Review: Kounter Kulture
If you frequent the Tower Grove Farmers Market, you no doubt will have tasted the food of Kitchen Kulture. Its founders, Chris and Michael, opened this brick and mortar restaurant last summer so fans could enjoy their favorites all year long.
The food here is highly flavored, mostly with an Asian bent. Coconut milk, cilantro, pickled veggies, curry, lime, red pepper and more combine with locally sourced Mofu, pork, chicken, beef and farm eggs for tongue-tantalizing dishes. Kounter Kulture does a brisk carry-out business, but also appeals as a quaint neighborhood spot with little tables for dining al fresco. You’re never far from Watson Road (and/or a parking lot), but it’s a totally fun experience for a laid-back dinner. (Note: It’s open only 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. except on Sundays.)
One standout dish was the Spring Bi Bim Bap ($15), a Korean rice bowl with fresh and preserved veggies. Three large slabs of Mofu had wonderful texture, almost grilled, and nice spices. Also in the bowl were tiny Thai lentils, crisp broccolini, shredded pickled carrots, pickled cucumbers and pickled daikon. Flavoring it all was a dab of gouchujang sauce. A farm egg sat on top.
The Chashu Don ($16) was a rice bowl teeming with shredded pork shoulder. It, too, had daikon radish and an egg but needed some sauce and a more defining flavor. Egg Drop Soup ($6) was pleasantly filled with swirling egg ribbons and scallions, but the texture was a bit gummy.
Getting back to the winners, you will not go wrong with their version of Crab Rangoon ($11), five delicate pockets much tastier than any I remember from the Chinese restaurants of old. One bite confirms that they are indeed filled with lump blue crabmeat in a binding light cream (not sticky cream cheese). The skins are deliciously paper thin, with no visible grease.
Don’t miss the Seared Scottish Salmon ($17), prepared with an amazing array of vegetables and more. The fish was moist with a light brown top and sat on a medley of mung beans, mango, cubed eggplant, soba noodles and cherry tomatoes, all flavored with Thai basil and sesame oil. The combined effect of all those flavors together was delicious.
I felt the same way about the Omu Ramen ($12), a massive noodle omelette (made with farm eggs), topped with mung beans, cabbage, black sesame seeds, shredded green onions and a couple of rich Japanese sauces: Bulldog, a popular, brown concoction, and Kewpie, a rich yellow mayonnaise.
A final item, steam buns, didn’t live up to the above high praise. The Tagarashi-spiced Catfish variety offered a delicious fish fillet sprinkled with spicy pepper, but the bun itself had an off-putting scent and was not nearly as good in texture and flavor as others I’ve had.
Bravo to the Herculean efforts of this culinary duo, neither of whom has formal training. They have an admirable devotion to locavore provisions and recyclable servingware, but most of all, they dish out some great food.
the scene | Carryout spot near St. Louis Hills, with outdoor patio
the chefs/owners | Chris Meyer and Michael Miller
the prices | $6-$11 starters, $7-$8 steam buns, $13-$17 rice bowls
the favorites | Spring Bi Bim Bap (Korean rice bowl), Seared Salmon, Omu Ramen, Crab Rangoon
Pictured: Summer Bi Bim Bap
Photos: Bill Barrett
3825 watson road | 314.781.4344