Sherman's Food Adventures: Coqueta


Early on, I already knew this vacation was not going to be a culinary expedition.  Hey, with all the kid-friendly attractions that were planned, not many gourmet eats could be found nearby.  Furthermore, with Viv trying to eek out the most possible benefit from our CityPass, we were guaranteed to dine on mediocre food.  But wait.  There was a glimmer of hope when I spotted that Coqueta lay only steps from Exploratorium.  The James Beard Award winner for Best New Restaurant and with Michael Chiarello's team at the helm, it looked as if we were finally going to escape the dreaded mac n' cheese trap.

So I finally got my way, but were the kids going to eat the food?  Being a tapas joint, at the very least, there would be some variety.  Viv and I started with a few Pintxos (bite-size skewers offered tableside) including the Heuvos de Codorniz (quail's egg, pickled mustard seed and serrano ham), House-Cured Boquerones (white anchovies, olives, pearl onions and guindilla peppers) and  I really liked the quail's egg since it wasn't overdone, hence it was creamy and buttery.  Little bursts of acidity combined with the salty ham ensured that flavor was not an issue.  As for the anchovies, they were predictably salty and tart while the peppers added a spicy finish.  Any fears of my daughter not eating anything was quickly ended with the Croquetas de Pollo consisting of chicharr√≥n-crusted chicken and English peas with cured cara-cara orange. These were hot and crispy with tender chunks of chicken.  The creaminess inside was broken up by the sweet pop of the peas. 

She didn't have any reservations about the Salmon Ahumado (smoked salmon, queso fresco and truffle honey) either.  With the combination of the sweet honey with the saltiness of the salmon, there was a harmony of flavors which was accented by the woodsy truffles and smooth herbed cheese.  Moreover, the crispy bread added the necessary textural contrast.  Finally, my son decided to join us in eating with our next dish.  The Patatas Bravas (freshly dug crispy new potatoes lightly smoked and served with bravas salsa and garlic aioli) were addictive with its crispy outside and soft fluffy interior.  These were purposefully salty with a nice accent of garlic.  We found the salsa to be a nice balance between tart and spicy.  However, we preferred the potatoes on their own.

Onto some meat, we had the Albondigas a la Feria (grilled duck and pork meatballs with tart cherry and tempranillo salsa and crispy shallots.  These were pleasing to the eye and even better to the palate.  With a deep brown sear on the exterior, the meatballs were juicy and tender.  With that being said, the meat still maintained its natural texture in the process.  Just seasoned enough, is also exhibited natural meat flavours which was nicely complimented by the tart and spicy salsa as well as the aromatic shallots.  We also got the Setas al Ajillo (wild and cultivated mushrooms with garlic, chili and sherry) to satisfy our veggie quotient and for our daughter, who loves mushrooms.  These exhibited a wonderful fire-roasting that caramelized the flavors as well as adding a sweet smokiness.  With the aforementioned ingredients, it was evident in the flavor profile as we got tart, spicy and garlic butter.

Our last tapas item before dessert was the Deep Fried Pancake of shrimp and chickpea flour with saffron aioli, pea sprouts, scallions and charred lemon.  This was our least favorite dish as the pancake was overly greasy while the shrimp wasn't particularly appealing as it was rubbery.  The pancake itself was crunchy though with a aromatic saffron aioli.  The charred lemon did help cut through the oil though.  We finished things off with something my son would devour almost by himself - Churro with chocolate sauce and berry powder.  These mini-churros were crunchy and light sweetened not only by the sugar, but by the mild chocolate.  I liked the fruitiness of the powder, but my son wouldn't touch it.  Despite the last savory dish, the selection we sampled was carefully prepared and generally enjoyable. Worth a look-see if in the area.

The Good:
- Wonderful location
- Carefully prepared tapas
- Attentive service

The Bad:
- Pricey (but consider the location and the name behind it)
- Good, but not great

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