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    SF, Berlin, Beijing
  1. tinnitus


    I just got back from a casual lounge dinner at Coi, as opposed to 16 course with wine pairing extravaganza that we did a couple of months ago. It's hard to find a good restaurant in SF that can serve reasonable food on a Friday evening without being unpleasantly loud and packed, especially when one hasn't planned ahead with a reservation. The lounge area of Coi was comfortable and space was not a problem when we arrived at 7:45 (did call ahead but didn't reserve), although it did fill up by about 8:30 or 9pm. We ordered mostly from the simpler lounge menu, including the pork rillet (homemade, I'm sure, rich and unctuous with cornichons on the side), the grilled Gruyer sandwich (a reason to come back by itself, according to the other half), the slow cooked pork with cabbage and mashed potatoes (slow cooked for 15 hours and yet somehow completely juicy and delicate, an amazing feat really). We also got one dish off the tasting menu, the charred eggplant one that's been documented above and the apple dessert; the a la carte versions we received were both about twice the size of what's pictured in the photo, although I can't promise that it wasn't a result of preferential treatment. Aside from what we ordered, we also got the sunchoke amuse, an extra greeting from the kitchen of roasted baby beets with a pomegranate sauce (?), and a palate cleanser of creme fraiche ice cream with persimmons (I think). To drink we had an open glass of sauvignon blanc and one of Oregan pinot noir, followed by a recommendation of a half bottle of a 2001 Amarone, which was a gorgeous multi-layered wine. I would really recommend the lounge if one is local-ish and not feeling up for the full tasting menu experience, as everything on the tasting menu plus the lounge menu is available to order separately in the lounge at very reasonable prices, and the service was absolutely professional and thoughtful. If it's your first or one time visit though, do get the long tasting menu as it has a number of highlights that you might not think to order individually.
  2. tinnitus


    Went there for dinner last week, we managed to snag a table at the small room in the back near the kitchen, which was not as interestingly decorated or good for people watching as the main room but had far better acoustics and much more space. There's been a lot of buzz about the place and I was surprised to find the menu to be pretty generic looking Californian French. We ordered the charcuterie plate ($16), and a watermelon salad with home cured sardines ($10) for our starters. The charcuterie plate was kind of obligatory since they're homemade etc., which is a trend among the Italian restaurants in town but not so much the French, and we got a rather big assortment of items on a plate, perhaps 6 or even 8 types which the waiter quickly explained but I forgot as soon as it was over (didn't take notes or photos). I would've personally preferred quality over quantity in this case: most of the items weren't memorable, the duck liver mousse with port wine in a little ramekin and the chorizo were the standouts. There were a couple of types of pates but they were sad little dry triangles not much bigger than my thumb, perhaps they would have been better ordered alone, which was possible via the bar menu. The watermelon salad was excellent, I like the mild pickling effect of the dressing on the sweet watermelon, there were however only 2 tiny pieces of sardine, perhaps less than a single fillet altogether, which seemed a little meager but the flavors were very good. For our main courses we got the monkfish and mussels ($28), and the pork tenderloin ($26). Fine fresh ingredients, excellently done monkfish, you could see from the sauce for the pork that someone in the kitchen had mastered veal demi-glace, etc. For dessert we shared the chocolate and caramel fondant, chocolate sorbet and chocolate paper ($9). Very chocolate-y, professionally done, no complaints. Wine: they have an impressive wine book. Seriously, seriously impressive, especially if you have the wallet and inclination to drink some old German Rieslings or French Burgundies. There were old Trockenbeerenauslesen for over $1k and ditto for seriously good French reds. The husband started with a glass of rose Champagne ($18), I went for a glass of Riesling Spaetlese ($14), and we continued with a bottle of 2003 Thierry Allemand Cornas ($130). The wines were lovely, the sommelier seemed a little overwhelmed with the size of the cellar, especially when we ordered a glass each of Mas Amiel vintage fortified wine to go with the chocolate dessert, and they weren't able to find the bottle until we were almost done with the food. They did end up taking that off the bill so it was at least professionally handled. Service was highly uneven but that's probably because the restaurant has barely had time to properly open. We went on a Monday night and the main room looked pretty full. They had a much simpler bar menu (also available to order from the dining room) which had things like burgers, mussels and fries, and a good looking long bar. In conclusion? Good solid French food with some Californian characteristics, and an amazing wine list. Not sure what the big fuss is about but it's not a bad effort.
  3. Ah ok. If you have any specific requests for Berlin in terms of location, cuisine, or price range, feel free to let ask. It's very warm here this weekend, by the way. And Monday is a holiday so all the shops will be closed, in case you didn't know.
  4. robyn, I caught this thread a little late it looks like you are in Berlin now and still have a few days, so I'll throw in my 2 cents about Berlin restaurants. I'm American but live in Berlin part time, and have been to all of the Michelin star'd restaurants in town, many more than once. Our favorite restaurant right now is a new place in Kreuzberg called Hartmanns. The food I would definitely describe as modern German, the prices are reasonable, the wine list very nice and focused on German-speaking countries, the people and young chef are very friendly (and speak English), the address is Fichtestraße 31, phone # 030 6120 10 03, reservation recommended. The two Michelin starred restaurants worth going to, keeping in mind your interest in modern German cooking, are Restaurant 44 at the Swiss Hotel (www.restaurant-44.de) and Facil at Potsdamer Platz (www.facil-berlin.de). Both also have good lunch menus at much more reasonable prices than dinner, and both have outside terraces that are very pleasant this time of the year (when it doesn't rain). I haven't had any trouble getting reservations. Margaux used to be really great but they've had a lot of changes in chefs and other personnel over the years, which makes it a bit unpredictable. It's also much more French than the two I mention above. Other than that: I suggest drinking German Rieslings and Austrian red wines if you're not wedded to beer. And if you or your husband feel the need for beer while in town, Prater Garten in Prenzlauer Berg (www.pratergarten.de) is a great place to people watch and linger.
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