Sarah and I utilized the nice weather last Saturday and wandered over to Culina Mill Creek. Located a hop and skip north of Edmonton’s hip Whyte Ave, this tiny restaurant (with it’s even tinier wine bar) has always been a crowd favourite.
The surprisingly warm April weather, was reason enough to eat our meal outdoors. Grabbing one of the 4 available tables, we were quickly supplied with our requested bottle of sparkly water and took a peak at the small, but tidy menu. I should say at this point, that it doesn’t seem things change much. After sampling a good portion of the appetizers and hot pots, along with most of the mains, I finally realized on this visit, there was nothing new. However, there was a special, which I’ll get too.
Sarah decided on the Black Cod, which arrived on a bed of tomatoey (is that a word?) green lentils and child sized handful of enoki mushrooms. The entire dish was fantastic. The smooth, buttery cod was really enjoyable, while the lentils were cooked perfectly and worked very well with the aromatic tomato sauce. The mushrooms added a level of earthyness, and I had a feeling Sarah was hoping for more.
When our server described the guajillo, pineapple, tomato braised lamb shank special, I stopped her to say she had me at guajillo. Always a fan of slow roasted meats, I looked forward to this sweet and savory combo which also included a chunk of cornbread pudding. Things looked decent enough, but I gotta say (and this was tough to come to grips with) the meal sucked. The lamb shank on my plate was heavy on the gristle and what meat was left was very very gamey. This is one of those pieces of lamb that scares people away from ordering lamb in the future. The cornbread pudding reminded me of day old tortillas, and combined with a strange sweet and sour sauce, I gave up after a few bites. Thinking I might be out to lunch, Sarah dug in and agreed, saying, this was maybe the worst piece of lamb she’d ever eaten. I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t understanding the vision of this ‘special’, maybe it was the meat, maybe it was the cornbread…I do know that I really looked forward to this meal and was surprised to find something so disappointing from the kitchens here.
Where does this leave me. No where different I supposed. We can all cook bad meals, and we can all have bad days. I think it just makes it all the more disappointing to pay 35 bucks for a terrible piece of meat and slice of bread. The service started strong, but after we put in our food order our server all but disappeared, and after flagging her down for another bottle of sparkly, she proceeded to forget this simple addition. You better not let me down next time Culina, or we might just go see a counselor.