by Kara Hugglestone
Coquetta, the Spanish-themed restaurant on San Francisco’s Pier 5 is aptly named; it means “flirt” in Spanish. The tantalizing menu and wine list draws you in, then once experienced a full on crush ensues.
Celebrity chef owner Michael Chiarello has followed his renowned Bottega Napa Valley with an equally fab Waterfront outpost. He and his chef de cuisine Ryan McIlwraith immersed themselves in the in the culture and food of Spain by taking numerous trips throughout the country. They were particularly inspired by wandering the beautiful Galician Coast and exploring ancient Andalusian bodegas.
Chiarello and McIlwrath translated these experiences into an inspired fare, which captures the complex and delicious flavors of that part of the world.
I’ve always felt small plate dining fosters a more multi-dimensional culinary experience… Sharing exciting new tastes creates special dining moments; some of my fondest meals have been tapas-based. Meals like these are true sensory experiences.
As a Chiarello and tapas fan I was anxious to try Coquetta; as a wine lover who learned they had wine on tap, it was a must.
The stage was set with our first order, the chef’s selection of cured meats and cheeses. We paired it with one of the wine on tap selections, a personal rose favorite, Blackbird Vineyards Arriviste.
The Arriviste arrived in one of Coquetta’s charming bird-shaped carafes. It’s lively strawberry and spice notes a perfect pair for this and what was yet to come. Arriviste is a more full-bodied rose with a nice acidity, beautifully blended from Merlot, Cabernet and Cabernet Franc.
Blackbird Vineyards is part of the Bespoke Collection, which also includes the very elegant Argentinian Malbec of Recuedo Wines and ever beautiful Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley. Art, wine and design converge at Ma(i)sonry, which is housed in a renovated 1905 craftsman-style stone building. It’s impossible not to be moved by the blend of art and wine and there, though there is something more, an aura perhaps; it’s a special place. I’ll save further elaboration for another post.
The sunny-side up egg with shrimp, crispy potato and chorizo dressing was next. The diverse flavors and textures proving in the right hands sunny-side up eggs can be ever so much more than normal breakfast fare.
Patatas bravas, crispy lighty smoked new potatoes with salsa and garlic aioli followed. How can you not love this dish? It’s so very much a gourmet Spanish version of that childhood favorite Tater Tots!
Next we took a more exotic turn with the wood-grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes, pimenton and olive oil. Octopus generally isn’t the first menu item I gravitate toward, but the dish was so acclaimed we had to order. It was an excellent choice as the octopus was so tender and the wood grill infused a wonderful smoky flavor.
Ready for red I settled on another favorite available on tap, the Nickel and Nickel Harris Vineyard Merlot. It’s a beautiful, rich Merlot with lovely berry and cocoa notes and a hint of cedar. The wine is as elegant as it’s artistic label which is reminiscent of it’s partners other endeavor, the renowned Far Niente.
The Harris paired beautifully with our large plate of the evening, Iberico de bellota pork shoulder loin with honey-chili glaze. Flavorful and tender it was one of the highlights of the meal.
I was tempted by the traditional and popular churros con chocolate for dessert, but I’d reached my carb allotment with the delicious patatas bravas. Dessert was the fabulous olive oil ice cream sandwich. The combination of decadent olive oil flavored ice cream over dark chocolate bread was heaven.
Dinner was a delight; the only change I would make on my next visit is to venture beyond Napa favorites. The wine list is full of interesting Spanish choices, next time I’ll be a bit more adventuresome.
It’s so nice to have such an exciting new waterfront restaurant walking distance from tying up your boat Pier 1½!