Few things feel as simultaneously luxurious and light as a well-constructed cheese plate. Not the rubbery block of sharp cheddar and the tube of greasy pepperoni post grads slice up as hors d'oeuvres, served with a box of tasteless water crackers. But a selection of cheeses of varying textures and flavors, ultra-thin cuts of fine, fat-laced meats, and complementary accoutrements to reset your palate in between bites-this is an indulgence.
The Other Corner Charcuterie Bar (850-B W. 36th St.; entrance on Elm Avenue) provides this experience, at remarkably affordable prices. A full-on cheese plate costs $13, and the most expensive non-charcuterie items max out at $9. Happy-hour prices are even more attractive. (The moderate pricing scheme is especially surprising given the often-staggering rates at Other Corner's sibling, Corner BYOB, with which it shares a kitchen.)
And for the most part, the fanciful fare at the Other Corner's candlelit digs comes without any froufrou: Food is served on simple white plates; you're set up with a plain fork and steak knife, laid down on a paper napkin. Both of the cooks preparing charcuterie (who doubled as servers) that we encountered over the course of three visits were straight shooters. On one visit, we hadn't eaten since breakfast and eyed the daily sandwich, a bargain at $6. We inquired as to whether there was something equally as filling for around the same price. After a moment's hesitation, the towering, bearded cook answered no.
When it came to cocktails and bartenders, Other Corner's showing was more uneven. The foamy egg white-and-Greek liqueur-based Skinos Sour ($7) was delicious and well balanced, a healthy dose of lime juice cutting its sweetness. But a cocktail du jour ($8) made with gin, Cointreau, grapefruit, bitters, and tonic was more like a muddled Shirley Temple with pulp. A custom-mixed Sidecar ($8) was cleaner but still crept toward cloying. A puffed-up bartender stated the cognac-based drink was traditionally made with gin; to his credit he did offer to add more booze to the drink to cut the sweetness.
We're more than willing to overlook those inconsistencies, though, because of the bold-flavored dishes the Other Corner is steadily turning out. A pig's foot ($9) slathered in so much whole-grain mustard that it clears your sinuses wasn't necessarily something we'd order again-trotters being too gelatinous for our liking-but its preparation, piping hot and crackling-crispy, was impressive nonetheless.
Like the pork foot, you eat the frog legs ($9) with your hands, pulling the tender meat off the bones with your teeth. So well were the four frog legs seared that they almost appeared to be lightly breaded, covered in flecks of fresh chervil. We could have eaten a dozen-a vast improvement on chicken wings. Chewy escargots ($8) in large pale shells also arrived studded and stuffed with herbs, baked in a generous amount of butter. Slices of bread came alongside to sop up the dish's runoff juices. In these preparations, the unusual offerings cease to be exotic; they're merely tasty.
As at Corner BYOB-also owned by Other Corner chef Bernard Dehaene-one shouldn't expect the option of a humdrum meal here. But even the most conservative eater would appreciate the duck fat-fried fingerling potatoes ($6), served in a bowl, smothered with a delectable dark-orange chipotle aioli. And the nightly $20 meal option caters to the more traditional diner who wants a soup or salad and an entree, plus a glass of wine or beer; the Other Corner cycles through a weekly schedule that includes mussels, pasta, leg of lamb, fish, and steak.
On Tuesday evenings, though, it's charcuterie night, which seems to be the best way to experience the Other Corner's specialty. The world-class composition of the daily salad foreshadowed the main-course charcuterie plate. Goat chèvre sprinkled on arugula was tangy and completely captivating. Prosciutto lying on top of the peppery greens was salty and savory, its consistency not at all fatty or tough. Balls of fresh cantaloupe contributed sweetness. A lemon vinaigrette brightened it all up even more.
The main course was equally tantalizing. Four kinds of cheese-Camembert, bleu, taleggio, manchego-four kinds of meat-speck, saucisson de Lyon, pancetta, chorizo-and an array of accoutrements-cornichons, white wine jam, pickled vegetables, whole-grain mustard-all arranged on a large square plate, served with toasted and untoasted slices of baguette. It would be fruitless to describe the sensory reactions that each of the components sparks. The plate takes you on a tour of your own palate; it's delightful.
The Other Corner wouldn't be a great spot to bring a first date or any remotely picky eaters, but its off-the-beaten-path character, applicable in every sense, and the quality of its food will win over even the most selective adventurous diners.
The Other Corner Charcuterie Bar is open Every day from 4 p.m. till 1:30 a.m. See the cuisine of the Other Corner in our gallery at citypaper.com/othercorner.