Coi has long been one of the standout institutions in San Francisco, headed by legendary chef Daniel Patterson known for his seasonal cooking that opened the way for a new term “California cuisine.” His use of fresh ingredients from nature have won him numerous praises, and Coi has been the primary lab where his magic has been happening. I had very high expectations stepping into the quiet and modern dining room. The tasting menu at Coi (running at around $195 per person) was indeed a very good demonstration of chef Patterson’s philosophy. On the other hand, perhaps because of my goal of eating meals I would probably not have or be able to in NYC, the dishes from Coi seemed somewhat repetitive of other fine dining places I had been to. Don’t get me wrong: a meal at Coi is great, but the level of originality and inventiveness I was expecting may have been lacking a bit.
The meal started with a series of snacks. I was both a fan of the light grace ice accompanied by wild bay salt as well as California sturgeon caviar that came with egg yolk, creme fraiche and chive. While the display of live Santa Barbara sea urchin was pretty impressive, I was expecting a surprise in its flavor and texture (still a very good dish). An assortment of vegetables (chicories and young leeks) somewhat felt flat, and I wish the beet’s texture was slightly juicier.
Dungeness crab and beef tendon soup came with flavor of Asian pear and cilantro that created pretty unique sensation, but it didn’t work as much I had expected. Other dishes were definitely a lot more successful. I enjoyed every bite of black trumpet-sunchoke dumpling whose texture was sensational. Also, I couldn’t stop thinking about the lamb loin wrapped in herbs and cabbage. Flavored with mustard and miso, the perfectly cooked lamb was a pure delight and worked harmoniously with the vegetable wrap. Desserts were also mostly very delicious. Burnt grapefruit and spiced coffee cake (which came with dried plum, walnut and mascarpone) were not overly sweet, yet offered a complexity of flavor that I cherished every second.
Coi has a unique ticketing system where you can purchase tickets online (other leading American restaurants like Alinea has adopted this concept). Make sure you check early to see if there is an opening. The restaurant seems to advertise itself as a fine dining institution, but I felt the services were somewhat not to the standard you would normally expect in similar fine dining places such as server overlooking my plate to see if I was done or taking away my wine glass before I was finished once I ordered another glass. Otherwise, the dining experience was very pleasant accompanied by a glass or two of California wine, and I was offered a quick tour of the kitchen and even had a chance to talk and take photos with chef Patterson himself! I was absolutely too starstruck to say anything much but remember asking him if he has thought about opening a new restaurant in NYC (right now, he seems too preoccupied with conquering the Bay Area, with a new restaurant in Mission named Aster opening soon). Coi probably doesn’t have that flash of brilliance that will wow you over and over, but I really liked the faithful execution of the meal that used a combination of fresh ingredients. It is an iconic restaurant in San Francisco that is worth visiting.
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
Address: 373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133
Telephone: (415) 393-9000