culina – highlands
Gosh, it was a two concert week. Last night I went to Leonard Cohen with my friend Karen, who scored some sweet row six-on-the-floor seats. While the Weaktherans sing about regret, L. Cohen sings about love in all its glorious forms. He wrote all the hymns in the prayer book of love.
We took Cheryl up on her advice about restaurants near Rexall and ambled over to Culina Highlands for a 5:30 pm reservation. It is no secret that I love Culina Millcreek, and I had been to the previous incarnation of Culina Highlands, Bacon, twice before, so this was a good match for my rumbling tummy.
Culina Highlands didn’t expropriate any more land, so it is still small and crowded, a la Bacon. But it has been refurbished, which means it is brighter and cheerier than its predecessor, and the dark textured wallpaper is gone, replaced by white walls and simple paintings. There are dark table and benches, and the familiar kitchy plates and mugs. I like the feel of the place.
We sat by the bathrooms, which is a busy place, with people needing to pee and brave souls venturing out back to eat on the chilly patio in their parkas. I asked our waiter when the next reservation for our table was, and it was at 7 pm, an hour and a half after we were seated. Sigh.
Now, I don’t run a restaurant by any stretch, but when I go out for dinner, I’d like at least two hours to settle in, drink some wine and enjoy a leisurely meal. Maybe this is unrealistic in the restaurant world, where turning over tables is the key to financial success.
So there was a bit of protest about our seating, and we ended up getting the table by the bathroom clear to 8 pm, which pleased us, but seemed to annoy our waiter. Oh dear.
OK, with that nasty business out of the way, I have to say that the food at Culina Highlands was just spot on. I started with the honey sour cocktail that is offered at Culina Millcreek – honey liquor, chambord and lemon juice, and we also had a bottle of Petit Sirah from California.
Here’s the dinner menu, because I did not have a paper and pen in my little purse. If you expect a proper review, you’ve come to the wrong place. What I offer is foodie suz’s thoughts on the place, just as a regular person going out for dinner. I’m as regular as they come.
We shared the Olive and Prune Tapenade with grilled bread, which was a goodly portion to share with two people. The tapenade was very sweet thanks to the prunes, but it played out well on the crunchy thin bread. Karen ordered the special, which was Beef Flank steak with a blue cheese sauce. It showed up on a bed of spring greens, one roasted tomatoes, and nothing else. It looked awfully lonely and healthy with no carbs in sight. Karen ate it all up and we forgot to share our dishes, but take her word for it that it was tasty, despite the missing starch. (She ordered dessert to make up for it).
I had the Portabello Mushroom on cashew cheese, baked with barley risotto, served with spiced root vegetable and spring greens. The mushroom arrived breaded, on a mound of risotto – I couldn’t differentiate the root vegetables or the cheese, but that might have been because I ate too fast because I was hungry. The mushroom was soft, and the risotto was a bit crunchy and nutty, and it was a pleasing combination. It was an earthy dish – real comfort food.
I wanted a cappuccino to finish off, but they were out of espresso beans. I settled for a French Press coffee, which was fine, and Karen ate a honey pine nut tart (not listed on the online menu). I twisted her rubber arm into ordering it because I clearly have a thing for honey. And nuts.
The tiny sliver of a tart arrived and I stole a few bites while my companion went to the bathroom. It was covered in lightly roasted pine nuts, had a honey filling and a crunchy shortbread crust. I liked this dessert a lot, despite its minimal size.
The food at Culina Highlands is great. Well seasoned, not altered with any weird foams, prepared with respect to its natural form, carefully chosen fare. It is a high end bistro that really is a destination spot, and I might be off the mark pining for more time between reservations. (Let me know if this is the case). It was worth the drive clear across the city for me. I do not ever want to tire of Culina Millcreek, so it is good to know I have another Culina option, without driving to Nelson or Osoyoos. I totally have a crush on the whole Culina experience. Keep up the good work, folks.
6509 – 112 Ave