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Dining Out

Coi (San Francisco, California)

by Michael Chu
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Our dinner at Coi in March 2009 was the best fine dining experience we have ever had. The design of the dishes were incredible - both visually appealing as well as stunningly well-balanced flavor and textures. When ever have a multicourse meal, there are dishes that we don't like - but at Coi, all fifteen dishes we had were excellent. Service was also excellent, but the food was just phenomenal.

We ate in the lounge (because I couldn't get a reservation in the dining room on short notice) and was presented with both the dining room menu as well as the lounge menu. Coi's tasting menu ($125) consists of eleven courses, so the dining room menu lists about fifteen dishes where four selections are of the A or B type (choose one). We asked if we could do both (Tina eating one set while I ate another tasting menu with the other selections chosen). Our server told us that was definitely possible, but they also offered all fifteen courses at $155. Naturally, we chose the Full Menu.

House baked bread was served with house churned butter (made of cream from Straus Family Creamery) and sea salt. The bread was subtly seasoned with sage and black pepper.

Milk & Honey - a bubble filled with sweet liquid that tasted of milk and honey. What a way to start a meal!

Pink Grapegruit (ginger, tarragon, black pepper) - a ball of grapefruit sorbet over diced grapefruit segments with a foam/mousse on it. Served alongside a drop of Coi Perfume (a pleasant scent made from essences of pink grapefruit, ginger, black pepper, cognac, and tarragon).

Shiny Beets (citrus scented gel, vadouvan) - glazed with a citrus scented gel with a vadouvan served underneath. The subtle citrus augments the beet flavor followed by a hint of curry after.

Inverted Andante Dairy Goat Cheese and Black Olive Tart (chicories, green apple, mint) - the goat cheese was amazingly creamy and fine. The flavor was some of the best goat cheese I've ever had. The slightly bitter chicories with the sour apple cubes (which were prepared sous vide to increase its flavor) really matched well with the crispy sweet crepe and earthy goat cheese. Each of the individual flavors were wonderfully tasty, but together they blended superbly.

Winter Into Spring (early season asparagus, buttermilk snow, sylverleaf olive oil, herbs) - Asparagus cooked three ways - the tips of the spears, thinly sliced stalks cooked sous vide with champagne vinegar so they were crispy and slightly acidic, and a pudding. The buttermilk was frozen and shaved into snow. Cold and warm, sweet and sour.

Parsley Root-Green Garlic Soup (local snails, padron chile flakes, radish) - smooth, warming taste. The snails were very tender - like super soft chicken hearts or gizzards without the crunchy texture

Salad For The Apocalypse (roots, ash, weeds) - Ultra-fresh turnips and sunchokes are the first tastes I noticed, but the leek ash (made by roasting the leeks until black, shaving them, and mixing with olive oil and maltodextrin) was the most incredible part of the dish. With the texture of ash (it falls apart and smears just like fine ash) but with the potent flavor of leeks - it wasn't just a gimmicky presentation, it added a unique taste and texture to the salad. Local natural plants such as Miner's Lettuce were used as the dominant greens which was very cool since it's not a mass produced "global" vegetable and a real taste of the Bay Area.

Sturgeon Poached in Smoked Oil (pig's head, caviar vinaigrette, nasturtium scented potatoes) - the sturgeon was tender and delicate with great flavor. an ultra-thin slice of a pig's cheek was laid on top of the sturgeon as if it was sturgeon skin. The caviar was pleasantly salty and very clean flavor. This was my favorite dish - I thought about ordering another one for much of the rest of the meal until I became much too full to consider eating more.

Earth and Sea (steamed tofu mousseline, yuba, fresh seaweeds, mushroom dashi) - the tofu tasted of ginger. the tofu skin (yuba), tofu, and cruchy vegetables made a good mix of texture. Overall, it was an excellent dish, but the first dish where Tina and I agreed that, when we return to Coi, we probably wouldn't order again.

Nettle-Ricotta Cannelloni (wild mushrooms, oxalis flowers) - the cannelloni was made of a slightly sweet nettle juice gel (instead of pasta) and was the perfect wrapper for the ricotta based filling. The base of the oxalis flowers were lemony. Eaten all together, the sweet, sour, and salty blend perfectly together.

