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Cork Wine Bar

Was anybody able to make it to Cork's grand opening last night? I was wondering if anybody had any reports or opinions on the new spot.

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  1. I did!!! And it was fantastic....

    We called at 5:45 to put our name on the list, and when we arrived at 6:15 we were seated immediately. (Cork has a policy similar to Hank's Oyster Bar, where you can call 30 minutes in advance to your arrival to put your name on the list if there is one!). And that was quite lucky, because within about 30 minutes the restaurant had filled up completely, and there wasn't even space at the bar, or even space to stand anywhere. It was *packed*.

    To start, the wine list is amazing! They were featuring FIVE different specially put together flights of wine for the evening (one sparkling, two white, and two red), in addition to their complete listings of wines by the glass (and there are many). The wines (both glasses and bottles) are very Euro-centric. I first tried a flight of sparkling wines, with three half-glasses of a Cava, Prosecco, and one I am blanking on. All delicious, although I enjoyed the Cava the most. My two friends tried the flights of Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. All of the flights were about $10 to $12, which I found to be very fair, especially with their pretty generous pours. We later tried three different regular glasses of wine ($6 - $9 all of them), and they also were a very decent pour, and equally delicious. I tried the $6 glass of "Borsao" (?), which was a Spanish blend, heavy on tempranillo, and quite liked it. (Trying the $6 glass b/c I figured that if this becomes a regular neighborhood haunt, I might like to try their least expensive one right away for budgetary reasons. :o) )

    As for food, the menu is composed of hot and cold small plates that they reccommend you share with the table. We started with a cheese plate (3 for $10, and then I forget the price breakdowns for larger amounts). And, the options were all delicious. Since there were 3 of us, we each picked one, and we had a Manchego, some Spanish Goat cheese, and a Grayson (my choice). There were probably about 15-20 different cheese choices, making it delightfully difficult to choose! We got three decent sized slices of each of the three cheeses (about two inches, by one inch for each slice? maybe a bit more?), and the cheese was accompanied by homemade sweet and spicy mixed nuts, and a tempranillo reduction around the edges. We also had an order of Proscuitto ($6 and again, you could get combos of more meats for different prices, but I can't remember!). It was a pretty large portion and had a side of lightly dressed arugula, with a bowl of very nice and strong mustard and some cornichons. Oh, and there was some sort of yummy homemade crusty bread on the table to start off and eat with all this.

    Next, we ordered some Frites ($5), which came with homemade ketchup! A decent sized order, the frites were seasoned with parsley, very well fried, and were not too-thick, but not pencil thin, either. Good, but not on the same level as Poste, although the homemade ketchup did add something. Next, we had an order of the Exotic Mushroom Duxelle, which was good, but not great. I think next time I would try the regular sauteed Wild Mushroom dish ($7-$8 for either).... Our last order was a delicious Chicken breast (brined, i asked b/c it was so juicy), that came on a bed of sauteed spinach (I believe), olives, preserved lemons, and prunes, in tarragon au jus ($13). Absolutely fantastic. Order it. In all, we each paid about $40, including tip for all of this.

    For the rest of the menu, I want to say there are about 12 or so warm dishes, and maybe about the same (a few less cold dishes). There was a potato-leek gratin that I was dying to try, and sauteed sunchokes, as well. I also remember there was definitely a shrimp, beef, lamb, and scallop dish, but don't remember details. As for cold items, there were some yummy looking salads, and veggies, but, again, for our "cold" entrees, we stuck to the cheese and charcuterie, so I didn't really pay as much attention to that.

    Also, as for the building, there is quite a bit more space than I thought there would be from walking by. There is the front area, with about 8-10 tables, and the bar, which is nice and curvy, and then you go back, and there is a half-raised platform area with more tables (not sure how many), and then you go back even more, and there are the bathrooms (very very clean, I mean, even in the middle of such a busy period, they had just emptied the trash), and even more tables, before you get to the semi-open kitchen. Decor, can't seem to recall, but was a very cozy feel. Actually, we were seated right by the door in the front window, which worried me at first, but I wasn't cold at all. They smartly put heating units right by the door, to counteract that problem.

    In all, I really liked Cork, and it is definitely someplace I plan on going back to. Often. Especially as it is right up the street. Were there some issues? Sure. It took awhile to get our single glasses of wine once we finished the flights, but, to be fair, this was also when there was no standing room even in the aisles and center of the rooms. I mean, the place was insanely busy, and I really didn't hold that against them since I am sure once it has been open awhile (and is not opening night!) that will calm down some. Our waiter was very kind about it, and we actually had multiple people helping us. But, on the other hand, even though they were soooo busy, they never ONCE rushed us. We were there for two hours, and not once was there any attempt to hurry us along to get someone else into our table. Which is rare to find in many places. Also, they kept apologizing for how long food was taking, but I honestly didn't feel there was any long delay at all. All the servers were very friendly, and knew a lot about the wine and what to pair it with. Impressive.

