Reporting back. Had a nice, though not spectacular dinner at Kultura. Started with a "La Poire Vojito" cocktail, which sounded wonderful (Poire Williams, vodka, mint, sugar, pear juice and soda), but really lacked the juicy pear essence that I was hoping for. It was kind of a bland cocktail, barely saved by the muddled mint.
Unfortunately, they are participating in Summerlicious, which I didn't realize. They were offering the Summerlicious menu plus a reduced regular menu. The very nice thing is that the Summerlicious menu consisted of items off of the regular menu, with slightly reduced portion sizes. There were 3 choices in each category, so there was a really nice selection to choose from and we all ended up going with the Summerlicious menu.
DH and I started with the Mediterranean chicken samosas, which were really quite tasty and would have been really good with a cold beer (I don't really like beer, but they were crying out for one). They had a crisp phyllo wrap, were greaselessly fried and filled with a nice, but mild, spiced ground chicken. Can't recall what the sauce was, but it complemented the samosas well. Our friends had a salad with a few pieces of tempura enoki, pomegranate seeds, watercress and shiso leaf. It looked pretty unexciting, but they seemed happy enough with it.
For our mains, I had the beef tenderloin with tempura okra and a sweet potato foam. Everyone else had the miso black cod. The beef was unfortunately bland. I realize tenderloin is a bland cut, but simply salting and peppering before cooking would have helped. There was a drizzle of a green puree on it, but I can't recall what was in it. It didn't do a lot for the steak. The fried okra, on the other hand, was really delicious. The kitchen definitely does deep fried very well. Everyone loved the miso black cod, which is awfully hard to do badly. I should have gone with that, but our server (who was great, btw) told me that it was a pretty small portion and if I was hungry to go with the beef. The third entree choice was a mushroom orecchiette, but no one ordered it.
Desserts were a nice selection -- vanilla sugared donut holes with caramel whipped cream and cocoa sorbet, "chocolate delice" which was a small, dense flourless chocolate cake with a salted caramel center topped with a scoop of black licorice ice cream (which tasted very coffee-life, rather than licorice-y) and a trio of sorbets. All three were ordered at the table and all three were enjoyed. The salted caramel center of the chocolate was my favourite part. But the donut holes looked so good that I ordered one for myself. Yes, I had two desserts.
I had a very nice glass of a tempranillo with my steak. Service was very friendly and attentive. The space is lovely, though the back room upstairs where we were was a bit cavernous and therefore echo-y.
I would recommend it as a good Summerlicious choice -- for $35, it felt like a pretty good deal. However, none of us were "wowed" by the food and I can't see myself rushing back for dinner anytime soon. I think my dinner felt "muted" in terms of flavours. I may have felt differently if I had ordered the black cod. But in general, there weren't any bright, vibrant flavours that stood out.
Maybe they fare better outside of Summerlicious. I could see maybe returning to the lounge for a glass of wine and a couple of nibbles, rather than dinner.
Great review, TorontoJo;)
I wasn't that impressed by my experience at Kultura. I found the food at Nyood to be a little more flavourful, with more nuances, but maybe it was just a lucky order. The braised beef shortribs at Nyood had strong flavours that left an impression on me, mind you, this was last fall, so the menu has probably changed since then. Nyood also had several interesting sangrias on their menu (including white wine and rose sangrias in addition to a red wine sangria),
I am hoping to try Kultura and Nyood's brunches sometime soon.
I (much) prefer Nyood.... although I'm not exactly sure why??
Agree with Estufarian that Nyood has a buzz-y-er atmosphere than Kultura (in part because Kultura is spread out over two floors so they can keep the lounge-y vibe downstairs and somewhat separate from the upstairs dining room). But while Nyood can be noisy on weekends, tables aren't cheek to jowl so it doesn't feel too squishy. And the crowd is style-y, but it isn't super-young, probably because the restaurant is expensive-ish.
I see why chocabot might think Nyood is perhaps not the best value (the small plate menu can add up fast), but I actually find the food very good and I don't think it's more style than substance. Nyood's menu is perhaps a bit more Med than Kultura, but it still has interesting Caribbean, Asian and Indian influences here and there. Cocktails are also very good. If you do end up at Nyood I really like the short ribs, the vegetables are actually great thanks to a raita dressing (I know vegetables sounds boring), and the lemon brulee bombe is fab if you're into dessert. Red Violin is good if you like bourbon.
I don't think either has a patio (could be wrong).
* Edit - TJO - I think I was writing this when you reported about your rez... hope you have a great night and I'd love to hear a report.
just to add - the desert chef at nyood, inmo, is fantastic - would second the brulee bomb, although my personal favourite is the champagne float.
in terms of noise and crowds, a weekday at nyood can be surprisingly comfy - i have only been there on one saturday and it was crazy, but every other time i was there on a weekday and it was eventually full but never packed. the music is loud, true, but you can still carry on a conversation.
I've only been to Nyood. The restaurant is really beautiful and you'll love it if you appreciate design. As mentioned, it is young and noisy but that can be fun if you're into that. Foodwise we felt it wasn't that special and a bit expensive for what you get. I guess you could say Nyood is "more style than substance". On an up note, service was great.
Nyood is more frantic - noisier and younger crowd. Food is more Mediterranean.
Kultura is a bit more sedate - more of a Bistro feel. Food has a Caribbean twist.
But same Executive chef for both and food is comparable.
Wine list at both has slipped recently (used to be outstanding), although still as good as most Toronto places.