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Coupa Café

Coupa Cafe

The Best Venezuelan Cuisine and Coffee in California

Coupa CafeCoupa Café  is the  lively Venezuelan restaurant and the only one in Los Angeles that offers a new style of international dining which combines the best and most authentic Venezuelan dishes with “a philosophy of the modern slow food movement and the use of super fair trade ingredients.”  Located in the heart of Beverly Hills on Canon Drive, Coupa Café is a full-service restaurant and has been attracting attention since it opened in 2006.  Frequented by a long list of celebrities, including Lindsay Lohan, Michelle Pfeiffer, Leonardo DiCaprio, Janet Jackson, Bruce Willis, Tyra Banks and more, Coupa Café is a dining experience unlike any other.  This urban oasis is owned and managed by Camelia Coupal.  While most would not expect to find such a gem serving affordable and authentic Venezuelan cuisine in Beverly Hills, this full service restaurant undoubtedly deserves more recognition.  The word coupa is derived from the French expression “coup a vin” meaning a class of wine.  Rightly so, Camelia and her siblings decided to transform that into “coup a café” meaning a cup of coffee.  Not to mention, the close similarity to their last name, Coupal, made it a perfect choice for the restaurant.

Coupa CafeCamelia is a natural in the restaurant’s cozy environment as she manages, oversees, and works at Coupa Café.  Her family has been in the restaurant and food industry before she was born, with restaurants in Venezuela for the past twenty years and in California for the past five.  Camelia, along with her brother and sister, were inspired to open a Venezuelan restaurant while studying at Stanford University, as they felt Palo Alto seemed like the perfect location with the right clientele to introduce Venezuelan cuisine to the California market. “We thought it was something innovative and great to bring to California,” says Camelia.  They opened their first location in Palo Alto in 2004 and second in Beverly Hills in 2006.  Their third and most recent restaurant in Stanford opened in October 2008. 

Coupa CafeFor coffee lovers, it is important to know that Coupa Café is not only dedicated to the quality of coffee they serve, but also to the fair trade of coffee beans.  They work directly with their coffee farmers in Venezuela in a super fair trade fashion to ensure that their farmers receive fair prices for their coffee production.  They are the only source in the world outside Venezuela for the nation’s hand grown, sun dried, fair trade organic Arabica coffee beans.  Venezuelan coffee offers a smoother and richer flavor than other South American coffees. The Coupal family takes care in every step of the coffee process, from growing the beans in fertile soil in the right climate, to hand collecting the beans and sun-drying them on patios before carefully selecting them for roasting.  From starting off with only two farms to now working with eighteen farms, the Coupal family continues to devote their passion to guaranteeing the “best quality, aroma and taste of Venezuelan coffee.”

Breakfast is served all day and features delicious and healthy combinations like fresh egg scrambles, homemade baked goods, pancakes, waffles, French toast, and frittatas. Specialty breakfast items include the BLT Croissant, Breakfast Arepa filled with scrambled eggs, Dutch gouda, and bacon, and the Perico Platter, featuring scrambled eggs with sautéed tomatoes, onions, and sweet peppers, along with an arepa.  For light eaters, Coupa Café offers a full page of salads to choose from with delightful varieties like Fresh Eggplant Capresa, Crispy Prosciutto Salad, and Heirloom Tomato Salad

Coupa CafeThe starters on the menu feature a few of my favorites, especially the traditional Venezuelan selections, to share or enjoy alone.  The Tequeños are excellent as they are traditional appetizers that are always served at any party, gathering, or event in Venezuela.  They resemble miniature eggrolls as white flour dough is wrapped around a white cheese stick, and then deep fried.  The cheese is soft and mild, but blends beautifully with the soft dough on the inside and fried crunchy exterior of the roll.  Maracuchitos are also traditional Venezuelan starters that deserve recognition for its combination of sweet and salty flavors.  Coupa CafeCubes of queso duro are wrapped in slices of sweet fried plantain and held together with toothpicks. The sharp, salty taste of the cheese is mellowed by the hint of sweetness from the plantains, and makes for a tasty snack.  And who could forget the Empanaditas, small sized homemade puff pastries filled with shredded carne mechada, red peppers, and queso blanco.  The empanadita was extremely flavorful with a perfect crisp shell over the juicy, shredded beef.         

