Restaurant Review: Cataland Kuzina
Cataland Kuzina isn’t particularly new, and it’s not particularly conveniently located -unless you happen to find yourself near the north end (and “end” means “dead-end”) of Hamilton Road. There, you’ll find the establishment in a lone strip mall surrounded by endless waves of track housing.
But a tip on the CU discussion boards suggested that the deli might be worth a look. And even though there are plenty of fantastic delis in the city’s core (Katzinger’s; Danny’s), this kuzina is worth the trip. In fact, it’ll be worth repeat trips.
The vibe inside the place doesn’t feel particularly suburban. Adults, not teens, work the front and back of the house. The serving team is engaging and maybe a little raucous. Sometimes you’ll catch some self-narration as the kitchen puts an order together.
The deli claims that the house pastrami meat and reuben sandwich have both earned official accolades. As reubens are typically made with corned beef, the counter team graciously suggested a Pastrami Reuben ($9.50 – pictured up top) instead – combining the best of both worlds in one sandwich.
The pastrami is made in house and is breathtakingly well prepared. It has the signature brine and pinkness, with an uncommonly nice marbling – it’s all cut whisper-thin and piled high between slices of swirly, two-toned rye bread. The sauerkraut component contributes a dewy, mild sour note, and there’s a thick house dressing that’s crunchy with relish in the mix too.
There is also a Steak Sub ($9.50). Like the Pastrami, the meat (prime rib) is beautifully marbled with slices that are shaved whisper-thin. Instead of brine, it has a straight-up beefy flavor. One bite, and everything melts away.
There is also a classic Meatball Sub ($8.50). It’s a sizable, comforting masterpiece, with melty provolone.
Any order of sandwiches includes the option of side-dishes; the potato salad, with agreeable bits of dill in the mix, is a stand-out.
The menu expands beyond the deli world in to the realm of pizza, too. As pizzas go, Cataland Kuzina makes a good one, with a crust that’s crisp on the outside with a chewy texture. The simple small pepperoni pizza ($5.50 – mushroom pizza pictured) offers a generous supply of cheese, a sweet tomato sauce and a nice distribution of pepperoni.
Fridays are fish days. All sorts of fresh-fried or grilled sea creatures make guest appearances on the menu, including the option for shrimp po-boys. The Conch Fritters ($8.50) sounded like an unusual opportunity, and they are terrific. Lighter than a hush-puppy, but just as bready, the crunchy fritters hold bits of red pepper, celery and conch meat. The fritters are teamed with an addictive blueberry sauce that features the faint sweetness of the berry, against a heavy, creamy backdrop. Fritters, fish and blueberries are a much better combination than one might expect.
At the end, there is some sort of cupcake ritual. The kitchen makes teeny cheesecake cupcakes in exotic flavors, each topped with victorious swirls of sugary stuff. They’re sold for a buck each, but first-time customers can claim a gratis cupcake by approaching the counter and saying something on the lines of “Bite Me.” I think. Double check on the ritual rules before trying that. Or just pay $1 and try one. It’s a teeny gamble, with a great pay-off.
You can find Cataland Kuzina at 6457 N. Hamilton Road. It’s open Wednesdays through Sundays.
For more information, visit www.catalandkuzina.com.
Photos by Walker Evans. Photos are taken at a different time than review, so discrepancies between photos and review may occur.