    Great food and wine, not overly expensive or with inflated prices. Good service. Nice homey-place. I really liked it. In fact, I debated writing about the place b/c I am afraid that it will become too popular for me to go to as often and as easily as I'd like! And then I realized that was not nice... Oops. So go! And I cannot wait to hear more opinions on it.

    1. and wow... i didn't realize this was that long... sorry!

      1 Reply
      1. re: food.fiend

        No...Thanks for the long report I really enjoyed reading it. I am going to try to go tonight and am looking forward to trying it. Thanks again!

      2. Thanks for the heads up about the list before arrival! Just walked by there on the way home and it was completely packed.

        1. Was just perusing Cork's website, and they linked to this topic...

          1. How difficult do you think it is to get in on a Tues or Weds night after work (around 6 or 7pm)? I was thinking about meeting up with a friend there but all I hear is "It's very good, very small, and very hard to get into"

            I checked out the menu for the first time and was instantly drooling over their brioche, fontina, prosciutto, and egg sandwich. Is it as good as it sounds? Any other can't miss items?

            7 Replies
            1. re: Elyssa

              I shouldn't think it would be too difficult. First, because they do accept "pre-theatre" reservations up until 6:30 pm, and second, because even if you cannot make that, you can call 30 minutes in advance to put your name on the list. So, easy if you go early!

              Besides the above recommendations, the Trout Salad is fantastic, as is the Steak. Oh, and the potato and leek gratin. I unfortunately haven't tried the sandwich, though it sounds delicious. I have heard that the chicken liver bruschetta is great, but haven't been with adventurous enough eaters that they would share it yet! :o) Also, there is apparently a new rabbit dish on the menu that is good as well. For dessert, I really enjoyed the Grapefruit financier for something lighter, but still sweet. AND they have a yummy pot of dark, thick hot chocolate to share. They say it's enough for two, but I have shared it with three and it was fine.
              I am now wanting to go back tonight... oh dear...

              1. re: food.fiend

                Yes the potato leek gratin looked excellent! I'm really into leeks lately.

                1. re: food.fiend

                  Also, is this some place you would generally recommend to go with a dining partner(s) or is it some place I can go to by myself with out feeling weird having a few small plates and reading a book? Since it's not that far from my apartment, I could easily pop in by myself one day after work. But I wasn't sure if its a place that you could really dine alone.

                  1. re: Elyssa

                    Elyssa, I was there at 5 p.m. on a Sunday and we were there for 3 hours and it never really got to the point where you'd feel awkward dining solo. It was pretty empty the first hour or so. Now, I've heard on other nights that it's a different story, but if I went again, I'd totally pick that timeframe (perfect after a Studio Theater matinee). Kitchen doesn't open till 530 FYI.

                    1. re: bylinemjf

                      Agreed, Sundays are definitely slower and the restaurant feels more like a neighborhood joint, then an uber-popular "Place to Be." Also, if you do make reservations early, or call ahead, you could just ask to not be in the front room. That is where it gets loudest and there is the crowd hanging around the bar. The back two rooms (still small and quite cute and cozy) are quieter and would be nicer if it is on a busier night!

                      1. re: food.fiend

                        I was there a few weeks ago on a Tuesday - I got there right around 5:40 or so (our reservation (a tasting, which was fabulous!) was for 6) and you could have easily gotten in at that time. By 6:30 it was getting pretty busy. It was packed when we left (around 9 or so).

                    2. re: Elyssa

                      I've been meaning to check it out and it's close to my apt too. We should go together!

                2. What pretentiousness. The food was good, the wine was good, the service was HORRIBLE. We were told there was no Shrimp left for the "Shrimp and Calamari" and that scallops would be substituted. We ordered anyway, but when the dish came out it only had calamari. The calamari was quite yummy, but when we asked the waitress where the scallops were, she argued with us. The owner came by and she also argued with us and asked us if we were sure there was no scallops. Both said they would follow up and see what happened. Neither of them followed up. No apology at ALL from owner. It's not about the mistake, it's about how you handle the mistake. I'm appalled. I think the good reviews and crowded space (it is a TINY space) have gotten to their heads.

                  1. My bf and I went last week in a search for the Absinthe Manhattan we had heard about. We did not try the food but the drink was really good- worth the trek. It was insanely crowded though and took a long time to get our drinks. Once we were finished our one drink we left since it was so loud---it was 8pm on a Friday night---so understandable! It is worth it for that Manhattan...yummy! :)

                    1. Don't bother going, they don't seem to actually want customers there. I and a friend arrived at Cork at 5:20pm on a Friday night, wanting to grab a quick snack and a glass of wine before we had to meet our husbands elsewhere at 6:30pm. An aloof tallish woman with short blonde hair (the "hostess", but she doesn't seem to know what it means to host) told us we couldn't sit at a table - tables were reserved for "people who will be DINING with us." Ummm, weird, given that it was not even 5:30pm yet, and every single table was EMPTY. Okay, fine, so we'll sit at the bar then - except the bar is tiny (maybe 10 seats total), and every seat was taken. So we left.

