Coco Bar and Bistro is one of my new favorite places in Buffalo, and it’s all thanks to Local Restaurant Week.
Coco first got on my radar when they featured their first Vegan Prix Fixe dinner. They maxed out on reservations and it was so successful Coco is hosting another one on April 13th, 2015! But between the two vegan dinners is Local Restaurant Week, and hot on the heels of their successful Vegan Prix Fixe dinner, they included vegan options on their LRW Menu.
First, Coco is beautiful. Located on Main street in Downtown Buffalo, Coco Bar and Bistro is exactly the kind of sexy place you’d expect for a nice dinner downtown. The bar area is gorgeous wood, the walls are a mix of exposed brick and purple and tan paint, and huge, well lit murals are accented here and there. The tables are set with wine glasses and the ambiance is all around classy. There were several couples here as well as a large group of young women, at least a party of 8, and there was plenty seating still left.
There were 2 servers working that night, which was actually just about perfect. The party of 8 kind of threw it off, but from personal experience, that tends to happen. An entire restaurant can be completely full of tables of 2 and 4 and the kitchen runs like clockwork, but there’s something about a table of more than 4 that just throws everything into a hectic mess. It wasn’t bad though; our server told us she’d be right with us as she walked past to finish delivering the last plates to the large party, and certain enough, a few moments later, she thanked us for waiting and offered to start us off with drinks.
Usually during Local Restaurant Week my hubby and I like to order a glass of wine to let the server know we’re not just being stingy, but, I must confess, there are a lot of LRW stops on our calendar for this week and…well…I’m going to be a little stingy. But not on the tip! Never on the tip.
My husband and I asked some questions about the LRW specials, and it was really hard to decide on exactly which appetizer I wanted to go for, but I finally decided on the Curried Carrot Soup with tarragon oil (because I do love soup). My husband ordered the Sweet Pea Arancini made with sun-dried tomato provolone and served with a lemon basil aioli.
The Curried Carrot Soup was excellent! It tasted very similar to a curried butternut soup I’ll occasionally make, so I was happy to have it. The vegetarian soup is a blend of pureed carrots and gentle spices, and it was all around wonderful. I highly recommend it.
The Sweet Pea Arancini were two rice and cheese balls served on a tiny bed of arugula and drizzled with the aioli. My husband really enjoyed them and they looked absolutely amazing. However, while there is no meat in them, they aren’t vegetarian: while the soup is made with a vegetable stock, the arancini were made with chicken stock. So while they look fantastic (and I understand they taste fantastic), they seem to be off the vegetarian table.
As I had been previously looking forward to it, I ordered the Quinoa Crusted Butternut Squash with lavender aioli, a cassis reduction, and arugula. Dear Readers, words cannot describe how amazing this entree was! The butternut squash was cooked through to the most ideal stage between maintaining it’s shape while having the same cutting resistance as a hot knife through butter. The quinoa and panko crust was crisped to perfection. The butternut was prepared beautifully, and I want to say maybe coconut oil is involved? I didn’t ask, but there was something there that was a notch above any old vegetable prep. The lavender aioli and cassis reduction add an additional bit of sweetness to the dish, but for myself, that’s ideal. I prefer to find sweet in the savory as opposed to ordering desserts, and this dish nailed it! The arugula was a nice touch as well; there was plenty and the sort of peppery properties the leaf has helped balance out the sweetness brought on by the dressings and the natural sugars brought out by cooking the squash. It’s vegetarian, right? So it couldn’t possibly be filling, right? That’s what I thought, but as I looked down on my last round of squash, I realized I was genuinely too full to finish it. I did not see that coming.
My husband had a hard time deciding between the “Coco” vin or the Flemish Beef Carbonnade. Our server let us know the “Coco” vin is on their regular menu and that the Beef Carbonnade was the special of the week. My hubby and I did look over the regular menu and knew very quickly that we’d be back, so he went for the Flemish Beef Carbonnade. He was very happy he did, too. The roasted carrots weren’t really at his preferred texture (he really isn’t that much into cooked carrots anyways), but they did add significant beauty to the dish. He said the beef was some of the best he’s had: it was tender, the gravy was well seasoned, and even the egg noodles were particularly outstanding, having a fresh noodle quality to them versus the dried egg noodles we’ll cook from the store. He mixed the Carbonnade together and finished the plate.
Thankfully we both opted for the French Kiss Cocktail as our dessert course. We were both surprisingly full after the conservative plate sizes, so a point for Coco for serving filling, delicious food without leaving us with that over-full feeling. The French Kiss was served with vodka, raspberry liquor, vanilla cream liquor, and orange liquor…don’t quote me on that exactly, as I didn’t think to take a picture of the ingredients to remember, but that combination sounds right.
I was expecting just a tiny little glass, but it was actually served in a decent sized flute. Granted, it was on the small side, but overall certainly larger than I was expecting. Another point goes to Coco because they did not skimp on the alcohol–that baby was strong! It was a creamy finish to a wonderful meal. I’m personally glad I went with it because I saw the Flower Pot dessert and it looked like a lot more than I could enjoy in this one sitting. The Flower Pot dessert was definitely a big hit last night, going to just about every table besides ours.
If you’re looking for a nice place for Local Restaurant Week Spring 2015, or actually, anytime of the year, I highly recommend this one, especially on a Monday night. The service was great, the ambiance is wonderful, and the food is delicious. I’ll definitely be back to Coco again, and I hope you will be too!