Happy birthday, Corner Kitchen: Why this finer-diner is a destination

11:38 a.m. Monday, Aug. 15, 2016 What To Do
Jack and Natalie Skilliter pictured in front of the bar at their Oregon District restaurant, Corner Kitchen. CONTRIBUTED

It has been a year since Corner Kitchen opened its doors in the Oregon District.

The restaurant has been warmly received by customers and has continued to hone its menu, bar program and staff since opening its doors.

Natalie Skilliter, General Manager of the restaurant, who owns and operates it with her husband, Executive Chef Jack Skilliter recently opened CK Take Away, a new lunch destination serving sandwiches, soups and salads for food on the go, delivering to businesses and organizations downtown and nearby Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

We caught up with Natalie to talk about the first year of business.

A: No pretense. Our food is simple and straightforward, authentic and delicious. We only use fresh ingredients. Everything is made from scratch. I know that this shouldn’t be unique, but you would be surprised.

Chef Jack is an incredibly skilled, well-trained Chef. His background is in French cuisine, so he takes these classic French techniques and applies them to classic American dishes.

While the farm-to-table movement is very popular right now, Jack and I have been working with farmers for years and it’s part of the soul of our restaurant. There’s nothing in this world that tastes as good as a tomato in the height of its season, or that sweet snap of corn. Local growers are our partners in offering fresh, natural food.

Something else that makes us unique is our daily specials. It allows us to showcase the bounty of the season. Every single day we offer something different that is carefully planned and executed.

A: Corner Kitchen is a “finer diner” — a mid-priced Oregon District neighborhood restaurant offering seasonal American cuisine. Classic and familiar dishes are infused with creative and unexpected twists, served fresh from the farm to the table. There are also some surprises that reflect Jack’s inventiveness and originality.

A: Corner Kitchen is what is called a “scratch kitchen.” That means that virtually every dish is prepared fresh daily. For example, our hamburgers have earned some well-earned acclaim, in great part, because Jack grinds the meat fresh every day. I guess the one-word description to both ingredients and dishes is “fresh.”

A: We have worked very hard to offer superior service — attentive yet unobtrusive. Both Jack’s and my experience is in very fine dining establishments. We wanted to take our fine dining training and apply it to the casual, comfort food that we serve. I think people appreciate receiving clean flatware for each course, servers that are well-informed and engaged yet unobtrusive, a restaurant that is clean and casual.

I think we are a destination because we are offering quality, fresh food at reasonable prices that is expertly prepared with seamless service. We have an incredible team. Everyone who works with us is truly excited and interested in learning, improving every day, and have pride in what we do. I think fostering this happy, engaged staff is tangible in everything we do.

A: Each iteration of the menu seems to focus on one core ingredient that you’ll find used throughout the menu in different ways — our first menu featured lamb, the next was duck, spring focused on artichokes, and our late summer menu will highlight the humble, but glorious rabbit!

We are so excited to introduce our rabbit pasta dish: braised rabbit with fettuccine, mirepoix brunoise, shiitake mushrooms, and chervil.

One of my other favorites is the chicken liver mousse.

It’s incredibly creamy, whipped lighter than air, and so rich and complex.

We love charcuterie and the delicious diversity that it can allow.

Prior to the Chicken Liver Mousse, we served a Duck Liver Pate. He’s also made a Rabbit-Pork Terrine. During our winter menu, Chef made a Southwestern France-styled garlic sausage that we served in our Sausage & Peppers Fettuccine dish as well as the Cassolet.

Hands down, the Cassolet is my favorite dish that we have ever served. Sadly, we won’t be bringing it back until the winter.

Duck confit that Chef makes in-house, garlic sausage, braised pork and white beans. It’s unbelievable.

One of my favorite entrees on the current menu is the Chicken Dinner — a seemingly simple dish, but so incredibly bright and complex. The richness of the butter in the dish is cut with the lovely acidity of lemon. On the surface, the dish seems simple, but with every bite I find a new taste or flavor that I hadn’t noticed before.

I also love the Ratatouille.

While the dish is vegan and gluten-free, it’s so incredibly rich and filling. We use locally grown eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, onions, tomato and basil and create a stew that is served with two large slices of grilled eggplant and dressed with basil oil. It’s the perfect summer dish.

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