Michael Chiarello on His New San Francisco Restaurant, Coqueta
It’s been a few months since we’ve heard anything about chef Michael Chiarello’s newest project, the San Francisco-bound Coqueta, so when the chef dropped by our headquarters we took the opportunity to get an update on the Spanish restaurant that will be opening soon on the city’s waterfront.
"It’ll be a 78-seat restaurant, with 30 seats at the bar," Chiarello told us. "There are a lot more layers involved here than at my other restaurants, like our use of a wood-fired grill, which required special permits. But it’s also very exciting because we’ll be right next to the farmers' market. A part of our deal for the space involved purchasing a percentage of our produce directly from the market."
And while there was far more red tape than expected (he even needed to go to Washington, D.C. to plead his case to the National Park Service), he loves the fact that he gets to bring this style of cuisine to San Francisco. "San Francisco was actually founded by the Spanish in 1776," he said. "It lost a lot of the Spanish culture along the way, though, but it’s starting to come back. More and more travelers these days are going to Spain instead of, say, Italy. And they’re discovering this incredible food, and looking for a way to recreate that experience once they return."
And at Coqueta, Chiarello aims to do just that. "We’ll serve classics like croquettas, patatas bravas, and grilled calçots, which we spent months growing ourselves," he said. "We’ll be serving paella on the hour in large pans, wine will come in a 250-milliliter traditional porrón, and sangria will be made in giant batches, flash-pasteurized, and put in a tank."
Ryan McIlwraith, previously of Chiarello’s flagship Napa restaurant Bottega, will be taking charge of the kitchen as head chef. Chiarello’s also brought in Joe Cleveland, who previously worked for José Andrés, to man the bar, and he’ll be mixing up some avant-garde creations as well as house-distilled gin and tonics, which are very popular in Spain.
Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.