Chef Spotlight: Coche Comedor

Q&A with Chef Joseph Realmuto

If you’re seeing a lot more cars buzzing around La Fondita in Amagansett, don’t be shocked, for the restaurant has created a sister eatery only an arm’s length away—a cozy little open-air stop for Mexican food. HM checked in with Executive Chef Joseph Realmuto to see what’s (and why it’s) cooking.

It was incredibly hard finding a parking spot at Coche the week before Memorial Day weekend, and now the place is as busy as anything happening in the Hamptons. Congratulations! Did you think you were going to have such a hit on your hands?

Thank you! We knew we were hitting a nice with Mexican and the type of Mexican we are doing. There are a few other Mexican eateries in the Hamptons, but we are really trying to feature regional, traditional dishes, not a Tex- Mex menu.

Is it the food? Is it being new? What do you think you did right to hit so incredibly well right out the gate?

I think it’s a little bit of the food menu, and the attention we pay to what comes out of the kitchen, and how different the menu is from other restaurants in our area.

Only footsteps away is your sibling eatery La Fondita, and both serve Mexican food. What is the difference between what’s served at both?

La Fondita is traditional Mexican street food – tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, food you see in Fonda’s (little kitchens in the markets) or on the street served to go or on paper plates.

Coche is a bit more refined, plated and served in a fun atmosphere with a full bar. You will not see the same tacos or burritos from Fondita at Coche. At Coche we have a great wood- burning rotisserie grill which we are serving chickens with a choice of mole sauce, ducks off the spit, and other cuts of meats and vegetables from. We are also offering a raw bar with ceviches at Coche.

One thing for certain about Coche Comedor is the mega-margarita menu. Tell us what you’re doing to become the center of the margarita universe for the Hamptons.

At its heart, the margarita is a simple cocktail. All we are doing is making them properly – squeezing limes in a press to extracts the oils from the skin and avoiding any bitter pith, lightly sweetening with organic agave nectar, and using high-quality tequila.

Our basic margarita recipe winds through the menu using different agave spirits, some bitters or fruit, but the key to it all is simple drinks made with high-quality ingredients.

While these are the best-selling margaritas at Coche, you can step things up with the Anejor Margarita or go a little spicy and smoky with the Smoke and Embers, a mezcal margarita. A house favorite is Smokey the Berry, a mezcal daisy (margarita made with lemon) floated on top of a local black currant cordial from American Fruits.Now to the menu: we understand you’re going local with the ingredients included in your dishes. Are there any Hamptons farms in particular with which you’re working? Is there something special about the farms from which you source?

We are looking to continue to work with Balsam Farms, as we have been using them since they started farming on the East End. Ian and Alex are happy to grow items for us and really know what they are doing as it translates to selling to restaurants.

We have planted a bunch of crops at our sister restaurant, Nick & Toni’s, garden for Coche. And of course, being on this East End, there is no shortage of fish.

We work with our local fishmongers to keep us apprised of what is coming in local and we incorporate it into the menu as much as we can. We would rather not be flying in branzino when we can use local sea bass, tilefish, sea bream, and anything else coming in off the boats and not a plane.

We love to challenge chefs to recommend perfect plates and drinks to go with that are just right for particular situations—and you’re up! Let’s start with July 4th weekend: a group of hip people have secured a table in the courtyard, and the sun is setting. What entrée would you envision they simply must have, and is there a margarita that goes with it?

I am a big fan of the ceviches for a hot day followed by the whole fish divorciados paired with the spicy margarita.

Now it’s mid-August, and it’s so hot the leaves are wilting. You see a young couple coming inside to grab some shade. What plate and what drink would you recommend to help them beat the heat?

I would go for the chicken tamal followed by the rotisserie duck with pipian rojo and fresh tortillas, and with it I would drink the Smokey the Berry cocktail.

Jump forward again to October, and people are wearing sweaters and scarves, and although it’s sunny it’s also kind of chilly. Is there a plate you serve that one could enjoy in the courtyard while the air’s a bit crisp? Any warm-up drinks you serve to go with?

I would say the queso fundito and barbacoa and a side of Chino Latino Duck Fried Rice, and with it I would sip a nice mezcal.