Coi, San Francisco (March 2009)

This was a challenging restaurant to fast for. My reservation was for 6pm, so inanition would set in well before I even made it to San Francisco.

Had I eaten at Coi two months ago, I would not have appreciated what Daniel Patterson was doing. Due to my recent fascination with non-meat viands, though, I was excited to try his eclectic menu. I have seen him at farmers’ markets picking out produce for dinner, valorizing small-scale farmers.

Before I chronicle dinner, I should probably mention the North Beach neighborhood Coi resides in. Circumambient businesses include at least two strip clubs, replete with immund dratchells. And as for the dining room, if you are looking for a restaurant with a scenic view, Coi is not it, for the windowless space and padded walls resemble a modern-day One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest scene.

Bring on the chemistry. This amuse acts as a microcosm for Patterson’s cooking style: flavorful and silky. 

Milk and honey
The silkiness continued with the first course–a chemical concoction that exceeds my knowledge. The alabaster ball holds concentric circles of flavors and temperatures with the inner most layer being a grapefruit sorbet and the next layer a mousse. To the bowl’s left lies a grapefruit, ginger, and tarragon aroma that the server suggested I dab on my wrist. 
Pink grapefruit, ginger, tarragon, black pepper with aroma
This dish looked like a snapshot from an air hockey game where the saucers were preparing to carom off a rail. Vadouvan tastes similar to curry powder, so it offset the sweet beets.

Beets and vadouvan
What a beautiful presentation. Insofar as flavors and textures, they were spot on–peppery chicory, creamy goat cheese, a crisp black olive wafer, and crunchy granny smith cubes. 

Inverted goat cheese salad, black olive tart, chicory, green apple
At the server’s behest, I gently stirred the soup, turning a viscous cream color into a verdant green. It has been ages since I last ate snails; I, thus, savored each chewy mollusk, making sure to ally it with radishes.
Parsley root and green garlic soup, braised snails, radish
Where is the pig’s head, I asked myself? Oh, it is that luculent layer coating the sturgeon, imparting a smoky bacon flavor. My only gripe was the farmed caviar, which is simply inferior, lacking the distinct brininess of its wild brethren. 
Sturgeon, pig’s head, caviar vinaigrette, nasturtium potatoes
I am floored at how each vegetable maintained its structural integrity despite the soup’s scorching temperature. 
Tofu mousseline, yuba, seaweed, mushroom dashi
This is Patterson’s take on paella, and it is delicious. 
Black and white rice shellfish porridge, abalone, clams, mussels, broccoli
Prime New York strip–a well-marbled cut packed with flavor. Patterson trims the fat, renders it out, and then sautés the pieces to a vinaceous hue. 
Prather Ranch New York strip, bone marrow, cauliflower
Acidic vinaigrette cut through the unusual cheese amalgam. 
Trio cheese – goat, cow, and crème fraîche – and mâche
Since I am not too keen on sweet desserts, I found myself in awe of their aesthetics, relegating the flavors to the periphery. 
Kiwi shooter
The ice cream had a sweet, piney note. 
Blood orange curd, Douglas Fir ice cream, walnut crumble
The custard exuded a pleasantly flowery aroma. 
Jasmine custard, hazelnuts, cocoa “dirt”
The cookie crumbs made the confection a bit too sweet.
Chocolate truffle coated with chocolate chip crumbs
Again, this was really sugary. 
Tahitian vanilla bean milkshake, olive oil

As a logomaniac, I find myself struggling to scour through my lexicon for words to describe Coi’s food – hypermodern, avant garde, Post-Chez Panisse …. What I can say unequivocally is that Coi calibrated my Michelin barometer going into dinner at Julian Serrano’s Michelin two star Picasso in less than two weeks.


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