Review: Coquette Is Not Your Grandpa’s Boîte

The recently revamped Seaport restaurant is a party—one with some seriously next-level food to boot.

Coquette’s highly decorated dining room. / Photo by Brian Samuels

Readers of a certain age—okay, you only have to be about 40—may recall a bad old time in Boston when you could queue up for the latest swank hot spot and find yourself in a gorgeous room with a lively vibe, thumping music, and a dressed-to-impress crowd. This is the place to be, you’d think, until the cocktails and food started arriving, and the only words that came to mind were mediocre, overpriced, and occasionally even grim. As it turned out, those drop-dead-gorgeous spots were mostly either operated by nightclub people who’d never cracked the code on the dining side of things, or owners who just didn’t give a damn, calculating you’d show up and pay for the scenery regardless. By contrast, to get great drinks and dinner in a luxe setting, you had to patronize places that were comparatively staid, hushed, and not remotely hip-feeling.

Fortunately, times have changed, as evidenced by Coquette, which opened in the Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport opposite the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in mid-2021 and just unveiled a menu revamp, adding broader Mediterranean inspiration to its initial focus on coastal French fare. The restaurant follows in the groundbreaking footsteps of big sibling Yvonne’s, the first place to truly crack the code of fine-dining-meets-nightclub-glam. In 2015, its tyro operators, COJE Management Group, redecorated the dusty, mahogany-lined former Locke-Ober space with luxurious but irreverent details, giving it the sleek, elusive vibe of an “it” place with the added bonus of first-rate food and drinks. An instant hit, Yvonne’s led to a string of similar wins from the same crew: including nearby Ruka, a Peruvian-Nikkei spot; the Financial District’s Mariel, Boston’s first truly upscale Cuban place; and, of course, Coquette.

It’s hard to miss the nightclubby vibe at Coquette. Hotel-based restaurants in Boston are usually placid affairs, but on weekends, the place roars and ripples with the high-decibel buzz of a Theater District dance club at full tilt. The room itself cheekily mixes formal details with relaxed, seaside motifs: pastel-washed brick here, art nouveau paintings and floral murals there, ornate Venetian chandeliers above, and a marble-topped bar under a classical-themed painting of a Biblical heaven. A typical conventioneer’s restaurant it ain’t, though patrons wearing trade-show badges are common on weeknights when reservations aren’t so hard to score.

The Mary Helene, one of three gin and tonics at Coquette. / Photo by Brian Samuels

Whatever the occasion, bartenders sling craft-level cocktails ($16) with admirable precision. Made with a custom vermouth blend, the house martini is pristine, while a drink called the Agnes Souret provides a complexly spiced riff on a margarita with tequila, pear, yellow Chartreuse, honey, lime, and chili. Elaborately garnished specialty gin and tonics ($16) are served in oversize goblets, like one dubbed Mary Helene, a combination of gin, cucumber tonic, elderflower spritz, juniper berries, a long curl of cucumber, and an edible flower. In keeping with a general theme of items built for sharing, large-format cocktails include the Devil Wears Prado ($110), six servings of a fruity, bubbly vodka concoction served in a more capacious version of a glass slipper. A staggering wine list with more than 500 bottles focuses primarily on France and well-heeled drinkers: Options under $100 account for barely a quarter of them, and four-figure trophy bottles aren’t uncommon. The by-the-glass list offers a dozen more gently priced options at $14 to $17.

Basil oysters with lemon and osetra caviar. / Photo by Brian Samuels

The food menu starts off strong: While the free bread course is gone at many places, including here, Coquette at least delivers some value with terrific renditions of toasted focaccia ($9) with pungent cacio e pepe butter, and “nonna buns” ($10), a pan of pull-apart garlic-Parmesan rolls. Raw-bar starters, meanwhile, make a strong second impression with basil oysters ($25 for six), a rare composed oyster dish that doesn’t overdress and overwhelm the bivalves’ delicate flavor, instead subtly applying basil oil and leaves. Alaskan snow-crab claws ($36 for six) are helpfully cracked and cut for mess-free eating with a mild chili-mayo dip. Lobster catalana ($35) dresses big chunks of claw and tail meat with crème fraîche, caviar, and a halo of ruffled potato chips to dramatic and delicious effect.

