Eat & Drink

Review: Coohills

Coohills has the looks, the location, and the crowd, but the French-American menu underwhelms.

May 2012

Learning about the care that goes into Coohill’s cuisine is impressive—but it also creates a disturbing culinary dissonance. How could food with such thoughtful preparation not be stellar?

The vast majority of dishes I tried—and I’ve eaten my way through most of the menu—suffered in one way or another. The grilled strip steak, ordered medium-rare, arrived well-done. The cauliflower purée that accompanied the spot prawns was tasteless. The seasoning atop the Scottish salmon was salty and overbearing. The gnocchi was bland, the agnolotti too chewy, the short rib undersalted. 

Two things are going on here, I suspect: One, choreography is missing in the kitchen. With space for more than 200 diners at a time—and even more on the patio—Coohills packs ’em in, and the kitchen crew may be focused more on fulfilling orders than finessing the final details. After all, overcooking and underseasoning reflect problems in execution, not design.

The second issue is related to balance—or lack thereof. More often than not, the flavors and textures on each plate competed with rather than complemented one another. The rich cream sauce overwhelmed the delicate crab it accompanied. The octopus, chewy by nature, needed additional richness to make up for the aggressive texture. And although I don’t mind light gnocchi—I typically regard it as a vehicle for the accompanying sauce—the sauce better be damn tasty. Unfortunately, it wasn’t: A toss of herbs and olive oil was too subtle to compensate for the lack of flavor in the gnocchi.

Such expectations are not unreasonable, especially in an upscale restaurant like Coohills, where an average dinner for two, with two glasses of wine and tip, will set you back about $150. At this price, I expect each dish to be finely tuned and well wrought.

The service at Coohills is adequate, but again—at this price—I expect more than just good enough. I expect servers to be able to answer basic questions, I expect to be able to hear them, and I expect them to check back frequently. On all fronts, I was left wanting.

Coohills’ pretty space goes a long way in making up for these missteps, and I suspect this will be doubly true on warm summer evenings when the restaurant throws open its vast windows and creates a sultry, al fresco experience throughout the restaurant. But good looks just aren’t enough. To forge a lasting and meaningful relationship, I need substance I can depend on.