Dinner at Coi Restaurant in San Francisco

by foodhoe on March 24, 2014

373 Broadway, SF, CA 94133 | 415.393.9000 |  website


Last week, I received an email from my friend Jeffrey that he was in town and was I free for dinner?  And he next inquired if I had been to Coi?  No, I haven’t been although I’d walked by many times and looked in but had been scared off by my friend Ben’s experience a while ago.  They now only serve the 11 course tasting menu and the price has gone up to $195, so of course I have never been.  Coi (pronounced kwa, a French word for tranquil) is one of the elite temples of high cuisine that has been known to practice the art of molecular gastronomy.  I jumped at the opportunity and joined Jeffrey along with some of his friends for dinner in a private room.  The restaurant only offers one menu nightly, based on the best ingredients available.  This was the menu, which we received at the end of our meal in an elegant charcoal gray envelope


Coi is located on Broadway, a block away from frowzy stripclubs, North Beach and Chinatown.  When the door closed behind me it felt as if I had entered a sanctuary in a hushed and magical urban forest.


I was led down a series of hallways past mysterious and intriguing dining areas


back to a cozy private room featuring a dark wood table set with gleaming stemware, with room for much more…


This is the selection of wines that were poured for us over the course of the evening.


We began with a series of amuse bouche, this is the California bowl, filled with ethereal crisps made from brown rice, sprinkled with tiny fronds of micro greens and herbs, along with a scoop of avocado puree.


I was somehow surprised that the man serving me chips was chef Daniel Patterson, the sylvan king himself!  His restaurant Coi has earned 2 Michelin stars and consistently rates 4 stars from the local SF Chronicle and is quite close to making the top 50 restaurants in the world.  He recently had a cookbook called COI Stories and Recipes  published by Phaidon and has 5 restaurants: Coi, Plum, Plum Bar, Haven, and his newest Alta CA.  Chef Patterson takes you on a journey, serving his narrative tasting menus with each dish leading into the next.


The sno-cone was described as a palate cleanser, made of blood orange ice, flavored with aromatic pink peppercorns and black lime.  It had a soothing granular icy texture that was more salty than sweet which primed our tastebuds for the courses to come.  The taste sensation of salty and sweet for me was reminiscent of gatorade…


The carrots roasted over coffee, with mandarin and roman mint is one of his most famous dishes, its genesis is documented here.  The combination was strangely unusual, the aroma of coffee was deeply infused within lythe delicate sweet carrots which were overcooked and a bit mushy and served with mandarin juice.  We did not get this dish, which has received acclaim here on the Splendid Table and 7 by 7 and can be found in his cookbook.


The first dish to create a sensation at the table was the California sturgeon caviar served atop a golden egg yolk poached in smoked oil, crème fraîche and chives.  The yolk was gelatinous and creamy, richly infused with the flavor of smoke, which was balanced with the gentle tang from the crème fraîche and chive.


The grilled oysters were plump and juicy, sweet and fresh from the sea served over seaweeds that Jeffrey thought were probably hand harvested by mermaids and therefore not fit for human consumption… I should have asked though, whether or not that was part of the meal or just garnish because you never know!


I loved the accompanying slice of rustic seaweed bread, smeared with sweet butter and topped with peppery greens and tiny edible yellow mustard flowers.


Another stunning dish was the thick stalk of spring asparagus cooked in its juice coated with sour orange and crushed almond. It was simple and elegant and each bite was totally compelling, stripped down to the essentials.


Fresh buffalo milk cheese from Andante Dairy, with beet, endive, honey, mint, flowers.  Each bite was brilliant with fresh herbs, strips of pickled vegetables, thick slices of rich runny cheese with crisp and tender vegetables that seemed to be just plucked from the stem.


A server poured a small carafe of warm Dungeness Crab Soup into the bowl with over artichoke, fava leaf, with aromatic lemongrass and cilantro.  Incredibly fresh and tender spring vegetables, topped with tiny edible flowers swimming in a rather salty slightly harsh broth.


Next we were served warm buns, with freshly made butter and crunchy salt crystals.


My favorite dish was the beautifully presented Roasted Brassicas (three types of broccoli – purple, broccolini and regular, yellow, white and purple cauliflower. They were steamed, grilled, and seasoned and served on top of a dandelion and potato puree, drizzled with new season McEvoy olive oil, accented with fragrant charred onion.


The steamed black trumpet-sunchoke dumplings looked like chocolates, but were gorgeously rich and savory treats served with braised lettuce, brown butter, in a  rich mushroom dashi.  Inside the dumplings were two slices of potato surrounded by the savory mushroom and artichoke mixture.


This is Jeffrey taking pictures of the prime rib eye.  He said he was checking out the color of the fat, which was white.


A slice of dry aged pastured grass fed beef, with meyer lemon kosho, braised cabbage.  The beef was lean and clean tasting, very rare and had no discernable char, just a light sear.  The accompanying vegetables were dressed with a meyer lemon beef jus kosho that overwhelmed the delicate flavors of the meat.


I loved the first dessert course, the tender Coconut Mochi Bun was folded over slices of fresh kiwi along with an aromatic shiso leaf and tiny cubes of fried coconut mochi.  This dish was very comforting and full of delicious flavors and textures.


The next dessert was Grapefruit with ginger, black pepper, tiny bursts of tarragon, served over a gelatin thickened meringue that evaporated in my mouth


A petite Vanilla cake served in between layers of wafer thin buttery cookies, rhubarb, and dusted with sprinkles of hibiscus tea.


And the final course… frozen dark chocolate coated yuzu marshmallow.


Lots of flavors, lots of words… We agreed that the vegetables were the stars of the evening.  My bottom line though, for the cost of the tasting menu $195 plus 18% service charge (shared by the entire staff) I’d rather go to Benu…

Coi on Urbanspoon

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Gastronomer March 24, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Fair enough, Sandy!


Brenda Ton March 24, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Good to know that you’d rather go to Benu based on this entire experience you had. $195 for the vegetables being the star of the evening sound a bit… disappointing (being a meat lover and all). I am a huge fan of Benu the one time I had their tasting menu and looking forward to going back. Coi has been on my list for a while so maybe at a later time.


Rosa March 25, 2014 at 1:07 am

Wonderful food. So refined and delicious looking.




Shikha @ Shikha la mode March 25, 2014 at 3:14 pm

This place looks out of control. One day!


Ben @Focus:Snap:Eat March 27, 2014 at 2:14 am

Glad you finally checked it out for yourself after I scared you! LOL. But sounds like we came to somewhat same conclusion, no? Did you feel hungry afterwards? Your portions look small just like mine was five years ago. I think Patterson is a creative genius, but even geniuses have combinations that can be off (that coffee carrot dish looks like a good example). Because there are so many more satisfying chef’s menu in town, I agree with you that I’d rather spend my big money elsewhere.


grace March 28, 2014 at 2:10 pm

we’d go crazy for those oysters here in nc! fun event. 🙂


Row April 2, 2014 at 8:55 pm

Ben’s Coi review (as well as your Benu review) was part of my reasoning for going with Benu instead of Coi during my SF trip. The dishes at Coi are very pretty and creative (especially the gorgeous broccoli one), but I agree with how you felt about the whole experience.


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