When we asked whether Coca’s surprise shutdown signalled closure or reincarnation, we didn’t know that its management was wondering exactly the same thing. The now-shuttered restaurant will either reopen as an entirely new enterprise, or not at all. But there is some good news. If the spot has gone downhill since losing its signature chef, Nathan Isberg, it might make hipsters swoon again: estranged from Coca since an unceremonious split from investors back in November, Isberg was surprised to get a call asking him to come back and shape an entirely new venture in the same space. Burned by bad politics and immersed in new endeavours, though, the young chef now faces a dilemma. His choice may decide the project’s ruin or renewal.
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Last night, we noticed that the windows of the trendy tapas bar Coca had been papered over. Though it was open on Friday, its phone now rings into eternity and its Web site is off-line. But devotees should remain calm. Though we can’t confirm, a tip from former affiliate restaurant Czehoski tells us that Coca is not a recession sob story. (The two spots were formerly associated by ownership under Brad Denton and the shared culinary custody of chef Nathan Isberg.) A Czehoski insider claims that Coca is slated for a major overhaul that will include a large-scale renovation and a name change. Sometimes referred to as Czehoski West, the restaurant may be seeking to assert a new—and distinct—identity. With buzz building, we’re wondering just what the lockdown means. Is this the unceremonious end of the strip’s beloved Coca cabana, or is it just a reinvention? Stay tuned. For further developments, check out our latest dispatch.