Sunday, March 04, 2012

Coi in San Francisco

Lamb at Coi San FranciscoCoi is clearly not for everyone. Chef Daniel Patterson's culinary journey is best appreciated by foodies who are willing to stretch their boundaries and appreciate the special ingredients and complex preparation that goes into every serving. Coi's philosophy is based on sourcing the best local ingredients: cultivated plants grown from heirloom seeds; wild-harvested leaves, flowers, barks and roots; local fish, seaweeds and coastal grasses; pastured meat, poultry and eggs from small farmers. The 11-course dinner here reminded me of an excellent Kaiseki dinner I had experienced in Tokyo.

Coi San FranciscoCoi (pronounced Kwa) means quiet and tranquil in archaic French and the ambience within is in keeping with its name. Minimalist decor in earthy tones and a peaceful and quiet ambiance characterizes this restaurant. Service throughout was faultless: waiters in black suits hovered unobtrusively making sure everything was just right.

And now for the food itself. You have only one choice: the 11-course menu with or without the wine pairing. Each course was tastefully presented in small portions and the focus was clearly on bringing unique twists to conventional tastes and textures.

Rice Crisps at CoiWe began with Brown Rice Crisps with a avocado cream dip. The wine for the first course was a fresh and tangy white, the 2010 Do Ferierro Albarino, Rias Baixas from Spain.

Then came the Romaine, crafted in the form of a creamy dollop made from celtuce, a rare version of the popular greens, which is more stem than leaf. The celtuce was topped with a sea-weed crisp. Interesting creation but not particularly satisfying.

Romaine at CoiThe Live Scallops were small and delicate, presented on the crimson red juice and pulp of blood orange. The scallops seemed very fresh but the texture of this dish was somewhat off. The wine this time was a German Riesling.

Live Scallops at CoiNext was the Oyster, so pretty in its reduction of beet and served with radish and jellied seawater. I liked this one! I thought the flavors and texture went really well. The wine, a white Chenin Blanc from Loire Valley, France.

Oyster at CoiThe Dungeness Crab was topped with a yellow floret of some kind and they poured a consommé at the table - a light golden colored butter crab broth. Another good one. They paired this dish with a Chardonnay from Burgundy.

Dungeness Crab at CoiNext came our most popular course of the night. Asparagus cooked in its own juice! Unbelievably crafted, the high quality of the asparagus was highlighted in this delicately flavored dish - pretty much everyone around the table loved this course. The wine, an Italian white from Piedmont.

Asparagus at CoiThen the waitstaff brought out the Popcorn Grits. One of them described the process in making the grits in great detail; the grits tasted heavily of butter popcorn, and had a thick layer of butter coating it. A dish that combined a common comfort food and a traditional one into something more interesting. This was paired with a Californian Chardonnay.

Popcorn Grits at Coi
The next course was a winner too: the Monteray Bay Abalone gilled on the Plancha. I really liked the warm salad of abalone, which came with lettuce and sprouts. The abalone was nicely warm and extremely tender. The dish went well with the fruity rose wine from Provence.

Abalone at CoiThe final savory course was Anderson Ranch Lamb in Two Servings. Both dishes were fantastic. The first a tartare with wheat grass and sprouts. The second one grilled over pine, with potato pine-needle puree and wood sorrel. A fine Lebanese red wine accompanied the lamb.

Lamb at Coi
Lamb at CoiThe cheese course was the Fromage Blanc Tart. Soft cow cheese in a shell of beeswax and gooseberry, topped with coriander leaves. The wine was a bright golden Le Tertre Du Lys D'Or Cuvee d'Exception Sauternes.

Fromage Blanc Tart at CoiThe first dessert consisted of Oro Blanco, a butter-milk and ginger ice-cream with a hint of citrus fruits and epazote.

Oro Blanco at CoiThe next one was a Silken White Chocolate with figs and ground coffee seeds. This one was so very creamy and provided a great ending. The dessert wines served were from Italy and Hungary.

Silken White Chocolate at Coi
Dessert wines at CoiAs some of us sipped on coffee, they also brought in a few 'slabs' of buttery honey almond toffee with a hint of salt to balance the tastes. In spite of the small portions, I found myself pleasantly full. And with all those wine pairings, a little bit drunk!

Honey Almond Toffee at CoiCoi has two Michelin stars and only a limited number of seats made available through OpenTable. Therefore, if you plan to dine here, plan ahead. Coi's avant-garde cuisine is worth a visit for sure.

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