Friday, January 20, 2012

CorkBar's Gnarly Roots

I am a true blue tuber girl. One of my favorite morning eats is in San Francisco at La Boulange consists of a root veggie pastry where the beets, turnips and carrots are cooked simply right. I like my root veggies to be soft but not texturally diluted, dense with flavor and slightly charred on the sides for a nice caramelizing in the mix.

This past week before the LA Art Show I met two artist friends Gesso Cocteau and Jim Morphesus at CorkBar in downtown LA to share a glass of wine and a quick toast before the onslaught of art perusal. Jim mentioned that downtown has changed a lot and is now teeming at every corner with USC students, which was truly the case at CorkBar. Every table filled up during the hour we were there with sprightly young and eager people conglomerating over wine and eats.

It almost felt like we were in New York in the chic bar with the lovely rudimentary wooden tables and tall ceilings and glass windows opening onto the panoramic skylines of L.A.’s glistening urbanity. 

The wine list was impressive and my $15 Keenan, 2006 Napa Valley Merlot was generously poured and jammy with blackberry and raspberry nuances. But before I could get too excited my disappointing root veggie salad arrived. A huge pile of thick-stemmed arugula was dotted with a noticeably sparse smattering of root vegetables. The carrots were disgustingly watery in texture and not cleaned or peeled. I understand the allure of “rustic” and “authentic” presentations but I could taste the dirt in the crevices of the carrots that tasted like old lady-fingers boiled to oblivion. I couldn’t really taste the other more subtle vegetables that I am assuming were things like parsnips and beets because the arugula was so peppery and spicy and overpowering that all other flavors got lost in the dish.

Maybe the USC students have become such a staple to the place that considerations on making really nice food for foodies and the like have been washed under the bus. To be fair, the menu boasts other things I would like and I should try more than a salad before making any final opinion on the place but if you can screw up something as simple as greens on a plate, other options become ever more forbidding.

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