My folks flew to the Arizona area three years ago, escaping the cold weather of Montana for a cozier, snow bird existence.
With my folks’ new locale, when we visit they are always sure to give my hubby and I a date night: which are too few and far between.
We decided on venturing into Prescott Valley, a town of about 40,000 and try a new restaurant who’s online pictures, a monthly changing menu, and intriguing ingredients piqued my interest.
Cork and Cuisine is settle amongst an outdoor mall area where shopping, restaurants, a movie theatre, and arcade are an ideal location to bring in clientele.
The restaurant is very open with a contemporary feel. The kitchen is open and cooking bar is hugged up against it allowing for “Chef’s Tables” where guests enjoy a cooking class and a mystery dinner prepared by the chef.
Upon my making a reservation, I was told the restaurant was fairly busy so two spots were available at the bar. As we climbed into our perch, we were promptly welcomed by our server/bartender.
The beer and wine menu is not extensive but has enough choices to pair well with the menu. Scotch abounds, as do other liquors. I chose a chardonnay and my husband opted for a beer.
We started our meal with two starters: one for me and one for him. I chose the Seared Duck Breast with fried potato and a black cherry and fig gastrique.
The duck was mosit and tender however, the “ducky” flavor I so love, was non existent. I asked our server to ask the chef, if the breast had pre-soaked in a buttermilk to cut the gamey flavor, but never received word.
Although the duck was medium, I prefer a medium rare, it lacked salt. No golden and rendered duck fat was present either. The potatoes were salted but didn’t make sense with the duck. The gastrique, well, was not. I got the very sweet flavor of black cherry with the thick sauce which was spooned over the dish, but none of the sour tang a gastrique brings with the use of vinegar.
The dish lacked cohesiveness. Three separate flavors: salt from the potato, sweet from the cherry, and mild meatiness. The dish could have been brought together more harmoniously simply with a vinegar used in the gastrique, served on a bed of microgreens, and a good seasoning of salt on the duck.
My husband ordred the salmon cakes, which I didn’t induldge in since they aren’t gluten free. In his own words; “the chef relied on the flour coating for flavor, it lacked seasoning and was bone dry.”
As we finished our starters we noticed the restaurant wasn’t full and many tables available, our perch at the bar although comfortable-enough, begged to have us moved into more pleasant accommodations.
My husband ordered his entree: seared scallops over caramelized onion risotto with crisped pancetta. The dish was beautiful and arrived piping hot. The scallops were well seasoned and perfectly seared, a struggle for most, as too heavy a hand leads to rubbery discs.
The risotto was flavorful, sweetened by caramelized onion. However I questioned: is this truly arborio as the rice was quite large. The dish was topped with pancetta but, to our eye and mouths appeared to be deli bacon. A small amount of parmesan dusted the scallops-a seeming afterthought.
Overall the dish was good, on a scale of 1-10, a healthy 6. I would have loved more of the herb oil to be prominent and a splash of fresh lemon would have done wonders to cut the sweetness.
I ordered the crispy pan seared halibut with a saffron foam and rice pilaf with fried kale.
I adore halibut, and as you can see from my picture they gave me hearty portion 5-6 oz.-an expensive fish and a huge portion.
I first tried the foam which, unfortunately was bitter, had very little flavor and I found it to be off-putting. The pilaf itself was bland but the rice was cooked well. Upon further investigation of my filet I found the skin was not crispy as much as crisped-to-a-glued-atop-crust, with an odd green color.
A travesty-as I’ve said before, fish skin is the bacon of the sea and absolutely delicious when done correctly.
The skin was a clue as to how my fish was cooked. As I cut in with my fork it took much effort and came away in small, dried flakes. I took one bite. The halibut was seared beyond recognition, dry and dense. The fish had no salt recognizable however, cleaning product from the kitchen was.
I let our server know what was wrong and was promptly brought my own seared scallop meal which was just as tasty as my husband’s.
Cork and Cuisine is a small restaurant with extremely attentive staff which created a positive experience regardless of our meal. My humble opinion and palate, tells me the chef lacks confidence: salt everything, acidity does wonders for bringing harmony to a plate, and timing is of the utmost importance.
I really did enjoy our server, my small chat with the owner, and a great gentleman at the end of the bar who gifted my husband with a beautiful cigar. However, with a $120 price tag I left feeling full but not happily so, and longing for my own kitchen.
Overall grade: C-