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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Miller’

Best New Restaurants: No. 4 – Kounter Kulture

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here, the places that dazzled us from the moment they opened: St. Louis’ 10 Best New Restaurants of 2016.

 

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{ khao soi }

A carryout-only restaurant this high on our list will only surprise those unfamiliar with Kitchen Kulture from co-owners Christine Meyer and chef Michael Miller. The fine dining veterans make the foreign local and the local foreign at their first brick-and-mortar with a tight, rotating menu of Asian-inspired dishes.

“Using ingredients that people are familiar with – sourcing locally – is a great way to introduce people to things,” Miller said. The same goes for familiar dishes, which can help expose diners to new flavors. Take, for example, the shrimp and grits currently on the menu, made with coconut milk grits, lemongrass-marinated shrimp and a peanut-pepper relish. “I get that by nature [shrimp and grits] is not an Asian dish, but it’s one of those things that brings people in on a comfort level,” he said. “It’s a great gateway dish.

“That’s why we play a lot with our amuse-bouche,” he said. “Because it’s something that people might not order, but they’ll try because it’s free. There’s no risk.” Yes, Kounter Kulture offers complimentary, intricately composed bites for those waiting to pick up to-go orders. Not something you’d expect at a counter service spot with zero elbowroom on Watson Road.

“We’re trying to jam two hours worth of service into five or six minutes,” Meyer said. Servers at a sit-down restaurant can see if diners enjoy their meals or not, but the team at Kounter Kulture has to get more creative. “Having that customer contact every day has been fabulous,” she said. “It allows you to build better relationships, and the feedback is so important.”

But let’s be clear: We don’t go to Kounter Kulture for an education. We go for the food. We go for the khao soi. Miller’s version of the northern Thai soup starts with his house-made curry paste, which he cooks in schmaltz and simmers in stock. The bowl full of shredded Buttonwood Farms chicken, Midwest Pasta Co. egg noodles, pickled greens, lime juice, cilantro and burnt chile oil takes more than four hours to make. “It’s worth the time,” Miller said.

Like Kounter Kulture itself, the khao soi fits more in a small package than should be possible. It’s spicy, smooth, sweet, savory, bright, rich and piquant. “Asian food is a balancing act, because there are so many flavor notes,” Miller said. “It’s like a symphony – you can have something that’s really balanced but still has so much going on.” Consider this our standing ovation.

 

More about Kounter Kulture

• The Scoop: Kitchen Kulture to open brick and mortar, Kounter Kulture

• Sneak Peek: Kounter Kulture in Lindenwood Park

• Hit List: 4 restaurants you must try this August

New and Notable: Kounter Kulture

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Sneak Peek: Kounter Kulture in Lindenwood Park

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

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Pop-up eatery Kitchen Kulture has put down roots under the name Kounter Kulture. As The Scoop reported in March, co-owners Christine Meyer and chef Michael Miller are opening up shop on Tuesday, July 5 in the former Pint Size Bakery location at 3825 Watson Road. They will post up at their regular spots at the Tower Grover Farmers Market, but they’re relieved to have a permanent location. “We’ve been mobile for so long,” Meyer said. “After a certain point you just want a home.”

The petite redesigned restaurant offers a full view of the open kitchen behind the walk-up service counter. “We treated this place like a submarine,” Meyer said. “Everything had to have a place and a purpose or it didn’t make it in.” Even the counter is on wheels and can separate into mobile prep stations when the restaurant isn’t open.

While business will be primarily carryout, Kounter Kulture offers around 20 seats outside at cafe tables. The menu features  a tight, rotating roster Asian-inspired dishes like spring rolls, okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes), steamed buns and noodle bowls like a cold ramen salad and a khao soi made with Midwest Pasta Co. noodles.

Open from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, here’s a sneak peek of Kounter Kulture’s open kitchen.

