Coquette – New Orleans, LA 

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Before we left for a business trip for NOLA, I consulted my sources and made some plans.   Cross referencing my list with places that took reservations, I locked in three places for dinner, with the middle night being at Coquette.  We ended up just down Magazine Street from the previous night’s meal at Le Petite Grocery (both of these restaurants came from Southern Living Magazine’s 2014 list of the “100 Best Southern Restaurants“) and arrived just before our reservation.  I lucked up and found a curb side spot right across from the entrance, circled the block and parked and we walked right in.

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We were seated at a table for two between the bar and the front of the house (the view above is from our tabletop, toward Magazine Street).   The menu had some interesting options, but we chose instead to go with the five course blind tasting.   They asked about food allergies and we were off.  We were started with a shared plate of smoked catfish, home-made corn chips, poppy seeds, mandarin orange, red onions and pumpkin seeds.

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The smoke was strong in the catfish, which was the consistency of a mousse.  The corn chips were slightly thick and crunchy and mixed very well with the smoky fish, onions, orange and seeds.  The mint atop it added an interesting touch to the dish.  We cleared this plate. 

The next course was a fried gulf oyster, with bacon & beet jam and ranch dressing.  I failed to get a picture of that dish.  The oyster was battered and fried, so there was no sliminess to it, but it was plenty salty.  The cubed bacon with the beets in the jam was a nice touch, but neither of us are “oyster people”, but I finished mine.  This was followed by a dish of fingerling sweet potatoes, which were roasted, then mashed and then fried, served with a curry sauce and house-made yogurt.

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This was an interesting dish.  I’m fairly new to the world of sweet potatoes – I don’t know why I didn’t use to eat them, but I’ve begun to do so in the last year or two, particularly in combination with other vegetables.  These had a distinctly Indian flavor and were, oddly, much better tasting with the skin on.   Course two, according to the server, (the first two dishes didn’t count, apparently) was a rice bowl with crawfish, pepper (that sounded like esplade when said), green peas and summer squashes, topped with onion flowers in a miso and something broth, plus an egg.

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This dish was fine – but nothing particularly adventuresome or outstanding.  It was somewhere near the end of this bowl (I finished it except for all of the squash) that I began to get full.  Course three was pan-seared speckled trout with garlic aoli and grilled Bibb lettuce, tomatoes and radish.

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This dish was very heavily seasoned, resulting in the taste being very salty.  The garlic in the puree was heavy as well.  The saving feature of this dish were the heirloom cherry tomatoes which were absolutely bursting with flavor.   The fourth course was a grilled pork chop, served atop a summer squash purée, with grilled ramps, pickled kohlrabi and fermented black garlic.

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This dish was almost a flavor duplicate of course three, with pork instead of fish, right down to the seasoning, heavy garlic accent and presentation.   Neither of us ate much of this dish and when the server asked why, we explained the similarity between the third and fourth course.  She took the feedback to the kitchen and they insisted on bringing us a replacement plate.  We told them that we didn’t need a replacement, then when they continued to insist, we asked that they bring one for us both to share.  

Shortly after, two plates of seared duck breast, with celery root puree, duck leg confit, savoy lettuce and a baharat balsamic vinegar (I failed to get a picture of this dish also) appeared.  The baharat (a middle Eastern spice blend) and balsamic made a great complement to the duck breast which was seared and served like prime rib.   Jo’s not a duck fan, so I ate her slice of breast as well.  Next was pre-dessert – lemon sherbet with shaved fennel.

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The lemon was extremely full of flavor, but the fennel was lacking the licorice taste that I expected – it may have been a different part of the plant than we generally are served.  Dessert, itself was squash blossom beignets with local honey and cream cheese.

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The beignets were the flowers of squash plants, dipped in batter, then deep-fried.  They still tasted oddly squash-y, but the honey and cream cheese mix was excellent.  

We spoke with the server as we left, explaining that we weren’t trying to criticize, just trying to provide feedback.  She told us that after discussing the similarities between those dishes with the chef, he agreed that they likely should not have both been on the same tasting menu.  

The kitchen was very intent on making sure we were pleased and the service was timely.  I’d suggest making a selection from the menu, if you go, if the tasting menu is blind.  They did have a hot chicken appetizer on the menu….

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