a return to coi
The first time and last time I went to COI was for my birthday almost two and a half years ago. I finally made it again and wonder why I waited so long. This time, however, we sat in the lounge where we experienced a different vibe than in the main dining room.
A lot less formal than the dining room, the lounge offers heartier fare in its menu, as well as the main room’s tasting menu. We also found that the lounge is a lot less stringent, in that each of the tasting menu can be had a la carte. Something that is not allowed in the main room. They also do not force everyone at the table to get the tasting menu, if one person wanted it. It’s always been a minor pet peeve of mine when the restaurant makes everybody in the table get the tasting menu, even though only one wanted it. This way, everybody can be happy.
We used this to our advantage by ordering one tasting menu and then ordering separately from the lounge menu. This way, we are able to try a lot more dishes than if we had both gotten the same tasting menu.
The lounge was empty when we arrived for dinner at 7pm, and we took our place at the corner table at the front of the lounge. We started with a Kir Royale and the Coi Aperitif of Rimon pomegranate wine and champagne. We settled on ordering the entire tasting menu and several items from the lounge menu and sharing all the dishes. At first, I thought to order the entire lounge menu, but the server advised against it.
We start dinner with an amuse bouche of firethorn berry soda. According to our server, these are made from the juice of firethorn berries that they foraged in the bay area. So, I quickly googled (thank goodness for iPhones!) what these berries are and found that they are bright red pea-sized berries with the taste of dry, mealy apples. Served with soda, the juice tasted more citrus-y than apple-y.
THE TASTING MENU
Frozen Mandarin Sour – The frozen mandarin sour has the consistency of frozen custard and is served with satsuma ice, kumquat, and angostura bitters. It was a very refreshing start for the tasting menu.
Oysters Rockefeller, California Style – In this version of the Antoine’s classic, the oysters are kept raw and uncooked and all the ingredients are separated in the plate, ready for you to combine with every bite. By the end of the evening, this would become my favorite of all the great dishes that are served to us.
Beet and Goat Cheese Tart (Broken, Inverted) with Rye and Dill – With this course, they literally turned the dish upside down. Roasted beets and goat cheese are served beneath the paper thin tart crust.
Dungeness Crab Soup – The dungeness crab soup is rich without being cloying or too overpowering. The aroma of the flavor hits you as they pour the creamy soup on the bits of crab, sea urchin, and pea shoots. Quite amazing, really.
Winter, Pastoral – For this dish, young carrots are roasted in hay and served with sprouts and shaved pecorino. The result: a very earthy “salad” with a very distinct smokey aroma from the hay.
Abalone/Asparagus (Raw and Cooked) – I’m not particularly sure which is raw and which is cooked, but if I were a bettin’ man, I’d say that the abalone was cooked and then paired with the asparagus which then wilts (do asparagus wilt?) from the heat of the cooked abalone. Whatever it is, I absolutely loved this course with is served with veal jus, seville orange, and mint.
Savory Wild Mushroom Porridge – Wetter than a risotto but drier than porridge, the strength of this dish comes from the wonderful flavor of the wood sorrel, garlic confit, and brown butter that the rice is cooked with.
Slow-Cooked Prather Ranch Pork – Nowadays, whenever I see the words “slow-cooked” referred to meats, I automatically think “sous vide.” However way the pork was cooked, it turned out beautifully: nicely pink and very tender. The pork is served on a bed of creamy tofu drizzled with miso and topped with seaweed and root vegetables.
Comte (Marcel Petite) – For the cheese course, a slice of Marcel Petite Comte cheese is served with chicory salad. This is a 25-month old cow’s milk cheese from Marcel Petite, artisan fromagerie located in the Jura mountains in France.
Lime Curd and Meringue – For our first dessert, we have lime curd tart and shiso meringue with aloe vera. Most notable about this dish is how wonderful the taste of the shiso meringue. Also known as perilla, shiso is a leaf in the mint family and has a mildly bitter taste to it. Usually used in savory dishes, I thought it worked here as a flavor in the meringue and is a great accompaniment to the lime curd.
It’s Almost It – This is an homage to “It’s It,” that Bay Area institution of a vanilla ice cream sandwich between two oameal cookies and dipped in chocolate. In this version, a cube of chocolate ice cream and a thin square of oatmeal cookie is encased in chocolate. As garnish, they added orange slices and fennel.
THE LOUNGE MENU
Duck Rillette – The minute the first lounge menu is served, you will quickly notice that it is a lot heartier and more substantial than the main menu. And this number is RICH! Like most rillettes, I would suspect that duck legs were probably slowly cooked in duck fat until it falls off the bone. Here, the rillette is served with toast points, whole grain mustard, and cornichons.
Cauliflower Soup – Frankly, I don’t get very excited about cauliflower soup. While nice, it pales in comparison to the dungeness crab soup. Here, it is done with broccoli and Marcona almonds.
Wild Nettles Ravioli – People in the dining room should be envious of us, because they are not able to order this fantastic pasta dish. Wild nettles are encased in pillows of ravioli and served with asparagus and piquillo peppers. In a word, “yum!”
Grilled Artisanal Comte Sandwich – If you are just aching for a quick bite in a two Michelin-starred restaurant that will not bust your budget, you can’t go wrong with this grilled cheese sandwich. At $11, it’s still on the high side as grilled cheese sandwiches go, but what you get is Comte cheese from France grilled between brioche bread that is arguably the best grilled cheese sandwich you can get in the Bay Area.
Udon Ramen – The server warned us that ordering the udon would be too much food already. But I really wanted to try the udon, so as a compromise, she got us half an order. I’m glad I did, because a full order would’ve been overkill and the soup is quite good with mushroom dashi, vegetables and tofu. I’m just glad I didn’t push for the beef dish.
Mignardise – The meal comes full circle when we receive firethorn berry jellies as nice happy ending to this fabulous meal.
I will soon post my review from my first visit to COI, so watch out for that so you can compare the differences between then and now.
Address: 373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 393-9000
Date of Dinner: March 3, 2010
Other Details: 2 Michelin Stars