Restaurant Report: Coffee and Chocolate II

416 Clinch Ave., 865-595-0134

Restaurant Report: Coffee and Chocolate II

photo by Justin Fee

What’s in a name? When Juliet asked that question, it was in the context of love amid an ancient quarrel. Nowadays, alas, it’s a question of brand recognition. As such, it’s the question that you may well ask when you’re considering whether to visit Coffee and Chocolate or Coffee and Chocolate II. It’s not just a few blocks that separate these places of similar name: The new location—near the corner of Walnut and Clinch—is much more than a fancy little shop for java and sweets.

Its separation from Market Square lends the place an almost secluded, but cool vibe—a kind of Hernando’s Hideaway for the urban sophisticate in the know—and it has a feel that’s somewhere between decadent salon and metropolitan cubby hole. There are many comforts here: There’s an interesting wine list, a small but well-chosen set of beers, and a nice selection of good quality nosh.

The weekday menu includes a few salads, several panini options, and other sandwiches. Everything on the menu is palatable; but when this restaurant glows, it glows with a Gallic aura. The chef, David Franchuk, trained in Provence (under Serge Coant, who was the owner and chef of The Chef Bistro in Bearden many years ago), and he brings a sense of classic cuisine without attitude or pretense. In fact, he manages to present his best work in a familiar and low-key fashion. In the description of what ought to be the restaurant’s best seller, Rillettes, Franchuk shows good sense by calling the dish cold pulled pork—which it is, but it’s also so much more. It’s an intensely rich, succulent, and mouthwatering porcine joy that’s cooked slowly in fat, which makes it something that every good Southerner should love.

It’s worth looking for Franchuk’s specials—wine-braised chicken is a friendly, Basque-inspired bowl of a tender chicken leg on the bone with potatoes, roasted red peppers, and white wine. The dish is well-seasoned but natural, earthy and delicious. It also makes a fine food and wine experiment as the wine used as the braising liquid is often offered on special—on one visit, Franchuk cooked with a lovely Argentine Torrontes that was available to buy for only $10.

There’s also a Saturday brunch menu that features a bacon-stuffed Belgian waffle, brioche French toast, omelettes, and frittata. And every day the offerings include top-quality coffee and chocolate, too—but then, the name tells you that.

Hours: Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m.–12 a.m.

Must Haves

Tomato Roquefort Tarte: Tomato and blue cheese make a fabulous combination that’s much improved by the addition of basil, a savory custard, and a tender crust. What’s particularly nice is that the flavors are well balanced, so the Roquefort doesn’t dominate—it melts into the whole adding a salty blue accent to the freshness of herb and tomato. Oo-la-la, it’s tasty.

Carrot Salad: This salad is a really simple idea that plays out nicely—marinated shredded carrots join plump raisins over cucumber with wedges of hard-boiled egg and a handful of spring mix lettuces. There’s a bit of appealing tartness in the marinade that plays nicely against the sweetness of the fruit and the earthy chew of the carrots. It’s surprisingly satisfying to eat and beautiful to behold.

Opera Cake: This multi-layered joy is what Pepperidge Farm cakes want to be if they go to heaven and achieve perfection. It’s a soft and ethereal thing with alternating layers of rich, dark chocolate ganache, luxurious and deeply flavored espresso buttercream, and almond sponge cake soaked with coffee syrup. It’s incredibly rich and each bite feels a little more wicked than the one before. The coffee and chocolate interplay may be a little chefly humor, but ultimately it’s a fantastic postprandial treat.

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