By look, Corio is all nightclub. Lighting is seductively dim, tables are low and lounge-like, and the soundtrack runs ebulliently high. A raised platform on the second floor serves double duty as a burlesque stage. The address is West Broadway, the land of white limos and late 20th-century parties. One taste of the food, however, and Corioï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s top priority becomes clear: This is a restaurant, and one that pays a lot of attention to its cooking.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Iï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½m German and a little bit on the perfectionist side,ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ admits chef Marion Maur. Perfectionism begins with fresh ingredients, straight from the greenmarket. Model-friendly small plates focus on Mediterranean and Southern Italian tastes. The grill is in heavy rotation, with lots of roasted options. Seared and savory go well with alcohol, of course, but this isnï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½t the kind of place that relies on ham-fisted saucing or spicing to get through to booze-numbed tongues. If youï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ve gone to the trouble of tracking down ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ber-fresh ingredients, why bury them?
Flavors burst out of flatbread pizza, a crispy slab topped with fontina, ricotta, and fingerling potatoes. Touches of maple-smoked bacon and truffle oil provide a finish thatï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s addictively sweet and nasty. Corioï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s calamari shows a love of experimentation, fire-roasted in a shallot, tomato, and white wine broth with the unexpected pop of black currants. (I had all but forgotten there was a way to eat calamari besides golden fried.) The rack of lamb, seared in honey aioli, is so tender it could work as finger food, albeit Renaissance Faire finger food. For dessert, the signature is flourless chocolate cake, a wedge of warm, liquefied brownie enhanced with freshly whipped cream, caramel sauce, and a flurry of powdered sugar. The mix of strong flavors and clean execution results in meals that taste decadent without being debilitating.
Similar care goes into the booze side. Cocktails are themed around a Red Hot Chili Peppers album, utilizing upper shelfers like Woodford Reserve (blood), Stoli Vanilla (sugar), Milagro (sex), and 42 Below kiwi vodka (magik). As a better complement for light fare, you wonï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½t find cabernets here, but you will find pinot noirs from New Zealand and syrahs from Sicily. Ubiquitous Heinekens are ditched in favor of Bitburger, a crisp pilsner that fills the refrigerators in Maurï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s hometown.
The soundtrack stretches from drum-machine modern dance all the way back to that ur-Boomer text ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Maggie Mae.ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ As a result, a wide range of ages can feel at home here. (One early enthusiast was Fed-Ex, the artist formerly known as K-Fed.) The Italian name references Ann Corio, a burlesque pioneer. The place is too sleek to be tawdry, however, with the risquï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ limited to red bulbs beneath select lampshades and coquettish wallpaper. Velvet drapes and velour benches impart some needed warmth. The burlesque itself, in the beam of a red spotlight, has a definite retrosexual appeal. Keep the singles in the wallet, however. This is a classy joint.