Just around the corner
A minor upside to bad economic times: if more restaurants fail, then there are more new ones to take their place. Bing Crosby’s was a pretty fancy upscale establishment in Walnut Creek, and it went under. Now Corners Tavern has opened in the eastern half of the building, and I get to talk about yet another new place to eat.
Nothing remains of the old place. Where Bing Crosby’s was an homage to a 50’s night club, Corners is more of a Boston pub, with stuffed animal heads and strange murals on the walls, 13 different and exotic beers on tap, huge exposed steel beams (which don’t connect to anything) and large garage doors which open up to a large front patio dining the better to enjoy our balmy evenings.
Executive Chef Esteban Escobar has created a menu to please both modern and traditional tastes. His list of appetizers looked so good that I never got to the entrees–I just had 4 appetizers and called it a meal.
We started with the shishito peppers for the table. These medium sized peppers, briefly blistered in hot oil and sprinkled with sea salt, are usually quite mild with the occasional super hot one to keep you alert.
My first dish was the asparagus soup, a great dish where the chef avoided the temptation to overdo the flash glitter and just let the vegetable shine through.
It takes some kind of genius to create new dishes, new combinations of ingredients, new ways of thinking about a meal. How the chef ever came up with the idea of pairing smoked salmon with greens, shaved asparagus and a soft boiled egg is beyond me, but that’s why he gets the big money. The flavors blended magically, the presentation was unique and I was impressed.
Gail loves Caesar salad and is almost a certainty to order it. Corners had re-invented the Caesar, with butter lettuce instead of the traditional heavy-ribbed romaine, large chunks of parmesan, and crispy pork rinds instead of croutons. The idea works, and our resident Caesar expert pronounced it excellent.
I ordered the tuna tartare. What I got was more of a ceviche, where the tuna was cooking in the acid from the oranges. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a different thing. The texture of the tuna changes completely in the chemical process, and I don’t think for the better.
Still, the presentation was excellent, with the watermelon radish on top and some kind of cracker/toast/bread on top. I just wish this dish knew what it wanted to be.
Gail asked the waitress which was better, the veal short rib or the pork chop, and was ably steered to the veal. Although it is listed in the appetizer section of the menu, it was quite sufficient for her as an entree.
Excellently prepared, tender and soft, and accompanied by delectable English peas, this dish is a major winner.
My final dish was again suffered from an identity crisis. I had the baked apples and Gorgonzola, which can’t quite make up its mind about whether it is an appetizer, an entree or a dessert. The idea is interesting, a small pan of sliced apples covered in cheese and topped with membrino, a quince paste that is like a solidified jam. The execution is decent, although the apples discolor in the iron pan and blue apples aren’t really all that appetizing. I don’t think I’d order this dish again.
The service was fair to good. I think I threw them a curve with my 4 dishes, as I was served the two in the middle all by myself which was sort of uncomfortable and then got the apple dish at the same time as everyone else got their entree. My ice tea glass got refilled with some sort of cloudy mixture (supposedly just because it was freshly brewed), but it should never have come out of the kitchen.
Like so many new places, Corners Tavern is LOUD. Hard floors, no tablecloths, heavy silver, lots of people and liquor add up to a lot of noise, and that’s clearly the way the owners want it. It isn’t the worst around, but it’s decidedly high on the noise-o-meter.
The bottom line is that we like Corners Tavern and will go back. Prices are high/moderate–dinner ran about $50/person, including wine and an automatic 18% tip for a large party. Not cheap, not awful. We definitely like it more than we liked Bing Crosby’s, you will too.