It's hard to imagine anything in Ashland more creative than Coquina (542 A St., 541-488-0521), as the lately blooming Railroad District keeps chugging along. The folks running Coquina came inland after several successful years in Bandon, possibly because they got tired of having golf balls driven into their kitchen. Sitting in the outside back patio, diners may decide they've found the exact right place.
Coquina calls itself "American nouveau," a name that could mean anything. But it may be the only way to describe a dish called Pork-n-Beans that is actually a slab of rich and unusually meaty pork belly paired with a cake of fat, tender cannelini beans and a dose of sweet, intense house-made kraut. This would be classic bar food -- if your bar served mostly Chateau Latour.
The same spin on something you thought you knew surfaces in another appetizer -- prosciutto with fresh figs -- which bring more texture to the match than melon does. Spinning entirely on its own is a salad of sweet pea tendrils in a pear vinaigrette, set off by hazelnuts and candied guanciale (pork jowl). It's a powerful argument for eating your greens.
Among entrees, sea scallops were sauteed to an impressively consistent golden hue, immersing their tender sweetness with the faintest crisping, and an unexpected but endearing cherry tomato, corn and snap pea salad. Duck breast was rich and juicy, set off by chanterelles and a punchy blackberry gastrique, but not strikingly unusual. Neither was gnocchi with a Bolognese sauce, even if the menu promised the involvement of goat.
Everything can be overshadowed by a finish of chocolate torte with pomegranate sauce, cocoa intensity cut with an unusual tartness. The dish enhances a state of mind already bolstered by the appealing, largely Oregonian wine list and the outside back patio. By David Sarasohn, The Oregonian on October 12, 2011
Menu items may differ from those listed. Vegetarian options are available. Winter hours are as follows, open at 5:30pm Tuesday through Saturday, closed Sunday and Mondays. Reservations are recommended though not neccessary. Please call 541-488-0521.