Cork is a small plates restaurant in a strip mall located in Chandler Heights, Arizona. The menu is diverse, creative and absolutely wonderful. “Small Plates” gets a bad reputation in my opinion but I like variety and in most conventional restaurants, I’d have to order 5-6 entrees to get half the diversity of a meal at Cork and of course, I’d pay double and wouldn’t be able to eat it all anyway. Besides, I’m a big fan of 100 year old balsalmic vinegar and exotic foams and accompaniments on my plate.
The idea behind small plates is that you order 3-5 courses (more or less depending on how much it takes to fill you up) so that by the end of the meal, you have consumed a nice variety of delicious and creative dishes. I have visited a few small plates restaurants and by far, Cork offers the largest and heartiest of the small plates I've ever seen. Most small plates restaurants literally only offer 2-3 bites per plate, as in 2-3 ounces of food per portion. Generally, it takes about 5 courses in these restaurants to fill me up. Cork fills me up in 2-3 courses with dessert as my third course. Where other small plates restaurants offer 1-2 ounces of protein per plate, Cork plates 2-5 ounces of protein, depending on the protein. Expect to pay between $75-100 per person if a glass of wine is included.
To the right, just as you enter, is an impressive temperature controlled wine room. Wines range from $25 - $4500 per bottle. Needless to say, they have a very nice selection of wines from both popular and well known wineries as well as the smaller, boutique wineries around the world. There is also a nice selection of by-the-glass wines available. If you like reds, try the Heller Estates half bottle on their menu. It is luscious!
The restaurant seating area is intimate. It is dark but not too dark to see by so you won’t need to light up your cell phone to see the menu. The ambiance gives the impression of quiet luxury. The staff is attentive, efficient and knowledgeable. The concierge/manager has been there for a while and is very, very good at his job. He used to be a server and remembers what we ordered even though he only served us twice and that was over a year ago!
The menu changes seasonally with nightly specials and the Chef offers exotic meals made with ostrich, wild boar, fine seafood and the most delicious assortment of accompaniments I’ve experienced in a long time. If you aren’t afraid of foie gras, try Foie Gras Friday where they offer a perfectly seared (and rather generous) portion of foie gras. My personal favourite is the foie gras torchon, which isn’t always available but is always delicious and creatively prepared. It is absolutely delicious – unctuous is the new buzz word, right? Obviously, I have no compunctions about foie gras – don’t judge me. By the way, you do not need to be adventurous to enjoy the Chef’s creations and there are more familiar items on the meal, just in case you aren’t excited about the prospect of eating wild boar or gazelle. If they have it, I highly recommend the Cioppino.
If you need a little liquid courage (before trying ostrich, for example), Cork offers a fully stocked bar and an adept (and kind of cute) bartender. They also have a very talented Sommelier who is expert at pairing delicious wines to compliment your meal.
Reservations are not usually necessary during week nights but are definitely recommended. Weekends are packed by 6pm. The restaurant also offers occasional pre fixe menus for a very reasonable price and they are fantastic!
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