Coquette — The Menu

Jeremy Sabo and Rob Bland

Jeremy Sabo and Rob Bland

Chef Rob Bland may have worked in French restaurants across the world, trained under Guy Savoy, and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, but he lays awake at night, thinking of the opening of Coquette — the first place where he’ll be the boss.  “It’s not that I’m worried about the success of the restaurant, but I’m anxious to make it all happen.”  The 30 year old, tattoo-laden chef has a deep passion for food, but particularly traditional French food.  “It has a certain finesse, which is the same trait I like to see with my cooks,” Bland told me recently.  “Coquette will be all about respecting the ingredients, respecting the dishes.”

Most of the menu items are brasserie staples, such as moules frites, gougères, cassoulet and steak au poivre, but some dishes have a slight twist.  “We’re serving skate meuniere, rather than with the classic sole, simply because we know we can get better skate at a reasonable price than we can with sole.”  Coq au vin won’t be braised for hours, which is required when cooking with a traditional rooster, but it will still retain that deep, full flavor.

Two focal points of the restaurant will be the raw seafood bar, where at least 4 different oysters will always be available, and the bread station, where several types of house-baked classic French breads will be showcased, including baguettes, brioche, pain de mie, pain de campagne (farmhouse bread) and miche (a rye-wheat bread).  The bread station will be in the center of the dining room.  “We’ll also do pastries, such as croissants, eclairs and others,” Bland stated, reminding me that Coquette will be open for breakfast at 7 AM during the week and for brunch at 11 on Saturdays and 9 on Sundays.  “We’ll have a take-out service, so you can swing by and get your croissant to go.”

I asked Bland what item on the menu made him the proudest.  “I’m a meat guy and will always favor those dishes.  But I’m probably proudest of the fish dishes, as I’ve learned to cook those with tenderness.”  Every time I heard Bland talk so preciously, with so much reverence to his craft, I was taken aback, as this is a guy who has a huge butcher knife tatoo on his right forearm.  Granted, that butcher knife is accompanied by the words, “mise en place,” but it’s a bitchin’ tattoo nevertheless.  Bland is not a salesman or a bullshitter.  He just loves cooking, particularly this type of food.  He talks about “ideals” and “dedication to the ingredient” and “importance of technique.”  He wants to teach, wants everyone to know that he’ll cut no corners at Coquette.  “We won’t be buying pre-peeled shallots or garlic.  We’ll demand the freshest versions of both, and we’ll create perfect brunoise.”  No haphazardly shaped vegetables in this kitchen, I suspect.

The price of the menu items is pretty reasonable.  “We were very concerned about setting price points fairly, as this is not intended to be a high-priced, buttoned-down establishment.”  The most expensive every-day item is steak au poivre, at $25, whereas out of the eight entrees (or “Plats Principaux” as they’re called on the menu) are under 20 bucks.  An order of moules frites will set you back $13.  Not bad, not bad at all.  Coquette will have a rotation of daily specials, including half a roasted chicken on Saturdays and lamb chops on Thursdays.   I’m particularly excited about the tartes flambèes, which are essentially French or Alsation pizzas.  I mean, how can you go wrong with one topped with asparagus, ham and an egg?

Bland and Jeremy Sabo, Urban Food Group’s executive chef, are putting the final touches on the menu, but they’ve graciously shared a preliminary copy.  “We haven’t proof read it for typos and correct French spellings, but it’s pretty close to completion,” Sabo said.  They’ve also been kind enough to share a copy of their menu specifications, which lay out how each dish is prepared, including the time of preparation.

Click on menu for full resolution version

Click here for the menu specifications (Excel format).

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29 Responses to Coquette — The Menu

  1. dmwcpa says:

    Cheers, I look forward to the opening of this restaurant.

  2. Robert says:

    First off, congrats on a really nice project. The ongoing updates on this restaurant are fascinatring.

    This is not an attractive menu. The shape and color give it a decidedly “un-serious” feel, if that makes sense, which contrasts pretty directly with a $60 fruits de mer platter.

    It has a similar feel, in my opinion, to this menu: http://www.aupieddecochonatlanta.com/menu.pdf

    That’s not necessarily a criticism. Whoever designed the menu did so on purpose and certainly it reflects what they intended. But it rubs me the wrong way.

    Also – their hours are too complicated, and there’s a bizarre distinction between “supper” and “dinner.” Eight different serving times is too many, in my opinion.

    Smoking only in the bar – what will the separation be like between the bar and dining areas? North Carolina needs to just come on into this century and get rid of smoking in establishments where food is served.