                      The place is a wine bar. And it only serves small plates. But you're not allowed to sit to have some wine and a small plate. Maybe I'm not understanding the concept...?

                      And exactly how many small plates do two people have to order before they can be consider customers who are "dining" (versus snacking) at Cork? The gracious hostess did not bother to clarify.

                      Better to head up the street to Bar Pilar instead.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: cpantelias

                        I had a similar issue. I got there before my friend, had reservations for dinner, but they wouldn't seat me until she arrived. I know its the policy of some restaurants but I don't find it particularly customer-friendly.. There was no room at the bar, there is no place to wait, so I ended up standing outside until my friend arrived. I hate this policy, especially when its fairly early in the evening. If seated immediately I would have started spending money immediately. Isn't that the point?

                        1. re: Ellen

                          Just ate there and had a very nice experience.

                          When Gabriele and I eat out we almost always order wine. But except for a very fun evening at Evo Bistro back in April, we haven’t checked out any of the wine bars popping up around the DC area. So when the October Washingtonian magazine gave Corked its highest “four glass” rating (along with Evo and Grapeseed), we decided to check it out: http://www.corkdc.com/about.html

                          We were there on a very busy Saturday night, and the evening didn’t start off smoothly. The Corked web site suggests you call them about 30 minutes prior to arrival so they can add you to the waiting list. We did this, and the woman on the other end said “see you soon.” But when we arrived, our name was not written down. I told the hostess what happened, but apparently she has never read this blog and it was end of the list for us. Kind of frustrating, since the place was packed and clearly there would be a substantial wait.

                          Another little bump in the road happened when I ordered some wine while we waited. The glasses were $2 more than the menu stated. I pointed this out, and the waitress produced another menu that had the higher price. I didn’t really care about quibbling over $4, but the prices should be standardized. Not the smoothest start to the evening to say the least, but we shook it off and enjoyed the fun, urban DC vibe of the place.

                          The glasses were Bodegas Berton, Lorinon Rioja Crianza 2003, a mixture of grapes with Tempranillo dominating. It had strong fruit, lots of tannins and a sharp bite that lingered on the palate.

                          We were seated after about an hour, and that’s when things started to soar. Everything we ordered was excellent, with the exception of a flight of three Barbera wines that were being featured. But to be fair our waiter didn’t highly recommend the flight, we ordered anyway since we usually like Barbera. But the Vietti Barbera d’ Asti Tre Vigne 2006 and the Marchesi di Gresy Barbera d’ Asti 2005 were very mediocre, not horrible but not good. Only the Renzo Seghesio, Barbera d’Alba 2006 was good, with a deeper, rich aroma, more body and a smoother texture.

                          The food was well done, and its arrival was timed very well. We started with the lemon and pepper dusted calamari with caper remoulade. Even factoring in how hungry we were by the time we sat, it was some of the best we’ve had in the area. We also had the flat iron steak with roasted brussel sprouts and pancetta, the hearts of romaine salad, kale with pecorino and garlic, mushrooms with madeira and marjoram and chicken with olives, prunes, lemon and tarragon jus. Not a flat note in the bunch. Portions were on the small side, except for the calamari.

                          We had two glasses of Vajra, Lange Rosso 2006 at our server’s recommendation, an Italian from the Piedmont region. It was a tasty combination of grapes including Niebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto, with nice fruit and a smooth finish. An easy drinking wine that was food friendly. After dinner we had a nicely presented cheese platter and a glass of Domaine de la Rectorie, Banyuls 2005. It was a French Grenache Noir, a dessert wine. It had a huge nose and port-like fruit, but without some of the heaviness of port.

                          It was extremely noisy at Corked that night, which may be a factor for some. And of course the tab can add up quickly, especially when some of the small plates have entree-like prices. But if you like interesting pairings of good wine with well prepared foods and an “it place” vibe, you have to check this place out. Just get the name of the person you talk to when you call ahead for the wait list.

                          1. re: TeknoFin

                            I could understand being upset at not being on the waiting list, but why try to use a blog to get seated? Seems pretty silly to me, and in this case I'm glad they made you wait!

                      2. I went here for the first time tonight. I've walked by many times and there's always a long wait, but today we got here right after work. I thought the service was pretty good, but the acoustics in there are fairly bad. It gets really loud in there even when it's not packed.

                        I enjoyed our wine, but I'm usually more of a fan of the CA, South Africans, South Americans and OZ/NZ wines then the European. The ones I tried, though, were good. We ordered two dished. The smoke trout was good but tiny. They literally give you two very very tiny pieces of trout and a mound of fennel. I wouldn't wait this as amazing. The mushroom dish was very good but also very tiny. This place is a little pricey but I'm glad we do have some wine bars in DC. The decor and atmosphere are nice, but I might have a slightly different impression if I was there on a very busy night, not a Tuesday.