Monday, December 06, 2010
Life, work, being sick, having a computer that was sick, holidays, taking a mini vacation all have definitely contributed to this late post of the media dinner I attended last November at the Corkbar in downtown Los Angeles, but better late than never I say. On behalf of Corkbar, I was invited by Kelsey Beniasch of Wagstaff Worldwide, Inc along with other LA food bloggers to check out Corkbar and their new fall menu.
In all honesty, I'm not much of a drinker, so a wine bar wouldn't be a place that would normally draw me to visit, but there was something specific about Corkbar that really impressed me. I had to commend them for being very supportive of the California wine industry by offering over 120 California wines by the bottle. 80 of those wines could even be ordered by the glass from many lesser-known producers with quite a few under $10 a glass. Their bar even offers beers from breweries from San Diego to Sonoma to keep with the California theme. I think it's great that Corkbar is supporting California businesses.
The interior design also incorporates wine country materials such as unstained woods and cork throughout a space that includes high, industrial ceilings and wood-lined walls. What's so unique about those wood-lined walls is that it's a collection of panels, some bordered with corks from actual wine bottles collected and consumed by the owners. Above the bar hangs an eye-catching 24-foot-high, tiered wooden shelf that displays over 800 wine bottles. That wooden shelf definitely drew my eye when I first walked in.
Now with everything said, regardless of how good a wine bar is in regards to its wine list, if there are no good food offerings to be had, it's definitely not a place you'd see me visiting anytime soon. Thankfully, after sampling Corkbar's menu that included some new fall items, I can definitely say that it's a wine bar that also has good eats.
Our tasting menu started with their Ball Park Sliders which were made up of burgers with homemade relish, homemade mayo and fennel sandwiched between pretzel bread. Honestly, I think all sliders should be made from pretzel bread from now on. I really enjoyed its crusty-salty surface and the addition of the tender fennel added a flavor component that I really found appealing. This particular dish came from their Test Kitchen Tuesdays where every Tuesday, Chef Albert Aviles features an experimental dish that customers can try for just $2. If it's a hit, it may just end up on the menu or as a special.
Next were the Cheddar Cheese Gougeres, which were basically light and airy cheese buns. They reminded me of Brazilian cheese bread and they were just as good. In fact, they were addicting. I could have easily eaten a whole plate all by myself.
With more cheesy goodness came Corkbar's own version of Mac and Cheese which included cheddar, monterey jack and roasted pasilla chiles. This is the first time I've had spicy mac and cheese and it was about time.
On the table next were two salads. First was the Double Wedge Salad, which was one of the specials for the evening. Second was the Root Vegetable Salad with arugula, dandelion greens, upland cress with roasted root vegetables, shallots, red wine-thyme viniagrette and balsamic drizzle. Neither salad was very memorable, but the greens were fresh and I was happy with that.
When it came to the Curried Mussels with black mussels in a coconut curry broth served with a sliced baguette, I had two complaints. One, there wasn't enough bread to sop up all that delicious broth. Two, I wish I wasn't already getting full because I would have definitely eaten more of it.
Another special for the evening was the apple juice brined pork tenderloin with German purple cabbage and a cream cheese potato puree. Chef Aviles mentioned that the purple cabbage was his Grandma's recipe and he certainly did Grandma proud. Cooked with green apples, pineapple juice, a bay leaf and more, that cabbage had a tart, fruitiness to it that added a different dimension, flavor-wise. Also, the pork was cooked perfectly and I enjoyed the creaminess of the potato puree.
Back to the ocean for the Seared Sea Scallops with parsnip puree and spinach sautéed with bacon and topped with brown butter and to the ranch with the Hanger Steak, a pan seared hanger steak on a bed of red wine and mushroom risotto and topped with a red wine and balsamic reduction. Scallops aren't usually my seafood of choice, but I had no issues with their scallop dish and while I liked the red wine and mushroom risotto, I thought the steak itself was a little overcooked; hence, chewy.
We also tried out the Farmer's Market Veggie Sandwich with roasted eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, spinach, red onion and a feta spread on olive bread. As vegetable sandwiches go, I thought it was pretty tasty.
Our final savory course before dessert was the Root Beer Braised Short Ribs served over cheesy polenta. Those short ribs were meltingly tender, so that was the big plus of this dish; however, I thought the dish was a little too "saucy" and I wish the polenta was cheesier.
When it came to dessert, we shared two. One was a Creme Brulee, but the second one was simply referred to as Breakfast. So what's Breakfast? Simply, it's a cinnamon brioche bread pudding with caramel sauce, creme fraiche and sprinkled with bacon. Unfortunately, Breakfast usually shows up as a special and not on the regular menu, so when you see it, get it! You won't regret it.
Overall, I enjoyed the food at Corkbar. It's a wine bar that has great wine selection, but it's also a restaurant where one can enjoy a delicious dining experience. Of course, if you also need help pairing wines with items from the menu, there's a knowledgeable staff to help you do just that. Corkbar is definitely a great addition to downtown LA and who knows, you may even see a Corkbar coming to your neighborhood sometime in the future as well.
403 W. 12th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015