Last night I checked out Coqueta, chef Michael Chiarello's newest restaurant. Chiarello, Emmy-award winning host of Food Network's Easy Entertaining and owner of Bottega, an Italian mainstay in Napa Valley, seems very excited about his new venture, which is his first foray into the world of Spanish cuisine.
Coqueta means "coquette" or "flirt" in Spanish, and the space provides the ideal opportunity to do just that. Two separate, and very different, rooms provide a nice juxtaposition—the bar has an outdoor/indoor feel, with window-filled walls featuring views of the San Francisco Bay, while the dimly lit, intimate restaurant houses an open kitchen and 48 refurbished, leather wrapped school chairs surrounding rustic wooden tables (the bar seats 30, so there are 78 seats total).
We sampled tapas from the forthcoming menu, like "Tattas" Bravas, crispy potato and jamon nuggets with bravas salsa and aioli, roasted padron peppers with jamon Serrano and sherry vinegar, and grilled duck albondigas (meatballs) with dried cherry and tempranillo. The bites of desserts were equally delicious, and included caramel cheesecake, housemade churros with flash-dried fruit powder and chocolate for dipping, and sangria "poprocksicles", mini push-up popsicles with Pop Rocks sprinkled on top (they were as awesome as they sound).
The bar offers an array of cocktails, but showcases unique takes on the gin and tonic (gin-tónica bars are a popular trend in Spain).
Chef Chiarello was in great spirits as he waxed poetic on his newest restaurant where Ryan Mcilwraith, formerly of Bottega, will act as head chef. "Taste happens in your mouth. Flavor happens in your heart and mind," said Chiarello, before he and his colleagues took a traditional swig of Spanish-style liquor.
Coqueta is slated to open this weekend. Ambiance, delicious and unique offerings, bay views and expertly made cocktails? Sign me up twice.
Caramel Cheesecake and Housemade Churros