I confess that as I watched the construction of Coya – the huge Peruvian restaurant off Rue du Bac in the 7th arrondissement – I doubted that it would be my kind of place. The posters on the walls announced that Coya already had outposts in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Monaco and London. I assumed it was going to be a late-night, beautiful-people scene with little of interest on the menu. Well, I was wrong, at least as far as the food and service are concerned.
Peruvian cuisine is a blending of Latin American flavors with influences from the local Japanese, Chinese, and Spanish immigrant populations, all of which play out on the Coya menu. The Indian-born chef, Sanjay Dwivedi (who reportedly has cooked for the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney) navigates this immense territory well but not without some bumps in the road.
The 130-seat restaurant, located on two levels, is located in a former 17th century church and convent built for the Récollettes nuns, where the windows make for a warmly dramatic space. The word coya translates as princess in the Inca language.
Service here is impeccable. On just my second visit the hostess at the door recognized me from the week before and each subsequent waitperson was warm, helpful and friendly.
The menu is fairly broad in scope with vegetarian and gluten-free notations for each dish, offering something for everyone. We sampled several dishes that ranged from superbly delicious to simply banal.
The food I enjoyed the most included a fried baby squid served with Peruvian marigolds and quinoa (calamare con ocopa), prepared as I love them, golden and crispy. The 35-euro giant tiger shrimp (langostino tigre) is worth the price, moist, full-flavored and bathed in a spicy sauce. I could endlessly order the seabass (lubina clásica) paired with crunchy corn and sweet potatoes. As a corn-on-the-cob lover, I was delighted with their presentation of maiz a la brasa (sweet corn, lime, and red pepper) where the cob was divided in thirds, seasoned and grilled, and pierced with an oversized toothpick for eating with your fingers. Delicious!
Equally fun is the fluffy pina colada sundae, more like a whipped coconut cream paired with fresh, fragrant diced pineapple.
On the minus side, I don’t know how you can ruin a simple guacamole, but I was disappointed with their insipid, under-seasoned version, served with equally bland crispy crackers. The artichoke ceviche (alcahohofa) was totally uninteresting, as was a Peruvian sashimi (pez limon) – thin slices of amberjack, green peppers and daikon (white radish).
The international wine list allows diners to travel the world of wine. I loved the Chilean sauvignon blanc Viu Manenet; the Argentine Malbec classic Altos les Homigas, Vale de Ucon, and the always pleasing white Austrian Gruner Veltliner from Kamptaler Terrassen.
Coya also sports a Pisco Bar and Lounge, where ceviche is also served, open from 6 pm to 12:30 am Tuesday and Wednesday, and 6 pm to 1:30 am Thursday through Saturday. So while it is pretty much is a late-night, beautiful-people place, at times it is a pleasure to dine well among them.
COYA | Peruvian | 83-85 rue du Bac | Paris 7 | Tel: +33 1 43 22 00 65 | Métro: Rue du Bac | Open Tuesday to Saturday, Closed Sunday and Monday | Lunch: 35€ menu, 35-60€ à la carte, Dinner: 65€ and 90€ menus, ` la carte, 75-150€ | Reservations essential | Atmosphere casual.
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