To celebrate Lisette’s birthday we dined at Coi.
I was expecting to enjoy our meal for several reasons. First, Lisette selected the destination, and she is pretty good at picking restaurants. Second, Coi’s chef, Daniel Patterson, is well-known from a controversial NYT article and innovative stints at Elisabeth Daniel and Frisson.
Third, Coi was one of the most anticipated openings of 2006, and the follow-up press suggested that it was not a disappointment. Gayot, for example, just named Coi of the country’s 10 best new restaurants.
Coi (pronounced “kwah”) is archaic French for calm, and that is a perfect adjective for the simple, elegant and modern décor (photos). Coi is small – less than thirty seats in the main dining room and fewer than 20 in the outer lounge – and it is ideal for groups of 2 and 4.
Diners are presented a choice of a 4 course menu (of which there are 3 options for each course) or the 11 course tasting menu. As the pictures suggest, we opted for the latter.
Each item we sampled offered wonderful surprises. In some there were unusual tastes, others offered a variety of temperatures, others still used texture to delight, and all used ingredients in unique ways. Each was delicate, balanced, perfectly prepared and utterly delicious.
After starting with an amuse-bouche, we had a pink grapefruit foam with citrus underneath. A drop of fragrant oil with hints of ginger, tarragon, black pepper and grapefruit, designed to be placed on the wrist and sniffed before sampling the foam, enhanced the flavors and the fun.
The second course was rich and decadent: farm raised Osetra caviar on top of sautéed bone marrow. A warm buckwheat bellini and a beet gelee complete the dish. This was followed with sea bream sashimi. White soy and citrus yuzu were well-matched with the subtle fish.
The meal continued on its adventurous path with a soft-cooked egg yolk with bacon, onion relish and parmesan foam. And, it continued to combine the unexpected with the fifth: a smooth squash soup poured over walnut brittle, cipollini onions and cold cocoa mascarpone.
More intriguing still was the “pappardelle” in curry and coconut milk. Instead of flour and egg, the “noodles” were fashioned from yuba (tofu skin). None of the listed ingredients are favorites of mine but the combination was delectable.
You would think that we would be full at this point, but the portion size and the novelty made us anticipate each course to come. Next were two perfectly cooked scallops with jicama, green apple and a refreshing “Buddha’s hand” emulsion of hibiscus and mint.
Course eight extended the culinary delights with foie gras poached squab with endive, hibiscus and vanilla. The medium-rare squab was extremely tender and reason-alone to order the tasting menu. However, my vegetarian friends should note:
there are always non-meat, non-fish options on the four course menu and, with notice, a vegetarian tasting menu can be assembled as well.
My favorite item was the ninth: an onion tart with gruyere and arugula to provide balance. The pastry was sweet and flaky, and this dish provided a wonderful transition to our deserts. As a bonus, it was especially nice with the Vacheron Sancerre we were drinking with our meal.
Ah, the deserts. First were huckleberries, tapioca and maldon salt. I love maldon salt! Second was a chocolate brioche bread pudding with coconut ice cream and a mango sauce. And, finally, warm malted milk with the best peanut butter cookie I have ever had.
Our thanks to Daniel Patterson for a very entertaining menu and to his staff for their extreme professionalism. I am looking forward to a return visit and, if you haven’t been, I can’t recommend it highly enough. There is still a month left but I suspect that tonight’s dinner will be the best of 2006.
Coi: 373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA (415) 393-9000