunch dish - rice topped with local chicken marinated in a savoury soy-based marinade. I am also hoping to try their house-made sausage which is on both the lunch and dinner menu. It sounds like an interesting dish - apparently the traditional way to make sausage in Taiwan is to marinade them in vodka, which sounds Quite intriguing!
During my initial visit, we were chatting about the Eat Here Now event this summer, which lead me to happy reminiscing about the deliciousness of their steam bun. I said that I wish that was available on the lunch menu and was excited when my yearning was met with wide eyes of delight at the idea. I made sure to stop by and try it when it was on special! The bun was gentle and puffy, and filled with local greens, the marinated chicken, sauce and cilantro. I feel like there are endless opportunities for this style of 'sandwich' to become trendy and I hope it picks up some 'steam' (sorry for the pun!).
Feburary 14, 2012
It's been far too long between visiting and updating for this entry - not for a lack of inspiration or desire, simply that real life has been competing for my attention to the point where my normal blogging time has been sucked away. However - better late than never!
We ordered the tuna tataki salad as an appetizer. It came in spicy tuna style, with a mild spicy sauce on top. A pretty classic Japanese dish, but paired with a salad topped with a vinaigrette and strawberries which was unexpected and interesting.
My partner in food and life opted for the pork belly, which was cooked slowly so that it was soft and gentle but still crispy on the outside. It came with a side salad that was kind of like a potato salad - again, unexpected but still delicious, as well as some asian vegetables.
In talking to the owner later, she said she was very excited that we ordered it, because she said not very many non-asian people who visit order the pork and they were curious to know how we liked it! Clearly I have forgotten what it feels like not to be an adventurous eater because pork belly is completely delicious and not intimidating for me at all anymore. I guess the texture is a little bit weird if you associate it only with fat from a badly trimmed & cooked piece of meat, but for pork belly all the fattiness is necessary for the magical flavour that is part of the end result!
I wasn't overly hungry having eating a large and late lunch, but the mushroom dish sucked me in! I adored the presentation - the layers of rice, vegetables, sauce and shredded nori looked gorgeous and all worked very well together. The Only thing that ended up challenging me on the dish was that it was tricky to get a fork with every layer on it at once (I think this is what is commonly referred to as a "first world problem").
We totally were not planning on ordering dessert but as we were about to leave the waiter informed us that we had dessert being sent our way from the kitchen. It made me pause because a) I was sooooooo fully and b) I am always concerned about the ethics of blogging about free food. One bite in and I realized I couldn't not blog about something so fantastic! The bitterness I sometimes associate with Matcha/Maccha/Macca was balanced out by turning it into ice cream. The addition of some drops of honey on top turned it into a dessert of pure perfection.
June 3, 2011 Finally got a chance to go for the lunch menu! I've been waiting so long. The prices have come up a bit from where they were, I suspect they didn't get as many Vic High students as they expected (silly kids! I think I can get away with saying this haven't been one of them not that long ago. Okay, longer ago than I think. Hmph.) Still, for $10 you get a 3-piece california roll, a meat/veggie bowl and a dessert bubble tea which is a pretty smoking deal all things considered.
The california roll was pretty good, but it's my least favourite kind of roll. I know this is because the lunch menu needs to be a bit more middle of the road, but I was hoping for something a bit more creative...
The meat was very good! The description of it on the menu totally sold me - marinated in barbecue sauce with fruit. The sweetness was there, and the meat was lovely and tender and not over cooked. I wish there had been more of the marinade served as sauce over the rice, there wasn't quite enough to sauce up the rice from being just plain, and I'm not an "add soya sauce to everything" person.
I also asked about the magical fusion beer which I had heard about on Twitter, which I pictured being like a cocktail but was more like a shandy. She brought us the passionfruit tea mixed with a beer (missed which one, think it was Driftwood) and it was fabulous! If the fusion beer becomes a regular menu item it will be fabulous for the summer time. Hello my new favourite drinking spot... within walking distance of my house. This is going to be dangerous! The tweet I saw warned of "floaties" but I feel like there's a few ways they could make them work... either serve a "grown up bubble tea" with the tapioca balls ergo floaties are a given (I have been volunteered to taste test this next time I go back... the owner was worried about it being too bitter. volunteers to join me?). The other option is a cocktail style glass with something else as a garnish that make it feel less like beer. Or perhaps some filtration... but that might be more complicated if it's an off-menu item.
February 15, 2011 So tasty! We started with tea. I was expecting traditional green tea, but instead got a choice of three Silk Road teas. We opted for the semi-green oolong which was steeped perfectly and quite delicious, as well as being refilled frequently. My partner-in-food-and-life had the miso soup to start, and said it was not chicken-brothy and not too salty. I ordered a yummy sounding appetizer that was very good although nothing like I expected! It was enoki mushrooms (the teeny tiny ones with really long stems) wrapped in a slice of bacon with a sweet barbecue-ish sauce as well as japanese mayo. It was very umami. I don't know how else to describe it! For dinner, my P.I.L.A.F had the "salmon castle" which was a nice hunk of "perfectly cooked" (quoting my partner not the menu) salmon balanced on top of a pile of rice and vegetables. Pretty simple, but quite cute. I had the "burger" which was fantastic! Baked yam fries with a spicy mayo on the side, and then the "burger" - two "bun" shaped pieces of rice, cooked to be slightly crunchy on the outside. One "bun" had avocado and kimchi, the other had a delicious meat patty with a lovely sauce. The flavours were all really lovely, and the idea was awesome. Service
I confirmed my suspicions that my "secret" identity was blown after I stopped by during a lazy afternoon lunch (by which I mean, I actually had a lunch break!). I ended up chatting for ages with the owner and swapping all of our favourite restaurants and "gossip" about the food scene. She's purely lovely! I am so happy to hear they are doing well and still coming up with lots of new and exciting ideas as they grow.
While there are totally advantages to not being explicit about the fact I am food blogging, I do love to chat about food with people who love it and the conversation certainly gets more fun when people know they can nerd out with me!
February 14, 2012
I didn't realize when we visited that it had been almost exactly one year to the day since our first visit! It was kind of an impromptu valentines day dinner but they were thankfully able to squeeze us in just before the rush. They were packed to the brim before we had ordered and remained so until we left! Such a great thing to see - but I am not surprised!
June 3, 2011 The owner/server was really great - she made sure we were happy with our seats, was shocked we had heard about the fusion beer (work travels fast on twitter!) but was happy to serve it, and warned my coworker that her meal wouldn't be fast - which was fine, it was Gorgeous and we had beer. February 15, 2011 The service was very quick and friendly! The owner/server used to work at our favourite sushi place and was very happy to see us. It probably helped that it was a slow Tuesday after Valentines day and the only other table was clearly thinking they were going to Lucy's when they arrived but they seemed satisfied by the time they left.