Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tuesday, 9/1/10 - Coco

Date: 9/1/10
Restaurant: Coco Chocolate Bar and Bistro
Location: 18402 US 281 N (and 1604, on the westbound side in a snazzy new development)
Executive Chef: Owner Philippe Place and Chef Pedreaux Cuellar. Le gasp...they are...FRAHNCH!

Coco is new, quite well-reviewed, and hip. It's so new our Garmin couldn't find it, which was a bit of a problem as we meandered from one side of 1604/281 to the other. It's so well-reviewed that even though Tavis and I are far from the posh lounge scene and not even really big martini people, we just had to add it to the 52. And it's so hip that it can only be summarized in one word....FRAHNCH!

Bienvenue a Coco.

(Man I gotta take me some French classes, even my typing accent is atrocious.)

Ooh, I feel like I'm entering some elite society. I think French babies feel the same way when they're born.

Okay, check this decor out. Is this not perfectly sleazy and fabulous?

Chandeliers and feathers. Why chandeliers and feathers? Because they are FRAHNCH!

Red velvet booths. It just doesn't get any Moulinier.

Don't mistake Coco for a strictly-drinks-and-desserts place; the menu runs deep and wide with appetizers, salads, pizzas, and entrees. However, you will find chocolate in unexpected places (like the side of your face that you just can't seem to find with the napkin). More on that in a bit. It's drink time first.

When in doubt, go for one of the flights. The martini menu seems to change pretty regularly; the online menu isn't the same as the one I was handed, and the drinks on my flight weren't the ones that were advertised in the menu. Nevertheless, they're all made with liberal doses of chocolate and alcohol so I see no point in quibbling.

From left to right, which is also my least favorite to most favorite: hot chocolate martini, rimmed with chipotle pepper; chocolate cake martini, rimmed with salt; and chocolate dipped strawberry, rimmed in love. Oh I was in a happy place. Each brought something very different, and I'm sure personal preferences will change; heck, I'm normally the first to cheer a chocolate + chili combination. Something about the smell of the chipotle on the rim made me think of dog food. Anyway. Strawberry was my dear.

But Tavis and his signature Coco martini stole the show. It's blended with their in-house-produced chocolate ice cream. It seems completely unfair to call this an adult beverage. But it was so delicious.

(P.S. If you're counting calories...don't.)

At this point we barraged our waiter with our handful of menu items, which he might want to have written down because he completely forgot to make our entree, the duo of quail. We didn't complain because we were absolutely stuffed by the time it would have arrived, and it wasn't on our bill, but really... I liked him because he was a foodie, but I certainly saw room for improvement in the care taken of us, and lack thereof, during this meal. European pacing is one thing, but this was FRAHNCH!

Anyway. What food DID we end up getting?

Our sharable appetizer, croque monsier, or ham n cheese as we call it in these here parts. It's on a bed of bearnaise sauce (clarified butter + egg yolks like a Hollandaise, flavored with shallot, tarragon, chervil and pepper). There wasn't actually a missing piece, I removed it for the sake of the photo and then it, um, mysteriously vanished. This was a mighty tasty sammich, especially when paired with my.....

...soup! I have decided I am officially a Soup Gal. I am always drawn to the special soups a restaurant offers, and it's almost always one of my favorite flavors at the end of the night. So now I am gonna be super predictable on my desserts--if there's creme brulee, it's mine--and my soups--if it's there, it's mine.

Anyway, this is gazpacho with a splash of lobster cream in the center. I loved it. Cold, complex flavors, absolutely refreshing and really great with my sammy bites dipped in. Tavis kept up his end of the Predict-o-meter and hated it because it's cold soup. That's fine, I didn't need his affirmation on my soup.

This bread is worth coming to Coco. It was perfectly crusty, great taste--I think these were tomato? I am not normally excited about bread but I loved this bread.

Unfortunately that was the end of the wow. It's all mehh from here on out. Sorry for the spoiler. I'm sure the entrees would have been a high point, had we received them. Buuuuut we didn't.

My salad. To the left, a little bunch of grape tomatoes and artichokes; to the right, roma tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese. I really expected to and wanted to like this. I think the artichokes were too acidic and the goat cheese was actually too overpowering for me; there wasn't any relief from the twang. Tavis liked the cheese more than I did, which is probably a sign of the apocalypse.

Tavis's salad, a medley of greens, dried cherries, blue cheese, raspberry vinaigrette and....white chocolate shavings. Why white chocolate on a salad? Because it is FRAHNCH! Tavis liked this salad okay when he got a bit of everything in a bite, but the blue cheese really bullied the rest of the flavors around. Maybe a milder blue would have been less obnoxious with everything else. Interesting concept, didn't care for the execution.

Somehow we were full at this point. I ate more than my share of croque, so I have no idea how Tavis joined me here. Nevertheless we just had appetite for one dessert, which is really just shameful at a place with so many options. In particular, there is an "Chocolate Grand Sharing Experience for Two" that sounds worth the price of admission. Alas, we were full. So we split their summer cheesecake, made with mascarpone and curried peaches. It was underwhelming. The texture of the cheesecake was a little gritty, and while I could see what they did with the peaches, I didn't necessarily want it in my dessert. Call me a purist. Call me boring. Just don't call me FRAHNCH!

And half an hour later, we get our check and can leave. Did I mention service could have been better?

Returnability: despite the shortcomings in service and the few failed flavors, we both really want to come back here. We just barely touched the surface of their drink menu; there's a whole list of entrees we haven't tried (literally); and I owe it to their pastry chef to try another dessert before writing them off. It's a very creative and artistic menu that shows a lot of promise and delivered on some memorable tastes. I'll just be sure to reserve us a time when there may be more than one waiter on duty, and when we don't have class the next morning cutting our revelry short. It's definitely worth another try.

Au revoir, mon cheries!


Rosie Posie said...

I'm SO with Tay on the cold soup thing. Ick. The bread does look good, though.

You know how I feel about 'European dining'... I swear they keep you waiting for so long because they hope you'll digest and get hungry again before you can leave! Sorry. I'm ok now.