Today was the first day lunch was being served at Coquette, and quite honestly, everything was spot on. The kitchen crew is doing a spectacular job, putting out some of the best tasting food in the area. The service is more than acceptable, particularly after only a week and having let go at least a dozen initial hires. Moreover, there was a fairly decent buzz in the room for a Monday afternoon.
Our group of three had six dishes between us, including two soups. The onion soup gratinee was incredibly flavorful, without the overwhelming amount of salt often found from cutting corners and not using slowly-cooked, rich stock. No such problem here, as Coquette’s version is one of the best examples of this iconic dish. If you say you don’t like pea soup, you haven’t had this rendition: sweet peas with a tasty ham stock — folks, this is heaven in a bowl.
I must be a real man, because I don’t really like quiche. But goddammit, I loved Coquette’s quiche Lorraine. I think the best way to describe this is to imagine a quiche souffle, as the eggy custard is incredibly light, but filled with cheese and egg flavors, with plenty of bacon, ham and caramelized onion near the crust. Time for me to start ordering quiche, I guess.
We also tried the scallops with orange-braised endive. My wife had these last Monday, the opening night, and they were slightly over-salted. No such problem for lunch. Seared on both sides yet still pretty rare, these are some of the best scallops you’ll find in town, with the endive offering a nice, tangy and bitter contrast to the rich sweetness of the shellfish.
I had a simple frisee’ salad with a poached egg, lardons and croutons. I’ve already written about how poached eggs make the world go round, but this is the first restaurant in the area I’ve found that offers such a salad for lunch. I have no doubt that I will order this quite frequently.
The final dish we tried was the crepes with brie, apples and candied walnuts. This was almost sweet enough to be dessert, but not quite. The candied walnuts had some type of pepper in them, giving a nice, piquant contrast to the sweetness of the glaze. It was a fine way to end the meal.
Lunch also comes with Coquette’s bread service, but don’t fill up too much.
The cost for these 6 dishes was only $45, including tax, but excluding tip. The prices are very reasonable for lunch, and I expect Coquette to have a steady mid-day crowd.
Business over the first week has picked up substantially, and on Saturday, the restaurant served 217 customers in the dining room and as many as an additional 150 in the bar area. They’re about to open their private room for dinner guests to accomodate even more people, so there’s little doubt that Raleigh is ready for this restaurant. And Coquette is certainly ready for you to give it a try.