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NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY

Peace and Nourishing Food : Kultured Kitchen Is Small, Cozy and Very Affordable

January 24, 1991|PAT GERBER

The Kultured Kitchen is no bigger than most people's living rooms and has that same comfortable feel.

Lace curtains frame the windows, and the top half of its Dutch doors are almost always open to the sea breeze that wafts up from Capistrano Beach, no more than a 10-minute walk away.

On the walls are several historic pictures from the turn of the century, a glimpse of the unpopulated life as it used to be in this area. An antique stove decorates one corner and soothing classical music plays unobtrusively in the background.

The restaurant seats about 25 comfortably inside and a few more at tables outside.

The menu is simple but nourishing, and always filling. A large bowl of homemade soup is served with steamed sourdough or pumpernickel. The sandwiches, divided between "basic" in the $3.45-or-less price range and "super" for $4.20 or less, are all served with a choice of wheat, sourdough or squaw breads. Fish lovers will enjoy the albacore or "crabacado" concoction, while meat lovers can indulge in the "Cream and the Cow"--roast beef, cream cheese, onions, tomatoes, mayonnaise and sprouts.

Carrot cake and yogurt cones or shakes keep the sweet-tooth appeased.

Situated on the San Clemente-Capistrano Beach border next to a residential neighborhood and on the edge of a small cluster of shops, The Kultured Kitchen is frequented mostly by locals. It appears to be especially favored by families with small children because no one seems to mind peanut butter-smeared hands or squirmy toddlers with dripping cones. One young man with three energetic children in tow, all under the age of 6, complained good-naturedly to the youthful sandwich-maker that he "practically lives" there.

Owner Jai Kim admits that she inherited the menu when she took over nine years ago and hasn't bothered to change what is obviously a success, judging by the flow of customers day and night.

The coffee is average, and one doesn't come here for a culinary experience. But the peaceful atmosphere and nourishing food make one realize that even a simple sandwich, when prepared with care, can be as enjoyable as a home-cooked meal.

The Kultured Kitchen, 360 Camino de Estrella, San Clemente. Open daily, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (714) 661-6755 .

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