By Matt Claborn
Within its refined and modernistic walls, Cork and Fork in La Quinta pleasantly provides a perfect dining experience.
As you open the door entering the restaurant, first thing you will notice is just how dainty and intimate this restaurant is. I immediately felt welcomed into the dim crepuscular light as we were escorted to our seats. At 7:30 on a Friday night this place was packed with fellow diners enjoying the aroma and bouquet of a fine wine, or the mouth-watering tapas that awaited my fiancé and I. Happy hour is served nightly until 6pm, with an array of wine, beer, and small plates to sample, with 15% off all wine by the bottle. As we were seated, I found myself browsing over a very well thought out menu that just about anyone would be happy to choose from.
We started with a couple drinks to kick things off, I was recommended a glass of 2015 Domaine Drouhin ‘ROW 503’ Pinot Noir. The glass was filled with quaint notes of red fruit and ripe plum, generously filled, this glass lasted me the entire dinner. My better half opted for an iced tea, but not just any ordinary glass of tea. The Republic of Tea’s “Republic Darjeeling,” honestly lived up to its name of being “The champagne of tea!” Additionally I ordered up a butter poached lobster shooter as well. Served up in a sparkling shot glass, this lobster was masterfully cooked, floating in a pool of luscious drawn butter, accompanied by a lemon wedge and small teaspoon for devouring. It was an excellent way to start the meal.
The next few items that caught our eye on the menu were the Thai shrimp cakes and the crispy Brussels sprouts. I’d have to consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of the sprout, sampling them from any menu I come across, I can vouch for Cork and Fork and say that they’ve got something special with this dish. Packed with what I describe as “familiar flavors,” these are rich, creamy, evenly balanced and have a great texture overall. Applewood bacon, cabernet onions, manchego cheese, and a smoked paprika aioli are all amazing players on the plate, a winning combination in my book, any day of the week. Next up were the astounding and addicting Thai shrimp cakes. These little fried beauties were in all honesty the highlight of my meal, having 4 on the plate really had me debating whether or not to place another order. Lightly breaded and full of big, bold flavors, a slight, limited heat begins to muster its way onto your palate. A sublime togarashi aioli, sweet soy, sesame, topped with microgreens, and a hint of citrus for sharpness, I can’t wait to return and enjoy this dish again and again.
The real beauty of a place like this is that with the perfectly portioned plates, you can really try so many things on the menu and not break the bank doing so. Of course, I had to grab a couple more plates before we called it quits. Gorgonzola stuffed turkey meatloaf and lettuce-wrapped filet mignon tacos seemed to fit the bill. Seasoned marvelously, the turkey meatloaf was exceptional. Placed neatly upon a bed or super creamy polenta, plated nicely with a red wine demi and truffled arugula, this dish is a wonderful rendition of a classic “homestyle” dish. Finishing up with the filet mignon tacos, these little guys were nothing short of sensational. Sriracha aioli, pickled red onion, avocado, and micro cilantro piled up on a bed of lettuce. The simplicity of this dish is really all you need, and it would be really hard to ask for anything more.
Our overall experience throughout the evening was nothing short of fantastic. I would say everything here seems to be prepared fresh off the menu. As an aspiring chef myself, I can only hope to one day have a restaurant anywhere near the caliber of this place. From the greatly gracious wait staff to the inviting ambiance of the restaurant, I can easily give Cork and Fork in La Quinta a 10/10, fork yeah!