Saturday, October 1, 2011


The Food Baby bottom line:

·         For being one of the top 20 new restaurants in America, Kalu was straight up dead for a Saturday night.
·         They were out of EVERYTHING - including the essentials.
·         Kalu is a weird place that actually has really good food.
Saturday night was Kiley’s 30th birthday – a celebration worthy of an exceptional dining experience. Her adorable new husband, Andy, planned a night out for her with all her friends, and Kalu was selected as the restaurant of choice. I was excited to finally check this place out – I’d heard a wide variety of colorful feedback, ranging from “best restaurant in Charlotte” to “absolutely blows”.  Despite the mixed reviews, I couldn’t help but be intrigued after hearing that Esquire Magazine named Kalu one of America’s Best New Restaurants in 2010.

Kalu is located “off the beaten path” Uptown – so in Charlotte terms, three long blocks from the Epicentre. It’s right behind Time Warner Arena in the Courtside building, and the restaurant itself is gorgeous. Everything about the bold, vibrant Asian décor is visually stunning. However, I was equally stunned to see how freakin empty the restaurant was. It’s a huge place, and I only saw our table of friends, a couple people at the bar, and one other couple seated in the dining room. There was a staircase right next to our table which led to an upstairs semi-private area where a book signing was taking place. This book signing involved a lot of indistinguishable yammering into a microphone, over which we spent the evening yelling.
The birthday girl basking in the gorg atmosphere.
Speaking of yelling, our table was the size of a football field. For seven people. Seriously look at the size of this table! It’s a good thing that I’m obnoxiously loud and could project my voice across the great divide to the birthday girl. And it’s a good thing that the restaurant was empty because 90% of the things I yelled were inappropriate and disgusting. 
Football field table
You may be wondering where the other half of our dinner party is. You won’t believe this. They were at a gas station buying bottles of wine. Because Kalu didn’t have any. That was not a typo – Kalu was simply out of wine. Not like, out of the one cabernet I requested…they just didn’t have any wine in general. After some flabbergasted debate amongst our table about how to deal with this information, we ultimately sent the boys on a wine run (while we sucked on vodka sodas to pass the time).
 Wine wasn’t the only thing they were out of. Several of the items were ordered were apparently 86’ed. I’ll never find out about the chicken wing appetizer which is supposed to be the bomb. The pork belly skewer I ordered – no dice. They were even out of sake!  So we essentially threw up our hands and asked our server Greg for recommendations of what they did have.
I ended up with a Waygu Beef Skewer with some kind of black sesame sauce/marinade, and and a Kalu Roll, which contained three kinds of seafood. I really can’t get more specific than that, as I didn’t really order from the menu.
Waygu Skewer
Kalu Roll
Now, if you can put the previous 4 paragraphs of bitching aside….the food was actually delicious. The waygu skewer was super tender and had a spicy-sweet Asian marinade, the Kalu roll was fresh and tasty – nothing to complain about here. Nancy ordered a Thai Curry Rice Pot, which was actually my favorite dish of the night. She and I also split some dim sum style shrimp dumplings (dim YUM), and I hear that the Asian meatballs were excellent as well. Jordan even ordered a steak that came out on a steaming rock! Good thing I’m a sucker for presentation.  
Thai Curry Rice Pot
Steak a la Steaming Rock!
Also excellent: our server Greg. Despite having to deliver the bad news that they were out of absolutely everything, he remained upbeat and helpful. All his recommendations were spot on, as nobody had a bad word to say about any dish on our table. In fact, we were singing his praises as we scarfed it down.
Greg presenting some dank bites

So, did the great food offset all the other weirdness? I don’t think so. Maybe stop by and try it for lunch, but don’t make a Saturday night out of it.

Kalu on Urbanspoon


  1. Welcome Back!

    Could you please go into a bit more detail about the wine lists at the Exxon and the Citgo? What distinguishes one from the other? I could use some direction in my internal strife going forward.

  2. If you have management/marketing skills and know how to keep track of the basic checklist of wine, sake and kobe beef, please apply for a job at Kalu. The servers and wonderful chefs are hanging on by a tread.
    P.S. I regret not sharing my Asian meatballs with you. Delicious.