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Cocoa Kitchen and Bar — Who’s Got the Scuttlebutt?

Posted by whforums on December 24, 2008

Have patiently watched the transformation of the old Puerto Vallarta into the new (and, from the outside, awfully sexy looking) “Cocoa Kitchen and Bar.” As I drove past today, I saw an 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper taped to the window that said:


Not the grand opening I’d imagined, but my curiosity is piqued. Add to that the fact that Google searches bring me only to expired Craig’s List hiring ads, and I really want to know what’s going on behind those walls.

Surely, one of you out there knows something about Cocoa — or perhaps has even set foot inside? Any scuttlebutt? I’m not going to make it there until the new year at earliest, but inquiring minds, etc….


The site “Pursuing Domestic Goddess-ness” gives a review to both Cocoa and Front Street Bistro.  Check it out here.

40 Responses to “Cocoa Kitchen and Bar — Who’s Got the Scuttlebutt?”

  1. garyrbeck said

    Curious, where is this Cocoa? I was there for a couple months and do a restaurant guide and never heard of it. Coco’s Breakfast Kitchen at Barrio Sur in SouthSide is wonderful, had a party there. But that does not sound like where you are referring. Info?

  2. Kerri said

    It is in West Hartford Center, where Puerto Vallarta was (near CVS, Mariel Shoe Bar, Elbow Room).

    I’m curious about what kind of food this place is going to have. Even though PV is a chain, I’m a little sad that it closed.

  3. Sara said

    We stopped in tonight … manager said they opened on Tuesday. Menu looks good. Cozy atmosphere, reminiscent of a Vermont Inn. Made a reservation for Sunday … They have a Sunday brunch!

  4. kate r said

    speaking of restaurants (and you guys do, a lot, it’s true) 5 of us went to the Bombay Olive for breakfast and it was pretty good. Only disappointment was blueberry pancakes. An Indian omelet thing was fabulous, as were the potatoes. And the coffee tasted pretty good too, which automatically put it way above most breakfast places (the only great failing of Mo’s diner just over the Hartford line.)

    Bombay Olive was yummy and greaseless enough to convince us to try the real dinner–even the overly cautious kids are okay with it.

  5. I know nothing about Cocoa, but will meander over there this week now that I know it’s open.

    We went to Bombay Olive for the first time last night and had a good meal. Our dinners were just as good as what we’ve had at India Oven in the past. It was marginally more expensive than India Oven (I think about $1 a plate more, but I guess that it could be argued that it’s for atmosphere).

    Has anyone had a good meal at Elements Bistro? We went last week and both had bad meals. My burger was the worst I can remember having anywhere recently and Kyle’s turkey club was just “Eh” to quote. I’ve heard good things from other people, so I just wonder if we caught them on a bad night? Prices seemed reasonable, but I wanted the food to be better. Everything seemed to be pre-bought, nothing homemade. I’d be interested in hearing some meals that people enjoyed there. Anyone?

  6. okp said

    Been to Bombay Olive for the lunch buffet – excellent and cheap.
    Went to Cocoa last night – all 4 of our meals were amazing – loved it!
    Had 2 great lunches at Elements – a burger and a salad.

  7. Chalenois said

    RE: Elements Bistro.
    It smells good when you go in but I agree that the food is only “meh”.
    Twice I’ve ordered a cheeseburger cooked medium. On the first occasion it was served very well done, on the second it wasn’t cooked enough to qualify as rare. I guess if you take the average you can get to medium.
    I don’t think I’ll give them a third chance when I know that I can get a properly cooked burger at the Pug, Elbow Room or Plan B for the same $$.

  8. whforums said

    Haven’t tried Elements, but I so love love love the burgers at The Counter. They like, bring me literal joy. And I’m not a generally joyous human being.

    My wife raves about the Caesar Salad at Rizzuto’s. I like Rizzuto’s a lot, but I’m no Caesar Salad apologist …

  9. Okay, I stopped in at Cocoa’s today and looked at the menu. The atmosphere seemed to give off a modern vibe, so I can’t really agree with the Vermont Inn feel mentioned above. I’m from Vermont, so I think I’m allowed to make a judgement call. 🙂

    The menu seemed a little Grant’s-ish. A variety of meats and fishes. Prices seemed to range from around $17-$30. The lunch menu was less, most meals were around $10-$15.

    I’m not going to be stopping in just yet, saving up for an upcoming trip to Paris and that gastronomic adventure. Would appreciate hearing anyone’s thoughts on Cocoa’s though…

    Oh, and I also went to Robeks Juice to check that out and ordered a junior Orange Freeze. Holy delicious!

