all photos: Shauna Alexander
Remember how many times, after CORK had just opened you walked by the seemingly tiny 14th street storefront and thought to yourself “Looks great but no freakin’ way am I waiting for one hour to get a table here”. On the upside, the waits are decidedly shorter now (on a Thursday night at 7, when we went, it seemed like you could just walk right off the street) and the food is still delicious (that has always been the ingenious twist on the wine bar experience employed by owners Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts: have really good food to go with your really good wine selection).
And the menu IS seasonal so we figured we’d stop by and check out what Executive Chef Ron Tanaka (who admitted to wintertime being his favorite time of the year to cook) had up his sleeve for this increasingly sleety winter of 2011.
“The Cork way” of eating is to share so our table of seven kicked things off with a charcuterie plate:
a highlight of mine being the San Daniele Prosciutto (18 months)-airy, light, delicately cured- great by itself or in the form of my favorite open faced sandwich of all time: bread, butter and prosciutto curled up on top.
Next, the perennial favorite of the avocado/pistachios on grilled bread was brought out. Seasoned with just a splash of pistachio oil and a sprinkling of sea salt, it is that dish that is so simple and yet so perfect you want to rush home and eat nothing but avocado on grilled bread for a month. We ordered seconds.
Anchovies have always been kind of tricky in the sense that foodies love it but the general population does balk at them a little. I, personally, am a big fan (if you look in my fridge, the two constants in there is both anchovy paste AND anchovy wrapped capers) and some of my favorite bar snacks around (at 2Amys and Estadio) involve a liberal serving of small, common salt-water forage fish on (usually grilled) bread. The Cork version involves piquillo pepper, almonds for texture and are layered on top of anchovy butter. Which could prove to be too much for some (Shauna, who took these great photos took a bite and let me finish the rest) but can there really be too much of a good thing, I ask you?
Next, after all that greasy, salty goodness, we tried some pretty basic Romaine Hearts salad (Still! with anchovy dressing!) to cleanse the palate. The cabernet croutons are a nice wintry touch here.
Salad take 2 was the watercress, apple and parsnip tower with candied walnuts, bleu cheese and caramel black pepper vinaigrette. It was both light and ridiculously rich and I could see some women out there getting it with “dressing on the side” but hey…
Next up, hands down the highlight of the service for me: essentially a monte cristo sandwich done as delicately as possible: pan crisped brioche with prosciutto, fontina and a sunny side up egg on top. Nothing not to love.
I definitely ordered a second portion of the brioche which is maybe why once the Calamari arrived, I was still distracted by it and while the calamari are done well and are as airy and well done as expected, I’m inclined to now say that I am kind of over the whole breaded seafood thing. If you’re not, go for it-the caper remoulade was tangy and delicious.
One thing I am decidedly NOT over nor will I ever be are brussel sprouts. At Cork they make them with pancetta, brown butter and thyme and should come in a bigger bowl since they’re of the “once you pop, you can’t stop sort of deliciousness”.
Other vegetable options include sauteed exotic mushrooms (earthy and flavorful, a perfect winter side dish or an alternative to meat for those into meat alternatives) and some pretty serious french fries which come liberally seasoned with parsley and garlic and a side of home made ketchup.
By now, we were definitely full and after several glasses of wine (each dish comes with a recommended wine, and with an almost overwhelming selection of almost 50 per-glass choices, I just blindly trusted everything that was poured in my glass and did not regret one sip, even with some more unorthodox pairings like reds with the salads etc) but it was still time for the more substantial hot plates.
the pan fried pork schnitzel which came on top of a great ginger infused consomme (though combining breading and moisture on a plate can definitely backfire if left to stand, so eat the schnitzel swiftly as it lands on your plate)
and the Sauteed Black Sea bass which uses some of the ingredients from earlier dishes (Tanaka is obviously a fan of piquillos, and variation oils) making the evening a great progression.
and since there is always room for dessert we snacked on their cookie plate though after a less intense savory meal portion I would have had my eye on the warm fig and orange crostada since it does seem to combine basically everything I love on my dessert plate (including creme anglaise).
I will stop typing now and go eat. You should too.