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Restaurants & Bars 2

Arepas and Chocolate @ Coupa Café (Palo Alto)

Melanie Wong | Apr 19, 200404:00 AM

William and I stopped by Coupa on Saturday to follow up on Robbie’s rec ( On display are elegant Chuao confections and chocolate products, single estate coffee beans, housemade breakfast and dessert pastries, salads ready-made from local farmers market produce, and paninis. William thought the pain au chocolat looked particularly appealing. A dozen plus arepa combinations are made to order. The arepa menu includes savory and sweet varieties, as well as some California adaptations (e.g., Point Reyes blue cheese). For our lunch we ordered what seemed to be more traditional combinations and hot chocolate.

While we waited for our order, I enjoyed a complimentary sample of the brewed house blend. Fragrant, rich, medium strong, and low acid, for my palate, a dash of sugar helped round out the slight bitterness in the finish. The barrista suggested that I try a complimentary sample of espresso next time.

The hot chocolate is offered in two blends and three sizes ($3.25 for medium-size). The cups are finished with a creamy head of steamed milk foam. The “abuela” blend has a woodsy aroma and less sweetness for a direct showing of the complex blend of dark and milk chocolates with an upfront touch of what tasted like nutmeg and ending with a long tart finish. The “spicy maya” blend is sweeter and spiced with pasilla chili and cayenne pepper and had a rounder, weightier finish. Three bottles of different Yucateco habanero hot sauces were provided in case we wanted to add more heat.

The arepas are served with a side of dressed bitter greens. William said he liked the aroma of the salad, but the bitterness was “too adult” a taste for him. For me, the distinctively salty and sour dressing balanced the bitterness well.

The arepa corn cakes are about 4” wide and split for stuffing with the various fillings. Made from a fine-grained white cornmeal, the thin and delicately crisped crust yields to a soft and creamy body. “Domino” ($4.75) is stuffed with black beans, queso fresco from Loleta and a thick sour cream (nata). “Carne Mechada” ($5.75) offers a savory thyme and bay leaf-scented filling of shredded beef braised with bits of carrots and sweet red peppers. About four fork tine pricks of habanero chili sauce per mouthful perked up the flavor of the carne mechada for me. Arepas are new to us and we liked them both. I had a slight preference for the simpler taste of the Domino.

William couldn’t resist the pastry case and sprang for the “Royale” ($5.75), an individual round of cake enrobed with folds of fan-shaped chocolate. The light chocolate sponge cake inside layered with a crunchier chocolate wafer was a bit dry. The best part of this was the silky dark chocolate wrapping. We noted that even though it was served cold, the tempered chocolate was supple and not brittle or waxy.

We scooped up a Chuao bar with nuts on the way out that we tried later. The dark chocolate melts readily in the mouth, yet it does not have the mouth-coating fatty feel of other luxury chocolates. The flavor seemed more intensely chocolate-y, complex and deep because of this. The nuts were distributed somewhat unevenly in the bar, some squares having no nuts and others with three pieces.

Coupa Café
538 Ramona St. (near University)
Palo Alto
(650) 322-6872

SFGate’s mention:

For more on Chuao Chocolatier:



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