On Smith Street and Court Street’s competitive restaurant rows, shuttered storefronts are rarely a surprise. South rolled in and out of 254 Court even faster than Blue Star and Latin Grill did before it, and obviously, the corner of Smith and DeGraw was a bad spot for a fish bowl-like branch of the Baluchi’s chain. After all, Bombay Dream had a nearly identical menu just two storefronts away, and folks could dine there without passers-by ogling their samosas. Baluchi’s departure makes way for Provence en Boite to duke it out with the reigning mid-block French spot, Patois. A few steps closer to Douglass, Village 247 had their closing night party on New Year’s Eve, and as we watched them sweeping the place out, we lamented that they always did have a good backyard for drinking, but their interior décor was so unfortunately tacky.
You’d think the quick turnover here would scare new spots into putting some effort into their enterprise, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Coco Roco, a branch of the Park Slope Peruvian restaurant. The neighbors may not have noticed this place’s arrival, as it has kept the stained glass storefront of its predecessor, Cholita. Perhaps the fact that they’ve opened so recently is the reason the fruit in the sangria didn’t have time to macerate — instead, our pitcher contained crisp apple slices which had been drenched at the bar by a jug of wine. There isn’t really a good excuse for the rubbery Pulpo al Olivo ($8), though. The octopus was almost too chewy to consume, and the black olives in the rosemary sauce tasted canned.
The Ceviche de Mariscos ($11) was edible, but quite bland — especially considering the menu’s claim that the mussels, shrimp, and squid would be marinated in a spicy sauce. The Chicharron ($11), or roasted pork, was also lacking in flavor and a bit on the dry side. However, the Sweet Potato-Crusted Snapper ($14), was a better choice, and its accompaniment of tacu tacu, Peruvian rice and beans with a risotto-like creaminess, was the best bite on our table. The Jalea ($11), cornmeal-crusted mixed seafood, was tasty, but it’s just as good at Mancora (176 Smith), where the service is far friendlier.
Our server did ask if we wanted dessert, but before one of us could request a menu, she was back at the bar, closing out our bill. I could have been tempted by a Cherimoya Ice Cream ($4), but that’s the good thing about this neighborhood — when one restaurant lets you down, you only have to walk a few steps to find a better offer.