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A Horse Race of A Different Flavor

Wednesday 19 January 2011

So, we went to Coquina (542 A St.) tonight for the first time. Oh my, Amuse finally has serious competition at the high end of the restaurant offerings here in Ashland.

Coquina is a new, fresh restaurant on A Street in the Railroad District of Ashland. The decor is clean and modern in a 1930s Streamliner way-clean, light wood panelling and furniture, black bar stools with chrome stands, 1930s-style Art Deco lighting fixtures. My thoughts first went to Park Kitchen in Portland, Oregon; Coquina doesn’t have the big garage door, but the vibe is similar.

Okay, food. I had the prawn and scallop croquettes to start; Herself had the quail. The croquettes were quite good, tender and flavorful, with an aioli for saucing and a garnish of baby greens and finely diced tomatoes. But it’s the quail that will keep the seats full-a mostly boneless half-quail (bones in the wing), very lightly breaded and fried, served with a garnish of finely sliced radishes and baby green. Oh my, so good! This would make an excellent lunch entrée with a small salad; one can only hope.

For mains, she had the ravioli special; I went for the regular scallop entrée.

Hers: three or four really large (3″ square? bigger?) raviolis, stuffed with crab, and topped with a heaping helping of crab on top. Just enough sauce (and fat in the sauce) to hold the crab in place on top. If you’ve ever eaten real crabcakes on the Eastern Shore (just crab–no bread extender, no greasy sauces)-this is like that, broken up and divided between the topping and filling of the raviolis.

Mine: four very large scallops (2 inches or more across and an inch thick), perfectly sautéed with just the right amount of almost-crispy brownness and tender interior. Served with lightly fried artichoke hearts and a slightly sweet, mostly tangy sauce around the edge, this is how scallops must dream they will wind up.

Desserts, often an after-thought when the mains are so good, were also excellent. A lemon tart in a macadamia crust for her (although I ate most of that), very sweet and tart. Apple fritters with a lemony sauce on the plate for dipping/slushing the fritters through, dusted with powdered sugar, also excellent. In all the relevant courses-quail, croquettes, fritters, garnish on the scallops-the chef demonstrated her skill with the fried-but-not-heavy school of cooking, so hard to do and so good when it succeeds.

The question is not “will we go back” but “how soon will be able to go back?”

Highly recommended.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Phil permalink
    Friday 21 January 2011 9:53 PM

    I enjoyed your review of Coquina and hope to try it soon.
    I went to one of the preview dinners tonight at the new Smithfields and I have to say that Amuse has nothing to fear from them. A four course set menu plus an Amuse Bouche, each and every course missing the mark. An OK meal but not in the same class of fine dining that Amuse offers. I had high hopes for this place as I had heard complimentary comments about this chef and was very disappointed. Problems with both vision and execution.

    • Saturday 22 January 2011 12:30 AM

      Hmm, if that’s your reaction to tonight’s service at Smithfield’s, maybe you want to stick to Amuse and pass on Coquina. We had a thoroughly enjoyable meal, and are especially encouraged that the chef is taking some risks (beef heart, Scotch quail egg, oxtail ravioli) with his menu. Herself, not one who normally enjoys fish, said we should go back next week just to see what he’ll do. The service was not as polished as at Amuse, but I’ll spot them that for this soft-opening period.


  1. Eating Out in Ashland, Early 2011 « Blogging Ashland

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