Yesterday night I had dinner at Chef Michael Chiarello’s new SF restaurant Coqueta. Coqueta, in Spanish, means to flirt, and let me tell you, any man is welcome to flirt with me if he feeds me as well as this restaurant did last night. YUM.
Chef Michael is a pretty popular chef. I’ve been watching ‘Easy Entertaining’ on the Food Network for years and enjoyed seeing him compete on The Next Iron Chef. I had been reading a lot about the opening of Coqueta so I was pretty excited to try it in its first month of existence in SF.
The space at Coqueta is divided into two parts at Pier 5: a semi-outdoor bar area and an indoor dining room. We started our evening waiting for our table at the bar area and had a pre-dinner cocktail there (more about that later.) It was definitely crowded, but there was a nice ocean breeze blowing through. We were then seated at a 5 person table in the dining room. The room has a warm, really jovial feel to it with a beautiful open kitchen. The next time I come, I’d like to sit at the bar seats facing the kitchen so I can watch Chef Michael cook. That would be super fun!
1. Barca Gin & Tonic- Now I am NOT a gin girl, but this drink was absolutely amazing. It was so crisp and refreshing and went down incredibly smooth. I would come back just for this cocktail alone.
2. Tariff Gin & Tonic (minus the iberico)- This just didn’t do it for me. I normally love blood orange anything, but this drink was nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe the iberico ham is the x factor that I was missing (since I don’t eat red meat.)
Tapas Frias (cold tapas):
3. Baby Beets- this salad with watercress, beet vinaigrette, beet tierra, and blue cheese snow (yes, snow) was really delicious.
4. White Gazpacho- I am not a huge fan of gazpacho, but this one was creamy, rich, and incredibly flavorful. The almonds really came through each bite.
Montaditos (open-faced sandwiches):
5. Pan con tomate- this never arrived 🙁
6. Smoked Salmon- I tend to find smoky flavors a little too meaty, but I thoroughly enjoyed the queso fresco truffle honey spread on this dish.
7. House-cured chorizo- I don’t eat chorizo, but those who did loved this dish so much that they ordered a second round. Must have been pretty great!
Tapas Calientes (hot tapas):
8. “Tattas” bravas without ham- these were probably my least favorite item of the night. Vaguely glorified tator-tots. I usually love patatas bravas, so this was a bit disappointing.
9. Gambas al negro- these head on prawns came in an amazing olive oil, black garlic, chili sauce that was to die for. They seriously need to bottle and sell this sauce alone as a bread-dipping condiment. YUM.
10. Grilled razor clams- The clams were a little chewy, but the meyer lemon & ramps “salsa” mixture on top was super flavorful.
11. Whole Calamari- These were really fresh and delicious.
12. Crispy shrimp & chickpea pancake- Definitely one of the highlights of the night. The texture was great and the flavor didn’t overpower the shrimp. SO good!
13. Arroz con Vieira- This grilled tomato rice was cooked to perfection and the scallops on top were perfectly cooked and seasoned. I wish I could have this alone for dinner once a week. YUM!
14. Churros with chocolate sauce- SO amazing! I really really loved the warm flaky churro (and definitely ordered a second round.) Several people at my table may have even been seen eating the chocolate sauce after the churros were finished. 🙂
15. The apple pie- the apples were sliced in a beautiful thin presentation that fun to look at and eat. It was served with a cold blue cheese ice cream.
16. The cheesecake- they were out of cheesecake which hurt my heart a little bit.
A few lows points of the meal:
1. The wait staff was amazingly kind and friendly and incredibly helpful. They seemed to be having some trouble with getting things out or items getting lost between the kitchen and our table. Our first food items came out before our drinks which I found a bit odd. At one point we had only eaten about 4 of the many items we ordered, and we were told we only had 1 item left to come out- very confusing. We had to clarify the long list of dishes that had not yet arrived. Fortunately, our waitress handled all of this in the best way she possibly could- she was incredibly apologetic and helpful. I’m sure these kinks will be worked out in no time.
2. The cana de cobre cheese and pan con tomate never arrived.
3. At two points during the meal I asked Chef Chiarello to take a picture with me. The first time we were at the bar waiting for our table and I shook his hand and asked and he said he “would come right back.” He never returned. I did have a quick 20 second chat with him outside the bathroom though! The second time was about half way through our dinner and he was taking a picture with a neighboring table and my cousin asked on my behalf again and he said “Sure! Let me just take something off the grill.” Now I don’t think it is necessary for a chef to take pictures with the diners, but given that both times he said he would, I was disappointed. This was especially true because a) I drove 45 minutes each way to eat dinner there because I’m a fan of his and b) I saw him drinking wine, taking pictures, and chatting with a bunch of other diners, and I felt excluded. Granted, some of them were friends of Chef Chiarello, but still there was no way I’d ask a third time because that would just be lame. Sadface.
Regardless, I really enjoyed most of what I ate as well as the vibe and energy of Coqueta. I will definitely be back again and maybe next time Chef Michael!
Rating: 4 out of 5 (mainly because there are still some service errors to be worked out)