Corner Table's Pork Belly, 50 Favorite Dishes, no. 1

True love tastes like this

True love tastes like this

The flutter and blush of possibility that grips your heart and throat is so familiar. From the first playground crush, we've learned that we can't always trust when the whole world seems to stop for one anticipatory moment. It's a physical reaction. You suck in your breath, your pupils dilate, and your tongue takes an unconscious stroll over your lips. You don't want to get too excited, knowing that what at first feels like love can so often go horribly awry. A cavalcade of pyrotechnic explosions can fizzle into a dark heart of nothing. Meanwhile, a soft glow of something beautiful can be coaxed into a long burning fire full of sustaining beauty. To tend that fire, to encourage that long-term affection, takes time, patience, and tenacity.

When Corner Table changed hands, it seemed as if the beauty that was a divine pork dish served by the chef there would never be the same. And it wasn't; however, on our first visit Thomas Boemer served his take on pork belly and that telltale dish returned. In all the time since, Corner Table 2.0 has found its delicious groove. After a few more iterations of pork belly, it's safe to declare that this is a full-blown love for the ages.

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[jump] On that fateful first visit, chef Boemer was kind enough to hold forth for what became a 45-minute dissertation on his pork belly preparation technique. It's his belief that the key to this perfect bite of food is to gently handle the meat, coaxing every ounce of flavor out of not just the meat, but also the fat.

The result is a rapturous food event. When you cut the first bite, the fork breaks through a crispy crust before gliding through the meat. When you place it upon your tongue it quivers before the caramelized fat melts, washing the palate with that sweet, succulent flavor, leaving only that rose-colored meat. This is how you honor this beautiful little animal, raised at a local farm, living a wonderful life before one, admittedly, not so great day. It's an exercise in self-control not to just inhale this incredible dish, start banging your hand on the table, and emit a guttural, "Yes! Yes! Oh, god! Yes!" That, however, would be undignified. This is a nice restaurant, with a fantastic wine program.

It's a warm satisfaction that spreads from palate to throat to heart, knowing that this is a love that endures. This is a dish that no matter the accompaniment is always an exquisite experience. And if you hear someone having a loud experience over at another table, it is an entirely appropriate moment to say, "I'll have what she's having."

50 Favorite Dishes

No. 50: Somos Peru's crema volteada
No. 49: Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub's waffle battered chicken sandwich

No. 48: Namaste Cafe's bison mamacha
No. 47: MidNord's Argentinian empanadas
No. 46: Krungthep's Thai sausage
No. 45: Eat Shop's shrimp salad
No. 44: Icehouse's savory eclair
No. 43: Cajun 2 Geaux's beignets
No. 42: A Cupcake Social's dulce de leche cupcake
No. 41: French Hen's Creole biscuits and gravy
No. 40: The Gray House's cabbage and cava salad
No. 39: Foxy Falafel's curry falafel
No. 38: Republic's ricotta fritters
No. 37: Meritage's matzo ball soup
No. 36: Butcher & the Boar's lobster grilled cheese
No. 35: Sushi Fix's tuna poke
No. 34: George & the Dragon's Asian hangover
No. 33: AZ Canteen's Cabrito burger
No. 32: Nightingale's scallops with almond gazpacho
No. 31: Cafe Racer's pork plate
No. 30: World Street Kitchen's soft serve
No. 29: The Lynn on Bryant's baba rhum
No. 28: Fika's pork belly and poached egg
No. 27: The Kenwood's pancakes with black walnut butter
No. 26: Blackbird's spicy peanut noodles
No. 25: Sonora's shrimp caramelo
No. 24: Mona's marrow on toast
No. 23: Smack Shack's lobster guacamole
No. 22: No. 21: Neato's Burgers duck fat French fries
No. 20: Birdhouse's sweet pea pate
No. 19: Mojo Monkey's cake doughnut
No. 18: Parka's ham & pickle tots
No. 17: Blue Door Longfellow's baked and loaded blucy
No. 16: Ipotle's spicy dosa 
No. 15: Grand Szechuan's Chengdu Dumpling
No. 14: Birchwood Cafe's key lime pie
No. 13: Dandelion Kitchen's braised beef sandwich
No. 12: The Left-Handed Cook's 21-Spice Fried Chicken
No. 11: Mike Phillips's Three Sons Meats charcuterie
No. 10: Union's Duck with Whole Grains
No. 9: Borough's champagne potato soup
No. 8: Lucia's chicken pot pie
No. 7: Strip Club's tenderloin schiacciatta
No. 6: Rincon 38's Pulpo
No. 5: Burch's steak
No. 4: Harriet Brasserie's tres leches cake
No. 3: La Belle Vie's sweet pea tortelli

No. 2: Sweet Science's rhubarb cinnamon almond ice cream