Please note that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!
Astoria surely has some great gems that should not be ignored, and Don Coqui, a Puerto Rican restaurant is one of them. I discovered it last Sunday when we went for a tasting for dinner. This huge place is a restaurant and lounge with multiple rooms:
A first one, small, at the entrance, with a nicely furnished bar:
The lounge with its impressive lighting:
The two dining rooms that can cater approximately eighty guests each:
They set the mood with not only Latin music, but also a blue lighting in the dining room that kept the lounge-y feel.
Don Coqui opened in February 2011 in Astoria (they have several locations such as The Bronx or New Rochelle that is their flagship). The restaurant got its name from a small frog that makes a sound like "coqui, coqui", that is quite a funny anecdote.
The menu, crafted by Executive Chef Jack D'Angelo, had so many mouth watering dishes that I admit that I was not sure what to order; so we followed the advice of our server, Andres, who was very knowledgable about the dishes, describing them in detail.
I started by ordering a drink. I chose the mango Mojito that was delicious, refreshing and original.
They then brought us some bread, made on premises.
It is like a focaccia with garlic butter that is pressed like a panini. I had to resist not eating too much of it...
For the appetizers, we got a sampler they made for us (so you will not find it on the menu).
It was composed of:
Fried calamari with marinara sauce:
The difficulty with fried calamari is that they are either rubbery and/or soggy, not crispy. There, they were perfect.
Beef empanada with tomato and guava sauce:
Nicely done: the filling was juicy and tasty, and the shell crispy. There was no need for the sauce that I appreciated anyway with the empanada...and the calamari.
It was fried plantains topped with cod fish, tomato, onion, cilantro and lime. I liked the flavors that were clean and well balanced, a bit refreshing.
I also tried their hot sauce that they import directly from Puerto Rico. At first, I did not taste the heat, but it rapidly revealed itself.
For the entrées, when we thought we would have smaller portions, we saw all these big dishes coming! The first one was the plantain crusted red snapper, served with a yuca mash.
This is a very original dish: they bake plantains, crush them and then use them as breading. This was divine: the plantain crust had a bit of crunch and worked perfectly with the fish that was nicely cooked, moist and flakey. I also loved the yuca mash: prepared with cheese, it had a very interesting texture that I am not sure how to describe, denser than regular mash.
Then we got one of their best sellers: rabo guisado that is braised oxtail.
This is a very comforting dish, with bold flavors, but I admit that it was my least favorite one. Well, my favorite one was definitely the Don Coqui paella!
It was made of rice cooked for more than two hours with mussels, shrimp, clams, calamari, chorizo and chicken, topped with half a lobster.
This was the high point of the meal: the presentation was outstanding, as were the flavors. You could definitely taste the fact that the rice was cooked with the ingredients for a while. I hate when the rice has no flavor, indicating that it has been cooked separately and assembled with the rest at the last minute, right before serving. Quantity wise, it is a huge serving: I cannot imagine how one person can eat that and was surprised to see many customers ordering the paella for themselves: they probably take it home...
I should also mention the abundance of seafood, especially the squid. If you love paella, Don Coqui is definitely the place to go!
With our dishes, we also got tostones, served with a garlic and oil sauce
As well as some sweet plantains.
For dessert, they told us they would bring us a sampler. We did not imagine what was coming.
There were five desserts:
Cheese flan (my favorite, made with condensed milk):
Coconut flan (Jodi was in heaven):
Chocolate lava cake:
Know that they make all the desserts on premises and they were fantastic! I could have eaten everything but admit that I was full after such a feast.
To finish our meal, they brought us a drink called the coquito, that all customers get (I saw few of them getting more than one...). It is a drink usually served at Christmas time, made with coconut milk, nutmeg and rum. It was very good and a nice way to end this succulent meal.
If you crave Spanish cuisine or would love a paella, Don Coqui is for you: it is worth a trip to Astoria!
Enjoy (I did)!
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And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!