Foodie Frenzy #21 Under the Cork Tree
Under the Cork Tree opened only a few months ago but with surprisingly little fanfare since it is from the same team behind Hammocks but a little more upscale. It’s located in the Prado shopping center on Roswell Road in the space vacated by Joli Kobe. It is billed as a stylish spot for tapas and Mediterranean entrees, plus a global wine bar. When we walked in it was oddly quiet, but only the third day that they were open for lunch. This turned out to be a real benefit for us because there was no wait, we had our choice of seating and the service was impeccable. Evidently dinner is quite popular and much busier so reservations are recommended. Audra and I agree that this is our favorite frenzy spot to date!
From start to finish, we were impressed. The décor is chic and modern, yet still feels cozy. It’s nice when restaurants have an open kitchen so that you can see the chefs in action. Personally, I think it holds them more accountable for high standards since they are always onstage with an audience. The health rating of 100 was very impressive too! Let’s hope this continu
es! We were fortunate to be there on a perfect spring day. They have a spacious patio that lured us out with its comfy chairs, beautiful plants and the sun! Our friendly and helpful waiter guided us through the menu masterfully and gave us an iPad loaded with additional menu options and specials to choose from.
The lunch menu consisted of an assortment of tapas, wood oven flat-breads, small plates, soups, salads, pastas, sandwiches/wraps and entrees. We started out with two of the tapas. Tortilla Espanola is a Spanish omelet with potatoes and onions that immediately caught our attention. Audra and I have both loved tortilla since studying in Spain during college. If you’ve never been to Madrid, it’s worth the trip just to go “cave hopping”. Around the Plaza Mayor square in Madrid, there are numerous underground taverns that each feature signature tapa and house sangria. The tortilla cueva was always my favorite. While the cork tree tortilla couldn’t match the authentic Spanish version, it was a decent state side substitution. Just so you’ll know that I’m not quite that shallow, the works of El Greco, Goya, Bosch, Velasquez and other renowned Renaissance artists at El Prado are another great reason to go to Madrid.
Going back to the food, it’s fun to hop around from cave to cave to get a great flavor for what authentic Spanish food is all about. The traditional late afternoon siesta is always nice the following day. Prior to going to Under the Cork Tree, I read great reviews about their sangria also. They were gracious and offered Audra and I a small sample. It was enough for us to know that their version was incredibly fresh and authentic. At another table on the patio, we watched a pitcher being made table side. They use good red wine and beautiful fresh fruits setting them apart from other restaurants that make their sangria with cheap wine.
The next tapa in the batting order was a charcuterie plate of salted Serrano ham that literally melts in your mouth. I can’t remember the last time I described a pig dish quite like that! They had so many other meats and cheeses that we would have liked to have tried, but our waiter was already wondering how two girls could have ordered as much food as we did, especially in the middle of the day. From the small plate section, we ordered the crispy lamb ribs. They had a delicious blend of sweet and spicy sauce, cucumber, cilantro and lamb and were served a little crispy.
We couldn’t resist ordering two salads. We can never pass on a roasted beet salad and were too curious not to order the Fattoush salad. This salad was made with tomato, purple onion, pita peppers and pomegranate vinaigrette. They were both wonderful!
Although we didn’t have room for a pasta, sandwich or entrée, I had to try the baklava. It’s just ok, so I would prefer to get my calories from something else.
I was disappointed that paella wasn’t on their lunch menu, but that gives me another reason to come back for dinner. The dinner menu features two. One is a chicken and chorizo paella and the other is seafood. Both look amazing.
I think our waiter was in complete shock when he brought the bill and saw that every morsel of our food had been devoured. I do hope he took it as a complement. The only negative thing I can say about Under the Cork Tree is that it’s a bit pricey and that they don’t have paella at lunch. However, we both agreed that we got what we paid for and can’t wait to come back for dinner.
Until we eat again,