The chef/owner Mike Stolzfus was the sous chef at John Besh's Restaurant August; his fiance, and several of the waitstaff, come from Commander's Palace -- this understandably results in rather high expectations.
Coquette did not disappoint. But they didn't quite hit the bull's eye, either.
The building was completely redone since its last incarnation, and while -- if dropped inside blindfolded -- I'd never mistake it for a Parisian bistro, it DOES have that casual, welcoming atmosphere. A small restaurant (narrow and long), with a long wood bar along one side and tables on the other, it's bright without being glaring, intimate without being claustrophobic. There are also a few tables outside on Washington . . .
The bar turns out good cocktails, and the wine list is small but well-selected, with "not your run-of-the-mill" choices and reasonable markups. Someone knows what they're doing. Our waiter was warm and friendly, striking just the right balance of casual service and attentiveness without being your new best friend.
The Soft-Shell Crab I had for an appetizer was perfectly done, meaty, and flavorful. Lynn had the "Pickled" Shrimp (the restaurant's quotation marks, not mine) -- delicious shrimp in almost a beurre blanc sauce done with a bit of sourness (hence the "pickle"), while our friend Amy had a Bibb lettuce salad that was fresh and tasty.
For our entrees, Amy had the Flat Iron Steak and Frites -- very well done! (No, the steak was medium-rare; the dish was very well executed, and absolutely delicious.) Lynn had the Cochon de Lait -- pulled baby pork on a bed of grits and greens; very rich, very tasty, and very, very good. I opted for the Pheasant "Coq au Vin" (again, the restaurant's quotes) -- perfectly cooked breast of pheasant, along with a roasted leg and thigh, mustard greens . . . outstanding! The best pheasant I've had in a long, long time.
Dessert was a stunner! Their beignets, filled with a vanilla pastry creme and served with chocolate dipping sauce were amazing! The perfectly ripened strawberries were served with an elderberry zabaione were awesome . . . and the press pot coffee was rich and flavorful.
Everything was a five out of five! So -- where did Coquette miss?
Timing. Everything came out of the kitchen sooooooooooo fast -- it almost felt like we were "speed eating," rather than enjoying a relaxing meal in "the Big Easy."
Now I can understand a restaurant turning their tables -- especially when there are people waiting to be seated. But we had 8:30 reservations, the restaurant was no more than half-full the entire time we were there, and no one was waiting for our table. Further, when we left, there were still a half a dozen other tables in use, so it wasn't like we were keeping the staff from going home for the night.
Maybe it's a "Commander's Palace" thing ("we gotta turn the tables, got more people coming") and old habits die hard, but I've never felt rushed at Commander's. Maybe the kitchen was just in a hurry, and were firing the entrees as soon as the apps left the line . . . . I don't know. But it DID feel very fast paced -- more like grabbing a quick (but very delicious) lunch and needing to go back to the office, rather than a relaxed dinner with friends.
That said, Coquette is firmly in our "restaurant rotation," and we plan on coming back in the future.
2800 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70115