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The Corner

A Mission Misstep

Weird Fish has been a great addition to a dicey stretch of Mission Street. The prices are reasonable, the service good, the atmosphere hip and casual. The Corner, the latest effort from the owners of Weird Fish and Boogaloos, has many of the same pieces in place to become a hit — friendly, accommodating service, a cozy interior with artsy touches, and an interesting menu nicely priced for this economy. All of which makes it even more of a shame that the food falls flat.

Co-owners Timothy Holt and Peter Hood have a track record creating neighborhood joints with soul and an eye toward sustainability. The Corner’s physical transformation from a former Chinese fish market into a café/wine bar with character is admirable. The dark interior’s stenciled mural and old-fashioned light fixtures makes it feel established. And the wine list is a treat with "New World" and "Old World" choices, and most bottles under $50. We found local gems such as the 2005 Robert Sinskey Merlot ($50), a 2006 Pey-Marin Pinot Noir ($55), and a 2006 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc ($36), all well under standard markup.

But sadly, the food is truly hit-or-miss. The Cali sunchoke soup ($5) with croutons and roasted figs was superb. It was savory and creamy with peppery seasoning, but unfortunately it was served lukewarm.

The seasonal peaches, grilled corn, red onion, and lime ($4) was a complete miss. The fruit was slimy and its sloppy presentation, with a pile of dressed greens, unappealing. Like many of the other dishes, the balance was off and we wondered if anyone had actually tasted the dish.

Perhaps showing they are more wine bar or café than restaurant, the entrees are limited to only four choices. Only one of the salads and one soup were suitable for a vegetarian. The chef seemed stuck in a rut using wilted greens in each dish.

The best of the evening was definitely the Garganelli pasta ($12); served with crispy lamb sweetbreads, tat soi, and truffle sauce. Every element was in harmony, with the pasta perfectly cooked, the creamy sauce luscious and the sweetbreads crispy. The success did not carry over to the gnocchi ($12). The combination of poached egg, watercress, and Grana Padano cheese sounded good, but the gnocchi were mushy, the egg overcooked, and the resulting dish was bland and boring.

A solid choice was the pan-seared local halibut ($14) with cipollini onions, fennel sausage, and grain mustard cream. The fish was moist and the accompanying mélange was engaging, though not particularly memorable. The confit pork cheeks ($13), market greens, and white beans would have been a winner had it not been for the bizarre accompanying roasted peach covered in a layer of melted Tallegio. It was an awful pairing, and it added nothing to the dish.

Another odd pairing was the buttermilk-fried rabbit ($15), corn custard brűlée, pea shoots, charred onion, and king oyster mushrooms. It came with a full ramekin of prosciutto aioli; delicious, but completely unnecessary. What the dish really needed was starch. The individual vegetables could stand alone, but they didn't hold up well together, and the overly pickled onions left an off taste.

I really wanted to like The Corner. The shining moments make me hopeful that in time the menu will strengthen and improve. For a quick glass of wine and a cheese plate, it has potential. But for now, skip dinner.

Reservations Essential? No