Don Coqui in New Rochelle: Hudson Valley Restaurant Week 2012

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This is guest blogger John Lanser writing about Don Coqui in New Rochelle. The building of Don Coqui has been special to me over the years because we’ve celebrated many occasions there. Most importantly, it is where my wife and I were engaged. At the time it was McMenamin’s and I hadn’t been back in for dinner a la carte since it changed hands.  Needless to say, I was anxious to form a new opinion (hopefully positive).

It’s funny how you get an impression of a place by observing what goes on outside. Every Thursday through Sunday night there are lines of cars sitting on River Street by the entrance to 95 South going to Don Coqui and now I understand why.

Let me start by saying the service was impeccable.  From the moment we entered to the moment we left we were greeted with smiles and a warmhearted attitude.  My wife, Jennifer, lit up when the host placed the napkin on her lap.  We came for an early dinner so the restaurant was not too crowded and had a quiet atmosphere.

We were given our HVRW menus and deliberately picked one item each from the starters and each an entree. Then our waiter, George, introduced himself.  Like a long lost relative – he was genuine and attentive to details throughout the meal. He encouraged us to try the HVRW menu because, like a family member, he expressed that it was a deal that couldn’t be passed up. We took his advice and he did not disappoint – for the menu included a tasting of ALL the starters.

Starters, including empanadas, calamari, pernil, chicken bites

 

When the starters arrived we were amazed at how much food it was. It included Pernil, Pork wrapped in Yucca, Empanadas, Crunchy Chicken, Plantains, each topped with a different meat, Fried Calamari and a spicy mayonnaise dipping sauce. Though all of the items on platter were fried, each had its own flavor profile. Additionally nothing tasted fried or was over-saturated with oil.

For dinner, my wife, surprised that they even had it on a Restaurant week menu, ordered the Paella.  Plantain-crusted Red Snapper is what I chose.  When dinner arrived we couldn’t believe our eyes, as there was enough Paella for our whole family.  We almost invited George to dine with us.  The paella included half a large lobster and all the usual fixings in paella.  The rice itself had just enough spice but seemed to be missing my wife’s beloved green olives.  My Red Snapper came with Yucca potato mash that was very hearty that seemed to add just the right texture to the snapper.  The fish was sautéed just right – light and flaky.

Paella

 

Plantain Crusted Red Snapper

Based on the quality and quantity of the previous two courses we knew that indulging in dessert would mean taking the rest of the paella home (we’re still eating it two days later).  Dessert was a surprise.  Because it wasn’t listed on the menu we didn’t know what to expect when it was served.  However, we realized that one was a caramel flan.  It was thick, rich and flavorful.

Flan Dessert

The other dessert was something neither of us ever had nor would have ordered if it was on the menu.  Nevertheless, it tasted like heaven. It was Tres Leches cake.  George said it was cake soaked in three milks – of course, the translation – it made sense. What didn’t make sense was how simple it was but how amazing it tasted.  The cake was moist and sweet and the liquid on the bottom tasted like melted caramel ice cream.  We were very happy to have had saved room for it.   It made a perfect ending to our meal. By the time we were leaving the atmosphere was lively and the restaurant was filled to capacity.  Jennifer and I were very happy that we had such a wonderful experience so we may enjoy many more dinners at the place where we started our lives together.

Tres Leches

I can now vouch for the string of cars in the front.
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