Washington, D.C., would like you to know it plans to be known for its chocolaty goodness now, too.
Earlier this month, my friends Sarah and Amani and I decided to investigate the new downtown chocolate restaurant Co Co. Sala.
The Wednesday afternoon had turned rainy, and periodically the skies would pour forth water as if someone were wringing the clouds out like a washcloth. We each arrived separately, me first and Amani soon after. We’d heard that Sarah was waiting for a bus, so we headed to the bar to take in the scene.
The room was decorated in dark wood and red chairs and booths with lots of modern cube shelving on the walls and with chocolate encased in the bar to accent the hip quotient of the place.
The barman was nice and was able to help Amani find a red wine that she liked — the one he expected she’d like she did and the stretch he thought she should sample she didn’t — before Sarah arrived and we shifted to our table.
The table was in a great location — right next to the window — so we could watch the rain come down and the passersby hurrying along F Street. It wasn’t, however, really designed for eating at. You see, we were sort of balanced on tuffets. Soft, red, velvety tuffets, but tuffets nonetheless. We probably would have been okay with that, but the table was also at knee height, leaving you with the options of stooping over your meal all night or of holding your plate as you ate. It was a small detail, but an annoying one, and I’d request to be seated at a booth, which were at normal height, if it were a possibility for the next visit.
The waitress was thorough in her description of everything on the menu and was kind enough to share with us what she thought were the highlights — and the lowlights — of the offerings. The restaurant recommends that you select two or three Co Co. Bites (tapas) per person before embarking on your dessert course(s). You can see Amani’s choices, shrimp mac & cheese in the foreground and tandoori chicken patties in the back, above. Sarah opted for the bacon mac & cheese (I believe her description was “So wrong and yet so, so right.”) and a goat cheese and beet salad (which I also chose). The salad came artfully displayed in a beet tower with goat cheese between the layers and some microgreens on top. Sarah’s entrées were accompanied by a Diletto cocktail of strawberries and basil.
Where was I in all this, you might ask? Well, I ordered the salad, which I adored. And I ordered this flight of hot chocolate. Yup, those three adorable drinks above were all mine. Each of us picked one we thought I should try. Amani was curious about the earl gray dark (which I liked the least of the three). Sarah picked peanut butter. It was different, but tasty with a nice salty tang. And I opted for the boring old milk chocolate, which came with a lovely homemade marshmallow. All were good, but they cooled off too quickly in the chill of the air conditioning and by the end I was drinking them at room temperature.
When heading out someplace where you really want to eat, it’s important not to get distracted to frills and furbelows. If you’re there for chocolate, make sure you maximize your chocolate experience. Sarah and Amani chose to follow general dining etiquette and to have several small dishes before embarking upon a main dessert selection. I wasn’t there to investigate how well they could make regular food; I was there for the chocolate.
Co Co. Sala offers four themed chocolate dessert experiences — each of which five courses of chocolaty goodness (okay, one course is a cheese course, but still). There are Indian, Aztec, and Italian interpretations of chocolate, as well as one featuring adult interpretations of American childhood favorites. Take a guess where I went.
Yup, I was all about the kiddie food. That merely adequate picture up above is the amuse bouche — a bite-sized Boston cream doughnut and a cappuccino-flavored square of panna cotta. I took a tiny bite of the panna cotta (not liking coffee and all) and then passed it around the table. The doughnut was fine, but nothing to write home about.
The second course, which you see above, was delicious, though. From left to right, you see a malted shooter (which also got shared around the table), a mini Co Co. Cupcake that was quite tasty, and what I believe was supposed to be two parts of one dish — milk chocolate, peanut butter, and banana split. Because they came separately, though, I was able to eat the ice cream (delicious!) and pass the caramel-coated bananas foster off to Amani’s boyfriend, Marcus, who had stopped by for a few minutes while waiting for a friend’s train and who, after eating the blue cheese burger Amani had ordered for him, was doing well by cleaning up after the three of us.
Sarah fell in love with the idea of the chocolate soufflé with a spicy center, which came with a nice piece of chocolate ganache truffle and a kahlua “cooler.” The center really lived up to its fiery advertising, so I can imagine the cooler was a nice addition to the course.
Amani went with the Italian option and chose three flavors of tiramisu: chocolate, wild strawberry, and classic. She was enamored of all three, but particularly of the chocolate. Sarah and I were terribly impressed with the detail work paid to the decorations adorning her choice.
My palate cleanser arrived too early — practically at the same time as my main dessert course — and as such melted after I took the nice photo above. It was “orange creamsicle and chocolate caviar,” which really amounted to orange sorbet with chocolate tapioca balls, like you’d find in those Asian milkshakes that were all the rage a couple years ago. Since I’m not a huge fan of either large peal tapioca nor of the aforementioned bubble tea, it’s perhaps understandable that the “caviar” underwhelmed me. The sorbet was nice — quite tangy — but by the time I ate it, it was more like a cold orange-flavored soup.
By the time my cheese course arrived, I was starting to flag a bit and I was the only person still eating (the one drawback to my plan). The waitress assured me this would be the best grilled cheese I’d ever had because it was cooked using truffle oil. While the oil did make the sandwich crisper than one would normally be, it was not as good as the old standby after a chilly morning spent sledding on a snow day. (The chocolate-tomato sauce drizzled on the plate below it, however, was excellent!) The soup, which was pleasantly spicy, also fell short of the childhood favorite.
The final course (petits four) redeemed the experience, though. The chocolate-dipped strawberry cheesecake “lolly” was coated in Pop Rocks. Amani had never had Pop Rocks before, so I convinced her she had to try one. She was just in the midst of asking if she needed to bite it when it exploded and her hands flew to her face with a look of mild horror. It might have been that I was in the midst of a sugar high, but I just found it deliciously funny and charming! The other half of the final course was a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone. The cone itself is fashioned out of chocolate, filled with a strong minty ice cream, and topped with mini chocolate chips. It’s then presented in a juice glass filled with more chocolate chips. A divine way to end the meal.
We all agreed that the restaurant would be one to which we’d return. Amani said she could see it being a great locale for a festive birthday date or the sort of place to become engaged at. It was pricey, but we all agreed that it was totally worth the price tag.