Monday, December 07, 2015

Corner Charcuterie Bar

I'm not sure exactly how to refer to this restaurant. It opened a few years ago as Corner BYOB because of both its location at the corner of Elm Avenue and 36th Street and its boozelessness. Being directly next to the Wine Source, however, the lack of a liquor license wasn't that big of a deal. Today, the restaurant has a bar, both for liquor and charcuterie. Their Web address involves the charcuterie bar, but the "Corner BYOB" sign is still over the main entrance. For simplicity's sake, we'll just call it Corner.

We went as a family, part of my birthday celebrations, and ordered enough food for a small army. Corner debuted its new fall menu recently, chock full of interesting sounding goodies. We tried three cocktails, the Salinger, the Barely Legal, and a Sazerac. All three were strong and flavorful. My Barely Legal was definitely powerful enough that I didn't need a second drink; the boys ordered IPAs afterward. Can't remember the brewery off the top of my head, but the beer was hoppy and smooth.

With our drinks we nibbled on the house-pickled fried veg with ranch dip. A melange of cucumbers, radishes, and other tasty morsels, each piece had its own distinctive pickle flavor and a light coating of crisp batter. Addictive.

We then received the rest of our food in short order. Ostrich tartare, which seems to me the best way to enjoy this lean and rather beefy bird, came with a quail egg to add a needed fattiness. I'm not sure the thick tortilla chip-like crisps were the best accompaniment, but they were an efficient way to get meat to mouth (other than by fork).

We also tried the truffled lobster mashed potatoes, prettily served in a martini glass. Light on truffle but heavy on lobster (including a claw garnish), I thought the potatoes could be a tad smoother (more a comment on the texture of the potato itself, rather than the mashing technique).

Perhaps a more successful potato choice (for me) was the pork cheek poutine, well-cooked fries smothered in a rich gravy studded with blobs of pork, with a few cheese curds thrown in. Could have been cheesier, but otherwise pretty great.

A third kind of potato - western fries - graced Dad's "hen basket." Three smallish pieces of very crispy buttermilk fried chicken with a molasses honey mustard were dispatched post-haste by my father, who not an hour earlier claimed to feeling poorly. We didn't get a taste, but we assume it must have been pretty good.

The other three of us ordered from the salad and sandwich part of the menu. MinxBro had the smoked duck croque monsieur, smothered in Gruyere and bechamel. The subtle duck was a little lost in all of the dairy richness, but otherwise, it was an evilly good sammy.

Mr Minx couldn't pass up on the charred octopus burger, which came with a fourth type of potato (very finely sliced fried sticks). Before it arrived, we guessed as to the burger's composition. Was it made from shredded or ground cooked octopus, bound into a patty and fried? A crosswise slice from a huge tentacle? Our lovely and charming server disappointed us slightly when she said it was a whole small octopus that somehow took on the texture of tofu. Perhaps smoked tofu, as it did have a bit of a bite to it, and the tentacles were chewier than the rest. The bun, black as coal, was a bigger novelty than the octopus itself, and made for a stunning presentation. The flavor was mild, with most of it due to the "tartar remoulade" which sadly made the bun quite soggy. Overall, somewhat disappointing, but can't really say it wasn't worth ordering.

I had the "Trump Pie," which was neither Trump nor pie. We have a feeling the very Mexican-influenced dish of tortillas topped with Peruvian pork loin, Chihuahua cheese, avocado, salsa, and mole was probably a tongue-in-cheek FU to a particular Republican presidential candidate. I enjoyed the dish. The pork was generous, as were the spices; the avocado and lime cooled and brightened the flavors nicely.

We also tried a few of the charcuterie - the bresaola, speck, and smoked duck breast. The meats came with a basket of dry toasts, which like the tortillas with the tartare, didn't really work very well. So we ate the meat solo (all very good), with occasional bites of the assorted pickled and preserved items around the perimeter of the plate (pickled pineapple, mustards, peppadews, etc.).

It was a lot of food, but the four of us managed to put just about all of it away. Corner certainly has an eclectic selection of dishes, which is why we chose to eat there to begin with. Octopus aside, we had some of tamer dishes on the current menu, which includes whole rabbit, pheasant, lamb's head, and bugs. If you're into adventuresome eating, Corner is the place for you. But even if you're boring, you can find something suitable there, and even a vegetarian will discover more than a few interesting things to eat.

Corner Charcuterie Bar
850 W 36th Street
Baltimore, MD 21211

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