Coqueta is Michael Chiarello’s first restaurant in San Franicisco. He successfully transformed a small space at Pier 5 on the Embarcadero into a warm and cozy Spanish restaurant. Only open for a few weeks, it has already attracted crowds and positive reviews, so I was excited to get a reservation on a recent trip to SF. I was dining alone, so they put me at the chef’s table, which is really the bar where they prep the cold tapas. It also provides a view of the kitchen. I liked getting a closer look at the detailed work that went into each dish, and it made for built-in entertainment while I dined.
Unfortunately, I could not try the larger family-styled dishes that sounded great, like the paella, the whole branzino, or the 32 oz. “Gaucho” ribeye. But don’t worry, I was very happy with my sampling of hot and cold tapas, which included shrimp with black garlic, roasted pedron peppers with jamon serrano and sherry vinegar, cheese and Marcona almonds, and crisp fingerling potatoes with salsa verde. The roasted peppers were my hands-down favorite—the perfect combo of flavor and a little heat to make them interesting. I couldn’t quit eating them. 🙂 The shrimp were also perfectly cooked (not overcooked) and definitely benefited from the black garlic. But the kitchen needs to be more careful with the potatoes. The salsa verde had great flavor, and the potatoes were creamy on the inside with a nice crispness to the skin. However, at those prices (actually at any price), you should not serve potatoes that have turned green in several spots! I promise it was not the sauce—the sauce was served on the side.
Overall, the food was very good, the service was fantastic, and the atmosphere was great, but I was surprised when the homemade red sangria left me very disappointed. It was bitter. Don’t get me wrong, I was not wanting a cloyingly sweet red sangria, but I definitely didn’t want bitter. I couldn’t tell if it was the recipe that was a tad off or if it was the fact that the cut grapes in it were on the sour side. I suspect the former because I don’t think there was any way the grapes alone could be responsible. Note, however, Coqueta has a nice selection of wines by the glass. Although the wine was on the pricey side, they give large pours (1/3 of a bottle per glass). Therefore, next time, I would just skip the sangria.
© 2013 FoodieOasis