I welcome a diverse menu, so long as the foods' flavors are as great as the menu's scope. But recent samplings at Manitou Springs' new Coquette Creperie yanked my taste buds from one extreme to another — some delighted, others disappointed.
The inconsistency began before I even put thin pancake to palate. I'm a huge virtual diner, and got excited trolling Coquette's Web site, with its campy, '50s pin-up waitress logo and whimsical menu descriptions. But upon entry, the sepia-toned enclave felt more like a coffeehouse than a sassy eatery.
That in mind, I wasn't surprised to find plenty of spirit in Coquette's brewed beverages. The lavender-infused mocha ($4.75) sports a rich, velvety and creamy taste. And a loose-leaf and toasted rice tea ($3) offers a pleasant, earthy flavor.
Commitments to keeping all crepes (and sausage) 100 percent gluten-free, and to serving all-natural Red Bird chicken, also deserve praise.
Another bright spot comes in the form of the outfit's dessert crepes. The Cheeky Monkey ($7.25), a crepe filled with sliced bananas and Nutella (Europe's chocolate-and-hazelnut version of peanut butter) had me thinking of a wine-soaked night in Paris. Sweet, rich and drizzled with chocolate and fresh whipped cream, it proved a dessert-lover's dream. And the orange-flavored, Grand Marnier-soaked crepe Suzette ($8) is a hangover waiting to happen.
Co-owner Turu Fleites worked and traveled around Europe, which is where her love of crepes was born. It was only cemented by time in San Francisco. Dynamic and passionate, with a musical background and burgundy-colored hair, Fleites says she wanted to merge all her food loves together. What you get, as Turu's husband and co-owner Hiram recently told another local media outlet, is "gastronomic collision."
He's right. But collision differs from fusion.
A timing issue at breakfast had our meals arrive before our drinks. And the overpriced New Yorker ($10.50), with citrus-marinated salmon, egg and red onion was dry and smelled a bit too fishy. The congealed dollop of hollandaise on top and the chunks of raw red onion didn't enliven it.
Dryness proved a common theme, as the South of the Border ($8.95) with chorizo, Swiss, red onion and black beans had only a thimble of salsa. The "fruit of the day" that accompanies all breakfast crepes consisted of a round slice of orange, half a strawberry and two slivers of green apple — pretty much garnish.
Lunch was a head-scratcher. The Tokyo, at a hefty $13, features beautiful, sesame-encrusted rare ahi tuna that's completely demolished by a wasabi cream cheese.
Also in need of a tune-up: the flavorless Indian ($9.50) of chicken, basmati rice, peas and carrots in a mostly-absent coconut curry sauce.
Turu's enthusiasm for all cultural flavors explodes onto the rest of the menu: Greeks, Mexicans and cowboys all get the crepe treatment. The only thing missing is, say, "The Lederhosen," a schnitzel-filled crepe. While dishes can be served sans crepe (with rice instead), the whole concept begs the question: Does every cuisine belong in a crepe?
Upon leaving, I snatched a take-away menu, which shows soon-to-be-implemented appetizers of hummus, bruschetta and cheese plates. Fleites says she's adding it to accommodate evening events.
However it grows and changes, potential abounds for this funky place if it just dials down the four-corners approach. The crepe is a beautiful thing, but it just doesn't travel as well as you might think.