International house of crepes
Anyone expecting to find erudite French refinement at Coquette Creperie, a restaurant that opened late this summer in Manitou Springs, is bound to be surprised. So will those hoping for the simple, economical ham and cheese or Nutella snack crepes served on practically every corner in Paris.
In the folds of these crepes you may find tuna, basmati rice, sweet ricotta or tangy guava paste.
Coquette does Crepes Manitou style. They are diverse, funky and thoroughly enjoyable.
Diners can skip from country to country, sampling crepes like the Latin Lover (chicken with a jumble of zucchini, corn, onion, peppers, tomato, rice, black beans and cotija cheese) or the Cowboy (grilled tri-tip beef, barbecue sauce, black beans, coleslaw and sour cream). The stylish little dining room with an open kitchen and concrete floors also serves breakfast crepes and dessert crepes, plus a full bar with a surprisingly long and eclectic wine list.
The whole endeavor represents a collaboration of eight-year Manitou resident Michelle Marx, her daughter Turu Fleites, and Fleites’ husband, Hiram.
They had been talking about opening a restaurant for years, but the kids were busy with their indie rock group, The Human Value. (Described on the band’s Web site as “a power trio fronted by serpentine vocalist Turu and king of the fuzz-tone guitar Hiram.”) Now, it has happened.
Generally, the results are delightful.
All of Coquette’s thin, chewy crepes are gluten free (made from a mix of rice, potato and tapioca flours instead of wheat). The diverse stuffings are freshly prepared and always interesting.
The Rise and Dine South of the Border Crepe ($9) is stuffed with real scrambled eggs, good hippie chorizo sausage, a touch of Swiss cheese, and a fresh dice of tomato, onion, black beans and a cilantro-packed fresh homemade salsa.
The Monte Cristo ($9) is a lighter version of the classic deep-fried French toast sandwich that still offers the guilty pleasure of ham, Swiss and strawberry jam together. Dinner crepes also hit the right notes. The Coquette, a pairing of ham, Swiss, sautéed mushrooms and Dijon-style mustard with a dollop of béchamel, is as close as the restaurant comes to a classic French crepe, and it is delicious.
The Tokyo ($14) is about as far from French as crepes can get. It starts with ruby-pink ahi tuna, barely seared then encrusted in sesame seeds, sliced thin, and topped with steamed rice and sinus-clearing wasabi cream cheese and a light citrus-soy reduction. The finished crepe is lovely to look at, topped with a few squares of tuna and a tussle of seaweed ribbons, but our crepe was dominated by the strong cream cheese.
The Argentinean ($9.50) was another unexpected pairing. Chicken, basmati rice, sliced green olives, tomato and mozzarella came wrapped with a side of chimichurri, and Argentinean lemon and herb sauce usually served with steak. The sauce was great.
So was the citrus-marinated salmon we opted to sub in for $3, but the basmati — usually a light, dry rice — was mushy and dense.
For $2 extra, any of the crepes can be served as a salad or over rice, instead of in a thin pancake bundle. We went that direction with the Argentine and ran up against the fundamental problem of Coquette: the prices.
At $10, the Argentine crepe is a bit pricey to begin with. Add a salad and sub in salmon, and suddenly it costs $14.50. That’s a steep price for a salmon salad with a bit of rice.
Most of the menu suffers the same weakness — it is a bit pricey for what you get.
Nowhere is this more clear than dessert. A simple banana and Nutella crepe was fabulous but was worth $5, not the $7.25 Coquette charges. Bananas Foster in a pool of rum sauce was $8.25. A blintz with sweet ricotta and a choice of fresh preserves (strawberry, blueberry, fig, pumpkin butter) was $6.25. All were delicious but a lot to swallow when the bill came.
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays-Fridays; 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturdays; 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays
Address: 915 Manitou Ave.
Vegetarian: yes; gluten-free
Alcohol: full bar
Credit cards: yes