I was a huge fan of chef Daniel Costa, who in my book, makes the most amazing pizzas, calzones and tomato bisque ever. I felt like a lost soul when I heard he wasn't making them anymore and left Cafe de Capo. Not to sound like a creeper, but I stalked him around a couple times while he worked at Red Star, just to try his take on gastropub food and wishing that he would return to full Italian cuisine one day. Then my prayers were answered when I heard he extended his wings and opening his own restaurant, Corso 32 earlier this month.
Last week, I finally got a chance to visit the new restaurant in downtown. The ambience of the restaurant really reflected his personal style and visions. The vibe of the restaurant was very lively, warm, casual. There was an opened kitchen facing the entrance and patrons can see the chefs at work as they're coming in and out. The restaurant was buzzling with a constant turnovers throughout the entire time we were there. With indie, grunge playing as the soundtrack that night, the majority of his patrons in their late 20's - 30's enjoyed themselves drinking, dining, and socializing (many of whom I'm sure are well acquainted with chef Daniel). No doubt, this is Edmonton's new "It" spot.
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The menu was simplistic, yet that reflected his cooking style and staying true to authentic Italian dishes. He definitely broke away from Italian cafe food from Cafe de Copa to turned towards rustic Italian comfort food.
After several minutes to decide, I started off with the crispy short rib terrine with Barlett pear salad ($15). The terrine was smoky, tender, and savoury. It was topped with thin Barlett pear ribbons and arugula. While the pear was crisp and refreshing, I felt it still tasted rather bland, even when paired with the terrine.
Spicy game hen "under a brick", rappini, herb, pine nuts, gremolata $26 arrived rather impressive looking. The hen was cooked under a brick, an Italian cooking method which allows the meat to be cooked on the grill quickly and evenly. The portion of the chicken was fairly big, and the meaty pieces were golden and crispy, but definitely not spicy. Some white meat pieces were a bit dry, but this is why I prefer dark meat because they stay moist and tender. I wasn't familiar with the name "rapini" and we were told that it was a type of vegetable similar to broccoli. It is high in nutrients, and a common vegetable used in Southern Italian cuisine. When it was served, we all thought it tasted and looked closely similar to its chinese cousin, Gai Lan. The rapini was accompanied by gremolata, which consisted of lemon, parsley, garlic, and mint. And despite its effort to tone down the rapini's bitterness, it was still much more pronounced than in the chinese broccoli. In the end, I couldn't bare the bitter taste to enjoy it. It must be more of an acquired taste and I wish we were warned because we would probably have changed the side to something else. The overall flavour of this dish reminded of two very simlar chinese dishes; crispy salted chicken and steamed gai lan. It was quite puzzling and how much they resembled each other! Despite it being a rustic Italian dish, we couldn't seem to bring ourselves to appreciate it :(
The special that night was a squash ravioli with sage, and at any other time, I would've jumped the gun and ordered it. But at that moment, I thought that I had tried that dish at a lot of places already and it was time to try something different. That squash ravioli ended up lingering in my mind for the rest of the night as I traded it for pappardelle short rib ragu ($18) and fonduta ravioli, black truffle, pickled chanterelles, brussel leaf ($18). Much like a deconstructed lasagna, the beef ragu was hearty and very tasty. I really enjoyed the tender texture of braised short ribs in rich tomato sauce and how well the pappardelle held the sauce together.
The fonduta (Italian cheese fondue) filled ravioli was subtle, velvety and creamy. If you're cheese lover like me, you might really appreciate this dish. The only downer was that the aroma and the taste of truffle were very faint and I could hardly detect it.
I wasn't quite satisfied yet and wanted to sample one more dish. Rather than getting the dessert, I went for the smoked arancini ($9), or fried risotto rice balls and they definitely made my night. Crispy on the outside, and creamy with risotto, shitake, and melted mozzarella on the inside, an Italian soul food I could eat every day.
Though I still miss his pizzas, Corso 32 is a great addition to the progression of Edmonton dining scene and I can't wait to go back to try out more dishes.