Coquina Restaurant on A Street in Ashland offers delicious Northwest cuisine with a delicate, creative flair.
Lynn and Daniel Flattley opened the new eatery a couple of weeks ago in the city's historic Railroad District. It's in the space formerly occupied by Palace Cafe in the restored J.K. Van Sant Building.
The Flattleys ran the Wild Rose Bistro in Bandon for seven years before leaving the coast to do business inland, and they have followers. One couple arrived during my visit to Coquina last Friday night and announced they had been steady customers of the Bandon bistro.
Lynn Flattley is chef while Daniel Flattley hosts the nicely designed, simple dining room set with white tablecloths and glass candleholders on the tables.
I asked for seating near the back and ordered a leggy 2008 red from Mannina Cellars based in Walla Walla, Wash. It was one of the four varieties of wine by the glass. There's an extensive list of bottled wines from the Northwest, California, Italy and France. Some are organic. A full bar also is available with a couple of specialty cocktails, such as pomegranate cosmopolitans and Dan's Margaritas, along with organic juices and coffee.
Daniel Flattley presented the menu and explained that entrees, salads and appetizers at Coquina will change with the seasons — or with the chef's whims. The focus will be on fresh, regional ingredients and Lynn Flattley's desire to experiment by creating new dishes.
The appetizers that topped the menu last Friday night made for enticing choices, such as a cheese tart made with puff pastry and filled with caramelized onions, Rogue Creamery blue cheese, microgreens and apples, as well as quail sautéed with hedgehog mushrooms (similar to chanterelles in flavor) and served with parsnip purée and a huckleberry sauce; fresh mozzarella wrapped in anchovies, breaded, fried and served with tomato marmalade; and Fanny Bay oysters with shallot and sherry gelée.
Daniel Flattley recommended the soup of puréed carrots to start. A good soup means a good cook, he said.
I took his word and was not disappointed. The smooth, rich-tasting concoction was packed with flavor and had a sweet, caramel-like finish. It was topped with a dab of crème fraîche and some finely shredded, fried carrot that added a crunchy, nutty garnish.
Coquina's menu offered several organic salads last weekend, including a Caesar; a beet salad with sautéed oyster mushrooms, watercress, pancetta, fennel marmalade and pan-fried chevre (goat-milk cheese); and a carrot salad with carrot glacé, chive vinaigrette and Manchego cheese. The fresh Dungeness crab salad made with tempura-fried crab, grapefruit, citrus vinaigrette and crème fraîche tempted.
Entrées included flat-iron steaks from Snake River Farms, fresh wild scallops and sturgeon, pork chops, duck breast with potato croquettes and cherry gastrique, handmade gnocchi in marinara with Parmigiano-Reggiano, pecorino Romano and fresh mozzarella; and hand-cut pasta with sautéed mushrooms and guanciale, or bacon made from pig's cheeks.
The host's good word about the soup had such staying power that when he recommended the evening's special — handmade ravioli stuffed with chestnuts and mascarpone — I could hardly refuse. These excellent ravioli were larger than typical ones, and they were topped with a sauce made from butternut squash and garnished with shaved Parmesan, finely diced tomato, microgreens, some of that lovely shredded, fried carrot and a bit of crème fraîche.
Lynn Flattley does not use cream bases to make her dishes, according to her husband. The rich, smooth textures of the carrot soup and squash sauce came from carbohydrates in the vegetables.
At Coquina, diners will discover all of the flavor of rich dishes, but with the healthier attributes of fruits and veggies.
The Flattleys say they hope to open Coquina for lunch soon. Patrons can look for patio dining at the restaurant during warmer months.
Reservations aren't required at Coquina — yet. Word travels fast about great fare, so it may be wise to call ahead. I will.
— Laurie Heuston