Coi Restaurant was our first Michelin restaurant and we were celebrating life. Daniel Patterson’s Coi offers one menu every night, based on local ingredients in the Bay area. The tasting menu which was $175/per person (not including wine pairings and the 18% service charge shared by the staff).
We were first interested in Coi because it was the first Michelin restaurant we heard about in SF from a friend. PBS’s Mind of Chef series features Daniel Patterson’s popcorn grits, which we thought was so clever, yet so simple. As we walked into the dining room, we appreciated the simple decor, gelatin prints of cross sections of corn and other plant life. The tall lilies were also quite serene and loved that there was a cutout window for diners to peer in the the kitchen. The music was French loungey including fun beats from Zero 7 and some chill sambaesque tunes.
We have been excited to taste the HOUSE MADE CULTURED BUTTER with Maldon sea salt and homemade breads. Our favorite was the whole wheat with black olive and carraway seed. The rye like bread had a nicely crisp crust. The center was fluffy and light in the middle and salty from olive. This bread did not need salt. It was substantial and rich in umami flavor.
Why is the butter so special. Do you remember in kindergarden shaking a jar full of cream until fresh butter was made. Well this is the adult version of this and lovely, spreadable and fresh on all these earthy breads. To make the butter at home, Patterson shares the recipe in the New York Times.
As an opener, we were served a “CALIFORNIA ROLL“. Essentially this was interesting idea of an avocado sushi. s It was a play on two textures with the lemony avocado mousse and brown rice chips. It also reminded us of super smooth guacamole and chips. How fitting and California to play on two cultures prominent on the West Coast – Mexican and Japanese.
We enjoyed a PLUM ICE. The dish very cold, but the ice was delicate and tasted like an Asian sour plum. The tartness went well with the little flecks of green episote.
One of Coi’s signatures is the CALIFORNIA STURGEON CAVIAR and smoked egg. The amokey, dense yolk had a cheese like texture. In fact the flavors were like a smoked salmon bagel – lox with cream cheese. The creme fraiche created the cream cheese element and the caviar added a sea flavor. How clever, eggs on eggs. There were also three types of animals here, chicken (yolk), fish (caviar) and cream (cow).
LIVE SPOT PRAWN watermelon, lemon flavors – This was one of the most artistic dishes and quite beautiful. The spot prawn (essentially still alive) and a little watermelon on top and an elegant edible flower. The cilantro oil was a nice touch. The flavors were like ceviche. My momentarily childish dining partner said the melon flavors evoked a nostalgia for Fruit Loops cereal in milk.
COFFEE CARROTS – In substitute for shellfish dish, the chef made a coffee carrot dish. We loved the earthy flavors from root veggies which were brightened by lemony espresso soup. The roasted with coffee grounds soup with a bright citrus was very clean.
CHARCOAL ROASTED BEETS brown butter, blackberry, arugula – We enjoyed the sweet charcoal roasted beets withacidic blueberries. Loved that the arugula from chefs garden (and found out there is a small garden on the roof of the restaurant. What was super clever was the acid from the blueberries and the fat from the butter makes balsamic vinaigrette. A true roasted beets salad.
CHILLED, SPICED EGGPLANT SOUP pole and shelling beans, okra, cilantro – This was one of our favorite dishes. The texture of the whole and shelled garden beans with charred okra and cilantro went well with the eggplant dip. The soup was like a plain vichyssoise with flavors of a baba ganoush and spicy eggplant. The edible flowers and cilantro cream was delicate and cooling.
WARM CHERRY TOMATOES roasted squid juices, basil, seaweed crisps – was a unique dish. The dish looks so simple, but the freshly peeled tomatoes were covered in a salty seaweed crisp. The squid juices went well with the bright basil. The little tomatoes were very fresh and the little ones were fantastic, nice and sweet. At first you think a sexy caprese salad. If you taste the squid broth and taste it alone it is a rich stock. The seaweed crisp is crouton like and is like a Fruta Dimare.
GENTLY STEAMED WILD KING SALMON cucumber, succulents, horseradish – The super tender salmon was served with thin slices of radish, bits of cucumber and succulents. The horseradish provided a bitterness to the steamed salmon. In fact the salmon’s color was as if it was raw, but the texture was of smoked salmon. We loved the fresh succulent which was like fresh cut grass. The salmon was like from the sashimi cut and each bite delicate by self. Together with all the other ingredients, it was well matched and balanced. This was a nice anchor dish which ties in the sea with brineyness. It brings in other dishes like the squid. We thought it was brilliant that this dish brought other elements from previous dishes and really tied so everything together.
DRY AGED GRASS-FED BEEF, GRILLED OVER HAY young kale – The 40 days dry aged beef au jus tasted of burnt hay. Barnyardy. The steamed kale was lovely with the fattiest and rarest cross section. The sweet taste flavor of meat was different, it was essentially raw. We really like kale with the demi glacé of concentrated jus. There was a brie like cheese element to the dish, and felt like we were eating the plate at the farmhouse.
As our last savory item was cleared and the table was cleared of all crumbs, our friendly, laid back server complimented us on our messy eating. She said that all the sauces were shaped in a sequence of stars. She said she never saw that before, she liked it. Not intentional, but we will take it.
As an intermezzo, we were presented SEA SCAPED STRAWBERRIES in its own juice. What is a sea scaped strawberries? The Santa Cruz, Dirty Girl farm berries were covered in a strawberry gelatin. The smaller berries were quite tart in their small slivers. In fact, they were not fully dehydrated. There was piquante micro greens. Although the strawberries were deceptively simple, it was not what seemed at first glance. The glistening strawberries had so much complexity of flavor.
WHIPPED COCONUT olive oil, haogen melon, field rhubarb – We were so impeccably pleased by the field rhubarb sauce with flavors of melon and fruity olive oil. The whipped coconut whipped (created with a PAC jet) was super cold. This was an innovative piña colada with melon flavors. It was delicate and salty around the edges. This was one of top desserts ever eaten. What was even more lovely was that the white coconut and olive oil center was reminiscent of the rich smokey egg yolk caviar dish.
GOOSEBERRY BABA shiso, mascarpone, honeycomb – The Japanese sponge cake had A light texture and was soaked honey water. We enjoyed the minty and gooseberry flavors with the nuggets of chewy honeycomb on top.
As a final thank you, we enjoyed several CHOCOLATE GANACHE – olive oil and chocolate. The chocolate had a super thin coating. The chocolate centers were frozen and like mini Dove or Klondike ice cream bars.
Our most expense meal to date has been dining at o ya, Leather District, Boston. How would this compare? They are completely different experiences of similar sticker value. Coi’s more vegetable heavy tasting meal was overall was a truly cerebral and well executed story. There was impressive surprises throughout with an arch and denouement.
We loved how many dishes were intertwined and had little notes which reminded us of another element. Was it worth the cash money? For a special occasion, with the right dining partner and for a true concert it is. For those that prefer tasting meals with more quantity on the plate, this probably is not the right fit. But for those who want complex layers, conductors who know how to craft a food symphony, this is it.