Coquille Seafood Bistro
Add: 29 Meng Zi Road, Shanghai 蒙自路29号
Tel: +86 (21) 3376 8127
Hours: [brunch] Sat-Sun 11:00am-2:30pm, [dinner] Mon-Sun 5:30pm-10:30pm
Price: [brunch] 300-500, [dinner] 600-900
Visited: May 2019
Will return: Definitely
Brunching in Shanghai has become somewhat predictable, generally revolving around eggs, toasts, and Instagram/WeChat. So when we walked into Coquille, the French restaurant on Mengzi Road best known for its beef Wellington, we expected much of the same from its newly launched brunch program — only to have our expectation turned on its head.
And we really should have known better, given the creators of said brunch. Owner Mr. John Liu and chef Mr. Patrick Leano, the formidable team behind both Coquille and neighboring Italian trattoria Scarpetta, have a way of both defying and exceeding expectations. Their production of this weekend midday meal is not so much a Benedict-and-avocado-toast brunch — although both are present on the menu — as it is an excuse to bask in Mr. Leano’s version of indulgent French fare for those of us too impatient to wait for dinnertime.
But let’s start with that Benedict. French renditions of this brunch classic often employs baguette in lieu of English muffins; Mr. Leano whips up some delightful cheese gougères, which supply enough airy lightness that he can comfortably cut back on the lemon in his hollandaise without weighing us down. This might be a compromise to the local acidity-averse palate, but it certainly doesn’t taste like a concession.
Signature eggs Benedict (138)
Truffle-laced scrambled eggs seem to be par for the course these days. Coquille’s version is heaped into a thick disc, just the right consistency to hold together when the ring mold comes off, and then melt in a buttery rush when it hits the tongue; a crown of parmesan tuiles help keep the pungent truffle in delightful check. The luxuriously layered croque madame is also right on key, revealing a rare, wonderful synergy among ham, egg, gruyère, and béchamel, galvanized by a sharp zip of mustard.
Truffled scrambled eggs (88)
Croque madame (88)
At a restaurant named “Coquille,” which is French for “shell,” mussels should be a safe bet, and they are; the plump little parcels cooked in a simple yet effective trio of tomato, lemon, and white wine offer a wealth of uncomplicated satisfaction. So does the house smoked salmon, served alongside wafers of toasted rye crisps and a small pot of mimosa sauce.
Sautéed mussels (158)
House smoked salmon (158)
And so too does the potato “roesti,” which is, in essence, a hash brown taken to extraordinary heights with a cascade of trout roe that explodes like fireworks across the tongue. The potatoes would benefit from some salt, but a drizzle of the crème fraîche provided on the side can make a world of difference.
Potato roesti (198)
We didn’t get around to the avocado toast — not when there is a braised oxtail tartine two lines down the menu, luring us in like a siren song. Piled high in its copper pot, the shredded meat looks almost oppressively dark and rich, yet Mr. Leano spikes it with enough preserved lemon and tarragon to give it spirit and verve, so that the whole pot disappears in the blink of an eye. Most brunch dishes these days are quick, simple, unstudied affairs; this is anything but.
Braised oxtail tartine (88)
More often than not, main courses at brunch come across as an afterthought, conceivably included just so that the menu isn’t entirely eggs and bread; but not at Coquille. The steak frites alone warrants a visit or two in its own right, a fine specimen of intensely flavored meat beneath a gorgeous crust, alongside the requisite béarnaise and some golden, herb-flecked fries enveloped in a rich, heady perfume.
Wagyu bavette steak frites (188)
But if you only have room for one dish, make it the crab cake, a hulking lump of sweet, delicate crab meat that seems to be held together by nothing more than the force of Mr. Leano’s will. It is elegantly equipped with lemon, some fennel salad, and a dollop of mentaiko aioli.
Le grand crab cake (188)
For dessert, there is a brioche French toast so thoroughly soaked that it melts like a cloud, perked up with a tart blueberry jam and a bolt of mint, as well as a PB&J version of Paris-Brest, filled with a nutty, velvety peanut butter that I would love to eat out of a jar.
Brioche French toast (88)
But the pièce de résistance is the bread pudding, a joyous, wondrous thing that brought literal tears to my eyes — an experience shared by my friend sitting across from me. Made with day-old croissants and served with a small jug of salted caramel crème anglaise, so that the salt balances its sweetness, it tastes like more custard than bread, but no one is complaining.
Croissant bread pudding (88)
Then of course, there are Coquille’s famous madeleines, still warm when they hit the table. These come with a little knob of house-made strawberry butter, which is just about as absurdly French as anything I can think of: “Would you like some butter with your madeleines?”
Coquille madeleines (88)