WHO’S IN CHARGE Chef-owner Barry Edelman has had his ups and downs since he opened 5 Corners Kitchen in Marblehead in 2010. Edelman had worked at several well-known French restaurants, notably Lumiere and Aquitaine, before going into business for himself in his hometown.
5 Corners Kitchen, a 40-seat bistro when it opened, quickly built a following with its refined but unpretentious cooking. “Simple, humble food,” Edelman has called it. The following year, an electrical fire nearly destroyed the place. Edelman had to scramble to rebuild, a process that took more than a year and involved his family, friends, and even his out-of-work kitchen staff (which helped sand and varnish dining tables on the sidewalk). The restaurant reopened in 2012, featuring a more spacious dining area, a longer bar, and a bigger kitchen. The crowds were back right away.
THE LOCALE With its large picture windows, the dining room offers patrons a wraparound view of one of Marblehead’s busier intersections. The restaurant’s interior combines understated elegance with a touch of the offbeat. Chandeliers in the main dining room are composed of empty wine bottles; another in the bar area uses mason jars. The tables are simple wood, varnished to a sheen. Dark beams on the ceiling contrast with white walls.
Our party of four arrived on a Wednesday evening just before 7 and was seated immediately. Only a few tables were occupied at that point. The bar area, set off from the main room by a low partition, already was busy when we arrived. By the time we left, the whole place was buzzing.
ON THE MENU The cuisine here isn’t exactly French, and it’s not really French-Italian, either. There’s plenty of French and Italian influence, but the key factor is fresh local ingredients prepared without showy flourishes.
We ordered a charcuterie platter ($18) to share four ways. This was thin slices of house-made soppressata (Italian dry salami) and other cured meats — all of it mouth-watering — along with thick slices of cheese from a local producer, a large dollop of whole-grain mustard, some apricot chutney, a bit of pickled onion, and other unusual treats.
Two of us split an entree of organic salmon ($26). Our friendly but unobtrusive server brought it out on two big white plates, each hot half on a bed of cold chickpea tabbouleh, heirloom tomatoes, mint sumac, arugula, and a tahini-lemon vinaigrette. For us, it was plenty of food (and we weren’t charged extra for the second plate, though we wouldn’t have objected). The salmon, blackened and crispy on top, was delicious, and all the fresh vegetables were an unexpected delight.
A dish called Grandma’s Pasta ($22) was house-made gemelli with garlic, bits of anchovy, roasted hazelnuts, escarole, and a generous sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The crunch of the hazelnuts was a pleasant addition, and the grated hard cheese was more appealing than the gloppy cheese that can sometimes make a pasta dish difficult to finish. The only hard part of finishing this was the lack of a spoon to scoop up the broth. (5 Corners gives diners only forks and knives. It doesn’t provide salt and pepper shakers, either. You put yourself in the chef’s hands.)
The menu has plenty of familiar fare, from hamburgers ($16) to steak frites ($26). One of our party went with the roasted half chicken with herb-roasted carrots, cornichons, bacon, and persillade, a parsley-garlic dressing ($25). “It’s the perfect combination, like a deconstructed potpie,” she said. “The chicken is juicy with a crispy, flavorful skin. Really delicious.”
For dessert, we all shared a lemon-blueberry tarte ($8) and sticky toffee pudding ($9). The tarte especially was a knockout: zingy and sweet, with fresh blueberries and a buttery crust.
The menu at 5 Corners Kitchen changes as the availability of fresh ingredients changes. Earlier, we had noticed that an online menu listing wild-boar Bolognese with house-made rigatoni ($24). We didn’t see it on the menu when we came in person. We’ll just have to come back — maybe in boar season.
5 Corners Kitchen, 2 School St., Marblehead, 781-631-5550, www.5cornerskitchen.com .Coco McCabe and Doug Stewart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.