Sitting at the bar watching the boats in the harbor on a cold, grey SF day. Coqueta, a Michael Chiarello restaurant, reminds The Monster that LA is sadly bereft of much great tapas.
The bartenders are hard at work mixing up lovely cocktails (and prove to be great conversationalists as well) while the menu is perused. And quite a menu of Spanish treats it is.
Some almonds start off the meal to get us going. Chicken and English pea croquetas with pickled sweet tomatoes are fantastic. Combining deft plate presentation and immense flavor this flying start bodes well for the rest of the meal.
The white gazpacho with Marcona almonds, grapes, Syrah reduction and Syrah-grapeseed oil is thick, too thick. Wanting it to be light and refreshing it is a lovely and striking presentation but oddly lacks much verve and ends up being dominated by the grapeseed oil. Points for being unique but would not order this again.
Next up is the octopus and it is delicious, a smoky flavor accented by the pimenton. It is served at a weird temperature however, neither hot nor cold. Lukewarm, which is a touch off.
The grilled albondigas, duck and pork meatballs with tart cherry and Tempranillo purée with crisp shallots is The Monster taking a shot outside his normal comfort zone. For those who normally dig on pork enjoy. The Monster will stick with what he does best.
Last up, the paella (they mistakenly bring this and not the arroz cremosa but The Monster rolls with it). Jamon Serrano-shellfish broth, roasted tomato, chorizo, gulf prawns, clams and lemon aioli meant for two. Starved for proper paella this is a good rendition, better by measure than any The Monster has had in LA.
Because of the paella snafu, a little dessert on the house. Coqueta’s take on cheesecake…
At Pier Five, Coqueta strikes a balance between contemporary tapas restaurant and tourist haunt. The Monster wishes LA had something comparable.
Why go? You’re such a flirt.
Monster rating: 3½/5 Monsters
The Embarcadero, Pier 5
San Francisco, CA 94105