Coupa CafeThe empanadas here are authentic and amazing as they are larger than most that you find in Los Angeles. These generously sized empanadas are filling as they take up half a plate and are best of all, affordable.  The Cazon Empanada, made with fresh shredded young shark, is a gourmet find all in itself.  This is a traditional and famous specialty of Margarita island and is usually eaten for breakfast there.  The fresh shark is tender and cooked with spices, onions, sweet peppers, garlic, and soy sauce.  Enjoy the empanada with three delicious homemade sauces; a garlic sauce, a Venezuelan guacamole style sauce, and a hot pepper sauce, to give each bite a different taste.

While everyone knows about empanadas, they are missing out on arepas!  Arepas are traditional thin white cornmeal griddle cakes that are considered a constant staple in Venezuela as bread is in other countries.  Coupa CafeThese delicious flat cornmeal cakes are usually eaten like bread slices in a sandwich as they can be filled with anything from cheese and eggs to chicken or beef.  The trend among the younger crowd in Venezuela is to visit an arepera after leaving a club or late night gathering.  One of Camelia’s favorite dishes at Coupa Café are the Guayanes Arepas with its handmade soft cheese imported from Venezuela in between two warm arepas.  Guayanes is an unripened cheese made from raw whole or partly skimmed cow’s milk, resulting in a creamy and smooth texture similar Coupa Cafeto fresh buffalo mozzarella. The Carne Mechada Arepas is also just as good, with its filling of Venezuelan style shredded beef stew cooked with tomato juice.  The tender and juicy beef filling exudes immense flavor and could be considered the Venezuelan version of a sloppy joe.  Ordering an arepa (all under $8 each) is filling enough to be a full meal as they are served with a side salad of fresh mesclun greens with feta cheese, olives and lemon vinaigrette. 

Coupa Café also offers an extensive selection of specialty entrees.  The home-style Venezuelan Pabellon is a quintessential meal of homemade shredded beef stew, served with simmered black beans, rice, sweet fried plantains, and arepitas with queso blanco.  Coupa CafeThe tender, flavorful shredded stewed eye of round in its rich tomato based sauce with its classic sides in balancing flavors makes this the national dish of Venezuela.  The thinly sliced plantains are fresh, not overly ripened, and impeccably fried without being greasy. Another characteristic dish is the Polvorosa de Pollo, a pie of crumbled crust with a filling of shredded chicken breast, sweet peppers, leeks, tomatoes, raisins, capers, onions, Coupa Cafeolives and papelon raw hardened sugar cane pulp.  The sugar cane pulp in the sauce along with the raisins gives this dish a sweet but slightly tart undertone.  A plentiful triangular slice of this is served with a side salad of a mesclun greens.  Another one of Camelia’s favorites is the One Way Wild Salmon, glazed with honey and cooked medium rare on a bed of salt and served with fresh baby carrots, summer squash, zucchini and green beans.   

Coupa Café offers a full wine list and a variety of curiously creative martinis and cocktails.  The Pomtini is made with jinro soju, pomegranate juice, and a splash of prosecco, resulting in a refreshingly light and cosmo-like cocktail.  If you get the chance, also try the Cosmo de Provence, made with a lavender citrus infuser, or the Guarapita, a traditional Venezuelan cocktail made of soju, passion fruit juice, and sugar.  Coupa Café also has a diverse selection of coffee, teas, and hot chocolate.  Coupa CafeThe Hot “Chuao” Chocolate is excellent when ordered spicy, as the rich bittersweet chocolate cocoa has just the right undertone of spiciness from cinnamon and chile peppers to warm you up instantly.  Personal touches can be seen in the details, like the decorative drizzle of chocolate in the shape of a treble clef resting atop the foam.  For a strong cup of robust and rich Coupa Cafecoffee, the Marron roast is strong and aromatic, and great as a latte or plain black.  Pair these drinks with a specialty latin American dessert, like the Tres Leches fluffy yellow cake soaked in three milks and topped with a sugary frosted meringue, or the Venezuelan Quesillo, a traditional style crème caramel.  Big enough to share, the Quesillo is a rich custard with a caramelized top that is less sweet than the traditional crème brulee.

Looking forward in anticipation of the next five years, Camelia plans to remain in Los Angeles to devote her energy and focus in making the Beverly Hills location the corporate headquarters for Coupa Café.  They are also looking to eventually expand their locations throughout California and the nation.  Coupa Café is an excellent choice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or just a cup of joe.  Another enticing reason to visit Coupa Café is they have a great happy hour menu Monday through Friday, 5 – 7 p.m., featuring $3 beers, $6 wines, $7 martinis, along with delicious appetizers for only $5 each.  Coupa Café offers free wireless internet and is very welcoming to students who just want to study and enjoy a cup of premium coffee. Open daily 8:30 a.m. – 9 p.m, with live music on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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