Another wave of tropics-inspired fare is hitting San Francisco this week with the opening of Coco Frio. This time, tucked among the Mission’s strip of trendy European and Mexican-leaning restaurants, chef Manny Torres Gimenez (of New York’s Nobu and San Francisco’s Coi and Quince), decided to travel a different route with his newest venture. This time, he’s taking diners to the Caribbean island of Isla Margarita, off the coast of his native Venezuela.
Everything at Coco Frio, from the dishes to the décor, contains subtle or overt nods to nostalgic beachside Caribbean food of the 1970s, creating a fog-proof atmosphere in the middle of infamously cloudy San Francisco. “I wanted to recreate the nonstop happy hour of Isla Margarita, a favorite vacation destination from my youth,” Says Gimenez.
Expect the dishes to tout cheeky names—like the Mattress Breaker, an upscale California spin on a traditional dish from Isla Margarita, where menu items carry raunchy names to tempt beach-goers. In this rendition, Gimenez pulls fresh mussels, shrimp, and sea beans from the Pacific, simmering them in a rich coconut broth and serving it with fluffy maize flatbread.
Venezuelan street tacos are also on order, grilled until a crisp crust forms, then stuffed with fillings like fried lobster. Cod from nearby Half Moon Bay is hauled to the restaurant live before being lightly grilled and plated on a mound of green plantain patacones, topped with a salsa de ajo (agave and cilantro emulsion), and served with farmers’ market pickled vegetables.
It wouldn’t be a proper carefree, Caribbean-inspired restaurant without the proper drinks to pair with it, but thankfully that’s taken care of by the list of rums and craft tiki cocktails, some served in hollowed out coconuts, just like you’re on the beach.