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky

The Scoop: Kitchen Kulture to open brick and mortar, Kounter Kulture

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

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Everyone is movin’ on up on Watson Road. Kitchen Kulture’s Michael Miller and Christine Meyer announced today, March 3, that they will take over the space currently occupied by Pint Size Bakery when the bake shop relocates to a larger location at 3133 Watson Road, as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The brick and mortar located at 3825 Watson Road will be called Kounter Kulture.

The Watson shuffle is expected to take place within a month or two. “We hope to get in in April, and it might be ambitious, but we hope to open in May,” Meyer said.

When Kounter Kulture opens, it will be a carryout only facility offering prepared Asian-inspired dishes, a concept Meyer said is a perfect fit with Kitchen Kulture’s local sourcing model. “Local sourcing lends itself to Asian food,” Meyer said. “The preservation techniques let us buy seasonally from local farmers year-round. We can use everything they have throughout the calendar year.”

Kitchen Kulture will still operate at the Tower Grove Farmers Market, offering prepared meals to go and breakfast items. The menu at Kounter Kulture will be separate and unique from the market menus with Miller overseeing production of food for both operations.

Kounter Kulture’s operating hours have not been set in stone, but Meyer said she anticipates being open Monday through Friday from mid-afternoon through dinner in order to feed hungry commuters. Hours may also vary in the farmers market off-season.

 

 

What I Do: Michael Miller of Kitchen Kulture

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

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Last year, 34-year-old Michael Miller left his post as executive chef at Dressel’s Public House to give full-time attention to Kitchen Kulture, the budding mobile food business he co-founded with Christine Meyer. Prepping food all week to sell on Thursdays for pop-up lunches at Sump Coffee and on Saturdays at the Tower Grove Farmers Market is different from working the line at a restaurant, but as Miller explained, orchestrating a moveable feast is never boring.

What inspired your culinary career?
I visited San Francisco. It blew my head off. I was exposed to so many flavors I hadn’t seen before. I ate a lot. Two weeks later, I sold all my possessions, quit my job and moved there. I knew that if this was something I was going to take seriously, this was a great place to cut my teeth.

Kitchen Kulture gained popularity as a pop-up restaurant and prepared foods business, but that’s not how it began.
It started as a T-shirt concept. Being a cook (at Monarch) having a busy night and getting through it, we’d go out and have beers afterward. A lot of my co-workers would wear their chef coats as a way to show individuality or a symbol of pride. I was like, “I think there’s a better way to say ‘I’m in the industry’ without having to wear a smelly coat.” Wouldn’t it be cool if it was quality T-shirts that spoke to food and cooks? We approached Patrick Horine (co-founder of the Tower Grove Farmers Market). He was like, “You have to have a little more to get in the farmers market.” He pitched us (the idea of) prepared foods. I was like, “Sure, let’s do that.” My main goal was to get the shirts out. People really took to the food – not so much the shirts, but the food.

Why does your concept resonate with diners?
There’s an allure to the collaborations we do, especially the Thursday lunches at Sump, because they’re two quality products that aren’t normally together. People would normally spend their entire lunch break to get an exceptional cup of coffee. Now, they get two quality, artisanal products.

How would you classify Kitchen Kulture cuisine?
We don’t have one style in particular. I like the flexibility of being able to have the food ingredient-driven and seasonally driven. It’s exciting to do Mexican street fare, then do a more refined French dish, then something Southern.

Your menus change weekly. Is that a challenge?
It depends what time of year it is. We try to source from farmers, so in winter it can be a challenge. We have a lot of things we come back to, though, like steamed buns. You can put whatever you like in the middle.

What are you preparing this spring?
We do a lot of kimchi; one of the most popular is our nettle and garlic mustard mix. And we’ll make a nice ragout with morels when we get those.

What is the most important skill you’ve learned?
Being able to manage money. That’s not the exciting answer, but it’s very important to be conscious of where your money is going and when it’s coming back in.

What satisfaction does Kitchen Kulture give that you couldn’t get working at a restaurant?
It’s never going to be boring. You’re forced to think on the fly, to problem-solve. I’m looking at the weather for Thursday, and it’s going to rain. We’re going to have to figure out how we’re doing lunch in the rain.

-photo by Ashley Gieseking 

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