Here’s a shout-out for the best young chef you’ve never heard of. Catch the wave now, so that when she wins a James Beard award down the road, you can go all smug and knowingly intone, “Well, yeah…”
Her name is Karyn Tomlinson, and her new title is chef de cuisine at Corner Table. Yes, that Corner Table, but her boss is no longer cooking. Instead, he was recently spotted on the floor expediting the carefully composed plates his new hire has conceived of in her new, forward-reaching menu.
The restaurant’s new chapter also includes a different menu format. Following Restaurant Alma’s lead, diners now sign on for a $45 prix-fixe dinner, with four choices within each of its three courses (dessert is an extra add-on).
The only difficulty I encountered was entirely Karyn’s fault: I nearly swooned from indecision because I craved all the items — every last one. So, wiping the teardrops from my notes, let me report on what we chose, as our charming server stood by with the patience of a kindergarten teacher.
From “First,” duck confit for me — a deeply flavored circlet of fat-rich duck meat frosted with a mince of sharp, palate-cleansing kalamata olives. It’s set upon a mix of sturdy heirloom beans (navy, kidney, etc.) and flakes of (too) mildly flavored pecorino cheese.
My companion went for the straight-up lettuce salad, festooned with herbs and flowers in a light, herbal vinaigrette. (Or choose bison carpaccio or seafood chowder.)
The second course served as an intriguing entr’acte. Mine, a Minnesota take on an Italian risotto, with sweet corn standing in for rice. It’s married with crème fraiche, dill and a nice little prod of heat. In the middle of the bowl lounged a glam king prawn, sweet and buxom.
My friend’s pappardelle provided another local stand-in. Rather than an accent of the usual Italian cheeses, the chef’s choice was that Norwegian staple, gjetost (yes, it’s sweet as caramel). Bits of roasted cauliflower, shallot, hearty, salty speck (nice wake-up, that) and subtle note of sage nailed the composition. (Or choose pork belly or buckwheat tart.)
Time for the third act. Pot roast? Halibut? Next visit.
This evening I went for the Wild Acres duck breast: a pair of hearty, ruddy slices steeped with flavor, set upon (huh?) rye porridge, which added a well-matched nuttiness as well as welcome chewy texture. A stewed Seckel pear sweetened the plate, while a pool of snowy birch cream pulled it all together. (Karyn’s done a stage at chef Magnus Nilsson’s famed Fäviken.)
My friend pursued the vegetarian offering: a slice of strong-flavored celery-root pave abetted with a porcini-onion bechamel sauce, the come-hither crunch of savory hazelnuts, a sweet jolt of preserved fig and a dash of wine.
Dinner commences with a complimentary quartet of mini-popovers bearing a crust of salt flakes, to be paired with buckwheat honey-infused butter. If you can still manage a finale (sorry, we caved), feast upon sweet potato doughnuts, a frozen banana parfait or buckwheat sable with buttermilk ice cream.
Corner Table’s turned a new corner, and it’s a mighty enticing one.
4537 Nicollet Ave. S.