Black and White Shellfish Porridge (grilled abalone, mussel, clams, broccoli di cicco) - the started off a little weird because we both tasted the black rice porridge first and felt it was really sour. The dish actually has both a black rice porridge layer and a white rice porridge layer separated by a thin lemon gel sheet. Spooning the porridge picks up a little of the sour gel and it mixes in the mouth. Could this be the first bad dish? Nope, Chef Daniel Patterson knows what he's doing. When the porridge is eaten together with the shellfish, the sourness simply turns into a brightness that matches perfectly with the briney and slightly sweet shellfish. Taken together with the broccoli di cicco, this dish completely demonstrates Chef Patterson's mastery of blending flavors, successfully activating all the taste buds - salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. Amazing.

Slow Cooked Farm Egg (slow roasted farro, erbette chard, brown butter-parmesan sauce) - although this wasn't one of my favorite dishes, it is a really amazing construction and I highly recommend trying it. Patterson is just showing off here with his skills. The egg is the most perfectly cooked egg I've ever had in my life. The whites were solidified while the yolks were perfectly flowing. To accomplish this, the eggs are placed in an immersion circulator and heated to 63°C. Then, it's served with a foam that tastes of Parmesan cheese which was simply amazing. It's like eating Parmesan cheese without the heaviness of cheese adding to the dish.

Pastured Beef, Pure Form (Prather Ranch loin cooked in its fat, marrow, roasted cauliflower) - the marrow had outstanding flavor but the beef was a little tougher than we'd like it. Both the beef and the marrow were very flavorful. The roasted cauliflower puree had the texture of a pate and it really seemed like we were eating foie gras that tasted like cauliflower!

Trio (Soyoung Scanlan) (toast, peppercress) - this cheese from Andante was made from the blending of cow's milk, goat's milk, and creme fraiche. The rind was a little too strong for me, but the cheese had excellent flavor.

Before the dessert courses, an intermezzo of yogurt with kiwi served with a black lime foam was incredibly delicious. After drinking the yogurt, we went in with spoons to get every last drop out. In addition to be extremely tasty, it was also excellent at cleansing the palate.

Blood Orange Curd (Douglas Fir ice cream, black walnut crumble) - the curd was sweet with a heavy blood orange flavor (so much so that the blood orange segments served with the dessert tasted a bit bland). The ice cream was made by steeping Douglas Fir needles in the cream for days (Carlos Salgado, the pastry chef is still experimenting with the exact duration) to produce an ice cream with the fragrance of pine needles. It's really quite a combination. Eaten alone, I thought the Douglas Fir ice cream was a bit strong, but together with the blood orange curd, it was a nice combination. Tina felt that the ice cream was too strongly flavored in both cases.

Caramalized Jasmine Custard (hazelnut and cocoa textures) - the custard was light in texture with the pleasant essence of jasmine flowers which were steeped in the cream before preparing the custard. The crispy, crunchy, and crumbly hazelnet and cocoa preparation that went with the custard was a good pairing.

Our final little bits were called Chocolate Chip Truffles and were served with an olive oil, vanilla milkshake. The truffles were crumbly and delicious, but the milkshake was awesome. (Tina like the truffles more than the milkshake.) The sweet milkshake was noticeably salty (but not overly so - similar to the saltiness in a really good cookie) and had a hint of olive fruitiness (from the oil). An excellent ending to an excellent meal.

Coi is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 6pm to 10pm.
373 Broadway
San Francisco, CA 94133

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Written by Michael Chu
Published on March 31, 2010 at 05:55 PM
2 comments on Coi (San Francisco, California):(Post a comment)

On April 11, 2010 at 08:21 AM, DeeDee (guest) said...
oh my gosh, i just read the article on the restaurant coi, if i lived in sanfrancisco i would try the 15 course meal described in the article. sounds fantastic. i dont even like seafood but would try everything on here as they make it sound exotic

On November 06, 2010 at 10:59 AM, Hillary (guest) said...
Subject: The Food in the images
I have to say that the food in the images just look delicious and I tend to like house baked bread (and I have seen lots of info on the web about breads, like this video about Braided Easter Bread). It was a great read for me, thanks :P .

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