Unless you find yourself roaring through several time zones, it is seldom possible to eat dinner more than once per day. Consequently the toughest part of traveling to a food destination is deciding which restaurants will still stand up to their dinner service reputation – at lunchtime. Most often this can be a mixed bag of surprises and compromises, as sometimes chefs deliberately salad-and-sandwich-ify the dinner menu, or they remove a good chunk of time-consuming dishes to get the lunching public back to the office in a under an hour.
It is my sincere regret that James Beard semi-finalist Michael Stoltzfus’ locavore kitchen Coquette failed to live up to my expectations following the tsunami of rave reviews. On the second re-reading of the painfully shy menu, I realized that this was going to be a bit of a southern struggle. The charming natural wood dining room with exposed brick accents on Magazine Street felt like just the right place to enjoy the house-made Cucumber Lemonade, but then things soured after the waiter performed a flawless, but nonetheless vexing disappearing act. The Fried Gulf Oysters served on a sweet pepper paste with grilled cucumber were plenty zesty without the mint air-raid. The beautifully plated (but rather lonely) Shaved Cucumber Salad with ricotta crumbs was missing so many other vital ingredients that it seemed to be nothing more than a fussy garnish. The rather odd combination of Charleston gold rice, raw Lima beans and peanuts hiding under two sad filets of over-cooked Pompano fish, took on very little flavor from the milky clam-broth moistening the bottom of the plate, and the Soft-shell Sandwich with pickle, lettuce and tomato turned out to be nothing more than the sum of its parts.
It is moments like these when the best thing to order for dessert is a taxi!