Coco Bistro Reviewed Summer 2010
Service with a smile at Coco Bistro — Photo by TropicalImaging.com
Imagine your idyllic island dining experience smack–dab in the middle of a coconut grove... surrounded by towering palms that create a canopy of fronds so thick, the vacillating evening breezes tease your eyes with momentary glimpses of the star–studded night sky above while they cool your bronzed and sun–drenched skin, still aglow from basking in the Caribbean sun just hours before. The architecture is reminiscent of a quintessential Mediterranean eatery you’d expect to find on a faraway continent, dramatic and eye–catching in tangerine orange and cobalt blue. There’s even a resident feline called... you guessed it – Coco, happy to linger patiently by your feet in the hopes that a morsel or two may propitiously plummet from your table.
The Coco Bistro Caesar Salad is not for Whimps!
Reservations are always recommended and it’s easy to see why – it doesn’t hurt to be in the #1 slot (out of a possible 69) on Trip Advisor’s List of top Provo restaurants. The first–timers are easy to peg – blatant expressions of delight as they take in the ambiance and charm of Coco Bistro – pleased and contented with their ‘find’. In addition, a rather large and ever–growing consortium of dedicated and devoted island residents return again and again for the affable and relaxing atmosphere and a ‘fix’ of their perennial favourites prepared by owner and Executive Chef Stuart Gray. A menu featuring Continental Caribbean boasts the freshest local ingredients including fresh fish and an exceptional cache of avant–garde meat cuts. Many of the staff have been with Stuart for years, familiar faces that are attentive and eager to make each and every dining experience a seamless and memorable one.
Corn Chowder with Shrimp
The breadsticks alone will guarantee your inevitable return... piping hot, these flakey pre–dinner indulgences are stuffed with a savoury pesto and Parmesan filling with EVOO and balsamic for dunking. Resistance is futile, yet discipline and restraint are key, because you definitely want to allocate space for all three courses.
Romantic Dining Under the Palms
Coco Bistro’s Corn Chowder is a perennial favourite of mine. In fact, I’m a die–hard aficionado for this absolutely rich and incredibly smooth bisque–like chowder. Three perfectly grilled tiger shrimps take centre–stage, tauntingly afloat this divine elixir brimming with sweet, tender and juicy kernels of corn with just a hint of cilantro. Stuart has long been a proponent of our local hydroponics farm and together with his own garden abundant with basil, kaffir lime and Jamaican pimento; he is able to bring the freshest of greens, tomatoes and herbs to your table. A salad of hydroponic tomatoes, creamy mozzarella and fragrant basil proffered “fresh, off the vine taste” followed by, “I could eat this all night long”. Saturated with EVOO and a ‘smoky’ and intense aged balsamic reduction you’ll be extra pleased with yourself if you held back a breadstick or two... perfect for mopping up every delectable drop! The Caesar Salad is without a doubt, a staple on Coco Bistro’s menu – and while the list of components may be run–of–the–mill... the end result is anything but! Generous portions of all the usual suspects include – crunchy romaine hearts, whole crisp strips of smoky bacon, loads of salty whole anchovies and deliciously thick and generous shards of Parmesan, all inundated and drenched in one of the most voluptuous and zesty dressings you’ve ever planted on your palate, “Unquestionably the best – the Cadillac of Caesar salads!” A eulogy of the epicurean sort ensued for the luscious and succulent Pan Seared Giant Diver Scallop, a Weekly Special kindred to a former menu item. Assembled from the bottom up on a crispy tortilla, this pleasingly plump mollusk was delightfully poised on a bed of cool and refreshing Mango Slaw and drenched in a Spicy Orange Dressing that packed just the right amount of heat with an amiable hint of citrus. Diced grilled pineapple added a wonderful touch – engendering a ‘caramelized’ flavour that brought out even more of the pineapple’s natural sweetness.
