Coppelia: Chef Julian Medina’s New, Mostly Cuban Diner
Coppelia, the spanking new, mostly Cuban diner from Chef Julian Medina of Yerba Buena and Toloache renown, is one of the those New York City restaurants for which we're always grateful. For one thing, it's open all day (and, soon, all night), so you can stop in any time for a quick bite, or a mid-afternoon refuel of coffee and an amazing Pichet Ong sweet treat (more on that later), or a massive, full-flavored, prepared-with-care meal. Coppelia is centrally located, on 14th Street near Seventh Avenue, convenient when we're off on one of our shopping and/or art viewing and/or goofing around adventures in the Chelsea, West Village, Meatpacking, Union Square area. And Coppelia is moderately priced (not crazy cheap like the REAL Cuban diners of our Morningside Heights youth, true, but still, not bad for today's New York City), it's casual and comfortable, and is swarming with a friendly, good-looking, eager-to-please staff. Admittedly, then, we were rooting for Chef Medina (and Chef Ong) to deliver the Nuevo-Latino-comfort-food goods with Coppelia even before we sat down. The good news is, for the most part, Coppelia totally comes through.
Last weekend we sampled a bunch of different dishes from the extensive and appealing Coppelia menu, and were rewarded with plenty of winners. We tried to stay the Cuban course for our initial visits, but, really, the instant must-order is the Coppelia Mac and Chicharron, a hefty appetizer of creamy, gooey macaroni and cheese, generously studded with chewy chunks of pork belly, and topped with light and crunchy fried pork rinds. Decadent and delicious. Our other starter was also first-rate, a cup of old-school Modongo soup, the tripe tender and rich, the broth appropriately thickish and oily, the yuca and potato adding heft. A definite get-again.
Coppelia serves breakfast all day and a large assortment of under-$10 burgers and sandwiches, but we waded right into Platos Principales territory to see what the kitchen could do. The Ropa Vieja was terrific, sweet and spicy and meaty, the side of sticky black beans a lively addition to the festivities. The Pernil, that classic Puerto Rican roasted pork-shoulder dish, arrived unexpectedly shredded and lacking the intense piggy flavor we were anticipating, but even so, with all that yuca and (again) some chicharron, this was a satisfying dish.
And then there's the Coppelia's postres, created by the incomparable Pichet Ong, currently also running Spot, the great dessert place on St. Marks. For Coppelia, the all-over-the-globe Ong sticks mostly to sweets with a Latin bent (makes sense), including a Arroz Con Leche Brule, a Tres Leches Cake, and, our order, the "Alfajores" Ice Cream Sandwich, starring the absolute best dulce de leche gelato we've ever tasted (and we've tasted waaaaaaaay more than our fair share over the years) between two dense, buttery shortbread cookies. Probably our favorite dessert so far this year, and reason enough to pop in to Coppelia again, and soon.
Coppelia Cuban Diner in NYC Details
Coppelia is located on the north side of 14th Street just west of Seventh Avenue. Chef Medina and crew are planning to keep Coppelia open 24/7 starting in May, but until then they're open from 11:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. To find out more of what is offered, please view the Coppelia menu.