Small plates are often big enough to share as apps, like a fantastic Tuscan salad ($18) of tenderized kale with a late-summer blast of tomato and grilled corn, white beans, and the textural pop of fregola (think oversize couscous) and candied walnuts. Atlantic crab fondue ($22) is a ravishing party dip for focaccia that floats abundant crabmeat in a cast-iron skillet of melted cheeses, with dollops of pesto and pine nuts for ballast. Merda dé can ($18), a holdover from Coquette’s opening menu, is a substantial plate of gnocchi-like southern French spinach dumplings in a luscious sauce of tomato-spiked brown butter and Roquefort crème; I just wish I hadn’t Googled the name.

Flat-iron steak with garlic herb butter, Roquefort crème, and herbs. / Photo by Brian Samuels

Main dishes routinely reflect sophistication in preparation and plating, as in a gorgeously crisp-skinned, boned half chicken ($37), sliced and fanned out, with a terrific pan sauce faintly scented with truffles. A flat-iron steak ($38) makes up for its chewiness compared to costlier cuts with superior flavor: four thick slices washed in garlic butter atop a vivid smear of Roquefort crème. Colorado lamb loin ($48) is also perfectly done, its faint gaminess winningly balanced with a fierce, chimichurri-like pepper relish. Two fish dishes particularly shine with precise cookery and vivid compositions: a plump fillet of za’atar-spiced salmon ($35) sporting a tangle of spaghetti-cut zucchini and a bed of creamy cucumber laban, and dorade royale ($37), a.k.a. Mediterranean sea bream in a pool of brown-butter sauce, topped with a hazelnut-flecked panzanella of croutons, herbs, and onions.

The sides you’ll want to order with these à la carte entrées are big enough to split among four diners, so choose carefully. The pommes frites ($10) are a big pile of great medium-bore fries with the odd but fascinating accent of fennel salt. A cast-iron casserole of Roman street corn ($16) proffers an elevated take on creamed corn with a powerful blend of garlic, chili, and quality Pecorino-Romano cheese. Green beans ($14) are niftily cooked just past al dente and given a Greek lilt with feta, pistachios, and mint. Roasted carrots ($15) lean toward pleasant underdoneness, balancing honeyed sweetness with a slather of spicy horseradish crème.

Diners who just want a snack to go with their drinks should seek out the fantastic Capri-style pizzas ($18–$21), which top cracker-thin but chewy crusts with spectacular toppings. We particularly love the “Autumn,” a mash-up of smoked pancetta, paper-thin slices of winter squash, cacio e pepe butter, soft fontina, and sweet-tart apple agrodolce. The burger ($29) comes with those great fries, and it’s a mostly terrific pub-style rendition: a half-pound grilled patty with fontina, lettuce, and chili mayo on a soft potato bun, though the unique umami of the dry-aged beef was clobbered by overseasoning.

Desserts were mostly first-rate, including a dense slice of olive oil semolina cake ($14) atop berries and dreamy lemon mascarpone crémeux, creatively served under a dome-like wafer crêpe. Crème brûlée ($12) nails the basics, but I wonder if the addition of rosewater in the vanilla crème filling might put off some diners. The showstopper here is a double-chocolate torte ($14) that sandwiches a vertical slab of dark-and-milk-chocolate mousse between thin layers of salted halvah fudge, wittily offset by sharp contrasts of passion-fruit sauce and guava ice cream.

Service on my visits was impressively literate about the food, wine, and cocktails, and attentive even amid the frenzy of the Saturday-night mob. Customers have clearly identified Coquette as a place for celebrations, fancy dates, and extravagant business entertaining, which tracks with the gorgeous room and the fairly punishing tabs that can result once you venture beyond pizza. But for those who enjoy a good splurge, Coquette comes through in a way that might make elder Bostonians shake their heads in wonder. “In my day, you could get swish and chic, or you could eat and drink well, but never both at once.” Thanks to Coquette (and, more broadly, COJE Management Group), we mercifully no longer have to make that choice.

★★★ 1/2

Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport, 450 Summer St., Boston, 617-419-8140,

Menu Highlights

Basil oysters, Lobster catalana, Tuscan salad, Atlantic crab fondue, Truffle chicken, Flat-iron steak, Dorade royale, “Autumn” pizza, Double-chocolate torte

★★★★ Extraordinary | ★★★ Generally Excellent | ★★ Good | ★ Fair | (No Stars) Poor

First published in the print edition of the December 2023/January 2024 issue with the headline, “Not Your Grandpa’s Boîte.”