It’s not a large room, and the dark bar and the brickwork need all the light they get from the the long open window, but there isn’t a bad table in the place. Once you get a few plates of food on that table, you will be so very happy that you came. The Corner Door on West Washington has been open for several years, and with recent changes to the menu, it’s almost a brand new place.
The Corner Door functions first and foremost as a pub; there are lots of unique and charming cocktails, and the menu features appetizers. Don’t let that lead you to think that you won’t feel fed here – ‘starters’ are substantial, serious food.
But you’ll want to start with a drink – the Moscow Mule and French 75 are the only classic cocktails here, and the originals are deliciously creative. The Louisiana Regular, a combination of rye, benedictine, grapefruit liqueur, bitters, and the infamous absinthe was an enchanting tipple, served with a clear cylinder of cake-ice. Our very informative server Patrick confided that this was created out of a large block of ice that was sliced by a chain saw – Bigger cubes means less melt to dilute the drink, and larger blocks of ice remain clear as they freeze, keeping the complexion of the cocktail a light orange. Any bar that puts that much forethought into a glass has your best interests at heart.
There are some fun drinks here- you can find a Topless Mermaid – a blend of vodka, pineapple, banana rose, blue curacao, and a touch of lime to tickle your fancy, (Why do mermaids were seashells? because B shells are too small -) and a Lumberjack Liquor Cabinet, with bourbon, apple brandy, maple syrup, cinnamon smoke; that’s a pretty sophisticated lumberjack, and two of these might have you singing an old Monty Python tune.
So, you need food. The ideal companion for these drinks is the French Fries Carbonade, an indulgent combination of perfect french fries, beef carbonade (a Belgian recipe of beef braised in dark beer until it’s as relaxed as a Saturday afternoon nap), roasted garlic aioli and farmhouse cheese topped with chives. If you miss Poutine, the Canadian dish of fries-with-gravy-and-chesse-curds, this will kill your craving. Comfort food of the highest order, it’s quite enough to make a meal, but there are so many other great dishes, you ‘ll have to share. Don’t miss the Avocado Toast, hearty whole grain bread topped with burrata cheese, lime juice, olive oil, arugula and of course, avocado (pictured below.) My favorite is the Chicken Liver and Foie Gras Mousse. This fabulously rich spread is served with grilled sourdough toast points, a roasted sweet potato puree and fancy baby gherkins. Get them all onto one bite, and you’ll think that Paris and New Orleans are not so far apart – or even so far away.
Ordering dinner offers some classic options – there’s an excellent burger and a plate of fish and chips that would make Liverpool proud, but ordering the special will always prove to be the smart choice; this kitchen is ambitious, playful and very skilled. The recent special of braised short ribs served on a bed of creamed and fire-roasted corn with roasted tomatoes and sauteed radishes was a melody of beef with perfect harmonies of vegetables. The only dish I’ve been disappointed with is the lobster and shrimp bolognese. I love seafood and shrimp is a passion, but the tomato sauce just didn’t feel like a good partner. The accompanying squid ink pasta was great – dark, chewy and flavorful, but the dish as a whole would have benefited from a different sauce.
Just because the cocktails are amazing doesn’t mean the wine list is second rate – our table enjoyed a dark an peppery Malbec, a smoky velvet Cabernet and a beautifully balanced Pinot Noir. Wines are both imported and domestic with the list reaching from down Sonoma to Chile and over to France and Italy as well. If you are a beer drinker, this could be your new favorite place – there’s a half a dozen on draught, and an even longer list of bottles and cans to keep the suds flowing. And no 21st Century Westside bar could be complete without a hard cider – Anthem, from Oregon, is a crisp sparkler with just a hint of sweet to balance out.
So, after an evening of great drinks, appetizers and entrees, finishing off with something sweet makes the perfect curtain call. With only two choices – the Sticky Toffee Pudding or the Strawberry Panna Cotta – there’s no way to make a bad one. The Sticky Toffee Pudding served with vanilla ice cream and a caramel sauce is an excellent take on the classic, and each dark, sweet mouthful satisfies like a bed time story. The Strawberry Panna Cotta has a gentle buttermilk tang, and fresh fruit blended with a sweet, creamy but firm base.
With the West Washington restaurant corridor picking up steam on a weekly basis, it’s becoming as much of a dining destination as downtown. Do note the permit parking on the side streets and stick to the meters – you don’t want to come out of a great meal and find a ticket on your windshield. If you live within walking distance – and plenty of you do – it’s the ideal spot to stroll over and pull up a table. In fact, with all that terrific alcohol, walking may be the best choice of transportation for many reasons. Or just get another order of French Fries Carbonade…or Sticky Toffee Pudding.