Not long ago, I was teaching English at a high school in Shaoyang, China. Shaoyang sits in the rough center of Hunan Province, a region of China known for its dauntlessly spicy food.
One day, I decided to forgo my habitual lunch of dumplings and rice at the shop next to my school, and instead go for noodles. Speaking absolutely no Mandarin and feeling like a bit of a maverick, I eagerly nodded yes to the woman preparing my bowl of noodles and vegetables. When she pointed to one of two sauce options I — feeling adventurous — demanded the sauce she didn’t point to. Little did I know I’d played myself. Not only did the sauce hit my mouth like a Molotov cocktail on a pool of gasoline, but it splashed into my eye as the slippery noodles fell from my chopsticks back into the bowl.
I tell this anecdote not merely for jest, but to say no matter how much those noodles burned me, their flavor captivated me and gave me a noodle high I’ve been chasing ever since — a high I think I finally found during brunch at Park Corner in Oak Bluffs.
You’re probably thinking, “What? Noodles at brunch? My whole conception of the late-morning-early-afternoon meal has now devolved into an existential crisis!” Cool your jets and take solace in Park Corner chef and owner Jesse Martin, who designed the menu to feature such genre-bending brunch options as Classic Corner Noodles ($16), to which I added a poached egg ($2). While the noodles were delicious and powered by a Japanese shoyu dashi broth, I sought additional avenues to satisfy my hunger.
The brunch menu also veers onto traditional breakfast options, but always with a twist: the Breakfast Tacos ($16), with applewood smoked bacon, cabbage, house queso, and pickled peppers; the Egg Pizzetta ($18), bacon, onions, and cheese on flatbread, topped with hollandaise and sunny-side eggs.
I found the Classic Eggs Benedict ($14 with one egg, $18 with two) to be particularly delectable and robust in flavor. Combine the eggs Benedict with a spoonful of Reuben Hash ($18), as I did, and you’ll have a good time.
Looking for some real fun? Try the aptly named Bowl of Fun ($18). What makes it so fun, you ask? A mixture of potatoes fried in cheese and bacon. Then top those bacon-cheese-fried potatoes with cabbage, scallions, cilantro, pickled peppers, and onions, lime crema, hot sauce, and, yes, an egg. Did I mention it’s gluten-free?
For those out there like myself who need something to meet the need of that sweet tooth, the Corner’s French Toast ($18) is the way to go. Instead of just plain old bread, Martin uses Portuguese sweet bread soaked in whiskey custard. The bread is topped with whipped cream and berries, and maple syrup of course.
Next time around, I’ll try the Kimchi Fried Rice ($18). It’s got pork belly, sesame seeds, scallions, ginger, and fried eggs. Oh, and fried rice.
With all these flavorful foods, how does one wash it all down? I went with the Mango Tango Foxtrot (small $10, grande $15). Fruity, fresh, and fancy — drinking it will make you feel like a celebrity.
The quaint atmosphere and gastropub vibe of Park Corner make the eating experience different from other Island eateries. Decorated with vintage vinyl records, saintly candles, and miscellaneous articles, Park Corner is a great place to hang and enjoy some creative dishes.