Foodie Field Trip : Co Co.Sala
The world outside disappears behind a sumptuous décor of rich colors, sheer drapes and intricate in-house made chocolate (yes they are edible) sculptures. Foodie Field Trip has arrived at that palace of decadence, Co Co. Sala.
The chocolate and coffee theme is incorporated everywhere in the restaurant, including in a must-do cocktail menu. White chocolate foam drizzled with salted caramel in the XO Café Tequila make this drink a treat. Sweet mint and tart limes in the Co Cojito are surprisingly compatible with chocolate-infused vodka and dark chocolate. The Fetish combines strawberries and chocolate, while the Malted Milk Martini is its creamy, grown-up cousin.
Originally a dessert lounge, Co Co. Sala introduced a full menu to compete in the DC restaurant market, but remains true to its roots. Our waiter, Faiçil, masterfully guided us through the evening’s dishes with a foodie’s mindset.
One of several cocoa-infused dishes, the Four Cheese Fritters are a welcome departure from mozzarella sticks. Pungent Gruyere, Roquefort, Parmigiano Reggiano and Cheddar are served with a divine chipotle chocolate tomato cream sauce that fuses smoky spice and nutty cocoa with a hint of cream that softens any acidity.
Curry lamb sliders surprise with crunchy almond, and tandoori chicken sliders are topped with a cool cucumber raita. The rosemary and parmesan fries are an unexpected match with the Indian influenced burgers, and we couldn’t get enough.
The salmon filet, a special on the day we were there, was glazed with a vibrant pineapple-ginger and served with a roasted, then crispy fried, sweet and sour cauliflower that we agreed should be a menu staple.
Scallops are difficult to fully cook on the inside without overcooking the outside, to season without overpowering the delicate meat. Co Co. Sala’s pan seared version, with a cocoa nib crust and maple citrus glaze, is perfectly balanced.
Chef Tiptur warns newcomers to save room for dessert, and we had our choices picked out early. You won’t find Some More Co Co. around a campfire, it includes chocolate crème brulee, toasted marshmallow, graham crumble and chocolate brownie, PLUS a silky malted chocolate shooter. For a fruity option, A Raspberry Affair includes a heart-shaped raspberry and white chocolate mousse with refreshing pomegranate and champagne sorbet.
Dark, sticky toffee pudding cake topped with cocoa nib tuile, a rich, buttery toffee sauce and ginger caramel ice cream gives the Sticky Situation a hint of gingerbread flavor.
The Nutty but Nice, true to its name, is packed with chocolate and peanut. A rich peanut butter cheesecake, chocolate and peanut brittle crunch, a chocolate-covered PB& J truffle and a bowl of rum caramel bananas and chocolate take this one over the top. Makes you want a glass of milk, doesn’t it?
Co-owner, Bharet Malhotra credits his partner, Nisha Sidhu, for the “foodie” element of Co Co. Sala, but it is Executive and Pastry Chef, Santosh Tiptur that brought the vision to life. Soft-spoken and engaging, Tiptur is a story unto himself.
Tiptur took the long way to DC from his native India. He worked on 26 cruise ships in 12 years, each representing a new menu, staff and kitchen, while typically requiring the creation of 300-400 birthday and anniversary cakes a day. Tiptur jumped ship at the San Juan Ritz Carlton before coming ashore for good in DC to raise his family. His vegetarian kitchen at home is a reflection of his Co Co. Sala kitchen, fresh produce, a hand blender and a juicer are all necessary tools. When asked about his chocolate sculptures, Tiptur explains that the restaurant is kept at 68 degrees to prevent the chocolate from melting, and he is good natured about the evidence of nibbling from curious patrons.
The dining room can get loud, but the ambiance and shareable menu make Co Co. Sala great for a romantic date or a girls’ night out, and a foodie paradise.
Co Co. Sala: 929 F St. NW, DC; 202-347-2465; www.cocosala.com.