Ravioli of Conch — Photo by TropicalImaging.com
While wallowing and gloating over the countless merits of our appetizers, Manager/Photographer Steve Murray stopped by. Happy to offer suggestions and entertain you with his anecdotes, Steve is always ready, willing and able to go above and beyond the call of standard management duties particularly with his photographic skills – case in point as we observed Steve jump into the bushes – zealous and creative to do ‘whatever it takes’ to get just the right shot for his diners.
Roast Rack of Colorado Lamb
A 2001 Sanford Pinot Noir was collectively praised to be “meaty” with a “huge mouth feel” that did not drink like a typical French Pinot. Its great smoky characteristics were a marvelous accompaniment to all of our Starters. Thanks to Steve, we were delighted to discover that the Sanford was also the same wine featured in the film, Sideways. My husband and I enjoyed our first bottle of BIG ASS CAB right here. Originally motivated by mere curiosity, we have since become avid fans of this red – with flavours as big as the &@! on the label! An astonishingly pleasurable wine with a very palatable price, we were not surprised when Steve regaled us with the fact that it’s their best selling red... admitting that many a guest has absconded with the bottle for its irresistible and eye–catching label – and of course, the easier–to–pack cork that bears the BIG ASS CAB logo. You can even order BIG ASS by the glass! Plump and full–bodied (pardon the pun) this was a perfect match for all of our main courses – and great fodder for dinner conversation.
Soft Shell Crab Tempura
When it comes to distinctive cuts of meat prepared in innovative and distinctive ways – no one does it like Stuart. And when it comes to sauces... it’s his absolute genius and forte. The Simply Grilled Black Angus 16 oz Bone–in Prime Cut Rib–Eye was one BIG slab of magnificent meat, served with two sauces on the side – a commanding and flavourful Green Peppercorn and a Classic Béarnaise with a detectable citrus twist. I delved wholeheartedly into the Emperor’s Cut Grilled Angus and smothered it with the Aged Balsamic and Ruby Port Reduction that was simply, to–die–for. Keen to compare them... I would never venture so far as to choose a frontrunner, only tackle the variations between the two; the 16 oz was more marbled, so it tended to be a little juicier; yet the Emperor’s cut had a ‘finish’ that lasted like a fine wine. Also worthy of special mention... the Emperor’s side of Carrot Parsnip and Horseradish Gratin was spectacular – aromatic and savoury. While lobster is out–of–season, feel free to appease your cravings with Pan–Seared Scallops – engagingly sweet and seductively succulent just like their lobster counterpart. An exotic BBQ glaze that was reputed to “sneak up on you” permeated the nectarous shellfish while the Cilantro and Lime Dressing was exalted for its extraordinary and complementary flavours. A side of grilled asparagus brought about an unqualified, “That’s how asparagus is supposed to taste”. And finally, from the Weekly Specials, a Pan Seared Atlantic Salmon provoked a deluge of admiration and unrelenting flattery. Laying atop a shallow ‘pool’ of Truffle Scented Creamy Leek Sauce this diner raved not only for this intensely and incredibly smooth sauce, but for the skin of the salmon that brought about a near state of delirium... the fish ‘skin’ was actually brittle and crispy and placed atop the fillet – delicious and unreservedly the “crème de la crème of fish”.
Coconut Pie at Coco Bistro
Barely able to envisage dessert – never mind find room for it, my fellow diner’s assiduous addiction to Coco Bistro’s Famous Coconut Pie brought about an “I need some help”, as he rhapsodized over this timeless treat, while my Crème Brulee was exquisitely smooth, sinful and positively luscious.
When Stuart made an appearance we enthusiastically blathered on and on about everything from his veritable Garden of Eden to the consummate culinary coup we had just experienced. Stuart just smiled and nodded while we gushed tenaciously about this evenings’ impressive repertoire of gastronomy – and in the wake of our incessant kudos for his flourishing, tropical Shangri–La he jested, “I used to be a chef, now I’m a landscaper!”
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