Some dishes at Corkscrew Cafe are classic.
The beloved caramelized pear salad is just one example of a simple plate that could cause an uproar if they ever removed it from the menu. I first tried it a couple of years ago, and instantly became a fan. A honey-drizzled pear sits alongside crunchy greens, pungent gorgonzola and earthy hazelnuts. After around 10 years, these beautifully complementary ingredients haven’t changed.
Chef Matthew Zimny arrived on the Corkscrew scene almost three years ago, but kept things mostly the same. He expresses his creative side a little more outwardly at sister restaurant Casanova, where he also helms the kitchen.
There are a few differences. Some may complain that Corkscrew’s bread isn’t made in house anymore. But hailing fresh from Lafayette Bakery down the road, it’s nothing to scoff at. Several thick chunks of toasted country loaf arrive with warm, baked goat cheese on the side plus a whole head of roasted garlic. One could fill up on the stuff, but there’s more to come.
Wood-fired pizza is a longtime specialty here, and it would be hard to find better. The mushroom option delivers delicate fragrance with a heap of button and cremini mushrooms scattered over marinara and mozzarella, cheese dripping over every bite. Dotted with subtle hints of truffle oil, the pie comes enhanced by sweet caramelized shallots. The same impressive balance shows up in the Meyer lemon pizza. Sure, it may sound weird to put lemon on pizza, yet the sour citrus shaved into gentle little slices somehow melds together perfectly with salty prosciutto and Parmesan, plus bitter arugula to cut through the layers.
Ready for more? The steak frites bring a lot more. A hearty prime sirloin is cooked to melt in your mouth. Covered with lively tarragon butter, it leaves juicy, meaty drippings over a mountain of fries.
One could find worse ways to pass time than sitting in Corkscrew’s lovely garden patio, eating the day away and sipping from a huge wine selection focused on the owners’ family winery, Georis. All details matter from the dishes to the drinks, like small bites of celery-spiced gouda served with Ballast Point Sculpin IPA (or any beer) – a fun flavor experiment for those who know that beer often pairs with cheese far better than wine.
But forget about cheese (for a moment) and try the nougatine pie. Though I was leaning toward the familiar – a flourless chocolate cake with housemade rosemary caramel sauce – my curiosity got the better of me, and I’m so glad it did. Deeply indulgent dark chocolate pie comes layered with cream and crunchy chocolate pieces on rich, homemade crust. I tried to resist eating it all, but it was impossibly good.
Not that everything else here isn’t. Whether your pie is chocolate or cheesy with mushrooms, both inspire crave-worthy fantasies for days, weeks, months or even years after. The good news is that Corkscrew has nailed consistency, so you can go back from more – and keep expecting the best.
CORKSCREW CAFE 55 W Carmel Valley Road, Carmel Valley. 11:30-8pm Thu-Mon. 659-8888, corkscrewcafe.com