Co Co Sala – Is it Worth A Second Trip?

by moderndomestic on July 14, 2009

Co Co Sala 8

Tiramisu shooters at Co Co Sala.

Given my various dessert-related obsessions that I’ve chronicled on this blog (custard, pound cake, shortbread, cupcakes), it was only fitting that I celebrated Modern Domestic’s one year anniversary at Co Co Sala, the stylish Penn Quarter restaurant that specializes in desserts. Elpis and Justice and I went there last Thursday after spending the week staring at the menu obsessively online and carefully considering what we would order.

The restaurant doesn’t only serve sugar – there are savory tapas-style “bites” on the menu, but Co Co Sala’s heart is its multi-course dessert tasting menus and elaborate cocktails. They also serve a variety of hot chocolates, as well as chocolates, which I wasn’t able to sample Thursday, but are certainly on my “to try” list.

Co Co Sala 5

The strawberry basil cocktail was lovely. I bet I could figure out how to make this myself.

Instead, Elpis and I stuck with the three course dessert tasting menus. She chose the “ciocco” Italian-inspired menu, while I got the “co co for grownups,” which reimagines classic American childhood desserts. I also got a drink – since what’s a celebration without a celebratory drink? I had the strawberry basil cocktail, which was nicely balanced and fruity without being too sweet, but a very poor pairing with my chosen menu.

Co Co Sala 2

A mini bostom cream dounut - a pastry perfection.

Like many tasting menus, Elpis and I both thought that our desserts were mixed experiences, filled with some lovely and less than lovely pastries. There were some really beautiful moments on my tasting menu – the mini Boston cream doughnut was soft and airy, the vanilla-flavored filling was creamy and flavorful, and the chocolate glaze was rich and chocolatey and the perfect complement.

Co Co Sala 6

My main dessert (from right to left): malted milk shooter, chocolate cupcake, peanut butter ice cream with chocolate sauce, and a dish of bananas foster.

The mini chocolate cupcake was a dream – fluffy cake crowned with a creamy chocolate buttercream, and topped with crispy little chocolate balls that added a burst of texture. And the strawberry cheese cake pop – frozen strawberry cheesecake covered in milk chocolate and rolled in pop rocks, was fruity and sweet and chocolatey and, well, my favorite thing I ate all night.

Co Co Sala 9

The strawberry cheese cake lollipop was the best thing I had all night.

But not everything was perfect. The bananas foster was too much sugar for a tasting menu – the bananas, sitting in a pool of caramel sauce, was so sweet that it threatened to overwhelm the entire meal. The cappuccino panna cotta was faintly flavored and, frankly, an unnecessary accompaniment to the Boston cream doughnut. And the mint chocolate chip cup – quite literally a chocolate cup filled with mint cream and topped with chocolate chips – was like eating a cup of toothpaste-flavored frosting.

Co Co Sala 10

Not a fan of the mint chocolate cup. Not a fan.

Elpis’ dessert had similar highs and lows. She loved her strawberry and classic tiramisu shooters – the strawberry, especially, was a wonderful reimagining of a classic tiramisu. And she loved the creamy, silky chocolate soup. But she was underwhelmed with the final course – the lemon (was it lemon?) flavored ricotta bite wasn’t to her or my liking, and the chocolate dipped amaretti was stale.

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Chocolate soup.

A couple of problems with the service – the server brought me the wrong third course the first time round, I only got my cocktail with the second course – cemented my feeling that the experience wasn’t all that I had hoped it would be. Although, given that the tasting menus are so elaborate, how reasonable it is to expect that every tiny element will be perfect and to my taste?

I know I’ll be going back to Co Co Sala because I’ve heard wonderful things about their hot chocolate. But based on that night, I’m not in a hurry to go back for dessert. At the end of the day, I’ve been more satisfied with a great cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake, or a great bowl of frozen yogurt from Yogi Berry than I was with the multi-course dessert from Co Co Sala. Maybe, in my heart, I’m just a simple-hearted dessert girl.

Still, this was only one visit, so I’m curious if others have thoughts they want to share about Co Co Sala. Is the hot chocolate worth a second trip? Did we go there on an off night? Have other people had the tasting menus and liked every bite? Dish in the comments.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne July 14, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Oh, I’m so happy that you went. I wanted to go, but I didn’t no anyone who has gone until now. Thanks for the review!

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moderndomestic July 14, 2009 at 12:43 pm

I have a feeling it’s one of those places people always mean to go to, but never actually go to. Although maybe it’s because I’m like that with most restaurants . . . and, really, the only time I’m in Penn Quarter is for book club.

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restaurant refugee July 14, 2009 at 1:04 pm

I’ve been… and my feelings were much the same as yours. I went out of professional obligation and was generally underwhelmed in the sense that it was fun to experience but I was not eager for a repeat (though my professional obligation mandated another visit before forming opinions.)

At the same time, for people who are pure sugar junkies, the dessert tasting can be a Nirvana like experience. I still contend, however, that theater of it all trumps the sum of the parts.

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moderndomestic July 14, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Well, good to know others have had the same experience. That’s a good point about the “theater” of the whole thing – the concept of the place is great, all the desserts looked perfect, but the food just didn’t quite deliver.

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Bharet July 20, 2009 at 11:51 pm

Hello All –

I hope you don’t mind that I responded but my name is Bharet and I am one of the two owner’s of Co Co. Sala. First of all, thank you so much for writing and providing in my opinion quite a fair review…it is always a pleasure to read those. I love getting these alerts so I can always send them to my chef so he gets a feel for what the street is saying. And to be honest, this is the best way in this day and age to stay tuned to what customers, patrons think.

I can only promise to improve and do better and try to get you to come back :-).

One request if I may, I think one of the best compliments we get is we make people feel at home. Although we did try to create a concept of elegance, we wanted to make sure every employee is friendly, sweet, enjoyable, etc. I would never tolerate attitude from any of my employees. My GM Souheil is wonderful and warm. Miloud, my other manager is great and quite a character…my partner (and visionary) is this amazing lady named Nisha with two kids who is just the sweetest person I know and my best friend. I would be delighted to introduce you to the team.

If you come again (perhaps for lunch, dinner, brunch), please let me know and shoot me an email to bharet@coco-dc.com.

Thank you for taking the time to write about us and it will be a pleasure to meet you at some point.

Bharet

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