  10. Anonymous said

    My friends stopped in this past Friday night to eat at Coco’s in WeHa (west hartford center). They loved it so much that they want to do new year’s there. To tell you the truth, they never venture outside of west hartford center so I’m getting a little bored with it all…

  11. Anonymous said

    I went to Cocoa on Friday night with a friend and really enjoyed it. In fact, I think we are going to head back there for NYE. The vibe was really chill and mellow, almost loungeish. Dark wood, red walls, really just a cool atmosphere. Even though they had only been open for a few days, the staff was exceptionally attentive for the most part, and really really nice. The food was really pretty good, especially considering the brief amount of time they had been open. I needed to send a martini back.. really just way too sweet.. and they were like.. “no big deal”. One drink in particular that I would love to try again… the attorney white. So good. A great addition to WeHa indeed.

  12. ahs said

    We had dinner at Cocoa the other night and it was great. The food was excellent. Dessert was even better, I had the chocolate pecan tart and it was to die for. We ended up going back for their Sunday brunch and I had the eggs benedict which was not only the best i think I have ever had, but was was plated so beautifully-you cant get breakfast like that anywhere else in the area. The staff was definitely very professional – excellent service. The atmosphere is very warm and inviting – the bar is very pretty with bamboo and these very pretty star shaped lights above. We will definitely be back!

  13. Nicole said

    Elements Bistro is the worst. Had one of the worst meals of my life there. We waited almost two hours, service was horrible and when the food came, it was standard fare at most, with my dish being the worst. I had the salmon sandwich and I kid you not, the fish was a small strip and the bun was huge! I almost cried I was so hungry and went over to FUJI afterwards. We left without a tip and a letter explaining the service and meal was the pits!!!! I am excited to try Cocoa. It looks very cozy and modern.

  14. Annie said

    I went to Cocoa’s.. didn’t know what to expect. But I was very pleasantly surprised. The food was out of this world… cooked to perfection and presentation was beyond wonderful! I will definitely be a regular. My compliments to the chef!!!

  15. s.a. said

    we tried out cocoa yesterday. great atmosphere, real nice interiot design, food was a bit disappointing, ravioli had a yummy filling but the dough was too hard and thick, goat cheese with mushroom and potatoes had a strange taste to it and the brownie was thick and hard like rubber,
    it was fun to go there but hope the food will improve

  16. Rebecca C. said

    I ate at Cocoa the other night and have to say that I thought it was great. The food was awesome. I had the crab cakes appetizer and it was so good with big pieces of crab. The prices are totally reasonable too. I have to disagree with the comment above because i too had the brownie and thought it was very moist. I really liked the menu and wanted to try almost everything so we will definitely go back soon.

  17. Jeffandbrian said

    Underwhelmed! Appetizers, Ok I’ll give them that, my friends raved about the California Rolls, and I thought the Crab Cake was good (but small for the price). Dinner took about 45 minutes to come out (we had enough time to ponder creation vs. evolution) Salmon-”the recipe wasn’t even good” “it sounded better than it tasted” and the chef recommends medium rare, but sends it out well done. Moving on to the jalapeño Chicken stew wasn’t very jalapeño-ish, “it’s bland”. Next was the Lobster and Shrimp over sticky rice… bleh and cold…. and the Pappardelle, nothing to write home about. The wine stock is already low, they only had one bottle of our selection, but we did find a second bottle that we liked. The manager felt bad and offered to comp dessert. Again our feeling is that is things sounded a lot better than the they were. The Angel food cake with lemon and raspberries, (sub blackberries since they were out of raspberries) was very average and in my opinion not worth the calories. The sticky toffee pudding was good. Advice dinner is too high priced for what you get, go there for appetizers and drinks.

    Ed. — Accidentally deleted poster’s comment. Reposted, but “my face” shows up beside it. These words belong to “Jeffandbrian,” not me.

  18. Unreported said

    “Bread” – olive oil (mediocre) served in a vinegar decanter, with one whole on top. you must literally SHAKE olive oil out and put it on your SOY SAUCE little square lacquered plate. Two items which are for totally different purposes. Who shakes olive oil out of a vinegar bottle ? Are we at boardwalk fries? Bread served in 4 slices on a plate. Get some help here, guys.<br
    “Purse Appetizer” – undercooked, almost raw potato which shot out of the overly crisp pastry purse. Goat cheese was melted.<br
    “Oysters” – what was I thinking. I thought raw oysters came on ice! Silly me, they come on a plate, with more olive oil on the side! The oysters weren’t properly shucked and there was sand in and on them. The oysters hadn’t been washed or scrubbed so when you picked them up, there was crap all over them. they were ROOM TEMPERATURE. I prayed I didn’t get sick. Hey guys, PUT THE OYSTERS ON ICE, WASH THEM, DONT LET THERE BE DIRT INSIDE OR ON THE PLATE, AND NO ONE WANTS TO DIP A ROOM TEMPERATURE RAW OYSTER IN OLIVE OIL.
    “Sea Bass and Gnocci” – Gnocci were good, sea bass was poached in butter. POACHED IN BUTTER? Sea Bass has a naturally high fat content and buttery taste and texture. Why would you poach it again in “garlic aoili”, butter, again? Of course, fiance loved it and he loves butter. I guess what’s why.
    “Lamb Steak” – with pomegranate sauce, good pom sauce, pretty rare and the hard to cut. Good taste though, I do love lamb.

