Good Eats in Columbia

20160307_165212A recent visit to the Kraken Gastropub on Rosewood was a fortunate find. The restaurant is located in the bottom of a older building on Rosewood Drive. It uses a rear entrance with very adequate parking. We visited at around 4:00 PM only to find that the grill would not open until 5:00 PM. While this seemed odd, and my initial reaction was to leave, our waitress quickly offered a cold plate to engage us until the grill was ready. Reluctantly, we accepted the offer of a hummus plate and soon was glad of making that choice. The Kraken offers a lengthy list of beer, we chose a tripel called Golden Monkey with an ABV of 9.5%, strong, but good smooth taste. The decor is dark with bare brick walls, wooden floors, and a variety of wall decorations. Greeting you as you enter is a sculpture of a kraken tentacle which also serves as place to keep utensils and menus.

The ambiance and attitude suggested by this decor was further enhanced by an eclectic array of music played over the sound system. The music ran from swing through blues and jazz, folk and straight ahead rock; reminded us of being in Asheville, a favorite for us because of this very type of atmosphere. We later found out that the owner puts the music list together, and kudos for that good taste! We sat at the table of our choice because of our early arrival, initially being the only customers. Our cold plate of hummus arrived and was a sight to behold; three generous scoops of hummus, one from chickpeas, one from black beans, and one from butter beans. Butter beans! We’d never heard of using the “home bean” for such a tasty option. And tasty they all three were, seasoned to a nice slow after burn, a creamy consistency, and paired with pita chips and bread, both toasted also carrying a spicy flavor.  People began arriving as we scanned the menu and settled upon Pulled Duck Confit Sliders with white truffle oil fries for myself while my partner chose the Lamb Sliders with truffle oil fries as well. We had been told that truffle fries were tasty, but we had to gather some information to understand.

Truffles, briefly, are a type of mushroom that grows underground around tree roots. More common in Europe, there is a growing business in Oregon. They are highly valued for the flavor they add to foods. Truffles are also the most expensive food in the world because supply falls far short of demand. To help combat that situation, truffle oil was developed. Some are natural, pressed from truffles (the truffles are still used, not wasted) and there is a synthetic version using the chemical profile of truffle oil and mixing in with some olive oil. That is where the “controversy” sets in with some chefs making use of the newer synthetic while other chefs grouse that it isn’t a food, but rather, an abomination. We did not inquire which was used on the fries, and we can only report that they were delicious. The hand-cut potatoes were also garnished with Parmesan cheese shreds.

Confit is meat cooked in its own fat. This method was developed in Gascony, France during the Medieval years as a way of preserving cooked meat, especially duck. At the time, refrigerators were rather scarce; yet to be invented type of scarce. Done properly, the meat could be preserved for several weeks if not consumed immediately. In use today, this type of food preparation can be done at home with relative ease, and produces tender meat with huge flavor.

Our meals arrived hot and within a reasonable length of time. The sliders were each finished with a srirachi cole slaw providing an extra bite to the meats that was altogether agreeable. The truffle fries, as mentioned, were a great accompaniment to the little sandwiches. After this, we decided to try the two dessert items offered that day, Shannon’s Bread Pudding and the Donuts with Srirachi Peanut Sauce. We received a generous portion of the pudding that was soft without being too starchy or gummy, and the sauce covering it was smooth and light. The donuts were warm and soft with peanut sauce spooned over them and giving the bread a nice peanut flavor with a little kick.

The Kraken Gastropub is highly recommended and we have more visits in store for the rest of the menu.