Lana (platytog) wrote in nj_dining,

Coccolas in Hillsborough, Review

The building that is now Coccolas has a long history behind it in Hillsborough but i wont really go into that. They changed the exterior of the restaurant alot though, it looks more distinguished. Upon entering everything is very elegant and very nouveau elegante, the partitions between dining sections are the black walls with large square cutouts partially screened by bubbly green glass with reeds set into the center. The lighting is dim, but seeable, and everything that i can remember was varying shades of black, maroons/reds, golds and the like. There are 3 rooms that i could tell, the bar which also had a handful of stilted tables (it was a long rectangular bar with windows overlooking the road outside), a middle room which you were immediately faced with upon entering and also had the serving area there so you could look into the kitchen and see the chefs plating your food (i would have liked to sit there) and what seemed to be the main dining room, which had larger tables for parties.

The evening started out in the bar. My dad offered me a drink and i chose the peach bellini off of their signature drink menu. I was really unimpressed. I hadnt had a bellini before but this didnt seem a good place to start. Despite having alot of sweeter elements in the drink, wine, champagne and peach juice/puree it was decidedly bitter. I had a sip of my dads drink, a strawberry mojito which was amazing. I was also unimpressed by one of the bartenders attire, a plunging black vneck and short black miniskirt when compared to the other bartenders more appropriate black pants and black tanktop which fit the serves black duds better.

We get to the table and we start out by ordering more drinks, i waited til later to get myself the strawberry mojito which was really perfect, not too strong of an alcohol flavor but it packed a punch and was full of berry and mint flavors.
Then we ordered appetizers. I ordered the heirloom tomato salad with goatcheese and a vinegarette. My dad ordered for the table a large seafood tower and the guy to my left ordered calamari.
My salad was amazing. It was baby field greens, superbly tender and succulent with tons of large chunk (i would have liked them to be much smaller peices rather than simply quarted) of different tomatos, there were yellow ones with dark purple stripes and then the usual yellow green varieties and some different shades of red to orange red. These were all beautifully sweet to varying degrees and they all had very little acidity to them, very sweet and mellow and really juicy. The vingarette added a soft tang and acidic bite to counter the sweetness. The goatcheese was crumbly and creamy with a nice yogurty tang to it a real earthy grassy sweet flavor.

Joe let me have some of his calamari and it was very nice, of the two peices i had it was really tender with a light crispy coating which tasted faintly of parmesean but really wasnt terribly inspired, i unfried calamari myself.

The seafood tower was awe inspiring. 3 tiers of seafood. The first two tiers held essentially the same things, 1/2 a lobster tail and a lobster claw, about 4-6 large shrimp (on the bottom tier one of the shrimp i had been chilled too long to the point of tasting almost frozen but another one was fine) and several steamed mussels (a little on the overcooked side but not overly so) and about 6 or so raw oysters and raw clams (the clam i had was a bit gritty but otherwise quite tasty) and various crab claws (the one i had ran into the same problem as the shrimp i had). The top tier had a smaller portion of all of these things except the lobster, instead of this there was a lettuce leaf which held diced tomatos and onions and parsely with steamed fresh calamari and thinly sliced conch dressed up in a lemony vinegarette. This was excellent. Overall it was very impressive and between my salad and the bread i kept picking at cause i was anxious (i had WAY too much bread for no good reason, it wasnt special though it was served with a VERY tasty mustardy hummus spread) and the appetizers took awhile to come out.

My mom also got the carmelized pear salad as her appetizer, with goatcheese, walnuts, caramelized pears, baby greens and a sweet vinegarette. It was awesome, the whole thing tasted faintly of warm sweet pears and obviously caramel. The pears were melt in your mouth awesome. I loved it.

For dinner i ordered another salad because all the entrees look much too good (they had several nice looking fish dishes, but none of them stood out to me from the others, and a gnocchi dish i was drawn to) to really decide on, so i chose instead the salad i decided not to get as my appetizer, the Seafood Salad (see a theme with me?) and supplemented this with the sauteed wild mushrooms (passing up the wilted escarole and the truffle scented french fries, a house specialty). Joe got the Deep Seascallops and my moms friend Lyn got the Eggplant Ravioli with Lobster claw meat.

My salad came and it was very pretty looking. A nice bed of baby greens again (really succulent again) tossed with another slightly different vinegarette and clumps of either mozzerella or scallops (i honestly couldnt tell which was very unsettling, they tasted vaguely like mozzerella but looked nothing like them and looked everything like scallops so i'll say it was mozzerella), sliced steamed calamari (not fried), a few shrimp, and the conch. I must say, this was my first time eating conch and i loved it, very tender and tasty with a flavor and texture similar to octopus. The salad was very nice and they treated the seafood well, none of it was overcooked which pleased me as its so easy to overcook any of those things or overwhelm all the subtle flavors of such a salad.

The mushrooms though, they stole the show, firm but yeilding to the bite and full of juice and really earthy woodsy natural flavors. Everyone who tasted them agreed they were excellent, and between me and Joe we finished them off quite nicely.

I also was given a peice of Lyn's eggplant ravioli. It was great! the pasta was perfectly cooked and even tasted freshmade. The eggplant filling was sweet and well, eggplanty. Overall great flavors. Joe's scallops were so buttery and melt in your mouth succulent, amazingly cooked, great flavor.

The truffled fries were pretty good. Thin tiny fries with a really crispy coating studded with tiny truffle flecks and plenty of garlic and salt. They were tasty but the truffle accents were lost to the salt and garlic which seemed to be overwhelming it, but not necessarily overwhelming to the tastebuds.

I had some nice but overall unmemorable Pinot Noir with dinner. A red with seafood is i'm sure some kind of wine faux pas but noone cared.

For dessert me and my brother didnt get my moms birthday cake (i am totally burnt out on costco birthday cake) and instead we ordered off the menu. I got the Chocolate Truffle coffee with Chambourd in it to go with my Chocolate Mousse Tart with Cinnamon Meringue. It was nice, it was a crisp pastry crust coated with caramel, then topped with a thin layer of ganache on the bottom of the inside of the crust and then filled with chocolate mousse and then topped with cinnamon meringue, which was further topped with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and a strawberry. The meringue wasnt as crisp as i would have liked on the outside but it was very tasty, the whipped cream very rich, the chocolate sauce was very chocolatey and rich. The mousse wasnt memorable at all and was lost to the other flavors such as that of the creamy and outstanding ganache and/or the meringue or whipped cteam. The crust was very crisp, almost too crisp, and a little too firm (not tender enough) but tasty, especially when you got a peice with a little more caramel on it.

My coffee was good, if a little too strong on the alcohol side, i didnt drink most of it cause just sniffing it made my nostrils flare and i forgot how much i dislike hot coffee. But it was tasty.

My brother got the flourless molten core chocolate cake. It was wonderfully tasty, really rich, gooey and chocolately, but it behaved like a souffle in that when you cut it it just deflated into like 1/2 of the serving dish, an awful disapointment, i felt gypped for him.

The restaurant had a wonderful ambiance and atmosphere (i wont even go into how expensive and stylized the bathroom was) to the point where it almost felt like it was trying too hard. and the service of the staff left alot to be desired but it just opened and i get the feeling alot of them havent had alot of formal waitering practice. The place holds alot of promise though, i'd go back again, if only to get another salad or the gnocchi.
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