    “SERVICE” – really slow. waiter seemed uncomfortable and not very sure of the menu.Clearly this restaurant JUST opened and they don’t have the right tools for things yet. Maybe they were overcrowded. They got some work to do and I hope this shapes up to be a solid place to eat.

  19. Carol said

    I went with a friend on New Year’s Day for dinner and thought it was delicious. Service was really great (there weren’t many other diners in the restaurant), and all of our waiter’s suggestions were spot on. I had the petite sirloin off the bar menu, which was cooked perfectly and a total steal for $16. My friend had the duck breast and raved about it. We also split the goat cheese “purse” appetizer and loved it.

    The olive oil decanter/plate situ is a little odd, but their homemade olive bread is fan-freaking-tastic. I want to try to replicate it at home sometime soon.

    Maybe we just hit it right, but we are totally going back. Inside it’s really nice and cozy.

  20. K. said

    I went to Cocoa this evening for dinner and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it! The food and the service were excellent! We ordered from the bar menu so the prices were more reasonable and the portions were perfect. The atmosphere was festive and cozy. I can’t wait to go back!

  21. Heather said

    went to cocoa last night–had a GREAT experience! it was 8pm on a sunday so it wasn’t crowded but there were many other diners. great atmosphere–low lightening, very cohesive design. just didn’t like the hard wood contemporary chairs–but they do go perfectly with the decor. we split the baby spinach salad–and both really liked it. our server, elaine, was really nice and made me feel that i wasn’t being a pain in the ass for modifying the side with my entree. i had the pan seared filet mignon–it was cooked perfectly. they made me a wonderful risotto because i don’t eat potatoes –which it came with. my fiance had the roasted lamb top round and thought it was wonderful and cooked perfectly (and he’s a trained chef). we shared a bottle of cabernet sauvingnon with dinner and had the chocolate creme brulee for dessert–which was also wonderful. great dessert selections. next time will try a martini or other speciality drink. on our way out made reservations for a girls night this coming friday. really looking forward to it!

  22. john W. said

    4 STARS! loved it!!

  23. S.L. said

    Poor service, bad food. Coffee was good. Over heard 2 tables around mine complain about how over/under cooked food was. Recommend skipping this place.

  24. Jason B. said

    Went to Cocoa last Saturday night I have to say it was a great dining experience! Loved the atmosphere and probably will be back this weekend with some friend great job guys!! I think its what West Harford needed.

  25. Laura said

    I have eaten here several times – food and service was always on point! Decor is perfect. Love all the attention to detail!

    I went there the night that they opened and sat at the bar while I was waiting for my friends to arrive for dinner. I had the bartender make a special request drink for me (which he had no issues with!). I did not ask for another one for several hours (even after I had left the bar and had dinner then came back to the bar)…but he remembered exactly what I wanted!

    We have tried the bacon wrapped turkey steaks, baked mac & cheese, mustard chicken, shellfish pot pie, tempura california rolls, wild mushroom risotto, goat cheese purse, spinach & goat cheese ravioli and the roasted beet salad….all were excellent. (BTW…these were not all tried on the same night.) I cannot explain how wonderful they all were. Everything was cooked perfectly! And the taste….well – I can’t say enough. The flavors all marry well together.

    This is a place that I have recommended to countless people already. I heard nothing but good remarks from the tables around me each time I was there. I hope that everyone that reads this tries Cocoa out for themselves!

  26. Lynda DeBatiste said

    We had dinner with friends on Saturday……EXCELLENT! Great service and atmosphere…everyone was very cordial and helpful. Smiling faces and a real eagerness to please. The food was tastefully presented and cooked to perfection. Our wine was delighful(we tried a recomendation of the wait staff)…we will be back and will reccomend to our friends and family.

    PS…after reading some comments I wonder If they had the wrong place…or maybe there is just no pleasing some people…especially those who live to critisize others…Enjoy!! Life is to short…or stay home and eat frozen dinners!

  27. wehagirl said

    I heard Cocoa is trying to be a “club”, since there is practically no night life in the Center. Anyone hear the same?

    As far as Elements is concerned, it’s plain, boring food. Some love that; others, crave more

  28. whforums said

    I had lunch at Cocoa the other day and concur with all the others here who say they loved it. Food was great, service was good … my wife and I were both very happy.

