Food notes: Fine seafood, relaxed atmosphere at Gastown's Coquille
Coquille Fine Seafood bridges the gap between high end seafood and casual fare
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I always get nervous when I go to a restaurant that wants to take my coat. It evokes the sense that I’m going to have to sit up very straight the entire meal, mind my manners and avoid talking about politics, religion and money — my favourite topics.
At Coquille Fine Seafood they took my coat, but as I surveyed the room on the way to my table I noted that everyone was pretty relaxed — the coat check was just a pleasantry.
Coquille is the latest new concept restaurant in Gastown with a wholly seafood menu, which is is presently lacking in the neighbourhood.
The menu was created by L’Abattoir chefs Lee Cooper and Jack Chen and focuses on high quality seafood, fairly reasonably priced, and served family style — which I adore.
I ate a lot while I was there, so I’ll focus on the highlights. The sea bream ($16) sliced thin and served raw with tiger’s milk (a Peruvian term for citrus marinade), blood orange and fennel, was fresh and vibrant on the pallet. Juxtapozed with the more earthy mackerel ($14) with cucumber, scallion and soy glaze, the two small plates were a great entry to the meal.
Next up a massive seafood platter hit the table with crab legs brushed with a spicy mayo, which were slightly overcooked, but tasty. Lobster made an appearance on the platter, as well as oysters, several fish dishes and sea urchin (that was a first for me).
The platter was impressive and balanced spicy and citrus flavours, but also allowed some of the seafood to speak for itself, which I appreciate.
I loved the spicy marinated octopus served on sourdough from Terra Breads. The octopus was cooked sous-vide in a marinade, making it super tender, which paired nicely with the crunchy sourdough toast. I did find it a little on the salty side, but I would still order it again.
The other highlight was the crab and spinach dip served in the actual crab shell. It was smooth and creamy, served on that sourdough and really brought something familiar to the table.
Let’s talk about desert. Soft serve ice cream with blood orange and vanilla was the perfect way to end a rich meal. You can get it topped with brownies or hot fudge and salted shortbread. Yum.
Coquille is the definition of casual fine dining. They created a restaurant that had all the right details – great ambience, high quality food, good service – and they made it relaxed with unpretentious music and by serving sauces in paper cups. So yes, they can take my coat.