Tap Those Tapas: Reviewing Michael Chiarello’s Coqueta

Clockwise from top left: Chicken and English pea croquettes; “El Gran Plat Cap” of meats and cheeses; Gambas Al Negro prawns with black garlic and chili; Calamari with onion jam and squid-ink aioli

Coqueta (The word, translated): A pretty girl who flirts to gain admiration and attention from others.

Coqueta (The restaurant, translated): A two-week-old tapas place on Pier 5 that flirts with being delicious but expensive and mediocre but creative to gain admiration and attention from the hungry people of San Francisco.

Clockwise from top: Grilled Iberico Secreto (secret cut of meat); Fideua vermicelli pasta with shrimp and iberico; Pinxtos (little bites) of anchovies, olives, onions, peppers, beets, and citrus

One of my goals for this year was to immerse myself in food by trying restaurants that might be a little out of my price range. Usually said places put my wallet on a diet, but they do give me the opportunity to experience breakfast/lunch/dinner in a different setting, one that emulates the time that a chef takes in designing the physical space and the plate. It is a pleasant change when the servers actually know their menus and the utensils are continously refreshed. Hopefully, the food follows suit; this restaurant rests somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

The reservation system is a little faulty – even though we had booked beforehand, it still took half an hour to be seated because they underestimated the turnover. Once we were seated, our server took good care of us and helped us traverse through the menu so we could have a culinary snapshot of what these tapas were all about. Out of our 12 items (yea, we like to eat, and no, I’m not sorry about it), there were a few highlights, misses, and an in-between “meh”:

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Highlights: Sunnyside egg with shrimp and chorizo dressing. Chef Michael came over to say hi as we received this dish and states, “this is the best hangover dish ever.” Chef knows best – if I ate that every Sunday morning, I’d be a very happy, slightly-less-hungover gal.

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Misses: The drinks. The server boasted about how they make their own gin and house a variety of gin cocktails, but frankly, mine tasted like juice. It was delicious juice, but not worth $12.

Whatchu lookin’ at?

Meh: The Dungeness crab with pimiento and citrus salad. Crab season ends this week, so this was a must-try, but upon eating it, I couldn’t taste the pimiento at all. Also, if there was any doubt that I absolutely suck at cracking crab, let this instance be proof of that notion. #Forrealthough, if there is any method to crab detonation that doesn’t result in shell shrapnel everywhere, please tell me.

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Desserts range on the side of the creative. The sangria pop-rocksicles, while a little weak in flavor, reminded me of the push-ups I ate as a child (What happened to those anyways?), and the manchego cheesecake was not as sweet as I hoped, but they looked so damn adorable I didn’t care. Plus, it was cheesecake.

Coqueta is a solid restaurant with creative, albeit sometimes amiss tapas. I would love to revisit in a few months to see if it tightens up in its servce and food. The innovative food mixed with new faces to dine with brought an unusual and unique experience and a little more insight into the food of this city and the residents who admire it.

But seriously, how do you eat a crab?

*** All images taken by the SF Foodies Meetup members. Check out more here.

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