Monday, June 6, 2011

24/7 Dining at Coppelia

I live off the A train in Brooklyn. Late at night, after a long night partying with friends in Manhattan, I usually forsake the $30 cab in order stumble back to the West 4th Street station to ride the train. Now I have a reason to head a little further uptown to 14th Street (and blow that $30 I could have spent on cab fare), where chef Julian Medina of Toloache and Yerba Buena has opened Coppelia, a pan-Cuban diner which intends to fulfill all of my late night dining needs. After operating for over a month, Coppelia just recently fulfilled their original guarantee, and is now open 24 hours a day.

Hazy yellow light accentuates the comfortable, pastel-colored booths in what seems like an optimal place to sweat off an evening's worth of drinks while eating from large plates and an even bigger menu.

At our recent meal, we started with an order of three cheese croquetas and a trio of milkshakes (no liquor license yet!). Dulce de leche, chocolate and avocado milkshakes were on the thin side, as milkshakes of this type tend to be. Personally, the chocolate was my favorite, since the avocado tasted mostly like sweet milk. Meanwhile, our gooey croquetas hardly needed the bland, albeit habanero salsa that accompanied them.

Naturally, we would be eating more than our usual share of avocados this evening, so we dutifully ordered guacamole served with fried boniato, plantain and tortilla chips. An excellent rendition. Creamy, without the sometimes overpowering citrus flavor. It could have used a little more heat, but that's just how I like it. The chips were masterfully fried and seasoned as well.

I only took a bite of the flounder ceviche with aji amarillo, red onion, cilantro, maiz cancha and sweet potato, but I enjoyed the addition of hominy and roasted peanuts. My bite certainly did not include every single element of the dish. I hope I got the full experience....

Steve zoned in on the Ropa vieja with fatty chunks of stewed beef sat atop a pile of rice and beans, tomato salsa and french fries as soon as he saw it on the menu. No complaints here. The beef (I think it was short rib) was tender and well seasoned, while the fries retained their crisp integrity for far longer than I would have expected.

Grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce was topped with a fried brussel sprout salad. It was also paired with an excellent roasted plantain that I snagged bites of throughout the meal. My few pieces of steak were medium rare, with a solid sear from the grill.

Pernil was as good a rendition of this Cuban classic as I've had in awhile. Unfortunately the chicharrones got soggy very quickly. Still, the leftovers turned into a most excellent lunch the next day.

Benedictinos were the only real disappointment of the evening. The dry, heavy biscuits overshadowed perfectly poached eggs and well seasoned chimichurri potatoes.

Macaroni and cheese with pork belly was heavy on the cheddar, but slightly less overkill than its description would suggest. Once again the chicharrones got soggy fast, but not not enough to detract from our elemental love of mac and cheese.

Hey we get to talk about desserts created by infamous nomadic pastry chef Pichet Ong.

Torrejas de Oliva with blackberries was probably my favorite dessert. A moist finger of olive oil cake was seasoned liberally with salt, while the tart blackberries cut through the olive oil.

Avocado copa with Maldon sea salt and lime was another strong dessert and we obligingly overran our avocado quota, finishing the whole dish.

Tres Leches cake with mango was fine, but not on the level of our first two desserts. Likewise with the guava mango tequila sorbet, which is hardly worth mentioning (they were out of every other flavor).

It's still too early pass judgment on Coppelia, but I can say with reasonable certainly that you'll soon find me sweating in a booth, chowing down on a plate of pernil at four in the morning.

207 W 14th St.
New York, NY 10011
(212) 858-5001
Coppelia on Urbanspoon


  1. skirt steak, brussel sprouts and plantains, oh my! Three of my favorite foods in one!

  2. menu looks fantastic. i gotta move this up the list.

    mmm ropa vieja

  3. One can never consume too much avocado.

    You should try the avocado pop at the Hester Street Fair, too! :P