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Restaurants & Bars 17

COI [San Francisco]

mdg | Dec 28, 2010 11:09 PM

We finally made it to Coi. This is my new favorite fancy restaurant within the San Francisco city limits, and definitely one of my favorites anywhere. This was the most amazing meal we've had in a long time!

One of the reasons we didn't try Coi earlier is that we're generally not a big fan of tasting menus, so the thought of an 11-course tasting menu put us off. Generally we have two problems with tasting menus: 1) there's too much food, and 2) there's so much going on that it's hard to remember what you had; all the courses start blurring together.

Coi avoided these problems deftly. Each dish and the menu as a whole is constructed very thoughtfully - in a way that the thinking behind it was apparent, but not in a way that compromised the sensual aspects of providing a delicious meal. The dishes were all distinct enough, and the flavor trajectory clear enough, that you could keep everything straight. Every single dish was excellent, and most were thought provoking in terms of individual ingredients or combinations.

The intellectual aspects announced themselves in the very first dish: a "frozen mandarin sour" that explicitly combined sweet, salty, sour, and bitter tastes together. Another great feature of this menu is that it was perhaps the best job of using seasonal December ingredients that I've seen in the area. Citrus, mushrooms, shellfish, and root vegetables all played prominent rolls. Seasonal places will often over-emphasize the root vegetables this time of year, but not here.

The second course, oysters under glass, continued the multi-taste theme of the first dish with the sweet tang of yuzu citrus combined with the saltiness of the oysters, but the presence of the oysters started moving us into less light territory. Shellfish appeared again in the fourth course, the Dungeness crab melt.

I'm not a huge beet fan, but I've found that fancy Bay Area places do wonders with this vegetable. Here the beets were roasted in hay, providing a nice smoky flavor, then chopped fine in combination with fresh cheese, topped with beautiful looking - and tasting - wild sprouts and flowers. This dish was the best match overall with my first wine, a delicious rosé champagne. My wife's glass of prosecco went best with the oysters.

After the crab melt, we moved on to a slow-cooked farm egg with a fabulous nettle-dandelion salsa verde. Then we had too mushroom courses. First was "Earth and Sea", a mushroom dashi with yuba, seaweed, tofu mousseline, and pickled watermelon turnips. This was a high point among a meal of high pints. Next was a chanterelle porridge with root vegetable chips, cress, and a sherry foam (the one foam of the night). The vegetable chips were great either on their own or combined into the porridge.

The largest portion of the night was the Prather Ranch beef done two ways: some exquisitely salted and seasoned tenderloin, and a cheek/oxtail combination with a variety of vegetable purees and garnishes. This was of course a great match with our red wine choices: a Pelerin Syrah and a Sean Thackrey Pleiades blend. My Pleaides also went great with the earlier mushroom courses.

An amazing thing about all these savory dishes is that the dishes nearly all tasted better when eating the ingredients in combination rather than alternation. So many places put tastes together that are nice complements, but cancel each other out a bit when eaten together in one bite. Not here!

For the cheese course, we broke out of the California ingredients for a Reblochon served with mixed chicories that brought out some interesting flavors in the cheese. We then moved to the two dessert courses. The first was a lime sherbet with frozen yogurt, pomegranate seeds, and douglas fir appearing in several accompaniments. The final course, bread and chocolate, had carmelized brioche for the bread. We were a little concerned about the tarragon listed in the ingredients, as we are no fan of the savory dessert trend. However there was just one single tiny leaf to accent the bread and another to accent the chocolate - it worked just great.

I'm sure glad we finally made it to Coi! With the wonders they work with winter produce, we can't wait to see what they do with other seasons, especially late summertime!

Michael

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Coi
373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

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