Ti Kouka's quinoa spoils the party

00:55, Aug 21 2014
ti kouka
TI KOUKA: Beautiful entrees let down by a gritty quinoa experience.

I've wanted to review Ti Kouka Cafe for a while, so when I heard its Dine menu for Wellington On a Plate was highly commended, I thought there was no better opportunity.

However, I was left disappointed.

First up, there will be those out there who will love Ti Kouka's menu and nothing I will say will change your minds.

I expected one of those people to be me - fresh fish, braised lamb, cheese, pork rillette, saffron aioli - need I go on?

I'm also a big fan of the regular menu.

The duck and bacon club with swiss cheese, lettuce, piccalilli and mayo is amazing and I love the giant cookies.


The Dine menu offers two courses and drink for $35, bargain. The portion sizes are excellent and I liked the use of the small plates to make the servings look bigger, while not over-facing the diner.

It all started off so well.

On my dad-and-daughter date, the two of us chose to have entrees and mains as our two courses.

For entrees, Dad had the Wairarapa Eco Farm root vegetable salad with slow poached egg and Greytown Gold saffron aioli. It was divine.

The vegetables were wafer thin and beautifully crisp and we liked the presentation of putting the egg on the bottom, rather than balanced on top.

But, my Longbush Pork rillette (similar to pate, but not normally made with livers), with Leeds Street Bakery bread and mostarda, was the star of the menu - meaty, salty, spiced and gloriously fatty.

I particularly liked the hint of cumin in the mostarda.

This high point may mean I then judged the next course harshly, but as far as I'm concerned they had to have been made and created by two different people.

The first course was a true head chef and co-owner Shepherd Elliott creation, the second was made by his Hulk-like alter- ego.

Dad's braised Boomrock lamb neck, with black garlic, shiitake mushrooms and hand-rolled pici noodles, was dry and under seasoned. The lamb also varied - some parts looked like they had never been in the oven and others were as tough as leather.

My Yellow Brick Road fish, with hazelnut crust, wasabi broth, kale, red quinoa, lemon and soy, was like the food had been scooped off the beach, thrown in a pan and served.

Normally this might sounds great. Not in this case.

The fish was super fresh, juicy and perfectly cooked. I also loved the hazelnut crust.

If the dish had just been served with the kale and a squeeze of lemon I would have been a happy camper.

Unfortunately the wasabi broth and soy coated the dish in a salty, oily texture and the quinoa was so underdone it was like getting a mouthful of sand with every bite of fish.

I couldn't finish the dish.

Overall I expected more from Ti Kouka.

I will be back there because giant cookies make me happy, but won't be back for Wellington On a Plate dishes any time soon.

The Wellingtonian