There’s no denying that Boston restaurant group COJE Management Group knows how to create ambiance: Lolita Cocina & Tequila Bar, Yvonne’s, Ruka, and Mariel are gorgeous restaurants, each sexy and night-out-worthy in its own way. The group’s newest addition, Coquette, is no exception, although it’s the frilliest and brightest of the bunch.
Coquette, which opened in late summer 2021 inside the Omni Boston Hotel, is dripping with floral arrangements, pastel murals, and mischievous angel figures. Designed by COJE’s in-house team, including co-founder and owner Chris Jamison, architect Jef Leon, and designer Mandy Waryasz, the restaurant features a number of eye-catching art pieces, including a recreation of François Lemoyne’s Apotheosis of Hercules on the ceiling above the bar and Renaissance-style portraits with pop-art embellishments. Custom Murano glass chandeliers and Lladro porcelain lamps round out the decor, as well as pastel arrangements of preserved flowers.
The intricate design lays the groundwork for Coquette’s French-inspired menu, which plays with Basque influences and beyond. “The philosophy going in was, ‘How can we expand that definition of French and make it a little more tailored to what we already do with the other restaurants — bold flavors; interesting ingredients and presentations?’” says culinary director Tom Berry. “That led us to adopt a bit of the Basque element, and it evolved into anywhere in France being game, any French territory became game.”
Here’s a closer look at some of Coquette’s dishes.
The bulk of Coquette’s menu is snacks and small plates, with a few flatbreads, larger entrees, and raw bar items rounding things out. The clams gratiné, a snack, features “devil spice,” which Berry describes as “basically an umami bomb on a clam.” It’s made of Colman’s mustard powder, Tabasco, and a bit of Worcestershire. The flavor profile of the devil spice mixed with the Gruyere came from a dish developed for one of COJE’s Locke-Ober lunch events at Yvonne’s. (Yvonne’s is located in the former Locke-Ober space; the historical restaurant had been open from the late 1800s until 2012. Yvonne’s pays homage to it with special holiday-season lunches.)
Borek Spring Rolls
Also a snack, the borek spring rolls are influenced by the Algerian borek, a meat-filled pastry. Here, the Coquette team brines and roasts chicken — roasting the breast and legs at different temperatures to keep both moist — and combines it with a spicy vegetable mix, Moroccan spice mix ras el hanout, harissa, and Gruyere, wrapping it all in feuilles de brick pastry like a spring roll and frying it. The spring rolls are served with Coquette’s version of samurai sauce, a Belgian condiment often served with french fries. Traditionally it includes mayonnaise, ketchup, and harissa; Coquette’s has a bit of mayo but leans more on creme fraiche and works well with the Gruyere, says Berry. “I think it’s a fun dish, definitely one of those dishes you know is going to be a crowd-pleaser.”
Joues de Boeuf
On Coquette’s French-inspired menu, this is one of the Frenchiest dishes — braised beef cheeks. (In the kitchen, the team calls it “Joe Beef,” like the famous French restaurant in Montreal. Berry recently had an epiphany that the restaurant is named for the dish, he says.) Berry uses grass-fed New Zealand beef cheeks because the United States “doesn’t really treat beef cheeks very well,” he says. “These are much cleaner; they have a wonderful aroma when you’re searing them.” The braise includes “a little sneaky bacon,” lots of whole dried Espelette pepper, red wine, beef stock, and aromatics. “Espelette is one of my favorite flavors,” says Berry, noting that it’s hard to track down the whole peppers but worth the effort. They go into numerous Coquette dishes in chile oil, braises, brines, and pickles. The mushrooms in the dish are an homage to a restaurant in Biarritz, France, called Bar Jean, simmered in beef stock and cream.
Merda dé Can
Speak a Romance language? Yep, “merda” means what you think it does: poop, in France’s Niçard dialect. Merda dé can means dog poop — appearance-wise, perhaps a fitting name for this gnocchi dish out of France’s Provence region. “Because of its location very close to the Italian border, there’s been a little cross-contamination,” says Berry. “This is essentially gnocchi that has evolved on the France side, but unlike gnocchi on the Italian side, they don’t roll them out and cut them; they roll it individually by hand, so they’re like little tubes.” Berry had a “little back and forth” with Jamison about putting it on the menu under this name. “I think it’s fun,” says Berry, “and it’s a real thing. It’s not like I invented the name, and they do look like little delicate green poops. They’re vegetarian, and I think they’re delicious.”
Executive pastry chef Mai Nguyen drew inspiration from the Pyrenees mountain range separating France and Spain for this dessert, which features sponge cake soaked in triple cream and espresso. There’s dulce de leche on the bottom as well as a dulce de leche buttercream, dark chocolate, and toasted hazelnuts. “My goal is to blow your mind when you first receive [a dessert] and then when you bite it, blow your mind again,” says Nguyen. “It’s always a priority for me that inside and out, everything is beautiful and tastes great.” The dessert menu at Coquette — which also includes rhum baba doughnuts, cherry chocolate cake, and more — features “the finest ingredients” (Madagascar vanilla, Valrhona chocolate, and such) and lots of attention to detail, says Nguyen.
Coquette is now open for lunch and dinner, with dine-in service only. Reserve online.