  3. Varmint says:

    It’s important to understand that this menu is not final.

    The menu’s style, however, is classic brasserie. I’m not completely enamored with the layout, as it’s somewhat difficult to navigate, but it still gets the point across.

    They will be changing the hours on the menu, as I asked about that distinction between supper and dinner, and got a shrug of shoulders.

    And I wouldn’t have any problems of it being a completely non-smoking establishment.

  4. Yes, I agree with Robert. Most diners would be unfamiliar with a ‘traditional brassiere’ and would feel intimidated by this menu, and subconsciously resent feeling like culinary illiterates.

  5. But if you give them a ‘taste’ of the education (ha! see what I did there?), make the diner part of the in-crowd without making them feel stupid – then it appeases the ego. People love being VIPs. And they can ‘educate’ their friends on how awesome it is. But, they really only need the Brasserie Cliffs Notes to do it.

  6. Just a couple of quick clarifications.

    This is not the final copy of the menu as Dean points out. We don’t intend for the menu to be “un-serious”, but for it to be a reflection of what you may find at a typical brasserie in Paris. Our design group plugged in the supper/dinner hours to get the format in front of us and shouldn’t be paid strict attention to. I agree that the separate hours look a little confusing but we would rather let the public know what is being served throughout the course of the day then leave the guesswork up to them. Saves the diner disappointment who shows up expecting full breakfast service after 10am on the weekdays, when we will only be serving fresh pastries from 10 – 11am.

    There will be no smoking in the entire restaurant.

    Brasserie dining is meant to be inexpensive, casual, convivial and just plain good food. Fruits de Mer is a classic staple. Compare our version for $60 to Balthazar’s $110 platter. This is an appetizer to share with several people who are in the mood for cold-water oysters, clams, mussels and lobster. We just wanted to make sure that people understood that we were making every effort to keep these price points as low as possible in keeping true to the concept.

    Scott Luetgenau
    Director of Operations
    The Urban Food Group

  7. Varmint says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Scott.

    FYI, I have asked the Urban Food Group people to feel comfortable chiming in here whenever they want. I try to get my facts straight, and have done so to this point, but there may be some misconceptions that require clarification. Moreover, this gives you the opportunity to engage the entire staff, and they’re obviously reading this stuff!

  8. seahawg says:

    I know that everyone is just offering constructive criticism, and I know the folks at Urban appreciate this feedback. But just let me say, after reading that menu, I am super stoked to try this place. I can’t pronounce half the items, but the descriptions leave my mouth watering. This should be a welcome addition to the food scene in Raleigh. Frasier’s is my favorite local restaurant, but they may get edged out by this place.

    Thanks to Dean and the folks at Urban for bringing us this sneak peek.

  9. Varmint says:

    I really encourage you to click on the link to the menu specifications, which will take you to a place where you can download an Excel spreadsheet. This breaks down each dish to its simplest form, and you’ll see how the kitchen will be thinking as they prepare this food.

    And seahawg, I’m totally stoked.

  10. maverick says:

    wow…it will be nice to not have to drive to durham for my cassoulet fix…very ambitious i hope that menu works well for them in North Hills.

  11. Rob Bland says:

    I’d also like to add that in addition, though they have (as every single ingredient does) their importance, shallots and garlic cut into brunoise is merely a glimpse into the ideals pertaining to manipulating and crafting each product from it’s most raw form. Perhaps more importantly are the notions that whole fish, and sub-primals of meat will be butchered in such a fashion. Little waste and the ability to provide for yourself the product and end result you desire (versus having a broadline, wholesale distributor decide the method and portion), leads to a remarkable relationship from that purest of states to the final, exceptional quality. Gone are the days of opening cans or “just adding water”. Spare the IQF, pre-portioned-non-cookery… Or at least I will. As far as the menu seeming intimidating, don’t fret. we will have a staff in place who will be unassuming and more than capable and glad to help guide anyone through the menu in translation, description and flavors. Thanks for the feedback everyone. Looking forward to seeing and feeding you soon!

    Rob Bland
    Chef de Cuisine
    Brasserie Coquette
    The Urban Food Group

  12. susan says:

    I – for one – can’t wait!

  13. PolitiP says:

    First of all, great story Varmint. I love that you guys were talking at 5 Guys, great burgers and a taste of home!

    @Chef Bland – I’m really looking forward to my first meal at Coquette. After reviewing the menu, I think I’m ready to order. 🙂

  14. Rafe says:

    I am ridiculously excited about this restaurant and cannot wait for it to open.

