Coche Comedor Promises a Modern Twist on Mexican Classics

A snapper dish at Coche Comedor in East Hampton, which is set to open this spring. Courtesy photos

Amagansett’s Coche Comedor, which anticipates an April opening, promises to be one of this season’s biggest restaurant openings. The restaurant finds a home in the old Honest Diner, a space owned and operated by the Honest Man Restaurant Group — the group that also owns Nick & Toni’s, Townline BBQ, Rowdy Hall, and La Fondita. Honest Man closed that diner, but retained the space, renting it to tenants until two years ago, when they began a painstaking renovation.

The result is a restaurant harnessing both a Mexican aesthetic and sensibility. “What I’m trying to do is just take some classic recipes and give them a little bit of a modern twist,” Joe Realmuto, Honest Man executive chef and partner, said. “The plates are really clean. We’re not doing heavy rice and beans n the plate. We’re not doing enchiladas and that really heavy style Mexican.”

Sopes from Coche Comedor.

The restaurant will showcase cuisine from Mexico’s different states, for a comprehensive representation of the country’s culinary legacy. In the front, where a sweeping bar and glass doors open up to a patio shared with La Fondita, a raw bar and ceviche bar will compose an ode to the coastal regions. Think clams and oysters on the half shell with a tequila-lime mignonette, and a Mexican-style cocktail sauce featuring fresh citrus and jalapeño.

By day, the bar will be an addendum to the lunch-popular La Fondita. “If you’re eating tacos at La Fondita,” Mr. Realmuto said, “you can grab your tray, you can sit at the bar, you can have a margarita, a cold tap beer. We really don’t want to take away from La Fondita; we’d like to add to it.” In the evenings, the bar will graduate to a sophisticated dining space, featuring small plates that are “crispy, salty, spicy”: chicharrones with chile-lime salt, queso fundido with chorizo, sopes with crispy rotisserie duck, tuna tacos, and more.

Coche Comedor’s main dining room features a partially open kitchen, which will provide diners with a window into the soul of the restaurant. In that soulful kitchen, lives a one-of-a-kind set piece, a custom wood-burning rotisserie created by the Mesquite, Texas-based J&R Manufacturing, the company responsible for Townline BBQ’s massive smokers. The rotisserie can hold up to 20 chickens at once, and also features a grill at the front. It will provide the backdrop for some of the restaurant’s most impressive dishes, like chicken with mole rojo and mole negro, and apricot-tamarind glazed duck.

Duck and chickens from Coche Comedor.

A word that Mr. Realmuto came back to again and again was simple. That glazed duck? Served with fresh tortillas. Fin.Simple! A rib steak will arrive, simply, with poblano peppers. The idea, he said, is to encourage family-style dining, where guests can enjoy a wide cross-section of the menu by sharing clean, simple dishes. To supplement the somewhat spare plating, Coche Comedor will offer sides (also shareable), like pinto beans cooked with chorizo, and Shishito peppers. And there will also be cheeky plays on cultural touchstones. Consider, for instance, a “Latino duck fried rice,” using that rotisserie duck and Mexican ingredients, like cilantro and scallion, to up the ante on a Chinese-American favorite.

In keeping with the Honest Man ethos, food will be locally sourced whenever possible. “We’ll steer toward fish that’s in season and coming right in off the docks,” Mr. Realmuto said. “We’re big supporters of Balsam Farms. As well as using our own garden from Nick & Toni’s, we’re going to be planting some things there to supply Coche.” He expects to plant different varieties of peppers, cilantro strands that “you don’t typically see here in the States,” tomatillos, and zucchinis, for the blossoms, of course. “It’s big in Mexican cooking,” he said of the imminently stuffable flower.

Honest Man pastry chef Rachel Flatley will be responsible for Coche Comedor’s dessert menu, which is currently slated to include a banana rum cake with Mexican chocolate gelato, coconut flan with mole almonds, rice pudding with passion fruit and coconut tres leches, and a churro ice cream sundae with horchata and caramel. s

In aspiration, Coche Comedor suggests an understanding of Mexico’s complex cuisine, which differs by region in both intent and practice. Coastally inspired cocktails come up against Oaxacan moles. Heavy pork barbacoa is tempered by summery whole snapper “divorciado”—a dish literally divorced by vibrant red and green salsas. Mexico is culinarily vast, and Coche Comedor hopes to approach that vastness with a smart, ambitious take on Mexican food.