On this cold winter evening I sat with my back to the windows and I wish I would have worn a sweater as I was cold throughout the meal. I ordered the pork belly, braised cabbage, apple puree, and mustard seed ($9) for my appetizer and the pan roasted duck breast, sweet potato gnocchi, black garlic, and winter greens ($26).
As I waited, the server brought a plate of bread that was still cool; I never understand why a restaurant starts the meal on a note that could so easily be better with 30 seconds in the oven. There were two slices of Focaccia that had a mid-level of flavor and two slices of a baguette that had good texture and crispy exterior. It was a good start to the evening, but could have been better.
The belly was brought and visually this was one of the most beautiful dishes I have seen in a while. The pale yellow apple puree was plated, then topped with the shredded red cabbage and finally crowned with a large piece of belly. A few dollops of whole grain mustard dotted the puree and snipped chives added green contrast.
The belly was prepared confit-style in its own fat for 6 hours and then pressed to hold the shape. It was tender, flavorful, and maintained a high level of juiciness. The braised cabbage maintained its crispiness while braised and had an earthy quality and the apple puree had a slight level of sweetness but not too sweet. Together the salty warm pork, the slightly cooler and crispy cabbage and then the cool and creamy puree created perfect complementary textures, temperatures and flavors. I can characterize this dish as a brilliant interpretation of the seasonal flavors.
The duck was not in the same league as the belly, not many dishes I have tried recently are. The duck had a mild flavor, served rare with the skin slightly salted before the kitchen sliced and plated. Although technically the sweet potatoes were Gnocchi, they were more mashed sweet potatoes that were slightly sautéed; a more apt description would be small, round sweet potato croquettes. The sauce was not as rich in flavor as I hoped for and the flavor of the black garlic was almost missing. Overall I was looking for more contrasts in this dish as presented in the appetizer. There was a salty component, but my tongue wished for a sour, sweet or spicy for some contrast. Likewise the texture was one-dimensional.
With the perfect appetizer, it would be hard for an equally brilliant second course, but Corner Table is still serving delicious, locally sourced food in a relaxed environment. Would I return…absolutely.