As one of the major cities in the States, I find it surprising that San Francisco does not really have any “best” restaurants. The restaurants that many foodies love in the Bay area happen to be located off SF, such as French Laundry, Manresa, and Ubuntu. Gary Danko or Fleur de Lys does not really make the ‘cut’. During my SF trip in 2010, my friend and I made a last minute decision to try something fancy and Coi, located on financial district, was possibly the best choice available (Benu by Corey Lee may have improved SF dining scenes)
Food (and wine) – 90/100
Coi does not leave you with any choice on what to eat – only 11-course tasting menu was available. Price wise, it’s not too bad but we knew that each dish will be quite small. The meal here focused on a combination of local aromatic ingredients, inventive flavors and beautiful to gaze upon. Obviously, the kitchen labored very hard to produce the dish. However, what matters is always the palate which is usually very subtle and relatively clean/light here. We did not have any dish that’s outstanding, however there’re a few that we thought nice.
- the geoduck clam has firm texture, combined with crunchy almond in the background and refreshing cucumber
- ‘Spring’ dish has beautiful plating, inside we would taste fresh pea soup along with decent butter milk mousse
- my favorite dish was butter-roasted morels (from Oregon). The morels are flavorful, integrated by tarragon. The fava beans showed some nice contrast
- it’s hard to go really wrong with slow-cooked farm egg (with runny yolk). The star happened to be the ‘buckwheat soup’ and shiitake, not the egg itself
The main course (beef tartare) was rather disappointing. The beef, while containing some fat, was rather sour. When I saw roasted young carrots with radish powder and sprouts, they looked beautiful and interesting. However, the carrots were too soft and not that flavorful (I had imagined tasting similar carrots served by Passard, perhaps it’s an unfair comparison as Arpege probably served the best carrots in the world). The dessert was quite pleasant; we got smooth & sweet white chocolate pudding contrast with sour and ‘crunchy’ blueberries and lemon verbena.
The food served by Chef Daniel Patterson is clearly not for everyone. You need to be able to appreciate the unique ingredients as well as the preparation’s complexity. The chef is probably still fine tuning his cooking and can definitely improve further. The food is in the level of 2-star (90 pts) and I know chef Patterson would work hard to keep these stars. I don’t see him to gain the 3rd one yet in the near future.
Service (and ambiance) – 91/100
The décor at Coi, an intimate restaurant with 30 seats, is minimal and modern. It has no window and not-so-high ceiling, generating calm atmosphere (as the name of “Coi” suggests - tranquil). The service is professional with staffs that are competent and diligent, the napkins were always replaced and the water was filled all the time. But they don’t really ‘connect’ to the diners, just doing their jobs – hardly any meaningful conversation. The overall experience here is 90.5/100 and Michelin got it right with the 2-star
Pictures of the dishes: Coi spring
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