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Corner Table

Corner Table

4537 Nicollet Ave. S.

Minneapolis, MN 55409


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The phrase "all you can eat" is often associated with buffets where those with the most voracious appetites go to refuel: Quantity tends to trump the quality of whatever's being shoveled into the tank. A seat at the Corner Table's kitchen table challenges those notions by offering the farm-fresh gourmand's version of the concept. For $125 a person, diners get to watch chef-owner Scott Pampuch and his crew in dinner-service action and receive their own parade of courses—delicious tastes of everything from, say, gnocchi with mushrooms to pork shoulder in miso broth with braised cabbage and pickled carrots—until they decide they're stuffed. Since Pampuch likes to cook with what's locally available, the restaurant's menus are constantly changing, spontaneous, and creative. If a friend who taps maple trees brings Pampuch some sap, it might show up on a dessert plate, served in a shot glass, and accompanied by a pork belly glazed with maple/rice wine gastrique. If you think your tummy can't accommodate more than five courses, then stay in the dining room and stick with the $65 tasting menu. Though every time the kitchen door swings open, you'll probably feel like you're missing out on a lot of fun.

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Theresa Baker
Theresa Baker

Clearly you must be a known food critic to get good service at the Corner Table. The only good reviews I've seen are in print from food critics; neighborhood regulars receive a less than excellent dining experience.

I dined my with my husband on a Friday, at approximately 5 pm. When we approached the restaurant, we could easily see that it was empty. When we entered, the hostess greeted us by asking us if we had a reservation. When we explained we could leave because of the crush, she hemmed and hawed and thought she 'could' accomodate us. She seated us around the corner, where another sheepish couple sat, hidden away from public view as we would be. How insulting - we were dressed casually but not in poor taste and would not have offended anyone walking by outside looking in, viewing the seated customers.

While we didn't order alcohol, we did order two of the most expensive dishes on the menu; my husband ordered the pork, and I ordered the beef. When our dishes arrived, I tried the vegetable first -it sounded so good. Instead I found the root vegetable bitter tasting, and dominated by garlic -so much so that no amount of rinsing my mouth with water (with lemon wedges) could erase the flavor. The root vegetable overpowered the dish, so when I tried the beef, it was bland and tasteless.

I am not sure what their protocol is for taking orders, but the waitress didn't ask if I wanted the beef rare or medium; it came rare - and to be honest I would rather have my beef rare than overdone. But despite the grill marks on the outside of the beef, the cold rare beef was left with the taste of.. refrigerator - as if it had been left uncovered for a few days and was not the top quality piece of beef it was touted to be, or at least not treated as the expensive cut that it was.

When the waitress asked how the food was, I said "My husband LOVED his!" and asked for a doggy bag for mine; she didn't bother to ask if my was OK, and by the doggy bag I am sure she could tell it was NOT ok.

I must comment on the flatware. When we finished our first course we weren't sure if we would get another set of flatware - it seemed that a green restaurant would attempt to reduce extra washing of flatware so we assumed we should reserve our forks for the next meal. The waitress cleared the plates and said nothing, even as she saw me remove my fork from the plate. She then came back a moment later and removed our silverware with out saying a word. She could have reduced our embarrassment by removing the flatware with the first course and explaining she would bring another set for the next course. And, when the flatware for the next course arrived, the knives for the meat looked like miniature scimitars from a holywood pirate movie - and they were so dull they tore the meat rather than cleanly sliced it.

I had hoped that our experience was a fluke, but after our experience we consulted with family who live in the neighborhood who had the same experiences; walking through the door into a completely empty restaurant and being snootily asked if they had a reservation - poor service for not ordering expensive alcoholic beverages, and finding that the best cut of beef was poorly prepared and not yummy and delicious as its price would indicate.

My message to them beyond my complaint is this: if you want to stay in the neighborhood and survive as a business, you may want to train your staff to lose the attitude. And you may want to find another way to serve your beef.


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