March 2008 Issue
March's Featured Restaurant
Harvest grilled pork chop and horseradish crab cakes
Here’s a little gastronomic quiz: If you saw broiled peaches on a menu — “peach halves stuffed with walnut bleu cheese stuffing, then oven broiled and drizzled with zinfandel reduction” — would you consider it an appetizer or a dessert?
At Coco’s Bistro, it’s the former — a slightly topsy-turvy choice that ought to suggest the zest and creativity at work in this relatively new addition to fine-dining options in southwest Ohio. The restaurant is perched on the outside edge of Dayton’s Oregon District, a popular downtown entertainment strip. A combination of good reviews, easy parking (a rarity in this neighborhood), personal-touch service, great word-of-mouth and terrific food have turned Coco’s into a heavily trafficked spot. Expect a wait for lunch, and call ahead for dinnertime reservations.
Be sure to order those broiled peaches, too. Our smart, on-task waiter, Tony, confessed that the kitchen had talked about moving them to the dessert menu, but you’ll encounter few finer openings to a good meal than this. Unless, of course, you order the fried Brie, which comes crusted in crisp herbs and topped with comfit tomato compote, pesto and balsamic reduction. Put that on a crostini and you might just forget about broiled peaches. Might. Just.
Salads show the same flair. A blackened chicken salad includes caramelized peaches and an apricot vinaigrette drizzle; the plum spinach salad is spiced up with cinnamon-sugar pecans and pinot noir vinaigrette.
The number of entrees is not over-large, but the offerings are so different that variety is the order of an eclectic evening. The Black and Blue Ribeye, dripping in bleu cheese butter and melt-in-the-mouth onion rings, is as good as anything you’ll find in a top steakhouse. Other highlights of note: the Tuscan chicken, served on a pesto mash unlike anything we’ve run across elsewhere; the eggplant Parmesan, flash-fried with a merlot marinara that’s firmer and crispier than you expect anything eggplant to be; the bleu cheese hash-brown casserole that accompanies the already fine crab cakes; the beef and noodles that aren’t like anything your mom ever made; the Bistro Burger that isn’t like anything your dad ever made.
Combine it all with a dark and romantic dining-room atmosphere and an intelligent wine list, and — oh, yes — reasonable prices for a fine night out, and you’ve got a Dayton destination. — Ron Rollins DAYTONCoco’s Bistro 515 Wayne Ave., 937/228-2626. www.228coco.com. Lunch: Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–2 p.m., $6–$13. Dinner Mon.–Thur. 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–11 p.m.; entrees $13–$26. CR 3