Dinner at San Francisco's Coqueta: A Review with Morals

This past Saturday, I decided to visit Michael Chiarello's new restaurant Coqueta. A friend was visiting from NYC, so the bf and I thought this new place would be fun. My mistake.

Moral #1: Stick with what you know.

We arrived for our reservations and were promptly...asked to wait 30 minutes in the bar area. Oh, I see how it is. It's more like a doctor's office than a restaurant. This should be fun.

Moral #2: Never go to a restaurant in its first few weeks.

Getting seated: We had to ask a couple times if the restaurant was ready for us. In the end, they tried to seat us at the bar (you know, with a reservation). Luckily, we noticed a booth in the corner of the restaurant they seemed to be saving for a party of four. "I think you need to seat us over there. We've been waiting 30 minutes." They obliged.

Moral #3: Nobody puts Baby in the corner unless she really, really wants to sit there and judge people.

The clientele: Here's what I wasn't expecting (although, hindsight being 20/20, it makes perfect sense). The people were basically a mashup of Napa meets the Marina meets Las Vegas. And I mean that in the worst way possible. The interior had a similar "we're trying too hard" feel. It's really hard to explain.

Moral #4: What happens in Napa should stay in Napa.

The food: I'll give credit where it's due. Much of the food we tried (it's tapas, so of course we ordered a ton) was pretty good. My favorite dish is pictured above: the savory clams (delicious). We also had the baby beets (good, hard to mess up, though), roasted Padron peppers (good, nothing new), calamari and grilled octopus (the octopus was superior), "tattas" bravas (easily the most disappointing thing on the menu--they're tater tots and not good ones--avoid at all cost), grilled Iberico Secreto (pictured below and quite good), and the arroz con vieira with scallops (which was nice, very good scallops).

Moral #5: Never mess with a classic tapa. Patatas are not tattas.

The service: Now this is something you may say I shouldn't directly blame the restaurant for, but our server was lacking in personality. And I blame the restaurant. SF is full of servers. If I were opening a multi-million dollar restaurant on San Francisco's Embarcadero I would probably try to find top-notch staff, not Blandy McBlanderson. In contrast, though, the woman who introduced herself as the wine director was lovely and pretty much rescued my experience. Her recommendations were spot on and I loved the wine (alas, I can't remember what it was).

Moral #6: Always lead with wine.

Would I recommend Coqueta? Not yet. They need time to refine and get comfortable. And I need to see how the mix of diners turns out. If it remains too touristy-Vegasy-post-Giants-gamey, then I'm going to say skip it. 



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