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Chef Michael Chiarello just opened his first San Francisco restaurant, Coqueta, on Pier 5 this past weekend and given all the anticipation, I couldn’t wait to try it out. Known for Napa’s Bottega Restaurant and his hosting roles on the Food Network, Chiarello has created a Spanish cocktail and tapas menu that will leave anyone watering at the mouth.

We started off with The Castro, a spicy margarita-inspired cocktail made with tequila blanco, curacao, fino sherry, pepper, and lime. The extensive drink menu is reason enough to come back. I’m already looking forward to trying the Conquistador (gin, housemade anise tonic, apple, celery juice, fennel salt rim and lemon ice) and the El Cazafor (Oloroso sherry, campari, lime and honey).

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The dinner menu is divided into several parts, including bite-sized skewers, or pintxos, cold and hot tapas and larger family style dishes. The quail egg pintxo was one of the highlights as was the clam and mussel escabeche with fennel salad. As I’m not normally a fan of calamari, I wouldn’t order that hot dish again, but the grilled – and oh, so tender – octopus with fingerling potatoes quickly made up for it.

My favorite dish? The grilled albondigas (duck and pork meatballs). It came with three small portions but I would order ten more. Absolutely delicious.

It’s difficult to find a restaurant that functions equally well, if not better, as a stand alone bar. Coqueta has achieved that balance – perfect for a leisurely dinner or just a quick drink as you walk along the Embarcadero.

Already thinking about my next trip back!

Pier 5, The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 91111


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