Saturday, March 21, 2009

Co Co. Sala

Co Co. Sala is a chocolate lounge and boutique located in Penn Quarter. We've dined at Co Co. Sala three times for dinner and once for brunch. Each time we've been very impressed. It's a great place to take out-of-towners and for this dinner we were joined by my sister and brother-in-law.

The Concept
Co Co. Sala (the name refers to Coffee, Chocolate, and the Italian word for lounge "sala") is divided into two main rooms. You enter into the bar/lounge room which has low tables, a chocolate display case, and bar. A separate dining room (pictured above) provides a somewhat (and this is relative) quieter space. Plan your visit carefully if you want to be able to hear your dining companions because a DJ spins on weekend nights, turning the atmosphere from sleek lounge to pulsating club.

The menu is divided into Co Co. Bites and Dessert Experiences. The Co Co. Bites are tapas-sized savory items, such as mac and cheese and sliders. The Dessert Experiences are three course dessert menus with different themes (Italian, Indian, Aztec, and Childhood Favorites). These can be augmented with two other savory dishes. A full wine list, cocktail menu, specialty hot chocolate, and coffee selections complete the experience. On this visit, we ordered a little bit of everything and it was all beautifully presented and very tasty.

The cocktails are pricey ($10-$12) but worth it. I had the Reve (pear vodka, amaretto, diced pear, pineapple juice), my sister had the Disia (pear vodka, lychee puree, rosewater, fresh lime juice), and my brother-in-law had the Diletto (ketel one vodka, fresh basil & strawberries, balsamic drizzle). I had a sip of each and they were all so interesting and made using top notch ingredients. The Reve tasted just like a fresh pear (with a strong kick!). B had the Jasmine Red Flower Green Tea.

Co Co. Bites
The four of us shared 8 Co Co. Bites and were impressed with the variety of flavors and textures. From the salad menu we had the Manchego & Baby Arugula Salad and Lobster Salad. The Manchego Salad was served in a square-shaped block and was a tangy mix of dressing, arugula, mandarin oranges, manchego cheese, and nuts. The Lobster Salad consisted of large chunks of lobster served atop a cornbread-like base and encased in sliced cucumbers.

Next we had the Bacon Mac & Cheese topped with a slice of chocolate-covered bacon and the Mac & Cheese Tart. The tart was the most interesting mac and cheese preparation I've ever had. The flaky buttery pastry shell held together the creamy mac and was topped with a disc of crispy cheese. It was a completely unexpected combo of textures that worked very well together.

The Blue Cheese Beef and Tandoori Chicken Sliders were tough to split four ways but worth the effort. The Tandoori Chicken patty was a huge burst of spice and flavor and was one of our favorite dishes.

Last but not least was the Crispy Louisiana Crabcake and Tuna Tartar. We used the crispy taro chips to scoop up the fresh tuna and it was fantastic. The crabcake was mostly crab and little filler. Another very well executed dish.

We ordered the Co Co. Grown Up and Aztec desserts. The Grown Up began with a mini boston creme doughnut and cappuccino panna cotta.

The main dessert was milk chocolate, a peanut butter and banana foster split, a mini co co. cupcake, and a malted shooter.

For a savory break from all of the sweetness, we added on the cheese course, which was a mini grilled cheese, tomato soup, and cheese fritter.

The final course was a mint chocolate chip cone and strawberry cheesecake lolly with poprocks.

The Xocolatyl, or Aztec experience, began with churros, cinnamon creme, and dulce de leche dip.

The main dessert was a hot chocolate souffle with fiery chocolate center and kahlua soother. The souffle was probably the most unexpected dessert as it had a spicy center. It sounds weird but it simply worked as the heat carried through each dish and was an interesting contrast to the other sweet and cold bites.

The cheese course was a spicy/sweet pepper cheese enchilada with guava sauce. I wish I wasn't so full at this point because the enchilada was delicious.

The final course was a chocolate infused horchata and a mexican wedding cookie.

My sister described this meal as a "party in my mouth" while my brother-in-law commented on the complex flavors saying "the food was as loud as it was small."

Second Thoughts by B

I hope that the phrase, "a picture is worth a thousand words" is appropriate here because it would take at least that many to adequately describe a Co Co. Sala dining experience. We were there for 2.5 hours and any time that we stopped eating long enough to speak, it was always to marvel at the wonderful and often unexpected flavors in front of us.

Besides the artistic and thoughtful presentation of each dish which should be clear in the photos, no dish delivered a single "flat" flavor. Every bite was filled with a harmony of dynamic and distinctive tastes and textures. While some may not appreciate this style of dining, anyone that likes to dine instead of eat and values quality over quantity would do well to take a trip to Co Co. Sala. Go with an open mind and curious palate, and you should leave with a whole lot more than a full stomach.
Co Co. Sala on Urbanspoon


Rachel said...

Oh My God!!!! I am so jealous!!! I want to go back. The brunch at Co Co Sala was amazing but the dinner looks even more incredible. Love it!

Vidda said...

My mouth is watering! I didn't recognize many of the dishes so that must mean that I will have to go again!