Coquille (29-31 Mengzi Road; 蒙自路29–31号) is a French seafood bistro and sister restaurant to its Italian neighbor, Scarpetta. Opened by John Liu in February 2014, Coquille has chef Anna Baustista at the helm, the former chef of Madera in Menlo Park (close by my hometown!). The menu boasts French dishes with a slight Vietnamese/Asian flourish. I’ve been wanting to try Coquille for ages, but my friends had warned me about the pricier menu. When my parents came to visit me, I thought it would be the perfect place to take them (and benefit from their generosity).
I had eaten at Scarpetta and really enjoyed the warm, trattoria environment with hearty pizza and homemade pasta offerings. Coquille is definitely a little bit more refined with a cute French twist to it. The restaurant is two floors and if you’re looking for a more private meal, I’d recommend requesting a table upstairs. We sat downstairs and I found it a little bit noisy.
We started our meal with caviar, foie gras au torchon and escargots. I rarely get to eat caviar, so it was definitely a special treat to eat it with all the fixings (egg white, egg yolk, sour cream, onions and chives). The foie gras was absolutely delicious, melting on my tongue like butter and causing all my taste buds to dance in delight. The escargots were served with a red curry and kaffir lime leaves sauce. While the sauce was flavorful, I was slightly disappointed in the consistency of the escargots, which I found to be too mushy. I expected more texture. I don’t know what caused the discrepancy in texture… perhaps the source of the escargots?
For our main dishes, we ordered the wild Icelandic cod, crispy duck leg confit and bavette steak frites. I couldn’t resist getting a side of garlic noodles. My cod was served in a light tomato broth with fennel and a medley of fresh seafood (clams, shrimp and scallops). The seafood was all cooked beautifully, but I found the dish lacking flavor. For my father, he had the crispy duck leg with a side of chicharrones. The duck was atop cassoulet, a classic French white bean stew. It was definitely a much richer and heavier dish– a complete 180 from my cod dish. My father ended up liking the garlic noodles best, which were spaghetti noodles cooked al dente with plenty of garlic and onions. While incredibly tasty, it is definitely not a dish where you want to dine and then kiss someone.
My favorite of all the mains was definitely the bavette steak with fries. It probably sounds ridiculous, but I think I miss good red meat the most from America. This bavette steak was probably one of the best steaks I’ve had in China. It was incredibly tender and cooked to a perfect medium rare. The portion was also very generous and my mother couldn’t finish all of it (more red meat for me). In addition, the frites were crispy, hot and addictive. I would come back to Coquille just to order this dish.
Overall, I enjoyed my meal at Coquille, but it is definitely a pricier restaurant. I would only recommend it if you were trying to impress some guests or celebrating a special occasion. I enjoyed the ambiance and a small part of me felt like I was back in Paris. I think Coquille’s neighbor, Scarpetta, is a little bit more affordable and casual. I’d probably find myself frequenting there more often.