    It really doesn’t seem at all “clubby” to me — but I think definitions of a “club” may vary profoundly within West Hartford’s borders.

  29. Noah said

    I had the open faced pot roast sandwich and it was beyond awful. It was more like reheated leftovers, tough and dry too. My companion had the mac and cheese; not much better.
    Yuck. We won’t be going back.

  30. curious said

    Wow. What an interesting range of comments. I’m heading to Cocoa tonight and have no idea if I should expect something horrible or delicious. What suspense! I’ll keep you posted on how it goes….

  31. JR said

    I’ve been to Cocoa a few times now and have had some excellent meals with very good service. It’s a nice addition to the W Hartford restaurant scene. It continues to be a busy place, so I am guessing the general consensus must be positive.

  32. Anonymous said

    Another friend went to Elements on Thursday night and said it was absolutely horrible. They said never again.

  33. Brenna said

    The new restaurant Cocoa in WH Center is terrible! The food was overcooked. We got the sushi rolls and popcorn shrimp for starters and the lobster/shrimp with bok choy and rice for dinner. The shells were stuck to the fish because it was so overcooked. The bok choy was almost liquified. Total waste of money!

  34. Laura said

    Went to Cocoa again this past friday night. loved it! Had a great time again – food was wonderful AGAIN! I have been here quite a few times now and have not had a bad experience. I am sure that every place you go will have a few unhappy customers – but I trust the masses – and there are more happy posts here than not! I think that everyone should make the decision for themselves and try it out!

  35. FRS said

    We arrived Feb. 17, 2009, at about noon and found the rear handicap entrance locked and had to go to the front entrance (with stairs), to get the rear door unlocked so my disabled wife could enter in her wheel chair. Apparently the door is usually kept locked. My wife ordered mussel stew, I ordered the seafood pot pie and we shared an order of sweet potato fries. My wife enjoyed her mussel stew, but my seafood pot pie, presumably made with shrimp, lobster and crab, was a pink gloppy mass that had perhaps two or three tiny pieces of distinguishable seafood, probably shrimp. For $16 I expected at least to be able to identify the incorporated seafood. The sweet potato fries ($5) were very good, but ketchup, served with them, seemed out of place. The place was nearly empty when we arrived and we were seated at a booth near the bar. Shortly after we were seated a woman with a small child arrived and was seated directly opposite us. We were provided “entertainment” from those two, plus “auntie” who arrived later. The child’s raucous behavior, auntie and mommy singing to the child, and auntie having an argument with someone on her cell phone was enough to swear-off any restaurant patronage for a while. I later suggested to the manager that in some way perhaps people with small children could be seated away from couples who may wish to enjoy a quiet meal, but that suggestion fell on deaf ears. To his credit, our waiter provided very good service. With so many good restaurants in the area, we probably won’t go back to Cocoa.

  36. Kara said

    LOVE cocoa! There are so many great place to eat in West Hartford and Cocoa tops the list. We love it here! We had such a great time last weekend. My favorite part about the whole place is the atmosphere; it is really warm and inviting. It is so often you go out to eat and either feel so small in such a big open space or squashed in a too crowed space. Cocoa’s set up is really done right! We just love the amazing food and cool drinks and our server has always been great. If you haven’t eaten here yet you MUST!

  37. Jesse McB said

    The new restaurant in West Hartford Center COCOA is AWESOME!! Great food. Great Service. Worth every penny!!
    This was one of the best meals that I have had in a long time. Everything was cooked perfectly and tasted amazing. We had the sea bass and the filet mignon for entrees and for dessert we had the banana caramel tart and chocolate creme brulee. OUTSTANDING!
    We will definitely be returning very soon!

  38. DAN said

    The food here is terrible. I wish they would just stick to serving bar food b/c charging $25 for an entree and having it come out overcooked and tasteless is unacceptable. Maybe they’re still working out the kinks but I left this place feeling disappointed. My wife and I go out all of the time for dinner in New Haven, Hartford, Glastonbury & the center and this was one of the worst dining experiences we had in a long time.

  39. Anonymous said

    kara and jesse…are you the same person?

  40. stompson said

    This place was lovely. What a beautiful job renovating this building. What a change! It is so beautiful inside. We love venturing up to West Hartford to eat out. We think Cocoa’s is a great addition to a great town with many wonderful places to eat. Our food was simply delicious. There was not one drop left on my plate! My husband had the california roll and just loved it and I had the crab cakes. They serve it with seaweed salad! yummy! We shared the seabass and all I can say is OH MY! I wish we didn’t share- this was so good- and over my a big serving of potato gnocchi. It was just wonderful! We also shared a cherry pie with vanilla ice cream. This was so delicious and a real comforting homemade dessert, nothing you would find in any of the other restaurants. We recommend it and will definitely be back!

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