COCHA: Global Cuisine in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Cocha is NOT a restaurant serving typical Louisiana-style dishes. Instead, it is a place that focuses on locally-grown produce prepared with flavors from around the world.

During this time of social distancing and isolation, we still have to eat. And we still want to patronize local restaurants that we love, helping to keep them in business. We urge you to check the websites of the restaurants we’ve reviewed and to consider eating local as a way to help our communities.

Location: Cocha, 445 North Sixth Street, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Menu: Vegetarians and vegans will be happy with the selections at Cocha, but so will seafood lovers and those with a desire to experience cuisines from around the globe. The location near Main Street Market works beautifully with the owners’ concept of serving foods that are fresh, local, non-GMO and organic as much as possible.

Descriptive terms most often used for the menu include: “globally-inspired,” “beautifully-presented,” “lighter and more thoughtful.”

The communal tables work hand in hand with the selection of bites, shared plates and larger offerings, designed to be perfect for dining with friends. The desserts are also considered outstanding with a huge shoutout for the tres leches.

A popular appetizer consists of yucca chips served with guasacaca, an avocado salsa. Quick to grab attention would be such items as Moroccan short ribs, squid ink linguine or roasted duck cachapas. One of the entrees garnering rave reviews is seared redfish with lemon preserves and fried polenta. Clearly, there are no “normal” Louisiana dishes coming out of Cocha’s kitchen. After all, when is the last time you saw fried rabbit liver, grilled Spanish octopus or pork belly corndogs on a menu?

Thoughts: Husband and wife team and co-owners Saskia Spanhoff and Enrique Pinerua opened Cocha in late December of 2016. Between the two of them, they bring the rich and flavorful heritages of Venezuela, Lebanon, the Netherlands and the Basque region of Spain. They refer to Cocha as “a restaurant without borders,” and one look at the menu and a sample of the dishes will prove that to be true.

The name “Cocha” is actually a loving nickname Enrique has for Saskia, and the tale of their starting a business in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is circuitous, to be sure. Saskia is most comfortable with the food planning and preparations, while Enrique is often seen as the “face” of the restaurant.

The interior of the restaurant space reveals wood tables (many of which are communal), exposed brick, an open kitchen, local art, and two striking art pieces made entirely of Mardi Gras beads.

There is a large patio area filled with tables between the front of the restaurant and Sixth Street with a view of a long art installation called “Tree of Life.” The tree depicts its yearly seasons, which, in turn is representative of the seasonal nature of Cocha’s menu. Pinerua and Taylor Jacobsen teamed up to produce the large mural which is a distinctive part of Jacobsen’s brainchild, Heart Trail, in Baton Rouge. The Heart Trail is a 3.2 mile art-focused, downtown walking trail that runs in front of Cocha and is part of the revival of downtown and the bonding of community businesses and residents.

Baton Rouge patrons of Cocha are being introduced to flavor and food combinations they’ve never tried before, and the popularity of the restaurant is growing steadily.

Price range: Bites are $6. Vegetable dishes range from $6-23. Seafood entrees are $18-25, and land entrees are $13-36.

Disclosure: The reviewer received complimentary appetizers as part of a press trip sponsored by VisitBatonRouge.

Connie Pearson

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