After chef Chris Shepherd announced his exit, to prepare for the opening of Underbelly, tails were wagging in anticipation of exactly what would become of Catalan. During an interview last summer, owner Charles Clark expressed happiness for Shepherd’s new endeavor, as well as stating he & partner Grant Cooper had definite plans to reinvent what was once their beloved Catalan.
Clark & Cooper are banking on a sorda décor shift to take clientele away from the old Catalan vibe. What better way to bring forth Coppaness than to build a bar which cascades against a long wall, while slapping bright yellow frames around the most massive of all massive mirrors.
A remarkably smooth décor win comes together as the lights go down. Green candles lining the bar instantly change the ambiance, while the dining room’s subtle décor change doesn’t scream different.
Even better, interior design teams across America may rejoice, for Clark & Cooper finally 86’d the pretend bar. You know, um, the one that used to sit microscopically in the back corner with almost four fluffy stools.
The real deal isn’t décor & yada, it’s producing a chef with the ability to step in and maintain consistency, as well as the always wishful want… quality. Not to mention superhuman powers & a high level of menu magic, thus making people believe in Coppa, as they did in Catalan.
Take a bow Brandi Key, for you have achieved a respectable debut as executive chef of Coppa. Keep in mind just how painfully frightening her reality may be… sashaying onto the scene of a restaurant having housed Shepherd’s mighty chefness.
Key is a semi sorda unknown chef, having spent much of her time with the Pappas Company as a research & development chef. Skeptics beware, chef Key’s feet appear to not only firmly fit into Shepherd’s shoes, but with a semi solid stance.
Key has arrived with all necessary ingredients for Coppa’s success.
As with any restaurant rolling up to the club for the first time, service is essential. During dinner last week, a fall breeze blew in none other than… Francisco.
After two visits, one at the bar, the other in the dining room, hopes and dreams of swiftly superb service were spastically fulfilled. Want for nothing people, for this server is top of the line. Francisco is NOT messing around with his superstar service industry skills.
During our time in the bar, chef Key delivered food with an easygoing approachable style, never once leaving without a kind gesture, or simply inquiring about the satisfaction status of the food.
As the “seasonal vegetable pickle” arrived, a sudden flash of Granny’s jam & jelly jar joy occurred. Also offered in the bites section are warm house-marinated olives, as well as crispy spiced chickpeas.
Bruschetta e giare is listed in the small plates section, offering eggplant caponata, which is delicious, as well as tuna conserva.
While my neighbor adored the crispy globe artichoke heart with lemon olive oil, things weren’t exactly fine with a splash of dandy. A debacle of artichoke dryness comparable to that of eating dead leaves soon became the only reality available.
Moving right along…
Ah, sardines. Gulp.
Simply put, a sardine maintains a status as that of the most disgusting item sent down from the heavens upon creating this planet we call Earth. This pretend fish, smooshed beside other sleeping pretend fish, can usually be found in a can, which rolls up without the use of an opener. Gasp.
For those living life like a horror movie, Coppa offers brick oven sardines with golden raisins, caperberries & toasted breadcrumbs. AVH would rather eat fried grasshopper babies having been left beneath the armpit of a sweaty human for almost four days than eat this dreaded imposter fish we call… sardine.
Presentation points of gorgeousness must be awarded to the tuna crudo with Texas peaches, pickled red onion, hazelnuts, and mint. Another to consider in the small plates section is octopus carpaccio with fingerling potatoes, crushed olives, and mizuna.
A plate of freshly fantastic arugula becomes one with fennel, melon, and citrus vinaigrette. This dressing easily achieves citrus glory. Also included in the salad & soup section is the almost always boring Caesar with grilled romaine, parmesan, white anchovy & ciabatta croutons.
Happy hour pizza was the first obtainable task. First to taste was the margherita pizza with tomato, mozzarella, and basil. Pizza size remains, whether it be happy hour or lunch slash dinner service.
Other pizzas suitable for AVH are the marinara with tomato, garlic, oregano, and olive oil, as well as the Neapolitan with tomato, garlic, black olives, white anchovy, Calabria chili, and oregano.
Linguine with Gulf shrimp, lemon garlic & parmesan cream did not leave the dreaded misery feeling of fat. Surprisingly, there are many pasta dishes in which to wish! A to-do try is ravioli with goat cheese filling, zucchini, mint, fresno chili, and marcona almonds.
Favorite Alert! Siren sounds of plate scraping satisfaction are present upon eating the Agnolotti with sweet corn filling, Texas crabmeat, corn salad, and lemon butter. Of all eaten at Coppa, this is hands down the best of the rest!
Oyster mushrooms help make up the gnocchi which is served in a mushroom broth with ricotta, sage, and truffle oil.
As darkness devoured this building we call Coppa, dessert picture potential seemed all but lost. Suddenly, an offer to sit on the almost empty patio brought forth above average dessert picture pleasantness.
After perusing the dessert menu, jumping out like no other was the lemon semifreddo with lemon curd & pistachio crunch. Other desserts include a trio of trentino gelatos & sorbetto, as well as an Italian cream cake with coconut, pecans, and whipped cream cheese. If palate fluffing occurs through chocolate, Coppa delivers with a chocolate trifle, having chocolate pudding, a chocolate brownie, and amaretto marshmallow cream.
P.S. Coppa is not playing any kind of donut games people. Ordering zeppole will guarantee consumer humans none other than fried Italian donuts with berry conserva & melted chocolate.
Chef Brandi Key’s debut, as the leading lady of Coppa, quickly forces previous regulars to realize… Houston need not morn Catalan’s demise. While mild chatter for improvements & yada exist, AVH predicts a full blown success is in our midst.
FIVE: High 5!
FOUR: Please & Thank You
TWO: Double Wow
ONE: Wow + Ouch = Wouch