Snagging a reservation for 2 this past Wednesday, I had the opportunity to sample Corso 32, one of Edmonton’s chic new restaurants (with the caveat that reservations did take a while given all the media coverage recently!). As always, great food starts with great company and this time, I was fortunate enough to be joined by one of my best friends, Kevin.
Our reservation was for 6 o’clock and eager not to be late, I hustled my way along Jasper Ave, nearly missing the plain exterior of Corso 32. With only simple frosted windows and minimal signage, the subtle exterior gives nothing away. But walk in the door and the whole experience changes. The simple impression from the exterior is transformed as you are immediately greeted with a healthy buzz of satisfied diners and kitchen sounds.
Although not necessarily the food per se, a great experience begins with the right atmosphere and Corso 32 was no exception. A little bit on the cozy side (I’m guessing around 30-40 total seats), the small restaurant definitely gave off a feeling of being “the place to be”: decorated with a soft brick interior, open kitchen, and filled to the brim with urbanite diners. We were seated immediately by the hostess and our server appeared moments later with water in hand. The service was undeniably professional – no nonsense and not unfriendly, but not as warm as I would have enjoyed!
Armed with a fresh menu designed by Daniel Costa – revised April 7th for those of you taking note, we ordered the smoked pork arancini and fried short rib to start with the goat cheese ravioli, 48 hour chuck flat steak, and polpette coming later.
Filled with smoked pork, oyster mushrooms and fontina, the arancini – crispy rice balls – were packed with flavour but I felt the fontina was a bit too powerful and a tomato dipping sauce would have balanced the slightly salty overall flavour perhaps a bit better. Still, the crispy exterior was delightful and within a few bites, the arancini were quickly devoured between Kevin and myself – what can I say, for two young adults, we were hungry!
Next up, the fried short rib was topped with a Bartlett pear salad – a dynamic combination with the short rib packing a tasty punch and the lighter pear salad balancing out the dish. The arugula was crisp and fresh, and the shaved pear slices were wonderfully seasoned and delivered a lot of flavour. Not to be outdone, the short rib rounded out the deal. Very tender and marinated full of flavour, the short rib was savoury and carried that delightful somewhat-fatty quality that short rib always brings (when cooked well, of course!).
With the night setting in, Kevin was served the goat cheese ravioli and myself, the chuck flat steak. As for the ravioli, it was served with a brown butter sauce and wild ramps (leeks). Presented as large squares filled with goat cheese, I couldn’t help but think that the ravioli could have been stuffed a bit more – they seemed rather flat and were more cumbersome to eat than I would have preferred. I also felt that the pasta could have been a bit fresher but without tasting it again, I will reserve this comment until a further date. Still, the sauce was able to save the day and as can be expected with a brown butter sauce, it was wonderfully rich and really struck the simple, Italian characteristic that chef/owner Daniel Costa was trying to recreate with his menu.
Meanwhile, I was served the 48 hour chuck flat steak topped with a brussel leaves and parsnip salad. The vinagrette was extremely tasty, though a tad acidic. This was definitely the most unique dish that we had that evening – the steak was unlike anything I had ever tasted before. The marbling was excellent and the exterior was seared just enough to give the steak texture. The inside of the steak, though, was a completely different story. The extremely long cook time had broken down the meat so much that it could almost be considered mushy and as Kevin described it, creamed in your mouth. Although very different, this gave me mixed feelings on the dish – almost offended at the seemingly senior home mush-like consistency yet having my taste buds screaming their approval. If you haven’t tried this dish out, it is definitely worth noting on your radar.
Last to arrive was the polpette, big Italian meatballs. Wow. The meatballs were that good: a virtual foodgasm, as it were. The tomato sauce was simply delectable – I felt like I could eat spoonfuls of the sauce for each meal and the meatballs themselves were juicy and fell apart as you stabbed them with your fork (all the better to coat them in more sauce!). They were cooked perfectly and definitely something I would recommend trying. The only qualm I had with the dish were the pine nuts could have been toasted a bit more – instead of the crunch I was expecting, they had a softer, soggy quality. That hardly breaks this fantastic dish though and I was very pleased with our choice.
Wrapping up, we skipped dessert (I know, what were we thinking!) and concluded a great evening. For a deceivingly simple exterior, Corso 32 offers a very affordable, chic dining experience that is hard to find in Edmonton. Definitely a gem in situated in the heart of Edmonton’s downtown and worth a visit if you’re into wonderful food and ambiance!
The Verdict! ...or just this blogger's opinion: 82/100