  15. burgeoningfoodie says:

    I’m surprised that there hasn’t been another brasserie in the area. I have yet to eat at Vin Rouge or Rue Cler in the Durham area (as I’m near Chapel Hill and theyw ould be closest). Along those lines, I’m not too surprised that Cassoulet wouldn’t be offered somewhere in the Raleigh/Cary area and since I’ve not been to St. Jacques (any good?), I would not know if maybe they should offer such an item. I look forward to this restaurant however as it is not only going to get business based on the need for such a place but also because of its surroundings. I’m wondering if North Hills gets more business based on food/drink consumption than on people actually buying things at those stores. Congrats on the impending success.

  16. burgeoningfoodie says:

    Wonders if there will be French cooking classes down the road.. speaking of which does anyone know about this Chef Rameaux that supposedly has beignets in the morning in DT Raleigh? (sorry don’t mean to hijack this topic) Just wanted to say I enjoy making eclairs and eating them as well…

  17. who says:

    hey now varmint. i for one am very excited to have (in raleigh) a group of people who are holding fast and strong to a concept and are really diving into this idea. these guys and girls are oviously doing their research and i hope they weather the storm of some folks who might not be so hip to this restaurant’s “hours” or “complicated words” on the menu. that is not a stab, i just think that people should trust that businesses that execute a (good) concept are going to provide information via servers, or online descriptions, and so forth. i bid this restaurant good luck and i’m excited to dine there a time or two. sail on coquette…

  18. Claire says:

    This is so exciting! My mouth watered when I read about the skate meuniere and fruits de mer – what a great opportunity for Raleigh diners.
    (And that Rob Bland is pretty easy on the eyes!)

  19. kristen says:

    Hey Dean-
    Just a lurker from your past here (waves) but couldn’t help myself when I saw the reference to French cooking classes. I had to add that there was a fantastic opportunity that may come up again. Chef Rob put on a great class at Williams-Sonoma and we had the chance to learn how to make the gougeres with tomato fondue, the walnut-crusted salmon and the tarte tatin. I replicated the menu a couple weeks later for a dinner party and it was awesome – but after a day and a half (on and off, with a 1 year old hanging off of me), I will really be looking forward to being able to order it and have it arrive within minutes! (Charlotte was there too so you can ask her about it if she hasn’t told you!)

  20. kristen says:

    sorry … I skipped a couple words there … “day and a half of prep and cooking” … back ot quiet lurking now.

  21. --Lisa S. says:

    An awe-inspiring tattoo!

  22. Gail says:

    I have been a long time customer at Vivace and know the care and love they give to the food and the customers so I cannot wait for Coquette to open! I wish Rob and everyone the best and I am thriilled that Vivace and Coquette are right across the street from one another. Dinner at Coqutte and dessert at Vivace, or vice versa…

  23. KTO says:

    The restaurant and the menu sounds wonderful, but are you really going to have smoking at the bar? You know dining patrons can still smell it while they are eating. Anyway, did you know that even PARIS has banned smoking in restaurants and public buildings now?

  24. Varmint says:

    Nope, this will be a non-smoking establishment. That was an early proof of the menu.

  25. RaleighRob says:

    Glad to hear to that it’ll be nonsmoking. (Can we get that Porters too?? LOL) Since it’s an Urban Food Group venture I’m sure this will be great place with outstanding service. I don’t eat at their restaurants lately as much as I used to due to financial concerns, but I will definitely put this to the top of my list for my next splurging night out.

    One concern–The other UFG places each have at least one vegetarian dish on the menu. I didn’t see one on this draft menu yet. I still eat seafood, so that’s not a problem, but I know others who are vegetarian and may not be able to visit this place.

  26. STEVE AND LAUREN THOMPSON says:

    ROB,
    THIS IS GRAND! I’M SENDING THIS TO JAKE IN ASHEVILLE…WE’RE DELIGHTED FOR YOU.

  27. Suzan says:

    We are especially excited about the Tartes Flambees. We lived in Lorraine and this was a favorite. I would love to see a Salad Paysanne added to the salads…

  28. Venita says:

    For the poster asking about Chef Rameaux, he passed away a couple of months ago after a battle with cancer. The family sold the cooking school equipment not long after.
    I, too, would be excited to see cooking classes offered at Coquette.

  29. Robert Pickens says:

    Looks great, Hope to see more restaurants of this nature in the future. What other restaurants has Chef Bland cooked at around the world? Look forward to making it there in the near future. I’m always excited to see other people as passionate about what they do and unwilling to cut corners.

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