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Rostra rating: 3.5
TeamMago loves killing two reviews with one visit (think, the Doublemint twins on ‘shrooms). So when it became feasible to pound brewskis at Culmination and eat Kashmiri cuisine at the same time, MagoGuide was there with bells on.
First the beer: Culmination is our kind of brewery — that is, we like their priorities. On our recent visit, their taps disposed of no less than six IPAs (to include a double, an imperial, and a gin barrel aged version) and three saisons. For my money, their flagship Phaedrus IPA is the only one of its type you need to drink, a classic PNW IPA. Of the others, I was quite taken with Culmination’s Interstellar Voyage hazy IPA. Patti liked their takes on saison just fine, but both of us are still in the denial stage of grief concerning the untimely demise of Commons Brewing and their stellar Farmhouse ale (not to mention the mysterious and lingering absence of Lompoc’s excellent Saison D’evolution).
You should definitely visit Culmination’s tap room on Mondays starting at 5 pm, because that is currently the only day of the week that the Bhuna pop-up is in operation. We sampled as many dishes as we could Indian wrestle down our throats (when we were not gundging suds that is). Herewith our impressions:
Chickpea battered calamari with tamarind sauce: amazing fried squidage served with a (real) handful of pomegranate seeds that add an amazing sweet/crunch layer to a very Indian spice profile. To get the full effect, eschew your forkage and eat this dish with a spoon — trust me on this one.
Winter vegetable pakoras with cilantro and mint chutney: seriously good fried veggies in a tempura-like batter with nice heat from jalapeños, and that mint chutney rocked.
Eggplant and tomato: quite nice but this dish cries out for a dollop of yogurt (where are the usual Indian condiments btw?). But this side makes a great dip for the paper thin naan (see below).
Kohlrabi and collards: way too much bland kohlrabi and not nearly enough of those killer collards. Note to chef Deepak Kaul of Bhuna: do they have turnips in India? If so, use them instead of Kohlrabi in this dish.
Naan: it is hard to call this product naan when it never comes within spitting distance of a tandoor oven. Cooked on a flat top, this flatbread is essentially unleavened, whether they actually add yeast to the dough or not. We cannot agree with Willamette Week’s usual hype — Matthew Korfhage opines that “On a good night, that grilled naan is some of the best in town” — but we do think Bhuna’s naan makes a very nice dipping implement for the stewed eggplant and tomatoes.
The dining venue itself is your basic garage brewery with an intimate (if not outright cramped) interior and picnic tables outside, which should be your objective in anything even approaching decent weather. The staff is very beer-knowledgeable and people-friendly but they do tend to get a bit overwhelmed by Bhuna’s success, so cut them a little slack concerning periodic menu and order number shortages, because that’s just how fun things are on Mondays at Culmination.
Mago Tip: If you do not like Indian flavors, or you want even more vegetarian offerings (there are four on Bhuna’s menu, and two can come as sides or rice bowls), then go on Sundays when the Jackfruit vegan pop-up takes the helm in Culmination’s kitchen.