Friday, October 12, 2018

Travel Eats: Coqueta (San Francisco)

For lunch on Sunday we went to Coqueta, a Spanish tapas place by the water in San Francisco. It's run by one Michael Chiarello, a celeb chef with a Food Network show who took third place on a season of Next Iron Chef.

We went light on the drinks. Amy got a Juniper & Tonic, which was slightly sweet and bitter much like a gin and tonic. I had a sparkling rosemary lemonade, which was excellent: piney and fresh, tart with just a little sugar.

We started off with some pintxo skewers. The chorizo was good, rich and salty (as it should be!) with some vinegar from the artichoke and the piquillo pepper. The manchego was a satisfying bite, mixing salt with sweet fruitiness from the apricot conserva. The quail egg diablo was maybe the least exciting; not particularly "diablo", just lightly flavored from the mustard seed.

Next up was a pretty unusual rendition of deviled eggs. The yolk was blended with pimento aioli, creating an intensely tangy and smoky filling. It was topped with oil-poached bonito, which was nice but had a bit of the grainy texture that full-cooked tuna often does.

The larger plates, the pulpo and the patatas bravas, might have been the two highlights. The octopus was a thing of beauty, savory and tender, charred almost to burnt but not quite, so that it was crunchy on the edges. It had a pleasant sprinkling of herbs, though the potatoes it came with were less exciting—especially compared to the bravas. These earthy bite-size potato morsels were individually topped with daubs of garlicky aioli. The brava sauce was almost like a tomato cream sauce, but there was a bit of spicy, smoky oil in the center that I wish there'd been more of, as it really brought everything together.

We ended with a set of chicken croquetas, which were delicious and unexpectedly creamy and cheesy, with some occasional garden sweetness from the peas inside. Sadly, the chicharron crust seemed no different from a typical croqueta breading. They came with skewers of tangerine—an odd choice and not really integrated with the main part of the dish, but somehow it worked.

Though San Francisco is teeming with great restaurants, good food can be hard to find near the touristy pier area. For anyone sick of clam chowder and willing to walk a ways from the most trafficked part of the shoreline, Croqueta is a great alternative.

Score: 8.5 out of 10 (Excellent)

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