My husband and I live very close to Coquette and sometimes we'll walk over for a nice dinner - although it's hard to get in sometimes. We made a reservation for 8:30 on Friday evening and were seated upstairs (hadn't been upstairs since it was Table One). The restaurant was pretty much full when we went in - maybe two empty tables - which I think is pretty standard for Friday evening.
Anyway, the first thing I noticed when we were seated is that one of the local food critics was dining next to us. He and his companion evidently hadn't been there long - they were drinking some wine. My husband wanted the tasting menu and I didn't, and since the menu didn't specifically say that it was intended only for the entire table, we asked our waiter about the possibility of only one of us having the tasting menu. The server checked and informed us that "Chef said no." We were disappointed, but oh well. We each had a cocktail and ordered.
In the meantime, the critic's first course comes out, and they are each getting the first course of the tasting menu. We waited for bread. They finished and our starters came out. Husband had a root vegetable salad and I had the oysters - both very good. The critic's food continues to come out and surprise! Vastly different dishes coming out - someone isn't getting the tasting menu. This was not surprising, because, well, he's a recognized food reviewer. I can't deny that it was a little irritating, but I did understand. I also understood all the waitstaff checking in on them throughout the meal.
So we waited for our entrees and I waited for iced tea, which did eventually make it, although the sugar never did. In the meantime, the critic got even more stuff brought out, including the french fries spilling onto the table because they knew how much he loved their fries.
We finally got our entrees and they were excellent. I had the chicken, which was as good as the waiter described. Normally I don't order chicken out, but this was dark meat wrapped in white meat and steamed and then flashed fried. It sounds awful, but it was remarkable. My husband had the beef, which was perfect.
And then we waited and waited and waited. By the time they brought a desert menu, we figured we wouldn't want desert, and then we had to wait and wait and wait to tell them that. Then we had to finally ask for the check. All the while, the critic had pretty much the entire waitstaff of the second floor, as well as the manager, stop by his table and make sure everything was good.
Our two course dinner took two hours, which is crazy. We left about 5-10 minutes after the reviewer.
I've been to Coquette numerous times and the food has always been very good. I've never had a complaint about the service, but Friday night it was apparent that if anyone important is around, forget about it.
And truly, I don't mind if the restaurant reviewer gets all the extras and great attention. It's a two-way relationship between the restaurant and the reviewer. It's in Coquette's best interest to take care of him. However, I do very much mind that we were ignored or forgotten about because someone of greater value was in the house.
Of course I'll go back, and I won't stop recommending Coquette. But there will always be a bit of a caveat and now there are places I'll recommend over Coquette. It's really kind of a shame. If they had basically just given us the service they've done historically - bread, beverages, etc. in a timely manner - it would have been another night out for us. But this was just sloppy and I expected better from the restaurant and its staff.
2800 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70115