Pulling into a very busy large parking lot at 89th and Memorial, I was excited to try Cork Wine Café nestled among a number of businesses in this strip center. Upon entering, I was impressed with the décor. Tuscan in style, the stack stone look, the granite and wooden features gives Cork Wine Café a cozy and welcoming feel.
Guests seat themselves, which we did. Soon after, our server greeted and welcomed us and took our drink order. Since this is a wine café, we were up for trying a glass of wine. My friend ordered a glass of Sharecropper's Pinot Noir ($13), and I tried a new wine selection that came highly recommended by our server, Camino del Inca Malbec ($9). Both were easy-drinking and delicious although the Malbec had a slightly elevated temperature.
We reviewed the menu of Appetizers, Salads, Entrees, Sandwiches and Soups. All of the appetizers were appealing in name: Salsa Fuego, Smoked Shrimp Quesadilla, Hot and Crunchy Avocado, Caramelized Onion Dip, Hot and Crunch Shrimp, Veggie Quesadilla, Onion Ring Haystack, Queso and Mini Ahi Tuna Wraps. My friend and I thought the Hot and Crunchy Avocado ($9) would be the one to try. For this appetizer, the avocado cozies up with goat and pepper jack cheeses and then is rolled in Cork Wine Café's signature breading. Once fried, they are then served with an ancho and mango-jalapeno aioli. These three avocadoes were very tasty. Although they were almost at room temperature, the combination of the soft and crunchy, and the avocado with the cheeses was a remarkable blend of flavors and textures.
The entrée menu is small, yet has varied options from what one would expect on a full menu: Seafood Market Special, Lemon Caper Chicken ($16), Grilled Pork Chop ($26), Crusted Halibut ($26), Fish and Chips ($15) and Signature Orange Chicken ($12). My friend was eager to try the Fish and Chips while I was drawn to the Signature Orange Chicken. While our entrees were being prepared, we had time to enjoy our wines and look about the place.
Even though tables are situated a little too close together, we enjoyed the warm feel about the place. The many seating areas allow for those who want to watch sports on the TVs in one bar area and a second bar area is available without a TV distraction. We dined around 6:30pm, and the place continued to draw in customers. Two bars, table seating, and a few cozy lounge areas fill out this large space nicely. The two lounging areas are equipped with comfortable couches and coffee tables for an at-home feel.
Our entrees arrived, and we were more than ready to eat. The Fish and Chips had a good initial look while the plate presentation of the Orange Chicken was a bit phlegmatic, even listless. A thin chicken breast was pre-sliced into strips with an orange vodka sauce resting over the chicken. (I prefer to cut my own chicken.) This dish came with five large Merlot Mushrooms and squash and zucchini spaghetti. The chicken excelled in a grilled flavor, but it was dry. The orange vodka sauce was nothing to excite the palate except to moisten the chicken with each bite. The mushrooms, on the other hand, were the best item on the plate. These large mushrooms were marinated well, robust and rich with an earthy flavor of mushroom and wine. The squash and zucchini vegetables were soft, with little taste.
My friend's fish and chips were fair. Fish chunks were covered in a heavy batter which after being fried, was greasy and soggy. Of the five or so pieces, only two were edible. The fish in the others were too tough to cut with a fork, and even a little challenging with a knife and fork. The chips were very, very thinly sliced potatoes which were fried to crispiness; these were good, almost like potato chips.
For dessert, we shared the Cork's Famous Crème Brulee ($6). This brulee was different from others I have had in that the custard was loose, rather than firm. The taste was among the best I have had, but the thick, runny texture did not align with a classic brulee. It was rich, silky and creamy, but a chef once told me that an authentic brulee should be thicker, when a spoon inserted it can stand up tall and proud.
Cork Wine Café has a good list of wines, as it should. It is important to note that this establishment is for the 21 and older crowd. Service was fair; to her credit, she was managing a number of guests. I was hoping to gather some information about the menu and the other facts about Cork Wine Café, but after repeated calls to speak with the owners, Chris or Zach Collins, I never received a call back.
Still, I learned the evening I dined there that the kitchen is quite small, which consequently restricts preparations that are easily accommodated in full kitchens.
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