After flirting with the hungry diners of San Francisco for months now, Spanish spot Coqueta is finally ready to open its doors tomorrow night. The first San Francisco project for Bottega owner and television personality Michael Chiarello, this relatively tiny Spanish spot (with 56 seats and another 26 on the glass-enclosed terrace) was partially inspired by his daughter Margo, who married a Spaniard and now lives in Barcelona. (Chiarello's take on a tortilla Espanola, tortilla Andrés, is named for his new son-in-law.)
In true Spanish style, the heart of the food program is tapas, with more than 20 hot and cold options ranging from plancha-grilled calamari to chicken and English pea croquetas to a tater-tot take on patatas bravas. You'll also find charcuterie like jamon iberico and house-cured chorizo, a variety of Spanish cheeses, and house-cured olives and sardines. On the larger side, there are big dishes like a bone-in beef ribeye and whole branzino, as well as two kinds of paella and fideuas, which will be prepared hourly and sold in limited portions on the spot, State Bird Provisions-style. The chef de cuisine is Ryan McIlwraith, who previously worked with Chiarello at Bottega. Chiarello also sourced some special goods for the restaurant, including special pan de cristal bread from Panorama and calçots, the grilled spring onions served with aioli that are wildly popular in Spain but rarely seen in the U.S. (A local farm is growing the latter item exclusively for him.) The full menu can be found here.
Both general manager Michael Iglesias and bar director Joe Cleveland come from the Jose Andrés empire, giving them a strong foundation in Spanish food and drink. Cleveland's cocktail menu is incredibly ambitious, featuring more than 20 drinks; special sections include gin & tonics (all the rage in Spain, and here made with housemade tonics of all kinds), porrones (cocktails featuring housemade sodas, in special vessels designed to be poured into your mouth—fair warning, they're a bit challenging), and cocktails made with sherry. There's also a section of modern cocktails, from a sangria with liquid nitrogen to a frozen gin meringue to a tequila drink with bruleed pineapple foam. Check out this San Francisco magazine article for more intel on the bar program. The full cocktail menu can also be found at that same menu link. As for non-cocktail drinks, the restaurant will offer a full complement of small-production California and Spanish wines, as well as an extensive collection of unique sherries.
The former Lafitte space got a big makeover for the occasion from architects Alberto Rivera and Michael Guthrie, starting with the outdoor area, which will now seat 26 for tapas and drinks on a primarily first-come, first-served basis. The indoor space is historic, and though neither the facade nor any structural elements have been touched, it has an entirely different feel, with lots of rich dark wood, leather, and cowhide rugs sourced from bullfighting rings in Spain (look for the spear points). The seats have all been lifted to provide a better view of the water, and an enormous new grill in back required the pier to be reinforced to hold its weight.
Coqueta is Spanish for "flirt," and given Chiarello's high profile, the views, and the approachable menu, we're guessing that's exactly what a lot of anxious diners are going to be doing in an attempt to score one of the handful of seats. Eventually, they'll add lunch and brunch, but in the meantime, hours are 5-10 pm Sunday-Wednesday, and 5-11 pm Thursday-Saturday.
· Chiarello's Coqueta Gets Chef, Bartender [~ ESF ~]
· Michael Chiarello To Open Spanish Restaurant On Pier 5 [~ ESF ~]