Coi (January 19, 2011)

January 24, 2011

Michael and I dined at Coi in San Francisco earlier this week to celebrate my birthday.  It was a wonderful meal. Easily among our top ten dining experiences and highly recommended.  Before presenting a detailed description of the food, I offer a few observations regarding the caliber of the kitchen and similar intangibles that do not appear on the plate but which contribute mightily to any meal.  The tasting menu – the only option available in the dining room – consists of eleven courses which is no small undertaking and requires a judicious hand.  The delicate presentation and correct portioning of each course ensured each taste was a pleasure and left us sated but not overfull.

The full menu is featured below, but there were a few dishes that stood out and warrant more attention.  I list them not in order of presentation, but according to my measure of their success. The best dish in my opinion was the beef, followed closely by the chanterelle porridge, crab melt, farm egg and the “pasturized” roasted beets.  Every one of these dishes was solid – deceptively simple, innovative and delicious.  The beef was a portion of tenderloin, which is not generally my preferred cut, but this tasted like rib eye masquerading as tenderloin – rich beefy flavor and silken texture – perfectly seasoned, expertly cooked and resting in a pool of elegant cauliflower mousseline punctuated with vibrant green cypress oil.  It was a thing of beauty.  The chanterelle porridge – akin to risotto – was served beneath sherry foam with a side car of thin-shaved crispy root vegetables to be applied to each bite in order to maximize each crispy, smooth, earthy, sophisticated spoonful.  It was both hearty and refined and we were each sorry when it was gone.  The crab melt was simple but inspired – substituting the traditional cheddar cheese with a translucent layer of lardo and contributing an unctuous decadence to in-season crab atop a delicate cut of toast.  And the hits just kept coming. The farm egg was at once comforting and surprising – the loose yolk melding with the acidic salsa verde was rich and familiar but bold and exotic. The beet dish was an impressive homage to its components – presented as a thick puree incorporating the cheese and decorated with the tiniest sprouts and coy little flowers.  The dish itself seemed to be blushing and tasted as fresh and daring as a ruddy ingénue (okay, that description is a little over the top, but I REALLY liked this dish).

I do not mean to suggest that the other dishes were lacking; they simply did not stand shoulder to shoulder with the offerings noted above.  Indeed, if there is any commentary to be made that is not completely fawning, it is only to note with perplexity that the housemade rolls served with dinner and flavored with “pepper” tasted unmistakably of blueberries.  Again, not bad, but not like any pepper I’ve ever had.  The wine pairings were interesting – including a sparkling sake and a white aged on the lees – but they did not hold a candle to the food.

It was a great meal and we will certainly be back.

angostura bitters, kumquat, satsuma ice

geoduck and manila, bull kelp, meyer lemon, wild fennel

beets roasted in hay, fresh cheese, wild sprouts and flowers

steffan’s lardo, wheatgrass

cauliflower, nettle-dandelion salsa verde

steamed tofu mousseline, mushroom dashi, yuba, fresh seaweed

crisp root vegetables, cress, sherry

black garlic, carrot, sudachi, spinach, cypress oil

mixed chicories, sherry vinegar

frozen yogurt, pomegranate, mint

brioche ice cream, pistachio, tarragon


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