Best New Restaurant

Cork Wine Bar
1720 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009, (202) 265-2675

The buzz on Cork was palpable even before owners Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts opened their dark, rustic neighborhood spot near Logan Circle. It was the kind of online chatter that typically causes gag-reflexes from reactionaries like me who despise anything that generates that much excitement without one swallow to support it. Well, the evidence is here now, and all I can say is: Omigod! Cork is yummilicious! Give Gross and Pitts credit: They built their place smartly, hiring a skilled architect to make over the former Sparky’s Espresso Café as well as an experienced mixologist in Tom Brown to build out the cocktail list. Even better, they hired Ron Tanaka, former sous chef with CityZen and Citronelle, to run the kitchen. Tanaka applies his exceptional technique to a menu that has little of the fussiness of his former employers—but all the flavor. His duck confit may already be the best in town, a crisp, sweet, and savory leg paired with a silken mushroom polenta. Even something as pedestrian as fried calamari is elevated in Tanaka’s hands; the chef adds little crispy nubbins of rock shrimp, which ups the sweetness quotient in a dish that’s too often starchy and acidic. The wine list, while difficult to flip through in its reporter’s notebook form, is decidedly Eurocentric, which is bold in these days of the depressed dollar. It’s also decidedly delicious.

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