Monday, January 27, 2014


Twenty-four hour restaurant and diners and becoming a rarer and rarer breed.  Thus, Coppelia on 14th street has, at least, that going for it.  Everything else leaves practically everything left to be desired.  We were seated quickly enough, at tables across from the long bar, above which flat screen t.v.s are mounted.  I normally detest a restaurant with televisions, but on this night the Golden Globes were playing, and I was happy to be able to watch.  Also, the fanfare on the set was

 more attractive than the odd dining room, a stark rectangle that lives up to its diner reputation, in a somewhat geriatric, cafeteria-like sense.  The darkness outside helped soften the bleak room, along with glimmering, multi-colored votives tabletop that helped immensely.

Originally, I knew that Pichet Ong had a hand in this place, but also that he had recently busied opening up Qi Restaurant in Times Square, so I wasn't sure he still had anything to with this place.  Had I known, I would've just ordered dessert.  Coppelia bills itself a Latin-style diner, and I guess that pretty much sums it up.  The food is pretty straight-forward, so opting for a chile relleno, opting for
chile relleno seemed safe enough.  I nixed the rice-and-beans in favor of double brussels sprouts, since it was already stuffed with quinoa.  I didn't think I needed that much starch (, and I don't need to explain the brussels sprouts thing further.  Unfortunately, maybe there was a reason for the rice.  The blackish pepper, thin-skinned and a little leathery... err, no-  make that vinyl-y- encased a melange of cubed vegetables bound by the quinoa, and was surrounded by a moat of thin tomato sauce.  I can't fault them for false advertising: the menu specifically stated "thin tomato sauce", and that it most certainly was.  Brothy and not particularly flavorful, it floated about the pepper without too much purpose but for a nice, vermillion hue and imparting its mild flavor to the otherwise lackluster stuffing.  I have to wonder if the original

 plating of the dish would've sequestered the brussels sprouts as a separate dish as mine were, because as such they had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the relleno.   The sprouts, themselves, were all right, at best.  Lightly steamed and then given a little roast, tossed with red onion and doused in a shroud of flavorless queso fresco that sort of clumped and wadded among the luke-warm sprouts: I've made better myself on an off day.

The other dish we tried was a plate of Nachos.  Now, sure, why order nachos at all, ever... but especially in a place that's not really Mexican.  So whatever, the chips are nice and puffy-crisp, crowned in guac and a generous drizzle of crema, Underneath nuzzles a pasty smudge of black beans and chopped short ribs, indiscernible from one another in the homologous puree.

Any of these dishes, had I been eating at say, Chili's, I would be pleasantly relieved to have received.  But at a place with Julian Medina, a recognizable chef, it was sheer disappointment.  That said, I have never had a good experience at any of his restaurants, truth be told.  If there's one chef I have unfortunately no trust in following, it might be this guy.  What I've sampled of his cooking is not necessarily bad, it's just totally underwhelming.  Which belies his reputation, as he really does (aside from me) have quite a following.  If he can live up to it, I've yet to experience him at his best.. or even his medium.  I was, in fact, so disillusioned by the food that I didn't really feel like risking dessert, which is probably a pity, because given the reviews ( and I trust Pichet!), dessert's probably the best part.  We missed enticing concoctions like guava-strawberry velvet cake or a vanilla flan with coconut and mango.  And maybe most intriguing, the Spiked Milkshakes, creating adults-only tipples like Pisco Porton with creamy, cinnamon-inflected condensed milk ice cream, or rum with dulce de leche, coconut and a sprinkle of Maldon.  For these, I might put that 24 hour perk to use: milkshakes like these combine the dessert and the disco in one fell swoop.

207 West 14th Street

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