October 10, 2013

Food Review: Culina

If you were wondering, I am actually now back in good ol' Singapore for a long, long holiday (4 months!), since touching down last weekend. It feels amazing to be home, and I contemplated if I should continue writing my food reviews on a holiday. 

As you can tell, I decided to go ahead with more food reviews - mainly because I know that I will need something to focus on even while on holiday, plus I'm pretty sure I will be eating at the large selection of eating establishments Singapore has to offer. So until I return to Perth next year, the food reviews from now on will cover mostly Singapore, Hongkong and Thailand. (If I'm lucky, we'll get some food porn from Korea at the end of the year.) 

Formalities aside, it's my dear friend's  birthday today, and reservations were made at Culina, located at the lovely Dempsey Hill, always an ideal spot for food as it's not easily accessible, thus meaning it's generally peaceful. (Well as peaceful as a crowded island like Singapore can be.)

Basically, like many bistros popping up now, Culina exists as a gourmet boutique (read: expensive grocery store) and a restaurant. 

One of the highlights of eating here, is that most of the food you eat at the bistro is ordered directly from the store's counter - seafoods fresh or smoked on display, cuts of salmon, trout, halibut, stacks of fresh oysters, over 60 choices of cheese and smoked meats, and even caviar. Of course, there is a large selection of prime cut meats on display, all ready for ordering, prepped and cooked only when you order it. 


My point is, everything you eat in Culina bistro is available to purchase. Down to their bread rolls and the sauces. 

Our waitress Riza was quick to impress, whipping out menus, water (both sparkling and still), taking our orders from the meat counter for steaks and delivering our bread basket within the first 15 minutes of us being shown to our table. All this while being able to explain everything from sides to meat qualities to what sauces are available to go with our steaks. 

As me and my friends caught up while nibbling our bread rolls, dipped sparingly into some beautifully clean olive oil and sharp balsamic, sprinkled with the barest touch of truffle salt, our food started arriving:


It was obvious to me that the squid was very fresh, dressed in a fine, crumbly, albeit slightly greasy batter. However, the batter did not conceal the squid at all, leaving the seafood as a focal point, beautifully cooked and tender with the slightest crunch. 

I did not need the accompanying aioli sauce, and really enjoyed the salad - particularly how sweet the cherry tomatoes were, delightful morsels of sweetness. 


As I mentioned, oysters are shucked only when you place an order, and with seven different oyster breeds to choose from, we went for three, the Gillardeau, Royal and Wild Big - all of which so very, very fresh. If you thought all oysters taste the same, this is the easiest way for you to try and see if you can detect these subtle differences between different breeds of oysters. 

I really enjoyed the Wild Big, a juicy, and quite fat oyster, with hints of brine and sweetness brought forward by adding the house dressing and some lemon juice. My other two oyster-eating friends, who picked the other two breeds, were also pleased with their selections, especially the birthday girl, who is a very big oyster fan. 

When it came to steaks, all of us decided to go for the Kobe Wagyu beef from Australia (Queensland), ranging from grade four to eight - eight being the best and most expensive. Each cut of meat is vacuum sealed, and their price is paid by weight, cooked how you like, served with a side of mushrooms and salad, with your choice of sauce on the side. 

I always, always have my steaks medium rare, this is important to me particularly with beef cuts that are heavily marbled. I am aware that to some, the sight of blood in their meat is overwhelming and unsavoury, but to me it is necessary that I maintain the maximum amount of juiciness and tenderness while still having a warmed, blush centre. 

A cooler steak for maximum maintenance of marbling and a tender bite? I'm willing to make that trade for my beef. This choice proved to be extremely wise for this cut of prime meat, costing me a mere $40 for about 640grams, tender and so very juicy - the fat rendered just so, with strips of melting beef fat along its sides and not needing any sauce or condiments added - save for a touch of truffle salt to taste. 

Absolutely heavenly beef, grilled well and a joy to eat. The side salad was not bad too, but the beef remains the focal point of our dinner, vegetables or not. 


I enjoyed the side of pan-fried mixed mushrooms, although I found the addition of button mushrooms very disappointing. Button mushrooms are not bad, they are just not particularly tasty in anything - or rather, they are tasteless mushrooms to me. If added to any dish, a significant amount of adjustment is needed to really make them pop in a dish, which was not done in this. 

Oh yes, and we also ordered a side of truffle fries, which I do not care about. 


As we wrapped up a delicious meal, it would be impossible to not take a look at what was on offer in their gourmet boutique - and we were not disappointed. 

In a relatively small space, Culina has managed to beautifully display rows of sauces, juices, spirits, wines from all over Europe and place precious cargoes of fresh produce; tomatoes in every size, shallots, garlic, truffles, mushrooms - in rustic wooden crates in their fridges. Even frozen items such as ice cream or frozen meat - spring chickens (not those large frozen ones), fish fillets, scallops, whole duck legs, frozen beef cubes, whole portions of foie gras. 

So tempting was their produce that my friends got themselves some condiments and even fresh salad leaves and prosciutto for their lunch the next day. 



So, if you are even in need of some quality steaks or seafood, along with a spot of groceries, try out Culina and if you're anything like me, go grab some ice cream from Ben & Jerrys' after! (The new Couch Potato flavour is amazeballs.)

Culina can be located at: 

Block 8
Dempsey Road
#01-13 Dempsey Hill
Singapore 247696

6474 7338

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